I never saw any of the old Blackout Festivals in Chicago, which now seem to have grown legendary. After a hiatus of several years, the festival returned this weekend, sponsored by the same folks who run the HoZac record label — more or less the headquarters of Chicago’s burgeoning and fertile garage-rock scene. HoZac’s responsible for putting out a lot of roughly hewn, rambunctious and sometimes surprisingly catchy rock music. (The new LP by Chicago band Mickey is a great example of all that.) The two-day festival, held in a makeshift warehouse-like space dubbed the Velvet Perineum, was a showcase for HoZac’s bands as well as other likeminded groups. I caught almost all of it (other than the opening-night art show, and a couple of bands on Saturday, when I had to duck out of the Velvet Perineum to get some foods).
It was quite a fun time overall, with a lot of lively performances. The audience ebbed and flowed through the weekend, coming and going in between sets and acting somewhat manic-lethargic (moshing with reckless abandon for some bands, not even bothering to clap for other bands). The groups that inspired the most moshing on Friday (May 28) were the aforementioned Mickey, the Brides (who had the funniest stage banter) and the Spits (who started out their set wearing Ronald Reagan masks). Saturday’s biggest mosh moment came during the set by Nobunny, who (as expected) removed his pants halfway through the set, while continuing to wear his mangy, leporine headgear. Hearing Nobunny’s fans sing along to his songs, however, it was clear that his music connects on a melodic level, not simply as an excuse to slam bodies against one another.
Other highlights for me: Another Chicago band, Outer Minds, continue to impress me with their ’60s-flavored nuggets. Radar Eyes showed some impressive energy at the end of their set. Reading Rainbow played catchy songs with female-male harmonies and a good dose of buzz, too. Puffy Areolas played out on the floor, a bit like the Monotonix do, revving up the crowd with the relentless attack of their punk-rock feedback and saxophone. Closing out the fest on Saturday night, the legendary early ’70s band Nervous Eaters sounded best at the very end of their set, as they played the protopunkiest of their songs, including a fine version of “Loretta.” I was feeling pretty tired by that point, and I got the feeling that others were, too. The garage-rock marathon finally came to an end. But the music plays on, as I spin that new Mickey LP and write up my wish list for other HoZac records.