By Leya Lynette and Tom Murphy
The hype around Goldrush 2 had not been identical to that of Goldrush 1. The original crew that did the booking had changed, and the festival this year focused on more under-the-radar acts from around the country in comparison to last year's lineup, which had more established bands. This year's primary organizer, Crawford Philleo, moved the show to a smaller venue to retain a larger amount of control over the show.
See also: - Q&A with Goldrush Festival co-founder Crawford Philleo - Review: Goldrush Festival, Night One, 9/16/11 - Review: Goldrush Festival, Night Two, 9/17/11 - The Organizers of Goldrush Festival on the festival and blogging
What was lost in space was gained in pure enthusiasm from those in attendance, who may have not been familiar with each group, but felt excited to see so many new faces, many from outside of Denver, and many of whom they may have read about on Phileo's blog, Tome to the Weather Machine. With everyone walking around, smiling, meeting new people and shaking hands, there was a feeling of optimism and community that made even the first soundless moments of the festival seem exciting and new.
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Local industrial act Echo Beds didn't so much open as rip open night one, tearing apart everyone's ideas of the kind of music they were in for at an indie-rock music festival. Phileo joked before their set, "These are three of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, but...you might...not think so...after this."
The massive amount of gear that was hauled up the long flight of stairs leading up to the Deer Pile space alone was intimidating enough to make anyone ill at ease: three floor toms, multiple mixing boards, two speaker stacks, several smaller amplifiers, a giant grate that stood between the band and the audience, and more cracked cymbals than you could count.
The music began slowly, with an almost gentle ambience creeping around the room to lull the excited audience. Except that the moment David Mead picked up a modified microphone that fit in the palm of his hand and began pacing the floor, peering out intensely at the audience huddled around on the other side of the grating, it became alarmingly clear that this set would be anything but a peaceful ambient set.
On cue, Echo Beds exploded into an industrial-noise assault, as Mead began screaming guttural sounds into his heavily distorted microphone and Tom Nelson and Keith Curts thundered away on their strange percussive ensembles, glaring with anger and bizarre understanding at each other. Eventually, Mead put down the mic and began slamming sticks against the grate, which was amplified through contact microphones, and Keith picked up a bass. This went on with sharp ebbs and flow for the duration of a twenty-minute-long song that, despite its brutality, kept people dancing. Echo Beds left the stage to thunderous applause, and the room cleared out to give them space to disassemble their insane setup.
As an almost geometrical opposite to the fury that was Echo Beds, Former Selves was one lone man: Paul Skomsvold from Oakland. He set up his gear with gentleness and care; a few tape decks, a guitar, multiple small keyboards, and a string Christmas lights around his gear for helpful lighting. With a shy smile, he cast his empathetic eyes at the audience. "I'm going to, um...bring it down a bit, if...that's okay?" and began playing soft, otherworldly guitar sounds over tape and Casio loops. For something like 25 minutes, Skomsvold played beautiful, zoned-out lullabyes to an audience that sat peacefully on the floor, hands in their laps, listening with rapt attention.
Having proven to us that we literally could not expect what was coming next at this festival, Crawford did a short introduction, and Denver's Kevin Costner Suicide Pact took the stage. KCSP is a four-piece that plays slow guitar noise that seems to go on a permanent build with no clear moments of gratification. Four guitars and an entire table filled with dozens of pedals might give you some idea of what kind of set you were in for, but KCSP is well known for sticking with a riff in an almost obsessive way, until you are stuck in their world, wondering where the door back to your reality disappeared to.
Hailing from such an unlikely place as Blacksburg, Virginia, Outlands was a two-piece of pure dance music that sent a heady nod back to the days of Donna Summer and several classic R&B groups from the early '90s. In many other ways, however, Outlands was a beast all its own, with an experimental edge to it that would make it hard to swallow for a night at Studio 54 circa 1978.
For the Goldrush Music Festival, however, it was the perfect fit to snap the audience back into dance mode, or what passes for dancing at an independent festival: people shuffling around with slight smiles and shyly avoiding eye contact with each other. Outlands is Mark Arciaga, who operates beats via his setup, and singer Melissa, who sings through a vocal pedal, the settings on which she gleefully readjusts throughout their set. At one point, Melissa began jumping up and down excitedly to the opening beats of a song, and the audience jumped with her. You can only imagine what those dining downstairs at City, O' City must have thought was going on over their heads.
