Sick Weekend Returns to Ace of Cups This Weekend
Even for those of us with acute festival fatigue, there’s still a place for a targeted – for lack of a better word – well-curated lineup. At their best, these smaller festivals provide a refreshed look at one’s own scene and a gathering of the tribes that recalls our earliest show going experiences. The best example in Columbus last year was the inaugural Sick Weekend. Primarily the collaboration of Ace of Cups booker Bobby Miller and manager Aleks Shaulov, Sick Weekend brought in the cream of the crop of angular, catchy rock and roll from San Francisco to NYC to classic bands from Columbus and Indianapolis. In doing that, it brought in fans from New York and Toronto, Detroit and Seattle, and more.
It’s to all of our benefits that Sick Weekend returns this weekend to bring the dance floor to a boil. Sick Weekend aims for the sweet spot between Cleveland’s Horrible Fest and Memphis’ Goner Fest and last year’s succeeded big. This second edition, still springing out from the intersection of garage and punk, branches out just a little more and promises to scratch the itch of anyone with a taste for rock and roll in this town.
Thursday, March 23, features headliners Screaming Females. This New Brunswick, NJ band burst into the nation’s consciousness when they signed with Don Giovanni in 2009, and they haven’t put out a bad record since. Leader Marisa Paternoster’s guitar and voice epitomize the push-pull between a cathartic howl and intense focus that makes all rock and roll great. Her infectious songs spill out over a perfectly simpatico rhythm section, drawing the audience in and exploding in their face. Immediately before Screaming Females, the other end of the rocking spectrum for the festival is represented by Dwight Twilley. The Dwight Twilley Band’s Nick Lowe-ish early power-pop blend of sugary hooks and thick bass lines caught on with their two classic 1970s records Sincerely, and Twilley Don’t Mind. After a ’80s follow-up single, “Girls,” he dropped off most of our radars but found a new audience with the garage-rock scene starting with a HoZac Blackout Fest in Chicago a handful of years ago. Columbus heroes Cheater Slicks retain the unpredictability and passion for song that’s made them one of our proudest exports since they moved here in the ’90s – Mick Collins, frontman of The Gories, even contributed to their classic Forgive Thee and covered two of their songs in his later band The Dirtbombs. Shellshag, sometime label-mates of Screaming Females lead into Twilley, and they mine a similar vein of noisy, infectious squal and anthemic, soaring melody. Providence’s Gymshorts, on Burger Records, bring their snotty, purist punk, and local Winston Hightower, who just put out a second record with some of the best songwriting in town, round out the night.
Friday, March 24, closes with Mean Jeans. I saw Mean Jeans at my first Goner Fest, and they were exactly the cold drink in my face I needed to fight off awesomeness-fatigue midway through the second night. They take the Ramones template and stab it with knives to see how much it’ll withstand while still knowing the core attribute there – fist-pumping hooks for days. Detroit’s Timmy’s Organism lead into Mean Jeans with their throbbing take on the weirdest parts of the Stooges. White Mystery, no strangers to Columbus, play at 10:30. I promise no one who’s seen Alex White control a stage has ever forgotten it; the songs get stronger every time, her volcanic guitar and fire-breathing voice are among the greatest in rock ever, and the familial telepathy with her drummer brother is a thing of beauty. Chicago’s Easy Habits aren’t as known to me but the couple tracks I found on Bandcamp sound like the perfect band to kick the night into high gear. Also, that night, Molly Burch and Tim Darcy (formerly of Ought) focus the gentler, singer-songwriter aspects of the fest and book-end San Antonio’s The Bolos’ fuzzed-out, country-tinged sound and the hard-edged rock weirdness of Detroit’s Johnny Ill Band.
Don’t shoot your wad too early, fans, because Saturday, March 25, is the icing on the cake. Detroit heroes The Gories close the weekend, and it’s hard to imagine any band more fitting or more exciting to have in our town. Started in the late ’80s, Mick Collins and Danny Kroha on guitar and vocals and Peggy O’Neill on drums, put out three incredible records – Houserockin’, I Know You’re Fine But How You Doin’?, and Outta Here – for labels like Crypt along with a handful of singles and compilation appearances before combusting but leaving a radioactive path for the next two generations of garage-punk bands to follow. The purity and intensity of great ’60s garage and R&B fused with the stripped-down primitive qualities of punk shining through a modernist, everything-is-up-for-grabs lens. Their later bands got wide recognition and acclaim, including Collins’ The Dirtbombs and Kroha’s Demolition Doll Rods and a great run for O’Neill in 68 Comeback, but there was always something about The Gories. A substantial Columbus contingent trekked up to Detroit to see one of The Gories’ first reunion shows, and it was a baptism, a reaffirming of any faith in rock and roll any of us had.
If The Gories weren’t special enough for your ticket money on Saturday (they are), the rest of the lineup is full-to-bursting with hits. NYC’s Dirty Fences have a larger-than-life swagger stirred into their classicist ’70s punk. New Jersey’s Liquor Store has refined and built upon their barely-contained grooving punk fury to encompass gigantic classic-KISS riffs and shout-along harmonies that have led other writers to call them “Grand Punk Railroad.” Liquor Store put on some of the best shows I’ve ever seen at Cafe Bourbon Street and expectations are for the stage to be left shaking and damp. Pittsburgh’s The Gotobeds on Sub Pop bring more of an ’90s energy with undeniable songs. NYC’s 1-800-BAND features Al Huckabee, of great Columbus band Ugly Stick, with his wife Polly Watson, more recently of Crimson Sweet. 1-800-Band play a muscular, amped-up guitar pop that owes something to The Raspberries and The Replacements and is full of songs as good as anyone’s writing today. Between those two, local super-group Mixed Deuce reps Columbus. Mixed Deuce features Aleks Shaulov (The Feelers, Senor Citizen) on guitar and vocals between Jim Weber (New Bomb Turks, The Patsys) on guitar and vocals and Matt Reber (New Bomb Turks, Belreve) on guitar and vocals. Their first show was as big a crowd as I’ve ever seen for a new local band and they more than delivered. Detroit’s Paint Thinner winks at Fugazi and Wire. Locals rounding out the bill are the two-piece trashing-garage of Tasty and probably my favorite newish local band Dana, promoting a brand new (and terrific) record just out on Heel Turn.
Come out and exhaust yourself, there’s never enough time. A Spotify playlist sampler of the festival is below.