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A.V. Fest, The Little Fest That Could

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 12, 2011 4:20PM

Photo by Jim Kopeny
The Onion's A.V. Club successfully threw its hat into the ever growing ring of publication sponsored music festivals last weekend. They took over the street outside The Hideout and filled it with food trucks, beer, fundraising efforts for Rock For Kids and a strong two-day bill of musical acts.

The sound at A.V.Fest, unsurprisingly, was skewed towards acts that would appeal to 30-something indie dudes and dudettes. We suspect this might have quite a bit to do with the editorial staff at the A.V. Club's own tastes but we're not going to argue when a bill includes appearances by Champaign's Hum or indie legends Archers Of Loaf. Other nods to the past, and the earlier development of many attendees tastes included Maritime, with it's roots in both The Promise Ring and The Dismemberment Plan, and Clem Snide's Eef Barzelay.

This wasn't entirely an oldster fest though. While The Thermals and Telekinesis have both been through town relatively recently both bands delivered sets that were both heavier and energetic their previous appearances. Telekinesis in particular stood out and delivered a set that blistered melodies and won over the slowly growing audience despite a glaring late summer sun baking the crowd.

Local groups Maps & Atlases and Disappears also made appearances and each delivered a set that was revelatory in its own fashion. Disappears on record is a smear of sound but onstage the group delivers a full frontal assault that's simpler and more effective. Maps & Atlases somehow mix indie Americana with disjointed yet propulsive rhythms and some realy inventive fretwork to create something that is hard to define but entrancing to experience. We found ourselves really enjoying both sets.

We couldn't help but notice some obvious differences between some of the older and younger acts though, and nowhere was this more obvious than during the closing sets of Tokyo Police Club and Archers Of Loaf Sunday night. Tokyo Police Club turned in a perfectly fine performance that was well received but we couldn't shake the feeling we were watching a band "perform." We've always listened to the group's work and thrilled in the moments when they seem about to play ahead of themselves or push the limits of their jagged pop, but those moments were completely absent this weekend. The best thing we can say about the set is that it was polite and hit all the right notes.

Archers Of Loaf could have gotten away just running through their hits in the same fashion but instead the band played as if they were still trying to win over a crowd of four people at their first club show. Frontman Eric Bachmann dominated the stage, looming over the crowd and grasping a guitar that looked like a toy within his giant grasp while bassist Matt Gentling thrashed around the stage from the first seconds through the last sounds of their set. And throughout it all the band played every song as if their lives depended on it. And we realized that what many of the younger bands on the bill could learn from these veterans is that urgency and feeling trounce perfection and performance every single time.

Overall the weekend was a success in our view. Despite our comparisons above all the bands did turn in enjoyable performances and we're happy to welcome yet another music festival to the Chicago summer scene.