Show Review – iDobi Meltdown Festival

I suppose I should start this review with a bit of disclaimer: before I went to this festival I didn’t really listen to most of the bands on the billet. I mean I listed to a few Diamond Youth songs here and there, I know a handful of I Am The Avalanche songs, I know that one song off Juntura and I think I’ve heard that song about swimming pools by The Front Bottoms. Get ready for a review that is probably going to make some totally weird comparisons between bands.

I can assure you dear reader that this changed after this festival. In fact I’m listening to I Am The Avalanche right now as I typed this review (thanks Spotify!).

But before I delve into the main review which is pulled from the scribblings I made in my little blue notebook between sets I’d lake to take a few words to talk about one of the openers: Diamond Youth. It’s thanks to these Baltimore-based (kinda, more on that later) rockers that I got a photo pass for the festival so they gain they’re own mini write up before the general one. The Meltdown fest marks the third time I’ve seen Diamond Youth and marks the time I finally got into them (I was singing along in the photo pit). When I first saw them I only really knew that they played alt-rock in the style of the 90’s and was made up of members of Trapped Under Ice and Terror (let that one sink in). Being relatively young I didn’t really listen to that much music in the 90’s and in the 00’s I didn’t really listen to 90’s alt rock so they didn’t really inspire me to listen to them that first time.

Fast forward to the iDobi Meltdown Fest. Since I knew that they were going to be my main focus of the evening I figured I’d give them another chance. I played both of the albums front to back and once I heard a song that reminded me a bit of older Jimmy Eat World I knew that I could count myself as a fan of the band. It just took a year and a half and seeing them two times to happen. But it happened. So needless to say when they played I was ready for a good show. Diamond Youth did not dissapoint, it’s like they took everything bad out of the 90’s music scene and left everything good in. 90’s music for a new generation. I had a hard time remembering what band they reminded me of aside from Jimmy Eat World and it wasn’t until they played The Pixies between sets that I knew what band they reminded me of: The Pixies and for one singular reason: the crooning of Justin (if that’s the right word). Dude sure can croon, it sounds great. Being that I know exactly one Pixies song this comparison may be totally off.

To sum it all up: Diamond Youth rocks and you should get into them. Also they’re made of members from Baltimore, Chicago and Richmond. They work hard. Support them.

And now onto the rest of the review. Here’s a hint: I’m going to be using the word Indie a lot and cribbing from the Idobi Meltdown bio page and my hastily scribbled notes.

After dragging myself out of bed I went downtown, grabbed a ton of energy bars and went over to The Fillmore. I got my photo pass and went inside, ready for a grueling day of good music and show photography. I barely get three steps into the venue when someone comes on stage with an acoustic guitar. I thought it was someone doing a late sound check but it turns out it was an acoustic act called Baby Grand. He was nervous, though not for lack of skill though I must say his self deprecating humor was pretty funny and got the crowd laughing. One girl yelled out “you sing beautifully” to which he replies “I’m a mumbler!” which got a laugh out of the crowd.

Next up was Brick + Mortar, a two piece featuring a drummer and a bassist (who sometimes used a guitar). Don’t ask me which one was Brick and which one was Mortar. They amped up the audience before their set by throwing out free t-shirts into the crowd. Though once they started playing it soon became apparent they didn’t need to do that to get them going. The mixture of the instruments and the loops and beats the band was pumping out was more than enough to get anybody with a sense of rhythm moving. I mean they sounded more like a full band that some full bands I’ve seen. They were obviously very into it themselves, even though they freely admitted they’re not used to bigger venues. They get a seal of approval from me.

After Brick and Mortar the Soviets invaded. Wait, that’s not right. A band hailing from New Jersey called The Soviet were up next. According to their official bio, the average age of the band is 16. They could have fooled me because their stage presence made me think they were older than that. How many kids can say they’ve shared the stage with Anberlin? They’re an alt-rock band (I’m also going to be using this word a lot, I mostly cover pop-punk shows so I’m a little out of my element here) with melodic riffs and a pretty good stage presence as in they moved around. If I could give a sound byte about them I’d say it’s a post-rock feel with lyrics. Another seal of approval.

Markets and Dwellers was the next band up. These guys were more like the bands I usually shoot: lots of movement on the stage and a sound that made me feel like I was in a basement with a bunch of my friends. You know a band is good when they don’t need to be mic’d when the entire band is yelling along to the song. I love seeing bands do that, especially when the crowd joins in. If I actually knew any of the words I would have joined in myself. I would have had a hard time not. Thanks to their performance I’m going to start listening to these dudes.

I’m running out of inventive ways to say “next band up was” but I’m going to keep trying. Laura Stevenson and The Cans took the stage next. I had vaguely heard of them and I knew that they were a female fronted folk rock band. To quote the lead singer this “song’s more happy but still sad”. Sad songs, an indie staple. All kidding aside they put on a good show and the crowd sure was into them. They even had an accordion player! Eat your heart out other indie bands, try topping that. If I had to sum them up I’d say they had a Mumford and Sons vibe with a female vocalist. While not my cup of tea I’d recommend them if you’re into Mumford and Sons or folk rock in general.

I’m sure most of you listen to Brand New. Are you aware that Jesse has a younger brother? Are you aware he’s in a band? A band named Coasta? Well if you didn’t you do now and they played next. The twangly guitar riff stylings of the Run For Cover records signed band were in stark contrast to the folk stylings of Laura Stevenson and her band. The festival didn’t stick with one genre, that’s for sure. They’re an alternative-rock band hailing from Long Island (surprise!). While I was tapping my toe along to the songs I had trouble getting into it based on the fact I don’t really listen to the genre. However, I’m going to give them another listen and see what I think of them. Check them out.

