Want to know why this is one of my favorite albums of the year? Then read my review of Beach Slang‘s debut The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us for Rolling Stone right here.
Gigawatts Festival, featuring a shit ton of bands – indie, garage, punk, and everything in between – happened in the back streets of Brooklyn over three days from July 24-26. In honor of the local zine that birthed it — 1.21 Gigawatts — here are 121 thoughts that were had during the festival.
2- Carparks, cold beer and access to indoor plumbing: I’m all in.
3- Camping festivals are for teenagers and predatory dudes who secretly love the Zac Brown Band.
4- It can’t be overstated just how fucked camping fest bathrooms are.
5- Anyway. For those not familiar with it, Gigawatts Festival is put together by organizer Danny Krug. 95% of the bands will thank him over the course of the weekend.
6- He’s also the editor of 1.21 Gigawatts.
“Thank Fuck I Grew Up On The Replacements and Not King Crimson” – Beach Slang
7- Its main conceit is covering excellent — and varying degrees of ‘little-known’ — local bands from in and around Brooklyn… as well as other good bands.
8- Most of who know each other, and most of who are playing at the festival.
9- Most of who can also be loosely grouped under reductive terms like ‘indie’, ‘garage’ and ‘punk’. But whatever. May as well just say ‘lots of guitars and skinny nerds’, but, y’know, that’s mean.
12- Last year: three days across two venues.
13- One of which was basically a squat. (there was also a house party)
14- Now it’s three days and three (nice) venues.
15- Two of the bars — The Well and The Wick — are next to each other on Meserole street in Bushwick and connected by a staircase (well, by the end of the first day they were). The other venue, Our Wicked Lady, is a five minute walk away. The walk takes you past this place:
and it smells amazing. Which you can say about exactly zero other streets in NYC.
16- Seriously, when you’re old and really can’t be fucked surmounting your own apathy and, y’know, actually doing things, city festivals are the balls.
17- The Well’s stage is outside in a carpark/beer garden (with pizza) out the back.
18- Which is where, on Day One, things are kicked into gear by seeing Celestial Shore.
19- They’re like Tame Impala in 2008.
20- … But because they’re not a bunch of Perth stoners, their psychedelia fits the ‘brain melting and heavy’ end of the spectrum. They also avoid the ‘head up own ass’ aspect that plagues plenty of post-punk/psyche bands.
21- Which is to say, Celestial Shore are pretty fucking fun.
22- The Wick and its stage are terrifying and amazing. It’s inside an old warehouse with an exceptionally large stage taking up on whole corner of a cavernous room. There’s a lighting rig featuring a windmill’s blades perched above our heads, and the light playing off all the exposed brick make everything and every band who play there look like they’re attending the wedding of medieval reenactment enthusiasts. Or satanists.
23- Rivergazer, to the best of my knowledge, aren’t medieval reenactment enthusiasts. Or satanists.
24- Their woozy indie pop is, however, very fitting for the Wick and its surroundings. Even if they’re not satanists.
25- Back outside in the waning sunshine at The Well, Philly’s Amanda X loudly kick some ass and take some names with their gritty garage punk.
26- What’s weird though is, the fairly large amount of jorts on show in the crowd.
27- Anyway. Amanda X are a perfect mix of bubblegum sweetness and head-kicking brutality.
28- A perfect complement to Acid Dad at Our Wicked Lady. They’re ramshackle as hell, and I love them more than my dog likes licking other dogs pee.
29- Which is to say, a lot. For real; with their freewheeling indie punk, Acid Dad score day one’s award for ‘Best On Ground – Not Named Black Lips’.
31- A Place to Bury Strangers continued their long honored tradition of being a complete fucking monster of a live band… which their albums never quite live up to.
32- Hey, how is it possible that Oliver Ackermann or anyone else in APTBS can hear anything? Their array of pedals and the subsequent wall of noise feels like you’re assaulted with a jet engine combined with some sort manga-inspired ear-fucking machine. I’d call such a machine ‘The Earbangelion’. Or something.
33- Oliver’s ‘I survived the 1992 haunted Castle’ t-shirt is great.
34- I wish I’d brought ear plugs. Curse you, Earbangelion.
