Live Review: MACRoCk 2011 (Day 2)

My second day in Harrisonburg began with an early morning jaunt to downtown, to do a little photo snapping. Being a slight history nerd, I enjoy taking pics of old buildings for their architectural and historic merit. Being as Hburg is on the petite side, I was only out and about for an hour or so. Still a good start to my day.

After a brief respite, I headed over to Blue Nile for the Label Expo, a gathering of various creative minds meeting other creative minds. After a nice chat with some Oldermost fellows, I headed to my home base for some work-related stuff (and maybe a nap) before gearing up for the long day/night ahead. And goodness gracious, y'all, what a long second day of MACRoCk it was.

I had planned on decamping at Clementine all the live long day, as the lineup there was full of bands I officially Really Wanted to See. First up was Black Girls, who filled the place pretty dang full for being the first band of the day. They tore it up with their sassy, bluesy rock noise. They were over and done before I wanted them to be, apologizing when it was their last song and leaving the kids and yours truly wanting much more of their party party racket. It was a Richmond redux as Lubec took the stage, sadly for what for all intents and purposes was their last set together. Little-known fact, Lubec's Brandon Martin and I used to work together at an Unidentified Retail Giant, but somehow I'd never seen his band play. Go figure I would see them for the first time at their last show. I had an instant affinity for their unexpectedly snarling guitars, driving rock, and lovely melodicness. Not only was their music pretty dang good, but they also raised the sticky issue of whether or not dead baby jokes are acceptable. For my part, I'm undecided. It was definitely bittersweet, to see and enjoy Lubec knowing it was the alleged cruel, cruel end.

Sticking with the pairs thing, it was next time for two Philly bands to kill me not-so-softly. Arches started off by requesting more reverb, which, friends, is a surefire way to my heart. Their sound was a delightful swirl of dreampop, 90s college radio rock, and some 60s psych. Very interesting indeed. They managed to somehow create songs that were both rambling and intricate but structured at the same time. And throwing in something as simple as a harmonica in the expanse of their sound was just splendid. Next came Creepoid, and they instantly became one of, if not my absolute favorite band of the weekend. They were heavy on the psych, with a darkness to them. Your humble blogstress fell incredibly in smit with their monstrous, muddily fuzzed songs. I had a hard time taking notes because my brain ceased to function properly thanks to the melting that was occurring therein. They reminded me at times a little of the Crocodiles record Stoned To Death I've been so in love with over the past few months, and someone probably should make a Creepoid/Crocodiles tour happen one of these days. The only bad thing I can think to say about them is that they eventually stopped playing. Their syrupy dreamscapes are not to be missed.

After that Philadelphian interlude it was back to a pair of Richmonders; The Diamond Center and Antlers. Having already once seen The Diamond Center, I knew I was in for a treat. But friends, I don't think I appreciated just how stellar The Diamond Center is when first I saw them. Their big, intricate, droney assault was sheer bliss. I'm pretty convinced they were just about perfect. At times, they were as haunting as driving down a lonely stretch of highway at dawn and getting lost in a misty bank of creeping gray fog, which, trust me, was quite a sensation. I was ever so blue when they had to put down their instruments. Antlers followed, and while I just wasn't nearly as in love as with a few of the previous bands, I did appreciate their ambling quirkiness. And their loudness was certainly appreciated by those of us who dig the whole noise thing.

An NYC pair took to the stage next, The House Floor and Air Waves. Admittedly, I wasn't particularly enthralled by either band, especially Air Waves who took what seemed like an exorbitantly long time to start their set. Though I must say, the big bad rock of Air Waves' instrumentation was pretty nifty, and The House Floor eventually proved rather enjoyable. And of course, I could just have been still thinking about some of those prior sets and impatiently awaiting the final two bands of the night.

Finally, the final pairing of the night: The two bands that actually didn't hail from the same city, Eternal Summers of Roanoke and Gringo Star of Atlanta. Both of them y'all know I already dig, so seeing them both again was a treat. Even if one of the sets ended rather abruptly. More on that in a minute. Eternal Summers once again showed up as a trio, but this time a different member of The Young Sinclairs, Sam, was the third Summer. They launched into new song "Prisoner," and I noticed immediately that Nicole's voice was in perfect shape (she had a sore throat back in January when I saw them in DC). They cutely jingled and jangled and surfed and sassed their way through a set filled with goodies old and new. And I'll tell you, dear friends, the new stuff sounds positively killer. They got some bodies moving for sure with their irresistable shimmy. "Pogo" and "Silver" were flawless, and new song "Girls In The City" featured some adorable, Brit-affected vocals courtesy of Daniel. Their set was perfection.

What happened next, well, I'm pretty sure will go down in MACRoCk history, though right now still seems a little vexing. Gringo Star, my favorite Atlantans, took to the stage and immediately started sounding like a long-lost 60s band in the vein of The Zombies and Sam The Sham and The Pharoahs. I was loving it, and the rest of the crowd was seemingly loving it. I had been informed of a fog machine that had made its way from Atlanta along with the band, and said machine started to slowly spread a light layer of fog throughout Clementine. Somewhere in their second song, the fire alarm started to go off. The Gringos kept right on playing, though, and stormed through a seriously amazing version of "All Y'all" while the alarm was finally subdued. I was being driven nuts in the best way possible with that song and the next one, "Transmission," when the dang alarm went off again. This time, though, it wasn't as easy as just shutting off the alarm. The Harrisonburg FD showed up, and essentially shut the shindig down. Now, conflicting reports are out there about what really went down, so I can't judge based on that, but what I can tell you is that it was a total bummer not to get to see a full set from Gringo Star, and I'm pretty sure they felt the same way, having driven all the way from Atlanta to play. But as I said, I'm pretty sure this set will become the stuff of legend, and just adds to the lore of Gringo Star. If y'all get the chance, go see 'em live because I guarantee you'll have a mighty fine time.

Walking out of Clementine after midnight was eerie, given how quiet Harrisonburg had become after my day spent indoors rocking out. A quick drive and I was back in my room, reflecting on Day 2 all the while. All told, it was a great day, and a great weekend.

Final MACRoCkian thoughts and pictorial spread coming soon.

mp3: Caraway (The Diamond Center from the forthcoming Caraway/20 Twin 7")


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