Saturday, June 5, 2010

Lobsterfest: Day Three!

Lobsterfest is right! I look like a damn lobster right now with this sunburn, and it doesn't even make sense that I do; seeing as, we were only outside for the first couple hours of the morning!

As I walked to set-up at 10 in the morning, I shot a venomous glare at a kid who was toting an umbrella as he walked, thinking his preparation for rain a curse. Turns out, my causality logic may be a bit off, but the kid was wise to have had an umbrella.

Stages were set and humans were arriving on South Beach when storm clouds started forming. Promo Director Aaron Vilk announced before the first act's playing, "We're gonna rage out here for as long as possible."

We didn't get to "rage" outside for very long at all...

Melk was the first act of the day, and the only one that got to play outdoors. Their set was preceded by a long, low growl of thunder before Mother Nature got a slapping of drowning-outage in her gloomy face from the drum and bass duo that comprised Brian Jackson and Ghost of Asa Phelps' vocalist/guitarist Ryan Ford (or "Boomer" and "Sick Old Bastard" as they preferred to be called onstage). Rough instrumentation and unintelligible lyrics were the name of the game with Melk, though, I think I may have picked up some "fuck"s here and there. The band's sound was just as ominous as the looming storm clouds that would force Lobsterfest into the South Pole below Nelson after its performance.

The migration to the South Pole was a quick one as everything got packed in and the original stages were covered with protective tarp. Inside the air-conditioned rec room in the parking garage, everyone found a place to sit and to socialize as we waited for everything to get reorganized.

Bag of Hair, formerly known as Sandcrawler, captivated the room as the drummer and guitarist went madmen on their instruments and what appeared to be an interpretive dancer in an Iron Man mask wearing an American flag as a cape pranced and flailed about. I wont lie and say that he didn't make me nervous, but those dancing at the front of the crowd didn't seem to be so weary, especially when the band announced that they were playing a song from "Pete & Pete."

Then came Legends of Wrestling

What the hell, Brotthheerrrr? Legends of Wrestling, a Grindcore sideshow of all things brutal, took place in a makeshift wrestling ring with two-man tag-team of Ty Owen and Pat Snyder pacing within its confines. They wore football pads with nails driven through them and red and black face paint. Terrifying.

With songs that were shorter than the roughly 30-second intros given to them played from a Mac and screamed over by the men within the ring, Legends of Wrestling held my and everyone else's attention.

Characters such as a honky-tonk bigot, an evangelical hater with a "God Hates Grind" sign (Aaron Vilk in drag) and Bret Hart met their ends at the hands of the Legends and their harnessed Warrior powers via guitar-beating, light-tube shattering and trashcan doom respectively. I actually found it hilarious and, even...brilliant. Too far? No. Brilliant. I even left with a bruise on my arm from being barreled into by Owen after the set. I'm just glad no one lost an eye from those football pad nails.

At that point, as I sat at the merch table, performances started blurring together for me, perhaps because it was nearing dinner time and I had yet to have breakfast or that my sunburn was starting to eat at my brain. The tunes just weren't motivating me to get up from being the obsessively organizing shirt-nazi behind the merch table to get a better view.

In Silent Moves, Whale Zombie, and Manor Animals are bands I often hear praised here in Athens and in this blog, but that I had neither actually "scene" nor heard (haha, get it?) until Lobsterfest. All three, especially the latter two, drew a very distinct crowd, one that appeared to have actually seen them play as many times as I had heard they were playing. They danced, sang along and had a fabulous time to the music.

I must admit at this point that my attention is something that is easily lost, and -- though the music was good, I can't remember much of it. Again, sunburn blur. I do, however, remember one song from, I believe, Manor Animals that had the lyrics, "Oh, oh, oh my God!" happening. That was cute.

I believe it was during Scubadog's performance that I left to edit Carolyn's review of Lobsterfest Day 2 and came back to catch the end of The Cutter Family's set then to be re-energized by Tin Armor, whose music made me start bobbing my head again.

I was able to stick around just long enough to see my favorite local band, The Ghost of Asa Phelps.

