Strhessfest 2004 - live in Cleveland (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Strhessfest 2004

live in Cleveland (2004)

live show

Artist Derek Hess has been quite the busy man of late while promoting his Sthress design company. On top of his clothing being advertised at all popular events this summer, developing artwork for bands, he also put on put on a nationwide tour that coupled with the annual Strhessfest that landed in Cleveland this year.

A two hour unproblematic trip from Pittsburgh turned into a nearly four hour wandering thanks to a slew of detours and other miscellaneous traveling detours. Basically I thank MapQuest for the delay, a few locals confirmed an exit doesn't exist while the popular traveling website insist you take it. Arriving just shy of two o'clock caused me to overlook Criteria and Counterfit, a couple of acts I was looking forward to checking out.

After checking out some of Derek's artwork and various merch booths I became engulfed with music for the next nine or so hours. Victory Records pop-punk gems Spitalfield revved things up on main stage left. The main stage at the Scene Pavilion was setup similar to how Warped Tour is in a few cities, with the stage split in half allowing bands to play their thirty minute sets back to back with no lag in-between (although, there were quite a few moments where bands got a late start, namely the ever timely Midtown). Kicking out the hits from 2003's successful Remembering Right Now like "Kill The Drama," "Those Days You Felt Alive," and "The Way She Said L.A." amongst others. Two new songs also made their way into the rotation and if they're recorded in any manner they were performed live their next release will be quite a pleasure. Check below for videos for two songs from their set.

My attention drew to the right stage for the suprise of my afternoon, Christiansen. While their edgy post-rock sound may often become tedious the onstage act that supplements is one to hold an attention. Vocalist Brandon showed up dressed in an 80's fashion sporting only cutoff denim shorts and didn't hold back from the era as some of his moves can be credited to the popular acts of the day. The precise swirl of the guitar around his back was one of the many marks that enlightened the eyes with an entertaining show from everyone in the band as well that capped with a thrashing of the drum kit before they exited.

Aside from the headlining acts, Murder By Death's set drew the largest audience of the long day. You can't squeeze them into any single genre and how they grasp the concentration of hundreds of people at a time is not easily classifiable either. I've heard and read numerous things about how the soft vocals with a tendency for raw emotional wails blends well with a keyboard and cello live, but I'll admit I was skeptical. I walked away stunned at just how captivating the five members were and how their unique balance of music appealed to nearly everyone. Geoff of Thursday accompanied the band for "Killbot 2000" for one of the highlights of a set dedicated mostly to whisky.

Midtown played a rather forgettable set composed almost entirely with material from their recently released Forget What You Know. A few songs from Living Well Is The Best Revenge seeped their way in, while nothing from Save The World…Lose The Girl, easily the fan favorite, was used. I captured video for the song "So Long As We Keep Our Bodies Numb We're Safe" and their entire time upon the stage was basically the same with different melodies and separate lyrics.

The musicians I anticipated the most were Planes Mistaken For Stars. I was very unfamiliar with them, yet after hearing the raving evaluations boasting their latest effort Up In Them Guts [review] I had to hear for myself. These guys rocked and rocked and rocked and rocked for an entire half hour. Easily the sweatiest, most aggressive, and entertaining set of the day. I was fortunate enough to see these guys this past Wednesday (August 18th) as well and the intimate setting of a tight knit floor show at Roboto in Pittsburgh was ten fold better than a festival performance and I thought they topped Sthressfest.

The metalcore trend is still an infant and I'm already becoming sick of it and the army of faux-hardcore kids running around. As I Lay Dying, With Honor, Shadows Fall, Himsa, and the plethora of others in attendance all meshed together to me. Black Dahlia Murder however put a little twist on things, instead of dawning the usual tight black t-shirt, girl's jeans, a white belt, and jet black hair. As the band took the stage a shout of "Hadouken" filled the loud speakers and sure enough the two guitarists where dressed as Ken and Ryu from Street Fighter. Shedding the cliché look even more lead vocalist wore an orange wig, while the drummer took to beating the skins with a Jason mask. While their sound is still too similar to their peers the little spice they threw into the pot helps them stand out just enough.

I'm not a fan of Converge, their sound doesn't do it for me at all, but I was a shocked that they were playing the small Alternative Press stage instead of the main stage. I'm sure local hardcore veterans, Ringworm, also deserved a spot over bands like Recover and Codeseven whose pop-rock sound garnered little attention from the crowded venue.

The two headliners for the evening Finch and Thursday had the pleasure of controlling the entire mainstage area. From the moment the Drive-Thru Records poster boys Finch took the stage it was apparent they weren't primed for the headliner of a festival atmosphere (or perhaps some nu-metal band was lingering backstage). Their poise possesses a lot of nervousness, matching a banter that lacked any real appeal. Terrible stage presence collapsed more with an even worse choice of musical support. "Untitled" & "What It Is To Burn" were a few of the tracks from their debut full length that sparked interest. However, the set was dominated by a blitz of new material that got worse with each song. The popular emo formula countered with screams was applied and abused to the fullest extent, combined with jazzy jam sessions that don't belong in the arsenal of a band of such caliber. It was disappointment after disappointment as Finch stole the trophy for worst act of the day.

The treat of the evening came three songs into an already intensive performance by Thursday. Vocalist, Geoff Rickly ascertained all the Internet and scene gossip that has been tailing the band as of late. The highly anticipated announcement informed everyone that the current show was Thursday's last in the States as they prepared to enter a hiatus after a few dates in Europe. A hibernation of only one to five years was mentioned, but there are signs that point to a permanent disintegration. While the news may have brought a few souls down, the energy that stimulated from experiences a possible final presentation propelled the band to a peak level. While they may be exhausted from the current state of the music industry no deliberation of that remorse leaked for the remainder of the emotional evening. The stable of songs was packed with mainstays like "Cross Out The Eyes," "Jet Black New Year," "Understanding In A Car Crash," "Signals Over The Airwaves," and "Autobiography of a Nation" amongst other classics. While a very rare performance of "I Am The Killer" was captured by the audience and my camera [video below]. An extended performance closed with "Division St" before an encore of "War All the Time" ignited loud poignant cheers as the fans let Thursday know of their admiration towards them.

Planes Mistaken For Stars
Stretch Arm Strong
Murder By Death

• Spitalfield - Those Days You Felt Alive
• Spitalfield – I Love The Way She Said "L.A."
• Midtown - Long As We Keep Our Bodies Numb We're Safe
• Thursday – I Am The Killer

• As I Lay Dying
• Black Dahlia Murder
• Christiansen
• Midtown
• Murder By Death
• Planes Mistaken For Stars
• Spitalfield
• Miscellaneous

Criteria - New Song
Spitalfield - Stolen From Some Great Writer
Stretch Arm Strong - For The Record

Murder By Death
Stretch Arm Strong
Planes Mistaken For Stars