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Bomb Fest – Day One Review #bombfest

It was a cloudy humid day in Hartford.  The BOMB Festival is a relatively new event and it has be consistently gaining prestige. The focus is on mixing local music with nationally recognized acts.

*** photographs by Chloe Donaldson

We entered the festival and immediately walked into a crowd watching, Walk the Moon.  This catchy pop quartet was polished and amped to be there. The lead singer had the best smile and he made the crowd want to dance. These guys are definitely a band to keep an eye on. I will certainly be seeing them at upcoming Bonnaroo.

In an effort to familiarize ourselves with the festival ground, we wandered on to the Main Stage and caught part of our first taste of the local fair. sayWHAT? was an extremely surprising classic rock band. This four piece was comprised of teenagers and they did not sound like teenagers. The lead guitarist was a baby faced, teenager with a huge fro and he was destroying the guitar. He was excellent and the rest of the band was also very talented. As a band, they were a little sloppy around the edges and some of the members were clearly not ready to be playing in a very large stadium.  However, their musicality and their talent was inherent and really refreshing.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing The David Wax Museum from some time and I have to say, they were excellent. Their instrumentation was fabulous – they had a 8 string ukulele, a bass ukulele, a hollowbody Gretch (for a little rockabily style), an acoustic Martin guitar, fiddle, an outrageous percussionist and as an added bonus the fiddle player also played a jawbone. Throughout the performance it became clear there were some problems with the sound system but the musicians kept spirits high. There were folk melodies, three part harmony, fiddle, jawbone and little smatterings of Spanish lyrics. There was a up tempo number about a certain male body part and it ability to straighten one’s perspective out. The crowd seemed a little sleepy but it picked up as the show progressed.

After David Wax Museum, we took a break to hydrate and then headed over to see Wavves. This three piece ensemble was salty. The music was neat and clean; three chord, bright, in-your-face vocals and plenty of “Fuck all” attitude.  Again, there were consistent sound problems and the worst they got the more “free” the band was with their language and their insults to each other. Wavves ability to bring a more modern feel to a true return to grunge music is fairly impressive.  Despite the attitudes, I did see the lead singer, Nathan Williams, hug and spend some time talking to a fan who was clearly overwhelmed by his presence. It was really very sweet.

Titus Andronicus was awesome. A five piece band from New Jersey really pumped the crowd up.  The lead singer’s gravelly off kilter vocals, almost Springsteen-esque, and the bouncing Feist type female guitarist was perfect. It was raucous and joyous,while still allowing the lyrics to evoke angst and fatigue. There were still a number of sound issues but they were not as significant as others.

Another local act from Hartford was up next. Heirlooms is a six piece ensemble. With two acoustic guitars, an electric guitar, a violinist, bass player and drummer, these guys looked a little crowded on the stage but they turned it up for the crowd.  Despite having a number of slower tempo songs, their set seemed to be charged with energy. I caught up with the band after their set and I’ll be posting an interview with the band later this weekend. Check it out.

What is there not to like about Dan Deacon? The music was loud, the bass was (dare I say) thumping and the people were ready for anything. Dan Deacon’s brand of pop electronic is catchy and perfect for a late night vodka drenched dance party.

We saw a little of Lobster Quadrille. This Rochester band is definitely in it’s own category. Their instrumentation featured your standard bass, guitar, drum, keys, and then an array of brass, woodwinds, and percussion. Not only, did they play washboard, spoons and accordion they also performed a number of musical number that were almost reminiscent of a polka or even klezmer music.

People had been hyping RJD2 all day long and there was a really large crowd for this set. While RJ is an extremely talented loyal vinyl spinning DJ, I found this set long. RJ’s transitions were seamless, the mixes thoughtful and provoking but there was something missing. Eventually, I moved on to see the end of Sun Hotel’s set and I’m glad I did. This was the perfect mid afternoon set.

Best Coast was up next. Musically, they were sharp and well put together but as a show, I found this to be one of my least favorite sets on Saturday. The three piece felt awkward and small on such a large stage and the singer, Bethany Cosentino, spoke down to the crowd. [Heads up – rant coming]  I enjoy Best Coast and I really like their recordings but as with Wavves, the post adolescent “bitchier than thou” attitude is terribly distracting and detracting from their music. I was more wrapped up in the back and forth cat fight between singer and the crowd to pay full attention to the lo fi surfer music going on.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros  got on the stage a little late and it was probably due to the enormous number of people needed for set up. The crew was huge and once the band got on stage, you could see why. The band entered the stage in a cloud of fog and immediately played “40 Day Dream” and it seems like the smell of weed was suddenly overwhelming. Dressed in all while lead singer, Alexander Egert captivated the audience. There were 10 or 11 people on stage at all times and the wall of sound was epic.

Overall, the first day of BOMB was really fun. The sound was not well run and the scheduling was kind of strange. I am looking forward to the rest of the festival and I am glad to see a festival in Hartford.

By Alexa Donaldson

I work for a musical instrument company and I live in southern CT with my boyfriend and my dog. I am a cello player, singer and arranger. In the past I have worked for a record studio and a record label. I have a degree in music from the University of Rochester and I'm exploring the idea of getting phd in musicology. My end goal is to listen and discuss music for a living.