- Walter Novak
- 216 singer Jason Popson (center) parties at the Scene Music Festival.
All I needed was a friend to lend a guiding hand
But you turned into a lover and
Mother what a lover, you wore me out
All you did was wreck my bed
And in the morning kick me in the head
-- Rod Stewart, "Maggie May"
It's the morning after the first-annual Scene Music Festival, and my noggin is a-knockin'. I feel like Rod after Maggie seduced his young ass.
Yesterday, at 6:45 p.m., I walked into the West Sixth party zone, expecting nothing more than a decent time -- a little Burning River and some good music. The festival's titanic scale, however, quickly seduced my kinda-young ass.
By 9 p.m., around the time I climbed aboard the Retro Rider -- a psychedelic party bus perfect for "eating acid," as some talking beard pointed out -- I felt like a village drunk wandering a pasty dream.
Although the potent ale played its part, the festival, which replaced the paper's annual music awards, possessed some serious intoxicants.
Even with two stages, the typical music awards ceremony was a linear event, unfolding in a single location and forcing attendees to conform to Scene's schedule. That's a buzz-kill waiting to happen.
The SMF, in contrast, surrendered the bulk of the programming to local music fans. Unleashing seven stages, five bars, and 36 diverse performers on a summer's evening is like dropping a kid inside a sprawling toy store and telling her to explore for seven straight hours. That's called free-play, and it gets the endorphins flowing.
At $5 per head, attendees could either follow a predetermined plan or roam randomly, digging the latest in local sounds. Or people could simply chill on West Sixth -- the north end was blocked off to car traffic -- and investigate wacky promotional stuff like the Retro Rider, or admire the Warehouse District's strict dress code (visible cleavage required).
But enough proselytizing. Back to the jams.
Both the Velvet Dog and Blind Pig maintained two stages: one for bands, the other for DJs. While American Rockstar dropped a 100-megaton blast of grunge-inspired metal on Blind Pig's first floor, Andre Leone spun micro- and acid house on the second. The dude had to have been the evening's first noisemaker to make asses shake.
But it was Akron's Roger Hoover and the Whiskeyhounds who ran away with the festival. Hoover and company -- with gruff vocals and a violent honky-tonk piano thumper -- rocked like a Dust Bowl Thin Lizzy in the basement of Bar Flyy, a bizarre spot that seemingly pillaged an old Spencer's Gifts for its massive selection of stoner lamps and disc novelties.
Unfortunately, Bar Flyy cranked techno on its main floor. The wall-rattling grooves, which were not generated by an SMF DJ, all but drowned out singer-songwriter Cory Branan. The guy appeared on Letterman recently, yet we weren't smart enough to put his stripped-down act in a quieter corner. For this, we dutifully punch ourselves in the nads and make a note for next year.
From Bar Flyy, I shot across the street and popped into Tequila Ranch, where I caught the tail end of Will Bowen's set. He jammed the place full of glistening hotties and their chiseled boyfriends, who all sucked on gargantuan margaritas. Bowen claims Bryan Adams as his biggest influence, but his band exhibits a will to rock absent from his idol's feather-light pop.
But even Bowen can't run with Disown or the Suede Brothers. The former, Trench Coat Mafia types with nipple rings and a super-cute bassist, unloaded a nü metal/Depeche Mode hybrid at Liquid.
The Brothers, meanwhile, closed out the night on the Blind Pig's main floor. They're just kids, but they possess the grit needed for vintage boogie rock. Bassist Kevin Naughton even stroked his instrument like he was locked alone in his bedroom.
And that was it for the inaugural Scene Music Fest. With bodies and music bursting through doorways and flooding the street, there was still much more to see, hear, and drink -- but damn, it was a weeknight. Besides, next year's only 364 days away.
The party is just getting started.