Monday, June 4, 2012

ACRN Lobsterfest 2012 / Day Three / June 2 / South Beach

To Be Determined
By: Amanda Norris, Staff Writer

The morning crowd on South Beach was decidedly split between middle aged proud parents and classmates of To Be Determined, one of the winners from the Athens High School Battle of the Bands. Their set was mostly made up of covers -- the standards: Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sublime -- mixed in with a few originals. Your typical high school jam band, complete with joking rock goddery on the part of their lead singer, but it was some good background music to start the day. Except for that "Call Me Maybe" cover. Not cool, boys. Not cool.

Cop Hugger
By: Matt Bemer, Copy Editor

The former post was retracted because of a miscommunication between the author of the post and the reader. In it, the author led the reader to believe that Max Wheeler was indeed the frontman playing Cop Hugger's Lobsterfest 2012 set.

I was excited to see Cop Hugger take the stage. The band isn't known for playing places outside of bars or houses because of their hardcore sound. It's always interesting to me to see how that sound translates into a different atmosphere.

Max Wheeler, the band's lead singer, was out of town for the set, so Spencer Radcliffe (a friend of the band) took the stage in his place. Radcliffe's most notable accomplishments come from his electronic project Blithe Field. But to the passersby and to those unfamiliar with the music of Cop Hugger, Radcliffe was a fine substitute. 

Cop Hugger played with great gusto. The set lasted around 15 minutes, but to those familiar with the band, that is not an uncommon thing. It's an aesthetic of the genre -- straightforward frustration expressed through yells over three power chords lasting only a minute or so in length.

Despite being somewhat out of their element at two in the afternoon in the middle of a residential green, Cop Hugger adapted.

By: Hannah Cook, Editorial Director

It can never be too early for Scubadog. The band (though missing their other guitarist this time 'round) took the ever so slightly raised stage on South Beach around 1:30 p.m. with the sunshine glimmering behind them. Not many were there yet to see the beloved Scubadog in an abnormal setting compared to their frequent bar shows. But the band proved that no matter the audience, they boast the most delightful of musical integrity (even with a missing bandmate). 

Most things about the band's set were fairly typical in the realm of Scubadog -- comical stage banter, authentic energy and all-around indie rock excellence. But frontman Jake Householder did change things up more than a bit when he invited a lone audience member up on stage to sing with him. Her name escapes me, but her voice does not, as it weaved with Householder's cracked falsetto perhaps flawlessly. And to think we just thought she was there to enjoy Lobsterfest.

Fat History Month & SIGN-OFF
By: Scott Smith, Staff Writer

I couldn't help but notice the nice family sitting in lawn chairs at the back of Lobsterfest. A mommy, a daddy and a young girl enjoying the picturesque June day and the sweet sounds of...Fat History Month? SIGN-OFF? Something's not right here.

While there's a fair deal of screaming about these acts, nothing about them necessarily screams "family-oriented," at least in the traditional sense, anyway. 

But they stayed through all the noise, all the lyrical F-bombs and crowd-attributed F-bombs. They even looked like they were bobbing their heads ever so slightly. Were they residents of Athens who just attend Lobsterfest every year? I couldn't figure it out, but I was happy they were there.

We all caught Fat History Month first. A duo who came over from Boston, the band seemed to be enjoying themselves more than any other act at the festival. They embraced the crowd, who in turn responded similarly. The love affair with Athens continued even after Lobsterfest when the group played a second house show later in the night.

Next was SIGN-OFF, another noisy duo that is more familiar to the area. They were about halfway through their bare-bones, bass and drum set when bassist Morgan Garrett announced, "My parents are here," and BOOM, it all made sense. 

What made this even better was that Garrett didn't change his performance one iota just because his parents were there. He hopped around sort of awkwardly and screamed so loud his voice cracked. He even let his eyes roll into the back of his head. Some young performers might feel anxiety with a performance like that. Their style of music might be seen as taboo by a more traditional set of eyes and ideas, but that's who Garrett is as a musician and nothing is going to (in fact nothing can or should) change who he is or how he performs.

Or maybe he just has rad parents. I would bet the answer is both.

Reading Group
By: Ben Haager, Contributor

Reading Group, from Louisville, was one of the bands that Kory Kasler, Matt Bemer and I really could not wait to see on Snaturday. They describe themselves as "pop-punk, maybe," and the "maybe" portion of that is quite accurate because I don't really know how to place them in a genre. Their guitars were loud, drums spot-on at driving the tempo and Lacey Guthrie's vocals were just downright gorgeous. They even took a request from Matt to add the song "Holy Kisser" on to the end of their set. I'm not usually a fan of female singers, but when it comes to Reading Group, I make quite the exception. In fact, I bought a t-shirt, pack of buttons and cassette tape (yes a cassette tape) following their set. Reading Group, you guys (and gal) rule.

