Fuzz Fest 5 at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor filled the air with fuzzy sonic reverberations as the music and psychedelic light show etched images of Conan the Barbarian into your mind.
Fuzz Fest 5 – Tapping into The Third Eye
Fuzz Fest celebrated its fifth anniversary with a blowout at the Blind Pig. Over the course of three days, Fuzz Fest showcased 33 bands playing dirty garage, sparkly psychedelic, alien anthems, and super dank stoner jams. The Overhead Army was once again commanding the liquid light projector blowing colors as the music painted our ears in rock. Our host and mastermind behind Fuzz Fest 5; Chris Taylor put together yet another outstanding mixture of independent artists. This year’s show drew hundreds of fans seeking out the experimentation, imagination, and passion that you can only find at Fuzz Fest. Helping to sponsor Fuzz Fest 5 were the great folks at VG Kids and Faygo!
Fuzz Fest 5 – Day 1
Thursday night at the Blind Pig featured an exotic mix of genres ranging from feisty punk to the unexplainable. Each performance offered something different and in many cases, the unexpected.
Getting the show off to an auspicious start was Ladyship Warship from Detroit. You may recognize the dynamic duo of Kirstin Lyn and Eric Myers from Warhorses. Ladyship Warship goes for the roots of rock music with the raw excellence of understated drum and brash guitar. Don’t confuse their sound with a White Stripes hack. This is intimate and powerful rock music that eschews the cliques with a straight shot to your rock and roll soul.
Vapourbile is a one-man band creating a room full of mind-altering music. Using loops to form a foundation, the droning tones are punctuated by tribal drum riffs. A sheet over the speaker cabinets acts as a screen for video imagery that matched the strangely hypnotic music. This is what I love about Fuzz Fest; musical experiences which are unexpected and oddly wonderful.
Next, we enter the psychedelic hippodrome of rock with Warhorses. This band always puts on a great show, yet tonight it felt like they were on fire. The urgent vocals, pouncing drum and bass, and slashing guitars fused into a psychic hailstorm. The vivid beauty of their music laced with their fervent performance made the Warhorses showing at Fuzz Fest 5 remarkable.
Lansing’s Hordes pulled back the covers from a squirming miasma of chaos. Their music is tortured brilliance reminiscent of Godflesh. They weathered few technical difficulties, but overall gave the crowd a great set of music.
If you are a fan of heavy hitting blues-imbued rock, then hopefully you remember a band called Black Irish. They have recently re-tooled with the core being Elliot Moses (guitar/vocals), Paul Barning (vocals/keys), and James Dylan McCarty (drums). Add in Matt LaPinta (bass) and Steve Nowicki (percussion) and you have the makings of awesome. I was ecstatic when I learned Black Irish was on the bill for Fuzz Fest 5 and they did not disappoint. Their set was packed with sweetly singing leads, crunchy riffs, vigorous and dynamic rhythm, and soulful vocals. Black Irish are the rocking heart and soul of Detroit.
One thing you can always look forward to at Fuzz Fest is a lively set from Lizerrd. While the band wailed with anarchistic zeal, lead singer Anthony Gentile put the crowd into the show. The entire band feeds off the energy they create and all you can do is stand and stare at the brash beauty. Lizerrd rules!
In a Monty Python moment of “and now for something completely different.”, Hydropark took the stage and my jaw dropped to the floor. They played lush synth pop rock, but with a rhythm section that seals the deal. The popping bass and dynamic rhythms perfectly paced the modulated guitars and keys. I’m thinking it is time for Hydropark and chill.
Super Thing may have moved to Chicago, but their heart and home is in Ann Arbor. The groove and wall of sound were unmistakable and heavy with a capital H. You can draw similarities to the Melvins which puts Super Thing in good company. If you are open to the titanic grooves of this band, they will set you free. God loves Super Thing.
What is not to love about Vstrs. The blissful psychedelic love child of Pink Floyd and The Doves. Their album ‘Pandemonium Seesaw’ is brilliant. Their live performance at Fuzz Fest 5 was mystifying and amazing. Soaring guitars which would make David Gilmour weep set sail upon astounding rhythmic seas that pitch and roll. The ethereal vocals whisper within the dreamscape of keyboards sing within you the songs of astral summers shimmering in lilac halos. I know it sounds crazy, yet this is the sound of creativity unbound.
The psychedelic love doctors of rock, Lavamoth laid down a yellow brick road of heavy grooves. You can’t help but think of bands like Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge, and Blue Cheer with the righteous energy of Hendrix. The late-night crew was fixated on the mind-blowing guitar riffs, powerhouse bass, and bone-cracking drums. Did someone fire up the sweet leaf?
