Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Deja Mi Fest at Motorco & Fullsteam Brewery - 9/1/2011

Deja Mi Fest - Durham
with American Aquarium, Stuart McLamb, and Gray Young
Motorco & Fullsteam Brewery
9/1/2011

I could get used to to Deja Mi throwing all these free gigs.  The first one in Raleigh was a larger, multi-day affair featuring a bunch of touring bands, but this Durham outing was more focused on our great local acts.  And as an added bonus, there were a bunch of food trucks there so that I was able to stuff myself silly while rocking out. 

The first act was Gray Young and they played inside of Full Steam.  I mean, not inside of the giant beer vat or anything, though that might have been kind of awesome.  I've been meaning to see them for quite some time, so it was great to finally be able to check that off my list.  They were quite good, very much like their album...post-rock/post-emo or some such ridiculous descriptor.  What I'm saying is they reminded me a lot of Appleseed Cast, and maybe some older bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Christie Front Drive.  Since those are three bands I've loved for years and still to this day, being reminded of them is very much a good thing.  And now I'll have to work on crossing them off of my list of "bands I need to see again". 

Stuart McLamb from the Love Language was up next, playing a solo set in the garage of Motorco.  He played a mix of electric and acoustic songs, mostly Love Language tracks from their first two albums but a few covers as well - I remember "Jealous Guy" was in there, and a Frank Black song that escapes me now.  I remember Stu sounding particularly great on "Lalita" and "Blue Angel", but that's probably because those are two of my favorite Love Language songs.  At one point he took his acoustic, sat down on the edge of the stage, and a played a few songs sans amplifications.  Hell, if I had a booming voice like his, I'd perform in this fashion all the time - it's powerful stuff. 

I missed the next band shooting the shit with friends and eating from the many food trucks always parked at these venues, but eventually I staggered back into Motorco, to the main stage this time, where American Aquarium were closing out the night.  They play very straight-forward rockin' alt-country, a mix of classic mid-nineties local output like Whiskeytown, and singer BJ's obvious hero Bruce Springsteen.  Catchy songs full of pedal steel and organ and vocals with a strong drawl, it's like they read my mind on what makes a good alt-country song.  Well, to be fair, that's pretty much what everyone thinks a good alt-country song ought to sound like.  Except maybe Howe Gelb, who thinks they should sound like a combination of long winded "King of the Road" covers and beat poetry.  But that is another story entirely.  These Raleigh kids play constantly, so if you've never seen them before don't worry, they'll be playing again very soon.  And probably again soon after that.  This is a good problem to have. 

Deja Mi Fest at the Lincoln Theatre 7/23/2011

Deja Mi Fest
With Free Energy, Wye Oak, and Active Child
Lincoln Theatre (or rather out in front of it)
7/23/2011

The Deja Mi app put on a free two day festival all around Raleigh, and this was the big headliner gig.  They set up a stage in front of the Lincoln Theatre, invited some food trucks and paid for some buzz-worthy out-of-town indie bands to come peddle their sounds to the masses.  they also apparently invited a thunderstorm which greatly delayed things, but nonetheless, free is free and my grumpy ass can only bitch so much. 

This thing was going on all day but between the rain delay and my general laziness I got there in time to see Philadelphia's Free Energy.  I love their song "Dream City" but didn't know much else about them.  Turns out that song was fairly representative - they have a big corporate pop sound, with Weezer/OK Go style songs that sound like they should be on top 40 radio, but still easily loved by the non-top 40 crowd too.  Yeah, some of it's a bit cheesy, and they have a stage presence that is probably more appealing to 14 year old girls than me, but they were still enjoyable.  And even live "Dream City" is a great song.

Wye Oak was the real motivating factor for me coming out, and they were up next.  This coed duo from Baltimore were rumored to be ferocious live, and that rumor proved to be well founded.  I'd listened to their record a while back and was really neither here nor there on it, but after seeing the band live I need to go back and revisit it ASAP.  It was instantly obvious where the band's reputation comes from and why Merge signed them - singer and guitarist Jenn Wasner.  I don't mean to sell her band mate Andy Stack short, who does a great job, but she is completely captivating.  And I'm not just talking about being captivating to my base animal tastes, physically ogling her (she reminds me a bit of Patricia Arquette from the mid to late nineties) - no, she shreads a guitar, has a great voice, and really owns the stage.  You can't stop looking at her.  You don't want to stop looking at her.  I wish I was looking at her right now.  You could probably compare them to a more rock version of the Spinanes, and I loved the Spinanes.  Maybe a hair of early Liz Phair before she started sucking.  I want to see this band again and again. 

I watched a little bit of Active Child before heading out.  I'd heard their name before and that's about it - turns out they are eletronica harp rock!  Yes, harp rock!  On top of that, the singer has this crazy voice...I guess what I'm saying is this group is the male version of Joanna Newsom.  Only less attractive and much less irritating.  I didn't mind it actually, in the small dose I saw, but not sure I could sign on for a full show or buying an album or anything.  But as far as electronic harp rock goes...you could do worse.