Mid West Music Fest 2013 Day Three: Neon, the Ultrasounds, Reina del Cid, and more
Reina del Cid
Photo by Erik Thompson
MWMF Day Three With Hang 'Em High, the Ultrasounds, Neon, Reina del Cid & the Cidizens, Eli Glor, Stereo Confession, and Riflebird Winona, Minnesota Saturday, April 20, 2013
After spending much of Friday night at Mid West Music Fest pleasantly cooped up at Ed's seeing a strong cadre of established Twin Cities talent, I was determined to spend my Saturday seeing as many local (Winona/La Crosse) and unheralded bands as I could to close out MWMF. And that decision turned out to be a wise one, as the evening quickly unfolded as one of the more gratifying, enjoyable experiences I've been a part of in quite some time, with plenty of young, upstart bands and artists seizing their moment while also finding a prominent place on my musical radar.
The day started at the intimate Winona Arts Center with an endearing performance by Winona quartet Riflebird, who were lead by Lindsay Krage on keys/vocals/French Horn. Her sister Brianna joined her on backing vocals, with Zach Krage driving the delicate arrangements forward on guitar. Their vibrant sound contained echoes of Stevie Jackson's bouncy songs with Belle and Sebastian, just with Isobel Campbell on vocals instead of the goofy Scotsman.
Photo by Erik Thompson
The group laid a few of their influences bare with some choice covers during their lovely set, one by Rilo Kiley along with "Optimist vs. the Silent Alarm" by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (which both worked well), and the other, "Bryn" by Vampire Weekend, needs some more refinement and rehearsing. Their originals, like the moody and moving "Touch Me," showed plenty of promise, and certainly as the group becomes more seasoned and develops a more assured stage presence, their songs will only grow richer and more affecting.
Next up over at Dibs was the young Minneapolis trio Stereo Confession, who delivered a tight, spirited set of rock numbers reminiscent of early Green Day, with more modern garage rock influences layered within their lively sound. The group of teenagers just recorded their debut EP, and their well-rehearsed set drew mainly from those forthcoming songs. "Forest For The Trees," "Got Me Going," and a raucous number called "Origins" were a few highlights of the performance, as well as a doomy number called "Radioactive Nightmare" which was inspired by the 2011 Japanese earthquake.
They closed the set with a medley of "Jimmy the Exploder" and "Black Math," by one of their favorite bands (and mine too), the White Stripes, and while their versions had the riffs down somewhat, their renditions lacked the raw fury and untamed energy of the originals, something that the fledgling band has plenty of time to work on in their promising future.
Down the street at Broken World Records, Winona's Eli Glor delivered a gritty, bluesy set for those drinking and playing pool in the front bar. His guitar work was deft and impassioned, even if his vocals were occasionally drowned out by the gradually swelling Saturday night crowd. In addition to his stomping originals, Glor also threw down some choice covers, including a moving take on Mark Lanegan's "Pendulum," which has long been one of my favorite solo songs from the former Screaming Trees frontman. Glor's set was certainly a good one, and continued the strong string of solo acts who played the front room at Broken World Records all weekend, all under the impressive array of 44 Captain Beefheart LP's that awesomely line one wall of the bar.
In the back room at Broken World, Minneapolis's Reina del Cid & the Cidizens delivered one of the most polished, engaging sets of the weekend, as the talented quartet fluidly blended rock, folk, and bluegrass within their lively numbers. Reina del Cid's seasoned vocals and perceptive lyrics carried the songs, along with her acoustic guitar work coupled with Toni Lindgren's scorching electric guitar. Chris Wiberg resonant upright bass formed a steady rhythm alongside drummer Clay Whitney, as the taut, perfectly-paced set churned forward.
The performance drew heavily from the group's debut LP, Blueprints, Plans, as the rousing "Whiskey Down," "Pretty Lie" and the bluegrass stomp of "Medium" all won over the growing crowd. Reina's affable personality colored all of the songs, injecting them with her spirit and passion which easily resonated in the room, and the band's set ended with a rousing ovation from the appreciative audience, many of whom headed over to buy the album after the show as the Minneapolis band clearly made plenty of new fans with their lively performance.
