The musical explosion continues!
If the opening night of DRILL was a taste of things to come, Day 2 was a build up to the inevitable explosion that appears to be in store for Saturday’s closing night. With use of the entire building, fans and festival goers had a plethora of choices on either stage. The stairs leading between the venues provided a nice amount of passive exercise as we would either hike up to The Echo or bolt down to Echoplex to catch whichever bands met our fancy. For my part, I ended up spending most of my night downstairs at Echoplex, but I did catch the first two acts at The Echo.
First up for the evening was Matthew Simms (WIRE) playing a solo set under the moniker SLOWS on The Echo stage. A definite departure from the more fast tempo WIRE tunes, Simms sat on one of his amp cases and quietly but expertly lead the audience through a number of psychedelic tunes utilizing his looping and moog pedals. His songs conjure images of Twin Peaks, or at least the spirit of composer Angelo Badalamenti, and grooved in and out seamlessly, blending together in superb fashion. Unfortunately, starting at 8:10 PM has its drawbacks and the crowd attendance was pitiful to say the least.
Fortunately for Noveller, the following act, the crowd had increased somewhat and as Sarah Lipstate eased into her set there was a lovely response from fans and newcomers alike. I mentioned in my festival preview that I had first seen her opening for Iggy Pop last year and found her stage presence in the giant venue that is San Francisco’s Masonic to be captivating. The intimacy provided by The Echo stage was perfect and as she moved through her set effortlessly if was as though her music was symbiotically attaching itself to all of us in the audience. Her music is fascinating to me. Through an intricate rack of effects pedals and tuning she manages to make her guitar sound like synth pads, piano pieces, and even the occasional string hits. Then she pulled out her gorgeous red Gibson Double Neck and for the title song of her new album “A Pink Sunset for No One” and washed us with a mixture of crunchy fuzz.
It was after this that I ventured downstairs to Echoplex to catch FITTED. No one knew what they were going to get exactly, given that there are no existing recordings of FITTED which lead me to believe it was a collaborative effort designed specifically for the festival. Before starting the set, Graham Lewis demanded more smoke and only red, white, and blue lights. A few people in the crowd snickered but someone else piped up saying “You think it’s funny, but he’s dead serious.” Sure enough the stage filled with smoke and the only lights for the entire performance were indeed red, white, and blue – though the reds were really more of a purple. Take that, Graham! Once Mike Watt and Bob Lee joined Lewis and Simms on stage it they plugged in and launched into a heavy jam that got pretty much everyone moving. Ending the tune, it appeared that something was going wrong with Lewis’ pedal rack and members from WAND and other bands jumped on stage to help solve the problem. Without too much delay and the problem solved the crowd was met with a continuing and fantastic performance. Mike Watt is probably one of the greatest rock bassists alive and now in his fifties he kept time running fast bass rhythms and patterns that would make younger bassists gulp. It was a great example of the casual feeling of the festival and the camaraderie between everyone involved was palpable. Ending the set with the only tune involving vocals (and probably the most rehearsed of the jams) Lewis said, “Thanks, that’s it!” and the band packed it up and left the stage grinning.
Since at this point, short times between sets on both stages made it somewhat impossible for me to catch more than a song or two upstairs, I chose to stay in Echoplex for the next two acts. As WAND took the stage the crowd (which had emptied after Fitted) immediately refilled, and also became younger. The members of WAND are an incredibly talented bunch, but lead singer and frontman Cory Hanson was the only one on stage (apart from drummer Evan Burrows) who seemed to have any real energy. He is a true showman, easily on par (and kinda physically resembling) Mick Jagger, swinging his guitar wildly and kicking his feet out in ecstatic musical bliss. Regardless of the contrasting physical energy of the band, their set was incredibly tight and their take on neo-psychedelic rock was full of energy rather than obnoxiously tripped out.
Closing the evening was Mikal Cronin (featuring a string and horn ensemble). While his music reminds me vaguely of the songs one would expect to hear during the end credits of a quirky indie movie dramedy, they have a uniquely uplifting quality about them. The band was top notch and his energy was incredible, hammering his guitar like if he didn’t a demon might come out to possess him and kill everyone in the building. Despite this, I ended up having to move closer to the mixing console, aligning myself with the center of the stage to actually hear the strings and horns, which were lovely when I could hear them. The mix in the wings was so bass-heavy that the horns were all but drowned out otherwise. Still, it was a valiant effort and when he brought the energy down for softer songs, the strings really came out in full and added a gorgeous melancholy.
Saturday offers to bring equally eclectic music and the surprise addition of Los Angeles Industrial duo Youth Code, the thought of which has me shivering with anticipation.
All photos taken at The Echo and Echoplex © Oliver Brink 2017.