The free bi-monthly DIY music, art, and fashion mag – 1.21 Gigawatts once again put on their Gigawatts Festival in Bushwick, Brooklyn, but this year appearing as though they may very well be maturing into something much bigger. Thankfully, they have stuck with the central DIY ideal of spotlighting smaller and largely minor label and unsigned bands, although they have now included a few larger alternative classic bands to expand the appeal. This time they cleverly grabbed a central location instead of roaming, and the dirty backroom locales of past few fests. This time they set up shop in the old 1800’s brewery complex that is now home to many rehearsal, business, and recording spots for musicians, as well as two massive brick-laden hotspots – the bar known as The Well with its vast selection of brews and huge backyard spot that itself was a rather bustling concert spot at one point, as well as the permanent venue in the cavernous 7,000 capacity upstairs indoor chamber room called The Wick. Also, the small bar Our Wicked Lady (the OWL) a few blocks away acted as the third stage of the fest for many of the smaller bands that the festival is so well known for championing.
I started the first day at the OWL with the Brooklyn quartet Secret Crush who are always bursting full of driving bouncy beats and jangly guitars that produce a lush, very danceable, and fun shoegazzy garage pop. Then I made my way over to the backyard main stage for another BK foursome called Journalism who wooed those lucky ones whom made it out early, with a bit more of a post punk tilt to their spacy nu gazed catchiness. Next, was up to the cavernous Wick to see the adrenaline-pumping pop of Cosmonaut with their hefty yet smooth bass work with a duel-guitar slicing of songs with catchy hooks as well as also having a slight ethereal shoegaze layering feel – and their new material they’ve been playing lately is so ridiculously good I can’t wait to hear their next release. The first band that was new to me of the day was back down on the sun-drenched Well stage with a proggy pop trio called Celestial Shore, whom surprised me greatly with a set built on a very tricky time changes gallore that would make even a King Crimson fan’s mind spin and harmonies that would make a Death Cab For Cutie fan swoon. Then there was the punky female trio of Philadelphia’s Amanda X that have grooved my heartstrings over the last couple years, with a kind of rough mix between classic 70’s Blondie, 80’s Siouxsie and the Banshees, and a 90’s Cranberries that made me far to sad when they rather abruptly ended their set early and very surprisingly.
Next, were a couple bands that have a known reputation for nearly destroying stages they play on, and both I have seen do their damage many times before, so I was unsure if this place might not be here the next day. The local trio that put the P in power known as A Place To Bury Strangers could have easily headlined the night, as their presence and sound clearly hold that kind of weight, but nonetheless, even before the sun was down they proceeded to drive the sound needle into the red with their patented form of spacy noise rock that forms a thick wall of sound then drives a semi-truck through it. Sure enough, within the first fifteen minutes, frontman and axe hacker Oliver Ackermann had already launched his beat up old Viper guitar into the air to hit the stage roof with a billowing “THRAK!” and an ear-splitting “CRACK!” as it hit the stage, only to play on it a couple more songs before ruthlessly smashing it to bits of rock n’ roll abandon.
Next, was the infamous romp of the Black Lips – a few skater punks from Atlanta who took so much acid and listened to so much American surf and garage music from the mid-60’s they combusted into a recklessly wild party band. They actually broke out lots of their older material to surprising effect. As I had suspected, it did get rowdy, drawing what appeared to be the biggest crowd of any show of the fest and certainly the largest most pit. I also got coated in beer, which has become a ritual with each time I see these super-cool flower punks do their thing, but I can never get upset, – as you kind of have to know what you’re getting into with these crazy cool cats.
After that insanity, I popped back over to the OWL to see the downright filthy rock stylings of Surfbort, building off the pure female roar of the riot grrrl harmonies complete with a duel female singer setup and the total abandon of the classic Sex Pistols-era of raw-riffing punk – forming a wonderfully destructive combination. I ended the night out back at the Wick with Cerebral Ballzy whom have been one of the premiere Brooklyn punk bands of the last few years, mixing up a tangy mix of driving 90’s metal and down-and-dirty 80’s skate punk which sounded great even though the room was far to reverb heavy in its cavernous layout. Front-man Honor Titus, was unfortunately not as animated as I had remembered him being before, but it was a lot of hardcore moshing to end a great first day and one wild Friday.
Article: Dean Keim