On Wednesday, the middle night of Chickfactor’s 20th birthday celebration—a mini-festival dubbed “For the Love of Pop”—found a collection of artists ranging from the charmingly shambolic to the dramatic and precise taking the stage at Brooklyn’s Bell House. After a short solo performance of True Love Always’ “Mediterranean” and an exhortation to “send some love back to the 1992 version of yourself,” artists began taking the stage for longer sets. As with the entirety of the festival, the lineup alternated long-standing artists associated with Chickfactor with appearances from bands that had previously been on hiatus; “this is our first show in x years” was a common statement heard from the stage.
LD Beghtol was the first to play a longer set, which included a fluctuating lineup, a bit of ukulele, and no small amount of crooning. Beghtol closed out his set with an a capella cover of Everything But the Girl’s “Soft Touch.” It was the first onstage allusion to Tracey Thorn, who would ultimately be invoked nearly as much as Chickfactor co-founder Gail O’Hara. Beghtol’s cover wasn’t note-perfect, but neither was it meant to be — and it set up the dynamic that endured over the course of the night. Much like the drum-loop-fueled pop of Pipas and the wry cocktail-lounge numbers played by The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group, charm rather than virtuosity was at the center of Beghdol’s set — though his also featured some intentionally jarring moments, and made for one of the bill’s high points.
Another came with the appearance onstage of Bridget St. John, a contemporary of John Martyn and Nick Drake who drew from the same folk-influenced tradition. Accompanied on guitar by Mick Gaffney, St. John’s set included covers of Michael Chapman’s “Rabbit Hills” and Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.” It didn’t hurt that her voice sounded full and wounded and hopeful throughout; she never lost the crowd’s attention.
Last to take the stage were The Aislers Set, who had last played New York City nearly a decade before. It was to tremendous applause; singer/guitarist Amy Linton’s previous band, Henry’s Dress, set the sonic template for dozens of bands that emerged a few years ago, fuzzed-out and energetic; equal parts punk and Spector. Aislers Set progressed on from there, incorporating bits of surf-rock and subdued twee over the course of three albums and numerous singles. (Based on the response they received tonight, I suspect a collection of those singles would do well; call me crazy.) The group was tight, executing harmonies perfectly and nailing both the stark “Emotional Levy” and the rapturous “Red Door.” At the end of the night, someone shouted for more music. “We just played sixteen songs!” Linton wryly replied. Still, the set and the reaction it earned served as a reminder that this band has been sorely missed, and closed out the evening on an ecstatic note.