By Alex Franklin
The Wayfinders, who played at the Tractor Tavern, delivered lyrics which could make the audience both think and move.

ReverbFest delivers diverse range of local music to Ballard (Part One)

By Dusty Henry

(This is the first of two articles on ReverbFest. This piece reviews a few of the bands that were on in the earlier hours. Check back for a review of the later hours.)

There is no word in the English language that describes the feeling of your spine hitting a bar stool -- especially when you’ve been hit by your cameraman who has the lead singer of Monogamy Party (Kennedy) wrapped around his body pushing you into said bar 30 seconds into their set.

That’s exactly what happened at Seattle Weekly’s ReverbFest, which hit Ballard once again on Oct. 6, showcasing local bands at venues such as the Tractor Tavern, the Sunset Tavern, Miro Tea and others.

Monogamy Party’s set only ran five songs, yet their bite was much more powerful than their bark. Playing only two tracks from their 2011 EP Pus City, the band’s set felt more like a demolition crew than a bar performance. While Yos-Wa delivered fatal deathblows on the bass, lead singer Kennedy found himself in the middle of the crowd screaming lyrics like “this life is worse than death” in the faces of patrons. Kennedy wasn’t on the edge of the stage, but actually in the crowd and shirtless with his calls of desperation and anguish.

Though the band at first seemed somewhat flustered with technical issues, the energy was not compromised. It was hard to ignore the commands of Kennedy’s screams. And while the lyrics focused on death and the “unpleasant,” Monogamy Party were able to reanimate life at the Sunset and the festival.

Not all of ReverbFest was so hardcore and dangerous. The eclectic mix featured everything from singer-songwriters to punk bands to noir vocalists. Nothing was off limits.

In an intimate set at Miro Tea, Prom Queen presented a set of sultry tunes, including covers of Madonna and Chris Isaac. With an arsenal of two guitars (a sunburst acoustic guitar and a pink guitar with extra clean tones) Prom Queen dominated the small teashop. Her opening song, “Justify My Love” by Madonna, was fragile and warming. The pre-recorded string sections vocalist “Leeni” arranged for the piece were both fragile and soothing -- the rising and softening of the quartet made the overtly sexual song seem more like a sonata or turn of the century unrequited love than an 80s song of excess.

At the Tractor Tavern, Wayfinders’ blended country and rock succeeded for existential and successful results. From lyrics that prompted the audience to think to ones that demanded the audience move around, Wayfinders never lost the attention of the fifty or so people in the crowd.

As the band moved with the music, playing chunky chords and belting lyrics from the throat, the music moved the audience to sway. While Wayfinders may not be the first to merge the two genres, they have certainly hit a stride with their approachable technique and accessible melodies. Their confidence in playing in front of such a large crowd also helped people get into the music.

Twang is often scoffed upon in the northwest, but Wayfinders was able to find the right balance for a skeptical audience. With upbeat tunes and positive vibes, they were able to keep the attention of Tractor without missing a beat.

Olympia natives Naomi Punk brought a dark aura to the pleasant New York Fashion Academy. With the swagger of Nirvana and sound of a post-twenty-first century-generation-z, the band could have sung “Nevermind” the entire time and it would still have resonated profoundly.

The group’s work is centered in artistic integrity and it shows in their live performance. The priority of art over approachability is not often showcased in such a highly advertised performance like Reverb, but the band offered no compromise in their set. Which was a good thing. The swirling melodies and wavering vocal effects drew the essence of The Pixies soaked in bleach, like we wanted them to be.

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