Tag Archives: Whartscape

Whartscape Part 3

Weather

No Age, Arab on Radar, Lightning Bolt – The one slightly lousy aspect of Baltimore was the heat wave that took over the city during the otherwise brilliant weekend.  Saturday reached record highs in the 103-range.  It was nearly impossible to stand in the sun for more than twenty minutes at a time and not shed five pounds from sweating.  My clothes stuck to me within a half hour of being outside.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that the heat sapped me of all my energy by the time the headliners hit the stage Saturday night.  My plan was to take a break during No Age and then rage out to Arab on Radar and Lightning Bolt.

Unfortunately, none of this worked out.  During No Age’s set I tried re-grouping my body and soul.  I sat in my friend’s car and let the AC blow up my shorts.  That felt good but No Age didn’t sound good from eighty feet away.

When we went back inside, Arab on Radar had already started.  The crowd was way too big to wiggle through and I decided to watch from the back.  They were cool and reminded me of lots of Providence bands that I see on a regular basis so I wasn’t super tortured that I wasn’t in the middle of the chaos.  It was interesting to see where the local scene gets its roots.  This picture is awesome:

I thought I could save all of my energy up for Lightning Bolt’s set.  They always guarantee a tremendously hectic performance.  I pushed my way up to the middle of the crowd as they began ramping up their bass and drums, slowly building up to a big, obscene, noisy explosion.  As their momentum traveled upwards, I gained some of my ambition back, and was feeling the music wave come back to me.

But bassist Brian Gibson had sound problem and took at least fifteen minutes to correct it.  In that time period I slowly lost all of my energy and again had to go in the back and watch from afar.  I felt like Vileplume kept using Megadrain on me:

Fuck you, Vileplume.

I was too tired to be too disappointed that I was missing the intensity: I’m spoiled, it was the third LB show of the year for me, since I’m from Providence and all.  I would’ve loved to punch some hipsters in the back while flipping my shit but I didn’t feel like passing out in the middle of the crowd.

Rain

Rain and wind destroyed the Day Four Sunday at Whartscape.  Quite literally, in fact.  The makeshift stages were destroyed (see below) and the Wham City crew had to figure out a back-up plan.  The dudes shifted things to the Sonar Club, a normal club, weird considering all the other venues.

Xiu Xiu canceled which sucked, but I did catch:

Lower Dens – Had Stereolab vibes, I dug them, found out later that Jana Hunter was the lead singer, she’s cool.

Health – The third time I’ve seen these guys in the past year.  I think this was their most glorious set: they only played a half hour and featured their most intense and noisy material, avoiding their more spacey stuff that they featured when I caught them at the Great Scott.  Also, the mosh pit was ridiculous, especially after several delicious Yuenglings.

Beach House, Celebration, Wye Oak – They also played.

Again, we headed over to the H&H Building for the final night of Whartscape.  The vibes were way toned down compared to the first two nights of party bedlam.

The top floor featured Oneohtrix Point Never spacing everyone out.

I ran around the buildling a little bit that night, catching the very interesting Living Things on the fourth or fifth floor: xylophone, mini piano, clarinet, weird costumes, kind of a mix of performance art and improvisation.  Blew my mind a bit.

Then I somehow got into the highly anticipated final show of the evening, Future Islands.  I only caught the last three songs but they were masterful and intense and grand.  I remember a few chubby dudes just slapping their bellies and I obviously joined in the debauchery.  The next night, I told the Future Islands lead singer dude, you guys were awesome.  Judging by this photo,, I had a great time in the pit.

Conclusion:

Dan Deacon and the Wham City collective deserve all the credit I can muster in three lengthy blog posts for putting on such a wonderful weekend.  Truly the most fun vacation I’ve ever had, the best festival I’ve ever attended, and an overall positive, healthy experience.

From a big picture perspective, Whartscape 2010 is important for these three reasons:

1.  Local music scenes can sometimes be claustrophobic and, let’s face it, clique-y like a high school lunch room.  Baltimore’s friendly and classy residents proved it doesn’t have to be like that.

2.  DIY festivals, although probably shit-tons of tedious work, are so much better than anything else in the world.  Hope Whartscape inspired some ambitious assholes to do their own thang… (I’m raising my hand).

