Walking into the MICA North Ave. parking lot was like stepping into an alternate universe to me. Accustomed to the outstandingly complete normalcy of Carroll County living, everything involved at Saturday’s Whartscape was akin to alien scenery in my eyes. If anyone attending knew who I was or what I looked like–and you probably didn’t, you crazy ass MICA kids, I apologize for probably having stared just a tad too much.
Whispers For Wolves: The third or fourth thing I laid my eyes upon, and I saw plenty, was Melissa Moore, the woman behind the name Whipsers For Wolves. She tangled her murmuring horror-film vocals inside loops upon loops of electronic circuitry, then tied a rad fuckin’ guitar’s leash to it all.
Liturgy: In contrast to their Wolvey predecessor, Liturgy did not impress me nearly as much. Granted, I’ve never claimed to be a fan of metal/hardcore/etc. When you get down to it, the names of the genres even sound uncomfortable coming out of my mouth. I’m not trying to put them down, but it seems to me that every one of their songs gradually shifted into one of the same lineage. Off-kilter intro, explosion, verse, chorus, verse, put a bass drum on every beat you can find, etc.
Little Howlin’ Wolf: It was during Little Howlin’ Wolf’s fifteen minute blues-jam when I finally became acclimatized to the Whartscape atmosphere. He, James Pobiega, acted as a simple medium for a greater muse; words poured over him in sporadic discharges, delivering a series of one liners like “…and what the fuzzzz is life all about?!” That one line, conveyed so meaningfully through the man’s rusted rail of a throat, let me know that Whartscape was nothing to be afraid of. It was something to be savored.
Sick Weapons: These hyper-punkers remind me kindly of a crustier Love Is All. Their four or five songs, in addition to the more-than-enthusiastic performance thereof, was hard to overlook and even harder to dislike, and I don’t think many people did.
Boogie Boarder: I had lost faith in straight-up indie rock until I saw Boogie Boarder. They ignored conventional song structure and technique; in fact, the only reason I call them indie rock is because they rocked. As a side-note, they reminded me why bass guitar was so important–not that Double Dagger would ever let me forget. They even taught me the meaning of Christmas, now that I think about it. But really, Boogie Boarder were the first band I wrote down on my pocket-sized notepad entitled “listen to me.” More to follow on them, for sure.
Silk Flowers: These guys reupholstered some 80’s electro beats, threw around lead key lines, and piled on vocals echoing of a less stable Ian Curtis (if that exists). Funny thing is, it wasn’t half bad. Just keep in mind that their mission isn’t to reinvent synthpop, add something to the market, change lives, or any of that jazz. No sir. Silk Flowers make their music for fun, and have a great time playing it. Nobody can ask for more.
What Cheer? Brigade: All I remember is my hand being seized by the girl I was chatting with, her suddenly captivated voice shouting, “let’s do it!”, and rushing off into the conga line. It was a mini-party driven by a marching band playing songs from any-and-every genre you could ask for. I don’t know what else there is to say.
The New Flesh: To visualize what exactly these Baltimore natives do in music, I simply imagine Wham City experimental gone hardcore. All the electronic quirks and arty nuance mixed up with the collective apply; The New Flesh just have a more upfront approach to expressing it all. My memory of their performance is still quite cloudy, maybe that says something about the live quality of their tunes.
DD/MM/YYYY: I’ve said many-a good things about datemonthyear. A little bit of me anticipated that their time-warping percussion and multi-instrumentation would have its technical toll taken in the live scene, but fortunately no such fee existed. I’d stretch to say that “Infinity Skull Cube” live was the most enthralling moment of my Whartscape. It was just as electrifying, as flawless, as on the album. Seriously people, if you haven’t already listened to Black Square, go out and do it now.
Nuclear Power Pants: The Power Pants played a so-so set at the Baltimore stop on Dan Deacon’s Round Robin Tour. Whartscape, however, revealed to me what all the hype was about. They do party-pop at it’s finest (as far as that classification will go anyway). They’re a tough group to critique because their aspirations are set somewhere between “rocking out” and “partying on.” For what it’s worth, I think they’ve hit the mark. I mean, how you gonna beef when you’re having such a damn good time at the Power Pants’ bash?
Videohippos: Surprise, surprise. Videohippos unexpectedly took the stage far before they were scheduled to, and I must say the welcome was warm. They drove through two or three songs both new and old in no time, only for unexplained technical difficulties to upstage them like a rude guest. Ten minutes later the Hippos had fixed the error, and gave the yearning crowd the second half of their downcast set. As always, a well-done multimedia play list from one of my favorite Baltimore acts.
Ponytail: Closing out the outdoors portion came on the ever-ecstatic likes of Ponytail. Surprisingly, most of the people that I spoke to mentioned that they hadn’t even heard of the MICA grads, much less were in complete squealing-jittery joy in anticipation for when they took the stage (like me). Lead noise-maker Molly Siegel could not have been more adorable, shouting “thanks!” after every track, each time more excited than the last. Mosh-pits came and went, sweaty festival-goers jumped in art-rock bliss. Putting it lightly: it was a blast.
(Enter: Night time.)
Golden Birthday: After a quick trip to McDonalds, we were back on the scene for the Load Of Fun. Upon entering the lower room, I caught sight of the funkiest dancing I’d ever experienced at a concert. My mind decided in that moment that Golden Birthday had turned everyones’ bones into rubber, and it wanted a piece of that action. In a future Sound Off! post, I’ll further cover this Chicago trio, there’s really too much to say to put it in a mere few sentences.
Milton Melvin Croissant III: He was alone onstage with his microphone, guitar, and labyrinth of pedals, but he played more confidently than many three, four, or five-person groups I’ve heard. He brought up connotations of lo-fi garage-folk. Like a noise-pop band covering Fleet Foxes, except Milton Melvin Croissant III sounded entirely like himself.
Smarts: The moment that defined 2009’s festival for me was Smarts’ set. I had seen the videos on Youtube, small spaces with too many people, hotter than a steam room, everyone wildly flailing any and all limbs possible while their fevers only got worse. And that’s precisely what went down. Consisting of a drummer, bassist, and vocalist, Smarts lead a roomful of tired Whartscapers to utter insanity. I believe there was a pot of flowers being thrown around in the riot, for example. Definitely more on the way for these guys.
Adventure: Smarts took it all out of me. I was nearly afraid to drive home after that. Before leaving I made a trip to the bathroom, and whilst waiting in line, I felt the floor tremor on every downbeat. From two stories down. I think we all know what Adventure does, enough said.
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