By: Katie O'Leary, Art Director

Evolve, also know as Colin Murray, daintily took the stage after Reading Group in a pink dress and a table full of flashing switches and beat mixing equipment.

Most of the audience wasn’t sure what to expect. He had yellow-tinted hair piled on his head and introduced himself as “Nancy." The crowd laughed a little uncertainly and Evolve began the show. 

Personally, I had just heard he played electronic music and mixed beats. After about two minutes he began rapping. Not at all what I expected.

His songs covered everything from total anarchy to intense drug use. I found myself enjoying all of it. He had an awesome flow to his words that was completely different from the voice of “Nancy” he had taken on before.

He complained of minor technical difficulties due to the sun hindering his ability to see the lights on his mixing boards. However, he managed to put together a stellar performance for Lobsterfest. 

Xray Eyeballs
By: Amanda Norris, Staff Writer

Xray Eyeballs: garage rock suited to your favorite underground night club, decked out in slick black and white complete with ultra-hip style and demeanor. Their relentless shoegaze-esque sound would own The Union and the night, but it wasn't as well-suited to a midafternoon outdoor festival as we might have liked. That aside, this is a band to watch and the fact that their guitarist wore the Snat costume the rest of the day made me proud as hell to have them at Lobsterfest. Come back through and play The Union Xray. We'd love to see it. 

By: Amanda Norris, Staff Writer

Though I am always hesitant of making committed statements about which bands will blow up and which bands, though possibly deserving of fame and fortune, will disappear into obscure indie rock history, I'm going to make an exception. I can't help but feel like a few months from now we'll be telling people, "Yeah, we booked Pujol for Lobsterfest..." Why? Because exactly one week from gracing our humble stage on South Beach, they will be playing Bonnaroo -- not exactly a small feat. They played to a small crowd of dedicated ACRNites, but they didn't mind. Cracking jokes and making conversational banter with the intimate bunch, this down-to-earth trio put on an entertaining closing set. Their tunes were great, but so was their attitude. They even stuck around afterward to talk to the crowd and stage crew, genuinely interested in learning about what makes Athens special. You probably won't get that interaction in Tennessee next weekend. Come at us Bonnaroo.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

ACRN Lobsterfest 2012 / Day Two / June 1 / The Dragon's Cup

By: Kyle Rutherford, Staff Writer

Sure Plus started out with a particular blend of punk energy and emo vocals. The group, consisting of guitarist/vocalist Grant Engstrom and drummer/vocalist Spencer Radcliffe, played raw, upbeat music that was perfect from the secluded, confined basement of Dragon's Cup. Engstrom and Radcliffe sang mostly in a screamed sense, with Engstrom occasionally going into some more high pitched clean stuff. The duo's instrumental playing complemented one another very well, with both having very energetic playing styles. Spencer hit the shit out of his drums while Grant strummed quick, precise and also loud.

The energy continued when Vagrant Beat took the stage (or floor). The main lights were turned off with only a few small lights facing the playing area, adding a little bit of eeriness to the already black-walled room. The energy of the band was unmistakably awe-inspiring, thrashing about the little playing space, coming very close to hitting each other, but never missing a beat. Strings were broken from the intense noise/post-hardcore playing style, but the technical playing style of the band made it interesting to all in attendance. 

ACRN Lobsterfest 2012 / Day Two / June 1 / Casa Cantina

Mindy Braasch
By: Colin Roose, News Editor
Photo Credit: WOUB

By and large, our humble Lobsterfest is primarily a "rock" show. Sometimes punkier, sometimes metal-er, but a vast majority of acts use loud, distorted guitars and pounding drums to make their musical points.

And, in small doses, I can dig that. Shouting, headbanging, screeching feedback, even moshing can be alright when the riffs activate whatever primal mechanism makes people do such things. It ain't noise pollution and it ain't gonna die, or so I'm told.

But while I appreciate the three-power-chord sensibility, my personal tastes gravitate toward songs that are composed rather than written -- songs with a particular and intentional vision, where every note, every sound counts. While the bands at this year's Lobsterfest all entertained in their own raucous ways, only one performer that I saw hid behind no amplification or distortion at all, laying her composing skills bare for those in attendance.

