Each venue attracted about 100 to 150 fans to each set, even though the crowd at the Beaumont Club seemed relatively thin because of the venue's behemoth size. Haloshifter, which ironically was playing its last-ever set at an event recognizing its nomination for Best New Band, treated its closely packed following to a set that was surprisingly tight, given the complexity of its swirling, dynamics-shifting epics and the fact that its members were heard admitting that they hadn't exactly been practicing regularly of late.
Brody Buster, a Grand Emporium fixture, proved that his blazing blues-harp solos play well in any venue, regardless of size or clientele. Hadacol made the Beaumont's regular country-loving patrons feel at home with an upbeat mix of previously released and brand-new material. At 11 p.m., the Beaumont remained speckled with concertgoers, but looks can be deceiving at that club. As onwardcrispinglover tore into a quick-paced set, curious onlookers emerged from the club's distant corners and filled some of the gaping open space in front of the stage.
Among the scene's most vocal supporters, regardless of genre, is Descension. At midnight, these friendly cheerleaders transformed into the ghastly army of the undead, donning ghoulish black-and-white makeup and assembling a stage show that used a crucified, disemboweled replica of a corpse as a prop. For added effect, a black-clad imposing figure swaggered onto the stage, chugged a mysterious liquid with his back turned to the bemused throng, then breathed fire in measured spurts before extinguishing the flame by plunging the lit torch into his throat.
There were no pyrotechnics, or even loud guitars, for that matter, on display at Blayney's, which seemed to offer the night's most low-key menu. However, the club was far from the equivalent of a chill-out room at a rave -- the place was packed, and the people came to dance, not merely observe. Son Venezuela drew the most raucous crowd, proving that fans weren't burnt out on world beat despite the incessant thumps of the bongo players who serenaded sidewalk strollers on Pennsylvania, the showcase's main drag. In the showcase's only last-minute schedule alteration, David Basse and Common Ground switched slots, but even if some fans initially were jarred by the swap, the attentive faces in the crowd suggested no one was disappointed. T.K. Webb stayed in gritty blues character even on the eve of his birthday, while Julia Peterson's quiet storm motivated newly converted fans to head for the Klammies ballot box.
It was appropriate that The Hurricane's bill began with an artist who earned his rep playing jungle; the club quickly became the wildest destination on the showcase map. DJ PMS' staggered beats got the party hopping early, and DJ Roland closed the night, hosting the showcase's unofficial after-party. Sandwiched between the record-spinners was the night's most explosive back-to-back-to-back action: The Casket Lottery, the critical darling that proved to anyone who hadn't seen the band before that indie-rock acts do indeed deserve the "rock" suffix; DVS Mindz, which unleashed a devastating lyrical exhibition complete with jaw-dropping freestyle flows; and Season to Risk, which performed such an inspired set that observers were overheard saying the show might have been the veteran outfit's most volatile ever.