Carrying the banner
Gem City talent takes place at the forefront during DMF 2012
By Tim Anderl
For the last seven years, both casual and diehard fans of Dayton music have converged on downtown, joining their peers to celebrate their love and admiration for the musical art and mayhem provided by their city’s homegrown talent. Long a hotbed of exceptional creativity, Dayton’s underground artists have held their own with peers both nationally and internationally for decades in genres as far-reaching as funk, surf, avant-garde, rhythm and blues, electronic dance music and heavy metal, to name a few. 2012’s Dayton Music Fest, which takes place Friday, Oct. 5 and Saturday, Oct. 6, promises another robust line-up showcasing Dayton’s finest pioneers, ground breakers, scene veterans and up-and-comers.
“We don’t have any Grammy winners or chart-topping acts like some festivals, but we do have some of the cream of the crop from the local indie scene,” Don Thrasher, one of the festivals co-organizers said. “Like every year, we didn’t land every white whale we set our sights on, but I’m proud of the line-up we’ve put together this year.
“We’ve got first time appearances by Ruckus Roboticus, Robthebank – featuring ex-Guided By Voices guitarist Nate Farley – Southeast Engine, Stillwater River Band and Good English, sets from new bands like Goodbye, Tim Pritchard & the Box Car Suite, Amnesia and Feathered Serpent, as well as returning local favorites Vanity Theft, Motel Beds, Astro Fang, Jasper the Colossal and Shrug,” Thrasher added.
Admission Friday is $5 for admission to the opening night festivities at Canal Street Tavern or $10 for a wristband that will include access to all of Saturday’s performances as well. So, for a mere ten spot, Dayton Music Fest offers 34 bands spread out amidst eight of Dayton’s finest establishments including Canal Street Tavern, Tumbleweed Connection, South Park Tavern, Blind Bob’s, Trolley Stop and Oregon Express.
“We’ve been a part of DMF since 2008 when we opened and it is usually a good night for us,” Lisa Mendenhall, one of Blind Bob’s owners said. “It is fun for people to be able to pay one charge and get into many venues. And, I’m really excited to finally get to see Captain of Industry!”
Dayton Music Fest, originally the brainchild of local musicians Dan Clayton, Sean Johnson, Will Leasure and Andy Ingram, was inherited a few years back by DCP Music Editor, Kyle Melton, and Dayton Daily News Contributing Writer, Don Thrasher. In addition to the festival, Thrasher and Melton perform together in the band Smug Brothers and run the Dayton-centric indie label Gas Daddy Go Records.
“This will be the third year Don and I have been co-organizers of Dayton Music Fest,” Melton explained. “When the previous organizers offered the festival to us in 2010, we were truly honored. Don and I both have been very active cheerleaders of Dayton music and to be tasked with presenting an annual event such as this is a tremendous responsibility and pleasure.”
According to Melton, the music of Dayton is something to be celebrated all year. However, this event is an excellent opportunity for both the casual and dedicated followers of original rock here in Dayton to spend two very-full nights immersing themselves in the sounds of hometown favorites and budding rock gods.
“I think it’s the concentration of acts playing at several clubs in town simultaneously that builds a different degree of anticipation,” Melton confessed. “We also mix up the bills at different clubs in such a way that may not necessarily appear together at any other time during the year.
“It’s just as easy to set up camp at one club all night as it is to bounce around and catch a little bit from a lot of bands,” he added. “That sense of motion, I think, gives DMF its distinct characteristic that doesn’t really happen any other time during the year. We’ve also staggered set times to help maximize that potential, so if people want to catch a lot of bands, it’s easier to do so.”
From the music fan’s perspective, another compelling draw of an event like Dayton Music Fest is the promise that there will be moments of magic that won’t long be forgotten. And past events have provided just that.
“Buffalo Killers closing out opening night last year was so much fun, as was Astro Fang closing out Saturday night,” Melton beamed. “Although this was before we organized it, Enon’s set in 2007 and Boston Spaceships in 2008 were both a couple of my favorites sets I’ve seen at DMF.”
