Well named bands at a well curated bash

Everybody is pretty much acknowledging that the Bay View Bash is the "last" festival before we start thinking about wearing long sleeved shirts and what we're going to do for Halloween. It's the last "summer" festival, a chance to get outside while it's still nice, drink, eat street food and see some bands. The nice thing about the Bash is that it really endeavors to bring a variety of entertainment. There's only a few acts that seem to appear every year (the South Stage is getting to be known as the Metal stage, and The Metal Men headline it every year) and some you even count on (Dead Man's Carnival and some fire jugglers always turn up at the "Demo" stage) but generally, there's no repeats at this festival, which makes it a really good smorgasbord to sample plenty of different bands.

King Eye and the Stinks
Scheduling stopped me from getting early enough to catch an act I've been meaning to see, Vincent Van Great, but I did manage to catch the fun end of a set from King Eye and the Stinks, a dark punk outfit whose theme seemed to swing from the Cramps to some really good garage punk. The ended their set with a song that never seemed to end, they hollered 1-2-3-4-5-6 and jumped into it. And when you thought they were done, they hollered 1-2-3-4-5-6 again and got right back into it. And again. And again. And again. When they finally unstrapped their guitars somebody in the crowd hollered 1-2-3-4-5-6, and I was kind of hoping they'd go "Fooled ya," strap back in, and jump back into the song.

But their time was up and I wanted to get to the south end to that very Metal stage to see Conniption, a band that's been around for at least ten years. I've been trying to get out to see them and finally this was my chance. Bottom line: they're great. Entire set was varied originals, and they hit all the edges you expect from a good metal act: lead singer with operatic vocals and presence both on and off stage, guitar player who can seriously shred while headbanging a mane of hair across the stage, bass player who uses both hands all over the fretboard, and double-time drummer who holds it all together.
The entire set of originals had enough variety in themes, dynamics, tempo and attitude to keep me and a crowd interested for the full set. Even people I know who aren't into metal were nodding, "yeah, these guys are pretty good." It takes a lot to impress hipster Bayviewians if you're not hipster, and these guys did it. It helps that they are all obviously well-practiced at their craft: these are musicians, and it shows.

On the way back to the North end, buzz band Sugar Stems was just starting at the middle stage (which moved from its old spot on Logan south of KK, to Russell, just northeast of KK.) This was a perfectly well named band: very pop sugary, but rocking enough to not send you into a diabetic coma.
Sugar Stems
 Betsy Heibler's wait-that's-NOT-Belinda-Carlisle? voice is responsible for the former, but she and the rest of her band have the same fundamental rocking but pop sensibilities as the Go-Gos. Except they're a few steps ahead out of the gate here: Stephanie Conrad almost steals the show with slyly complex bass playing, and the band is rounded out by guys trading vocals who make it clear this is not necessarily a girl group.

And then we move to the Demo Stage, for this year's WTF in the form of the Merkins, a four piece cover band of middle-aged guys fronted by this dude wearing a romantic blouson and, tight leather pants that at our age, I gotta give props for a) having the balls to wear out in public and b) wow, they still fit.
 I arrived at the stage in time to hear him belt out "She Sells Sanctuary" followed by some Who tune that frankly, I forgot. I was too busy trying to decide if these guys were onto themselves or not. I slipped away to grab a forgettable sandwich and came back in time to see him take on Cheap Trick's "Surrender" and continue to flirt with the women in the crowd. All I could think of was how perfectly they'd fit in at Trash Fest. I finally decided they had to have their tongues firmly planted in cheek (among other places); after all this is a band called The Merkins for cryin' out loud.

Onto the North stage, Cashfire Sunset was yet another well named band-- for the time of day (it was indeed sunset, bordering on twilight) and for their overall vibe: a really good combination of space rock with an almost pop edge. They file themselves under shoe gaze, but like many other bands that held this spot on this stage, they were too involved with the audience to really be shoegazers -- they're way too psychedelic, but admittedly they get a little dreamy.  If they haven't played Milwaukee Psych Fest yet, they should -- they'd fit right in.

So, before going to see the North stage headliner, I wandered back to the middle stage to see Mike Krol -- a Tosa native who left the midwest for the big cities (namely NYC and LA) but was back for a hometown show, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the evening. Krol and his band took the stage wearing Tyvek jumpsuits from Home Depot, giving them this Devo vibe, but the band itself looked and sounded like Devo's tour van had crashed into the Pixies' practice space. The songs had that kind of urgent/storytelling melody line that Black Francis writes, (and the bassist very certainly went to the Kim Deal School Of Bass Playing). But the hazmat suits and the onstage demeanor of the band was all spudboys.  Krol himself is an engaging, charismatic, and sometimes manic performer who augments his voice with a rack of effects boxes and his stage demeanor by often dropping into the audience and interacting with the crowd.  Catchy AF songs, great interactive show, crowd involvement -- yeah, this guy was my favorite find in a day full of great finds.

The night wrapped up with the much-buzzed-about Shilpa Ray, and her band out of Brooklyn NY. Everything I heard about her was punk, yet she opened her set with a lively pop tune (or so it started) called "Morning Terrors and Nights of Dread" that sounded like something the aforementioned Sugar Stems would have come up with, but crescendoed into a guttural wail from Ray and a crash from her band. The remainder of the set seemed like that song: one song she was sweet and pop, the next minute she was bringing down the house with a frenzied wail that shook your bones. Her band was equally discombobulating: ranging from glam guys with glitter eyeshadow but with countrified dress and demeanor to flat out punk players.
The band sounded exactly how it looked: this odd mix of genres that somehow worked. It was a fitting ending to a festival that rightfully boasted a variety of talent to finish out a summer.

Here's photographic evidence of my whole survey of the day. 


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