Friday, May 14, 2010

Elm City Popfest

Elm City Popfest returns this weekend for three days and 17 bands of indie-pop revelry. Following the success of the first Elm City Popfest this past November, festival organizer and Tweefort/February Records founder Danny Goodwin had to dig deeper this time around in order to top the original. Effectively doubling in size, this installment of Elm City Popfest offers a range of local, regional, national and even international talent. Also, in addition to Artspace (the original home of ECPF), there will be shows held at New Haven's Cafe Nine. And as with the last ECPF, a portion of the proceeds generated by the festival will go to the aforementioned Artspace, a non-profit downtown gallery, venue and exhibition space. So what's all the fuss about you ask? Well, here's the breakdown...

Day One, Friday, May 14th @ Cafe Nine
Kicking off the festival will be a free, four band blowout at New Haven's Cafe Nine featuring locals The Wee Bees and Steven Deal augmented by the UK's Veronica Falls and NYC's Boy Genius.

New Haven's own The Wee Bees, featuring former members of Manchester By The Sea, The Caligulists and The Inclined Plane, start the evening with their brand of ’80s- and ’90s-inspired shoegaze-meets-jangle pop sound. Although its only been two months since their live debut at March's Artspace Underground, The Wee Bees have quickly established themselves as one of the better 'new' bands in New Haven.

Following the Wee Bees will be one of New Haven's more established singer/songwriters, Steven Deal. Having toured the country fronting bands like Bleached Black, Chopper, The Absolute Zeros and The Naomi Star, Deal recently returned from a 10+ year songwriting hiatus to deliver his debut solo album 'Radio Twelve' this past January. Backed by a band featuring members of The Vultures, Goose Lane, The Naomi Star and Requiem In White, among others, you can bet Deal & co. are going to rip it up well.

Next up on the billing is UK's Veronica Falls. Making their stateside debut at this show, Veronica Falls has received a relatively heavy amount of press for their recent Captured Tracks 7" 'Found Love In A Graveyard.' Described as 'a bit of goth, ..some surf..and a heavy dose of shoegaze with pop vocal harmonies,' Veronica Falls should fit in quite well with the evening's lineup. Be sure to check these guys (and gals) out.

Last but not least will be NYC's Boy Genius. Now a veteran of several Tweefort/February Records shows, Boy Genius have shown that they can write a good tune and play it well. Joining Boy Genius will be none other than Mr. Ray Neal, best known for his work with seminal Elm City jangle-pop band Miracle Legion. Ray most recently joined the band for a song at their April performance at Rudy's. For this show, Mr. Neal will be performing with Boy Genius for their entire set, surely something that does not happen everyday.

For fans of jangle-pop, shoegaze or just plain good music, Elm City Popfest's first night should do the trick, starting off the festival well on a fittingly upbeat and memorable note.

Day Two, 'DAY', Friday, May 15th @ Artspace
Day Two sees the festival moving up Crown Street to Artspace, a great downtown gallery/space that has been at its current location since 2002. Here the Popfest truly begins to 'pop,' as nine bands perform throughout the day. Separated into distinct 'Day' and 'Night' billings, both offer up some great bands no matter how you cut it.

Starting off the 'Day' portion of the festivities will New London's Roadside Attractions. One of several New London supergroups now prowling Connecticut clubs, Roadside Attractions combine a unique blend of jazz, americana, pop and even folk into a sound that must be heard. Currently promoting the release of their new EP 'Whispers' on New London's Cosmodemonic Telegraph label, Roadside Attractions start off the day strong.

Next up on the schedule is New Haven's The Fictional West. Riding the release of their 'Giant Clouds' single earlier this year on Tweefort Records, the Fictional West count as influences artists like U2, The Smiths and The Magnetic Fields. With a mix of serious and satirical lyrical themes, the quartet has, however unwittingly, done well in re-creating late 80's indie-pop. As the Sugar Sours blog accurately pointed out, 'No lie, the Giant Clouds single sounds like it could have been sent in to NME and gotten lost in the post for 20 years.'

Following locals Roadside Attractions and the Fictional West, Elm City Popfest goes all windy city on us with the arrival of Chicago's Midstates and Panda Riot. Currently on tour together, Midstates and Panda Riot collectively bring a psychedelic edge to the proceedings. Midstates (also known as Midstates & The Choir of Ghosts), approach their music with a more 'space-pop' bent whereas Panda Riot have seemingly perfected 'swirl-pop' a.k.a. shoegazer inspired indie-pop that at times is almost danceable. In either case, the tandem should feel right on home at ECPF.

Following the Chicago invasion, Elm City Popfest returns to its roots with an always anticipated hometown performance by EULA. Quite possibly the hardest working indie-rock band in New Haven, EULA has continually sharpened its lacerating brand of indie-pop/shoegaze/punk into an ever finer point over the past few years. Each show by the band seems to top the last, not an easy feat by a band that plays as many shows as they do. Still coming off their opening slot supporting post-punk legend Mission Of Burma last Fall, one would be ill-advised to miss this performance by EULA, and that means you.

Finishing off the 'Day' half Day Two's festivities is Danbury, CT's The Field Recordings. Garnering a substantial amount of press since their debut last year, The Field Recordings are a indie rock/pop trio that, from all accounts, seem to vary their live sound depending on the context of the billing. On record, the Field Recordings sound a bit more edgy than one would expect. Regardless, they've been creating some of the most interesting indie rock coming out of Connecticut lately and are well worth the price of admission alone.

