Tuesday, December 5, 2017

DunkFest USA 2017

(Had this saved on my computer and never posted)..

Dunkfest USA
Higher Ground, Burlington VT
Saturday Oct 7th and Sunday October 8, 2017

There are a couple of things to set up when talking about this particular event.  First, it’s a very popular that has been hosted in Belgium.  Most of the acts that play fall under the “post rock” genre (largely instrumental) music.  When I saw that a US version as going to be staged I felt I needed to go.
And boy am I glad I did.
The event ran for two days at The Higher Ground, a pretty good sized club in Burlington Vermont.  The venue has two rooms. (based off what I can find a 300 capacity and 1000 capacity room, separated by a lobby). The music ran both days from 230pm until midnight…it was a long day.
But damn it was great….
I arrived at the club having missed just the first 2 bands.  Part of it was hotel check in issues and the like, but once I was there in the club I was in for the long haul.  Going in I felt Sunday (day 2) was the strong of the days, at least for me personally.  I was more than happy to sit back and learn some new things, find some new bands and enjoy…and that I did.
This Patch of Sky FINALLY came to the east coast.  This was a big pull for me. I’ve been wanting to seem them for ages, and they are active on social media so I feel like I always knew/know what’s up with them, but had yet to see them.  They released a new album less than 30 days before this show and they were in FINE form.  The band has a cellist, so there were new elements being played.  If you were new to the band it was probably as confusing (at the start) as it was refreshing to mix things up.  The lone bummer from them was the seemingly cut short set (I swear they had at least 10 minutes) but I did read another review that said they had some tech issues, but I didn’t see/hear anything.
The band that most surprised me though was Astronoid.  When they guys came on stage it was not what I was expecting.  Big hair, big amps and one guitarist used a “Flying V”.  Not really something you associate to the genre.  Once they started I was hooked.  It could have been that the two bands (both in the same room and opposite room) were more on the mellow side these guys blew the roof off.  It was loud, it was fast it even had soaring vocals???!  Odd..but I loved it.  Refreshing..yes…and a sweet kick in the ass as we all approached hour 10ish and band 21 of 22…we needed it.
Pelican wrapped up day one exactly like I had expected.  Powerful.

Day 2
Now that I had a day under my belt I knew how I wanted to approach the next day.  I was a little lazier in getting to the club on day two, instead taking in some of the sights and sounds of Burlington.  Despite being overcast (and a time of rain that seemed to fall sideways) it’s a really cool city.  I found two record shops and a decent place to grab some lunch so those were additional wins.

The End of the Ocean took to the stage and by the first song of the set Tara (the keyboard player) had toppled over.  She fell, the keyboard with her and everything.  She was just rocking out THAT HARD.
Coastlands were a ton of fun.  They really worked the second stage well and were even nicer at their merch booth (heck I went back to see them and chat).  One of the few bands that came from Portland just for this event (yes…other side of the US) and they made the most of their time.  I enjoyed their set very much.

Junius was next on the main stage.  Phil, from Caspian, was sitting in on bass.  I was excited to see him as I didn’t know much about the band.  Sadly they didn’t do a ton for me.  The stage presence, outside of Phil, was pretty tame.  Even the lead singer had his hoodie up and it was overwhelmingly dark on the stage.  I wanted to like them more than I did sadly.
The evening ended with a thunderous set from Russian Circles.  The stage seemed to glow red for their entire set and they don’t even take a microphone to say hello, but man they can deliver a heavy set.

The Good – Any band that was “new” to me was great.
Reasonably priced merch (most bands were $10 on cds, shirts were cheap, posters and sticker (free)
Being able to leave venue for fresh air/food
Restrooms were not totally nasty
Staff at venue.

The bad – (it wasn’t bad..but its not how this game works)
Lack of in house food choices
Seating with good sightlines in both rooms
2 too many bands per day.  It’s LOOOOONG

I really hope this comes back.  It was such a great weekend of hearing familiar stuff, finding new stuff and just being surrounded by like-minded folks made for a tremendous time.

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