To wit, my list of highlights:
•Deadsea. If there's one thing this Comfest taught me, it's that you can't write off a band after half-heartedly watching a song or two. Otherwise, you might miss out on something as pulverizingly powerful as Deadsea. Silly me for letting my own fatigue cloud my judgment of Adam Smith's metal monstrosity last time around. This time I made no such mistake, and the trio rewarded me with all the over-the-top shredding (dual guitar-bass solos!) and theatrics (smoke machines at 2 p.m.!) that make heavy metal so damn fun. Smith and his cohorts proved that technical skill and virtuosity don't have to reduce your music to a soulless exercise.
•Envelope. No, really, who is more Columbus than Tony Collinger? Other than highlighting how this festival needs way more hip-hop, Envelope's set was a monumentally fun (notice a trend?) celebration of community. The Offramp tent was packed, banners depicting an old friend hung from the rafters, giant beach balls bounced around in a way that would make Wayne Coyne proud. All the while, the crowd was rocked by one of town's most charismatic emcees and his talented friends. Nothing else I saw on Friday came close to matching this.
•Hugs & Kisses. As with Deadsea, I realized recently that the problem I had with Hugs & Kisses' live show was that I never gave it my full attention. They're essentially putting on a one-act play, and if you walk in partway through, you're probably not going to understand it, much less appreciate it. This particular story, a tale of the three band members' quest to retrieve a mother bird's egg from the clutches of the police, was full of the unrelenting creativity that makes Hugs one of Columbus' rare treasures. The well-attended performance was humorous, heartwarming and suspenseful to the end. And in case you forgot these guys are musicians, I should note that the cartoon doo-wop that soundtracked the thing was ace, showing that there's much more where The Casualties of Happiness came from.
•The Lindsay. Is there anybody who doesn't think this band deserves to rule the world? Their set Saturday night, as dusk descended into dark, was the epitome of triumph. Allow me to rein in the hyperbole only to blow it back out again: To be fair, the band bungled its way through a few transitions, but the flubs didn't matter. The genius shined through in a frenzy of intertwining guitars, groovy bass and powerful drums. If you've never seen them before, you'd be pretty unwise to miss another chance to see them for free this Saturday in the Surly Girl parking lot, just as they would be unwise not to hire a booking agent and hit the road ASAP. Theirs is a gospel that ought to be spread with urgency. Then again, maybe they don't care that much about making it big. As my friend Beth so keenly pointed out, they seem to be having the time of their lives on stage. And if they're happy just playing around town, so be it, so long as I don't move away any time soon.
•The Drowsy Lads. These guys are friends of mine, and recently two of them became my roommates, so I wasn't about to hype them up in the paper. But this is a blog, so anything goes. Witnessing these young folks crank out traditional Irish folk tunes made me realize how much context plays into my appreciation of music. Had a bunch of gray-haired dads performed the same songs, I might not have related as much, inclusive though the folk anthems may be. But watching that ancient music emerge from three twentysomething dudes—and one graying dad to boot—made it seem relevant to an indie twerp like me. I began to see the music's appeal, enough so that I could see myself enjoying it no matter who's playing it. Was this my gateway drug into the dark and treacherous world of Irish folk? We'll see.
Seven more points and we'll call this Comfest a wrap:
(1) I also enjoyed Cheater Slicks, though it was weird seeing them on such a big stage, and Mors Ontologica, whose all-star jam pretty much cemented them as poster boys for local rock community solidarity.
(2) I wasn't as impressed by the usually excellent El Jesus de Magico and Church of the Red Museum; both seemed a little sloppy, but not that joyous rock 'n' roll slop. I trust they'll blow me away next time.
(3) I dug what little bits I witnessed of You're So Bossy (magnificent power pop), BlackCoin (not what I expected—more like Radiohead's "How to Disappear Completely" than anything else) and The Evil Queens (I wanted to stick around for their rock fury, but my stomach demanded otherwise). From what I could hear as I walked my bike out of the park Saturday night, Lab Rats had their sh-- together as well.
(4) I would have liked to have seen Time & Temperature, but my volunteer shift prevented that; I heard nothing but praise for Valerie Glenn's set. Also sad to miss Earwig, The Kyle Sowashes, Nakamura Lock and the Means during that time. Being tied down did have its benefits, though. I was able to give the Bygones and the Razers a fair shake for the first time. The former impressed me greatly, like a post-punk take on CCR. The latter was not quite as personally tailored to my tastes, but I saw the value in their rootsy ramble and tasteful licks. I would have appreciated them more if I wasn't so anxious for some Envelope (and possibly if I had been around in the heyday of Josh Kayser's old band the Jive Turkeys).
(5) I keep saying I'm going to branch out at Comfest and enjoy the offerings and the Jazz, Gazebo and Live Arts stages, but I just can't seem to pull myself away from the Offramp/Solar sector. On the one hand, it sounds like Flypaper was pretty amazing at the jazz stage Friday night, but what I heard from frattastic funk-rap outfit Stretch Lefty on the main stage Saturday made me never want to venture out of my comfort zone again. I try not to sound like too much of a snob on here, but if this is America's idea of a good time, deport me now.
(6) I love corndogs year-round, but gnawing on one in Goodale Park with a giant mug of pale ale in my other hand is just short of paradise. In a stunning show of heresy, I passed on a fishboat this year and managed to dodge the lightning bolt.
(7) Necropolis, Two Cow Garage, Teeth of the Hydra, Blueprint, Times New Viking, Sword Heaven, Grave Blankets, Chris McCoy & the Gospel—these acts and several more would have been must-see additions to the weekend festivities, but all were either unavailable, didn't apply or didn't get in. That the festival was such a blast anyway goes to show what a strong crop of acts we have here and what an enduringly great institution Comfest is.
So what did you folks think?