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Charlotte’s fifth Reverb Fest gave everyone a new favorite band

… or maybe five new favorite bands

Photos by Josh Gooch

Words by Sheila Walsh

Crowd at The Station - Reverb FestSo I’d like to address the folks who complain that the pulse of the local music scene is weakening, and the bands who are around and playing shows are “absolute crap” (an actual thing I read on someone’s Twitter!). I’m not really sure which local scene you’re talking about because I know it’s not Charlotte’s, as proven by the 5th annual Reverb Fest!

What started out as a showcase of Charlotte’s artistry is now an ever-growing festival that encompasses both local and national talent. Bands like Museum Mouth, It Looks Sad, and Elvis Depressedly have graced the Queen City’s favorite venues as part of pasts Reverb Fests, but the 2017 lineup just might have been the best so far.

From international alt-rock ambassadors, such as of Montreal and The Coathangers, to local legends, like Hectorina and Alright, Reverb Fest 5 took the Queen City’s crown for the night and demonstrated why the local scene is alive, well, and growing!

Here’s a lil’ playlist to get you in the Reverb mindset and/or to get you dancing.

The opening ceremonies of RF5 were held at the recently renovated Lunchbox Records, accompanied by a cookout and milkshake social. Best part? There was food options for every type of eater!

Local soulful treasures LeAnna Eden & The Garden Of kicked off the night with their brand of genre-bending alt-soul! If you were into what LeAnna & Co. dropped at Lunchbox, or missed it and want to see what all the fuss is about, you can catch the group at the Visulite on May 4th with Nige Hood & The Folk Rap Band, Lara Americo, and Heiros.

Following LeAnna Eden & The Garden Of was another Carolina favorite Tape Waves (Bleeding Gold) of sunny Charleston, SC. The dreamy-pop sensations (at least in my own little pop-infused world) are currently touring their sophomore release, Here to Fade, and were one of the absolute gems you definitely should have seen while in NoDa. The duo is releasing Here to Fade via CD in Japan thanks to 2670 Records on May 17th!

Crowd at The Station - Reverb Fest (2)

Headlining the cookout/milkshake/ultimate hangout at Lunchbox was Wilmington’s Infinity Crush, a.k.a. a band y’all should have checked out a long time ago. If you’ve been keeping up with Shutter 16’s coverage of Reverb Fest, you’re probably sick of my love-rantings towards Infinity Crush, so I’ll spare you the details once again.

Here’s an excerpt from “Things you should know for Reverb Fest (part II),” a piece I wrote prior to the fest:

The whimsical melodies and tranquil tone of Caroline White’s voice are such treasures, and when accompanied with Derrick Brandon’s winding guitar, the result is a dream come true. Their latest full-length release, Warmth Equation, can be found right here and should be at the top of your “must listen” list.

Get to it!

Attendees of the fest had to do some prior planning and swift driving to accommodate all of the insane lineups taking over Charlotte. The drive from Lunchbox to Neighborhood Theatre was a short but anxious one as people hustled through town to catch Chapel Hill’s Sarah Shook & The Disarmers (Bloodshot Records). Sarah & Co. just dropped another full-length album entitled Sidelong, and my friends, what the heck have you been doing if you haven’t pressed play on this record? A lil’ country, a lil’ bluesy, a whole lotta magic. Sidelong is a game changer for Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, and Charlotte was lucky enough to be one of the first homes to the new records + new songs!

Shortly after the alt-country group was Christina Schneider’s Jepeto Solutions (OSR Records), an indie pop singer/songwriter a la her bedroom studio. The DIY scene is one of unpredictable change and a rocky foundation, but Schneider’s project is nothing if not malleable. The label in which Jepeto Solutions, alongside many other DIY artists, called home discontinued at the start of April, leaving behind the responsibility of promoting, selling, and spreading music to the artist.

