Photo credits: Josh Sisk
First and foremost, Whartscape 2010 was hot — weather reports read that temperatures fell steady at 100 degrees all weekend. In effect, the parking lot that harbored Whartscape’s outdoor performances became the modern urban desert. Shade grew more valuable every second, and patrons found themselves willing to pay most anything for a bottle of water. Feeling overzealous, a friend and I initially laughed about purchasing a 30-pack of Deer Park to share between the two of us; half of it had been killed off by the end of our first day. Even though its events transpired in these miserable conditions, Whartscape’s fifth and final year was abound with interesting and engaging live performances — some of which were even good enough to allow their audience‘s attention to stray away from the accumulating sweat on their brows.
Truthfully, I only attended half of the festival. Organizational difficulties left Thursday’s theatre night out of the question, whereas Sunday’s sudden monsoon had me driving back home before I was made aware of Whartscape’s relocation to Sonar. I was there all day Friday and Saturday though, and I’m here to tell you about it. Similarly to our coverage of Whartscape 2009, I’ll be writing future Sound Off! posts on standout artists from the festival. The following is more or less a highlights reel for the portions that I experienced.
- Do I even need to say it? For the strength with which he plays, Brian Chippendale should have the biceps of a boxer. And, let me tell you, the audience can definitely feel that about his live performance.
- Get Em Mamis were easily the most unexpectedly exciting live act Friday. Their brand of hip hop was equal parts club and street — their samples cracked like thunder, and their rhymes matched in wit. As an added bonus, the Baltimore-native duo knows how to work an audience better than most. For a brief 30 minutes, the Get Em Mamis shaped Whartscape like warm putty; tracks like “Cold Summer” couldn’t have been executed more flawlessly (and they’re good on the record too). If, by some stroke of misfortune, you missed out on 2009’s TerAwesome, I advise you to seek it out immediately.
- I was initially attracted to nothing more than Romantic States’ name. “Romantic States” — it just looks like a perfect fit for a melancholy chillwave group. I was intrigued. As it happens, Romantic States are hardly chillwave at all; in fact, they’re just a straight-up downcast pop duo. They’re good too — half of Romantic States is Jim Triplett (of the Videohippos), and he’s carried over his characteristic aching bummer into this new project quite well. Romantic States’ sound is considerably more lo-fi than the Videhohippos, but no less affecting. I look forward to hearing more.
- Unfortunately, Dope Body’s set and my aching hunger occurred simultaneously. I stayed for two songs — both blew me away — and then walked down Park Avenue for some Chinese food. The funny thing is, I could hear Dope Body’s set four blocks away as I ordered my food. These guys are hard, fast, and loud. I don’t think a true hardcore band should be asked for more.
- I didn’t like Jared Paolini’s set at last year’s Whartscape, but I guess all things are subject to change. Jared’s 2010 set at the H&H was comprised of all-new material, the bulk of which was absolutely outstanding. Since I last saw him, it appears as if his ear for harmony has grown more delicate, and his tones have only become more ethereal. According to the man himself, he’s working on getting some of his new movements recorded. To my knowledge, there’s no other information present, so keep an eye out of Jared.
- If Needle gun are supposed to be funny, then the joke is lost on me. If they’re not, then I wish they’d take their work a little more seriously. Needle Gun’s live noise set on Friday found them smirking more often than not; which wouldn’t have posed any trouble had their occasional harshness been more captivating (or the joke been more obvious). As it turns out, Needle Gun weren’t prepared to fill either niche. And I’ve listened to their recordings too, many of which are actually superb. Perhaps the virtue of their work is simply compromised by the live performance.
- I anticipated yet another energetic set from Ponytail this Whartscape — they’d never disappointed me before. But their show this year was somewhat less touching. This time around, Ponytail felt overly mechanical; the sounds were the same, but the soul just wasn’t there. It was almost as if the group no longer cared for their old material. I hear now that this may have been their last performance; I just hope they’ll have one more to redeem themselves.
- The way I take it, Amil Byleckie Band aren’t much more than a Flaming Lips tribute. They appeared onstage at the Current Space in future-space costume; they presented commonplace indie pop tunes in the tired old verse/chorus/verse fashion, and they never quite connected their garb to their art. Now, maybe I’m just being cynical here, but it seems to me that costumes scarcely improve the live performance — especially if you don’t have the sounds to match them.
Lastly, I’d just like to take a moment to give props to Wham City for putting this on. Not only was the whole festival free of corporate sponsorship, but also the cuisine they offered was guilt-free and local. Megapasses may have costed upwards of $50, but that’s nothing for the quality of music and stubborn idealism Wham City presented.