Nelsonville Music Festival 2015: Thursday

It’s surreal to think that last year’s tenth anniversary celebration of the Nelsonville Music Festival could have been the festival’s swan song. In April, two buildings caught fire next to Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville’s historic public square. Luckily, Stuart’s was spared, but not without taking damage, and placing the festival’s viability in doubt. Thanks to the perseverance of Stuart’s staff and sponsors, and the support of the Athens County business and music community, the festival survived. Their efforts helped make this year’s festival one of the finest to date.

Howard Feibusch
Howard Feibusch at Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Howard

Before Howard took their positions on stage, the host confessed to the growing crowd that they were about to be spiritualized, and he wasn’t lying. Their complex sound featured an amazing orchestration of live musicianship, effects looping, and triggered electronics. Singer Howard Feibusch’s cycling crystalline guitar and sweeping atmospheric vocals seeped through the evening audience. Combined with drummer Chris Holdridge’s jazz-inspired polyrhythmic beats and bassist Myles Heff’s melodic overdriven lines, their folktronica sermon turned many listeners into true believers.

Speaking Suns at the Nelsonville Music Festival
Speaking Suns at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Speaking Suns

Earlier on the porch stage, we walked into the pleasant vibe of Speaking Suns. Hailing from Yellow Springs Ohio, their mid-tempo indie jam rock tinged with 70s danceable soul managed to get the festival crowd moving and shaking in the setting sunlight.

Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015
Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Ezra Furman

We were lucky enough to catch a very personal encounter with Ezra Furman as soon as we arrived on the festival grounds. As part of the Gladden House Sessions, he was perched on the porch of a Robbin’s Crossing cabin, decked in beach sunglasses and a tight red striped shirt and strapped with an acoustic guitar. He talked about the creative approach behind his new album and the surprising recognition of his music after years of obscurity. The generous folk influence on his songwriting burst through during his intimate solo performance.

Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015
Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015
Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Dead Hand of Man at Nelsonville Music Festival 2015
Dead Hand of Man at Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Dead Hand of Man

Starting off on the porch stage was Dead Hand of Man. This trio of Athens Music Scene journeymen laid down fast and upbeat power chords with a punch. Their straight-ahead, classic punk-influenced songs got the early crowd’s attention and started the night with good energy.

Stay tuned for coverage from the rest of the weekend.

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It’s Your Fault Everything’s Alright by Joshua Jesty

It’s hard to argue against the fact that Joshua Jesty has built a reputation as one of the best songwriters to grace the Cleveland music scene in the past decade. Between the proto-supergroup This Is Exploding, the snarky These Violet Young Lovers, and his extensive solo material, he’s a proven artist that produces songs faster than his trademark cartoon rabbits. It’s Your Fault Everything’s Alright is the fourth and final release in his Like Rabbits EP series and marks a defining resolution to his two-year long musical autobiography.

It's Your Fault Everything's Alright by Joshua Jesty

Collectively, this quadrilogy is Jesty’s strongest musical effort since his 2009 release Girl, with each album providing a snapshot into the twists and turns of Jesty’s progress in life and love. His pop song craftsmanship is graced with humor and wit, and allows him to create sentimental stories that can combine the tragedy and elation of everyday relationship moments into fantastic power-pop gems. His heartbroken lyrics swell with nice-guy frustration and can feel distraught at some points, but Jesty’s gentle style always seems to emphasize the underlying optimism of a true romantic. His combination of pop songcraft and incredible musical talent remind me of Matthew Sweet, especially since he played nearly every instrument on each song and recorded the entire effort from his personal studio.

The album’s introduction, I’m On High, captures the classic spirit of Joshua’s musical approach, with an anthemic gritty rhythm and soft vocal melody that hooks like it was from Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand. The twangy off-note bends and driving guitars of Bad For Me keep the energy of the “first side” alive and provide a nice contrast to the touching delivery of one of album’s strongest songs, You’re The Worst. The last half of the album continues on a high note, from the upbeat modern sound of Time Gives Me The Screw to the quirky, new wave riffs (and awesome bass lines) of When It’s Gone. The acoustic guitar and delicate brass and string orchestration of Here closes the curtain with an emotional and impactful finale. Overall, It’s Your Fault Everything’s Alright is the perfect playlist fodder for both the secretly admired and the prospective breakup.

