In theory, it was a can’t-miss, undeniable attraction: pay $5 to see 25 of the area’s best bands perform at five Westport clubs. However, as organizers of worthy benefits and local music events know, things can go wrong — weather can prove uncooperative, other concerts can split the draw, headliners can disappear at the last possible minute. Fortunately, the Klammies Showcase, which drew an estimated 4,000 club-hoppers on Thursday, April 5, avoided these obstacles while achieving its objectives: to celebrate outstanding regional musicians, offer a preview of performances scheduled for the Klammies on April 14 at the Uptown Theater (Jesse Jackson 5, onwardcrispinglover, David Basse and Common Ground will follow up their showcase sets with two-song stints on award night) and introduce music fans to standout acts outside of their usual listening range.
Each venue attracted about 100 to 150 fans to each set, even though the crowd at the Beaumont Club seemed relatively thin because of the venue’s behemoth size. Haloshifter, which ironically was playing its last-ever set at an event recognizing its nomination for Best New Band, treated its closely packed following to a set that was surprisingly tight, given the complexity of its swirling, dynamics-shifting epics and the fact that its members were heard admitting that they hadn’t exactly been practicing regularly of late.
Brody Buster, a Grand Emporium fixture, proved that his blazing blues-harp solos play well in any venue, regardless of size or clientele. Hadacol made the Beaumont’s regular country-loving patrons feel at home with an upbeat mix of previously released and brand-new material. At 11 p.m., the Beaumont remained speckled with concertgoers, but looks can be deceiving at that club. As onwardcrispinglover tore into a quick-paced set, curious onlookers emerged from the club’s distant corners and filled some of the gaping open space in front of the stage.
Among the scene’s most vocal supporters, regardless of genre, is Descension. At midnight, these friendly cheerleaders transformed into the
ghastly army of the undead, donning ghoulish black-and-white makeup and assembling a stage show that used a crucified, disemboweled replica of a corpse as a prop. For added effect, a black-clad imposing figure swaggered onto the stage, chugged a mysterious liquid with his back turned to the bemused throng, then breathed fire in measured spurts before extinguishing the flame by plunging the lit torch into his throat.
There were no pyrotechnics, or even loud guitars, for that matter, on display at Blayney’s, which seemed to offer the night’s most low-key menu. However, the club was far from the equivalent of a chill-out room at a rave — the place was packed, and the people came to dance, not merely observe. Son Venezuela drew the most raucous crowd, proving that fans weren’t burnt out on world beat despite the incessant thumps of the bongo players who serenaded sidewalk strollers on Pennsylvania, the showcase’s main drag. In the showcase’s only last-minute schedule alteration, David Basse and Common Ground switched slots, but even if some fans initially were jarred by the swap, the attentive faces in the crowd suggested no one was disappointed. T.K. Webb stayed in gritty blues character even on the eve of his birthday, while Julia Peterson‘s quiet storm motivated newly converted fans to head for the Klammies ballot box.
It was appropriate that The Hurricane’s bill began with an artist who earned his rep playing jungle; the club quickly became the wildest destination on the showcase map. DJ PMS‘ staggered beats got the party hopping early, and DJ Roland closed the night, hosting the showcase’s unofficial after-party. Sandwiched between the record-spinners was the night’s most explosive back-to-back-to-back action: The Casket Lottery, the critical darling that proved to anyone who hadn’t seen the band before that indie-rock acts do indeed deserve the “rock” suffix; DVS Mindz, which unleashed a devastating lyrical exhibition complete with jaw-dropping freestyle flows; and Season to Risk, which performed such an inspired set that observers were overheard saying the show might have been the veteran outfit’s most volatile ever.
McCoy’s and hip-hop have probably never appeared in the same sentence, so when Approach appeared to reclaim the MC in the pub’s name, heads paid attention and curious dinner guests set down their silverware. When surprise guest Mac Lethal dropped his a cappella flow, filled with battle-rap violence about mutilation and the like, those with weak stomachs might have pushed their plates away in disgust. Things cheered up quickly, as Cruse briefly turned the pub into a dance hall before Jade Raven sent the perkiness detector through the roof with its unfailingly sunny originals and a feel-good cover of Joan Jett‘s “I Love Rock and Roll.” 7 Fold Symphony then crammed its nine-piece funk-hop band into the venue’s slim performance space before Rex Hobart, a veteran at the club-hopping game after playing four times in three days at last month’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, coolly delivered the night’s most confident, seasoned performance.
There was nothing calm about Ruskabank‘s sweat-drenched skankfest, which opened the festivities at Mill Creek Brewery. For Lafayette, one of the least-known bands on the showcase, following such a performance was a tall order, one to which it proved equal. The group’s mesmerizing set balanced technical wizardry with droning ebb-and-flow construction.
Lafayette’s music, though often breathtaking, won’t serve as a soundtrack to many parties — it’s arty, dense and a bit overwhelming even for listeners who are giving it their full attention, let alone multitaskers. But the Jesse Jackson 5 immediately snapped the Creek crowd out of its collective daze with rumbling free-form funk, provoking an outburst of unseemly dance moves. However, the night’s most memorable choreography occurred during the Tawni Freeland 4‘s blistering cover of Lita Ford‘s “Kiss Me Deadly,” when two enthusiastic onlookers interpreted the line I really like dancing with you as an invitation to flail their limbs in a spectacularly spastic fashion.
So far, so good, but Big Jeter was scheduled to close out the show, and its often hilarious, occasionally abrasive blend of traditional country and performance art confused and/or frightened many patrons into scurrying for the door the last time it played Mill Creek. But this was a different night and a different crowd — one largely composed of people who came to see Jeter by choice instead of being surprised by the group while making a routine trip to the bar — so no mass exodus took place.
Can’t Hardly Wait
“Prom would be okay … except for the music.” This quote, uttered by many a sullen teen ever since pop-peddling DJs replaced bands as prom night’s entertainers of choice, summarizes the need for the second annual Punk Rock Prom, which features Parlay, The Gadjits, Big Iron, The Throttlers and Go Generation. Held at El Torreon, this event conflicted with the Klammies last year, which at least allowed those who hopped between the gatherings to get double-mileage out of their snazzy outfits. This time, Punk Rock Prom falls on Friday the 13th, clearing The Gadjits and Parlay’s Ernie Locke to serenade spike-attired couples one night and perform an incendiary duet in front of their formally dressed local music peers the next. For the non-curfew-impaired, The Gadjits complete their social-butterfly trifecta by joining Lafayette for the Klammies after-party at the Pyro Room Saturday night, while Roland hosts The Hurricane’s after-awards shindig.