The Thing has come and gone yet again (this past Saturday the 6th). Now in its third year, the Frederick music festival (hosted by Frederick Playlist) aims to bring local bands/artists together for a jam packed day of entertainment at venues and businesses all over downtown. The event attempts to span across many genres yet leaves some communities in disappointment and feeling like they’ve been overlooked, mostly heard in my experience from the Metal scene. Still, we take what we can get in the area musically with only a few traditional venues having original music year round and cover acts being much more desirable to bars and places whose main concern is crowd draw.This year seems to be the most successful yet in order to maintain and keep the annual spectacle going.
Year one I missed it completely – Maybe that was a fault of my own but it surely wasn’t on my radar as an avid concert-goer.Year two (last year) was full of promise, I was able to book a slot playing and many others were encouraged to reach out by email leading up to the event so lineups were announced very late. There was even a regional headliner in the Weezer-ish indie rockers Rozwell Kid, who’ve become one of my favorites (Check out Precious Art – My favorite album of 2017).Some bands (Time Columns, Silent Old Mountains and other notable acts) would not be on the bill for year 3. It seemed to be the most excited I was for the scene in a while but it still seemed weird for a band like Rozwell Kid to epically close the 200 East venue spot. They have 24,000 likes on facebook after all.
I mean, this is Frederick we’re in – I thought the populace was overtly only into 80s cover bands and our few local legends who are amazing in their own right (Scott Ambush, Mary Ann Redmond). But I’ve been thinking about the times I caught indie-rock pioneers The Smithereens and Marshall Crenshaw at the Baker Park Bandshell on the 4th of July. Clearly Frederick wants these cool and often overlooked bands/artists to converge with its many art galleries and record stores that have thrived in recent years.
Frederick even had its own crazy nightclub (The Xhale) a while back that hosted Cheap Trick, Squeeze, Ratt and other crazy names your parents will remember. Do people still care about these rock bands, let alone live music in Frederick anymore though? (YES, I have seen it with my own eyes, even if it’s a only a select group)
So on we go to year three. The lineup was almost purely Frederick based bands, with the exception of a few with members from Baltimore/DC.
A cool addition was a stamp card which allowed you to get prizes for the more venues you went to. The prizes were (in order) a pint glass (2 stamps), Frederick One Take CD (4 stamps) and a T-shirt (5 stamps and the Finale on Carroll Creek). (I managed to nab all of them). This is a great value considering a wristband for all day attendance was $20, or $5 a venue/$10 for the creek main stage.
The following is an overview/review of my experience with the venues and bands throughout the day.
Venues are in bold and bands are italicized.
Cellar Door: It was announced the day before that the two jazz performances here were cancelled and there was no time to find a replacement venue. This didn’t kill the spirits of Saxophonist Darryl Brenzel who could be spotted busking outside the venue and playing his heart out. I had to chip in and throw a dollar into his instrument case.
|PC Lamar performing at Cafe 11:11|
11:11 Cafe: Small space with minimal seating. Intimate as you can get with the sound reverberating very well. Attendance: crowded in my time there early on.
PC Lamar – Serene folk songs with a twist on the traditional flavor. Bluegrass harmonies blend with the calm river-like flow of the lightly strummed guitars and mandolin. All the relaxing qualities of acoustic music seamlessly take you with them. Highlight of the set was a great Tom Petty cover.
|Frederick Rock School band performing.|
Taco Daddy: Hectic venue choice because of the layout. All tables were full upon arrival and the bar wasn’t much better. A mass of people were huddled in front of the server podium right in front of the entrance of the restaurant where the stage was. Nowhere for the sound to go so it was very loud.
Frederick Rock School – Any organization progressing future musicians should be a central part of a community. Sure, not every kid will blow you away but it’s important in establishing a love and passion for music and expression in future generations.
|The crowded entrance of Taco Daddy.|
Cafe 611: I had only stopped by in between two bands I wanted to catch so that I could get a stamp on my reward card. Frankly, I’m not too familiar with the local hip hop scene that was present at the venue (aside from favorites Stitch Early and J Berd). Of course the 611 stage has graced some decent names so it’s an obvious venue choice for The Thing. I never make it to Cafe 611 enough because it’s
frequented with acts that just aren’t on my usual radar (I clearly need to expand in local hip hop and metal).
|Sullen Brother rocking.|
New Spire Arts: So much promise lies in this space for many art events. The show was held in an open room with fluorescent lighting that was luckily turned off prior to the bands playing. Some full length mirrors graced the space (obviously used for a dance class but provided some cool angles to watch bands). The open space with nothing to absorb the sound was surprisingly decent, but it didn’t do a lot of the acts justice. Attendance: moderate at some times but was the least occupied space I saw all day, which was a shame because it has some of the most interesting sounding acts and some out of towners you don’t get to catch often.
