Phuzz Phest has become one of the exciting go-to music festivals in the state, bringing national acts and local favorites together to party in downtown Winston-Salem. On April 17-19 the festival celebrates it’s 5th anniversary. And it’s line-up is the best to date. California psych-pop outfit, Foxygen, will be performing as a nine piece, with back-up singers and dancers, in what will be their last show. Newcomer Nashville soulstress, Natalie Prass, who’s already released one of the best albums of the year will be there, as well as NC’s own Merge Records and Superchunk founder Mac McCaughan. And last weekend the festival’s label arm, Phuzz Records, brought their roster down to Wilmington for a two night vacation at Bourgie Nights. And it was a perfect pre-game beach party before the festival next month.
Night 1 (3/13/15)
Coy/Estrangers/Astro Cowboy/The Tills
Reviewed by Ashleigh Phillips
Wilmington natives Coy started the night off with their post-apocalyptic folk rock. It was their first night as a trio, having more members before. But as front man Brent Drew longingly quivered and wailed through his hair over the wildly bouncing bass and swampy stomp of “K’National,” it was apparent that the band was more comfortable and confident than ever.
Phuzz artists Estrangers brought their glowing synthy wall of sound. The Winston-Salem 4 piece naturally blurred the lines between their dancey 80’s tendencies and 60’s psych-outs, playing songs from Seasons of 1000 Colors. Standout “Cape Fear,” offered beautiful swirling keys over waves of reverb. And the new song at the end of their set was driven by a catchy guitar hook, suggesting more beachy vibes to come.
Punk-grunge Wilmington trio Astro Cowboy played a tight set with their signature clean control. Echo on Travis Harrington’s vocals created a Space Jam feel over his circular guitar notes. And before the high energy of “White Shoes,” he encouraged the crowd, “Please move, just push one person. But if you knock someone over, you better fucking pick them up.” Pushing and crowd surfing quickly ensued. And the fun continued until their last song. The new track can almost be described as a literature-rock odyssey, with four transitions, evoking early Black Sabbath to Modest Mouse.
Most of the crowd cleared after Astro Cowboy’s set, but Asheville’s the Tills took the stage with their garage slop-pop without giving two fucks. Also on the Phuzz roster, the 4 piece played the loudest and hottest set of the night. Front man Harry Harrison howled and staggered and fell to his knees in a classic rock guitar solo during “Why Don’t You Love Me.” Wild dancing began at the back of the audience and didn’t stop until the band finished at nearly 2 am. It was a high-quality monstrosity.
Night 2 (3/16/15)
Daddy Issues/Couches/Free Clinic/T0W3RS
Reviewed by Austin Duke
The Greensboro surf-pop girl gang, Daddy Issues started off the night with multi-member vocals and Maddie Putney’s now tar pitch-thick basslines. It was nothing short of maelstrom. The ballast of the performance was equal parts fist and open hand –polished nails on one, chipped and broken on the other but which hand they’re on is hard to tell. Singer Lo Davy’s foam-born voice reached carnal apex during country-western siren song “Lethal Dose”. The bellicose belles’ set featured also featured a number of new songs worth looking forward to and gave one of the best performances of the night.
Couches’ abrupt charge into “Train of Thought” crashed over their pre-show lull and flooded the place with irradiated Bay Area beach vibes. Despite the slacker laurels they’ve made for themselves their set bore a clear sense of purpose. Every footfall onto fuzz pedal injected bestial amounts of distortion into choruses and solos that surged to the size of Kaiju. The San Fran triumvirate was, by their own admission, intent on being the loudest band that night and in this regard they were true to their word.
Headliner and local favorite Free Clinic is no stranger to Bourgie Nights. Their set, which consisted entirely of songs from their unreleased and highly anticipated sophomore album, showcased some of the band’s most technical songs to date. The crisp, dedicated fretwork of new addition Sam Adam gave a welcomed fullness to the band’s new, more matured sound while allowing frontman Ben Rose to devote himself to every pigeon toed croon and lip-hanging caterwaul he saw fit to conjure up between the din of distorted bends and quick-shift arrangements found in their newest single “Better”. The set suggested a sonic coming of age but amidst it all the more pugnacious qualities of their trademark matter-of-fact beach aggression are still very much present amongst the disarming charm.
The night ended with a study in color and proof that a one man show can steal the show. Phuzz artist, T0W3RS (Derek Torres) clad himself in white, becoming canvas to a minimal light show. What he was at any given time is subject to any number of factors/colors. But he commanded the microphone stand with resolute virtuosity, it was a partner, a foe, a scepter, a trident. He sang to and cursed his looming shadow on the wall. And he contorted himself and rolled about the stage floor. On the subject of presence, his was paramount. Even as “The Situation” was cut short with an unexpected, “FUCK…we’ll come back to that one,” the few of us that remained during the last moments reflexively forgave the mistake. His encore ended with his hand over his heart, a dedication of love.
Here’s the full line-up for this year’s Phuzz Phest (April 17-19). Get your tickets at www.phuzzfest.com
1970s Film Stock (Winston-Salem, NC)
Alex Cameron (Sydney, Australia)
Aquatic Ceremony (Winston-Salem, NC)
Blackbird Blackbird (San Francisco, CA)
Blursome (Raleigh, NC)
Boulevards (Raleigh, NC)
Cactus Black (Winston-Salem, NC)
Caleb Caudle (Winston-Salem, NC)
Celestogramme (Carrboro, NC)
Cymbals Eat Guitars (New York, NY)
Dad & Dad (Carrboro, NC)
Daddy Issues (Greensboro, NC)
The Dead Tongues (Asheville, NC)
Echo Courts (Greensboro, NC)
Echo Crush (Winston-Salem, NC)
Eggy Strange (Durham, NC)
Estrangers (Winston-Salem, NC)
Ex Hex (Washington, DC)
Family Bike (Southport, NC)
Field Spirit (Chapel HIll, NC)
Firekat (Winston-Salem, NC)
Foxture (Winston-Salem, NC)
Foxygen (Los Angeles, CA)
Free Clinic (Wilmington, NC)
Futurebirds (Athens, GA)
The Genuine (Winston-Salem, NC)
The Gotobeds (Pittsburgh, PA)
Hamilton Leithauser (Brooklyn, NY)
The Human Eyes (Carrboro, NC)
Jeffrey Dean Foster (Winston-Salem, NC)
Joy Classic (Baltimore, MD)
Judy Barnes (Winston-Salem, NC)
Las Rosas (Brooklyn, NY)
Let Speak The Gods (Winston-Salem, NC)
Mac McCaughan (Durham, NC)
Make Light (Winston-Salem, NC)
Must Be The Holy Ghost (Winston-Salem, NC)
Natalie Prass (Nashville, TN)
Nest Egg (Asheville, NC)
Primovanhalen (Winston-Salem, NC)
Protomartyr (Detroit, MI)
R Father (Greensboro, NC)
River Whyless (Asheville, NC)
Ships In The Night (Charlottesville, VA)
T0W3RS (Raleigh, NC)
The Tills (Asheville, NC)
Totally Slow (Greensboro, NC)
Trans Am (Bethesda, MD)
Tyler Nail (Winston-Salem, NC)
Unfortunate Gentlemen (Winston-Salem, NC)
Volunteer (Winston-Salem, NC)
Vel Indica (Winston-Salem, NC)
Winston Facials (Winston-Salem, NC)
Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves (Winston-Salem, NC)
Yes The Raven (Hickory, NC)