The final Colorado natives of night one, StaG from Boulder, Colorado, played an extremely high-energy set. Pretty impressive, if you consider that at least one of their bandmembers had been helping to run sound for most of what must have been an exhausting day. Their epic keyboard sounds we kept in check and fully backed up by a rocking band that had, at times, early Flaming Lips-level energy. As their set drew to a close, the members were sweating, falling over, and laughing with the audience, who cleared the way for the final act of the night.
Finally, Barn Owl from San Francisco began it set, which had been anticipated with anxious glee by most in attendance throughout the night. Barn Owl has a brand of psychadelic drone music all their own, with Evan Caminiti and Jon Porras's guitars weaving delicately back and forth with one another in a strange dance. The audience whittled away during these seamless thirty minutes of dreamy and metallic sounds, drawing the night to the end. At the very end, Crawford took the stage, and said, "I hope you'll all be back tomorrow, because today has been awesome!" With music still buzzing in our ears, the room applauded. -- Leya Lynette
Personal Bias: I have a personal fondness for DIY festivals in their many shapes and forms.
Random Note: The room was literally vibrating during Barn Owl's set. A cymbal stand moved about an inch to the left during the set.
By the Way: Crawford Philleo is no stranger to music, and has been attending show since he was a teenager. Goldrush has been an excellent way for him to feature bands that he has a personal affection for.
Continue reading for a review of the second day of Goldrush 2
The second day of Goldrush got a slightly late start because of the city-blocks-occupying Rock 'n' Roll Marathon earlier in the day that made getting to Deer Pile a mild challenge. But Breakfastes kicked off the night with its spiraling melodies and raw physical presence. Channeling a bit of Sonic Youth gone even more psychedelic, the members all seemed to be drawn together toward some invisible point in the center from time to time before pulling apart as though a visual representation of the music itself.
The sets throughout the festival ran in good time, and by the end of the night, the show pretty much ran on time despite the earlier delay. Fort Collins's Kick Majestic followed up the fury of Breakfastes with some of its own. With half the members, the outfit presented music that was more like an emotionally ragged and unrefined late-'90s emo with the punk still in place. Matt Sage looked like he was being pulled off the ground and forward by the force of the feeling he put into the performance. Erik Wangsvick smiled through the catharsis of his visceral, expressive drumming.
Sage stayed on after Wangsvick cleared off his drums and set up his other rig for a set from M. Sage, his solo effort, in which he explores atmospheres and sound collage. Using found sounds and samples of old records, Sage created a kind of ambient music that doesn't just bring together sounds, but also aesthetics and ideas. The old-time music sounded like it was culled from a radio in the 1930s alongside cricket chirping and gentle synth swells, and abstract melodies gave a vivid impression of being on the verge of drifting off to sleep with a second-story window open on a warm night trying to empty one's mind so sleep can come.
For some of the sets, there was a room called the "Annex" (it was filled with artist supplies, so likely one of the studios in Deer Pile graciously loaned out to the festival). The first artist to play there was Radere. Carl Ritger is known among certain circles in and outside of Boulder and Denver, but some of us got to see a great set from the guy opening for Tim Hecker this past March. For this show, his guitar work was even more blurred out beyond recognition to create layers of atmosphere that washed through the room and lingered in eddies of sound: like liquid breezes expressed with noise.
Vyxor got the room dancing with his soulful, house-inflected dance pop reminiscent of Bronski Beat but way less moody. Probably the nearly falsetto vocals gave the latter impression. Tyler Burton gestured dramatically along with the music and seemed to live inside his songs as he performed them.
In the Annex, Colin Ward was set up with a projection of animations created by Kathryn Taylor behind him that were moved about by Taylor to give the room shifting visuals. Ward has long been a master of semi-organized, stream-of-consciousness electronic chaos, but this show had him focusing his ideas a bit more, with a strong underlying beat guiding most of the songs.