Sullen Brother – Enchanting post rock that encapsulates so many emotions. I caught this band at Guido’s a while back and they were at the top of my list for the day. Blissful guitar melodies and a straightforward yet heartfelt drum/bass combo make the instrumental four-piece soar.
Cosmic Halitosis – Energetic poppy grunge. The trio blasts intro abrasive and unforgiving anthems of angst. Every song explodes before burning out into noisy and unorchestrated jams. A crazy and fun live unit.
Flooring: The set started off a bit wonky with the singer’s vocal mic seemingly turned all the way down. This sort of thing is expected with quick setups with many bands and the issue was fixed promptly. The band regained confidence almost instantly and delivered some solid garage rock entertainment. You can’t help but bounce around while listening to the punchy beats and demanding pop-punk vocals.
Dot-Dash – A DC band composed of long accomplished musicians who define themselves as avant-garde. A mixture of 80-s jangly indie pop rock with a new wave aftertaste. Even a member of the legendary band The Undertones proclaims this band put out his favorite album. This is a band you check out, especially when they’re right in Frederick.
Miss Lonelyheart – Often classified as dad-rock or any other slightly offending genre you could make up would overshadow this band. You could slap the word “post” to just about any staple sound the members create, whether it’s punk, rock or indie. Next to Dot-Dash, they were the tightest and most concise lineup despite
bassist/vocalist Andy Stout telling me the band was “pretty rusty” after a year of not playing shows.
Eagles Club: Solid turnout and a good venue choice for sure, given there is a real stage. The only other time I had been here was for a benefit show a few months ago and it was unbearably hot and humid with many fans going but no air was escaping. This time was much less crowded and more bearable.
Jim Shorts – Real 90s inspired indie power pop with simple hooks that are your best friend.
I’ve been avid fan of this project and its likeness to many early predecessors to the “revival” genres of rock. The interlaid guitar parts are are the secret to the overall success. You’d be mistaken if you mention Ben Gibbard’s influence on David Haynes’ vocal delivery, but he has his own style and frankly a more shakey delivery that adds emotional honesty to the mix.
Carroll Creek: The epicenter for outdoor live music. You often forget how relaxing a stroll down the creek path is – It’s something to be grateful for. I arrived right before Cheshi’s set because I sought out original music as opposed to the acts providing a mixture of covers and a small slew of their own songs. The attendance was great and promising.
Cheshi – They’re at the pedestal of the Frederick music scene and have earned it in many ways. Having played before the headliner last year, they repeated the feat. Reviewers constantly note their Cranberries influence. Cheshi’s inevitable rise in the community makes perfect sense given the people who attend most music and art events share the band’s views and message – one of finding your way out of alienating self-despair, anguish, being grateful to those who have wronged you, equality and overcoming obstacles that define struggle.
The band shines much more as a live act, even though the EP they released is full of exceptionally hard-hitting songs. Ashli’s vocal presence and vocal power stuns crowds and Trevor, Matt and Evan are so connected dynamically that they’ve become sonically unstoppable.
At the end of the set they staged a protest of recent actions with a few people that marched in front of the band with handmade signs that spoke loudly, and an even louder Ashli screaming into the microphone for justice, equality and rights.
Frederick has embraced this band at the top of it all. They have the music to back it up as songs like “Poison” and “Thank You” have become powerhouse staples in their sets. This time they also added some songs from their forthcoming album they’re working on and their future looks very bright.Conclusion: All in all, year 3 proved to be the most favorable setup for the festival if it does continue to be an annual event. As with any festival, it’s nearly impossible to make your way to see everyone, and I had to make the choice to miss some great acts. I’d hate to not mention them so I’ll wrap up by giving everyone a shoutout. Go support local music and arts! See you at The Thing 2019! (hopefully).
Check out these other great acts that played The Thing 2018!
Middle Kid – Rock on, Zack!
The Fun Boys – They really are FUN!
Mr. Husband – Dreamy
Hard Swimmin’ Fish
Michelle Hannan and One Blue Night
Scott Ambush – Bass God/”Hendrix of the Bass” – what my brother calls him