Comfest 2010 : A Violin Too Far...
While I'm surprised that I'm pretty much in agreement with my nemesis/colleague Chris Deville and his assessment of this year's Comfest, I'm not surprised by the absolute lack of creativity found on my lackadaisical Saturday on the grounds. I was already a bit nonplussed by the Entertainment Committee's being strong-armed by the law, the Comfest mafia, the community surrounding Goodale Park, to cut-back hours significantly, therefore cutting 30 odd bands in the process, but once I looked over the line-up, I was even more bewildered. This was not Columbus' brightest being represented. There were some ringers, but it was mostly glad-handing to bands that have been playing the same tired sets for years and a few newer "fresher" faces who had no business being there even if they are tearing up the Peach District.
Quite honestly, and I say this with the straightest face I can, the Shazzbots early Saturday morning set, packed to the gills with the hardcore under-10 set, was the closest thing I saw to originality in my entire day. Maybe childrens' indie-rock is where it's at -- you get to dress up in wacky outfits, take on new personas, use props, act a fool, and write excellent songs about numbers, bugs, and cats named peanut butter. Please go check out this video for "Everybody's Talking 'Bout 5" to see what I'm saying. And bonus, your fans have to be escorted by mom or dad, so that's double the audience. At 10 a.m. the Shazzbots had a bigger crowd than any band I've ever watched played the Treehouse. From what I can gather the 'bots are made up of an imploded Poophouse Reilly -- a band I frequently smirked at despite having the absolute worst name in Columbus music history, but are now tearing up the Wiggle's circuit looking to make inroads with Yo Gabba Gabba. I'd really like to get them in a dive bar at midnight -- just to show the jaded what it means to have a good time on stage. (If you're reading this Shazzbots, I'm serious, seriously).
Shazzbots serve as a nice segue into Super Desserts, since they of the kinder-core, have actually blossomed somewhat into a full-blown orchestra. On this sunny afternoon they required nth number of members up on the Bozo stage to translate the whimsically sharpened melodies found on new album Twee As Folk. Like it was stated in that Alive article, the Desserts taste best in small echo-plexed rooms, but I was amazed at what they accomplished so far away from the intimacy of five-feet of audience. They couldn't use their indoor voices this day, so it had to be epic. Right?
From there, especially during my shift on the off-ramp stage, it went completely downhill. One violin after another after another. Now -- the Super Desserts are completely exempt here because they are an orchestra of sorts, and what they do is mainly of the acoustic variety, rarely, if ever amplified, even through a PA, but there is no need for violins in rock music (I wouldn't call the Black Swans "rock" so don't get all bunched up kids). But what I saw were bands influenced by -- I don't know??? -- Sufjan Stevens, the Decemberists, Bon Iver (heard a Bon Iver cover btw, gross!!), Grandaddy. Goodness, this went on for four to five hours. Monolithic Cloud Parade, Historians, Old Worlds, Trains Across the Sea -- it was like a Paste Magazine come to life before my eyes. None of this was original or creative or hopeful or hummable or catchy or memorable. Fuck...it was sickening the amount of skinny jeans and goofy hats accompanied those violins up on stage. I did see some "property of Ohio State University music program" stands back stage, so maybe that explains all of the sheet music, but it's no excuse for the awful tastes these kids have. We have done the next generation a disservice, and I'm not exactly sure how it got to this, but we need to really step it up thirty-somethings.
The next act -- Wild Goose Creative -- was neither a band nor a collective, it was two overly cherubic hustlas who were neither "wild" nor "creative." What the audience was subject to hear was a diatribe about why "they" deserved to have time on the "entertainment" stages that weekend. They constructed a solar-powered jukebox? Couldn't that have been spoken on the "solar" stage? Then came the Peach Tree District's vaudeville/improv bullshit, which included a failed flash-mod, bad hipster-mocking comedy, and bland karaoke -- followed directly by soft-shoe Joe and the Trains Across the Sea with a rousing rendition of the Wonder Years theme song. Are you kidding me? While I'm all in favor of these non-profit organizations (of which I don't think the Peach Tree kids are one?) organizing and doing deeds for the whole, this stage was meant for "rock" and there were two hours of suck in place of that "rock" this year. And while I know the hours put in by the Comfest entertainment committee, and applaud them for the gargantuan task of booking and slotting all of these bands (not to mention putting up with all the bitching), I do think this year's slight could have been alleviated if they just went out and asked the "best" bands to play. There's a huge list of artists who could have done this -- just saying. Where the fuck was Envelope? He's like the de facto mayor of this city.
All I saw after that debacle that was worth writing home about was Flu Faker. Full disclosure - friends of mine - but about the noisiest and most original act that graced that stage all weekend. Alas, I didn't see Descendre or Shin Tower Music or 13 yr-old folk phenom Rain, but I did get to hear more than my share of shitty covers. And I'll be there next year, so, step it up community.