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BNLXFest II at Cause, 11/15-16/13

BNLXFest II at Cause, 11/15-16/13
Photo By Erik Hess

BNLXFest II
With BNLX, Gloss, Blue Sky Blackout, Wiping Out Thousands, Fury Things, Frankie Teardrop, Two Harbors, Pink Mink, Flavor Crystals, and DJs Jake Rudh and Ricky Maymi
Cause Spirits & Soundbar, Minneapolis
November 15-16, 2013

Throughout the two fast-paced nights of BNLXFest II at Cause over the weekend, nine different bands played in quick succession. Each delivered crisp and inspired 30- to 40-minute sets that represented a distinctive new style and sound of the Twin Cities music scene.

The festival was expertly curated by darkwave/post-punk hosts BNLX, who performed both evenings. From Blue Sky Blackout playing their final show ever on Friday, to Frankie Teardrop marking one of their first high-profile gigs Saturday, each group involved played with an inspired urgency that passed from act to act as the nights progressed.

See Also:
Slideshow: BNLXFest 2013: Night one
Slideshow: BNLXFest 2013: Night two


The indie-pop quintet Gloss launched the festivites on Friday, one year after making their live debut in a proper venue at BNLXFest I. It was intriguing to see and hear how the group has solidified in that time via material from their forthcoming debut EP, Between Themselves, as well as a bold run through of their early single, "Front Porch." Gloss's recent work is textured and atmospheric, and the set maintained that effervescent, jangly pop charm that announced their arrival a year ago. Their alluring but all-too-brief performance proved that the group is clearly in its ascendancy at this point.

Gloss
Gloss
Photo By Erik Hess

As it was with Gloss last year, BNLX has done a wonderful job providing young, breakout bands the opportunity to perform in front of a welcoming audience during both years of the festival. This year, the newcomer was Frankie Teardrop, who provided a rousing, punkish set on Saturday night. Many in the crowd were getting their first glimpse of the thrilling trio (which also featured Gloss's Jackson Woolsey on bass), and the group seized their opportunity to make quite an impression. "Hey Minneapolis," Frankie sneered during the start of the explosive 25-minute set, "I just want to say that I hate this fucking city, and this next song is called 'Chicago.'"

The rowdy performance was filled with plenty of that type of youthful irreverence, and that charged the untamed garage-rock numbers with an attitude that easily won over the crowd. "New Beverage" encouraged people to quit their jobs and drop out of school and quit drinking that Kool-Aid, while the ridiculously catchy "Greasy Motherfucker" featured an inspired guitar solo from Frankie that added to the song's appeal. The group sprinkled some stellar new songs throughout the set that made it clear that Frankie's flurry of creative activity is showing no signs of letting up.

Blue Sky Blackout
Blue Sky Blackout
Photo By Erik Hess

The two-day bill was also rounded out by some terrific veteran acts, as Blue Sky Blackout and Two Harbors delivered passionate, inspired sets that proved exciting for vastly different reasons. Blue Sky Blackout played a farewell show on Friday, while Two Harbors played a set full of brand new material from their just completed album, which is set for release in April.

BSB were tight and focused, clearly wanting to go out on a high. The sextet didn't get bogged down in nostalgia or sentimentality, and charged through their anthemic material. Frontman Christian Erickson even worked in a dedication to those celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Who before a pulsating take on "The Universe Is Expanding." And they poignantly closed down their set with a rollicking take on "Somebody Said That You Loved Me," which was the song they used to soundcheck at their first show ever, which coincidentally took place at Cause. It brought things full-circle as the band bowed out in a dignified but decidedly rocking fashion.

Two Harbors
Two Harbors
Photo By Erik Hess

Two Harbors, on the other hand, gave their fans a lot to look forward to from their forthcoming record, as the rousing new songs all had elements of the guitar-fueled early days of Brit Pop before the scene got bloated from excess and overindulgence. The quartet just finished recording the album with Ackerson at Flowers Studio, and were clearly excited to share them with an audience. They didn't bother with many pleasantries during their focused, tight set, and instead tried to cram as much new material as they could into their allotted time. "You Might Be Right" was the only track they shared the title of, but the other songs all had a rousing, catchy spirit to them that certainly bodes well for the forthcoming record.

 

The electro-clash duo Wiping Out Thousands also had some riveting new material to offer up to their fans on Friday night, as they started their set with the distorted sonic twist of "Curse" and "SYS," which they plan to release on a new EP early next year. The stage was shrouded in darkness, with flashes of a small lighting rig behind them casting neon shadows on the group, all of which added to the ominous tones that Alaine Dickman and Taylor Nelson generated.