3.  Some dude at Vice Magazine claims rock, as an open frontier, is dead.  I think Whartscape is the other side of that argument, considering the amount of variety and originality found over the four-day weekend.  I felt like I was experiencing the American Dream, in the eyes of smart, hard-working, artsy musicians.

Thanks for reading all my nonsense,

Sex Sux (Amen)

Whartscape Part 2

Whartscape Part 2

Note of Stupidity: Apparently in Part 1 of my Whartscape review I decided not to include an explanation of the way I organized my summary.  I chose to pick the most important parts of a festival and show why Whartscape ruled in every category.  Sometimes, I am a dumb ass….

OK, all the time.   I am a dumb ass.

In short, here’s Part 2:

Alcohol

Whartscape’s euphoric high truly started when I went to go get money at the ATM and ran into a couple pretty cool dudes who recommend purchasing the cheap and potent beverage known as Four Loko.  This is a picture of Four Loko:

I gulped down the hefty, slightly rank drank, and headed back to the left-hand stage, where hip hoppers OFire were lighting up the hipsters, like whoa.  I ran to the front of the stage and started dancing along to their Baltimore-style crunk, leaning my shoulders as they commanded, and danced like the whitest fool possible.

(Via Impose)

I truly adored OFire because they were clearly out of their element but still had a shit-load of fun.  They were so strange and out of place, I couldn’t help but get over-the-top-excited.  I think the day prior, Thursday’s night of luke-warm hit-or-miss ironic talent-show theater had kinda annoyed me.  OFire’s genuine happiness just killed me.  Plus one of the guys had grillz!

After recovering from that blast of fresh gangsta air, I caught:

Weekends – They were awesome.  Two guys, one noisey sound of happiness.

So Percussion – Hit some wood blocks together in unison and it made a cool sound.

Height – Triumphant chubby/nerdy white boy rappers who got the crowd moving, especially with their cover of Ed Schrader’s song about sugar.  Awesome.

Altered States – The drummer was wicked.  I think they were the first band I checked out, but who cares about the linearity of Whartscape, cuz either way they were da bomb.

Dope Body – Rage Against the Machine-style punk rock.  The singer had the same hair and sneer as Zach de la Rocha.  They were sick.

Child Bite – Wolf Parade/Devo hybrid sound came from these guys.  The lead singer had a cool moustache.

Javelin were cool, Providence represent, I don’t remember Scott Copeland.

Lil B was a bizarre rapper who reminded me of Lil Wayne, without the sick lines.  Or talent…

Get Em Mamis were like the Baltimore version of Salt N’ Peppa.  My friend would later convince them he was a writer for Rolling Stone.

Best Music

The sets at Whartscape melted into one another.  Not one thing stood out as my very favorite performance, although Double Dagger could make a case as the MVP’s of Whartscape.  My feelings toward favorite musical moments tended to be clumped together into groups of happiness rather than single noteworthy performances.

Here they are:

1.  Ed Schrader into Double Dagger into Ponytail into The Dan Deacon Ensemble

Ed Schrader – I had never listened to Ed Schrader before Whartscape.  He hit the stage with his minimalist drum set and a guitarist and simply destroyed all human life.  The man has a little bit of the devil in him, cuz what I witnessed that day was straight outta hell.  Look at this fuckin’ guy:

In all seriousness, Ed Schrader tore the Whartscape crowd a new bunghole.  He bashed his drums throughout his set like there was no tomorrow while screaming out his lyrics as passionately as his throat would allow.  His intense facial expressions, gnashing teeth, and visibly popping neck veins added to the already magnificent performance.

Double Dagger – In what would go down as maybe my favorite overall purely musical-based memory of Whartscape, Double Dagger’s frenzied set transcended the human race and reached parts of reality that I had never seen.

