Monday, June 7, 2010

Lobsterfest Day 2 - Athens, OH

This past weekend, ACRN held its annual Lobsterfest, a celebration of both local and touring bands and acts as well as the end of the school year. A little background: this year's fest was a 3 day affair, starting on Thursday the 3rd and ending on Saturday the 5th. Thursday's show took place at the Union, Friday's at Casa Cantina and Saturday's was to take place on South Beach, in front of the front four dorms on South Green.

Firstly: I blogged about day 1 of Lobsterfest for ACRN's site. It was my goal at that point to visit every single set during the festival, because I wanted a distraction from studying for finals and I simply love the Athens music scene anyway. My thoughts on the first day can found here.

These next two posts I'll make will be a little more informal than that.

So, picking up where I left off, I made my way to Casa Cantina at a little past 10 Friday night. If you've been in Athens, surely you know of Casa and surely you know of its superiority to most other Athens joints, at least from a "total package" standpoint. It's a restaurant, a bar and a music venue all rolled into one, and the food is damn good. Ever in Athens and need a pretty nice place to sit around, drink a beer, eat a burrito that's a bit less plebeian than one from the Burrito Buggy (much love to them, by the way) and maybe hear some good music if you're there late enough? Casa Cantina/Nueva (it seems to just kinda go by both at will) is your spot.

As I've progressed through this year, from attending my first local show that wasn't Lobsterfest '09 (Flotation Walls, She Bears and Scubadog at the Union in January!) to now, I've quickly realized that most shows never, EVER start on time. Except Lobsterfest. I was late to night one and guess what? I was late to night two as well.

But not exceedingly late, mind you! I couldn't have missed more than maybe a song or two from the openers, the Graveyard Shift.

It was a perfect start to the evening. I mean perfect. I had never seen or listened to the band before, but immediately I recognized singer/guitarist Aaron Heindel, who was formerly in the Sad Bastards and I BELIEVE is now in the 65's, if I remember correctly when I saw them back in February. I'll tell you what, though: fantastic band! Heindel's got a great voice, very well-suited for the alt-country-folk-barband-blues fusion they were playing. And he's well-complemented by Vana Cesta-Miller, a sweet little singer in her own right. Their two voices mesh almost perfectly through the mix of slower numbers and faster, country-tinged tunes.

The band was comprised of multiple talented musicians. Drums, bass, electric and slide guitars... even J.J. Reed dropped by on the harmonica. It was also the band's CD release show, so they were showing of tunes from that album left and right. A definite standout was the slower, bluesy drinking song "Holes," with "Get Back" and its shouted refrains that the audience was encouraged to join in on coming in at a close second. The album is, I believe, entitled Up with the Moon. Check it out sometime if you get the chance, especially if you're around Athens.

I'm hoping Graveyard Shift will be back next school year. It's always so uncertain whether or not a band will still be around when you come back from summer vacation, due to graduations and such. I'm going to stay positive, though, because I'd love to catch these guys again. And you should too, whether it's in Athens or around the Midwest if they're ever in your city!

Following Graveyard Shift's set, St. Louis's Theodore took to the Casa stage.

How excited was I for Theodore? Let's just say I reviewed their album (and messed up the name of one of the songs, as I've just found out--sorry, dudes!) and tried to catch one of their performances last February, but was only able to listen to the last song due to having not known where the Bruce Manor was before that evening. So this was Retribution Pt. 1 for me (Pt. 2 coming later!).

So yeah, it was pretty much one of my favorite sets from a single artist/band I've ever seen. Theodore is a great live band. They're fast. They're slow. They're quiet. They're loud. Singer Justin Kinkel-Schuster tames his vocals. He lets it all hang out with an impassioned scream. They've got a severed leg attached to the bass drum of their drumset.

It really was a fantastic set. Theodore played both older tracks and newer tunes from the album Hold You Like a Lover, including my personal favorite, "Death's Head." (See? HEAD. Not hand. I got it right this time!) Sadly, I cannot profess to having known most of the other songs due to my unfamiliarity with Theodore's catalog, but it's definitely something I need to check out. The quartet is truly a great band. And what's more, they came all the way from St. Louis. These guys actually really seem to appreciate and enjoy Athens, as much as we enjoy having them here. Here's hoping they'll continue to come around for years to come.

