Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chapter Eighteen: "Mash of Everything Covered in Gravy - Cropped Out 2011: Saturday Edition."

It came and went, and feel like I've been crumpled over by a bulldozer. But its a happy pain I'm grateful for. The Second Annual Cropped Out Festival here in Louisville occurred the weekend of November 11-13, 2011, and featured more bands than it was possible for me to keep track of, making for a guilty-pleasure weekend of guitars, basses, drums, homemade pickup oscillators, electric dobros and violins, noisemakers, campfires, beer, arguments about Kentucky cuisine, old friends, new friends, ping pong, seven-inches, and above all, the exposure of some great new, independent, sullied, often loud, but always varied, musics.

My aim is here is show some visual documentation, as well as provide some basic info about the event and the artists that performed at Cropped Out. I was only at the second day of the fest; day one was Friday 11.11.11, which I could not attend due to my day job and the desire to see my friends The Frequent Sea, Madame Machine and the Kentucky Prophet perform for charity. Hopefully someone else will document those bands/that show, because there was definitely some good music happening on the first day/night. I could not attend the ending festivities, featuring the reunited legendary Scratch Acid performing with Young Widows and Coliseum. However, I managed to watch about fourteen hours of music on day two; thus, here's my report. It'll be lengthy despite the fact that I still managed to miss several of the bands due to just plain exhaustion and the need to drink cold beer by campfires for some conversation here and there.

This will also be the first in a couple/few entries to get some of the local music I've seen the last few weeks out of my system.

Cropped Out began in 2010 in Louisville as an attempt to provide a showcase for independent and underground music from this city and beyond in an all-ages setting. I attended one day of the 2010 fest, as well, and was impressed with the scope the organizers were aiming for. This year the fest was relocated from a venue by the Ohio River into downtown Louisville at a new warehouse/art space dubbed the Crummy Den. The den seemed to fit the fest much better, and I definitely like what's been done with the space.

Adhering to the music festival mentality, there were three stages within the den: a main stage, and two floor spaces, to accommodate the amount of bands performing and to squeeze as much music as possible into the scheduled twelve hours. As soon as one band ended, another would usually begin within minutes.

Delays and complications can be expected with any such set-up, because this is a perverse amount of music equipment, which can be unruly and uncooperative, sometimes. Based on my libations and lively Friday night, I woke later than I expected and had to contend with a migraine headache before setting out on foot for the festival, the new location not being too far from my apartment. I was cussing myself halfway there for being late, figuring I was missing some bands I had planned on seeing all week. When I arrived, I realized I had only missed two acts: Circuit des Yeux and Video Daughters, which sucks, but I was relieved I had not missed a lot more than that.

Apparently, there had been two issues that had changed some of the physical aspects of the show: a power problem (which was never really explained to me, or at least, I never understood when it was explained to me) that caused the schedule to be pushed back; and secondly, the first half of the days shows were now being performed outside due to noise complaints from the business that was located directly in front of the Crummy Den. The bands were now playing in an adjoining field/garden, which was nice, although how it made things quieter I'm not sure, as I heard drums and bass bouncing off the buildings around the area like we were in a canyon that a stampeding herd was plunging through as I approached from two blocks away.

But the outside idea turned out to be pretty amazing. Saturday was a grey Fall day with temperatures that stayed near 60, then started falling with dusk. Several bonfires were lit as we watched the sun hide and fall behind clouds and we huddled around the beer truck, the Cuban food truck, and rock bands from Louisville, Lexington, and Nashville.

So, the music. Because of the amount of bands I'm attempting to cover here, I'll try and keep my comments brief. Otherwise this entry will get too massive, methinks.

The band that sounded like thunder off the bricks as I approached was one I was badgering myself for fear of missing: Arcane Rifles, from Lexington. This group has become one of my favorite bands in the last year. A great way to start the day. Ben's guitar, James' drums, Phil's bass just all seem pretty perfect to me. Like I've said before on this blog, their seven-inch "Green Eye Will Save You" gets my vote for EP of the year.