After seeing so many promising upstart bands, you would think that eventually I would have hit upon a clunker at some point on Saturday. But in fact the opposite was true as I headed back over to Dibs, as La Crosse's Neon delivered one of my favorite sets of the entire MWMF. The teenage rock quartet had plenty of classic influences layered throughout their boisterous, catchy songs, with Oasis and the '80s Minneapolis sound of the Replacements and Sugar echoing through the riffs of frontman Nick Maas and Matthew Clark's guitars. The group paid tribute to their influences throughout the course of their energetic hour-long set (mainly because they burned through all of their originals early on), with impressive renditions of MGMT's "Kids," the Smiths' "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out," Oasis' "Live Forever" (a request from yours truly), and the Stones' "Jumping Jack Flash."
Photo by Erik Thompson
And, as impressive as those songs were, it was their promising, emphatic Brit Pop-sounding originals which shined the brightest, with Maas announcing that the group (which is rounded out by bassist Theo Pupillo and drummer Jaran Carson) has a new EP coming out next week -- in addition to the free 2-song CD the group was giving away at the show. "On Our Own," the Stone Roses-esque new one "Chasing the Wave" (which the band was playing live for only the third time), and "Again and Again" all bristled with the urgent spirit that only youth can bring, and positively soared in the small upstairs club. Neon's exhilarating set came to a rousing end with the anthemic "Next Year," with the longtime fans of the band singing along with the indelible chorus, as I sat there hoping that it's only a matter of time before this band breaks it big in the Twin Cities.
The night kept rolling along impressively up the block at the Wild Boar with the rousing, riot girl-infused rock of Winona's the Ultrasounds. The winsome quartet delivered a guitar heavy, drum-driven set filled with distorted dream-pop that commanded the attention of the packed (and well-lubricated) bar. Frontwoman Megan Hanson's dulcet vocals provided a nice counterbalance to her and Todd Hanson's grungy, sludgy guitars, while Amber Fletcher's insistent, quick-fire drums drove the pulsing songs forward.
Photo by Erik Thompson
In fact, Fletcher's turn on guitar while Todd took over behind the kit provided some of the best moments of the spirited set, with Amber and Megan combining their vocals fluidly as the songs took on a catchy, Breeders-esque quality, especially on the aggressive churn of "You Always Know." It was a terrific Saturday night set, with the drunk college crowd getting swept up in the raucous sounds the band were generating. Winona music really represented itself impressively throughout the strong showing of local talent on the final day of MWMF.
The glam-metal high jinks of La Crosse's Hang 'Em High brought MWMF to a piercing, forceful conclusion, as the hard rocking quartet delivered exactly what everyone wanted from a hair metal band past midnight on a Saturday night in Winona. The group had a definite early Crüe sound and vibe, with some hard-charging Pantera-like guitar riffs thrown in for good measure, as their sleazy but still appealing antics easily winning over the late-night crowd. "By the time we're done, you better be fucking smashed," exclaimed frontman Travis Allen, though I'm pretty sure most of the crowd was plenty smashed at the start of their set, with one girl even apologizing to Allen for accidentally bashing his teeth in with the microphone at a past gig. Yeah, it was that type of crowd.
The boisterous, on-fire songs focused squarely on the lyrical mainstays of metal, excess of every type, be it booze, women, or drugs -- or a lethal combination of all three. Allen dedicated a song to "everyone with rug-burned knees" and made lewd hand gestures in a song about sodomy, but it all seemed to work instead of coming off as some sick schtick, probably because the band and all the fans in the bar were having such a great time. The group closed their set with a raucous rendition of "Wasting My Time," something that the band most assuredly did not during their potent, highly enjoyable set.
As Mid West Music Fest came to a triumphant end early Sunday morning, my head was spinning, my ears were ringing, and the rest of me was dead tired -- all sure-fire signs that the festival was once again an undeniable success. Thank you, Winona, I look forward to rocking with you all again next year.
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