Concert review: 4th and 4th Fest at Ace of Cups

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Numerologists could have a field day breaking down Times New Viking's Saturday performance at 4th and 4th Fest, now in its fourth year, a headlining turn that also marked the local trio's first live show in (you guessed it) four years.

After a brief introduction - "We're Times New Viking; We come from Columbus, Ohio," said singer/drummer Adam Elliott, flanked on either side by singer/keyboardist Beth Murphy and guitarist Jared Phillips - the trio launched into "Teen Drama," a standout cut off 2008's Rip It Off, the group's third album and first on Matador Records.

The time away did little to dampen TNV's ferocity. For just a shade over 45 minutes, the three musicians bashed their way through a smattering of primitive, pugnacious noise-pop cuts that suggested they'd set up their gear in a caged octagon rather than on a tented stage erected in the parking lot of Ace of Cups. On "Fuck Her Tears," for one, Elliott hunched over his kit and repeatedly brought his sticks down with the same force Ed Norton flashed in the "Fight Club" scene where he brutalized Jared Leto because he "felt like destroying something beautiful."

Time and again, the TNV bandmates embraced a similar approach, burying primitive pop hooks beneath avalanches of noise, and allowing notes to splinter, corrode and combust. Throughout, Murphy layered these swirling sonic tornadoes with stabs of synthesizer, while Phillips' guitar elicited static bursts of feedback and mimicked everything from an industrial blender to the crackle of an in-operation electronic fence. Indeed, even when Elliott sang of "Cold Wars and silence" on "The Apt.," the music suggested the opposite, the three bandmates rumbling together with asphalt-cracking force.

"This sound is the sound that is making us relevant now," Elliott barked on "Relevant: Now." It's a line that was likely intended to be tongue-in-cheek when it was penned in 2008, but it felt accurate on an evening where TNV returned to the stage armed with thrilling songs that felt as vital and indispensable as the day they were written.

The Viking rampage was the ideal capper to a day that started off in more reserved fashion. Like an expertly crafted mixtape, 4th and 4th appeared to schedule artists for maximum impact, kicking things off with more chilled-out acts and gradually increasing the volume throughout the day.

Early in the afternoon, Indiana's Hoops breezed through bedroom pop songs like "Feeling Fine," "For You," and the synth-fueled "For You Pt. 2," where the music served as a dreamy counterpoint to the cold-water words ("You know I'm not good enough for you").

Chicago six-piece Whitney, whose members were dropped off in front of Ace of Cups about 10 minutes after their set was supposed to start, refused to rush despite the late arrival, turning out gorgeous, soul-kissed numbers like the patient "Dave's Song" and "Golden," an aching ditty colored in trumpet and slow teardrops of slide guitar courtesy of former Smith Western Max Kakacek. Fittingly, the band covered Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," a song where the narrator tosses everything out the window (suitcase and troubles included) in order to kick up his or her heels for a bit. It's a safe bet most in attendance would have been satisfied had singing drummer Julien Ehrlich and Co. opted to stick around and perform twice as long.

Caffeinated punk-pop duo Diet Cig followed with a spunky, high-energy set where ecstatic singer/guitarist Alex Luciano repeatedly bounded across the stage as though she were auditioning for captain of the college spirit team.

Austin, Texas five-piece A Giant Dog attempted to match this enthusiasm, shimmying singer Sabrina Ellis employing her big voice on everything from Sparks covers to dramatic tunes where she wondered if her heart might overfill and explode. This unshakeable embrace of life even carried over into Ellis' stage banter when she recounted the time she visited Ohio for vacation. In February. "I went sledding!" she beamed.

Toronto foursome Dilly Dally favored a more caustic approach in its menacing late afternoon performance, constructing Pixies-ish alt-rock tunes around the skinned-knee vocals of singer/shouter Katie Monks. The Thermals, in turn, straddled these worlds, turning out bounding, exuberant pop-rock anthems about mankind drowning in another great flood, getting crushed by God's giant fist and the insanity that can settle in as loneliness takes hold. "Why am I losing my mind?" singer/guitarist Hutch Harris howled as the music spiked - the sound of his bandmates stepping in to pull him back from the brink.