17 June 2006

First Night Of The Fest

I meant to post about this last night while events were still fresh in my mind, but I was just too tired. Which in turn meant that I didn't wake up until 9:30 this morning, and by the time I'd gone down to the gym and lounged around the swimming pool for a couple hours, it was, let's see, after 2 o'clock and almost time for things to start up all over again. Oh yes, breakfast and/or lunch seem to have been omitted; will have to do something about that sooner or later. Perhaps when I go out to do my exploring of the other end of Baltimore. But that runs into a conflict with the USA World Cup, which just about everyone, myself included, seems to think they're going to lose in humiliating fashion. And now word comes through that Ghana have trounced the Czechs, who in turn trounced the USA. Doesn't look at all favorable for the Yanks, who, should they manage to stage an upset of Italy, still have to get past Ghana. I'm tempted just to go out and give the game a miss. That way if the Americans pull it off I can be pleasantly surprised tonight and if they don't, I'll be spared the pain. And the way this World Cup is turning out for most of my favorite teams so far, I fear it may be reduced to an exercise in harm reduction. Maybe England will come out of its coma. Maybe Australia will beat Brazil. Anything can happen. But I'm not sure I should stake my happiness or even my mild contentment on it.

Anyway, last night's events here in Baltimore were stupendous, exceeding most people's expectations, I would think. No, not every band was completely sensational, but none of them stunk up the place. And enough of the bands delivered stupendous, out-of-this-world performances that it more than made up for the bands who were merely good. And bands aside, I think I can safely say that it was the best audience I've ever been a part of for a punk rock show. Or any show, for that matter. No jerks, no rudeness, not even a sniff of cross words or fighting, and so many interesting, amazing people from all over the country (and a couple other countries) than I couldn't possibly find time to talk to them all. Luckily most of them will still be around for another day and a half or so.

I know I've been singing the praises of the Leftovers and the Steinways a lot lately, but both bands excelled again last night. The Leftovers kicked off the fest, and even though they only had about 15 minutes due to scheduling constraints, they electrified the room and the audience; in a way it's a pity they couldn't have played in more of a headlining slot or at least had a few more minutes, but at the same time I couldn't think of a better band to start things off. I just feel sorry for anybody who has to follow them.

But if anyone was intimidated by the Leftovers' astounding performance, it didn't show, because one band after another blasted through their sets and the excitement level seldom if ever dropped below adrenaline overload. But the Steinways were a cut above; the crowd were going crazy for them before they even finished taking the stage, and sang along so loudly that at times it nearly drowned out the PA. It reminded me of one of the early Operation Ivy shows, when people were just starting to look at each other and realize, "Hey, this isn't just a good band that some of our friends play in, this is an absolutely over-the-top great band." Lead singer/guitarist Grath, a Baltimore native, had his mother in the house for the first time, and although he's not one to easily admit being pleased and proud, I have a feeling he was. A little.

I didn't think anyone could follow the Steinways, though several bands did, out of which the two that stuck out for me the most were the Johnie 3 and the AV Club. But then came the Apers, and though their set was cut slightly short, too, they were even better than the other night in New York. In a hasty moment, I branded them the only European band the matters, until I remembered the Zatopeks, who for my money are still the best. But hey, they're English, not European. so the Apers can still have the title. I woke up this morning with the Apers' song "Really Really" playing in my head, but you know what, it wasn't the Apers playing it, it was the Steinways' cover version. Both versions are great, honest. But that's enough blogging for me right now. Day two of the fest is about to begin.

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