He still projected a kind of cartoon-character performance persona that engaged in free-form, drily absurdist joking that fed into the music itself. About halfway through the show, he put on a red, hooded raincoat like a wizard's robe, and his dancing and gesturing became even more dramatic. At the end, Ward pitched his voice comically low and slow-motion rapped some barely discernible standup material--another level of joking that made more than a few people chuckle along with the guy.
Discoverer's Brandon Knocke had set up in the main stage area with a drummer. His programmed beats and glowing pastel synth melodies vibed perfectly with the live drummer, who accented and followed the electronics with beats and textures that gave music with an already expressive depth another layer of dimensionality. Toward the end, a guy who had done live drawing and painting in the Annex treated us to some incredible dance moves on roller skates, including flawless splits from which he drew up with incredible ease even on the skates. Somehow it fit with the kind of mid-'80s, instrumental synth-pop mood of the set.
Aloonaluna was the last band to play in the Annex for the night. Lynn Fister had Christopher Fleeger accompanying her for this show. This set was the darker -- perhaps "cooler" is a better word -- end of Aloonaluna's sound, and Fleeger provided some modulated xylophone and bells as a companion rhythm to Fister's syncopated, billowy melodies. Layers of driftily soaring vocals with rapid-cycle shimmers underneath characterized the later part of the set. Ghostly without being spooky.
Panabrite started off the string of the last three bands of the night all in the main room. Norm Chambers has explored creating vivid soundscapes with guitar and synth, but for this show, it was all synth. Without seeming to favor strictly analog or digital sounds, Chambers triggered sequenced sounds and played over and under the track, sometimes seeming to manipulate the base sound while playing beside it in the mix. While the room itself was low on light, Chambers's songs had a bright warmth that sounded like companion music to a flight over the turquoise ocean waters of the South Pacific.
The duo Ttotals from Nashville provided a great example of what you can do if you're not locked into genre conventions. The core of the music included great, yet slightly weird, blues-based rock and roll -- what the band calls "outer blues," like space rock done by Greg Sage. Marty Linville triggered beats and other loops before and while playing drums (sans kick), and Brian Miles laid out gritty but paradoxically spacious guitar lines that definitely fit into an identifiably rock sound, but in a way that seemed exciting rather than worn thin by overuse.
Miles was wearing a Flying Nun Records T-shirt, so he is clearly inspired by the left-field rock and roll of all those great New Zealand bands. Mid-set, Ttotals played the spiky-psych-groovy "Over the Years" from its excellent new ten-inch Silver on Black. It was an impactful, emotive, visceral performance. Definitely recommended for anyone into the Black Angels, any of the aforementioned bands and Pink Reason. Ttotals just had that kind of raw, borderline spooky edge informed by gorgeously expansive melodies possessed by anyone making relevant rock and roll these days.
The night ended with the sheer catharsis of Caddywhompus. It's not like we haven't heard emotionally charged, trebly, dissonant, catchy, punky pop songs before when emo was growing into other kinds of music over a decade ago. But Chris Rehm and Sean Hart tap into primal regions of the heart and use that direct connection to pure emotion as a font of expression, with songs that clearly course through their bodies like a bolt of electricity that animates their movements.
And the crowd responded accordingly. Carson Pelo, of Kevin Costner Suicide Pact, doing sound, shouted, "Seal!" after Rehm said they only had one more song, and this request was repeated by others, so Rehm announced, "Okay, we have two more songs." After an outstanding original, Caddywhompus played its more-powerful-than-the-original cover of "Kiss From a Rose" by Seal, with the sweeping melody in the middle given an amped-up, overdriven guitar treatment that resurrected the song from overplayed, worn-out status. Quite a beautiful racket for just two guys. -- Tom Murphy
Personal Bias: Really enjoyed the Goldrush 2011, too.
Random Detail: Ran into local brewer and former member of Elucidarius, Kitezh and Mike Marchant's Outer Space Party Unit, Grant Israel, all throughout the festival.
By the Way: The program/'zine for this festival was a well-crafted, beautiful item in itself, and it included a profile of the tape labels that sponsored the festival and a review of a significant release from each. Also, there was a tape compilation of most of the bands that played the festival available as well.
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