Whither Festivus: BiMA 2011 Recap

This recap is a smidge delayed, my friends. Turns out that when you're helping work on a festival (i.e. the STPP Fest), your mind might just be lost, a fate equally likely to befall important personal items such as the notebook where your various scribbles and insights about various and sundry shows and bands and records. This past weekend, I finally stumbled upon just such a notebook, and I'm delighted to finally be able to tell y'all about my time at my second BiMA.fest.

It began, for me, on the second day of that wonderful Baltimore Independent Music and Arts festival, 2011 installment. After discovering that, no, the BW Parkway isn't really a quicker way to jaunt up to Baltimore, I got to the Ottobar, resplendent as it was with a snazzy new (or perhaps new to me) awning and a vastly improved surrounding neighborhood. I decided to wander up the stairs, where I had the distinct pleasure of catching a few songs by the Baltimore String Felons. I must say, their rowdy, trashgrass sound had me daggum fixated. They were perfect for upstairs, a space possessed of a lovely, divey vibe. On the doors to the bathrooms hang notices allowing only one person in said lavatory at one time, perhaps wisely discouraging the chance of a clandestinely drunken rendezvous.

It was a treat to see Mr. Sean K. Preston, a gent that is certainly no gentleman with that old-time, pure country rake voice of his and a cheeky little glint in his eye. His one-man show is quite a thing to witness, so deftly does he play and so well-suited to the stage he is. I can't help but think the old-timers would love SKP, with his affinity for the past blended seamlessly with his current experiences (witness, brothers and sisters, such lines as "my biggest regret is that I could not kill her twice" from a cheery little ditty about offing his ex wife). A proffering of whiskey lifted his mood, and as he played and played I thought of just how very much I enjoy coming to BiMA. Great bands playing for folks that hang out and just enjoy the music they're hearing. "It's been my pleasure sweatin' my ass off and drinkin' whiskey in front of you," he professes after a righteous cover of "Take This Job (And Shove It)." Classic.

Continuing the trend of unexpectedly great twangy tomfoolery (it should also be noted that one of the boys goes by Tom Foolery) was that band of delightful degenerates Bobby E. Lee & The Sympathizers. "It's gonna get sloppy and dirty and stinky," we are warned, and just like that they were off, melting faces and making fans with that infectious, charmingly cheeky countrified jangle. They caused quite a little ruckus, those gents, pied pipering the kids to dance until they could dance no more and getting folks in a good mood for damn sure. So much shakin' and rattlin' and rollin' and howlin' and preachin' and bein' all sorts of crazy in one set. I tell you what, y'all, if you ever happen to see Bobby E. Lee & The Sympathizers and end up not having a good time, well, you might wanna check your pulse.

I next ventured downstairs, to see Lazlo Lee & The Motherless Children, who came highly recommended by none other than Sean K. Preston. It wasn't long before I realized this praise was verily warranted. "We are Lazlo Lee & The Motherless Children," Lee announced, "and we're gonna play some rock & roll for you." Hot damn, y'all, that wasn't a lie. Big, swampy, and ballsy, the duo (drummer Cocaine Jim being the other half) could bring down not just the house but the whole dang block. It was muscly, sexy rock and I all sorts of dug it. The pair (well, they were a duo on this night, though technically they're meant to have a third) brought together blues and swamp rock and loud, plain old good old rock and roll. Consider it stadium rock for the discerning music
. "I enjoyed that," opined one audience member, and in that droll, flatly obvious sentiment was something rather appropriate. Lazlo's antics up on the stage reminded me of seeing Wolfmother in their early US tours, and the way singer Andrew Stockdale would flounce and frolic across the stage, fro bounding along as an outlet of his ferocious energy. It was a serious case of showmanship, let me just say.

I ended up deviating from my plans and watching the Lazlo Lee set in its entirety, so impressed and enamored was I. But eventually I headed down to Joe Squared, a place highly recommended for food but a spot I found a little off-putting for music. Solar Temple Suicides was playing when I arrived, and I was once again enjoying their hazy, intense loudness. But the weirdness of the space, with the vast space between band and fest-goers, was a little bit of a downer. I didn't make it through their whole set, and soon jumped ship to head back to Virginia.

I had meant to be back in Baltimore for tons more fun the next day, but a certain Hurricane totally wreaked havoc on my plans. Stupid hurricane. Even having only attended one night of the festivities, I have to say that once again I had a great time at BiMA. The bands were well-curated, and it was impressive to see the growth in the fest in terms of venues and bands. I see nothing but good things in the future for BiMA. Almost immediately that night, I was reminded of how much I love festivals. It doesn't matter the city, it doesn't matter the size of the festival or the stature of the bands on the bill. There's just nothing like a festival, and hallelujah for being able to go to something like BiMA on an annual basis.

[photo of Lazlo Lee & The Motherless Children by Megan Petty]


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