Arcane Rifles

Arcane Rifles was the beginning of a set of Lexington and Louisville bands that all seem to blend and belt together perfectly. I hate trying to brand scenes with signature sounds, because I often think that's bullshit, but there is something in the water between these two Kentucky cities that brings out some bass-heavy creative percussive guitar rock. Post-punk, angular, instrumental, proggy, kraut, elements of psychedelic rock; I can't stand describing music, but the next few bands all have found something that has its own thing going on.

Jovantaes was next, another Lexington trio that have taken the idea of drums, guitar and bass rock and well, just fucked it up into something else. At one point I had to ask Ben and James of Arcane Rifles and Mike of Cross how they were even making the sounds they were coming up with on their instruments. The guitar and bass were apparently both outfitted with functioning oscillators in the pickups, allowing them to be making several different sounds at once. "It's all sickly homemade, too," Mike pointed out. I've been waiting to see this band for a while; glad I finally did. Jovantaes basically rose out the ashes of another of favorite bands from Lexington, Tight Leather. Their latest EP is "Things Are Different Here."


Louisville band Tropical Trash was next. I've already written my love for this band here. They didn't fail to rock the flower garden with some stuff I had not heard, yet. Go to that their blog page to download their latest CD-R EP "Acts of Reversal." According to guitarist/vocalists Jim and Kirk, the band have a new cassette coming out soon.

Tropical Trash
Lexington band Cross were next. This was my second time seeing this group and I think my favorite performance of the two times. Mike Turner's one of my favorite guitarists, and the band managed to play just as the clouded sun went away, which added a little to ambiance of their music to me. Dark stuff. New favorite song: "Forever into the Cross." The band is going on an East Coast tour starting in November 22 in Lexington.


Natural Child were the first band to play that I witnessed that were not from Kentucky. Hailing from Nashville, this trio dropped some really amazing grooves into some kind of ditch that's related to 70s Southern rock, but creeped out with some bizarre garagey-punk structure. They represented the last outdoor band of the day/evening, before the acts would move indoors, and they had fun with it as it turned just plain dark outside. I appreciated their sense of humor on most of their tunes, introducing songs that were "made to meet our quota of shaking a specific number of asses." They were the perfect band to listen to with bonfires springing up around them and beer cans being thrown around while they played songs like "Hard Workin' Man" and "Nobody Wants to Party with Me." According to their blog, they're on tour with Georgia Satellites. I can't tell what's real or not anymore. I felt like it was 1977 and we were all gonna get arrested.

Natural Child
At this point the festival moved indoors, while the outside field became the main area for breaks from the bands where you could purchase beer and Cuban food and warm yourself by several campfires surrounded by band members and fest attendants.

The first act to start the indoor half of the evening was singer-songwriter-guitarist Angel Olsen, whose stripped down performance marked a change in the style of music we had been hearing up to that point. Olsen hails from St. Louis and has been gathering a lot of attention lately with her well-written songs. My first exposure to her was through some live recordings I'd heard on Youtube she had done with Bonnie "Prince" Billy.  To me her music references older country, which fits her voice perfectly. A few times her voice reminded me of Patsy Cline, and heck call me stupid but at other times, Mary Lou Lord.

Angel Olsen
It was at this point I traveled into the massive Crummy Den green room with Arcane Rifles' James Marinelli for some recuperation, cheese puffs and "interviews" while James, Ben, and Clint (of Cross) played a very competitive game of ping pong.

action shot!
Anyways, I returned to the music quickly to be immersed in the set of Guardian Alien, a NYC quartet. Immersed, that is, in pitch black darkness and the band's intense space-noise-rock that featured drummer Greg Fox's frantic style permeated by vocalist Alexandra Drewchin's hymn-like cried vocals running in and out of time and effects. The sometime comparisons to Hawkwind I don't consider to be too far off. Their self-titled debut album has been released on Swill Children.

Guardian Alien
Following were the intricate Chicago noise-punk band Mayor Daley, featuring a dirty sludgy bass guitar by Emily Elhaj trunking through Kelly Marie Carr's vox and guitar. Most of their songs seemed to clock in at ten minutes but did not fail to inspire, especially the hoody dude who kept yelling, "are you really done? are you really done?"