I don't know why I even like those guys. There's so much dude happening all the time with them. Seriously. It's an almost overwhelming amount of brothership. Well, maybe I like them because I like dudes. Maybe I have an attraction to dudeship. Nah, I think it's the fact that the bassist definitely started playing Alkaline Trio's "Trouble Breathing" as they soundchecked. That's what gets me with those guys: It's familiarity and closeness to my tastes that most other Athens bands don't offer that helps make me feel more secure in this place. Now I'm writing like I'm selfish, but whatever. I enjoy the band. What can I say?

The last time I had seen TGOAP, the band performed a Misfits cover, and I'll admit that I was crossing my fingers for another one this round, but I wasn't disappointed when they covered "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival for the singer's father. It certainly lead to sing-alongs and grins... Not that sing-alongs aren't the absolute norm for those guys. Again, DUDES, a pack of them, are always found in the front row ready to lend their voices for gang vocals. They played two new songs, one of which was a slow one, described by the band's singer/guitarist as being "about a girl, but -- in a way -- aren't they all?" True.

I left at 8:30 p.m. just before She Bears played to look for an icy lake of aloe into which I could throw my sensitive-skinned self. Before I left, I took note from Ty that I should at least come back to see Coltrane Motion play. I probably should have and would have taken that suggestion had I not fallen ill by the time I reached my dorm room.

Oh, well. I got my 10 hours in at Lobsterfest and can't wait to do it again next year!

Fortunately, Miss Hannah Cook was there to tell you how the rest of the day went!

--Cassie Whitt, Blogs Editor


I didn’t even know this so-called South Pole existed. When the sky was cracked down the middle with a strike of lightening and everyone collectively decided to move the show inside, I was so confused as to why they were going into a parking garage. “You…you guys. That’s…not…a place,” I thought. It was a place, though, with a stage and a refrigerator and chairs and inside-ness. But it was an odd atmosphere for live music. I felt like I was in the lobby of a hospital or in a dining hall at a summer camp. Needless to say, it just didn’t seem like the right place for Lobsterfest.

But Lobsterfest controlled the South Pole. South Pole did not control it. And despite the technical and weather mishaps, bands, duos, lobsters and weirdos alike rose to the occasion.

As Cassie covered the beginning of the day, I shall cover the end. Although, there are a few things from the beginning that I’d like to discuss. Only because…shit got weird. And sort of scary.

Ty Owen, I hardly know you, but you never ever fail to freak me out entirely, and I’m sure that’s sort of the point. Cassie will do the description justice, but I just had to add my personal thoughts and feelings about the matter.

First, I hope the three dudes who got hit brutally by light bulbs, guitars, chairs, “cocaine,” etc. are okay. It looked painful and real. I hope that I didn’t look like too much of a pansy in comparison to the badassness when I threw my hands to my cheeks and widened my eyes in worry.

Second, those boys are quite the screamers and quite the intimidators. They were just pacing around the home-made wrestling ring, making a mess, spitting water, dripping sweat and face paint, beating the crap out of people. Dear GOD.

Third, way to be inventive. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had heard mutters of eagerness about this Legends of Wrestling. I honestly thought it was going to be a band playing whilst people wrestle. But this was much more creative.

Music wise, not really my style. I’m much more in to calm Indie delightfulness. If I had to put a contrary to that, it would probably be Legends of Wrestling. It’s okay though, because the show in and of itself was entertainment enough for me.

I missed a few bands during my naptime. I know, I know. I shouldn’t have missed Lobsterfest for a nap. But if you only knew my weariness. It just had to be done.

I also skipped out on a couple bands who I had seen before, like She Bears and The Ghost of Asa Phelps, so I wasn’t terribly upset, though I am sorry.

What I was terribly upset about, however, was that I didn’t get to see what musical essence the young man in the dress (Evolve) had to offer. I knew, just from lookin’ at ‘im, that it was probably going to be really interesting and probably really worth not napping. When I walked in as he was clearing off his technological who-nots, I asked about him. Apparently it was a DJing and rapping sort of thing. Which makes it all so much more bizarre. I guess I’ll never know.

I caught the end of Coltrane Motion, who were really cool. They were two men sounding like many more. One was on a keyboard and computer, the other on electric guitar, and they worked together to form danceable beats and clever sounds. There’s nothing I love more than some good electriconically-steered music. The movement of their bodies only added to it all. They twisted their legs around, slammed their feet backward, jumped, hunched over, nearly always looking like they would fall down. They were limitless.

