PLAY:stl Festival | 09.16-20.09

sm_greymarket7small.gifLiving, eating, drinking and breathing music for four straight nights? I don’t know about you, but that’s my idea of heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to believe that all those months of planning and weeks of incessant stress are over, culminating in three straight nights of incredible independent music up and down Delmar Boulevard. Granted, I missed a lot; 90 bands spread over seven clubs and three days presents something of a logistical challenge when you’d like to catch them all. (Let’s face it. Unless you’ve stumbled on the ability to be in more than one place at a time, you can’t.) Still, there were some acts I caught—and a few whose sets I saw in their entirety—that blew me away.

 

BANDS I ABSOLUTELY ADORED

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GreyMarket*—Without a doubt, this Tampa electronic-rock duo wore the crown of the fest. We loved their submission so much we invited them to also play the kickoff party Wednesday night…and that’s all she wrote. Who could have believed two guys would make such a production? Cave McCoy plays guitar and sings lead; Mike Gargiulo plays drums and sings backup, and a handy little laptop provides the preprogrammed parts. Stage lights dimmed, the duo bring their own lights-and more energy than your typical five-piece. With one of the greatest high/falsetto voices I’ve heard, McCoy also shreds on guitar. When the moment captures him-and let’s be honest; it often does-he jumps from the stage, sliding and wailing and playing his heart out. As the guys describe it, this is arena-sized rock on a small stage…but not for long. I caught parts or all of their other two performances—one scheduled, one last-minute fill-in—and never felt anything less than transported.

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Red Collar—Yes, I’ve seen ‘em before. Yes, I loved them both times. But now, after catching another couple shows, I continue to be overpowered by this Durham, N.C., quartet. Their live show is full of energy and grit, with all four members’ enthusiasm taking over their performance. Husband and wife Jason and Beth Kutchma take opposite sides of the stage, he on vocals and guitar, she on bass, encompassing guitarist/backing vocalist Mike Jackson and backed by beat-keeping drummer Jonathan Truesdale. It doesn’t matter if they’re the first, middle or final act, nor how many times they’ve delivered the show; each one’s fresh and engaging, each one finds new fans singing along. Critics and fans alike are starting to take notice, and with good reason. We here at PLAY:stl can say we knew them when…

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Owen—OK, he was one of the headliners, not entirely fitting into the "independent" definition. Owen—a.k.a. Mike Kinsella—played the final night of the fest; luckily, by that point, all of the issues were resolved (either that, or it was too late to worry about them). I was actually able to sit down and watch his entire performance…unheard of. But utterly necessary. Performing solo with an acoustic guitar, seated (so that the majority of the audience couldn’t see him…except for those in front and me, planted on the side of the stage), Kinsella was utterly captivating. His between-song banter was both awkward and hilarious, as per usual. But it’s his voice, and the stories he tells with it, that truly define his genius. His songs are personal and relatable, making we listeners feel he is sharing his life with us, if only for 40 minutes. Truly, it was the perfect way to cap off a wonderful festival.

Holding Mercury—It was unfortunate. I had time for just a handful of Holding Mercury’s songs before I was needed elsewhere. (I had, however, caught most of frontman Matt Hoffer’s acoustic show earlier in the evening.) Never mind that I’ve seen this band  countless times before; every time I see them is like the first time (save for knowing the words to all the songs). This four-piece Chicago rock band is tight…so tight, in fact, that it’s a travesty they haven’t achieved greater acclaim…yet. Since I first saw them over a year ago they have been one of my favorite rock bands playing today. If you missed ‘em this time, don’t make the same mistake when next they play our fair city.

Strix Vega—I’ll confess: Strix Vega bassist Andy Powell is a good friend. And yet I’d never seen his band—a trio from Arcata, Calif.—before this festival. The three-piece performed ethereal, richly droning Pink Floyd-esque creations under the moon on the outside stage by Racanelli’s Cucina…truly the perfect environment for their dreamlike music. Powell alternated between a throbbing bass and soft-licked keyboards, while vocalist Colin Begell held down guitar and Jay Forbes drums. Coupled with the fact that this group had traveled the furthest for the fest, their performance made for the perfect night beneath the stars.

BANDS I ONLY CAUGHT FOR ONE OR TWO SONGS

The Life and Times—This is the life, and these are the times, indeed. You can bet I’ll be bringing this Kansas City indie rock quartet back.

One Lone Car—This area indie pop quartet never delivers anything short of a fun and captivating live show. The addition of Material Issue’s "Valerie Loves Me" earned them big brownie points with this music fan. The fact that it was one of singer Aaron Kellim’s last shows with the band made it bittersweet.

Brighton, MA—Could it be this band gets better every time I see them? That, or the outside stage really made their music take on a life of its own. Matt Kerstein’s unique vocals and exquisite song make this a band deserving of greater and greater things; don’t miss them next time they’re in town.

Chip Greene—I caught a song or two but I was distracted. I listened to the CD later; wow. Definitely want to bring this one back if only because, selfishly, I want to watch the entire show.

We’re Into Survival—Somehow their brand of punkish rock seemed absolutely made for the basement cavern of the Elvis Room. Maybe they’ll come back next year and I’ll get to see a full set.

Star and Micey—I managed to stop by Vintage Vinyl for one half of one song en route to putting out a fire. They were unique to be sure; worth keeping an eye on.

BANDS I WISH I’D SEEN

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The Republic Tigers—I heard great things about this Kansas City indie rock band’s set; I only wish I’d seen them for myself.

The Antlers—First night problems + first night performers = Laura missed a lot.

Eikon—I’ve seen them. I love them. Everyone who caught their set at the festival could not stop talking about them. They’ll be back, and I’ll be there.

The Noise FM—This Kansas City quartet was a last-minute add, and one that went over especially well. Frontman Alex Ward’s acoustic set-a last-minute fill-in-was well received as well.

BANDS EVERYONE ELSE SEEMED CRAZY FOR

The Hood Internet—Cicero’s was packed. With college kids. Dancing their asses off. Not my scene, but happy that so many people had so much fun.

Atlas Sound—Maybe I’m sullied by the pictures. What am I talking about? Bradford Cox (Deerhunter) is truly one of the geekiest rock stars I have ever seen. I’ll admit I didn’t give him a chance. But hundreds of Wash. U. kids can’t be wrong, right?

Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship—The fact that his set got shut down by the cops just makes his performance that much more talked about. Way to go, Corey.

 

It was great. Three straight days of wristbanded people up and down Delmar, hitting the shows and the bars and talking about all the great music. Let’s face it: putting on a festival of this size is a lot of work (a hell of a lot of work; have I adequately conveyed that?), but it’s such an overwhelmingly good feeling. Living, eating, drinking and breathing music for four straight nights? I don’t know about you, but that’s my idea of heaven. Until 2010… | Laura Hamlett

*Full disclosure: I fell so in love with GreyMarket that I’m now working with them. Cart before the horse, though; I promise.

 

Photos by Bryan J. Sutter

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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