Way Yes, She Bears and the Dewdroppers highlight Alive's fifth annual Rocktoberfest celebration
Fall brings with it a number of certainties: the leaves will change color, temperatures will drop, and retailers will cram pumpkin spice into any and every product imaginable.
Best of all, the season marks the return of Alive's (free!) music celebration, Rocktoberfest, which sets up shop at Skully's Music-Diner on Friday, Oct. 17, and features performances from Way Yes, She Bears and the Dewdroppers. DJ Giovanny will also be along to keep audiences grooving into the wee hours of the night, so dancing shoes are a must.
When Saintseneca's Zac Little looked to shake free of his stomp-and-holler folk roots, he turned to Way Yes co-frontman Glenn Davis, who forced the singer into uncharted frontiers on early demos for the band's Dark Arc, which was later reworked with producer Mike Mogis and surfaced on Anti Records earlier this year.
Davis takes a similarly exploratory approach with his Way Yes mates, crafting malleable, percussive tunes steeped in everything from indie to Afro-pop to electronica. The band has been relatively quiet as of late - its last album, the cut-and-paste dreamscape Tog Pebbles, surfaced in the spring of 2013, and the only new song I've come across recently is the silky "Speed It Up," a track cut for a March Mug & Brush Session - so don't miss a chance to catch the musicians live before they return to the studio cocoon.
In an early 2014 interview, She Bears frontman Stephen Pence confessed to being a bit of a multitasker, noting he'd logged time bartending, working as a brand ambassador, assisting on photo shoots, completing handyman projects, and freelancing as a graphic designer. "I can do most everything," he said.
It's an all-encompassing mindset that spills over into the band's adventurous brand of indie-rock, which reached a new peak on We Will Be Fossils, released earlier this year. On its surface, the album sounds celebratory, building around anthemic turns like "Sorry, Abby" and "Tracks in the Snow," a ragged cut awash in stumbling drums, chiming, elliptical guitars and Pence's comforting warble.
Dig deeper, however, and a more reflective side emerges, and the lyrics find the frontman weighing his place in the universe and coming to terms with the reality nothing is permanent.
"We're here, we're gone and that's it," Pence said back in January. "But we still mean something." And these songs are proof.
It wouldn't surprise to catch this throwback crew headlining Babette's Supper Club on an episode of "Boardwalk Empire." Songs like the strutting, jazz-flecked "Sweep" conjure images of the Prohibition era, and the band's gloriously old-timey sound incorporates elements of swing, ragtime, blues and more.
Though the Dewdroppers' music might have its roots in the past, the band's performances are far removed from hey-don't-touch-that museum culture. During a rowdy 2013 set at Kobo (since reborn as Spacebar), for instance, singer/keyboardist Sharon Udoh threw herself into one bounding number with Gospel-fervor, venturing into the crowd, rolling on the floor, and speaking in tongues as the band locked into a bourbon-fueled groove. Expect to work up a sweat alongside the players.
9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17
1151 N. High St., Short North