Sometimes I go to music festivals because I know I’ll hear something new. I attended 4 & 4th Fest because I knew I’d hear something good.
Not that Saturday’s sounds at Seventh Son Brewing Co. were entirely familiar: Death of Samantha, the iconic Cleveland rock band that headlined, was nothing more than a New Bomb Turks name-drop to me. Having now experienced their blend of showmanship (Uncle Sam hat, generous candy-tossing, clarinet skronking) and guitar heroics that toed the line between punk and classic rock, Television style, I understand why they appealed so much to young record freaks in the ’80s.
Two more of Saturday’s imports from northeast of here, OBNOX and Jessica Lea Mayfield, have played Columbus plenty in recent years, but I just got around to seeing them Saturday. Mayfield, the Dan Auerbach protégé, rocked a chorus-laden guitar tone befitting an ’80s Americana record. Her songs were dark, but not to the point of suffocation thanks to humor and charm. Consider her the downtrodden yin to Lydia Loveless’ rough-and-tumble yang.
OBNOX, the partnership of Bim Thomas and Elijah Vazquez, presented powerful primitive raunch including “Without a Soul” (dedicated to the people sitting in the beer garden “getting fat”) and “The Only Black Man in South Dakota.” It was brutal. Their music spares no one.
That said, my favorite moments Saturday came courtesy of acts I was already well-acquainted with. EYE and Connections reasserted their respective abilities to elicit awe with expansive prog-metal suites and compact bursts of guitar pop. Twisted troubadour Andrew Graham wrangled a whole world of sound from his distorted acoustic, and his songs (including a couple of well-selected old-school gems) remain so bright that they shined even without keyboardist Dane Terry. The Unholy Two was a battering ram as ever, and they needed under a quarter hour to cave us in.
UH2’s hate skree would have been an easy winner for 4th & 4th’s most enthralling set if not for Sega Genocide, a group that hit just as hard but targeted my guitar pop sweet spot. Wearing matching basketball jerseys emblazoned with “GENOCIDE,” they bashed out would-be hits so furiously that their bass came unplugged repeatedly and the drum set kept falling apart. The songs, though, were indestructible.