Before I begin the review, I'll say this: I might not have, and probably didn't, see your favorite band. Macrock, to me, leads itself to a multitude of very important aspects of the punk community - only one of which is the music. The panels, the label expo, the community as a whole - these were all very important parts of the event (if not even more important than the bands.)
So yes, I chose to see the keynote address instead of Paint It Black or watching The Corporation. I'm sorry. I like Paint It Black too, but listening to Amanda MacKaye say "Fuck the internet" and have an ensemble discussion of how online communities such as this very one here could shape the future of the 'scene' was more important than a half hour set to me.
That being said, it certainly wasn't Macrock of 2004. There were no huge bands - the headliners were (I guess) Appleseed Cast (whom I missed) and An Albatross (who were fucking amazing). But still, I took the nine-hour trek from Savannah, GA, up to Virginia (and now have a fucking court date for reckless driving because of it) to see what the conference had to offer.
On Friday, I was really stoked for The Snake, The Cross, The Crown, but they unfortunately had dropped off the bill due to a death in the family. Rapider Than Horsepower was much different than I remember - I seem to remember them having a vocalist, and not being an instrumentally technical ravage of sound. However, what they played was incredibly well played, it just seemed more like incessant noise. (As a side note, the schedule was way off; things were getting cancelled and changed last minute, so some of my recounts of bands may be off if this was my first time seeing them.)
Pattern Is Movement, well, I don't really remember what they sound like as I sit and write this review, which probably isn't a good sign for them. However, prior to them I caught the end of vocalist Paul Michel's set, which seemed to be quite inspired and well put together, if not slightly generic, acoustic folk-rock.
I'd always heard good things about Codeseven, but I was incredibly unimpressed by them. Their music sounded like their promotional posters for how their new album looked - spacey, uninspired, easy, and not very thought out. After two songs I was ready to leave, wondering why I had ever been recommended this band. However, they then played a totally out of the blue epic song the lead singer described (if I heard him properly) as, a "tribute to Satan." This song made me realize that I'd been recommended Codeseven probably prior to their new Equal Vision debut.
In the end, Friday was somewhat disappointing without The Snake, The Cross, The Crown appearing. (As a promotional sidenote, we saw "Sin City" instead of hanging out for the later bands, who I can't imagine would have measured up to that film.)
Saturday rolled around with much to do: lots of panels, amazing bands, the label expo, and some hard scheduling decisions to make. Since I work at the student radio station and newspaper, as well as want to start my own publishing company, I was very interested in what the panels had to offer, so I sacrificed seeing a lot of the bands that were playing in order to listen to these one-time panels. I won't bore you with the details, but a few interesting notes (if you're only interested in the music, skip the next couple paragraphs):
- During a panel about the evils of the Clear Channel Entertainment empire, two well dressed mid-20's guys spoke up about how they worked for the radio division, and spent most of the panel either defending the corporation or trying to relate to the panelists on an "We're just capitalists" kind of way. The reason this struck me as so odd as the same thing happened last year at a different panel on a similar subject - just another evil of this whore of a corporation.
- The keynote address (for which I missed Paint It Black) was amazing, and a big part of it was about adapting the internet into the punk community. I asked a question about if the anyonymity and disassociation the internet provides is doing more harm than good to the scene, to which the response was that people seem to be forgetting where punk came from, the community it's rooted in, and are using the anonymity to say such awful things that they would never say in person...while PunkNews didn't come up, it was this site I was thinking of (moreso than other 'punk' sites that more closely resemble Clear Channel with whorish advertising tactics). Anyway, not to tangent too much on it, there was a great diversity of opinions that mainly pointed at the fact that the internet is such an extraordinariy opportunity for DIY promoters, bands, and even just punks alike to join together and oppose forces like Clear Channel, but instead use websites like MySpace (which is owned partially by Sony).
Heading over to Captain Tee's for the rest of the night was amazing. This place was one building and had all of the following inside: stage, party / band rooms, McDonalds-esque playplace, slot machines, skeeball, salad bar, giant robot, full arcade, mini-golf, air hockey, and a hot dog / pizza / greaseburger stand. It was such a fucked up yet totally amazing place to have a show. Upon arriving we caught the end of Gospel, which sounded just like really good, slower hardcore. Highly recommended. Ghengis Tron came on with a three-piece mix of techno and hip-hop beats with a drum machine, an insanely good metal guitarist, and some screamo mixed in to boot. While the mix was eclectic, diverse, and pushing the limits of music, some of it didn't fit well together (as with most experimental acts). However, these kids seemed young and I bet with a little bit of work on how melody and harmony can work together, as well as a lesson in breakdowns, they'd do something extraordinary. Definite points for amazing guitar work.
Chromolodeon. Wow. Just...it's hard to take these kids seriously, but at the same time, it's hard not to. Six kids, obviously influenced by many, many hours in front of a Nintendo, played instrumental rock fused with the Japanese video game theme song sound that was just so outlandish, yet so well-executed, it has to be heard to be apprecaited. It's really hard to write a review of this band in particular because they had such an odd approach to music - instrumental rock/metal/hardcore approach to the days of Konami and the Sega Genesis. With a very well-mixed live show consisting of two keyboardists, two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer, the band would be playing loops of old 8 and 16 bit video games projected behind them while rocking. It truly was amazing, and I hope these guys get some good recognition.
Racebannon I did not care for. The vocals were inaudible, and while some songs were well-constructed musically, they all began to bleed together in a drone of "metal for metal's sake" and not "metal for music's sake." If that sounds pretentious, it kind of is, but I don't like sitting through acts that seem to not be at least putting any effort in to doing something new or different with their sound.
Due to being super behind schedule, USA Is A Monster began playing right as Racebannon ended, except at the back of the room. This allowed for Racebannon to break down and Circle Takes The Square to set up during the 20-minute set. I didn't pay attention much to USAIAM due to the fact I wanted to hold my place up front for Circle, but from what I heard they weren't the type of band I'd be interested in. More eclectic and spastic heavy rock that I really don't feel like I should review to a large extent since I wasn't paying direct attention.
Circle Takes The Square seems to be the 'it' band these days. Every time I've seen them, from basements and house shows here in Savannah to Macrock last year...these three (now four) have totally torn shit up. This show was no different. The band stormed through a good majority of their new disc, excluding only the 10-minute epic "Kill The Switch" (which, despite many requests, was never played). The crowd not only got involved (something that hadn't happened at any band yet throughout the two days), but they were furious. Stage diving, crowd surfing, taking elements of that playplace-like construction and throwing them around. The energy was incredible, and, as always, Circle stole the show.
Nevertheless, An Albatross rounded out the night with a fantastic display of spastic, energetic, loving, community-building, yet half-naked rock that exemplified what just good fun times should be. While I still do not consider myself of the Lazer Viking clan, I stood in awe and watched the frenetic display of complete adoration between fan and musician. Even though the band talked about it, you could tell that they were totally focused on having an amazing time and just being with friends, and having a fucking positive experience. It was an incredible ending to a great night at the conference.
So, Macrock came and went and I now have to return to Virginia in June for my court date. I guess there was a huge problem with the school (James Madison University) not giving any funding to the program, and I'd like to take this time to say that this sort of thing is imperative to the future of the indepenent music scene. While it's always fun to see a bunch of bands, the speakers and labels that round out the conference experience are just as necessary. I really hope Macrock continues in the future, because this year it almost didn't happen.
Oh, and if you were there, I was the tall skinny asshole in the pink / reddish hair. Say hi.