2015 has put another successful Slingshot Festival in the books. Despite hiccups here and there, this year’s festival drew unique and eclectic acts from around the world. Almost every band thanked the festival, and organizer Kai Riedl, for putting together such a fantastic offering, and I’d have to agree. But since we’re all bound by the physical impossibilities of linear time, my only regret is not seeing every act all at once. Where’s a Time-Turner when you need one, right?! Ba dum tsh. Anyways: it’s safe to say that another physical impossibility was having a bad time at any of these shows.
Slingshot being a world-focused festival, it was more than appropriate to start things off with groups like Lassine Kouyate. Adam Klein, artist-about-town, has previously traveled to Mali for Peace Corps assignments and to visit friends he’s made there. A couple years ago he decided to go Graceland and record his own versions of traditional West African Mande roots music. He performed some of them at Hendershot’s as a six-piece, singing us songs about rebuilding after genocidal violence and the true price of blood diamonds.
Japan Nite is a reliably supersonic experience, and the bands at Live Wire delivered. Zarigani$ was like a Japanese Death From Above 1979, throwing in random psychotic bass-tastic outbursts followed by ska influences and whistle playing. Somehow the vicious low-end punk still had a girly bounce, and even the dads in the crowd got into it. Peelander-Z were their usual colorful selves, playing duckpins and crowdsurfing with an ecstatic audience.
Rounding out a packed first night was Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra flying solo at the Theatre. Between him, the single guitar, a trained spotlight, and a small crowd, the show was almost uncomfortably intimate. Like a conversation with close friends, he was deeply touched by the fans who showed up – especially when a few requested the deep cut “Colly Strings.” Hull dug into his solo and Manchester Orchestra discographies in backwards chronological order, with passionate and bone-chilling results.
Meanwhile, DJs like Nosaj Thing and Clark blew minds at the 40 Watt with hypnotic dubstep beats and laser shows that would be enough to seize out a dog. The Watt’s disco ball has never looked better.
Vinyl Mag likes to party – this should be no surprise. So we hosted a couple showcases, the first being at Caledonia on Friday and featuring Dreamboat, Nightmare Air, and a very special Washed Out DJ set.
Dreamboat were one of many of E6 offshoots to play the festival, with John Fernandes on violin. The band’s cosmic pop, Henry VIII-esque chamber pop guitar licks, and vocal harmonies were enough to bliss out the crowd, but the colorful orb projected onto the group made it official: Dreamboat lives up to their name. Think Smoke Faeries with a little bit of U2 bombast thrown in, and you can get the idea – every song left the audience so entranced, we almost forgot to clap.
Up next were Nightmare Air, Dreamboat’s polar opposite. Proclaimed the ‘loudest band in L.A.’, their literally amp-busting amplitude woke up a lulled and contented crowd. Appropriately employing a smoke machine to create some nightmare air, their angular punk-and-stadium rock tunes stared into the void, like a Shiny Toy Guns played through Dinosaur Jr. volume levels.
Finally, Washed Out’s Ernest Greene brought his earnestly (sorry) chill vibes to the small space. Greene combined house, dub, funk, and hazy psych plinks to keep the crowd bobbing. To make things get weird a bit, he brought an hourlong cinema smash featuring disturbing images of dissections and war propaganda and advertisements for companies like Standard Oil, Mazda, and Jell-O. Essentially it was like Mad Men word association on acid (so maybe just a day in the life of Roger Sterling), or a hyperspeed iSpy book for adults only.
Over at the Theatre, Lord Fascinator opened things up with his freaky instrumental techno, requiring audience participation in the form of pulling people onstage and dressing them in body suits with attached face masks.
Up next were Reptar, playing an album release show for their upcoming Joyful Noise Recordings offering Lurid Glow. Somehow the show wasn’t as packed as theirs usually are, but it was just as fun. They played classics like “Cable” and used a giant slingshot (HAH) to shoot t-shirts into the crowd.
Saturday saw the continuation of Slingshot’s film contingent, with several movies screened at the Globe for free to all. William And The Windmill tells the amazing and heartwarming story of William Kamkwamba, a Malawian who, at the age of 19, used scrap metal and an outdated book to build his village a water-pumping windmill. Next up was a short called Brooklyn Farmer about the rooftop gardens of New York’s ~coolest~ neighborhood. (Between these first two films, one might get their faith in humanity’s future genuinely restored, which is kind of Slingshot’s whole deal.) Next up was Palimpsest, a quirky short about a house tuner who’s on call if you think your toaster and shower aren’t in the same key. Finally, the last full feature Buttercup Bill is a tense ‘psychosexual romance’ about love, obsession, jealousy, and what it means to be a soulmate.
Vinyl Mag continued to throw down with its second showcase, featuring more E6 greatness in Mind Brains and Nana Grizol. Mind Brains opened things up with impassioned, Circulatory System-aping psychedelic explorations of the soul. Naturally they too had some freaky videography to go along with the experimental sounds, mostly putting bizarre insect habits on display (even though I am deathly terrified of bugs, I watched for you, reader, I WATCHED FOR YOU).
Closing out the early evening, Nana Grizol put the poppier side of E6 on display, with songs that could fit in anywhere in the discography of the Apples In Stereo. They also gave Live Wire’s sound guy a shoutout, and it was well-deserved – sound quality has been spotty in Athens venues recently, but the new management at Live Wire clearly hired a pro.
Nightmare Air pre-set. Photo by Matt Lief Anderson.