Bushwick Walkabout: The Little Music Festival That Could

07/18/2011 12:19 PM |

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Bushwick Walkabout Festival
Live at Brooklyn Fire Proof
Saturday, July 16, 2011

In light of every blogger, critic and Spotify supporter converging in Chicago for the 4Knots attempting to lure those left in New York, it seems safe to say that Bushwick Walkabout, a two-day immersion of under-the-radar bands, was the underdog music event of the weekend. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it turns out. It may have not seen the likes of Odd Future or Animal Collective, but it also didn’t see pretentious bystanders, $5 beers, or the threat of heat exhaustion. We dropped in for a few hours on Saturday to check out the scene while keeping a watchful eye on Twitter to see what was simultaneously going over at #p4kfest, the idea being that maybe, one or two years from now, these will be the bands everyone will declare are “killing it” in Chicago this weekend.

There are at least three lines in Cold Fronts’ set that namechecks the age 17, one of which relates to a girl “with California style” — these guys are all about tank tops, having a good time, and would probably be the first to tell you that Philly is the sixth borough (they’re from Philadelphia). While tweets start rolling in of No Age’s avalanche of 90s noise at Pitchfork, Cold Fronts spin 90s guitar rock into something with a much sunnier disposition, largely thanks to a singer who emphasizes his singsongy shouts with exaggerated dance moves and gestures, paying visual homage to The Drums and Mick Jagger at once.

There is nothing in common between Backwords and Gang Gang Dance, who are taking the stage in Chicago around this time, except for one major exception: they’re both fully immersed in their own worlds. Gang Gang Dance’s not quite based in reality; Backwords’ very much based in the summer of 1967 in Haight-Ashbury. They certainly look the part: bandanas, beaded necklaces, a barefoot bassist, the drummer lights up while there’s a pause in a song. They sound the part, too: wavering basslines occasionally cause a stir in otherwise slow, drifting expances. During a set that sounds like a conglomeration of all the music that ever played in The Wonder Years, the best comes at the end: an Appalachian hymn turned ho-down — their equivalent to Conor Oberst’s “NYC Gone, Gone.”

Out of nowhere and for no apparent reason the singer-guitarist of Little Gold puts on a chicken hat (that is, a hat resembling a chicken’s head) to ride out an extended outro of feedback and noise, by far the closest they’ll come to resembling their Pitchfork set-time counterparts in hardcore punk outfit OFF! Let me be clear when I say that any resemblance between the two is unexpected. Here in Buswhick, things start off with slight hints of twang — the singer pronounces “moving on” as “moving orn” — like he’s trying to stifle his bands’s country urges. But then comes the line “I’ve got time to the county line,” which can only possibly come from a band seeped in Americana, and we watch them gradually give in to country leanings throughout their set &#8212 a portion of which comes from the forthcoming album, aptly titled Weird Freedom — sounding a lot like the Old 97s along the way.

While people are either declaring the Dan Bejar-led Destroyer set at P4K the best of the fest or deriding Bejar for being contrived and aloof, his platinum blonde-haired look-alike in Fort Lean gives off a similar impression. Fort Lean’s frontman is either calm, collected, seemingly impossible to rile up, and could double as a yoga instructor or just so wholly concerned with his outward hipness, he doesn’t realize what else is going on around him. As the set goes on, the band’s so-called coolness begins to melt and they find their niche between lo-fi and loud. By the end, the vocals come across as sad and soulful, but they accompany some of the strongest hooks we’ve heard so far. You could be reading about them on Pitchfork sometime next week.

Cold Fronts:

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Little Gold:

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Fort Lean:

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Photos by Sydney Brownstone

9 Comment

  • Bob Berman sucks, has to be the joke promoter of the year. He books the same crappy bands like The Yes Way. He doesnt even know what pop music is. At least David was a part of this, and saved it from being totally lame. Someone put Bob out of his misery?

  • Is that Bob that douchebag that run ReThinkPopMusic? Who has even heard of that? Sadly now I have cuz of this fest… So tired of these dumb brooklyn bands with dumb tatoos who play the same tired rock setup. And yes, goddamn The Yes Way are terrible. Probably was the biggest deal in their life that they won 3 hours of studio from the Deli Magazine. “Hey guys, lets make a live recording from this awesome studio time so a label will sign us!!!”

  • yo what is WITH y’all and your bullsh*t comments. this fest was a fun ass party and most of the bands were really good. “same tired rock setup”? are you an experimental composer? please inform us of what “groundbreaking” “setup” youre using. get a life do you even know how to play music?

  • Children crying in the comment section…snooze. It was a really great day filled with cheap drinks and decent bands put together by people who care about music in NYC. “Great job” to everyone involved.

  • There are always going to be bitter naysayers on the outside looking in, viewing the progress others are making within the music industry and all they can do is lash out as the movement itself quickly passes them by.

  • Bob is actually one of the fairest promoters I’ve ever worked with… If you had a bad experience with him the problem was probably on your end buddy.

  • the yes way fucking rocks!!!!!!

  • CMJ had some nice things to say about Bushwick Walkabout and The Yes Way… hmm I think someone is just truly bitter http://www.cmj.com/the-feed/2011/07/bushwi…

  • i played at this thing and really enjoyed it. the other bands were good too. but seriously, that guy bob is an asshole