Next was Athens alum Southeast Engine. The four men in this band have been around the Athens scene for a while, and are usually on the touring circuit nowadays rather than sticking around Athens. That said, it's pretty much a sure bet that you'll get at least one Southeast Engine show a quarter.

This was my first Southeast Engine show. I had come close to seeing them play Canal Street Tavern in Dayton a week before but regrettably did not make it out. That said, I'm very glad to have finally caught these guys, since you can never really take a band for granted around here. You assume they'll be back around again next year but who really knows for sure?

Southeast Engine definitely was a little more on the folk side than the previous two bands, if I say so myself. But they're definitely a rock band too, trust me on that. Let's go with folk-rock then, eh?! And the founding members are originally from Dayton in my neck of the woods of Ohio... so I feel like I gotta rep them twice as much.

Adam Remnant, the singer and guitarist, has a great voice. Fantastic voice. And there's a great stage presence there too from both him and the rest of the band. Leo DeLuca was definitely one of the better drummers I saw all weekend. And Jesse Remnant and Billy Matheny were great on whatever they played--and they switched out instruments a lot.

These guys tour a lot, from what I understand. This summer, for instance? On the road. With Deerhoof. I think that's definitely a "That'll do, pig" moment! Really, good for them. Hope that turns even more people on to their music. I love it when bands from around where I live get some nationwide or even regional recognition. I think Southeast Engine definitely has the talent to go further than they already have, too.

The final act of the evening? None other than Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots.

Believe it or not, this was my first time seeing Duke Junior in a full set as well. I attended the ACRN Guestlist shoot that was done with them as the Production Assistant, and caught two songs of their CD release show in February, but nothing more. There's a bunch of long stories there that I won't go into for the sake of brevity.

That all doesn't matter, though! I finally made it!

For those who don't know, Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots features dual vocals from Jess Kauffman and Kyle Martin. They're both very admirable singers, especially when they harmonize. Casey Davis is a great guitarist as well, mixing in multiple styles into his playing that surfaces and ebbs on each song. Matt Horne is on the fiddle; he provides some truly engaging solos and is a definitely welcome addition to the group. And Aaron Lemley, an ACRN alum now, is a formidable presence behind the drums, rarely up front and in your face with his playing but sometimes indulging with a solo or two of his own.

I was and still am very glad that I finally got to witness a Duke Junior set in its entirety. I do recall hearing "Travelin' Man," which is one of my favorites. "Honey Go On," my favorite of theirs, was unfortunately omitted, but I have a feeling there will be other times for that. If there's any bands out there that I'm excited to come back to fall quarter (and trust me, I am excited for a couple), Duke Junior is one of them. Check 'em out if they come to your town, too! I know they'll be in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky this summer, though mostly Ohio. They'll even be in Dayton in July. Sadly, I'll be in Michigan that week. Else, you can bet I would've been there, and probably would've dragged my parents along since I keep raving about the band to them.

All told, it was a great night. Actually, it was more than a great night. It was a fantastic night of live music. Though Thursday night's lineup at Lobsterfest was certainly a commendable one, this is where I'm in my zone: this type of music, that country/folk/indie vibe. From an act I knew nothing about like Graveyard Shift to... well, a band I knew a few songs of like Theodore, Lobsterfest Day Two went splendidly.

Did I mention the crowd? There was a ton of people there! From ACRNers both past and present to people just out there to enjoy some damn fine music, the place was hoppin'. It's these shows that seem to bring some of the largest crowds out to Casa and other local venues, actually. I'm sure fall quarter will be more of the same.

But Lobsterfest was not over! No, sirs and madams, you could even say it wasn't even halfway done! Lobsterfest Day Three was upon us, less than 10 hours away. I hurried back to my dorm, eager to catch at least a bit of sleep before the afternoon and evening festivities (only got 5 hours of sleep. Not cool.) commenced.

Check the next post for that! I promise you, it'll be even longer than this.

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