35- Between the two main stage headliners I duck into The Wick to catch Palehound; they’re like if Speedy Ortiz were comfortable around each other and listened exclusively to the last 40 minutes of Superunknown instead of Gish.
36- Black Lips live up to their headlining status… though, considering we’re in Bushwick, that was never going to be a problem.
37- Their Howdy Doody-meets-Joe Strummer schtick feels more comfortable than the pair of American Apparel jeans you sneakily bought four years ago.
38- Man, tunes though. They’ve got them. ‘O Katrina’, ‘Bad Kids’ et al are still pretty great. And the biggest crowd of the weekend lapped it up.
39- A mosh pit and crowd surfers are things that happened.
40- Also, shouts to the couple standing in front of me who were wearing matching sneakers. You the real MVP.
41- Liturgy play The Wick, and (double negative alert) no one in this crowd hasn’t posted under a conspiracy theory video on YouTube.
42- Also, if you play either a headless or fretless guitar (or bass), look, it’s okay. Your dad might not have liked you, but it doesn’t matter any more. Leave the rest of us alone.
43- I’m tired.
44- DAY TWO
46- It’s Eula, playing The Wick, though, that provide one of the highlights of the festival. Their snarling art-punk is something to behold; all ravenous, raging and spare and incisive and teetering on the edge of traumatic.
47- Alyse Lamb is a force — cliche alert — akin to Karen O; all coiled power and threats.
48- Lamb also answers the question ‘What if Hermoine scrapped that Hogwarts shit and was just really into Wire.’
49- I can’t stop grinning through their show.
50- THEY HAVE A SAXOHPONE!
51- Holy hell. This is great.
52- Wandering outside into the warm afternoon sunshine to see Jack & Eliza after Eula is something of a shock. The transition from spiky art-punk to sweet, smart boy-girl pop is as bracing as discovering there’s no ‘girls in food print t-shirts’ Tumblr.
53- You dropped the ball there, internet.
54- It’s super hard not to like Jack & Eliza. They’re like Marnie and Desi from Girls, only actually really good and likable and sweet and cute and they don’t make you want to kill everybody.
55- The Bottom Dollars — playing The Wick — are kinda like old The Hold Steady mixed with Drive By Truckers.
56- But the singer berated me for not clapping along.
57- I was holding a full beer.
58- So, y’know. My bad
59- Meanwhile… ergh. I’m not sure what the limit of PBR for the human body is, but I passed it a while ago.
60- Standing a couple of feet away from Warn The Duke at Our Wicked Lady helps. Their muscly punk will cure what ails you.
61- Their wayward rock is fantastic; enough indie and punk songwriting shades to keep you on your toes, and anthemic enough that you might struggle to wipe a grin off your face as fight the urge to punch the air.
62- By the same token, Potty Mouth and their bratty punk continuously evolves into something grungier and scuzzier, but always keeps a solid pop backbone.
63- They also deliver one of the festival’s best stage-banter moments.
64- Chatting to the crowd, lead singer Abby shrugs and said “I dunno, I wrote all these songs in high school.”
65- Someone in the crowd (correctly) pointed out, “That’s what Black Lips said.”
66- Her response was simple and elegant.
68- Back at The Wick, Quarterbacks and their spiky garage are more solid than Roger Goodell’s suspension of Tom Brady.
69- But I leave early to make sure I see The Gradients at OWL. Which turns out to be smarter than most decisions I make in life.
70- Like why I keep drinking this PBR.
71- Because The Gradients, in all their Lost Boys garage punk glory, are fucking incredible.
72- Day two’s main stage headliners, however, don’t quite match that.
73- Miniature Tigers are the musical version of ‘Netflix and chill’.
74- Their pleasant indie-pop is quickly shunted aside for the shredding punk of Honduras.
75- Then it’s Jangula who, as with most bands playing at OWL, benefit from the smaller, enclosed area of the festival’s third stage.
76- It’s because Jangula’s rambunctious, pelvis-thrusting party-indie could probably get you pregnant in close quarters.
77- Jangula kick more ass than a streaming app dedicated purely to Jean Claude Van Damme.
78- Headliners Anamanaguchi, though…
79- I just. I dunno.