Following Diamond Youth (see the beginning of this review for my thoughts on them) was Koji (Andrew Koji). In short this dude is just awesome even though I only  have listened to a handful of his songs. The first time I ever saw him was a few years ago at a Transit record release show. He got everybody to sit down around him and taught everybody the sing along parts of the songs. He did something similar at The Fillmore except everybody was standing. He taught part of the sing along parts to a few of his songs to the crowd really quick and they were more than happy to respond. Aside from his musical skill he’s just an all around awesome dude. He’s all about promoting love and peace and strives to promote positive change. Support this man.

Now, Now is an indie rock band (there’s that word again!) from the midwest and they have an awesome t-shirt with a cat that says Meow, Meow. They’re a trio who mix two guitars, a drumset, a MacBook, harmonies and a xylophone to create a mix of indie and ambient rock in a way that makes you feel like you’re in a dream. Indie rock is not my forte so I really can’t say much more except that my toe was tapping the entire time.

The Front Bottoms are a band I’ve heard of before this show. I just thought I’d see them in a basement or a community hall. But I saw them on a big stage and they owned it. I don’t think I’ll be able to convey the energy of their performance or the reaction of the crowd properly in this review or even through the pictures I took of them. If there wasn’t a barrier I’m dead sure there would have been stage diving and some serious gang vocals going on. The fans in the crowd did the best they could though, signing along to every song and flinging around beach balls that seemed to appear out of nowhere. It’s impossible to put them into one genre of music: take a basement punk band and give them an acoustic guitar and a trumpet and you’re close. You have to go see them to really experience it. Seriously, look up the next show they’re playing and go.

In keeping with the Festival’s welcome genre hopping two acoustic acts were next. They were Vinnie Caruana (frontman of The Movielife and I Am The Avalanche). If you were thinking he was going to play acoustic versions of IATA or The Movielife songs you’d be wrong (okay he played Hey much to my happiness). Vinnie has just released a CD of his solo work and you need to check it out. There’s just something about his voice that not only lends itself to his post-hardcore/punk bands but also to an acoustic set. Not to mention he covered Saves The Day which earns him a plus in my book. I’m picking up his solo record and so should you. After Vinnie was Kevin Devine and I’m afraid that I don’t have much to say. While he is a very skilled man with some great lyrics I just cannot get into him though I know he’s wicked popular and has toured with the likes of Brand New and Thrice. Maybe I’ll give him another chance. I know that’s a cop out but I don’t listen to a lot of acoustic only music so sue me (please don’t sue me).

After all the indie bands came two bands closer to my heart if I can use that turn of phrase. First up was the “indie” punk band The Menzingers who recently put out On The Impossible Past which was very well received in the punk scene. After watching them perform I can see why. These guys had an insane amount of energy and were bouncing all around the stage (can you say punk jumps?) and I can say for a fact that security had their hands full with all the crowd surfers. Okay so maybe it was the same dude who crowd surfed over and over again but still. He was really into it. I would be too if I wasn’t photographing the show. Plenty of kids in the crowd singing along. I’m picking up this CD ASAP.

“Punk influenced post-hardcore” is how the iDobi bio characterizes I Am The Avalanche. I’m not totally sure if I agree with the post-hardcore title but since that means about a million different things these days it could be spot on. I always thought they were a punk/pop-punk band (two other titles that mean about a million different things). Genre’s aside: IATA is a band that I love to both see and photograph. They are not only amazing live (and recorded for that matter) but are also insanely nice dudes who are just as willing to talk to you at their merch table than perform for you. Also you want punk jumps and a singer that is energetic? IATA is your band, though I missed every punk jump this time. I even went into the pit after my three songs in the photo pit was up but nobody seemed to want to start a circle pit. A shame because Vinnie specifically asked for one.

This leads us into the last two bands of the night: Minus the Bear and Circa Survive. What I’m going to say next is probably not going to make me many fans in the Indie scene. I couldn’t get into Minus The Bear, at all. Sure they put on a pretty good set and their lights were awesome and made for some great photos but I am just not a fan of them musically. Not my style of music. I mean during the course of writing this review I’ve gone from listening to I Am The Avalanche to The Movielife to Turnstile to Guns Up and finally Defeater (am I hardcore yet?). Not to disparage how big they are, their musical skills or their fans I just cannot get into them.

Lastly we have Circa Survive. I’ll be totally honest here: I know a grand total of two Circa Survive songs and they’re both off Juntura. I used to be of the opinion that Anthony Green was better in Saosin because I listen to a lot more Saosin than I do Circa Survive. Well I will now amend that. From here on out I will listen to Circa Survive and give them a fair chance because they put on one hell of a show. Anthony is energetic on stage and one of the most talented singers that can sing that high that I know of. It takes skill to sound good and keep sounding great through the entire performance. Circa Survive is musically skilled and has songs that will probably become stuck in your head (I know all the words of the two songs I know even though I haven’t heard them in years). Did I mention the lighting was awesome and there were mic swings? Because there were mic swings. The crowd was very much full of energy even if some of them had been standing in the same spot for the past hours. There were crowdsurfers aplenty and somebody decided that spraying water upwards was a great idea (the photographers would like to have a word with you). I might not have been very into Circa Survive but I am now. Kudos!

To sum it all up: iDobi put on an amazing show. If they put on the Meltdown Festival next year and I’m still around I will be attending. You should too. And you should check out all the bands.

Also I’m pretty sure this review is the longest thing I’ve written since college. Check out a gallery of the bands below. I’ll update this post when there are more photos on my flickr.

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