I always put some scratch aside to pick up some records and stuff while I'm at Fest because I know it's a veritble buyers market for the new and the obscure, rife with people and distros around every corner looking to hawk their stuff. This year was no exception and I was happy to spread a little love around to the bands both familiar and new that I enjoyed, as well as seek out those hidden gems in the back of some cardboard bin. (* not reviewed on this list: the bootleg Nation Of Ulysses shirt I scored, holla!)
1.6 BAND, “Broke Up”
Who? Yeah, I know. This is one of those bands that were very influential in their time, but mostly to other bands and then pretty much disappeared off the map. They reformed recently and dropped a seven inch that is just as good as the material on this early 90’s discography of their 7”s and long players on one shiny plastic CD. Wildly talented and technical for a hardcore band in the early 90s, but still rooted in the melodic and catchy vibe of Dischord bands like Dag Nasty. 1.6 Band had this really cool sound that has been hard for bands to match since. For music nerds get a load of the jazzy and complicated drum parts, the off-time tech-y riffs, and noodly bass parts. For the rest of you, notice how it does not get mired in how technical it is and check the balance of spazzy aggression and melodic punk. A million bands of this nature followed, but none quite the same. $3 at a record store. Take that.
BIG EYES 7”
Heck yes. Awesome debut 7” from the guitarist/vocalist of Cheeky. The approach is sort of garage rock with a sort of 60’s vibe on the melody, but most certainly punk rock. I don’t know why I want to use this as a descriptor, but I’m also getting a little Joan Jett and the Blackhearts feel here too. Whatever. Four songs of catchy garage rock punk, good melodies, sneering yet sweet vocals. I dig it.
BURNING LOVE demo 7”
Most of these songs made it on the full length, but there’s also a Battalion Of Saints cover on here. I kind of like the recording on this better than the full length, and maybe that’s because it is a bit more rough around the edges, giving these already hostile jams a bit more of a gnarly sound. Turbonegro-meets-Entombed style riff worship and loads of solos. Get into it or don’t.
DEAD MECHANICAL, “Addict Rhythms”
I’d been meaning to get this record since the Summer but couldn’t find it anywhere. Luckily, one of the guys who released it happened to have a table right next to me so I just had to get it. Once again, DM made a great collection of songs here. While the rest of the album is stellar, the re-recording of “Sidewalk” from one of their 7”s is still my favorite tune of theirs pretty much ever. A close second is “Pictures In the Hall”. a departure from their typical vibe, mostly due to the somber vocal quality that lends an awesome feel to this great song. The rest of the record is a collection of melodic pop punk rock with bratty and snarled vocals, yet somehow has something more complicated lying beneath... like they listen to a lot of The Police or something. It’s not your typical three chord pop punk record and I love that about them.
DEEP SLEEP, “Turn Me Off” 12”
It seems that a bunch of bands were planning on having Fest as a record release show of some kind and instead just had a test press version available, which is the case here. ot that I mind or anything, as Deep Sleep had their first 12” (I’m guessing that it might have been possible to fit it all on a 7”) in test press form, complete with silkscreened cover art (made out of turning Government Warning sleeves inside out). Either way, I’d seen this band move from standard fare fast hardcore to something that was still fast, but played around with a good deal of melody and I may have made a Wipers comparison in the past. That was wrong. If anything, Deep Sleep has a love affair with all things Descendants and Adolescents, especially on “Be With You”, the opener on side B, as ultra quick and fun as it is. Short record, fast songs, good band. I enjoy.
GIVE, “Boots Of Faith” 7”
I wasn’t super impressed with their 12”, but really liked how wild they were live. This 7” definitely improves upon bringing that live vibe to wax and results in their best song to date, “Boots Of Faith”. It has an excellent melodic quality that just further brings to mind the often made comparison of Swiz to this DC group. The B-side is decent as well, but not nearly as awesome as the A-side. I figure now I ought to check out the React 7” they just dropped as well.
HUNCHBACK, “Pray For Scars”
This was in the free bin at the No Idea record sale/BBQ. Ooof, I can see why. All over the map with no real direction and a lot of bad songwriting. I just can’t figure this one out. It’s pretty bad. Sometimes noisy, weird, and experimental works. Other times, like this, it just fails miserably.
THE JESUS LIZARD, “Head”
This is the only Jesus Lizard recording that I don’t have a physical copy of. So when I was finished setting up my distro table, well before the masses were actually allowed to enter the room, I checked a few of the early offerings from other people. I noticed a guy selling an original vinyl pressing of this and instantly asked what he wanted for it. Five bucks later I was rushing back to my table to secure it like some gem, afraid others would see it and try to scam it off of me. Just like basically everything else this band did this is nearly flawless. I mean, how ridiculous is “Killer McHahn”? Or the winding, serpentine thwack over the head of “Seven Vs. Eight”? God damn, I love this band.
LIQUID LIMBS, “Dichotomy” 7”
Two more songs of face-melting sludge rock from this Florida duo. They definitely don’t get the attention I feel they deserve, but that’s just me. I have described them before as Torche-meets-Big Business- meets King Crimson, and I still stand by that description. Yet these two songs have way more of a Melvins feel to them (which I guess isn’t a stretch from some of the other comparisons) due to the way heavier focus on thick riffs and wild snarled singing going on. I want another full length. Right now, soon, please. Thanks.
OLEHOLE/ TIGON split 7”
I traded one of my records for this based mostly on the cover. I don’t know who Tigon are supposed to be on their side, but Olehole is dressed up as the Furies from The Warriors on their side. Very nice. As far as music goes the Olehole stuff is a little more straight-forward rocking than their EP they dropped a couple years back. A little less on the post-hardcore tip and a bit more in the ‘let’s just rock’ style. Tigon is a bit harder to pin down as they toss in equal parts sort of sludgy rock and more noodly guitar work. It’s pretty decent overall.
PUNCH, “Push/Pull” 12”
Easily one of the best sets at Fest, this new record is just as wild and vitriolic as the live performance they deliver. Punch, for the uninitiated, is a incredibly fast and pissed hardcore band from the Bay Area that mixes parts traditional hardcore and powerviolence blast beats. Their singer has a high pitched piercing scream that some seem to find irritable. Personally, I think her voice is rad and just adds even more anger to the already raucous music. As far as any improvements made from their previous full length there really are none. Essentially it is just more of what you would expect. That certainly isn’t a bad thing, especially given how fast everything flies by. Lyrically it seems a little more personal, a bit less issue-oriented, and somewhat more straightforward lacking those small flourishes of humor I noticed on the last record. The opening track, “Stay Afloat” is probably the best track, especially with the absolutely mind-fucking swirl of drums going on.
TOUCHE AMORE, “To the Beat Of a Dead Horse”
Yeah, yeah, yeah, everyone knows who they are and I know this was released awhile ago. But to date, I have only had a shitty burn of it so it was time to get the real thing, because I actually like physical copies of music I enjoy from bands I like. I wasn’t completely sold on this band early on, but live they are a monster and really deliver like no one’s business. Plus, as far as bands that have a sort of mid-90’s screamo vibe thing happening TA really takes it in a cool direction with their own little twists and turns. Definitely one of the best live bands around right now if you want fun and excitement.
I also ought to make note that there were a number of bands that I didn't bother to check out until after I had returned home and now I'm kicking myself for not going to see them play. As an act of contrition I have since ordered some records from them. I, also, urge you to check these bands out: Senders, Grids, Averkiou, and Worry Ship