Enjoying: Three OMFG-SOGOOD artists at the Concrete & Grass Festival 2017
What luck this weekend – Split-Works put on its third Concrete & Grass Festival and the weather cooperated in spades. We got one of the most beautiful Sat-Suns in recent memory, with heavenly blue skies, miniscule PM2.5 and temperatures that hovered between not sweating and light cardigan.
Look, it’s been a sweltering summer. That it’s gotten nice again is really, really important to me, okay?
Digression aside, Concrete & Grass is first and foremost about the music. Sandwiched between two giant EDM fests this September (Ultra the weekend before, and Budweiser Storm up next), it provides a venue for more alternative and eclectic acts.
Basically, you go here because, hey! You might recognise a bunch of names from being a regular at YuYinTang and your religious readings of Pitchfork/ Stereogum/ AVClub in your spare time, but really, you're here because you want to see something you haven’t seen before.
And they were all wonderful!
RADWIMPS’ music is basically the opening credits song of any shounen anime, and I've got a continued soft spot for shounen anime.
Carsick Cars played their entire first album for all of us nostalgic for the Chinese indie rock scene of the Aughts, and it was fun to remember how many Western media think-pieces were written on their song “Zhong Nan Hai” (Is it about the politburo, or the cigarettes?? Does it matter??) while yelling along to “Zhong Nan Hai, Zhong Nan Hai.”
Thurston Moore – oh man, his set made me make a 90s-indie-rock-bands-still-killing-it playlist on Spotify.
But - for real - those weren’t even the greatest shows I saw at Concrete & Grass.This year, there were acts this year that genuinely made my jaw drop:
I’m not going to pretend that I know anything about metal and what makes it good. I DO know that Chinese robes and rice farmer hats create an insanely awesome death god aesthetic and this atmospheric metal band from Shandong Province has made it their own.
Like, look at them -->
Yes, that one guy is holding a porcelain gourd. At some point in time, after making a big show of presenting this gourd to the audience, he then doused the front row with whatever was in it.
Now look at them yell while making grand sweeping gestures, from a show at SteelFest (a black metal festival in Finland):
Now imagine that but on a giant stage while their lyrics show up as Chinese watercolor poetry in the background, and that white scarf continues to blow in the wind, and you’ll kind of get why me, who is totally not metal, would be completely taken in by this metal band.
2) Mike Elrington
One of the last acts of the second day, Mike Elrington is an Australian blues singer & guitarist that was playing in one of the smallest spaces at Concrete & Grass – an open-air stomping ground in the area given to local artists to sell their wares.
I would’ve almost missed him except that I was wandering around with a friend and figured we might as well stick close to the main stage before Thurston Moore was about to start.
His energy, packed into a gigantic frame, was amazing. His guitar playing skill was phenomenal. He was rocking out so hard that even the security guards sat down to watch him play.
I’ve been trying to find a Youtube clip that showcases the amount of energy he brought to this tiny stage, and this is the closest I can find: Him jamming the hell out of I Got a Woman and Voodoo Child:
Speaking of energy.
Oh my god. These guys.
Near the end of Day 1, we flagged down Archie Hamilton, Splitworks head honcho and festival organizer, to say hello.
He pointed us towards the Wooozy tent, where an “wicked L.A. protest punk rock” act would be playing.
Imagine Death Grips mixed with Run the Jewels mixed with Rage Against the Machine plus a cherry-on-top of some low key vogueing and you’ll kind of get the show that Ho9909 delivered. Again, much like Mike Elrington, it was the power of the live act itself that impressed as much as the music. The Concrete & Grass festival is filled with people who are willing to give most of the acts on stage a chance to get them dancing, but Ho99o9 (pronounced Horror) had folks screaming.
So, look here - their live set at the Austin Boiler Room:
Fire. Instant fav. I can't even. I'm ded.