“I attended the event for five years as a spectator and I saw so many great bands during that time,” Thrasher recalled. “I played the event with my old band Kentucky Overflow, did a guest spot with another of my former bands, Swearing at Motorists, and later played DMF with my current band Smug Brothers and those were all a blast.”
As for this year, there is one particular band Melton is anxious to see.
“I think the Friday night lineup should be exceptional, and the Captain of Industry reunion should be a great time,” Melton said.
Captain of Industry, who formed in 2003 and became a highly-popular fixture on the Dayton music scene, went on hiatus in 2008 when guitarist and founding member Kevin Oldfield relocated to Portland, Ore. Earlier this year, vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Nathan Peters received an invitation for the band to regroup for the event from Thrasher.
“When Don asked I had just had my second child, so I was a bit hesitant,” Peters recalled. “But to my surprise my wife really thought we should do it. We are going to play a wide range of all the Captain songs, and we are going to play until people no longer seem interested.”
According to Melton, another local music festival, Cincinnati’s annual Midpoint Music Festival, provided a template that has long allowed organizers to see a working methodology in practice. However, Melton said that while Midpoint has grown in scope to include primarily nationally-recognized acts that travel to Cincinnati to perform at the event, Dayton Music Fest keeps its focus on homegrown talent.
In order to find that talent, solicitations for participants in this year’s event opened in April and ran until the end of May.
“We tend to look for bands that are actively playing around town, but ultimately we try to cast a wide net in terms of stylistics so that the diversity of what Dayton music is all about each year is represented well,” Melton said.
This year, organizers are looking forward to similar attendance levels from previous years. In fact, they are hoping to expand the festival’s exposure this year by teaming up with Omega Music, from 5-8 p.m. Friday, and the Midwest Outdoor Experience, formerly Gearfest, which takes place from noon-4 p.m. on Saturday at Eastwood Metropark, by presenting a sample of some local talent for free.
“We’re really excited to have the opportunity to team up with a large event like Midwest Outdoor Experience,” Thrasher said. “We have four very different local bands, which should give people a good idea what Dayton Music Fest has to offer that evening. This little bit of cross-promotion should help us spread the word about all the great acts we have on tap this year.”
The Friday evening lineup includes Goodbye, The 1984 Draft, Shrug and nationally-recognized Misra Records folk heroes, Southeast Engine. Starving in the Belly of the Whale, Duke of Owls, Tim Pritchard & The Boxcar Suite and BJSR will perform at the Midwest Outdoor Experience.
And like previous years, despite the hard work and countless hours it takes to plan an event of this magnitude, the organizers are expecting smooth sailing with very few logistical pitfalls.
“There is a lot of work involved with putting this thing together,” Thrasher explained. “We’re extremely lucky because the groundwork was already laid by the DMF founders, so most of the big problems were already worked out by the time we took over in the festival’s sixth year. But, really, the biggest job is going through all of the worthy submissions and trimming that down to a manageable level, and then actually getting all of the acts on board and scheduled.”
“For the most part, the event runs quite smoothly,” Melton added. “We’ve been working with the venues long enough and they are all extremely accommodating. The volunteers that have dedicated their time to help run the event are very supportive.”
Though 2012 isn’t yet a wrap, Melton and Thrasher are already looking forward to next year’s festivities.
“Kyle and I are in this for the long haul,” Thrasher said. “We’re already talking about next year and we’ll start working on that in earnest on Sunday, Oct. 7.”
Dayton Music Fest is Friday, October 5 and Saturday, October 6. For more information and full lineup, visit www.daytonmusicfest.com. A weekend pass is $10.
Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@daytoncitypaper.com
DMF Band Profiles
By Rusty Pate
Somewhat of a Dayton supergroup, Goodbye features former members of Motel Beds, Esther Caulfield Orchestra, Dementia Precox and Mink. The resulting collection delivers drone-heavy ‘60s leaning pop that mixes Paul Revere and the Raiders with Brian Jonestown Massacre.
The 1984 Draft
This band changes lives – or at least, that’s their catch phrase. Equal parts bombastic rock and ‘80s pop merge into a sound not quite sloppy enough to be garage rock and not quite perfect enough to be pop.
