While I'm aware there'd been bands playing since noon in Westport, we'd opted to get chores and homework done. So, yeah - bad music fans, responsible adults. We started the last night of Middle of the Map
right before 6:00 p.m., allowing us a chance to sneak some caffeine right before we got going.
First band of the day for us was the Casket Lottery
at the Riot Room. We attempted to make it up near the stage, but even at that early hour, it was packed. I saw quite a few familiar faces screaming along when the quartet ripped into "Code Red" as an opener. For the most part, however, the Casket Lottery used their Middle of the Map set to showcase material from their upcoming LP on No Sleep Records. It was definitely the Casket Lottery, but underlying the familiar ebb-and-flow aesthetic was a pulse - not electronic or dance, but definitely something of an organic beat.
- Nick Spacek
- The Casket Lottery (told you it was packed).
Of course, the crowd lost their collective shit for material such as "What I Built Last Night" and "Smoke and Mirrors" far more than the new tunes like "The Door." Nathan Ellis' familiar yelp on those beloved tunes evoked quite a hearty amount of nostalgia, even with a healthy amount of daylight outdoors offsetting songs more frequently heard in the wee small hours.
Speaking of bands in the wee small hours, I've no idea how many times I saw Reflector
back in their heyday. The intense trio opened so many shows, it's impossible to recall the specifics of any given performance. Their draw wasn't quite that of the Casket Lottery; they relied on a bit more introspection than catharsis, meaning it was a smaller - yet no less intense - crowd that awaited their set.
After watching him in bands like the Caves and the Belles over the past several years, it was also pretty great to see Jake Cardwell pound the ever-loving hell out of the skins again. Baby Jake's a monster drummer, and while he knows how to evoke delicate rhythmic strcutures, sometimes you just want to see someone pound the shit out of some drums.
After Reflector's set, I had a bit of time to kill before my next band of choice. Taking a look at Twitter showed that the Beaumont was getting packed. Around 8:15 or so, it became one-in, one-out. I hung out with my friend Jen, keeping her company, and when we entered the line, it was just slightly past the Sidecar entrance. Twenty minutes later, it was past Joe's Pizza, and rapidly approaching Westport Road. Given the choice between missing several bands I wanted to see, and getting in to see Fun
, I opted for freedom from the Beaumont and headed off to the Union, waving goodbye to any chances of seeing the most popular band in the country right now.
Our friends Rich and Chip at the Larryville Chronicles
have repeatedly clued us in to the performance art show that is the Devil
, but it took a trip to Westport and descending into the Union's basement to see them, rather than making the 15-minute walk from my house to the Replay. What do you get? Sludgy, droning guitar, with metronomic rhythms, all anchored by louche, post-Nico vocals.
It's arty as fuck, yet remarkably suited for a dark, cavernous space such as the Union basement. If you're the Devil, you need to be down below, right? Needless to say, they are creepy, but sensually so. Think of them as the babysitter without a good sense of clearly defined boundaries.
It was time for some metal. Mansion
's particular brand of metallic rock 'n' roll is devoted to mainly instrumental, seven-minute plus jams.
I'm not sure how, but Mansion manages to simultaneously walk the line between downbeat and exuberant. Their songs build to such a cathartic release, it's impossible not to feel that you've reached a positive conclusion by the time the song crests. With tunes that are 99 percent rising action, the denouement is like an explosion when it comes.
It took ten minutes in line, as well as a lengthy amount of time in the crowd, but I managed to work my way to the front of the Riot Room for Coalesce
. There were some enthusiastic (and quite intoxicated) hardcore fans waiting for the local heroes. Totally worth the drunk guy to my left, my knees smashed into the stage, and the dude who needed a bath, a change of clothes, and what smelled like a lesson in proper wiping to my right. At one point, I had a guitarist leap over my head, land on the floor, and commence a total freak out. James Ingram attacked the mic like it had seriously disappointed him, and it seemed as if the whole of Coalesce and the audience watching them were one angry unit, especially as the band ended its set on "You Can't Kill Us All," with a full audience shout-along.
In preparation for Saturday, I relistened to all of Fucked Up
's LPs. As good as those records are, this is a band best experienced live. While their recorded output contains any number of genre-hopping tracks, when performed live, they become all-out hardcore ragers. The crowd responds as such, and no amount of cooing, sweet singing, or instrumentation can cover up the fact that these songs, in a live setting, are meant to annihilate.
I felt like I had been through some kind of boot camp by the time the show was over. If there's a formula for recreating the cramped, hallucinogenic atmosphere of a basement show in a commercial setting, I think the Riot Room's found it. The temperature by the stage was a full 10-15 degrees hotter than it was back by the bar, and it was humid as balls.
Sadly, that was the end of the festival for me. By the time the Riot Room let out, the line into the Union stretched back to Pennsylvania, and there was no chance in hell of getting in to to see Acid Mothers Temple play on their last tour ever. Bummer. Still - I had a fun time at Middle of the Map. Each night built on the last, to the point where I almost didn't want to go home Saturday night.