Every summer the River Front Times hosts a local music showcase. It’s a big one day festival featuring 2 big outdoor stages during the day and 12 smaller indoor venues in the evening. There were 50 bands for $5. I consider that a challenge to see as many new bands as possible. At first I was disappointed that the showcase was not on the Delmar Loop this year, but it turned out that the Washington Avenue location was perfect for jumping between different bars. I don’t normally frequent the night club scene, but this event served as an nice introduction to the surreal experience that is Wash Ave on a Saturday night. It seems that the booze flows freely on city streets there; girls are always dressed to go to prom; strangers give sushi and vodka-sprites to strangers; driving with all your car doors open is acceptable; the purpose is to drive as slowly as possible as many times as possible down the street; Clubbers hardly even notice that there is a rock n roll festival going on all around them…
I started at 6pm on a patio watching Pretty Little Empire play some really solid indie rock songs. They rotated instruments and singers often which gave the intense and emotive songs a nice informal feel.
Soon I moved on to see Beth Bombara and the Robotic Foundation. Beth is the center of the show here with loud guitar and intimate vocals. However, the drummer really caught my eye. He had my ideal drumming style, simple but effective, and the carefree manner of a man confident in his expertise.
Next I headed to the Dubliner for the Dock Ellis Band which was one of the very high points of the night. The Dock Ellis Band is fucking hilarious. Singer Jesse Irwin has the perfect country rock persona. He’s a beer drinkin’, whisky shootin’, howlin’, cheatin’, dirty man. He is backed by a really solid band that started the set by ordering 10 beers. Don’t miss out on a chance to see this band!
I cooled things down with Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine, where the Lonely Pine is really just Beth Bombara again. Cassie played very intimate, mellow songs that would be perfect in another setting but did not seem quite at home in a bowling alley(Flamingo Bowl). Beth assisted with toy piano, wine glass, and even the bowed xylophone, which was a first for me.
I jumped up the block to see Jumbling Towers at Hair of the Dog. Allow me to describe the venue: 15 feet wide, 300 feet long. Jumbling Towers played an admirable set of jaunty pop songs, and their cadre of buzz band fans were there in force video taping the whole thing. The show was diminished by the inability to see the band and the fact that you basically had to walk through the stage to enter the venue.
I headed down to see Theodore perform to a capacity crowd. If you vaguely like americana or country music I implore you to go see this band. They do it all from raucous stompin’ ragers to quiet lullabies. The instrumentation is always changing to include horns, accordion, and even a weird Casio electronic guitar. Don’t miss these guys.
New band Flaming Death Trap played a phenomenal set at Rue 13. Their heavy songs always have a hook to hold on to, and it pulls you into singing along. Rue 13 seems more appropriate for go go dancers than rock bands, but the space really worked. The crazy strobe lights and enormous disco ball gave the set a rather surreal, yet exciting, feel. FDT played into this vibe and did their best rock star act. Look out for this band in the future.
I closed out my night seeing Fattback with a bunch of drunkards in the back room of the Dubliner, where I watched empty beer bottles slide off a wobbly table one after another. By this point the band was much more energetic than I was, but they acted as a pick-me-up. A mixture of good rockers with a couple silly songs was a pitch perfect ending for the night. This is a band that does not take itself too seriously, as reflected in their educational song about dinosaurs.
At 2am I was exhausted, but Washington Avenue showed no sign of slowing down. Cars filled with beer drinkers and bass blasters cruised the street as I headed home. The showcase had been a great success and shown some highlights from a vibrant music scene happening right beneath our noses. If I may co-opt the Fattback singer’s words: You’d be a stupid idiot if you missed it.