Nolen Strauss fronts the bass/drums trio and seemed rather touched by the festival, causing him to pour his entire soul into his magical set.  The dude walked around the stage while tune-ups were going on, waiting for Ed Schrader to end, basking in the glory of the Baltimore DIY accomplishment, making jokes with the crowd, and showing off his giant wealth of charisma.  He would later cheer on the non-participation of blood-sucking advertisers, do a little Pitchfork-bashing, and summarize the communal feel of the festival.  Already talked about that a bit in Part 1…

Strauss and company started out things by launching into Pillow Talk from the newest release, Mask.  The tumult that immediately began, after the first note, was a sight to behold.  People started flying off the stage, crowd surfing, and moshing the shit outta the place.  Strauss did his thang on stage, and off of it, diving into his admirers and even running into the crowd, with mic in hand, then coming back to the stage, while slowly tying the cord around his neck.  All this was done without missing a beat with his incredibly talented band.  The pure rush of adrenaline mixed with the excellent musical chops of Double Dagger pushed me into the pit for a little while.  It kicked my ass.  I guess if I had to make a tepid comparison, it would be like seeing a combination Fugazi and Iggy and the Stooges.  Or something…

Ponytail – After DD’s bruising delirium, I decided to sit in the back and watch Ponytail do their thang.  I had seen them a couple years ago and wasn’t exactly a fan of their music.  I kinda wish I had pushed up a little closer, since I found out later it was their last show, possibly forever.  Either way, they were much better and tighter than I remembered them.

The crowd’s highly righteous response to their slow-burning mix of punk rock and avant-garde leanings was a rather beautiful sight to take in from the back.  I have a very distinct image in my head of the front of the crowd moving in a very beautiful, almost mesmerizing togetherness as the band reached the climax of one of their last songs.

If this was their last show, they ended on a very lovely, awesome note.

The Dan Deacon Ensemble – I’ve seen the king of electronic-driven freak-outs around five or six times and was wondering how he would switch things up for the festival.  I’d never seen him with a full-band and was prepared for another intense crowd reaction.

What followed was entirely different from any other Deacon show and anything else at Whartscape.  The crowd erupted into a kind of new-fangled dance/mosh pit, responding to the xylophone, drums, and various electronics that were combining into a force of musical lightning.  Mostly playing new material, or tunes I didn’t recognize, the ensemble truly encapsulated everything at Whartscape in one performance: artistic wizardry, astonishing musical innovation, and pure ecstatic happiness.  Also, motherfuckin’ Zach Hill on drums.  Oh, and a cute volunteer told me everyone on stage at that time were the best musicians she knew.

2.  Universal Order of Armageddon into Sick Weapons

Saturday afternoon’s amazing music and brutal record-setting heat sapped me of all my energy.  I almost passed out on the fifth floor of the H&H building at around eleven o’clock and was planning on bailing altogether.  Unfortunately, my ride home was nowhere to be found, so my game plan turned to drinking Natty Boh until I was too drunk to be tired anymore.

Although not the most logical plan in the galaxy, the extra-warm glorious, delicious beer replenished my motivation to find cool bands.  After an hour of chugging, I dragged my carcass to the sixth floor where, to my amazement, Universal Order of Armageddon was setting up.

Prior to the show, you were supposed to RSVP onto a guest-list to see these guys.  I felt bad, since I had never heard the dudes before, and I didn’t bother putting my name in.  I gave first dibs to others who were more deserving, yah heard?

My guess is they let in the people on the guest list first, then whoever else was drunkenly wandering around H&H (me!) was let in.  I walked in, staked out a luxurious spot underneath one of the ceiling fans, and proceeded to have my mind blown.

UOA were a legendary hardcore band from Baltimore in the early to mid 90s.  Before the show, I hadn’t read anything that portrayed their excellence accurately enough to make me excited.  I’d try to here, but honestly, they’re the type of band you have to see yourself to understand.  I remember being impressed with their guitar work and their energy, but that does them no justice.  They had the energy of 8 dumpster babies.  Let’s just say I fully understand why people lost their shit for their reunion.

But that’s not all: the band that immediately followed, Sick Weapons, from Baltimore, also lit the sixth floor up.  Led by the very-charismatic Ellie Beziat, the punk crew blasted through a set of intense, rockin’ tunes.  I can’t fully remember it all, but I did see Nolen from Double Dagger in the mosh pit!  If that’s not enough street cred for yah, I don’t know what to tell you.  Plus, they were a great follow-up to UOA’s sick set.

(Via Sick Weapons Myspace.com)

Whartscape 2010, Part 1

Part 1

A vicious kind of writer’s block held my brain in its firm grasp while I was attempting to write intelligibly about Baltimore’s Whartscape 2010.  I couldn’t portray the four-day festival’s dizzying display of DIY awesomeness without rambling incoherently into oblivion.  There was much to analyze and canonize but I lacked the ability to organize.  I needed to give the festival its proper due without jaunting on for forty-five hours.

