words by Cal Roach
The City Of Festivals strikes again, folks! They’re not just for summer any more; easily one of the most exciting ones of the year is starting up tonight (Friday), and best of all it’s indoors! It goes by the name of Riverwest Fest, which should give you an idea of where it takes place; strewn across the neighborhood in nine different venues, you can catch a pretty amazing sample platter of many of our fair city’s best bands. You say you haven’t really kept up on local music over the past couple of years? There would be no better possible way to play catch-up than to get yourself a weekend pass and just wander from venue to venue; you’re practically guaranteed to find something you like. Consider it a holiday gift to yourself! So, read on for some likely highlights of the festival, in addition to a few more suggestions to keep you busy.
There are way too many good bands to mention at Riverwest Fest, so we’ll just give you a couple of must-see suggestions of our own, but be sure to take a gander at the full lineup and map your evenings out accordingly, although you’ll probably start wishing you could be in three places at once. Night one is especially tough, as you’ve got the mind-blowing kraut/post/rock sonic assault of Catacombz headlining at Club Timbuktu, but the official record release party (and one of the last shows EVER!) for John The Savage happening at the same time over at (of all places?) Rio West Cantina. This could be a game-time decision; good luck! Warming up for John The Savage is the reunion of White Problems that might make your decision a little easier…if it weren’t for Absolutely at Timbuktu and Crappy Dracula at The Uptowner both at approximately that same time! Yikes. Be aware that these times are pretty loose guesses, and things are often running ahead of or behind schedule, so it’s best to keep your options open. Either way, we recommend ending up either at Uptowner for Sat. Nite Duets or Riverwest Public House for Fresh Cut Collective for the end of the night.
We couldn’t fault you for skipping out on RWFest, though, if you’ve got your heart set on checking out Sugar Stems’ record release party down at Cactus Club. For one thing, the record, Can’t Wait, is a terrific slice of manic/depressive power pop with just a bit of punk edge; for another thing, this band is even better live, taking that super sweet energy and cranking the guitars to eleven. Sugar Stems have been known to blow touring bands off the stage with their tight, sweaty live shows, so you can’t go wrong here. Plus, they’re bringing local garage rockers Slow Walker along to the party, as well as fresh up-and coming Nuggets-style psych merchants The Delphines, who have put out a couple of well-received EPs this year (Bandcamp!).
Night two of Riverwest Fest (Saturday) brings a new set of conflicts, but you could start your day off nice and easy with a bunch of short acoustic sets by local singer/songwriters at People’s Books; we recommend checking out Myles Coyne and Cat Ries (whose short set last year was one of the fest’s highlights) for sure. Coyne will be doing double duty as well, joining the always-weird and energetic Animals In Human Attire at Jackpot Gallery a little later on (and with no other conflicting sets scheduled!). After that it gets tough. If you’re into the super heavy stuff, the Public House is the place to end your night (Burning Sons, Moon Curse, etc.). Hip hop? Then it’s the Uptowner (Kid Millions headlines). High-octane weird pop music? Stonefly is the place (Fatty Acids, Worrier, etc.). Oh crap, and don’t forget to catch a rare set by Fahri at Rio West…aaaand, we’ve run out of time, but rest assured, wherever you end up, you’re in for a treat.
Naturally, there’s another great show tugging at you to make your way to Cactus Club again: Astronautalis. This guy is the kind of thing you might hear on Dr. Fell’s show on your way to work and go, “Who is this?? What genre is this??” The answer to that second question is: it’s kind of all genres at once. It’s definitely based in hip hop, but spliced into the beats and quasi-rapping are bits of jazz, electronic, country (yes, country), indie rock, and practically anything else you can think of. We’d bet there’s even some polka thrown in sometimes. And he’s brought along a couple of pioneers in the world of experimental rap as well, Los Angeles alt-rap busybody Busdriver and Jel, well-known for his superb production as well as vocal work with groups like Themselves, Subtle and 13 & God. It’s gonna be a night of unique beats and voices, and probably some killer collaborations between these three off-the-beaten-path artists.
Sunday is the night before the night before Christmas, so you probably don’t have to work on Monday, so you have no good excuse not to head down to Tonic Tavern to check out a couple of the city’s best singer/songwriters in a stripped-down setting. First up, it’s Lisa Ridgely, fresh off her politically-charged new single “Stopgap Girl” as well as a killer EP earlier this year (all available you-know-where!) with her band The Fainting Room; she’ll be playing solo for this show. Then it’s Todd Umhoefer, better known to the city’s folk community as Old Earth, and the artist behind one of 2012’s best local releases, the epic one-track EP called A Low Place At The Old Place. Sure, you could call it folk, but it’s also sort of avant-garde in its collages of sound, sort of rocking with its electric guitar textures…sort of hard to pin down, if you couldn’t tell, but it’s all anchored by Umhoefer’s distinctive voice and instrumental style, which he continues to mold and perfect into something truly unique. This should be the perfect prelude to your (hopefully!) work-free Monday.