Friday, June 4, 2010
Lobsterfest: Day One!
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
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.