Mindy Braasch opened the Casa portion of Day 2 and once again proved herself to be a different kind of Athens singer-songwriter. Where most solo performers try to show the region's Appalachian heritage through their tunes, her songs are more similar to the soulful, introspective pop of Norah Jones or Adele.

Oh, and she's 17 and already has an album out. Wow. I know my own musical aspirations in high school were mainly indulged by air guitaring to AC/DC, not making records and working with Nashville songwriters.

While the other acts on the Casa bill had crowded masses of smashed patrons jostling each other around, the only slightly tipsy attendees slowly filled the empty space in front of the stage, allowing the performance to receive the attention normally reserved for somewhere like Donkey.

With her guest guitar player, she mixed covers with a number of her own very personal songs, running the gamut from dealing with creative criticism to the never-ending fountain of song inspiration that is love. 

Naturally, these were the songs tailor-made for her style and showed off her sublimely expressive voice (alto but with a range that effortlessly stretched into the higher range when needed). An original song titled "Right Here, Right Now" showed off this versatility the best, going from a deep-toned verse to near-falsetto heights in the bridge.

And the subtle way she changed the melody in the last chorus? That's what takes a song from "good" to "magic."

She switched nearly every song between guitar, piano and ukelele, but never used this ability as a tool for self-indulgence, always picking the right instruments for the songs that needed them. The more inward-looking songs were performed on piano, while the country-flavored "Take Me Away" was done as a guitar duet. 

For the considerable number of people in Casa, you would have thought that more would have drunkenly accepted her invitation to sing along with  a ukelele rendition of "I'm Yours." But this only made it easier to hear her own voice, which hit all the pleasant vocalizations of Jason Mraz while smoothing out the jarring staccato feel of the original.

She also covered "Love the Way You Lie," far surpassing the original by focusing on the pure hook value of the chorus rather than the rap verses. But she still nailed all the rap parts, with God knows how many words there are in that song. The absence of a shrill, doctored Rihanna voice was a particular plus.

Having seen her play at much less-populated venues like Jackie O's, I was impressed by her poise and confidence playing at Casa, which can be intimidating at 10 p.m. on a Friday night. She made sure to give each song an introduction and explained her reasons behind writing them, instead of doing the mumbling-into-the-microphone-seconds-after-the-guitar-feedback-from-the-last-song-faded-away thing. Pretty professional for such a young performer.

So here's to the most nuance-filled 2012 Lobsterfest performance. I mean, I love me some Kyle Sowashes, but I also like hearing myself think when listening to music, and the nuances of Mindy Braasch's set certainly warranted that. From her prescient cover choices to passionate originals, she stole that night's show and seemed ready to make it beyond the diverse, but confining Athens venues. And out of respect for the abundant inspiration in her set, I wish her the best in doing so.

Indigo Wild & The Kyle Sowashes
By: Chris Dobstaff, Reviews Editor

Friday night, we all got a little silly.

And I think we had the right to do so. It was the last week of classes, after all. Finals week is coming up fast and most of us just want one last hurrah before we disperse for the summer and get jobs, internships, or whatever people do during the summer. Friends will go months without seeing each other, so all they want to do now is go out with a bang.

Lobsterfest 2012 provided the perfect opportunity for my friends and I to go out and have some fun. Friday night, or day two of the festival, took place at Casa Nueva. We headed over to the local Mexican eatery (which is where I've seen some of my favorite shows in Athens) and got ready for some music.

The first band we saw was Indigo Wild. If you haven't heard of them, you're missing out. This band has something and I'm not sure if that something will turn into major success, but there is a spark. And Indigo Wild is riding that spark. The band is made up of four musicians who are far more talented than even they realize. Lead guitarist Michael Norris stands almost uncomfortably straight, but when you watch his hands move up and down the neck of his guitar you get lost in the movement. His complex licks define the songs and he quietly plays them while tucked away on the side of the stage -- the band's hidden treasure. 

Drummer Jason Winner grew up listening to hard rock and heavy metal, which is clear to see as he smashes down on his drum kit. While Indigo Wild is more likely to draw comparisons to a band like Local Natives rather than Mastodon, his fills and timing are so precise that it's clear he is a student of the metal genre. What is it that makes metal musicians such perfectionists at their craft? Whatever it is, Winner has it and it's impressive to see him sitting behind his friends and giving them a downright killer beat throughout the entire show.

