The Middle East
Review and photos by John Keegan
Fuzzstival set off a few mind bombs at the ME up and down this past weekend. The three days of music twisted with the exact nature of fuzz. The breadth of definition left plenty of room for variations on reverb and delay-drenched bent strings, whirling keys and occasional twiddled knobs. The partisan crowds were solid on all three nights. Thursday night was sweat city. Band composition skewed toward the kids, a decent mix of testosterone and estrogen, and the few hints of grey took everyone to school. Video Joe Turner's crew handled three nights of cool drip and melt, trip happy light show. They fired up the overhead projectors with plates full of swirled oil, water and dye, laid on some tremulous overlays and splatted the results across the upstairs room and, on Saturday, across the small stage. Joe handled the stage's contrasting digital effects from his mac. The sound was loud, searing and chiseled throughout. Kudos to the stage management on Saturday night, amazingly efficient.
Herbcraft were in the middle of a one-tune, herbalicious, psycho fuzz jam set when I walked in. The guitarist switched to keys for a bit in the middle to mix it up. The room floats and swirls.
The Mystery Lights from NY way up the garage in their fuzz. The tunes are tighter, the hum of Elevators, some electric mud, Seeds and 67 Doors. It's apparent that we are not just setting the controls for the heart of the sun.
Beware the Dangers of the Ghost Scorpion blow through their bandito masked surf while I'm out getting some air. The one tune I catch makes me wish I had timed it better.
The Migs bring us back to the garage. They are raw and rockin' and start the "breakdown the barriers with the audience" theme that lingers throughout the three nights with a come along singalong on Jackson Brown's out of the blue Take it Easy.
Ghost Box Orchestra drop the vocals and look deep into the tips of their shoes. Ebb and flow, strum und drang a great ride. Their drummer kicks major ass particularly on the Neu to Can last tune. The place is floating on a stationary front of psychedelics and tequila.
Littlefoot are first up for me. Slow dream pop with desert twang in the guitar. No rush to get there. Wish on a Mazzy Star. The diminutive Erica Sutherland's ethereal voice haunts twin peaks' fever dreams.
Bloodshot Bill blew the room away. He tore his way through a bunch of Elvis on Lux rockabilly jumpers. He had tight control over his fuzzed up vocal ticks and tricks, his wildly inventive hollow body electric solos and his barefoot kick and high hat. Yee ha.
Barbazons. A few months back the Barbazons were great. This night, to quote Eno, they were "splitting ions in the ether." The tunes are relentlessly tight. The hooks massive and barbed. They had a hot box and took us all for a joy ride.
New Highway Hymnal brought the deep fuzz. They changed up the feel during the long tunes to keep the motion moving forward. The rhythm section pushed the surge. Sweet, occasional backup vocals float alongside howling solos in space.
The absolutely insane Monsieurs know how to close the deal. The true punks of the bunch. Dirty ass rock 'n roll.
Just in time to catch a few Magic Shoppe numbers. The mix in the big room does them justice - each of the four guitars finds its place. What I catch is strong and focused. Salventius, from their forthcoming EP, nodded to the MC5 and drove the big riff home.
The Midriffs are catchy tunes, punk, pop, some well-placed noise, prepossessing energetic monkey dude on railing, vocal and guitar.
Zip Tie Handcuffs added a little big bass hint of metal riff to their fuzz. Me want more.
Wakes bring most of the New Highway Hymnal crew for the most songwriter oriented set of the night. Good verse and chorus change up. It sounded like he had something to say. Hope the lyrics are good.
ADVAETA brought some welcome noise for noise sake to the fuzz. The drummer kicked it sans high hat. They kept the guitar sounds distinct even when they ratcheted up the noise. Art damaged vocals. Like.
There wasn't a duff band on the list. In a time when a spate of local club closings give pause, festivals like Fuzzstival and the recent Girls in the Garage showcase the chops, strength and depth of our town's vibrant rock and roll community.
And there were still ten bands left when it was time to go