Flotation Walls

I didn't make it to Goodale Park on Sunday, so Saturday capped off my ComFest experience for 2009. It's hard to focus on the music at an event where somebody died, but I wasn't aware of Bryan Barbin's stabbing until after Saturday's music had wrapped up, so my memories aren't tainted by tragedy. I'll do my best to conjure them up as I recall my six favorite Saturday sets.

Flotation Walls

I didn't make it to Goodale Park on Sunday, so Saturday capped off my ComFest experience for 2009. It's hard to focus on the music at an event where somebody died, but I wasn't aware of Bryan Barbin's stabbing until after Saturday's music had wrapped up, so my memories aren't tainted by tragedy. I'll do my best to conjure them up as I recall my six favorite Saturday sets.

(6) Short Stop Youth Center This is what ComFest is supposed to be about, right? Justin Riley (Super Desserts, Bird and Flower) curated this performance of pop classics by his music students from Short Stop Youth Center in the Short North. One kid even performed a song she wrote on vocals and guitar, backed by a full band comprised by her buddies. Warm fuzzies for everyone — and I even continued to enjoy myself after falling flat on my face during Short Stop's show.

Bum Wealthy

(5) Bum Wealthy Music critics are supposed to go beyond good vs. bad and dig into the "why?" of the matter. So why do I like Bum Wealthy so much more than I usually enjoy jammy, horn-infected barbecue rock? Like I said in last year's feature, "Bum Wealthy succeeds where many similar acts fail: They build on the foundation of solid songwriting, and they show some restraint." They were doing it Saturday up until I left to see...

Ginger Fetus, Stage 1

Ginger Fetus, Stage 2

(4) Ginger Fetus For sheer weirdness, nobody matched John Also Bennett's solo set Saturday at the Off-Ramp Stage. After watching Bennett's former Starving Goliath bandmate Garth Harrison Shack run through a set of acoustic ditties influenced by the likes of Incubus and Radiohead, it was rather striking to see Bennett up there covered in tentacles and fake blood, wringing "outsider blues" out of guitar strings that sounded charred by the fires of hell. OK, that would have been striking even without the contrast to Shack. Musically, it wasn't my favorite part of the day, but I applaud anybody who defies expectations in what's usually a pretty straightforward music lineup.

Bookmobile

The Kyle Sowashes

The Receiver

(3) All Sean Gardner all the time Two of Sean Gardner's primary songwriting projects (Melty Melty, Winter Makes Sailors) didn't even play Saturday, but that didn't keep Gardner from appearing three times on the Off-Ramp Stage. First he rocked keyboards and tambourine for The Kyle Sowashes. Then he moved his keyboard to center stage and handled lead vocals for Bookmobile. A few hours later, he returned to augment The Receiver's set with guitar and even more keyboard action. The man was an unstoppable force, one of Columbus' most busiest talents being prolific as usual. (All those bands were in top form, by the way.)

Envelope

Jacoti Sommes with Envelope

(2) Envelope The Clintonville-bred MC was building something special when the plug was pulled on his headlining set at the Live Arts stage. I can only imagine what would have gone down had Tony Collinger and friends been able to perform the second half of their show. What we did see was a solid mix of new material and classic 'Lope buoyed by a sly video slideshow and rambunctious dancing/keyboard duties by Hugs and Kisses' Jacoti Sommes. I know ComFest was complying with city regulations when they cut the set short, but they could have at least shown Envelope (and the massive crowd at the Live Arts stage) enough grace to let him finish the abbreviated two-song conclusion he launched after hearing he would have to wrap up early.

Flotation Walls

(1) Flotation Walls It's taken Carlos Avendaño many years to release a Flotation Walls album, but now that Nature has seen the light of day and a consistent core band has found its footing, the future looks bright yellow. There was a lot of great music Saturday, but Avendaño's artful epics were a cut above. Of course, let's not discount the contributions of Zak Moses, Ryan Stolte-Sawa and especially the substitute drummer, who handled Luke Brevoort's intricate percussion parts with flair. By the time "Willis the Fireman" was through, that tent could well have been a stadium.