RFT Showcase 2011: Highlights (Part One)


  • Sleepy Kitty's Paige Brubeck. Photo by Jon Gitchoff

There was no shortage of music to be had this weekend--the Float Yr Face fest was a sweaty success, Oberhofer played the Old Post Office Plaza, a shitload of cicadas serenaded the county, and oh yeah, the RFT Music Showcase was a smash. Amid the pink-shirted bachelorette parties, clean cut Wash Ave. regulars and that one guy driving up and down the street holding a mannequin head out the window, music lovers descended on the strip for twelve hours of music and more than a little swamp ass.

Despite the harrowing heat, Saturday was full of surprises--Bunnygrunt, a nominee for Best National Act, was on tour (fittingly) and didn't bother to let anyone know there would be no 'Grunt on Washington Ave. Except for Mustard Rob, Bunnygrunt friend and whimsical screwball, who covered the trio's time slot with a solo a capella rendition of a few Bunnygrunt songs and a few extras.

Doom Town's Ben Smith was out of town as well, so a member of the Humanoids filled in, and (hopefully) a supergroup was born: the Doomanoids. Rockers the Feed weren't playing the Showcase, but nonetheless played an intimate house show on Washington Ave. during the festivities.

The London Calling dudes endured the seriously roasting blacktop surrounding the free stage and busted a killer mid-afternoon set. A few brave souls mustered the will to dance with LC and Jay Fay, whereas I found myself wishing for one of those trashy beer helmets with a convenient spigot because bringing a bottle to my lips was entirely too taxing.

Apparently we didn't learn last year's lesson -- punk acts scare the shit out of SideBar customers. The small crowd at The Conformists had plenty of room to rock out, since the dinner crowd was fighting over patio seats to shield their precious ears from the devil's music. The bar was more crowded for Doom Town's later show, and it only took a minute of its loud set to spur a mass exodus of polo shirts and stilettos. The punk bands were much more at home at Hair of the Dog--the Disappeared drew a large crowd at the counterculture-friendly venue, as did The Humanoids. Kentucky Knife Fight had the place at capacity: 125 people packed the Hair of the Dog during their set, and about 20 people were waiting out the one-in one out policy.

Best Moments Part 1: Sleepy Kitty: Sleepy Kitty gracefully handled the heat and offered unflagging energy despite the sanity-crushing temperature and Evan's slippery drum sticks. And it was all in the name of our beloved Homespun columnist Christian Schaeffer--they dedicated their set to the absent scribe (he was DJ-ing a wedding out of town). I Was Drinkin': A Schlafly summer lager. I Was Thinkin': Do Evan and Paige do anything badly? Seriously. I want to know.

The 7 p.m. time slot was a bitch. The Force MCs vs. Cassie Morgan vs. Black James vs. The Conformists vs. Langen Neubacher vs. The Jump Starts vs. Bradd Young vs. DJ Skeletal vs. Rough Shop. Damn. I caught the Conformists and a few minutes of the Jump Starts before heading to see my newest, baddest girlcrush, Black James. If you haven't heard the Jump Starts yet, make that happen.

Black James' whole set, or at least every minute I was there. Looking like a countrified Babe in Toyland in her powder blue vintage dress, she entranced a sizeable crowd at Hair of the Dog, even with a bit of a headcold. Fingers flying like Eddie Peabody, Black James is a one-woman powerhouse--she's tUneYaRds raised on creaky backporches and cloudy moonshine instead of Afrobeat, or a spooky Iris DeMent with a wicked tape obsession. When she slid in a tape, she drawled "That was the sound of the Lord" before launching into a song about a bitch who "got her jacked up with Jesus." She's one of the most unique talents in town. I Was Drinkin': Vodka soda with a lemon. I Was Thinkin': About Tennessee, obviously.

Ra Cailum: The small crowd gathered at Rue 13 was treated to a tall glass of ambient water by Ra Cailum. In the air conditioned quiet, his electronic set was psychic relief from the heat and over-stimulation of the festival. I thought seriously for a moment assuming the corpse pose on the cold concrete floor and letting the electronic snow drifts take me where they might. I Was Drinkin': Vodka cranberry. In three minutes flat. I Was Thinkin': Inexplicably, about a white 1965 Rolls Royce I'd seen earlier in the day. And then about The Land Before Time, Littlefoot's tree star and the Mysterious Beyond. Analyze that.

Dots Not Feathers: Here was a patio set that was a focal point and not just background music. The moon was peeking from in between two buildings, the sun had finally left to go ruin someone else's day, and the band was placidly ripping through some airy, earnest love songs. I Was Drinkin': A $6 kamikaze. I Was Thinkin': Mostly the moon, but also how many people I would have killed for a hot dog (four).

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