I wondered who the people in bright yellow, marching band-looking uniforms were and apparently I was really out of the loop for not knowing. Forgive my ignorance. They were Flotation Walls, and they were magnificent. They had dynamics and joyous harmonies that were radiating like a sun’s rays through their bright yellow bodies. The girl’s voice was so beautiful. It had a sort of opera tone about it, very full and impeccable. But then she could also make it rougher and loud. It's the sort of voice I wish I had, but I won’t digress to that. At the last song, the lead singer, in all his cheery sincerity, came off the stage and into the crowd, as we all sung our last verse of “oohs” and “aahhs” together, like an unpolished choir.

Check out a video our Managing Editor Kevin Rutherford took of Flotation Walls' performance:

Flotation Walls - "Kids, Look at the Waves" from Kevin Rutherford on Vimeo.

Russenorsk was the last band I saw. I honestly don’t feel like I can be the one to write about them. They’re an Athens legend I unfortunately missed as a youngin’. But I looked around often, at all the people in the crowd who clearly realized what they had missed since September. And they were rejoicing in the reunion, both with tears and smiles. Perhaps the song that triggered wild emotions most was “Long Winter’s Coming.” Even in me it did, and I wasn’t around to see any of this unfold.

The cello was alluring behind Tim’s unique chords and crafty loop pedaling. Man, I love a good orchestral string instrument in modern music. All their instrumentation pieced together so perfectly. It just didn’t seem like they hadn’t played in months. Their warning of potential rustiness was not necessary No apologies were needed, and no forgiveness was shed. Everyone was just enjoying the moment for what it was worth and soaking in the nostalgia. This whole thing needs a much grander description and appreciation than what I’ve given. But if you were there, you know.

I missed Sidekicks! Crap! Apparently it was a good show too. I just figured since I wasn’t that into to pop-punk stuff that it just wasn’t for me. Stupid stereotyping!

Alas, my first Lobsterfest is over, and those set to leave have had their last. We young ones have big shoes to fill and a turny, adventurous route of footsteps to follow. We can only hope we’ll make it out alive and well, the way our old friends have.

I was going to get all sentimental about the leaving seniors and juniors, but this may not be the right place or right time. I can’t get like that anyway; I have finals to study for.

--Hannah Cook, Live Reviews Editor

Photos and Flotation Walls video Courtesy of Managing Editor Kevin Rutherford

Lobsterfest: Day Two!

So, I have a bit of a confession to make...

Despite the fact that I have been in this wonderful student organization known as ACRN since the beginning of fall quarter, this night, better known as Lobsterfest Day 2, was my first local Athens show ever.

Oh, how I avoided the local scene at all costs! I'd walk past The Union slightly faster than everywhere else on a Saturday night and avert my gaze when "Scene & Heard" blogs came up in editorial meetings. While many nights, schoolwork and money and other social gatherings were distractions from a good old-fashioned concert, sometimes I had no excuse not to go except the fact that I didn't really want to.

I figured it was about time to just deal with whatever reservations I had about shows here in Athens and just go to one, especially since the end of the year is so close. I'd seen both Duke Jr. & The Smokey Boots and Southeast Engine at Nelsonville Music Festival a couple weeks ago and have become quite fond of both bands since then. The mixture of two bands I like playing at the end of the year and the fact that this was an event hosted by ACRN made it the perfect choice for my first show.

I walked in a few minutes late into what appeared to be a honky-tonk. The Casa Cantina crowd was having a raucous, boot-stompin' time with The Graveyard Shift. While most of the crowd was bopping their knees or tapping their feet, many were much more into it. For instance, an elderly man over to my far left was doing a proper hoedown dance! If the atmosphere wasn't amusing enough for a first-timer like myself, the music was also quite enjoyable. The Graveyard Shift played good ol' country music with a blues and rock twist, which is exactly what I've been into lately.

Musical highlights from their set were a catchy little number about a high school dance and a song called "Get Back," during which the crowd helped out singer Aaron Heindel (who sports a fantastic mustache) by shouting back "heart around" at him in the chorus. The Graveyard Shift was a fun and wonderful start to the night, and their set was over all too soon for me.

Next up was Theodore, who I'd never actually heard, but heard nothing but good things about. If I'm a sucker for one thing, it's a genuine, heartbreaking voice, and Justin Kinkel-Schuster has got it. His controlled screams mixed with the band's rich, yet fun sound in "Engine Number Nine," melted my heart while allowing me to have a good time, and it certainly confirmed all the good things I'd heard about this St. Louis quartet.