The hour is late, yet there is no rest for the wicked. Tart were unfazed by the hour and gave everything and more during their performance. This band is fun and extremely entertaining. Their music is punk inspired new wave. I kept thinking of Blondie and Devo with a bit of the Buzzcocks. Ending an evening with Tart will put a smile on your face
Fuzz Fest 5 – Day 2
The second night of Fuzz Fest 5 at the Blind Pig featured a lineup that was stacked with rock. I noted a few people were back from the first night. By the time the first band was making their way to the stage, the place was filling up. With a tasty Faygo beverage in hand, it was time to get the party started.
I would say it took less than a minute into the first song to turn me into a fan of Electric Huldra. Cut from the cloth created by Sabbath and nurtured by Kyuss, the music of Electric Huldra compels you with mountainous riffs and gorgeous grooves. Flying high above to pierce the sky are the valiant vocals. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the next show by Electric Huldra
Caveman & Bam Bam
A staple of Fuzz Fest is the prehistoric punk of Caveman and Bam Bam. Wearing their finest animal skins, Caveman roared into the mic while wailing on his guitar. Bam Bam tore into his tiny drum kit with antediluvian lust. You can’t help but smile and enjoy the primal ecstasy of Caveman and Bam Bam.
Lay It Down
When I walked in earlier to the Blind Pig, I saw my buddy Adam Lupo from the awesome Saginaw band Whaler. I just had a second and didn’t get a chance to find out why he was at Fuzz Fest. I figured he was looking to check out some tunes. Turns out he is playing bass in Lay It Down. This band also features another legend in heavy music, Jamie Jahr who had played drums with Beast In The Field.
Lay It Down is hard and meaty rock with a touch of southern smoke. Fans of Alabama Thunderpussy and Monster Magnet will definitely get into the gargantuan grooves and colossal hooks of Lay It Down.
King Under the Mountain
King Under the Mountain unleashed a wild set of hyper-driven music at Fuzz Fest 5. This three-piece drew the audience in with their dark and stormy wall of sound. I imagine that Thráin jams the music of King Under the Mountain from within the Lonely Mountain while pounding one ale after another.
I looked up at the stage to see the glowing inhabitants from another universe playing what sounded like surf music. Evidently, this group of chaos agents is called Krillin. I wasn’t sure if someone had dropped acid in my beer or sprinkled some bug powder into the air. Krillin is more than funky spaced out jams throbbing with weirdness. They are a Kafkaesque theater performance that needs to be seen to be believed. Beware the robot lord commands you!
Coming all the way from Sweden via Grand Rapids was the fist-pumping neck wrecking grungy rock of Slumlord Radio. These guys always put a smile on my face with their full-throttle approach to rock music. Evidently, the ghost of Kurt Cobain visited the guys in Slumlord Radio just before their set when they were taking care of business in the lavatory. Kurt commanded that they play Nirvana’s “Breed”, and so they did. Happiness ensued.
The Lucid Furs
The Lucid Furs are fantastic. Go buy their album and follow them religiously. Since the first time I saw them, I have been blown away by their bluesy hard rock elixir. Their fierce determination to hit the road and get their music out to as many people as possible has honed their performance to razor sharpness. The Lucid Furs set at Fuzz Fest 5 was nothing short of astounding. The band’s sound was tight and bursting with passion. The Lucid Furs should be required listening for everyone that seeks the restorative power of rock.
A large gong drum announced the arrival of the psychedelic freight train known as Kommander. This Detroit band dished out a sumptuous set of tough and trippy tunes. If you need a frame of reference for their sound, think of Spooky Tooth or a heavier Iron Butterfly. Niffy keys and guitar riffs running the rails with sturdy bass and drums.
Unfurling thick and primordial riffs of doom was Cruthu. They played a stunning set full of my favorites from their sensational ‘The Angle of Eternity’ album. Cruthu toiled in the unimaginable depths with “From The Sea” and called forth the dead with the sidewinding rhythms of “Séance”. Cruthu radiates the underworld for us all to enjoy.
Emerging from the dark depths of the Huron River with monstrous intention was Bubak. I’m always amazed at the brutal force that these two guys generate. Justin O’Neill’s drums are crashing and slamming like a tsunami while Jeff West is turning his bass into a roaring dragon. When you pile on Jeff’s vicious rasping vocals, you have a blasting performance by Bubak at Fuzz Fest 5.
Red Stone Souls
Putting the icing on an amazing day 2 of Fuzz Fest were the Red Stone Souls. If you have not checked out their latest album ‘Mother Sky’, then I must ask what the hell you are waiting for. The Red Stone Souls pulled no punches as they tore into a set filled with pounding bass, smashing drums, and crushing guitars. They opened with the desert burn of “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” and never looked back. Other highlights including the intoxicating hooks in “Nights Watchful Eye” and the sonic thunder of “Killing Fields”. The Red Stone Souls poured their essence into this performance allowing us to drink in this night.