As a whole, the band rips through a respectable (but sadly short) setlist that gets the crowd (or at least my group of friends) moving. Songs like "When You Say," "On the Hill" and a tune that I can never remember the name of but features the crazy, screaming on repeat lyric of "I can't feel my legs," are all it takes to completely take hold of us. We dance. We jump. We clap. We probably clap in places where we're not supposed to, but we don't care. Indigo Wild has undoubtedly become one of my favorite bands to come through Athens and I will see them every single time they appear here from now on. 

After the show, I spoke with Winner, complimenting him on the performance. He, the aforementioned perfectionist, lamented the fact that his timing was off the entire show. He said the band wasn't as tight as usual. And while I'll admit that the band's performance at Casa in May was the better than Friday's, I still can't find anything to criticize the group on. Apparently, this is Indigo Wild's first performance since a show three weeks ago, and they have not been able to get together to practice between those two shows (two band members live in Columbus, the other two in Cincinnati). And while Winner and the band members would naturally find flaws in their performance, I cannot. The group is very comfortable with one another at this point - so comfortable in fact that going three weeks between shows isn't a problem, even if they may think it is.

We headed outside. I wanted to head to O'Bettys for some chili cheese fries. I hadn't eaten anything for hours, and the Indigo Wild show took a lot out of me. My friend Ben insisted that we hold off on the fries until after The Kyle Sowashes performed. I was dying. Literally. I needed food in my belly, but Ben wouldn't let me cross the street. I feared he may have hurt me if I tried. So I did my best to trust him and headed back inside for a show on an empty stomach.

Somehow I've lived in Athens for two years and had, up until Friday, avoided The Kyle Sowashes. This wasn't an intentional avoidance. I have nothing against the band. In fact, I know nothing about them. So how could I? As they set up, I literally had no idea what they were going to sound like. 

From the first screaming chord, I'm reminded of The Hold Steady. This is the perfect bar band. The guitars rage, the vocals are nothing special, but they don't have to be. The songs are punchy, short and goddamn catchy. I'm instantly angry at myself for wasting two years without this band, but I got as much out of it as I can. There was moshing to be done. And I joined in - at least for a little bit. That was until I accidentally get punched in the back of the head and needed to bow out. But for a while, I went all out. Limbs were flying in front of the stage and I was adding to the mayhem, something that I generally wouldn't do under normal circumstances. But The Kyle Sowashes, and Friday night, were not normal circumstances. This is Lobsterfest 2012 baby. And for a few hours there I got lost in the music, moved and danced like a typical me would be too embarrassed to do, and just had a really, REALLY good time.

And then I ate some chili cheese fries.

Indigo Wild, The Kyle Sowashes & She Bears
By: Hannah Cook, Editorial Director

The second night of Lobsterfest was a wonderful mess. Everyone was in high spirits as we arrived at Casa Cantina to greet Mindy Braasch leaving the stage. It’s a bummer we missed her, but I’m sure the Athens High School songstress created just the right kind of commencement to the night.

Indigo Wild took the stage next and it was clear everyone was pretty excited for that. ACRN is a fan. If you haven’t seen our Hand Picked video series yet, you should. The band has been known to sound akin to Fleet Foxes—an accurate and valuable comparison. The last time I saw this band was a few years ago when they opened up for Pomegranates in Cincinnati. From what I can remember, the band has definitely developed more confidence on the stage. 

ACRN alumni love The Kyle Sowashes -- something about their geeky rock star demeanor just woos them. They're adorably smitten in the presence of the band as they shout along to the goofy lyrics. Meanwhile, the band feeds off that energy, getting their bellies all sweaty in the midst of heaviliy rocking out. It's the kind of moment that makes you love ACRN.

Oh, the good old days. She Bears took the stage last, confronting a still relatively dense crowd. The band, now Columbus based, used to be one of Athens' most prominent. They played nearly every weekend when I was a wee one, manifesting an everlasting impact on the music scene. The crowd was swallowed whole by nostalgia and while I wished to relish in it, I had to wake up early the next day. I bid a fine farewell to Day Two of Lobsterfest.

Friday, June 1, 2012

ACRN Lobsterfest 2012 / Day One / May 31 / Secret Show

By: Hannah Cook, Editorial Director
Photo Credit: Hannah Cook

The super secret show opening up Lobsterfest 2012 made me feel like a proud momma. It boasted just how supportive the ACRN community is. Lobsters--old, new and middle aged--shuffled into the venue that is undoubtedly too small to be hosting shows. But we made it work, shoving full bands in the corner, leaving them little room to move around. The space, though certainly limiting and probably frustrating for the bands, just sort of brings us a little closer together. We were practically forced into embraces and we were alright with it.

