It’s not everywhere that you get a condensed version of Tooth & Nail’s roster, but that’s what July 3 offered.
The first band I saw at the festival was Havalina. This was a real treat for me, since I’ve not been able to always see a full Havalina set. The band usually plays post-midnight marathons, which are tons of fun, but it’s nearly impossible to make it all the way through one due to exhaustion. But this time, I was rested and ready to get my boogie on.
For my money, Havalina is a must-see at the fest, simply because of their energy and talent. And for Orlando, their bass player, who could very well be a one-man show. The band announced their recent re-signing with the Nail, and played their newer material, which adds in a spacier, quasi-Stereolab vibe to their already eclectic style.
After Havalina came the Blamed. Now, I’d never really gotten into the Blamed, but I wanted to give them another chance. Unfortunately, the infamous Cornerstone weather struck shortly after their set began. Lightning struck close by, and effectively shut off the power. The band tried to go on, but there was really no way they could. Both the band and the crowd seemed to accept it gracefully.
It was then that the heavens opened up. For about 15 – 20 minutes, the clouds exploded above the campgrounds, and I was having flashbacks to last year’s rain. Thankfully, it stopped and provided a welcome relief from all of the dust.
Fine China came up next. Now, I know some people can’t stand them, but they’ve always been a guilty pleasure of mine. Like Nolan said, they’re probably the poutiest, prettiest band at the fest. And I love it. They played mainly material off of their Tooth & Nail debut, as well as a few new ones.
After Fine China, I headed over the other Encore tent to check out Embodyment. I caught their show last year, but was fairly unfamiliar with their music. Before the show, I heard that the band expressed some doubts as to whether or not the crowd would get into their newer music, which bears a marked difference from their hardcore origins. They needn’t have worried, because the crowd went nuts, and the band just exploded on stage. Easily one of the most intense shows I saw all week.
After a little break spent hanging out and walking around, Society’s Finest was up. At first, it seemed a little odd, since they were missing a guitarist and a bassist for whatever reason, but the band plowed ahead. During the show, some idiot in one of the pits threw a knife onstage, and I was afraid that was going to be the end. Thankfully, they completed their set, and did quite admirably considering the absence of a few members.
I’d caught Busker Kibbutznick last year, late one night. It was an interesting experience, to say the least, due mainly to the fact that I wasn’t exactly coherent. I had no such problems this time around. I really think this is one of the underrated bands of the fest, one that offers a truly unique experience at the fest.
There was no less than 15 people, playing all sorts of instruments (from oil drums to didgeridoos to Tibetan singing bowls), on stage at any time. At times, the music seemed like it was about to fall apart at any time, but that was what made it so interesting. Musically similar to Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus, their show was all that more interesting with the audience participation, which ranged from dancing to audience members chiming in on their own instruments.
Heather and I left the Busker show early, about the time when the human caterpillar came in, to check out Further Seems Forever. I was curious to see how their new vocalist would sound. It was the vocals of Chris Carabba that really impressed me, so when I heard that he was leaving the band, I was worried their music might not have the same impact. No worries, though, because their new vocalist, Jason Gleason, easily filled Carabba’s shoes.
After the Further show, Heather and I ran into a couple of kids from Omaha and hung out at their campsite for awhile. To call these guys prepared is an understatement. These guys are veterans, and we found ourselves at their site several times, partaking of their hospitality, campfire, and food.
Zao was up next, and this was one of the more disturbing shows I’d ever seen. I honestly don’t know how those 4 guys can be that dark and heavy in their music, but it probably ranks as the most brutal show I saw all week. These guys redefine “heavy” for me, and the crowd was one of the most insane crowds I saw all week. A huge pit opened up a few feet in front of us, and kids proceeded to kick the crap out of each other in near-total darkness. Right in front of me were two little high school girls, and I doubt they’d ever seen anything like it.
After Zao, I caught a little bit of Squad Five‑O. I really like these guys, simply because they probably exude “rock and roll” more than any other band at the fest. I only caught the tale end of their show, but I did catch their cover of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.”
One of the fest’s funnier moments occurred when the lead singer’s dad appeared on stage to sing during one of the songs. The contrast between this older gentleman and the 5 wild men dancing and prancing around him was quite marked. At the end of the show, the lead singer pushed his dad into the crowd and the crowd carried him around for awhile. The dad repaid the favor by carrying one of the bandmembers off stage. Who says rock and roll can’t span the generations?
Joy Electric was up next and I don’t know what else I can say that I haven’t said before. Ronnie and Co. played a mixture of new material (which a lot darker and harder, relatively speaking, than Joy Electric’s earlier material) and the old hits. As always, the crowd was going nuts, or at least as nuts as a Joy Electric crowd can get. And unlike some synthpop groups, Ronnie was all over the stage, strutting and prancing around in all of the right ways. As usual, a lot of fun for both Nolan and I.
The last band I caught was Ultrabeat. I’d never heard their stuff before, but was curious from the various things I read. I left shortly after the first song. Horribly generic techno/dance pop with inane lyrics about starting a “Jesus rave” or something like that. At first, I held out hope that things would get better, that maybe some serious groove would start up. But I just couldn’t get over how cheesy and weak it all was. I guess they’re big in Europe, but then again, so was Ace of Base.