You can catch Joshua perform the entire album (and get a free copy at the door) on Friday June 26th at Mahall’s 20 Lanes, with Jason Patrick Meyers and The Quickening. The album is also available for purchase (along with the rest of the Like Rabbits series) on his Bandcamp page.

Photo by Marc Santos Photography.

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Wire at the Beachland Ballroom

DJ Party Sweat spinning before Wire at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson
DJ Party Sweat spinning before Wire at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

From the moment we entered the nostalgic flyer-covered walls of the Beachland Ballroom, it truly felt like stepping into an underground club from the 80s. The groove of DJ Party Sweat’s pulsating vinyl beats set the soundtrack before the ambient pop-noise stylings of Julian Lynch. His solo performance captured the early audience’s attention, with a whispered voice, multi-color guitar, and two briefcases stacked with effects and processors.

Wire (Graham Lewis, Robert Grey, Colin Newman) live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Wire (Graham Lewis, Robert Grey, Colin Newman) live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

With their fourteenth studio album and a career that spans over thirty years, Wire has earned a no-nonsense reputation, especially when it comes to their stage performance. That level of respect for their craft is equally reflected by the devotion of the fans who filled the ballroom floor.

Colin Newman of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Colin Newman of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

The front of the stage was a guitar and gear lover’s dream: from the massive Eastwood hollow-bodied twelve-string and streamlined Airline guitars in Colin Newman’s arsenal, to the artful pickguard on Graham Lewis’ souped-up bass, and the sea of unique effects pedals arranged in front of each member’s station. Wire’s embrace of technology has been their hallmark, and their growing cache of technological prowess continues to surprise their audiences.

Graham Lewis of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Graham Lewis of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Wire started their set with a pair of uptempo selections from their new self-titled album, Blogging and Joust and Jostle. Both tunes display the quick beats, angular chords, and short length that has become their signature style. The low-tone hook-laden punk sounds just as fresh as their classic album catalog.

Matthew Simms of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Matthew Simms of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Their set continued with more new material peppered with choice picks from recent albums like Stealth of a Stork and early work like Blessed State. The sonic showcases during Sleep-Walking and their final song Harpooned were fantastic to behold. Guitarist Matthew Simms’ technical musicianship and dexterity was on full display, with incredible feedback, synthesized solos, and brilliant electronic textures on his lefty Fender and lap slide guitars.

Matthew Simms of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Matthew Simms of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

After a brief departure, they returned for a final encore kicked off with Adore Your Island from Change Becomes Us and closed out the night with more fan favorites, including a rare song from Pink Flag. Wire is known for not doing fan requests, but hopefully they’ll oblige to their great group of devotees and return to Cleveland on their next tour.

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Live Review: Tame Impala at the House of Blues

Australians Tame Impala brought their technicolor dream show to the delight of the sold out audience at House of Blues on June 4. Giant projectors and lights painted the crowd in bright swatches of colors, while barefooted and serene lead singer Kevin Parker kicked off the show with the latest single off Currents, “Let It Happen”.  The cool and collected attitude of the band on stage did not extend into show goers who danced and thrashed about to the music as Tame Impala kicked through many songs off of 2012’s Lonerism including “Endors Toi”, “Mind Mischief” and favorite “Elephant” which extended into a jam session with synth-heavy beats (brought to you by Jay Watson and Dominic Simper) that resonated out into the venue and shook the very core of the audience.

The encore kicked off with a dynamic drum solo by Julian Barbagallo. However, Tame Impala saved one of the oldies, but goodies for last as Parker slyly smiled and hummed into the mic, “You ready?” before sliding into the highly anticipated “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”. The show ended with Lonerism‘s “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control”.

 

Supporting Tame Impala was power-pop Kuroma, led by Hank Sullivant, formerly of The Whigs. The band played a 45 minute set including “20+Centuries” and “Simon’s in the Jungle”. Even with the absence of guitarist Simon O’Connor, the remaining three members  were able to pack in a great amount of energy and sound that transcended opener expectations, leaving the at-capacity crowd cheering for an encore.

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