It was weird starting a show when most families are sitting down to dinner, but punk music was our dinner last night.

Athens’ Mom’s Weekend was first to experience the detrimental yet special (I’d like to think) setup at the Fern Gully. The kick drum kept sliding down the hill that was the wooden floor in the slanting stage area, but with the help of some friends, they got that problem figured out (despite the scratches on the floor that look like the well in The Ring). The duo played some messy punk music with a purpose. Paul Lampley yelled politically-charged messages into the mic (if they weren’t politically-charged they were about his bandmate’s cat). The two, much louder than themselves, drew a solid crowd and started off the weekend on the right foot.

Some new faces took the Fern Gully…erm…stage next. Dave Buker and the Historians, a delightful Columbus five-piece, played indie tunes that took many different shapes, anything from folky to poppy to ballad-y. Dave Buker himself was a fine gentlemen glimmering with heart-felt emotion through his lyrics and demeanor. He and his bandmates, mostly multi-instrumentalists, switched instrument duties more than once throughout their set, proving the band’s dynamic chemistry. They’re most certainly welcome back to Athens any time they please.

The familiar and beloved Emily and the Complexes took the stage last to play what was perhaps their best set yet. The four-piece, albeit missing its original bassist and playing with a fill-in (with a Hello Kitty bass strap), manned the limited space like the versatile and talented musicians they are. Frontman Tyler Verhagen, in all his man-pony tail glory, poured his heart onto his sleeve without all that sap one would expect, but more with an earnest fervor. They, once again, captured the crowd and made us wish they’d never stop playing.

But alas, it was time to move on to The Union for the first official night of Lobsterfest 2012.

ACRN's Lobsterfest 2012 / Day One / May 31 / The Union

By: Kyle Rutherford, Staff Writer

Lobsterfest started with a bang Thursday night at The Union. The night had mostly an electronic feel to it, with genres ranging from ambient free-form to chillwave.

The first group out was Whirl, a Columbus two-piece playing their second Athens show. The duo, consisting of ACRN alumnus Ty "Death Beef" Owen and Tin Armor's Matt Umland, plays a free-form style of electronic that is full on synth worship. The music doesn't stop until they are done playing, adding to the effect of what it all sounds like. There is an underlying structure to it, but the music is obviously impromptu, full of sound manipulation, synthesizers and digital sequencers. The two seemed focused during their entire set, constantly doing something to change around their ambient sound. The addition of a projected logo image in the background and the ever-changing lights of The Union made it seem eerie and apocalyptic, but one could only stand, listen and just feel.

Next out was Blithe Field, a sample-electronic artist from Athens. The creation of Spencer Radcliffe, the sound is just pure and fun. Even with how chilled out the music was, Union attendees were eagerly dancing and enjoying everything that Radcliffe threw in. Spencer seemed very relaxed and comfortable playing on The Union's stage, playing very loose, but focused all the while. He played tracks from his most recent release Warm Blood and his 2011 album Two Hearted, such as the ever popular "People I Love." Radcliffe ended his set with "bible school," a song from his album Beautiful Wave '74. I especially enjoyed it because I was screaming at him to play it right before he dropped it. 

John Jagos, the sole brain behind his chillwave/nu disco project Brothertiger, gave his last (and best) Athens show to date. The whole crowd was supportive of Jagos throughout his entire set, singing and dancing along to the songs they knew and even the ones they didn't. Jagos played songs that ranged from his two EPs to his full length, opening with "Vision Tunnels" off of his Vision Tunnels EP, then playing "A House of Many Ghosts" off the Point of View EP. Jagos ripped through some of his more recent songs off of his Golden Years full length, including the upbeat "Golden Years," the heavy bass-driven "Out of Line" (a song that belongs in the 80's) and the ever popular "Lovers." After working the crowd into a fever, Jagos covered "Ask" by The Smiths, which sounded great with his synthy feel and breathy vocals. Before closing his set with "Feel," Jagos, through near teary eyes, graciously thanked everyone for the support over the years and expressed his love for everyone in attendance. Best of luck to him.

Last out was Lazer Babez. The Athens six-piece was the only band that used any drums or guitars throughout the night, but they were distorted and affected like crazy. The only sort of vocals that came from the group were little hums and whistles expelled from the bongo player, then heavily distorted. They too had an underlying structure through drum beats, bass lines and drum sampling, but mini Korg-playing and guitar riffs gave them the feel of a free-form noise band. Ambient and experimental, the group ended the night in a great way.