80- Look. I get it. And they were more enjoyable than previous encounters had proven them to be, and adding a guest-vocalist helped change up their MO, but still, y’know, didn’t we all agree that computer-game electro had a time and place, and that was 2008?
81- Still, my notes just say ‘Anamanaguchi are Pixels’
82- Whatever. *shrugs* They were fun.
83- The party at OWL continued unabated for Shapes; one of those seminal garage punk bands that you see and go ‘oh, THAT’s why everyone I know loves them’.
84- And to compound the deafness cause by APTBS the night before, seeing Pile at The Wick was a physical challenge. Their deft noise-rock is brutal and amazing though.
85- Ava Luna and their twisted indie are the perfect way to finish up day two at the Wick.
86- But it’s not quite over.
87- Because Slonk Donkerson are here to make America great again.
88- The dubiously-named three-piece — actually, I guess they’re a power trio, if ever any band was — took a packed OWL, shook it, turned it upside down and rung it.
89- They’re like some magical mash up of The Cars, Husker Du and, I dunno, Iron Maiden? Whatever. They’re the best. Top marks. Shut it down.
90- DAY THREE!
91- I’m running out of steam. Both at the festival and with this (shoddy) motif
92- A couple of days walking between stages will take it out of you, but there’s a remedy, and it’s Beach Slang.
93- I think Beach Slang are the band Gaslight Anthem wish they were.
94- The Philly punk band are charming as hell; all stories about writing songs to John Hughes movies, crowd-sourcing puppy names and covering Jawbreaker.
95- As a result, they get one of most resounding responses — and deservedly so — for the entire festival.
96- By Surprise play The Wick and they all wear glasses.
97- It’s hard not to fall for Cheap Girls. Their world-weary outsider indie is heartwarming and touching and just plain ace.
98- Also, their guitarist looks like he should be responding to the ‘May I help you riff’ in Wayne’s World.
99- Oh! And in the crowd there’s a couple of unexpected cool dads.
100- Also, a bumblebee, which lands in a girl’s hair. She’s saved by a guy behind her, and it’s all very touching.
101- I learn that Ludlow Ejacula, apparently, is said ‘like Dracula’.
102- I’m not sure how else it could be said?
103- As the final afternoon wears on and clouds threaten rain that will never come, Laura Stevenson provides the first accordion sighting of the festival.
104- It’s weird how you add an accordion to anything and it sounds like a sea shanty.
105- It’s like if you have someone playing a triangle in your band, I expect that you own a pair of brown corduroy pants.
106- And that your kids will get beaten up at school.
107- Anyway. Laura also delivers some top notch stage banter, asking ‘Are you guys into live music’ and repeatedly insisting that ‘this next is an original.’
108- Dances start late in the Wick, which somehow gives their grimy indie punk even more of the twitchy, manic edge than usual.
109- Swearin’ — “from Philadelphia, formerly from Brooklyn, formerly from other places’ — are the second last main stage band, and after a strong start, there’s something off and the second half of their set lacks punch.
110- Like, they’re not bad at all, just not as into it as perhaps you’d expect.
111- I’m so on board with the ‘urban explorer’-looking couple who’ve been at the main stage all day and have matching earplugs. Life goals.
112- Lodro are strange.
113- But I’ve spent two and a half days standing in bars and car parks in the backlots of Bushwick all in preparation to see Braid.
114- And the next hour of watching Braid can be summed up thusly: Arrghrgrhrgrhrh! BRAID!
115- Again: Arrghrgrhrgrhrh. BRAID!
116- *transmission missing*
117- And so on.
118- The emotional response you get when you finally see a band you grew up listening to — but who broke up before you could ever contemplate seeing them because, for instance, you lived in Australia — is one of greatest feelings you can have. Right?
119- … Right? Not to get too emo though.
120- Plus, few bands could get away with saying ‘Here’s a good song’, and still seem like the nicest dudes on the planet.
121- Braid leave me a wreck — dude, they played “Chandelier Swing” — so I check out Guerrilla Toss and their hot mess-punk at OWL for a couple of songs, but can’t really concentrate, so head to the subway — going where we don’t need roads — and that’s that. To quote 95% of the bands playing: thanks, Danny. Thanks, Gigawatts Festival.