Wiping Out Thousands
Wiping Out Thousands
Photo By Erik Hess

WoT bring a welcome edginess to the Twin Cities music scene, and consistently craft a textured, untamed soundscape that no one else in the area is doing, which makes each of their performances a revelation. "Creation" took on an agitated, modern pulse, while "Mass Nerve" had a feral undercurrent that exploded in the tiny club as everyone nodded along, knowing they were witnessing something special.

But before the young bands on the bill got all of the acclaim, BNLX and Pink Mink reminded everyone just how it's done, with sets highlighting the raw rock sounds that the bands have been perfecting for years. Pink Mink had Al Church on bass for their rowdy Saturday night set, and he looked perfectly at home among his friends and their potent material.

Pink Mink
Pink Mink
Photo By Erik Hess

The club was rightfully pushing capacity at this point, so Christy Hunt asked everyone to move closer, causing things to really heat up in the club and on stage. "Hidden Beach," "Black Door," and the spirited rockabilly instrumental "Werewolf Island" all slayed, with the group even throwing in a tempting new song, which hopefully suggests that we might finally get a new record from them at some point soon.

BNLX offered up different sets on Friday and Saturday, both of them digging deep into the clamorous back catalog that the group is celebrating with their new LP, Produit Collecté. The trio also had a surprise up their sleeve, bringing out the Current's program director (and Ed Ackerson's longtime friend), Jim McGuinn, to play guitar during the second half of each performance. As if the band wasn't already loud enough, they added another guitar to their squall of raucous noise and it clearly worked, injecting the already tempestuous material with another shot of adrenaline.

BNLXFest II at Cause, 11/15-16/13
BNLXFest II at Cause, 11/15-16/13
Photos By Erik Hess

The surprising collaboration also brought about two rousing covers, with Black Flag's "Rise Above" punctuating Friday's set and the Replacements' "I Don't Know" giving Saturday's performance a welcome kick in the teeth. Both nights were a flurry of blissful dissonance and spiraling lights.

 

The between-set music for both evenings was stellar as well, with DJ Jake Rudh providing a rocking set of tunes on Friday night that featured Meat Beat Manifesto, Nine Inch Nails, Horrors, and Stone Roses, which set a welcome spirit and tone throughout the night and perfectly complimented the bands on the bill. While Saturday evening featured Brian Jonestown Massacre's Ricky Maymi manning the DJ booth, spinning a wild, mesmerizing set of Chinese indie shoegaze that he's worked on importing into the U.S. over the years. It's part of Maymi's Far Out Distant Sounds project, and the material he shared proved to be fascinating and totally new to everyone's ears.

When the headliners get on past 1 a.m., festivals run the risk of running out of gas. But, to take nothing away from any of the other bands on the bill, the finest performances of the fest were the late night/early morning closing sets by Fury Things on Friday and Flavor Crystals on Saturday.

Fury Things
Fury Things
Photo By Erik Hess

The boisterous garage-rock trio Fury Things sprinkled a few blistering new songs into a set that drew evenly from their two EPs, with the group also showing how much they have grown since last year's BNLXFest, which was one of their earliest shows. The set steamrolled everyone who stuck around, with the guys even receiving their first ever call for an encore, which they responded to with a thunderous version of "Whatever," emphatically closing out night one of the festival.

Flavor Crystals
Flavor Crystals
Photo By Erik Hess

The spacey, atmospheric shoegaze of Flavor Crystals proved to be the perfect way to end the event on Saturday, as their hypnotic sounds floated into the ether and we all got swept away. The group really stretched out their sound with expansive, mesmerizing numbers that frequently found the members dropping to their knees, lost in the spirit of the material while also tinkering with the sonic landscape. They even brought out Stephen Lawrie from the U.K. band the Telescopes to add layered, cacophonous vocals to their absorbing closing number, leaving all who were still in the club spellbound while putting a triumphant exclamation point on BNLXFest II.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: The lineup was a nice mix of bands that I was familiar with and had seen live frequently and a few groups that I was seeing for the first time.

The Crowd: Both nights eventually swelled to a full house, with a diverse mix of old-school Twin Cities music heads and younger fans.

BNLXFest II at Cause, 11/15-16/13
Photo By Erik Hess

Overheard in the Crowd: "Ed's Rickenbacker makes me want to touch myself."

Random Notebook Dump: Kudos to everyone who played a part in making this festival a runaway success, and especially to the BNLX crew for expertly curating a festival that really didn't have one dull, uninspired moment. I was entertained the entire time.


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