April 28th and 29th, 2012
Electric Lounge & Lanes, Oshkosh WI
Saturday, April 28th
Darger + Plague Mother
I’m not generally a noise enthusiast, but this 15-minute collaborative set was closer to drone than harsh noise and it started the day off on a surprisingly pretty note. I enjoyed this set more than I anticipated, despite the phalanx of photographers standing between the crowd and the performers, taking close-up pictures of their shoes and shit. I’m sure everyone will be very excited to revisit those photos of Darger’s shoes.
This melodic punk band was definitely an oddball on a bill packed with experimental metal. They reminded me of Hot Water Music or something and they had great energy and helped set the eclectic tone for the weekend.
I have weirdly picky taste when it comes to doom metal, and this Iowa trio didn’t really do it for me. They were naturally quite loud and slow but there was nary a melody to be found in the guitars and harsh-harsh-harsh isn’t enough for me when the music is really slow.
I’ve seen Milwaukee hardcore lifers Protestant a few times before and they always put on a hard-hitting, energetic show. The crowd at Gilead was very into them, and they ended up being a highlight of the first day. I hadn’t heard much of their newer output and the songs ripped pretty hard. Also, their drummer makes awesome faces and Anderson Cooper really gets into it on the bass.
Liked Protestant, Get Rad plays lots of local hardcore and metal bills and their fast, party-dude hardcore is always a barrel of fun. This show was no exception. Bonus points go to the bassist who not only jumped from the top of his bass amp off the stage and onto the floor while playing, but also tossed a water bottle into the crowd, later slipped on it, and faux-angrily yelled “Who the fuck spilled water down here?!”
This Oregon-based doom band started their set promisingly with lengthy, haunting, unaccompanied clean guitar passages and really got my attention, but then they just bashed away on some harsh atonal doom stuff and I found it kinda boring. My friend Nick said they were his favorite of the day and shelled out like thirty bucks for their new double LP, so your mileage may vary.
I was excited to see this idiosyncratic Californian black metal trio and they were excitingly idiosyncratic. They started their set by asking all the photographers to get out of the audience’s way, which I appreciated. Their ferocious blastbeats and fuzzy, swirling guitars were augmented by shrieking vocals performed without microphones, something I’d never seen attempted. It made for a pretty cathartic and hypnotic set. Oh, and this happened later, by the bathroom:
Fell Voices’ Bassist: Is that an Urfaust shirt?
Me: No, it’s actually for the old German band Faust.
Fell Voices’ Bassist: Oh. (walks away)
Ash Borer is a much buzzed-about California black metal band and I was interested to hear how their lo-fi sound would translate to the live setting. Unfortunately, I found it to be kind of a mess. The bass overwhelmed the mix and turned their riffs into garbled sludge, and having two guitars and keyboards further mashed the riffs into a samey muddle. I was pretty wiped out by this point, so I walked out after fifteen minutes and fell asleep leaning against a table.
Ah, finally a doom band I can get into! Loss from Tennessee combine slow, plodding beats with mournful melodic guitar and bass parts, guttural vocals, and suicidal lyrics. They took quite a while to set up and I was physically exhausted by that point, but they were mighty impressive and they nailed all the strikingly pretty guitar parts. My friends and I split after about twenty-five minutes due to an extreme need for food and sleep, but I’ll definitely see Loss again if they come through town. On the way out of the venue, I saw a fest attendee standing way too close to a passing train and I thought maybe he’d taken Loss’s lyrics to heart and was about to end it all. The irreparable act!
Sunday, April 29th
What a weird live setup this band had – a drummer playing live and doing vocals, a dude pressing buttons on a computer triggering pre-recorded bass and guitar parts, and two inexplicable laptops sitting on stools showing urban decay footage of imploding buildings and stuff. This setup made for a live experience that wasn’t particularly thrilling, but the drumming and vocals were impressive. Just wish this dude had some friends to play with.
The screamo side project of a few Thou members was solid and hard-hitting, but I was trying to conserve my energy, so I listened to the set from a chair in the next room over while texting my wife. I did enjoy joking with a friend about whether they were named after the Tyrese movie of the same name.
This Fell Voices side project felt amateurish and unrehearsed. They bummed me out.
A Scanner Darkly
Man alive, this reunited heavy spacey grind band really woke me up! Adam Bartlett (who runs Gilead Media and put together this fest) did vocals for the set and it was a gut-punch of blasting grind and heavy doom passages with some really creative and unusual guitar work. The set lengths at this fest were quite brief for the most part, and this performance was one of a handful that really left me wanting more.
I was excited to see the final Milwaukee band on the bill since I recently picked up and heartily enjoyed their album Clandestine Abuse. The four piece sludge metal act was just as crushing as I’d hoped, and they had a strong stage presence. My neck was just getting used to the abuse when they reached the end of their third or fourth song and the drummer kicked over all his drums and cymbals and the second guitarist launched his instrument into the crowd. Set’s over. I definitely wanted more Northless and will be checking out a local set soon.
I spent the first ten minutes of this set eating a sandwich in the parking lot, but when I got back inside, this New York blackened thrash group (their sound is too beefy to be pure black metal) was in full-on kill mode. They’re one of the more conventional metal bands of the fest but they put on a good, energetic show. I can definitely see them getting booked on some big metal tours in the future.
This Rhode Island-based noise/sludge duo broke the medium down to its core descriptors – loud and hard. Loud being the insanely downtuned guitar pumping bassy riffs through the high-powered amp setup, and hard being the drummer bashing the slow and mid-tempo beats as hard as possible. Throw some weird high-pitched shrieks on top and that’s one dirty, heavy sound.
This Minneapolis black metal band pretty made all the other Sunday black metal bands look like amateurs. Their 10-15 minute compositions didn’t have any lousy atmospheric interludes – just five sweaty dudes playing fast and hard and one tiny female vocalist wearing floral-print culottes and putting on a vocal performance that bordered on legit scary. She looked and sounded seriously possessed.
It’s a shame that these dudes had to follow False. It would be unkind of me to say more.
My friends had been pumping my expectations up about Thou all weekend, and I must admit that the fest’s final band lived up to the hype with a heavy set of sludge/doom that whipped the crowd into a frenzy even after watching 18 other bands. They hit real hard but didn’t sacrifice riffs for pure volume. Their individual performances were so locked-tight that it was clear that these guys are pretty road-tested and they know how to put on a show. Their usual shows are much shorter and I feel that maybe the set went on a little too long (they played their album Tyrant in full, plus an extra song or two), but I really enjoyed getting pushed around by both the crowd and the music.