Posted by: Necci – Apr 26, 2012
[Our coverage of Macrock 2012 concludes with the fourth and final installment of Shannon Cleary's full recap. Previous installments as follows: Shows, Day One; Late Night House Show Fiasco; Indie Media Panel]
Tons More Bands (see below)
Saturday, April 7 at Macrock, Harrisonburg VA
After participating in the independent media panel and giving Ttotals a proper farewell as they departed Harrisonburg, it was time for more music. I headed back to the Artful Dodger for a great showing of regional acts that felt inspiring and received amazing reactions. Spacemonster was a new find for me, and very impressive, I might add. Spacemonster hails from Richmond, and there is an interesting vibe to their musical approach. On record, the group sounds like a mix of Daniel Johnston with more of a lo-fi power pop punch. In a live environment, each tune felt fleshed out, which helped to communicate their sound. It’s always a nice touch to discover bands from the city that have been flying under my radar. It will be interesting to see them continue to flourish.
With Peace Beast playing next, I knew I was going to be in store for a grand set from these favorites. They didn’t disappoint, and continue to show their growing confidence as a live band. The dual harmonies of Kelly Queener and Brandi Price are always perfectly utilized, and are a strong component of their nineties girl-fronted indie rock sound, demonstrating their unapologetic desire to offer a throwback to that time and make that sound their own. It’s interesting to watch Kyle Harris take on a different role in Peace Beast than that which he occupies in The Diamond Center. The subdued nature of his guitar parts in Peace Beast is a major contributor to the mastery of Queener’s deliberate and innovative songwriting. It was nice to see a growing audience for their set, and a great showing of support for the local favorites.
After Peace Beast, word began to circulate about a parking deck set from Blacksburg’s Hoop Dreams. At first, my intention was to run by there and check this out. Everything changed, though, once I caught a few glimpses of Charlottesville’s Left and Right. Reminiscent of Hot Water Music, Jawbreaker, and Leatherface, the group won me over pretty quickly, and I stuck around to see their whole set. It was a delight to see such enthusiasm for this sound, and they stood out in comparison to the rest of the showcase. They promised a new record that would see release in a few months.
Out of all of the Richmond bands that made a trek to Macrock, The Snowy Owls may have fared the best. Inviting Dave Watkins to accompany their set with projections was a nice touch, but it was really their strong performance that helped to fill The Artful Dodger. Kicking things off with the three-part punch of “Meadow,” “Could,” and “Papertooth” was impressive, and helped to cement their standing as one of the more exciting Richmond bands. It should also be mentioned that the key ingredient for The Snowy Owls’ improvement is the addition of guitarist James Wingo, who debuted in the early part of this year. The increased fullness of their sound makes clear that the addition was a necessary component. After Snowy Owls closed with “Yr Eyes,” the crowd quickly assembled to purchase records from the band, and it was nice to see several people walking about with a piece of Richmond tucked under their arms.
photo courtesy Infinite Jets
After the celebratory Snowy Owls set, Infinite Jets had the difficult task of following up. Having listened to their music in recorded form, I wish I'd had a better opportunity to watch their set more closely. There’s a nasal vocal touch that helps them channel Superchunk, but a sloppiness that conveys the ideals of The Replacements. I do think I would have likely enjoyed their set if I'd paid closer attention, but the occasional lack of focus is a consequence of the festival setting, with constant showcases of music happening all around you.
Hoop Dreams were the next band to perform, and they were ridiculously awesome. Seeing their set only made me wish I could have caught them playing at their impromptu parking deck show as well as at the failed house show the night prior. Their set showcased their engaging dynamic and tasteful channeling of the sounds of Joy Division-era post punk. It's no surprise that this was directly up my alley, and I couldn’t get enough of their set. With only a vinyl release available from Captured Tracks, they are already making a quick return to Richmond, performing at Cellar Door on Saturday night along with Heavy Midgets, Spacemonster and Wolf//Goat [for more info, check out the facebook event HERE -ed.]. I can't express enough how awesome this band is. You should check out Hoop Dreams at any opportunity that presents itself.
