For a number of years now, Aggiefest has been one of the most significant cultural events on the local calendar. Because it is a festival celebrating area bar bands, though, it hasn’t ever gotten the attention it deserves.
This year I took my slice of the two-day, sixty musical-acts, eight or nine-venue event out of the early Saturday shows. I tried to see at least a few songs by each of the acts playing at The Kathouse, Aggie Station, Auntie Mae’s, O’Malley’s patio, and Triangle Park, also allowing myself look-ins at Mojo’s, Bluestem Bistro, and The Dusty Bookshelf.
I bought my arm band for $10 just before the 4:00 start time, plunged into the music, and wound down as I walked home five and a half hours later, just as the fourth (of five) sets were starting up, including ones by popular entertainers including Terror Tractor and Los Habaneros.
I didn’t hear them, but I did hear thirteen bands and Eddy Green, a shouting and reciting folky who played “Key to the Highway” to a seemingly mesmerized SRO crowd at Mojos. Besides E.G. and local acoustic (mandolin, upright bass, guitar, and banjo) single-mic-technique act The Haymakers, who favor pretty blunt social commentary as a medium, I heard Rock bands.
The Perfect Pursuit featured vocal harmonies which may recall the Eisleys. This Lawrence quintet (two guitars and a female singer) played a disciplined set of music that, despite program labeling, wasn’t much like the Progressive Rock of the early 1970s. Hard but not edgy.
Next door and playing at the same time were showmen Chris Aytes and the Good Ambition, an originals-playing trio led by its Buddy Holly-channeling guitarist and singer. They played a song imitating and celebrating the bespectacled Lubbock tunesmith, and played some Chuck Berry, too. They’ll be at Blackstones on November 8.
Around the corner and downstairs, The Monarchs were playing a bluesy set with changing rhythms. While the band seemed to be led by its guitarist and singer, the bassist (using an envelope follower) made space for himself in the trio’s music. As I was heading out they were playing the Eurhythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” with inclusions from “Seven Nation Army.”
O’Malley’s was all Metal and Metalish during my hours at the show. The first act I saw, Dead Friend Walking, was an apparently veteran Wichita quartet (two guitars) who had the growling vocals and the drum sounds of the genre, but played some music that wasn’t exactly all inside the lines.
And then on to the park to see Nearly Flightless, a trio of young black-t wearers. Again, their guitarist and singer seemed to lead the band, playing a semi-hollow Telecaster. They did a Tom Petty song, and then something that sounded like Tom Verlaine’s Television.
There were surprisingly long spaces between the rotations. I think I ate dinner before the next sets. Then I heard Get Busy Living, a four singers quartet (two guitars) that played some power pop with metal arrangement tendencies. During a string replacement pause, the drummer and bassist got to playing something which quickly became Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Guns on Mars put on a major show considering that they had no props. Relying on their hard-hitting drummer, this metal band played original material (and one Rage Against the Machine song) that demonstrated how that genre uses rhythm changes.
After a bit, then, I heard Not a Planet, a Kansas City guitar trio I’ve heard before at Aggiefest, and once again they impressed me mightily. They all sing and all play well—one solo was memorable, as was the imaginative and yet restrained drumming. A terrific Rock band.
But the crowd favorite during the time I was around was probably Dead Girls, which features the rhythm section of Ultimate Fakebook and a couple of former Podstar members. Their attractive power-pop has won them many loyal local fans.
I wish I could remember what Bleed the Victim or its component members were called last time I heard them at Aggiefest. Certainly they were a Metal band even then, Pantera influenced, though they can’t have been any more compressed and together than they are now.
My evening ended in the park, watching Rob Wade Band, a guitar trio with a female singer. This was a Hard Rock band playing heavily processed instruments that gave it a unified sound, and one that carried, though they needn’t have worried about their sassy lyrics in Aggieville.
I got a doughnut before wandering away from the ‘Ville, at just about the time the first of the usual Saturday evening denizens were wandering in. So I missed the bar district’s crowd. But I did see a heartening number of talented musicians working hard. Maybe the music’s demise has been reported prematurely.