March 14th, 2011

Loopster Live: Spring Forward Music Festival

If you call something a “music festival,” you automatically get my attention. Apparently, that wasn’t quite the case for the rest of Houston on Saturday when the Spring Forward Music Festival rolled through town. I didn’t show up until 7:00PM, so maybe the crowds had already “been there, done that” by the time I found parking on Crawford and made the block walk up to Groundhall and Echo Lounge, or maybe they hadn’t.

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By the time What Made Milwaukee Famous, the proposed headliner, took the stage at 12:30AM, there were 50 fans left. That’s not an estimated number. Sean actually took the time to count the heads in attendance. Honestly, when it comes to concerts, the show less attended are definitely my favorite. Being able to roam around the floor, not feeling like I will be concussed by a tossed beer bottle, freedom to escape from a potential catastrophe, etc. are all tantamount to being crammed into a venue as tight as grandma’s girdle.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t a little bit disappointed with the turnout or even a little embarrassed.

“Let’s all get on Facebook and tell our Houston friends they’re douchebags for not coming out tonight,” said Michael Kingcaid, the frontman for What Made Milwaukee Famous. He took a couple steps back on the stage, picked up his phone and walked back up to the microphone to the affirming applause of the crowd.

“I hear a lot of cheering, but I don’t see anyone with their fucking phones out,” he said again, with a smile on his face. Once again, the fans cheered him on without reaching into their pockets to retrieve their smartphones. We had all called his bluff, but he shouldn’t have had to bluff at all.

The talent that Jason Smith (who is also the bassist for Alkari) booked for the show was solid. Each of the performances I got the chance to witness were performed with an abundance of energy and without any technical glitches. But for some reason, the combination of the public not being aware of the festival combined with a general apathy led to a less than stellar Houston presence. And that blame goes directly on myself as well. I was barely able to convince Sean to join me at the show after his date with the Rodeo.

Here are some of the highlights the rest of you missed out on:

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The Gold Sounds (above) kicked off my evening with the coarse vocals of Sean Donnelly and guitar-shredding of Chris Fuentes. I had been warned that they would be a band to look out for, but I never imagined that the trio from Deer Park would be so impressive. They had no worries about the people watching, just happy to be playing their music together.

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I jumped around a little, watching Rivers on the outdoor stage and Alkari (above) indoors at Groundhall before realizing that there was no food to be had at the Spring Forward Music Festival. Perhaps just an oversight or a last minute conflict came in the way of having a vendor at the Festival, but I couldn’t wait around to find out. I left to find a fast food joint to keep from drinking on an empty stomach.

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Back in time to catch Electric Touch (above… see a trend?), and thankful was I. There was no way that I would have wanted to miss out on the groupies for the band. There was a lesson against becoming a career groupie that a few aspiring Penny Lane’s could have learned on Saturday night. The band had to work hard just to outperform their number one fans. Even as I write this, I can’t remember if the most entertaining parts of the set came from the crowd or the stage. Let me not forget the girl, not associated with the groupies, who kicked off her shoes in a fit of dancing, stripped off her cardigan and took to twirling around the floor unironically. Ok, the fans were more entertaining than the band.

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Sean showed up right before the Winter Wallace performance and just in time to tell me that she sounded “a bit too 4 Non Blondes” for him. The low, resonating voice of Wallace might not be as appealing to others as I find it. Feeling guilty about not being able to make her album release party after I met the artist at TEDxHouston, I was glad that I could finally see her live. It was well worth it, as she and her band played their six new songs.

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Between Jack O’Brien’s mustache and Curtis Roush’s cut-off jeans, it was a good thing that The Bright Light Social Hour had the musical chops to outshine their persona. By far, the apex of my night came while I watched the Austin band bound around the stage, tearing apart classic rock n’ roll and building it back up in their own unique style. At one point, I felt like they were a Medeski, Martin and Wood with lyrics. At another, the comparison was lost and I realized it wouldn’t be fair to try to shoehorn them into sounding like another band. I was really hoping to be wowed by one of the acts at Spring Forward and The Bright Light Social Hour delivered.  It wasn’t just the mustache, they really were that good.

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Finally, it was good to have What Made Milwaukee Famous back in town. They played their usual solid set, with bookends “Cheap Wine” and “Resistance St.” with some new material in between. Apparently, it’s the first time the band as they are now has played together live, which means one thing for fans: After three years of waiting, you’re due for a new WMMF album. Now make sure you go and tell your friends, because chances are they weren’t there to hear the news for themselves.

Check out some more photos from the sets I saw on Saturday night below and all of the originals in our Flickr set: Spring Forward Music Fest.

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[The Gold Sounds]

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[Alkari]

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[Winter Wallace]

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[The Bright Light Social Hour]

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[The Bright Light Social Hour]

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[Tax the Wolf]

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[Ume]

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[Mobley]

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[Mobley]

— Paul

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