This weekend, Blacksburg, VA played host to a music festival of a different kind. Hosted at several bars and art galleries around town, local and regional musicians of all stripes and abilities played with varying degrees of fever. I ended up managing part of a show, running the sound for a few bands, playing an open-mic, and photographing every single set I was a witness to. Problems aside, I had a good time.
I arrived in Blacksburg and parked within a hundred feet of the NLCF building, check in for the Fever to Sing festival. I spent over a half hour wandering around the block looking for any sign of a festival, stumped. I looked up the address and found my way on in. Several artists and musicians I interviewed had the same trouble. There was no signs, no groups of people coming or going, but the gears were churning inside.
The organizers were putting things together using some kind of online system, stressing and fretting over laptops wherever they went. The sound guys were often late, or unreachable, or went missing, but for the most part the bands were well on time and ready to go when needed. I changed the schedule, manually, with a pen on at least 50 fliers because certain shows were very much more than an hour late to begin. I suppose I was a volunteer too, as well as impromptu press, musician, and management.
There was a some awful trash that I wish I’d never seen. On the other hand, I saw great acts, such as the Bastards of Fate, the Andalusians, and Don’t Call Us Sweethearts.
The Bastards of Fate defy all explanation. Doug Cheatwood is a performance genius beyond compare. His songs are imaginatively written and musically unique, defying rules I didn’t even knew existed. Standing on an amp, holding up a guitar, blinded by shaving cream, construction light draped over his shoulder, and mic in hand, Doug Cheatwood is no gimmick hungry rocker. He is what punk rock was never smart enough to be, crazier and more ambitious, full of antics that wake sleepy fear-ridden audiences into a frenzy of dance and jubilation. Did I mention that the music’s catchy, well-written, and like nothing you’ve heard?
The Andalusians were a punkish woman-fronted band from DC, with loads of energy to back up their fun music. Such well written music played by obvious professionals was a welcome treat, and I especially appreciated how grounded and personal their presence was. These were proud, powerful women who were absolutely comfortable on stage and off. Sadly, that’s not something I see often. They were reminiscent of the best bits of The Clash.
I didn’t run the sound for Don’t Call Us Sweethearts, although I was supposed to. One faux member of the group who played a little percussion felt the need to do the sound, although I had to inform him on how to use the mixer. Thankfully with my help he was able to do a passable job, and truly could have done little to diminish the silky-smooth vocals and soft melodies of Don’t Call us Sweethearts. The performance was emotionally charged and musically superb. Though I tend to think their particular kind of songwriting is generally boring, there was no lack of excitement during their performance. Don’t Call Us Sweethearts had a friendly, warm presence that everyone picked up on.
The good was good, but the bad got very bad. I don’t mind bad music, or late shows. There’s just a small list of things I expect musicians to NOT do, which almost always ruin the appeal of the performance. Fever to sing had a few good examples.
- Show outright disdain for the audience while making assumptions about their beliefs
- Explain what every single song is about in detail
- Apologize for how bad the music is
Musicians who do these things defy all logic, and must be proud of how amateur they are. Since we’re mean bastards here at Elf Wax, and want to harm those who we dislike, here’s a list of bands and musicians you should never, ever see.
- Kristi Emmons
I was there to help you run sound, and you refused my help probably just because I am a man. I hope you enjoyed spending 5 minutes going back and forth between the mixer and the microphone to satisfy your own misguided foolish pride. You’re not a bad musician, but probably a bad person. I have nothing against Lesbians, in fact I rarely have sex with women who aren’t Lesbians. I was enraged by your song about how everyone in Virginia but the Lesbians are hateful fucks. Now Elfwax.com hates you, and it’s not just your imagination this time. You can tell everyone we hate you just because you’re a Lesbian if that makes you feel better.