Whither Festivus: MACRoCk 2012 Recap - Friday

As y'all recall, I went out to Harrisonburg last year for my very first MACRoCk. I left super smitten and totally stoked on the idea of going back. So when the 2012 installment rolled around, I made dang sure to go. And wouldn't you know it, this year was even better than last year. Below are all the reasons why.

Having made my way to Hburg on Thursday evening, when the official Day 1 dawned I was good and ready to have some fun. The first day of MACRoCk was beautiful blue and a smidge windy (apologies, Harrisonburg, if you caught me having a Marilyn Monroe moment). The day was a win before the music even started, as I linked up with Brian and Marty from Ttotals for some quality hangtime. Brian and I went record shopping at the FANTASTIC Wonder Records while Marty got him a haircut. We also had some fun times over at the band banquet at the Elk's Lodge, trying to decode Elk memorabilia and just generally goofing off. Eventually, we made our way over to the Artful Dodger (which is maybe my favorite venue of the entire weekend, what with its' quirky design and cheap booze), wherein the first portion of the day's rock proceedings were to play out.

Kicking off the official bandness was Malatese, and they kicked off MACRoCk something proper. They were just as feisty and shouty as I had imagined they would be, and so high energy. I was particularly fond of when the sonic party got a little dark, and shit started to get just a tiny bit creepy and weird. But in a good way. The folks at the Dodger seemed to dig Malatese, and I can certainly add my approval to that consensus. I found the singer especially engaging, with his mild histrionics and pogoing hither and thither across the stage. The last song of their short set was dedicated to a dad, which was too cute. Thumbs up on the Malatese live experience for sure.

Richmond favorites White Laces came next, and played one heck of a set. The dark, almost sinister throb of their sound pulsated in waves over the heads of the many folks that crowded around for their set. The songs were a little bit far out at times, but were reigned in with structure and loveliness. "Fuck yeahs" were popping up all over the dang place after "Heavy Nights," and the beautiful ominous tones and off-kilter rhythms were certainly warranting of such concise, emphatic praise. Their set was shoegaze/post-punk infused with an almost poppy slickness, and they sounded totally on-point, with even the muddiness of the vocals working in their favor. The sunlight streaming in and bathing them in its golden glow made for a pretty special little set indeed. And then, somehow, it was all over.

My favorite Nashville gents were third to play, and ladies and gentlemen, may I just say this. Ttotals owned the Dodger. Officially and completely owned it. It's probably the best I've seen them (and, it must be noted, is the third time in a row I've seen them without any vomiting happening). They were in peak form with their outer blues, the psycho shoegaze pummeling psych party making friends and winning people over throughout the place. I think I might have checked out for a little bit as they played. To my mind, they're definitely in contention for best (and loudest) set of the weekend. Hot damn, hot damn, hot damn.

As if that wasn't enough, there was still one more set to be had at the Dodger. And it belonged to my River City loves The Diamond Center. Something must have been in the air (perhaps a little mountain magic), because TDC also played possibly my favorite ever set by them. They simply manhandled their songs. Brandi's vocals were purring somethin' extra sultry. So good were they, that I saw some bros totally clinging to each other in an embrace most likely brought on by disbelief at just how good a set they were witnessing. They were on another plane on the first day of MACRoCk. Their elemental psych spiritualism was a wonder to behold, friends. When the last note was played I felt so lucky to have been there for all four bands that had left their mark at the Dodger. But then I realized there was even more to come.

After a dinner break, the Ttotals gents and I meandered over to Clementine for the super solid bill that was lined up. Banned Books led the charge, and came out swinging with their aggressively loud aggrotude. The way their drummer seemed to almost attack his kit definitely appealed to me. There was a wacky, almost jazz sort of experimentation to their sound, very free form. And very loud. My ears were complaining even with the hot pink plugs. I dug their whole set, but the instrumentals, with their decidedly more hostile vibe, were my favorites. There was a dude standing right in front of the stage, hands over his ears, an expression somewhere between awe and pain on his face as he stared at the Philly band. And that pretty much sums it up right there, y'all.

More Fuzzy favorites had their turn, as the Charlottesville-based Invisible Hand got down and dirty. The place was getting super packed by this point, and folks were all atwitter. Their set sounded killer, very heavy on the rocking out. Also, singer/guitarist Adam Smith gets mad points for not only his extra lustrous curls, but the classic Izod cardigan as well. Well-played, Adam. And well-played, Invisible Hand. These dudes are live favorites of mine, and they were favorites of the crowd, too, even inspiring a gentleman standing near me to balance a beer bottle on his head. Can't beat that.

Total Slacker threw me for a total loop and a half, because for whatever reason I was not expecting to love them as much as I did. But o, sweet mercy. Their drummer was cherubim adorable and I loved the way they shredded through their songs. They were spikey and all sorts of sassy, and the spin moves the singer threw down were impressive as all get out. It was their first time in Virginia, and we all know how I love a good first time. In an interesting sartorial dynamic, the two dudes in the band were in all white, while the lone lady was in black. I couldn't get enough of their scuzzy, lo-fi as fuck maelstrom. All the killer touchstones you could ask for were in their set, from the Stooges to the Velvets to Spacemen 3, all thrown in a blender with some razorblades and some youthful abandon. Speaker-climbing and over-the-back guitar playing cemented them in my favorite sets of the weekend. Impressed doesn't even do my feelings justice.

The last official set of the night was Lower Dens, the set I had probably looked most forward to of the entire weekend. We all know how much I love them. I'd wanted to see them for so long, and finally being able to indulge in my Lower Dens fangirlness was a wonderful feeling. After (a really, really, really) long setup period, they began. And I blissed out. Since it took so long to get going, the crowd at Clementine dwindled quite a bit. But it didn't matter to me. While I didn't stay for the whole set, what I heard was magical and delicious and magically delicious. Also, I now have a thing for red-headed guitarists. Officially. Their dreamy droning was even dreamier than I had hoped for, and I left Clementine with a heck of a smile on my face.

To really get the total MACRoCk experience, the Ttotals boys and I drove over to one of the house shows to get a glimpse of some friends doing their thing in a confined space. The basement of this spot was packed to high heaven, so hanging out on the deck was what down. Navi (Richmond) and Surfing (Harrisonburg) were the bands we got an earful of, and both sounded mighty fine in the chill of the night. We ended up splitting after not too long, but not before we got to see a window get broken (rock'n'roll, my friends).

And then, finally, it was time for bed. But there was no rest for the weary! For lo, Day 2 would soon beckon. Stay tuned...

[photo by Megan Petty]


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