Desdemona Music Festival – Day 2

John Schmersal of Enon

Feeling much more rested than yesterday, the rest of the blogger crew and I tackled Day 2 of Cincinnati’s newest music festival. I’m not really sure how it stacked up against Friday’s experience. If I were pressed to compare, I’d say that yesterday had a better bill, but both days have been solid.

Captains of Industry kicked off my day with a show that was better received (and attended) than yesterday’s early afternoon shows. I don’t know if that’s because Saturday was the first weekend show, or if these kids were from nearby Dayton. How did I know they were from Dayton? They took pretty much every opportunity to tell us this. Even their cover of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” (everyone, groan on three) was Dayton-inspired because, as the band pointed out, Kim Deal is from there. Still, they rocked the cover so I’ll give them an A- for performance. D+ for originality on the song choice, but an A- for performance.

It felt good to check out The Spectacular Fantastic. Earlier they had met up with me and thanked me for the blog coverage. Apparently their gamble of offering their music for free online really did result in sales of their EP. It’s a beautiful thing when that works out. We didn’t get to stay long for The Spectacular Fantastic, because the real leader of the day (Dodge’s wife, MJ) suggested we check out Apollo Up!.

I heard a lot of people grumbling about Mates of States’ placement during today’s festival, but I think it served them well. If they’d headlined, it would have been dark and not well suited to pop music. Like I said about the Apples, sunny music deserves a sunny day. And if Mates are nothing if not a sunny band.

I’m a decent enough fan of Mates of State’s albums, but I’ve not yet been won over by their live show. Something about a keyboard and drums doesn’t really lend itself to an amazing show. But they got the largest fan reaction of the day, so that’s enough to count me among the minority. People flocked to the front of the staege, shouted out for their favorite songs (“Everyone Needs An Editor!”) and cheered louder than I would have thought possible for such a young crowd.

I knew very little about Stellastarr* going into Desdemona. In fact, I mostly relied upon Dodge to fill me to what they sounded like while we were waiting for them to take the stage. They played well, commanded the crowd’s attention, and had an attractive female bassist; but for some reason, I just wasn’t into it. Ironically I was in the vast majority here as well. Their fans rivaled Mates’ in terms of enthusiasm and sheer number. I would make a terrible A&R guy for a major label.

I’ll admit it, I mostly made the hour and a half trek up to Cincinnati for Enon. The last time I saw them (Newport in ’05 with Thunderbirds Are Now! supporting) I wasn’t really into it, but I’d since acquired a few albums and a taste for their skills on the bass. I don’t know if that was the reason, but this time around Enon absolutely blew me away.

Because of the massive size and density of Enon’s crowd, I had to watch most of the show from off to the side of the stage. Not the worst spot, but I did feel like I missed out on the full force of the show, not being able to see them face to face. Their stage was quite literally in a tunnel under a bridge, but for some reason it only added to the experience.

More than their intensity, I think I was just plain won over by an amazing set. They won me over halfway through with a perfect performance of “Knock That Door,” and sealed the deal by closing with “The Nightmare Of Atomic Men.” Then, just as everyone was walking away, they came back for the dozen or so fans who were still cheering and played one more song for us. It was great to see people run back to the stage when they realized Enon weren’t done yet. It was the icing on an already perfect cake.

I went into Annie’s show having only heard “Heartbeat,” and not really being a fan of it. Still, I found myself lingering in the press area just so I could experience her show up close. While she might be the “Norwegian Madonna,” she still had a whole crowd of Southeasterners entranced. I wasn’t sure how Annie would be received, but I knew it was going well for her once I realized the guys who were standing next to me, eyes afixed on the pop princess, were actually half of VHS or Beta. If a bubblegum pop girl from Norway can win over some dance-rockers from Louisville, then I think she’s got a shot at the big time. Um. Well, the bigger time, anyway.

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