Posted by Ryan Chase on 07/01 at 02:13 PM
Last Saturday, June 26th, twenty bands—from hip-hop to bluegrass—jumped, stomped, and jammed in State College. They performed on one of three outdoor stages spread throughout the downtown area for the 4th Annual Summer’s Best Music Fest & Street Bazaar.
Of those twenty bands, I watched ten.
Of those ten, I covered three. Here are the three: the Nittany Knights, Sugabone, and Spider Kelly.
It was a joyous experience, which I recall as follows.
The Nittany Knights
The Nittany Knights are a chorus group, mostly comprised of older men, except for one who appeared to be younger than me. Outfitted in blue short-sleeved shirts and black pants, they sang popular gospel songs, like “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” before a receptive crowd that occasionally matched them word-for-word.
The Nittany Knights were the black sheep, so to speak, of this year’s festival. They stood out from the rest of the bands which—aside from several acts at the State Theatre—offered essentially two distinct types of music: rock and folk.
In some cases, standing out is a good thing. In this case, standing out was a bad thing.
It was fun to relive songs I have not heard since elementary school. However, once the novelty wore off, so did my attention. Perhaps a shorter set or larger mixture of songs could have remedied that.
Sugabone, on the other hand, could have played for an extra thirty minutes and no one would have complained. Their energy was infectious. People were dancing, especially mothers, on either side of the stage—real dancing, too.
In public, dancing typically remains fairly controlled: bopping heads, vaguely swinging hips, maybe even a slight movement of the lips to suggest familiarity with a song. On Allen Street at 6:30 p.m. last Saturday—as the face of a man wearing a tropical shirt turned bright red from blowing his saxophone—everything, everywhere was moving.
It’s times like these that remind me a) I love State College b) I hate State College c) Middle-aged women need to wear longer shirts.
Billed as a hip-hop band, Sugabone was more rock than hop. Their set consisted of covers that, for the most part, I had never heard. But familiarity of the material was not necessary. The strength of the unit, driven by an Elliott Smith sounding electric guitar, was its energy transmitted through the instruments and into the crowd. Between 6:30 and 8:00, the Allen Street stage was “the Place to Be” (Nick Drake anyone?).
Not to be overlooked was the Darkhorse Tavern’s Friday night act: Spider Kelly. The band stepped onto the Hiester Street “Rock the Block” stage at 7:00 p.m on Saturday to a much younger audience than I had seen during the previous two acts.
The show had a bit of everything. Kids walked on their hands in front of the stage, middle-aged men with too many tattoos passed through on skateboards, and a stiff audience that never—not once—laughed at any of the lead singer’s jokes. Carlos Mencia could not bomb this bad.
By this time, a cloak of gray clouds had all but swallowed the sun and a sheepish breeze flirted with the ends of women’s hair. The band was sharp, ripping on their musical tools with reckless velocity, scorching through both well-known covers like Ok Go’s “Here It Goes Again,” and not so well-known covers. They also played some originals; one in particular stood out: Bullfighters. It was an interesting composition that recalls the theme song for Walker Texas Ranger.
Unfortunately, Spider Kelly never fully connected with the crowd. It was packed, but the response was minimal at best. People were more interested in watching crude pictures get drawn onto the cement with chalk. (One more reason to leave the kids at home.)
Spider Kelly was a microcosm for the entire event, or really, for festivals in general. It was hit-and-miss. Some bands rocked it, while other bands did not. It depends. It’s hard to please to everyone, but Summer’s Best Music Fest & Street Bazaar pulled it off just as well as any festival.
Spider Kelly’s MySpace Page
Author: Ryan Chase
Bio: Ryan Chase is a senior at Pennsylvania State University, majoring in English and Sociology. In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, woodcarving, and playing the guitar. Outside of most rap and opera, he listens to every type of music, but he prefers classic rock and jazz. His favorite artists are Robert Johnson, Heatmiser, and Minor Davis & the Fuzzy Slippers.
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