This lack of representation is no trouble to Jepeto Solutions’ spirit or creative process. The Brooklyn based artist took the stage to present the audience with her unique brand of funky pop, setting the audience up for a night of groovy, dance-inducing, big beat alt-pop. Having just come off a tour with of Montreal, Christina Schneider’s Jepeto Solutions are prepped and ready to conquer a headline tour of their own; perhaps she’ll return to Reverb Fest for her own headline slot one day!

The Neighborhood Theatre was then treated to a kickass performance by Michigan’s JMSN (White Room), a bluesy pop legend whose record Whatever Makes U Happy dropped on April 28th! Signature hooks, an updated definition of “genre,” and a knack for performing, JMSN was one of the most talked about acts of the week’s leading up to the show, as well as days after. Charlotte is alllllll about JMSN.

But perhaps the biggest name of the fest finished off part II of four at the fest, with of Montreal (Polyvinyl) bringing their alt-pop magic to NT. The psychedelic brainchild of Kevin Barnes headlined the biggest venue at Reverb Fest, demonstrating what it means to be a solid force in the music industry for over 15 years. The band’s most recent full-length release, Innocence Reaches, dropped last August and showcases of Montreal’s incessant fear of making the same record twice.

In other words, it’s really different and really rocks. Whiffs of EDM, prog rock tones, and solid hooks are the essence of the 2016 version of Barnes’ creative process.To hold fans over until the next full-length, of Montreal dropped a surprise EP in January entitled “Rune Husk.” Pieces of both albums were performed, as well as fan favorites from previous releases, during their closing set at NT.

Blame the Youth (7)The next wave of shows brought folks over to The Station and Snug Harbor. With sets starting around the same time, the fastest, sweatiest, punkiest part of the night was in full motion. My favorite performance of, like, the entire month happened at Snug Harbor when I dragged my friends to see Charlotte’s Blame The Youth.

Having not known much about the band, other than the fact that the vocalist has a voice from above, I was hyped on the excitement of hearing them perform the jazzy magic I’d been listening to all week; their bandcamp has officially been bookmarked since the release of their current EP, “Earworm.”Blame the Youth (2)

Their set was tight, playing so in sync that you could hardly tell when one song ended and the next one began, but perhaps the best part of the show was their stage presence. All four members were emitting such genuine joy that my lil’ heart got all mushy.

The lead vocalist/keyboardist was all teeth and giggles from the moment he stepped on stage, hitting power notes like it was nothing and dancing all the while.

Oh, also Blame The Youth covered MGMT’s “Electric Feel” and they were made to perform that song. Sorry MGMT. It’s theirs now.

Local legends (like, actual legends) Hectorina took the stage next and, once again, proved to be the best thing about the scene. A handful of genres in one song, eccentric vocals, and melodies so hard to follow that they just work is the band’s modus operandi; what’s not to like? You never know what to expect from a

Hectorina (9)

Hectorina set, whose pop/post-punk tunes are anything but predictable. With a rock opera, several big time festivals, and Daniel Hodges’ expertise swimming through their heads, Hectorina has a handful of accomplishments and bucket list checks under their belts. Their self-titled release is the latest from the QC trio, but you never know what or when the band will throw at us next.

Speaking of change, Durham’s Boulevards (Captured Tracks) readjusted the tone of Snug from one of loud power rock to funky vibes. Soul-pop queen Laura Reed joined the king at Snug for a performance of their latest track together, “Wear & Tear.” Read what we had to say about Boulevard’s in our Reverb Fest preview last week!

Boulevards (2)
Finishing out the RF5 part of the night at Snug is Gooch’s #1 pick for the fest: Boulevards (Captured Tracks). Durham’s dance hall funk king is guaranteed to make you boogie in the confined space of Snug and I dare you to argue with me on that. Take a listen to his latest track featuring Laura Reed called “Wear & Tear” and tell me you didn’t shimmy just a little. With influences like Prince, Rick James, and Earth Wind & Fire, it’s not hard to guess what kind of music Boulevards makes.