Overall, the 'Day' portion of ECPF, Day Two covers the indie-pop bases well. Despite the fact that it starts at 2:30 in the afternoon, you'd be hard pressed to find a better lineup anywhere in the state, no matter what the start time.

Day Two, 'NIGHT,' Saturday, May 15th
After about an hour interlude following the conclusion of the 'Day' billing, part two (a.k.a. the 'Night' billing) of Elm City PopFest, Day Two kicks off featuring Procedure Club, The Secret History and The Butterflies of Love.

New Haven's own Procedure Club starts off the evening's festivities with their noisy brand of too rough to be cutesy, too cutesy to be rough, drum machine indie pop. Procedure Club have created a significant buzz lately, especially following their performance at the last Shaki Presents @ BAR show this past December. Having recently signed to Slumberland Records, you can expect their debut album to be released this June. In the meantime, check them out at ECPF before they become huge.

Next up on the ECPF evening showcase is NYC's The Secret History. Featuring former members of My Favorite and Mick Ronson's daughter, the Secret History have made a name for themselves writing some mighty catchy pop songs 'about ghosts and monsters and sometimes Italy' (at least according to the band's MySpace page). The band's debut album was recently released this past March on Le Grand Magistery so be sure to check it out.

Closing out Day Two of the ECPF will be New Haven's own The Butterflies of Love. Although relatively inactive in recent years, the Butterflies reformed for the Mark Mulcahy 'Ciao My Shining Star' tribute shows. The quintet liked the shows so much that they decided to play more, including this headlining slot at PopFest. A favorite of the late John Peel, The Butterflies of Love have released several records on the Fortuna POP! label in the UK to much acclaim over the years. Having had the opportunity to see them during their original run some years back, I'd have to say it would be well worth the wait to check them out.

In the end, Day Two of Elm City PopFest creates one the best original pop/indie rock billings seen in New Haven in quite some time. With the mix of great local, regional, national and even international artists contributing, there's plenty here for everyone.

Day Three, Wednesday, May 26th @ Cafe Nine
Although 11 days separate Day Two and Three, this 'follow-up' show (as its being advertised) certainly does not diminish the quality and/or energy of the festival. Performing will be the UK's Allo Darlin' and Horowitz, as well as Brooklyn/New Haven's The Tyler Trudeau Attempt and Women's Basketball.

Kicking off the evening will be the UK's Allo Darlin' and Horowitz. A late addition to the PopFest lineup, Allo Darlin' 'can turn a room in a famous punk venue into a joyous, jumping, sweaty, pop-mosh pit. Or bring a room of 500 to hushed silence with the few strums of a ukulele and a love song about cooking.' Such all-encompassing command of the audience is hard to come by and, in addition tho their rock solid pop songs, a major reason to check this band out. Following Allo Darlin' are fellow Brits Horowitz. Bringing a more fuzzy, danceable bent to the typical indie-pop model, Horowitz have received some pretty glowing press praising the band's flare for super-sweet vocals and melodies, a sure sign that they do indeed belong on this billing.

Closing out the night (and the festival), will be the two projects of singer/songwriter Tyler Trudeau. First up will be the Tyler Trudeau Attempt, an amalgam of New Haven scene veterans (including myself). Although I am not at liberty to really comment on the Attempt (y'know, since I play drums in this band), the New Haven Advocate is and has said of the band: 'TTA looks back to the roots of punk and finds something immensely energetic, often hilarious and always political. On top of that, it's catchy as hell.'

Trudeau's newer project, Women's Basketball, will be making its much anticipated live debut at ECPF. What initially started out as a one-off, purely-for-fun project has quickly gained a lot of press attention. The band's debut album 'An Octopus, But Like, An Octopus With Massive Wings and Junk', released earlier this year on Tweefort Records, has in particular gained a lot of positive reviews and its easy to see why. With an omnipresent drum machine beat and often tongue n' cheek lyrics, Trudeau breaks free from his own songwriting conventions to create a fun, catchy and often more engaging (and revealing) record than his main band's previous EP (which I didn't play on). It should be interesting to see how this all plays out live but, knowing Trudeau, it will probably come off well.

So that's it folks! Surely one of the better festivals in recent memory. But enough of me telling you what to do, its time for you to check it out for yourself on Friday May 14th, Saturday May 15th and Wednesday, May 26th. Don't miss this one!

Elm City PopFest Lineup:

Day One - Friday, May 14th
9:30 The Wee Bees (New Haven)
10:30 Steven Deal (Milford, CT)
11:30 Veronica Falls (UK)
12:30 Boy Genius (NYC) feat. Mr. Ray Neal (of Miracle Legion)
@ Cafe Nine
doors 9pm / FREE / 21+

Day Two (DAY) - Saturday, May 15th
2:30 Roadside Attractions (New London, CT)
3:15 The Fictional West (New Haven)
4:00 Midstates (Chicago)
4:45 Panda Riot (Chicago)
5:30 EULA (New Haven)
6:15 The Field Recordings (Danbury, CT)
@ Artspace
doors 2pm / $5 / ALL-AGES

Day Two (NIGHT) - Saturday, May 15th
8:30 Procedure Club (New Haven)
9:15 The Secret History (NYC)
10:00 The Butterflies of Love (New Haven)
@ Artspace
doors 8pm / $5 / ALL-AGES

Day Three - Wednesday, May 26th
9:00 Allo Darlin' (UK)
9:45 Horowitz (UK)
10:30 The Tyler Trudeau Attempt (Brooklyn/New Haven)
11:15 Women's Basketball (Brooklyn/New Haven)
@ Cafe Nine
doors 8:30pm / FREE / 21+

For more information on Elm City PopFest, check out the official festival blog at