Arts & Culture / Mosaic / Music / May 6, 2010

Lincoln Fest: not your history prof’s Gettysburg Address (Part 2)

am going to be very upfront about this: Lincoln Fest represents the biggest failure I have witnessed in my two years at Knox.

Now I would like to back up a little and clarify. For it is not Lincoln Fest that has failed us, brothers and sisters of Knox, but we who failed Lincoln Fest.

For those of you (and apparently most of you) who have no idea what Lincoln Fest is, it was a three day concert series organized by Knox students with some level of cooperation with Union Board. It was the event of the term, besides Flunk Day. It was a beautiful musical experience. And it was barely attended at all. So let me restate myself, students of Knox: you have failed. You have failed miserably.

Lincoln Fest was absolutely fantastic, for those of you who did yourself the favor of actually showing up. The event started out last Friday with an intimate performance by a student band called Love Yell. I expected trashy and painfully amateur distortion to be pounded into my ears by a stereotypical college band — what I got was a well-prepared and musically sensitive folksy ensemble that made the unremarkable venue that is Post Lobby feel like the warm and close inside of a firelit cabin. Love Yell started Lincolnfest off right with original material — which was very impressive — and tasteful covers of artists ranging from Mika to Fleet Foxes.

Saturday came and brought with it storm warnings that spoke of weather the likes of which god promised he would never again unleash on the world, which turned out to be about an hour of rain and some extreme wind.

Unfortunately, this moved Lincoln Fest from the Old Main lawn into Kresge, a decidedly less-appropriate setting for such an event. However, it would be an understatement to say that the groups performing that day made the best of it. Funky Funky Freaks kicked the day off with, appropriately, a really funky show. This was obviously a talented group of musicians who had a lot of fun injecting their hot funk right into the brains of the audience, small as said audience was.

Following the Freaks was Ontario-based band Bruce Peninsula. Again, Ontario-based. These poor guys drove all the way from Ontario to play for about 50 students out of a student body of over a thousand.

Anyway, I had never heard of Bruce Peninsula before and had no idea what to expect, but I was once again very pleasantly surprised by their folksy sound, a sound that you would expect to accompany a jail-uniformed George Clooney running from the law. Bruce Peninsula displayed the same high level of musicianship, fun, informal attitude and unique sound that had been exhibited by the preceding groups.

Next was Chicago band Fair Herald, one of whom is a Knox student. Fair Herald put on a very good show last year on Old Main’s lawn and they did not disappoint at Lincoln Fest.

Their sound is a fair bit more mainstream and radio-friendly than Bruce Peninsula or Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, but their set was loud and energetic and left nothing to be desired. It is impressive and encouraging to see college-age people succeeding like Fair Herald, Love Yell and Funky Funky Freaks, but you probably wouldn’t know that. Because you weren’t there. Shame on you.

Closing the Saturday show was a band called Decibully, who, once again, surprised me. It is a basic musical law that the number of tattoos multiplied by the number of beanies divided by the number of v-necks over the square root of the number of flannel shirts present in Decibully equals crap (Nickelback’s Law), yet Decibully has apparently never heard this theorem, because they did not suck. Their sound could easily have filled a baseball stadium full of drunk people who could not quite appreciate the quality of what they were hearing, and definitely filled a sparsely populated college performance hall. Shame on you.

Sunday, thankfully, saw us all alive and well after the Day After Tomorrow-esque storm that battered the campus the night before (Dennis Quaid was notably absent). This meant that the festivities could move to the Gizmo patio..

The event started off with the Henhouse Prowlers, a four-piece bluegrass band. I know what you’re thinking when I say “four-piece bluegrass band,” and it probably rhymes with “incestuous hillbilly banjo creep.”

However, let me assure you, that is not what you missed when you were spending your Sunday afternoon not attending Lincoln Fest. You missed blistering fiddle parts, a truly talented group of musicians playing what they loved to play and an intriguing look into America’s musical heritage. Shame on you.

Following the Prowlers was Knox’s own Spondaic Buttons. They were loud.

Okay, fine. Spondaic Buttons have come a long way since the last time I saw them in Wallace Lounge, which has slightly better acoustics than the inside of a 55-gallon oil drum. The band has a very capable bassist and guitarist and their singer’s voice has all the rockabilly swagger of a swaggering rockabilly.

The addition of some harmonica parts adds more much-needed depth to their sound, which is surprisingly brittle for a four piece punk band. The group is certainly heading in the right direction.

Oh yeah, and shame on you.

The event was closed out by one of those bands with a complete sentence for a name. Love Yell started the whole shindig out right, and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin was tasked with closing it out right. Did they succeed? Did Lincoln Fest end on a high note? Did it even happen? You wouldn’t know! You weren’t there! Shame on you!

But yeah, yeah they did. The band played some wonderful alternative indie rock that sounded excellent on the Gizmo patio. SSLYBY was just as enjoyable to witness as the rest of the Lincoln Fest lineup and the patio put the audience right up in the bands business — a great way to experience almost any group. Their performance and demeanor was earnest and unassuming — they seemed almost shy, perhaps because only about 20 people were there to hear them. Those 20 people, however, got their money’s worth. The event was free, sure, but they would have gotten their money’s worth even if it were not.

Perhaps in an act of penance for nearly ruining the Saturday shows, in the final chorus of SSLYBY’s final song, almost on cue, the wind ripped through the trees above the patio, sending hundreds of those little helicopter thingies tumbling through the air as the band rocked their way to the end of the song. It was perfect, almost a religious experience. The kind of thing you always remember. The kind of thing you shouldn’t miss.

Shame on you.

Sam Lewis


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