That doesn’t mean he’s a predictable artist though. While you can hear nuances of 80s dance and soul in the undertones of his work, Boulevards is nothing if not original. He is no stranger to risk-taking, yet somehow dances on the line of familiarity; as if you’ve heard this song before but wanna hear it again another 15 times.

Alright (10)Meanwhile, at The Station, which is just a swift walk down the street from Snug, was home to punkiest music in town. Hometown favorites Alright (Self Aware/Negative Fun) put on a set that rivaled Blame The Youth’s 10:30 start. Taking the stage at 10pm, many showgoers found it difficult to make themselves take the walk over to Snug for shows. I made conversation with a tattoo’d, mohawked dude at the Station and he was genuinely asking me what he should do for the night.

Should he leave the Station and risk missing the Paint Fumes, or should he miss Blame The Youth’s set again (again?!) and call the Station home for the night? I’m not sure what he ended up deciding but, he was definitely around for Alright, as we all should have been! Not sure if the story, “we started playing music together and it was Alright,” is true, but my friends, their set was more than alright. How many times has the band heard that damn joke?

In between sets, both at Snug and at the Station, showgoers made their way to the outside porches for air that didn’t feel like it was going to suffocate you. Some dedicated fans stayed inside between sets, and props to them because the Station got real toasty. I certainly cannot question their dedication, however, because I’ve done a lot more for a lot less. The bands lined up to play the Station didn’t offer a lot of wiggle room during sets, so once you found a spot close-ish to the front, you were there for the night.

My Brother My Sister (4)That’s not a bad thing though! Especially as MyBrother MySister (Self Aware), who skipped prom to play RF5, set up and got the crowd revved up enough for a bit of a moshing session. It was the tiniest of moshes, but elbows were thrown nonetheless. The Columbia duo performed their 2016 release, “Haze/Thursday,” as well as tracks from their 2014 release, “Go Back Home.” 2017 has been pretty killer as far as new music goes, so we can only hope that MB MS jump on board and give us a full-length!

Charlotte’s punk trio Paint Fumes (Get Hip) sent a shockwave of violent vibrations through the crowd, meaning wow, people were really into this band. Heads were banging, arms were flailing, legs were kicking, and at some point a dude kicked up some dust from the previous mini-mosh and tried to make that happen again, all while Paint Fumes practically spit in the faces of those front row veterans; or was it sweat? Regardless, the self-proclaimed “panic attack punk” trio got hearts racing for the final set of CLTs Reverb Fest 5: The Coathangers. That band is so classically punk and they make me feel tougher than I actually am for listening to them.

From my public musical diary, here’s why we were right to be extra stoked on see ATL’s the Coathangers (finally!):

Gooch and I both are pretty excited to see the Coathangers (Suicide Squeeze), but that’s probably a big DUH for just about everyone going. They’ve been the talk of the fest! Atlanta’s own punk trio has been launched to the top of everyone’s playlists, perhaps more so with the release of “Captain’s Dead” earlier this month. Lucky for all of us, the band is releasing some new tunes! The new EP, Parasite, is out June 30th via Suicide Squeeze Records.

With their classic “jagged hooks and boisterous choruses” making an appearance on their fifth release, Nosebleed Weekend, the trio’s decade of experience and youthful musical mentality will surely demonstrate why they were slotted to close out Reverb Fest 5!

At the risk of wrongfully diminishing the awesomeness of past Reverb Fests, the 2017 edition of the local event had one of the best lineups Charlotte has ever seen! Food trucks, eccentric people hanging at shows, tons of dogs (like, so many dogs, it was great), and some of my favorite venues made Saturday a night that needs to come more often. HUGE shout out to Phil Pucci & co for throwing the coolest thing Charlotte has to offer. Is it weird that I miss being at the fest right now?

You can see a full gallery of the fest right here!

Sheila Walsh graduated from USC Aiken in 2015 with a degree in English. While in school, she won an essay competition for an argumentative essay on why the arts are crucial to the education system. Additionally, she was recruited to play volleyball for USCA and contributed to a weekly journal discussing the life of a student-athlete. She currently resides in Charlotte, NC.

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