It seems like Shrug has been around forever. Indeed, Tod Weidner and company have been at it since 1994 and their blend of song-first Americana also comes from another time. While the ‘90s might call to mind flannel shirts, Shrug harkens back to Big Star rather than Soundgarden.
Southeast Engine [Misra Records]
This Athens, Ohio quartet offers finely-tuned sweet harmonies and tightly crafted tunes. If this were 10 years ago, they would be dubbed alt-country. Fans of early Avett Brothers should take notice, as should fans of Neutral Milk Hotel who wanted less psychedelic influence.
Greanades!? deliver radio-ready rock mixed with a dash of modern new wave. While most of the sound stays true to simple pop conventions, ever-so-slight hints of a more experimental sound pop up throughout. The vibe leans more towards heavy, but a quirky sensibility permeates.
Roley Yuma plays heavy music that doesn’t fall into the trappings of the genre. It’s loud and fast, with a fair share of screaming, but never collapses under its own weight. Elements of metal, experimental and pop blend, somehow, into a harmonious whole.
Springboro’s all-girl Vanity Theft carves a unique niche from the tired mold of female rock kitsch. Far from a novelty act, the tunes feature tight construction and flawless harmonies. The polish shocks upon first listen and the razor-sharp hooks slice right through the speakers.
With the perfect blend of face-smashing precision and experimental mind-fucking, Astro Fang pulls hard rock, kicking and screaming, into the indie world. It’s hard not to love a band with song titles like “Han Solonely” and “Galactic Dracula Landing.”
Starving in the Belly of the Whale
Blending the folk elements of Bright Eyes with the dreamy pop elements of Kurt Vile, Ricky Terrell keeps it simple. The light and airy approach leaves plenty of room for the songs to breathe. The sparse accompaniment anchoring most tunes allows the lyrics to shine.
Duke of Owls
Perhaps the purest pop band on the Dayton Music Fest bill, Duke of Owls pulls off a sentimental vibe without straying into pretension. The soulful and familiar sound never draws on any one influence too much.
Tim Pritchard & the Boxcar Suite
Straddling country, folk and rock, Tim Pritchard & the Boxcar Suite blends cosmic American music stalwarts like The Flying Burrito Brothers with the more pop-friendly leanings of Alex Chilton. The tone bends more towards mellow folk than bar band blues.
BJSR brings a solo acoustic sensibility that relies heavily on melody and chord structure rather than tired folk rock clichés. His records sound surprisingly lush for such a sparse and minimalist approach – think Bon Iver without the aftertaste of crippling depression.
If the rest of the Dayton Music Fest lineup lacks the proper punch-to-the-gut hard rock aesthetic for one’s taste, look no further than Feathered Serpent. Rumbling, thick chords serve as the foundation for a decidedly more intelligent take on stoner rock.
Frantic and chaotic, Abertooth Lincoln attacks music with a life-or-death attitude that relies on stop-on-a-dime tempo shifts and a scorched earth philosophy. The highly conceptual pieces leave behind the usual hard rock topics of alienation and solitude for an apolitical and apocalyptic worldview.
Those longing for the classic days of heavy music, with a focus on complex compositions rather than power-chord wankery, look no further than Grand Mammoth. Falling somewhere between the brash metal of Mastodon and the dark foreboding of Black Sabbath, Grand Mammoth harkens back to the days when hard rock was dangerous.
Dumbell takes the punk rock mindset, often overlooked by many of today’s heavy music practitioners, and finds a way to interject melody, another oft-forgotten ingredient for headbangers. The resulting sound slices the best bits off each genre – the reckless abandon of punk and the precision of metal.
Dayton may not be known for soul-drenched rock, but Al Holbrook has carved that unique niche in this town. The group recalls Booker T and the MGs with just a hint of Dr. John. The heart-felt vocals anchor a slinky-yet-tight take on soul music.
