Last Night A Few Words About Reverb Fest
posted by October 9 at 17:13 PMon
So this thing went down in Ballard on Saturday, and a bunch of bands played a bunch of shows, and it was sponsored by some magazine or newspaper or something, and I guess it was cool or whatever.
OK, enough with the phony attitude—the Seattle Weekly’s Reverb Fest went over surprisingly well for a first-time event. Attendance was pretty good and the lineup was even better, though synchronized start times prevented folks from seeing everything they came for. Some sets were surprisingly short, too—No-Fi Soul Rebellion played for a half-hour. But overall, corralling the festival to a couple blocks in one of Seattle’s most scenic neighborhoods gave it a sense of easygoing, show-hopping freedom. Small crowds made getting from one venue to another no problem.
The best part of the whole thing might’ve been walking down Ballard Avenue—maybe Seattle’s most romantic street—at during a gorgeous, platinum-hued sunset, kicking fallen golden leaves and talking with friends. It was a nice time to be outside in the autumn air, strolling from one show to another. Also: Oaxaca. Damn that place rocks.
I made a point of seeing bands I’d never seen before, many of whom were heavily hyped from friends. Some of them were good, some of them were awful. Here’s the chronological rundown:
Triumph of Lethargy etc.: I had to walk by the outdoor stage on my way to Bop Street, so I passed by the only band on the bill I’d seen before. Funny shit, but I still don’t get the joke. I’d rather listen to Albert Ayler played backwards on an 8-track than this stuff. Terrible, terrible music. But in a lot of ways, very, very impressive in how sincerely terrible it really is. Which is why people like it. Which is why it’s still funny to me.
Talbot Talgora at Bop Street: teenagers dishing out andrenal grunge-punk (punge?) to other flannel-clad, wool-hatted teenagers in a musty record store. An utterly classic Seattle scene, and the band played to it perfectly, though a buzz in the monitor kept tweaking my ear.
Throw Me the Statue’s sound was better, and they more than filled the Bop Street stage. What the five-piece band lacked in precision they made up for in enthusiasm. The shadow of Weezer is long and dark, but these guys managed to scurry out from under it with vibrant four-part harmonies, a charming earnestness, and a glockenspiel. Some songs were good, others were really good. There’s a ton of potential with these guys. They just need more gigs. Touring with Jens Lenkmen this fall oughta do it.
“Awesome” should be re-christened, as one friend pointed out, “They Might Be” They Might Be Giants. Yeah, they’re smart and cute and talented, but they’re also annoying as a sugar-rushed ten-year-old with a toy piano and an inflated sense of self. I suppose that’s likable to some. I could even see liking a song with lyrics consisting of the numbers one through nine. But only if I started liking them back in college. I have no time for that happy shit now.
J. Tillman sounded great, from what I could hear. The Lock & Keel was so packed and loud it was hard to catch his low-key alt-country croon. Folks were super jazzed on the fact that he was playing with a full band, and I wanted to get closer to the music, but I left for No-Fi before I could squeeze to the front.
Which was a bad move, because No-Fi Soul Rebellion was finishing their set with a ten-minute monolog when I got to Sonic Boom. I missed most of the good stuff, though I did dig bandleader Mark Heimer’s affirmation that playfulness and earnestness could go together hand in hand.
Partman, Parthorse came highly recommended, but all it took was three songs and I had enough. There’s just not much to it besides a hairdo and an attitude. If it’s dance-punk, it should have a beat. Raunch only goes so far, and then you gotta get a groove.
Which is exactly what what the Pleasureboaters did. Spazzy, screechy, and flailing, these guys could’ve settled back on their dangerous stage presence, but they dug deep into blown-out, bloozy tunes and pulled and stretched them like silly putty. Basslines bumped, guitars chimed, drums thundered, but a solid groove was almost always at the base of the madness. Reminded me of a younger, punker Jon Spencer Blues Explosion—in a good way. Lead singer/guitarist Ricky Claudon even brandished a Spencer-ish, stutter-snarl, though mostly he sounded like his nuts were in a vice. The Pleasureboaters got the most extreme crowd reaction I saw all day.
Also working the crowd was D.Black, who led the Sunset through an ecstatic set of hometown-loving hiphop. The place was packed with a wonderfully diverse crowd—especially for Ballard—and the whole room was wrapped up in Black’s authoritative flow. Newcomer Spaceman had replaced J. Pinder as Black’s hypeman and the two were perfectly in-sych, obviously rehearsed and feeding off each other’s lines. Tillman and the Throw Me the Statue dudes all rocked out to his set—exactly the kind of crossover an event like this can engender.
Grynch closed it up nicely with his mid-tempo storytelling flow. Backed, like D.Black, by DJ NPhared, he rode a few clever throwback samples (“Hiphop Hooray”—hellyeah) into a crowd-pleasing set. A little weird that hiphop was kept in the ghetto of the Sunset for the whole festival—made it clear that hiphop wasn’t the focus. But it was the first time out of the gate for Reverb. If it happens next year, you can bet the Powers That Be will do their best to fix whatever was broken.