Merchandise, Body of Light, Audacity, Nü Sensae, Wet Hair @ Meat Market Garment Factory|3/19/13
Rampage Fest concluded its two-day run with an after-party that featured a lineup that stacked solidly against that of the actual festival. It was a diverse mixture of bands, which although initially proved overwhelming, became a strong catalyst for what made the event so engaging. The party started later than initially planned, with the first band kicking off its set at about 11:20 p.m., and the music ended at 2:30 a.m. With fast-paced sets, interwoven musical elements, it was a thrill ride of sorts.
Body of Light, the Tempe-based synth-heavy pop act unleashed their delectable brand of music, drawing nods from fans of Cold Cave, who were definitely a major segment of the crowd. The duo of brothers Alex and Andrew Jarson churned out a few dance-worthy numbers that got people moving, Alex's on-stage presence helped stir the crowd up a bit, setting the stage for a very fun evening.
One of the night's most rewarding, and incredibly fun, surprises came from California-based rock 'n' roll band Audacity, a late add to the lineup (the band performed at night one of Rampage Fest, as well). Their loud, unabashed punk tunes provided just the amount of jolt needed to get the crowd even more stoked. At 15 minutes, their set was one of the shortest, but they were able to punch out about five songs with great virtuosity.
Nü Sensae (also a hold-over from night one) kept that groove strong by playing in their characteristic unforgiving style, with the guitars turned up high into the mix while the vocals took the back seat. In typical fashion, a massive mosh pit ensued, big enough to drag unsuspecting concertgoers into a whirlwind of fists, and the array of broken bottles scattered around the floor only served as another visual element of a very rowdy 20- minute set.
Wet Hair, tour mates of Merchandise, took the stage to a crowd already electrified by the previous raucous performances, but unfortunately their set didn't quite match up. The songs were beautiful and intricately crafted, but their fragility didn't quite blend well with the mood. The enthusiasm of the crowd stayed strong, but it was clear to notice the massive disjoint between their brand of music and that of the bands that took the stage earlier. They had flair but not the unapologetic swagger needed to get the crowd moving.
Merchandise sounded great. They sounded bigger than they have before -- much bigger due in part to the addition of a new live drummer, Elsner Nino, formerly of Shoxx. Their songs hit a little harder, with guitars swirling viciously while the bass line rippled through Ronnie Carson's hushed yet demanding vocals. His voice was unrestrained, throwing in ad-libs and stretching some songs longer than their typical length. With a night filled with rushed, quick sets, theirs felt the most fulfilled. They jam-packed five songs into 30 minutes with three tracks from their upcoming record Total Nite, two of which were new, finding their way into the set, in addition to seasoned favorites "Time" and "In Nightmare Room" off last year's Children of Desire.
It was hard not to be mesmerized by Guitarist Dave Vassalotti's expressive guitar playing, with frequent jerks and animated movements that felt like he was forcibly pushing out the sound. Their merch guy and longtime band friend, Chris Horn, made a brief but welcomed cameo on "Total Nite", a song that stretch the complexities of a band that seems to be lunging for more intricate melodies with each new release
They ended their set with the foreboding, cinematic slow burner, "Winter's Dream", a track from their upcoming LP. Its fragile melody continues to find the band exploring the concept of self-identity, which is slowly becoming a major theme in their music.
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An unforgettable set that felt like it ended too soon (blame it on the delayed set times) Merchandise did exactly what you'd expect them to do, they played a skilled set with songs that highlighted their abilities and brilliant song structures. The party was a great final stamp to what hopefully becomes a Phoenix tradition. When it comes to celebrations of great music, sometimes being a stop on the map to SXSW has its perks.