After hearing word of Creepoid’s set at Strange Matter the night before, I knew I was in store for something unique and intriguing. The No Idea Records band had a really great rapport with the audience, and the sound they captured was as intense as it was captivating. The haunting selections from their latest LP, Horse Heaven, as well as their 2010 EP, Yellow Life Giver, were engaging, and I immediately fell for the wonderful dynamic between Sean Miller and Anna Troxell. The vocal diatribes that both utilized to interact with each other helped each melody and harmony feel remarkable, as well as establishing a great track record for Philadelphia bands that made their way to Harrisonburg.
The Artful Dodger had been a great home for music all weekend, and had even run out of champagne and PBR by the end of Saturday’s showcase. The final group to perform at this venue were New Jersey’s Big Troubles. Their shiny pop style was a proper counterpart to the wonderfully bizarre set that preceded them. It was a nice finale for a day full of psych, grunge, lo-fi garage and post-punk. Big Troubles were at their strongest when they channeled The Smiths, adding tinges of contemporary artists like Real Estate (which seems appropriate considering their recent tour together). One of the nice things about a festival like Macrock is that you can easily discover music that you might feel ashamed of not already knowing about. Big Troubles were a band that I wish I had been acquainted with before seeing them. Thankfully, their set proved to be the best introduction imaginable for this Jersey pop quartet.
In true Macrock fashion, there was no time to rest or relax. Considering that the final showcase at Clementine featured Eternal Summers, Psychic Teens, Hunx and His Punx, and The Beets, I knew I was in for something really special. Descriptions I'd heard of Screaming Females’ set at Macrock 2011 made me think that this fest-ending show would be the opportunity to see everything get crazy. The last Philadelphia group to perform this year was Psychic Teens. With a strobe-heavy stage show and a phenomenal penchant for sludgy rock’n’roll, they were one of the grand highlights of the weekend. It was loud and thunderous throughout Clementine as they maneuvered strongly through a set that featured cuts from their recent Golden Voyage Records release, Teen.
Queens natives The Beets were the next band up, and their dreamy pop tunes were reminiscent of The Velvet Underground in the most perfect of ways. Their effervescent approach made them feel right at home in the midst of this promising showcase. While Psychic Teens made a strong case for the heavy side of nineties grunge, The Beets were an inspired group that showcased a flair for bizarre, spacey pop from an earlier time, but offered more than just a lifted version of a previous musical thought. The Beets were bouncing with gems that hit one after another.
Out of the four bands featured, Eternal Summers was the one I looked forward to the most, and the one I was most familiar with. After their set at Tantrum a few months ago, I couldn’t wait until I could catch the trio again. As they took the stage, the audience had grown exponentially, and there was a true air of excitement in the room. Comparison of their current sound to their past releases helps to display how much they have grown since adding a bassist to their lineup. The songs sound richer and offer proper pop contemplations from their remarkable singer/guitarist, Nicole Yun. I simply cannot wait for a proper full-length that represents this incarnation of Eternal Summers. I am absolutely certain that it will silence any detractors and be beloved by their current fan base.
photo by Daniel Pitout
The final performance of the weekend was by Hunx and His Punx. All that can really be said is how unbelievably incredible their set was. After an energetic showing from Eternal Summers, I was impressed to see that all in attendance had a bit more left in the tank as the final band took the stage. Hunx is essentially a throwback to Ramones-style punk with a debutante flair that is unparalleled by any band I had caught all weekend. Frontman Seth Bogart is a hell of a performer, and it showed as he prowled across stage. As he declared to the audience that he was going to steal everyone in the room’s boyfriends, it was only a matter of time before we all fell in love with their remarkably catchy rock tunes. From what I understand, despite the group having floated about for a bit of time, the recent addition of Shannon Shaw of Shannon and The Clams has really solidified their current line-up. Not only has she contributed as a songwriter to a few of the songs featured on their most recent LP, Too Young to Be In Love, she provides a perfect foil to Bogart’s flamboyance.
After a long weekend of staying up too late, drinking with new and old friends and being exposed to a plethora of new, exciting music, Hunx and His Punx provided the perfect way to say farewell to the festival. Their fun set was a perfect testament to why all of the anguish and exhaustion was worth it to be exposed to as much art as possible. There were numerous bands that I wish I could have caught: Dogs on Main Street, Algernon Cadwallader, Druglord, The Cinnamon Band, and many others. There was just so much music to consume that one has to make sacrifices. Hopefully many of these acts will be invited to partake again next year, because as I type this, I am already counting down to next year’s Macrock.
Words and Images (except where noted) by Shannon Cleary