Fuzzstival 2017: A Review


A Friday night at ONCE Somerville promises two things: (1) my tinnitus acting up the next morning and (2) bopping around with a bunch pals. Thankfully, day two of Fuzzstival delivered both. Every act performed 30 minute sets – well, sort of, but we’ll get to that.

Mint Green kicked off the night with some minor technical difficulties but provided their usual amount of spirit. There’s an abundance of reasons this act is playing every other house show you get invited to on Facebook but really it comes down to the quartet’s ability to fill up a room with warm, bright sound. It’s not the cleaner sound you hear on 2016’s Growth but that’s for the best and was very fitting for the night. Mint Green blast through every set like they’re seasoned pros with bandmaster Ronnica needing no gimmicks to sell you on her vocals.  That’s not to say that gimmicks are unappreciated. Guitarist Frank Price’s matching tracksuit was hands down the best outfit of the night.

Next up we got treated to the return of earthquake party!’s blend of noise rock and pop to Fuzzstival. It was a set filled with really solid melodic swaps between vocalists Justin and Mallory. The former had some Foxy Shazam-esque moments over thrashing guitar parts but was also able to match keyboardist Mallory’s purer tone on some songs. They took the baton from Mint Green and carried the frenetic energy of the night. Sadly, that got a bit lost during Laika’s Orbit – their set felt muddier than the band usually delivers. Perhaps this was due to comparison as Friday’s lineup was absolutely stacked with new and old talent. Nonetheless, it fell a bit short of the night’s standards and closer to dad rock. But have no fear, Baby! was there to bring things right back up. Kaley Honeycutt & Co. deliver breezy but still rockin’ pop bangers that can make anyone smile through happiness and pain alike. It’s an admirable quality as well as an infectious one.

I admit to my ageist attitude going into the next set. I was ready to snooze through A Band Called E but am thrilled to report that instead I got blasted back on my ass. Thalia Zedek of Come’s project partners her with Jason Sanford of Neptune and Gavin McCarthy of Karate and it is a match made for the ages. The trio ripped – particularly Sanford, whose frame guitar is what your gearhead roommate dreams of making. Their set wrapped up with the rapt attention of the room – no casual feat, especially given Bat House’s pending Boston return.

Bat House’s glittery, sludgey set feels like Boston. It’s trippy but cohesive, deceptively relaxed but well executed. Bat House delivers material that is as crisp and calculated as it is languid and dreamy. Their arrangements that flow naturally without tripping over any instrument. The band internalizes tempo like it was ingrained at birth and their ability to deliver that precision on stage is…kinda f*cked tbh.

WAY OUT, a Providence based band, followed with a strong but slightly tame set. As my concert fatigue set in I found the nearest open seat but even at a distance they were able to pique my interest enough to bookmark their Soundcloud, their material begging for a more comprehensive listen. And wasn’t that the goal of the night?

Ava Luna brought me back to the stage for a set that catapulted them to the top of my list of acts at this year’s Fuzzstival. Having an incredibly talented lead vocalist in your band is pretty crucial to thawing my jaded heart – having three binds my soul to your Bandcamp page for eternity. Pair that with some really syncopated rhythms, a whole host of instrumental prowess, and you’ve got an entire room dancing up a storm.

It should be mentioned that until this point no band was exclusively male. Frick yea, Fuzzstival. That’s not to say it’s a perfect situation but you don’t need us to point out how rare it is to get to a noisy gig with that kind of gender ratio, let alone seven acts in a row. Horse Jumper of Love broke that streak but were tight enough that you forgave them for it. It never fails to amaze me that Dimitri Giannopoulos’ crooning feels so at home and prominent despite the amount of sound that the trio is able to produce, especially with Jamie Vadala-Doran’s active drumming style.

Finally, it was time for Ovlov. Everyone’s attention was on the band that has reunited and broken up more times than you and that ex all of your friends hate. They churned through three or so songs while the room felt more than a little precocious, feeding off of frontman Steve Hartlett’s energy. It’s unclear where things started to go off the rails – there was a bunch of banter between artist and audience and then suddenly Hartlett was storming off stage and the lights were turned up on the crowd. It was a sudden and slightly heartbreaking end to what should have been a proper nightcap for everyone who had waded through a sea of fuzz. Instead we were left a bit out to dry, yearning for more – luckily there’s was one last day to fulfill that desire.