After their truly delightful set was one of the reasons I had decided to come out that evening... Southeast Engine. Though I saw them from the merch tent at Nelsonville, I recognized that that was not the most ideal way to hear them, and I was right. The crowd clearly loved Southeast Engine, as that is when Casa was the most packed. Though certain substances may have been involved, the crowd was jumping and dancing and singing their own hearts out to the tunes they all know so well (especially to the chorus of "Ooh's" in a song later in the set). These hometown heroes were definitely on point. The show was high energy and perfectly played, despite a few issues with feedback from the microphones. The combination of the perfect energy from the crowd and the delightful melodies from the band made me sad that this was only my first time seeing Southeast Engine up close.

Though my feet hurt, my eyes were drooping, and my tummy was rumbling at this point, I knew I couldn't quite yet leave Casa because Duke Jr. was about to go on. Just like at Nelsonville, they put on a fabulous show with their country/blues influenced rock. The second song of the set was a bluesy, sultry cover from the '60s that was just straight-up sexy and got the crowd grinding. The more country-influenced songs also got people do-si-doing and singing along, especially to "Travelin' Man," a clear favorite.

Lobsterfest night two was a clear success, with both the crowds and bands doing their jobs perfectly. I couldn't imagine a better way to start off my career of going to local shows, and I'm sure to do more of it in the future.

--Carolyn Menyes, Staff Writer

Southeast Engine photo courtesy of: Kevin Rutherford

Lobsterfest Day One Correction

As pointed out by Promo Director Aaron Vilk, there was a bit of a misunderstanding about the lineup of Psychedelic Horseshit in our latest review for the first day of Lobsterfest.

Vilk commented:
"...PsychShit's lineup was Whitehurst and Adam and Beth from Times New Viking as the rest of the band...I don't think Rich is in it anymore. "

We apologize for the misunderstanding.

--Cassie Whitt, Blogs Editor

Friday, June 4, 2010

Lobsterfest: Day One!

Dearest Lobsters,

You know the drill. Lobsterfest. I wouldn't go as far as to say that it's the goal of our existence, but it's perhaps the most prestigious event of the school year for ACRN-ers. It is the sum of all that has happened from the beginning of September to now – the beginning of June, nine months later.

Though last year's fest was a one-day ordeal on South Beach, this year's installment pumped up the jams, taking it from one to three days at three different locations.

Thursday's show took place at that so-hallowed ground, a staple of the Athens music scene: The Union. Lobsters and non-Lobsters alike descended upon The Union late Thursday night for a night of delicious, drunken debauchery and sweet, sweet music.

I made it my goal pre-Lobsterfest to catch at least a portion of each performer's set this year, and barely kept my hopes alive after arriving a bit late to the festivities. I caught the end of Blithe Field's set and was pleased to find that since I last saw Spencer Radcliffe's musical project in a live setting, not much had changed musically. The key difference was the addition of a drummer. I should note that it was the first time I'd seen Blithe Field since the end of January, so that may be a late discovery on my part. Nonetheless, I really liked what I heard despite only catching maybe two songs. From electronic beats and computer-esque blips to recorded voice samples, now complemented by live percussion, Blithe Field is an act that will – with hope – be around for a few more years to come in Athens, and it should not be missed. I'll be excited to catch another set of his next fall.

After the din died down and the bustle of musicians coming on and off the stage subsided, Seascapes took to their set: A blast of garage-y rock with some definite pop hooks and punk sensibilities. Brace yourselves for the biggest example of musical deprivation this side of the Hocking River: it was my first time seeing Seascapes. As with Manor Animals, whom I will finally be seeing on Saturday, I had somehow missed Seascapes all this year. I certainly wasn't avoiding them; it simply never happened. That said, I'm glad it finally did.

The quartet, which was showcasing its new EP for sale in the back of the venue, was on its game. Featuring a double-pronged vocal attack from guitarists Brian Rudell and Dan Whiteley and the occasional group vocal courtesy of bassist Matt Tarnowski, the set definitely garnered the attention of the slowly-growing crowd at the Union. Drummer Zach Inscho was no doubt a highlight as well with his formidable drumming; that man will also be a part of the Russenorsk reunion Saturday night. Maybe you should be there, too. Hint, hint.

