PHX FMLY Fest @ Fifth Street|12/28/12
Perhaps it was a few too many Santa Clauses wandering around, but FMLY Fest felt a lot like spending the holiday season with the extended family.
The massive festival -- featuring 60 bands taking dozens of stages on Fifth Street, drew all sorts of interesting people. That guy who reminds you of your weird uncle may feel compelled to throw food on the ground and do a weird shirt-lifting dance every time he hears garage rock, but you're bound to run into some cool folks.
A couple of guys wearing Hawaiian shirts and toasting beers in the middle of Fifth Street summed up the evening best: "It's like a farmer's market. You look around like 'Oh, this sounds good.'"
The eight-stage set up of art and live music provided a little something for everyone, though the sheer scale of the event made it a little disorienting. There are bound to be some issues when 60 plus bands play on makeshift stages on and around the downtown strip. Set times, stages, and line-ups continued to change throughout the day, so it really did feel like a farmer's market sometimes because the proverbial orange was difficult to set apart from a tangerine or a tangelo.
The eight stages were all a short walk apart, which made for some interesting musical overlaps. The Bodega stage featured quite a few DJs, which usually drowned out the poor singer-songwriters quietly doing their thing across the street at Made. The accordion-wielding Where Are All The Buffalo? made the most of out her time by encouraging the crowd to pick up percussion instruments and join in on the fun.
The Aside of Heart stage was quite popular, and music most likely didn't have much to do with it. Most of the crowd huddled around a campfire and showed polite interest as TK Campo of TK and the Irresistibles rocked out in his underwear, Packrat played a noisy set, and Clubc@s tested out new songs such as "Fuck John in Space."
Across the fence, the Lawn Gnome stage featured some great bands. Watching people goof around on the other side of the fence by waving and holding up pawn frawns while the bands innocently played on was half the fun. Los Angeles' The Blank Tapes put on one of the best sets of the festival, even though two of its members lacked microphones.
This three-piece garage rock band features collaborative vocals from all of its members, which were kind of lost on the crowd last night. Singer/guitarist Matt Adams held down the vocal duties just fine, but a quick listen of the band's recorded material shows that it would have been really nice to hear some back up vocals from the band's female drummer.
It was difficult to walk away from The Blank Tapes' set, but there was too much going on to stay in one place. Wandering around proved to be a great idea, because St Ranger played a few brand new songs. It was a little weird to hear the group's warm indie pop in the 50-something-degree weather, but it sounded great regardless.
Bakersfield's Gibbons and the Sluts benefited from a later set time at the Housing Collective stage. The band sounds like a mix of Dead Milkmen and Andrew Jackson Jihad with the addition of banjo, accordion, and a brass section. The four piece actually tried to cover "Bitchin' Camaro," but the audience was either unfamiliar or not in the mood to respond to the singer's inquiry of "Hey Jack, what's happening?" The band gave up after playing the oh-so familiar bass riff on banjo for a few seconds as some guy in the crowd yelled, "Uh, what's the sandbar?"
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Tres Lunas drew one of the largest crowds of FMLY Fest. A nine- piece band singing in Spanish is interesting enough, but the band really commanded the audience's attention with it's unique aesthetic. The Latin influence of this local band is clear, though the accordion, melodica and keyboard turned Tres Lunas into an enigma. The crowd continued to grow, eventually turning into a large mix of folks dancing around.
Although it was cold and the bathroom situation was iffy at best, Fmly Fest ended up being a fun festival full of a variety of talented local and touring bands.