Fuzz Fest 5 – Day 3
The final day of Fuzz Fest 5 was upon us. I looked around the room before the first band took the stage and could see a few familiar faces. These are people who had been to each day of this year’s fest and had been to prior year shows. These Fuzz Fest warriors were ready for another day of distortion.
Temple of the Fuzz Witch
As if touched by the Hand of Doom, Temple of the Fuzz Witch got the crowd at Fuzz Fest 5 fired up early. This young band played as if they have been jamming for a decade. Super sludge guitars and bass teamed up with clean vocals and snapping drums. Those who dare to worship at the heavy metal alter within the Temple of the Fuzz Witch are doomed. They also will have a great time like we did listening to them at this show.
Holy Shit! I know it isn’t the most descriptive reference for the band Album. Yet that is the first thing I thought when they started to go nuts on the second stage at Fuzz Fest 5. I think part of the appeal is the underlying metal feel to their music. At times, you could hear a ‘Kill’em All’ Metallica vibe which has you punching the sky. Album exudes a live wire sizzle with bursting enthusiasm that fires out of every song. I went home and ordered all their CDs.
The music of Voyager 3 combined with the Overhead Army’s liquid light show at Fuzz Fest 5 was a match made in heaven. The sci-fi heavy synths armed with brilliant guitar lines and charging drums sent us on a journey through space and time. If you closed your eyes, you could imagine being transported into your favorite sci-fi classics such as “Terminator” or horror films such as “The Thing”.
Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms were a shot of power pop adrenaline. The music was vibrant and screaming with a life worth living. A couple of folks came to party as they pogo danced to the band’s catchy hook-riddled music. While Fuzz Fest can be stoner rock heavy, Chris does an excellent job of throwing in bands to keep you thinking and appreciate the wide diversity of rock music. Extra Arms makes you appreciate the mélange of rock.
You could feel the earth crumbling beneath you in the doom-laden wake of Attalla. This band played a pulverizing set of doom which had me thinking of the greats such as Khemmis and Pallbearer. As I grooved with the massive jams of Attalla, I thought of what Thulsa Doom said to Conan “What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?” Attalla wields steel with a vengeance.
The Cheetahs whipped out a hot and delectable dish of rock poppin punk which had everyone jumping. These guys were fantastic. Their tunes have this great old-school Chuck Berry meets the New York Dolls panache. I will absolutely seek out another show with the Cheetahs.
Bonehawk is so much more than a stoner rock band. I know they are on the mother of all stoner labels with Ripple music. Yet, this band takes harmonized guitars to a new level. When you meld this with a fortress of drum and bass, then you have a new level in rock music. It isn’t hard to compare these guys to Thin Lizzy. Bonehawk writes music that bleeds into every pore of your being to saturate you in the smoldering furnace of rock!
Ann Arbor, Fuzz Fest, and Human Skull; the perfect example of what Ann Arbor punk is all about. This band is keeping the vital work of pioneers such as The Stooges and the Laughing Hyenas alive and well. They drew in a big crowd who enjoyed the close quarters. This allowed the band and the audience to be one in a riot of rock.
I saw the acoustic candlelight version of the Wiccans at Fuzz Fest 1. It left a mark on my mind that remains to this day. Instead of the softer acoustic version, the electric side of the Wiccans appeared at Fuzz Fest 5. Ethereal vocals cast upon a tumultuous sea of fuzzy guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums. Add a dash of flute, the calling of the horned god, and you have the Wiccans.
Who knew that saxophone could sound heavy. The manic jubilance of Scissor Now is invigorating. The supreme weirdness starts to seem normal as you dig into their set. When you set your ear to the music of Scissor Now you realize the intricate and feisty interplay between drum, bass, sax, and vocals. This is the soundtrack to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and National Lampoon’s Vacation wrapped in a lavender straightjacket as you are tickled by gnomes.
Timmy’s Organism is Timmy’s Organism. Imagine Jimi Hendrix after watching Willy Wonka plugging into a Marshall stack. If you have that image fixed in your mind, then you are ready for the psychedelic punk extravaganza of Timmy’s Organism. It’s untamed, it’s lively, and it’s unhinged. It is as if Timmy took the stage at the Grammy’s or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, dropped trough, flipped off the audience and proceed to wail with lusty abandon.
Fuzz Fest 5 yet again captured the vivacious spirit of rock music which is alive and well in Michigan. Chris Taylor and his crew of merry pranksters once again harnessed the manifold and rousing anthem of rock music for our listening pleasure. Let freedom ring in the overdriven tubes of a Marshall amp turned up to eleven. Fuzz Fest rules!
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Check out more pictures from Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of Fuzz Fest 5.
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