The next act was the source of my most recent musical education: godversussatan. I had never been to a certified noise show before, but I have a feeling that this was the closest I've ever gotten to one. And you know what? It was cool. I listened to some of the collective's tunes beforehand and thought they were definitely interesting, but it's a whole different experience to see things unfold live.

The four men of godversussatan had enough instruments to form a 20-person, possibly more, band. And everything had a purpose, from more conventional instruments such as guitars to music-makers of which I didn't even know the name. Trombones made appearances. What looked like a keytar had a place. Drums were scattered around the back of the stage with members taking turns going ballistic on them when the situation called for it. Did I mention it was loud? Trust me, you did not want to be standing next to the amps during portions of the set. I was probably 6 feet from the stage and my ears are still ringing as I type this.

I'll be checking out those guys and similar acts more often in Athens from now on. You can be sure of that. Though some earplugs to curtail the noise at its shrillest might be a good investment. Like I said, my ears are still ringing. It's my only battle scar of the evening. I flaunt it proudly.

Once the amalgamation of instrumentation was removed from the stage, Lobsterfest veterans The Kyle Sowashes took to the stage. As I've stated in a previous Scene and Heard post, the Sowashes were my favorites of Lobsterfest 2009, and so I was thrilled to see them back on the bill this year.

They say some music gets better the more you listen, and I think it's safe to say that that applies unabashedly to The Kyle Sowashes, at least for me. Though I'd obviously enjoyed their shows in the past, last night was the zenith of my Sowashes experience to date. The band treated the audience to both old favorites like "I've Been Working on My Resume" and cuts from their new album, Nobody. Never was there a dull moment. Band leader Kyle Sowash's glasses humorously continued to slide down his nose for the duration of the set, though some trusty Lobsters were there to slide 'em back up, as the show must of course go on.

About halfway through the set, audience members began calling out their favorites – having the Sowashes in Athens often and having their records in the ACRN studio will do that to a band. The guys laughed many of them off, sometimes seemingly surprised that people knew the songs mentioned. All in all, the audience seemed satisfied of the song selection, and the Sowashes appeared to be appreciative of the support from what they continually claimed to be "the best college rock radio station."

Quite frankly, their set almost seemed too short, though it was probably the longest one of the five acts at the Union. Having a blast pressed up against the front of the stage will do that to you. And the Sowashes' music is simply gleefully infectious. Smiles abounded and singalongs prevailed, and Sowash thanked us one last time before departing back into the audience as preparations for the final act of the evening were made.

Columbus's Psychedelic Horseshit was that final act. The three-piece was a fine addition to the evening and a formidable, if not brief, end to Lobsterfest Day One. The lo-fi "shitgaze" band seemed on the verge of collapse with each passing song, though that is certainly to be expected from their musical stylings. It's not a bad thing, we'll put it that way; it's meant to be that way.

Psychedelic Horseshit blazed through their set, pausing only briefly between songs before launching back into the madness and singer Matt Whitehurst's gaze trained straight forward as he sang and strummed his guitar. Drummer Rich Johnston* was a sprightly fellow too, sometimes on his feet and leaning over his kit as he rhythmically pounded away. Their songs, a collection of dynamic, lo-fi, uncompromising noise-pop tunes, were perhaps difficult to see through at first but were cohesive soon enough, and souls not bobbing their heads to the rapid-fire beats were hard to come by.

The show ended somewhat abruptly with Whitehurst bidding all a goodnight as showgoers turned toward the exit. The warm June evening was certainly unmoving after being in the sweaty confines of The Union for the previous 3-and-a-half hours. Lobsters young and old fled the scene, some off for more early-morning commotion, others such as myself heading back to prepare for the next day's events, including of course day two of Lobsterfest.

I'll see you there.

--Kevin Rutherford, Managing Editor, Dude with the Shitty Digital Camera, All Around Swell Guy


Editor's note:

Lobsterfest continues tonight at Casa Cantina with Duke Jr. And the Smokey Boots, Southeast Engine, Theodore and Graveyard Shift. The show starts at 10 p.m. and the entrance fee is $6.

Also, make your way to South Beach in front of Nelson Dining Commons by the Volleyball courts all day tomorrow for the free Lobsterfest finale!

More details about Lobsterfest.