The annual Frets for Pets fundraiser festival took place this past weekend in Ocean Springs. While I was only able to attend one day, it was a great opportunity to get acquainted with some bands on the west side of Mobile Bay and see what the area has to offer. It was a true mixed genre experience – from singer/songwriter to hardcore to experimental hip-hop. It does seem like there is a specific market for heavier rock and rap as a side note. Here are a few highlight artists I saw – and a few I didn’t.
4th Offensive – Experimental Rap Quartet
When four gentlemen wearing disposable rain ponchos started setting up a projector, I was definitely intrigued. What followed was a lore-driven hip-hop performance interlacing rapid-fire bars with sci-fi stage acting. The cohesion of the set paired with the startling audacity of the sound (the intensity of Death Grips mixed with chiptune) drew me in and had me wondering what would happen next. Rather than speak for five minutes, 4th Offensive build their story strategically into their songs. Is it a weird story? Sure. But it’s definitely memorable.
Funeral Date – Post-Punk Beach Goth
If I’ve learned anything from Glowbug and Graveyard Club, it’s that the macabre and bright are not mutually-exclusive. This coast duo craft haunting, glimmery songs with lethargic vocals that are sure to appeal to fans of lofi, post-punk, coldwave, and more.
Them Guys – Progressive Hard Rock
I think my expectations for certain bands based off their names has been tainted by other bands with similar names. I admittedly thought Norma Jean was like Norah Jones for a couple months back in the day. So, Them Guys is unfortunately reminiscent of Them Coulee Boys, a folkish bluegrass band. Such an innocent name belies the prog behemoth that Them Guys actually is (are?). Their sound is undeniably radio-friendly, but there’s enough complexity at play to keep things from ever getting too stale. They aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they did manage to revive the part of me that used to listen to grunge and Breaking Benjamin a bit.
The Witchcraft Merit Badge – Scott Pilgrim-Flavored Alt-Punk
Following the trend of not judging bands by their names, The Witchcraft Merit Badge is some strange brand of comic-punk that’s playful yet familiar all the same. After all, your average band doesn’t make a video based around Star Trek. The band cites The Pixies and Sonic Youth as main influences so that’ll give you an idea of what to expect, kind of.
Empty Hands – Midwest Emo
Empty Hands is most assuredly a band you’ll want to check out now because with an upcoming show with Close Your Eyes and several stunning music videos under their belt, this group is going places quickly. If you’re a fan of Tiny Moving Parts of Hot Mulligan, you’ll instantly connect with the band’s energetic take on modern emo.
Broken Ceilings – Touché Amoré-esque Post-Hardcore
Broken Ceilings is one of those rare finds in the line of Defeater, La Dispute, and Touché Amoré. They’re melodic, heavy, and fun. The screaming is visceral and nearly every word is easy to make out. There’s a great focus on clean vocals as well which helps keep the sound from ever being too derivative. This is definitely one act I’m disappointed I missed.
Empty Atlas – Alternative Indie
I’ve know Micah for a while now, and this was my first opportunity to meet him in person. Even though it was a solo set, he managed to adjust the songs to still fit the mood and there was enough grit and energy to keep things captivating. Plus, he played “Famous Friends” which is a bop.
Blood Rug – Bass-Heavy Classic Post-Hardcore
While there were a number of punk-inspired acts, they all tended to take fairly different approaches. Blood Rug was easily the most bass-heavy of the bunch, and they relied on mostly-instrumental songs coupled with news segment samples playing in the background. Even so, the stage banter was pretty pleasant and casual all the same. If you’re looking for a band that hearkens back to the halcyon days of Fugazi, Blood Rug might be a great place to start.