Musical highlights from last weekend's festival.
The Whiles and The Kyle Sowashes making merry
Being cynical about ComFest accomplishes nothing. It's an easy punching bag, and I'm guilty of a few cheap shots, but my imaginary Columbus with no ComFest is less fun than real life.
That said, this is a music review column. No mercy for the weak. (This means you, corny white people in Ninja Turtles masks covering the Beastie Boys.)
I was there approximately half the time, and the only moment that matched the exhilaration of New Bomb Turks' anniversary shindig was when The Whiles and friends frolicked through The Who's nine-minute maritime epic "A Quick One While He's Away" just minutes after frontman Joe Peppercorn graced us with a mirthful "YOLO."
Here's the rest of what struck me.
Old reliables division: The Spikedrivers, The Floorwalkers and Two Cow Garage have each been so solid for so long that I sometimes view them as ho-hum. That's dumb. Each one of these bands is so damn likable - total pros in the best sense.
New reliables division: Pink Reason, Psychic Wheels and Comrade Question haven't been on Columbus stages as long, but each one flexed veteran poise, power and songwriting.
Most improved division: How appropriate that Strangers In Daylight approximated Spoon doing "Gimme Shelter" right when the clouds started gushing. Strangers' anglophile indie rock keeps getting sharper. Maza Blaska's latest incarnation was nearly as impressive; never thought I'd hear them channeling The Walkmen and The Strokes, but that worked out splendidly.
Pump up the volume division: There were moments during Cliffs' set that I regretted recommending it because it came off like a rough draft. Other times, they stunned me. The noisier and weirder these guys get, the better. Take a page from No Age and get a bigger amp.
Old-timey music done right division: I'm an Offramp Stage kind of guy. I take a lap around the park occasionally to see if something will attract me away from home base, but usually nothing does. A couple big exceptions: My one thrill at the jazz stage was The Louies, featuring a massive vibraphone, Wes Montgomery-style clean guitar octaves and Spikedriver Jesse Henry serenading in Spanish. And I was entranced by kickdrum-thudding, fiddle-soloing, high-heavens-harmonizing roots rock act Out of Our Tree only to discover that, duh, this was the partnership of Columbus expats Megan Palmer and Tim Easton. Of course it ruled.