06 October 2009

Rochester Indie Music Fest

Made it out for the finale of the 2nd annual Rochester Independent Music Festival Saturday night. It's a nice little 3-day fest featuring mostly local acts taking place in a few venues around the South Wedge all for the low low price of $20, or $10 per day (an offering I think the bigger Rochester Jazz Fest needs to take up, daily passes, but anyway...) My friend pointed out that there probably isn't too much of a major label presence in Rochester so the "independent" label comes off a bit hollow, still, I understand the intention. Independent is to the aughts as Alternative was to the nineties.

On to the music. Walri got things started at the German House. The last time I saw them they played a slew of covers and I was wondering what their originals sounded like. Wonder no longer. They played a tight 60 minute set of all originals, ranging from very early stuff to brand spanking new. Ranging from psychedelic rockers to country honk to straight up blues, strong on all counts. The newer stuff shined brighter than the early, and I have high hopes for these guys. If I were to pin their sound down to another more established band, it would be Dr. Dog who in and of themselves are an amalgam of many other bands... The music is lead by the lead guitarist and singer who sang all but one song, but the music is driven by the very solid drum and bass core. On the flip side of my previous encounter, I was kind of hoping they would throw a cover in this set, but it was a good set nonetheless.

New Socks
, a girl boy girl trio from Geneseo, played a mellow set to a decent size group over at Boulder Coffee Company. The opposite of a power trio, the music was about as sparse as a trio could be. Accordion, guitar/uke, and keys/clarinet/guitar, with three part harmonies. Immediately the sound is reminiscent of Kimya Dawson, but also it made me think of a stripped down version of The Boy Least Likely To. Either way, great songs, light but infectious hooks coupled with irreverent but reflective lyrics. I could imagine never hearing from these guys again (another fleeting college band) or seeing them blossom with a full-on ensemble taking their music to the next level. Their set was hurt a little bit by two sick members whose vocals weren't all there, but still quite enjoyable. Also I have to mention, New Socks is one of those band's that is just naturally excellent at stage banter. That type of thing really stood out in contrast when seeing all of the other bands that night.

Erica Scarano
mixed a set of originals and popular indie pop tunes on both piano and guitar, accompanied by a drummer/percussionist. Her voice was fantastic, but better coupled with the piano, so it was disappointing that she opted to mostly play guitar. Also disappointing was straining to hear the music at the Keg, the basement bar of the German House. Pretty inappropriate venue for this kind of music, especially with the chatty bar crowd (hello screaming darts players!) and the surrounding big screen tvs.

Those elements didn't help the next set from NYC's Annie Crane either. Folksy 'grassy angelic voice and great songs were not enough to overcome the elements played out against her. The crowd built in anticipation of her set, but didn't stick around too long unfortunately. The sound was pretty awful even without the noise from the bar, still, I found this to be a great discovery, she was damn good.

One of the reasons the crowd may have dispersed quickly was to make it over to the Bug Jar for the grand finale. Walri and a group of Eastman students, together calling themselves Unlawful Assembly (after their infamous run-in with the law last November when they took their music to the streets after Obama's big victory), played a full cover set of Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. The place was packed, about as much as I have ever seen it. It probably should have been at the German House, but then the atmosphere wouldn't have been quite as grand. Financially though, it would have made more sense for the promoters. Anyway, the band took the stage, and the horn section complete with marching drum came marching into and through the bar into the music room and onto the stage, playing the opening notes of the album. Then the full band proceeded to nail quite accurately the remainder to the huge delight of the crowd. Fantastic finish.

Here's to hoping the fest survives another year, and on and on...

Check out more complete coverage from the City Paper too.

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