Every year, for the Westword Music Showcase, we enlist our army of Backbeat wordsmiths to host various stages, and, in addition to their emcee obligations, we ask them to pull double duty (or triple-duty in some cases) and also write up the acts that appear on their individual stages. Josiah Hesse hosted the Vinyl Main stage. Page down to read his thoughts and see some photos.
Unlike all the poor souls sweating it out at the mainstage, the day began coolly over at the Vinyl mainstage. The dark room was chilled and pleasant when the noon kickoff of Showcase rolled around. The Manxx got things started and delivered a killer set of poppy girl thrash, keeping the energy high and infecting the early crowd with an optimism that this was going to be one bad-ass musical festival.
While the Manxx did an impeccable job of getting everyone in the mood, it would be another two hours before Vinyl mainstage really took off. Glass Homes were unfazed by the sparser early afternoon crowd, and pounded out a tight, undeniable set of melodic aggression, featuring a generous amount of synth and drum loops and a killer bass lacquered in heavy distortion.
Bodies began trickling in and made up a decent crowd by the time M & the Gems took the stage at 1:30. Looking charming in white sailor cap and floral print dress, Gems frontwoman Maria Kohler hypnotized the crowd with her groove, moving herself in a manner that recalled Bonnie Raitt with considerably more style.
M & the Gems were a welcome mid-tempo band after the raw aggression of the Manxx and Glass Homes, attracting crowds in from the heat with their sparse, accessible songs. Things picked up considerably with the crowd-pleasing cover of T-Rex's "20th Century Boy," that had Kohler singing "I Wanna Be Your Boy" in characteristic gender-bending fashion.
There was no denying that the mass influx of fans that came through the door around two o'clock came specifically for the Don'ts and Be Carefuls. While I introduced the band, singer Casey Banker (looking like he'd fallen out of a Bible play in sandals, beard and white shorts) lifted up the back of my shirt with the neck of his guitar, as if trying to peak under my skirt.
The crowd enthusiastically packed the room, with cute, stylish girls dancing up front and singing along to every number. While M & the Gems provided a chilled out mist of reviving grooves, the DBCs forked out the dance-party summer jams needed to get this music festival's wheels a-turnin'.
Fingers of the Sun were the ideal follow-up at three o' clock, opening with the appropriate seasonal number, "The Leaves Were So Green." Fingers had only recently returned from a two-week West Coast tour, and the incessant gigging showed in the band's harmonious delivery of songs old and new. "This song is from our new EP," said singer Suzi Allegra, "which some people don't like -- but they can fuck off."
Guitarist Marcus Renninger was undeniably the fashion attraction of the afternoon in his white suit, ruffled shirt, high-water bellbottoms and white vinyl dress shoes. "This next song is called 'Goodbye Summer'," said Nathan Brasil, "which is a kind of wishful thinking, since it's so fucking hot."
Indeed. According to the Denver Post, the temperature outside soared to a record breaking 104 degrees during the festival, and, despite the valiant efforts of the Vinyl air conditioning system, the combined presence of all the breathing, sweating bodies, along with the bully of a sun beating outside made for a wrestling-room boiler of a venue.
Thankfully Varlet was on hand to provide a set of barroom sing-a-longs, the Tom Waitsy band layed down a humid blend of acoustic piano, country-friend trotting drums and New Orleans style guitar, which the charming white haired pixie singer, Lilly Scott, drenched in her elfish vocals. It was the kind of music that made you want to order a mint-julep and watch a horse race or a Tennessee Williams' play.
Ironically, things had cooled down slightly by the time Sauna graced the stage. The band that had once been voted our "Best Band That's Still In High School" has certainly grown up, expertly offering up a killer set of bouncy post-punk that got everyone moving. It was clearly apparent that the band members were enjoying themselves up there, and that vibe infected the crowd, who ignored fears of dehydration with their sweaty dancing and multiple trips to the bar.
In what became the day-long tradition of teasing the host, Night of Joy bassist (and Westword scribe) Bree Davies followed up my brought-to-you-by oration with the line, "this next song is brought to you by weed," before she and her band blasted into their agro surf-rock sound. They clearly had some devoted fans up front, who brought the first stab of punk rock energy to Vinyl that day. For Fez Garcia (also Fingers of the Sun drummer), it was his second set of the day - even more impressive to find that suffered a rib injury recently, but soldiered on and would be playing a third set later that night at the hi-dive.
Glass Hits was up next and provided a sharp and welcome contrast to the optimistic cheeriness of the previous bands. Stepping off the stage and onto the floor with the crowd, Glass Hits were a snap-tight powerhouse of primal energy. And while the band maintained all the force and power of any hardcore group, they simultaneously preserved a sweet melodic center inside all that macho madness.
Wire Faces closed things out with a Showcase set that didn't disappoint in front of a post-Battles crowd that filtered in with a contagious strain of maniacal disco-punk. The rhythms were at times too complex for most of the crowd to keep in step with, but a few acid-freaks we had met earlier in the alley having a cigarette who offered us acid and told us they had just returned from the Desert Rocks festival in Green River, Utah, kept right in line, dancing a half foot before the speakers with a religious intensity.
-- Josiah Hesse
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