I felt hopeless and slightly nervous I’d give up on writing about something so profoundly brilliant before I got over my mental farts.  I was frustrated, yah know?

Then, a week after Whartscape, I attended the third and final day of the Newport Folk Festival.

Newport had excellent music overall, but my fresh memory of the Whartscape perfection helped focus my attention on what I appreciated most about Dan Deacon and his band of weirdos.  Indeed, Baltimore’s Wham City showed me the way a musical celebration should be run.  The folkies provided me with a tidy little foil that I could rail against after demonstrating very annoying points of mediocrity.

I found a catchy writing gimmick that the whole family could enjoy: Whartscape versus Newport, good versus evil, yadada yadada.  Ah, but that draft sucked and, honestly, there were some very cool moments in Newport.  This complicated matters.  I threw out the parts about Newport and kept the Whartscape stuff. I’ll save the rest of that for another day.

Fortunately, the comparison exercise helped organize my thoughts enough to produce something semi-publishable.

So finally, in all its guts and glory, an explanation of the living organism, or orgasm, that was:

WHaRTScaPE 2010.

(Note: I borrowed a few pictures.  Tell me yr name if I failed to give credit)

Venue

Whartscape’s musical performances took place in two “Do It Yrself” locations.  The first space was in an old parking lot.  Two makeshift stages fit in between the alleyways of a few old, probably abandoned but still sweet looking warehouses.  Named the “Current Space”, this environment was wonderfully laid back while continuously stimulating.

Once one musical act finished on one stage, the next performer would begin on the other.  There were no moments of bumming out cuz the next band was taking forty-five minutes to sound check and therefore killing off any momentum.  Plus, if you didn’t want to be crushed in the mosh pit, you could step back with plenty of comfortable personal space.  You could still see and hear the band and jump back into the fury if you felt the urge.  Simply, there just weren’t too many people and hardly any big assholes.  Proper concert etiquette was understood and abided by all.

If you were too tired to stand, there was plenty of room beyond the stages to sit and hang out and watch the mayhem.  Also: plenty of affordable, yummy food and water (taco stand!), a cool-off “mist tent”, arts and crafts/merch tables, and the lot was within walking distance of a liquor store.  Current space ruled and there were many pretty girls.

The second venue, the H&H Building, was in another old warehouse/apartment complex down the street a couple blocks.  Music took place on the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth floors.  If you weren’t jumpin’ and jivin’ with one performance, you could wander around until you found something more suitable towards your mental state.  Nothing was ever boring, mind you.  All was cool, fool, it just depended on your mood.

Staff

Whartscape was run by the workaholic Dan Deacon, who according to reports had been putting the festival together for three or four months, non-stop, and not taking any time to invest in his own music.  A merry cast of Wham City members and Baltimore residents joined him in keeping things running.

All volunteer run.  No security.  No fights.  Mosh pits were feisty yet controlled.  Everyone was nice, pleasant, friendly, and unusual.

Dancing

There were some amazing moments of grooving at Whartscape.  The following video, taped during Scottie B’s set on Day 2, was spontaneously launched after Dan Deacon promised a 200$ cash price to whoever had the best dance moves.

Plus, the intense dance party I was part of during Day 3’s 3rd floor H&H party, was one of the best dance parties I’ve ever been a part of.  Someone message me who those DJ’s were, I forget their names.

True, there were hundreds of hipsters.  But they were the friendliest hipsters I’ve ever met.  Plus, the performers were nice and approachable.  I hung with Ed Schrader and talked about Robert Crumb, had a Natty Boh with the singer from Ponytail, and slapped the back of Nolen Strauss from Double Dagger.   I was too staggeringly drunk to tell him how happy Double Dagger had made me.  Instead I creeped on him.

Best Quote from dancing, I wrote down in my notebook, concerning the Scotti B dancing: I danced so hard my pants fell down.

Advertising

No advertising.  Or, as Double Dagger’s Nolen Strals pointed out: “there’s no cellphone company sponsor or Scion parked out front.”  He also said something about “fuck Pitchfork” which was where I cheered loudest.

Coming tomorrow: Part 2 Alcohol, Luck, and The Music…