Greensboro Fest 2010: What to see and where to go

by Ryan Snyder

There’s not much rhyme or reason to the scheduling for the ninth installment of Greensboro Fest, the annual four-day tour of local music and small venues, but that’s the way organizer Mike Wallace likes it. Unlike most downtown festivals, the proximity of the participating venues make walking between veunes problematic, but this also presents a unique opportunity for he and coorganizer Sam Bridges.

“We tried not to have a lot of overlap of similar bands,” Wallace said.

“But the way it’s set up, you can stay in one place and experience a lot of different types of music.”

That’s a bit of an understatement. Everything from post-Love demincore (Yank Yer Blue Jeans) to junk-store electronic (Invisible) is represented, something that former organizer Cara Craig believes makes this festival irreplaceable.

“A lot of these bands aren’t really interested in making the leap; they’re just happy playing here for their friends,” Craig said. “I wish more people knew about this because it’s something near and dear to my heart.”

So who to see at Greensboro Fest? Names like Emily Stewart & Baby Teeth or Eszett, two acts Craig has in her Must See list, may not ring out in the streets yet, but if taking an interest in local music is a priority, there’s no time like this weekend to act on it.

Thursday: Legitimate Business

The opening night is centralized into a single venue, though Legitimate Business is arguably the heart of it all. The ramshackle space off Grove Street typifies everything there is to love about the Greensboro music scene: It’s dark and moody, full of interesting, tolerant people and the roof can cave in at any time. While Thursday’s bill is shorter than the rest, the most is made of every single minute. Wallace’s own band Ghost Beach cuts the ribbon on Greensboro Fest at 8 p.m., and act he describes as the Beach Boys meets the Misfits, as if updating the soundtrack to The Horror of Party Beach. Bubblegum electro outfit Sugar High Gang follows to give you 30 minutes to flail good and hard, but save the next dance for one of Wallace’s Top 5 of the weekend in Casual Curious. It’s hard to call any single act a headliner given the relative equity afforded each act in this format, but it’s always nice to see the awesome indie-folk septet Israel Darling make their way back to Greensboro. DJ Bonzani, otherwise known as WUAG general manager Jack Bonney, breaks out his best crates of vinyl to wind the night down.

Friday: Maya Art Gallery, Lyndon Street Artworks

Emphasizing the fact that this isn’t really a walkable festival per se, the Friday night venues still present ample diversity to whet any palate. Easily the richest slice of the festival, underground favorite Lyndon Street Artworks sets mix slightly oddball indie-folk (Matty Sheets & the Blockheads) with dark and cerebral hip-hop (N’DangR Species), while Greensboro Fest organizer Mike Wallace’s other band Romancer features Tiger Bear Wolf vet John Moore. Wallace describes it as “rough around the edges singer/songwriter stuff,” most succinctly characterized by their occasional Neil Young or Johnny Thunders cover. If Resister doesn’t destroy your eardrums, expect high entertainment from Holy Ghost Tent Revival, and one-man army Pinche Gringo makes Wallace’s list of the best musicians. With nine total bands at Lyndon Street, the music kicks off early at 6 p.m.

It’s difficult to characterize the opposing Saturday night offerings at Tate Street’s Maya Art Gallery, though ‘avant-garde’ would be an acceptable starting place. Experimental duo Travis Bird and Daniel Burke test the limits of what two guys with guitars can do and Andrew Weathers’ formless, moody electro takes the John Cage route to testing the boundaries of what is and isn’t a song. Wallace’s pick for Weirdest Band of Greensboro Fest, however, belongs to Chapel Hill’s Clang Quartet, a band whose onomatopoeic name suggests something less groovy that what they really are.

Saturday: The Green Bean, Studio B

Given the proximity of the Green Bean and Studio B to one another, there are a lot of choices to be made on Saturday. Of all of them Invisible’s show around 8:30 p.m. at the Green Bean might be the most curious draw for gearheads and yard-sale junkies. The band’s crude assortment of homemade instruments and vintage tape decks make for one hell of a load-in, but also some of the most indescribable sounds. Think the Books, only more junk. Funny Like a Funeral worked hard to skew the most recent YES! Weekly “Best Of” poll, so their 9 p.m. set at Studio B also deserves your attention. Skip back over to the Bean for brooding minimalists Braveyoung, but it’s back to Studio B for Matty Sheet’s Come Hell or Highwater and our own Devender Sellars’ Decoration Ghost.

Arguably the most anticipated point of interest for Saturday happens after Studio B and the Bean cool off. CFBG hosts the official after-party, featuring a lineup of talented local emcees curated by associate organizer Selena Wolf, including a repeat performance by N’DangR Species, along with Daily Planet, Swayze Trife, Genghis Khan featuring Unconscious Rascal and Brooklyn Airlift, with beats by Prez, DJ J-Lone, DJ Flav and Deflon.

Sunday: Maya Gallery, Legitimate Business

The final day of Greensboro Fest starts with a little bit of fellowship. Legitimate Business will hold a barbeque, potluck and vegan chili cook-off on Sunday at 6 p.m. before the venues get cranking, just be sure to bring some goodies to share. Organizer Sam Bridges says that anyone else welcome to enter the cook-off, but to contact him through to confirm. Subterranean Bums and Mama Got Saved will be on hand playing acoustic sets, before the shoegaze-y Eszett takes the stage inside. Country fans will have their choice of former Our Horse Jethro frontwoman and sensational singer Emily Stewart’s new band at Legitimate Business, or the plucky Cold Water Shave at Maya Art Gallery. Wallace recommends Secret Message Machine’s show at Legit Biz, if only to check out Michael Barrett’s homemade guitar and eccentric playing style. It’s apropos that a festival of predominantly local bands should end on Greensboro’s most aggressive road warriors (not named Daughtry), as space-rock duo Bronzed Chorus arrive home off a tour of the eastern US just in time to see the Fest out at Legitimate Business.

Greensboro Fest is an entirely free festival, though donations are encouraged at the door. Event runs from Sept. 23–26.