City of Kings
The term ‘psychedelic music’ might recall images of Haight-Ashbury hippies, but the genre has seen a rebirth in recent years. City of Kings’ sound resides firmly in this new-age psychedelia. Not quite as droney as The Black Angels, the group hones a much more straightforward ‘60s pop.
This Columbus group relies on a decidedly lo-fi sound to present quality songwriting. Devoid of solos and pretension, their latest long-player Morris Drive lets the songs take the starring role. The sound falls somewhere between a non-British Arctic Monkeys and a less trippy Cave Singers.
Perhaps the purest power pop/punk band on this year’s DMF bill, Shut Up relies on heavy hooks and a no-nonsense approach that results in a freshly familiar sound. They make their points quickly with songs that clock in roughly around the two-minute mark.
Recently revived and with a new album due later this month, this female-fronted take on power pop delivers more testosterone than the usual false sentimentality from other girl singers. The music gets right to the point and what emerges is a sincere and unequivocal rock sound.
Fans of the Dayton music scene likely already know about the Motel Beds. The group tackles garage rock that harkens back to the last days of mid-1990s post-grunge with distinct surf overtones. Their songs develop from influences, rather than imitating them, and the underlying artistic weight overpowers the more blatant pop elements.
Captain of Industry
This self-dubbed space-age-pop group combines light and airy compositional elements with syncopated and jarring rhythms. The lush arrangements support a shockingly mature, developed and complex take on pop music with elements of noise rock and electronic music.
This Columbus-by-way-of-Dayton group blends pitch-perfect vocal harmonies into a whole larger than the sum of its parts. Bonneville ranks among the strongest vocal groups on the DMF bill. They recall the more ambitious Wilco albums while still retaining a pop sheen.
Combining the seemingly disparate elements of electronic and rock, Electric Banana sounds straight out of 1987. The two-guitar duo employs drum machines and vintage keyboard sounds to carve a wholly unique sound. A cutting aural undertone bubbles up, from the instrumentation if not lyrics.
This three-piece offers up jangly power pop tempered with a lo-fi sensibility. The band often draws comparisons to Sleater-Kinney and Sonic Youth, but where these other groups stand firmly in the art house wings of rock, Dirty Socialites keep it simple and accessible.
Jasper the Colossal
Punk rock, at least the best of the genre, shares many of the same elements as good pop music. Jasper the Colossal finds a way to pull the best out of punk and pop without falling victim to the downfalls of each. Think pre-Nimrod Green Day
Stillwater River Band
Stillwater River Band falls into a growing movement of musicians using traditional bluegrass instruments to play non-bluegrass music. They lean more towards a folk sound, but squeeze in progressive elements. The resulting sound lies somewhere between Rumpke Mountain Boys jam and Trampled By Turtles modern country.
The Turkish Delights
Art-rockers The Turkish Delights find a way to stay honest to the new wave aesthetic without being pompous. The sound recalls Pavement and Smith Westerns but the group creates a distinctly unique niche in a scene that requires such a feat.
Me & Mountains
A quirky sensibility runs throughout Me & Mountains songs. Combining elements of Weezer and Nada Surf, the group’s cascading waves of harmonious joy permeate many songs. Other tracks hit with a harshness and thump usually reserved for much heavier music.
Dan Haug serves as the man behind the Ruckus Roboticus curtain. He describes what he does as sound collages, taking snippets from many sources to produce a unique work. The resulting tracks end up more funky and danceable than the usual sample-filled mish-mash that might result in less-skilled hands.
Amnesia plays fairly straightforward rock music featuring borderline falsetto voices over lo-fi garage rock. It comes out as a decidedly indie core, surrounded by sugary-pop goodness. Don’t mistake that for shallowness, because beneath the surface lies a potent talent.
This all-girl group features three sisters and the tight sibling cohesion become evident from the first few moments of listening. They combine the laid-back listlessness of Jessica Lea Mayfield with the jarring abrasion of Neil Young.
Frontier Folk Nebraska
Folk may be in this group’s name, but don’t be fooled into thinking of protest songs. The band combines early Flaming Lips and Z-era My Morning Jacket. The songs emerge from glimmering chords and bits of noise that meld into an impressive whole.