Mayor Daley

The Dreebs wacked everything out again with a noisy-jazz-rock set that seemed influenced by Sun Ra, gravel and cocaine. They tore through differing dynamics with electric violins and the guitarist playing two guitars at once. He and I talked about the challenges of wearing dresses and wigs. They are on tour with fellow New Yorkers Guardian Alien.

The Dreebs

It was here I fell from grace and escaped the confines of the Den to sit by a campfire and talk to some visiting Chicagoans about accents, camping, gentrification, the pointlessness of college degrees, and roadkill, eventually ending in my vociferous defense of Southern cooking being more than "a mash of everything covered in gravy," only leading me to explain the virtues of the Hot Brown (which is a mash of everything, covered in gravy). During this time, I unfortunately missed the likes of The Men, Fat History Month and Angels in America. But my own brain was basically mashed potatoes mixed with yarn, and campfire smoke always draws me in.

Then I returned to the innards to witness the fast punk of The Pygmy Shrews from NYC, who are touring with The Men. They woke me back up. Their latest recording is "You People Can All Go Straight to Hell" on Jack Shack.

The Pygmy Shrews

 Bill Orcutt was a highlight at the fest for many of the people there. The legendary guitarist, formerly of the noise-rock band Harry Pussy, performed his solo acoustic compositions seated in a chair onstage. He had several pieces of vinyl for sale. His latest is the limited edition seven-inch "A King or Something, Crossroads, The Man in the Mirror b/w Sad Michael, Solitary Habits, Die Then Come Back To Life."

Bill Orcutt
Time got weird. We were all in and out. I helped Mikey find his own green room. I was sitting with the Chicagoans in smokey campfire. I was trying to see in the darkened porta-potty. While festivals are wonderful ways to see as many acts as possible, sometimes the amount of music and bands can get slippery. Somewhere I missed John Wesley Coleman, and went from the experience of Orcutt, to the young Chapel Hill pop-punk band Last Year's Men:

Last Year's Men
...And then into the straight pummel of Louisville hardcore Black God, a band I was not aware of, but found to be one of my favorites of the festival. Black God is basically a supergroup of punk rockers from the River City. They played on the floor and created some of the best moments. It was the closest I saw the crowd nearly turn into a mosh pit. They have a seven-inch out filled with some great minute-and-a-half rock.

Black God
That eventually led to the end act of the evening, another Louisville group, Sapat. Sapat has become pretty much an anchor in Louisville's music scene. Having been around for nearly a decade, the band has morphed and changed repeatedly. I've been attending their shows since circa 2006, and have grown to love each performance better than the previous. Their current lineup is like a goddamn experimental orchestra, headed by Kris Abplanalp's vocals and aggressively odd guitar style. Talking with him, I've heard the influences he's mentioned. Krautrock is always tapped when people discuss Sapat; so is some form of psychedelic improvisation. I hear a million things. Once I told him I thought there was a train going by the building, but it was the actually monster chug the band had created with Warren's bass blended with Kris and his brother Wes' guitars and the huge sound of Jeff's drums. Other times I've just gotten chilled from vocalist/keyboardist Dane's high notes. And then there is the horn section, featuring Jim and Kirk of the aforementioned Tropical Trash.

While I think it was meant as sign of respect, Sapat was booked as the last band of the fest. The problem with long all-day fests is, well, people wear out. As the night clicked further into the night, the crowd was definitely not as big as it needed to be to hear them play. Sapat should have been somewhere in the middle of the bill to grab the biggest audience. Regardless, it was an intense set to end Cropped Out's Saturday edition, and those of us there to see it were pretty grateful.

We all stumbled out of the Cropped Out Crummy Den nigh 3 AM-ish. I rambled to another Chicagoan by the fire as we doused it. Louisville wasn't loud anymore. Kris and Sarah gave me a ride home. We drank a couple of beers while Hasil Adkins and then the soundtrack to "2001" played on my turntable. It was late, and these things can be exhausting, but very worth it.

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