Live Review: Whartscape 2009 Day 3 (2009.07.12)

Dan Deacon Day 3 Whartscape
Photo credit: Flickr user Dorret

Hunting for safety from the sun’s rays made me feel something like an animal Sunday. I was leaning against the old rusted fence in the MICA parking lot, watching Santa Dads do their own thing–and it is totally theirs to keep, when I became aware of all the Wham City members working their butts off in the draining heat. I remember running into (who I believe was) Stefani Levin of Wham City at the Load of Fun on Saturday night. She was clearly fatigued, and (not knowing who she was) I asked “hell of a show, right?” She exhaled loudly and replied, “I’m working.” You might imagine what hell organizing and executing this monstrous Whartscape must have been. For those of us who attended, I think it’s time to give a quick thanks to the people that put this rad fest on.

Witch Hat: I’ve always thought that hard rock has been as good as it’s going to get, but damned if Witch Hat don’t make the case. The finale of their set involved a severed plaster hand, the drummer growling “touch my hand” until his throat looked more like a pile of scrap metal than human flesh. Making use of unstoppable waves of percussion and thrusting guitar licks with bulletlike distortion, these Baltimore natives make hard rock work.

Microkingdom: I really dig these guys a lot. As an improvisational duo, Marc Miller arranges fingers on his fretboard in ways I have never thought useful, while Will Redman is stuck with finding method in Marc’s madness. And it’s wonderful. A lot of sub-par free-jazz groups end up sounding like unintelligible racket, but what Microkingdom does is so much more. In a separate post I’ll outline what they do exactly, as well as the details of their new release entitled “Spectacular Edges.”

Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez: The sun was pounding on my back, and the sweat buildup didn’t help either. Lesser Gonzalez was mid-set when I got back from a trip for sweet-sweet drinking water, so I took shelter in the oasis of shade just beside his stage. In that proximity, I noticed that he was a little bit of an indie Elvis. Everything about him was at-ease in the best way possible, his hair, his demeanor, even his posture reeked a cool-kid stench. He sported sunglasses trendier than anyone outside of those in Grease films and Arthur Fonzarelli, playing his acoustic ditties like it was no biggie.

Jared Paolini: At first he appears to be just some dude who listened to too many bands on Paw Tracks and decided to try it himself. That’s how he comes off live, anyway. He would sit there, occasionally peering into the audience like he knew someone; layering on guitar loops haphazardly as if he was drizzling cheese in a fondu pot. There’s no art there. On a recording however, his work oozes with aesthetic beauty, it shimmers with every vibration. With any decent pair of headphones, Jared Paolini’s music puts you in sonic Eden, I mean, close your eyes and experience the supernatural, really. Sadly, this is not what I found in person.

Child Bite: These dudes were obnoxious, loud, unabashed, et cetera. To some, that gets a couple gold stars and a high-five. Others shake their heads in distaste. There’s a fine line between party rock and music too stupid to listen to, and I found that Child Bite definitely took a few extra steps on the wrong side of that equation. That’s just me though…

Height: Dressed for success, Height and his buddies dropped onstage unexpectedly at the turn of the evening. They wore suits, ties, dress shoes, and by the end of their set, I have a feeling most of it was on the floor. I don’t blame them, it was as Height said, “hot as fuck out here.” Considering that their advantage is very much studio-based, they put priority one on stellar production, which is something that we can all be glad for.

Blood Baby: Why does Blood Baby exist? Think about it, does the universe need them? Can you imagine the world spinning on, knowing there was no Blood Baby around? I can. I also cannot picture a better place for them to thrive than Whartscape. When you’re talking about absurdly experimental music festivals, there is nothing more necessary than a too-dumb-for-life rock outfit playing songs like “Stab My Face.” You’ve gotta love it.

Santa Dads: Joshua Kelberman lost his voice, so Santa Dads’ set was decidedly more instrumental than not. Everyone in the crowd rooting for the perky delights in “We Will All Die” were sadly let down. Their time onstage did, however, leave room to emphasize the non-vocal portions to their art, which turned out to be more than just backdrops to the lyrics. As it turns out, for a band that started out of shrugs and a fake name on a poster, they really know how to write emotive pieces. And to think I was under the impression they were a word-based duo who happened to wear costumes. Shame on me.

Future Islands: I was prepared for just another (awesome) Future Islands show on Sunday. Luckily, we had plenty of guest stars this time around; there was guy-with-the-bubbles, the impolite technical difficulties, and even the big meanie in the audience who yelled at the bubble guy! But all that aside, I think this was the finest performance I’ve ever seen by Sam Herring. He sang as if he was ready to die for his music, like there was nothing more important to him than this show, right now.

Teeth Mountain: I’ll admit it. I was the jerk sitting down in the middle of the on-your-feet crowd. Want to know why? Because Teeth Mountain makes music tailor-made for popping a squat and basking in your atmosphere. So, quit it you guys. As always, Teeth Mountain made most everybody look like amateurs out there, and that’s all that needs sayin’.

Double Dagger: Nolen Strals, commencing Double Dagger’s rhythmic wrath, informed the photographers that any damage to their overpriced gear was not his own fault. I knew I couldn’t deal with the insanity at that point in time. From what  I gathered while observing from the side, I’d be surprised if many cameras left Whartscape in tact. Song after song, the moshing got harsher, more dramatic. I don’t know how those kids did it.

And that’s how my Whartscape ended. With Double Dagger and about 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep in the suburbs shortly thereafter. In one sentence: Whartscape was worth the exhaustion.

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