Boy Sets Fire, which mixes such seemingly disparate elements as punk, hardcore, and emo, was an apt headliner on a night that paired equally diverse acts. Imagine Ed from Live fronting Pearl Jam through hardcore covers of the Jade Tree catalog, and you'd almost have a clear picture of this Delaware-based outfit's sound and stage presence. BSF singer Nathan Grey was an actual vocalist who wouldn't seem out of place had he started crooning Robbie Williams "Millennium." His clear, passionate vocals were a pleasant change from the throaty, gut-bucket hollering with which the other singers on the bill seemed enamored.
Although recently deprived of a crucial member, Ann Beretta still delivered a set that was beyond reproach. This was an amazingly tight Rancid-esque trio with a serious love of spirit-of-'77 Clash. Ann Beretta's drummer set the place on fire in a manner that would do the titular lad from the headlining group proud. His every stroke, every fill, was killer. Truth be told, the key to having an outstanding punk-rock band is the drummer, and Ann Beretta proved this song after song. The band favored poppy punk, although it occasionally dabbled in straightforward rock that brought to mind Metal Blade-era Goo Goo Dolls.
Local hardcore outfit Esoteric, which is preparing for an extended road trip, whipped up a chugging and churning tribute to the black arts. This balls-to-the-wall hardcore outfit featured a lead shouter who looked like a meatier version of Trey Parker from South Park fame. While unspooling a tightly rolled ball of spite, spittle, and dark metal/punk, Esoteric conjured up images of Jay's cousin in Clerks as he demonically intones, "My love for you is like Berserker!"
KC's own Steadfast is a Christian act that paired psalms with a bone-crushing backdrop. It was odd, and somewhat troubling. Its set was difficult to understand, rumbling and rambling along in a spasmodic dance of spastic powerchords and guttural wails from a diminutive singer. Fundamentalist types might refer to this as an example of "speaking in tongues." Best of luck to this Coalesce-loving quintet, although it's likely that its preachy set unintentionally summoned the slogan "Keep your politics out of my music" in the minds of many listeners, including this one.