Whartscape Wrap-Up: I Think I Might Be Getting Too Old For This

That's the conclusion I reached after a weekend spent in Baltimore for Whartscape. (Read my review of Saturday's show here.) It's very much an "It's not you, it's me" situation. I just don't have the energy or enthusiasm to match what those Charm City kids bring to the table. But not many people do, and that's what makes their little scene so interesting. A quick rundown of some of Sunday's acts...

The Girl Talk phenomenon is completely lost on me (maybe I should ask him to explain when he chats on the site next week) but I'm pretty sure there was nothing to be "got" about Greg Gillis's performance as Trey Told 'Em. It was 15 minutes of white noise and a vocal sample of Kurt Cobain shouting the word "Marijuana!" from the Nirvana b-side "MV." (Note: Definitely not the song to put on a mixtape for Mom.) I've already wasted too many words on it.

I missed most of Ponytail because I hustled down to Artscape (just a few blocks away) hoping to catch at least a bit of Clipse. But no dice, they had finished up by the time I got there. The nerve of a hip-hop act to actually be on time. Having seen Ponytail a handful of times I knew what to expect and they delivered it: banshee wailing + guitar shredding + everything really fast.

It shouldn't surprise regular readers of this blog that Double Dagger was my favorite act of the day. As the band was setting up its equipment a nearby festival-goer noted: "They're using, like, actual instruments." Only bass and drums, but there were no samplers or electronics to be found. Double Dagger was the only band of the weekend that seemed to realize this simple, but important, fact of life: It's OK to be angry sometimes. "Anger is an energy," or something like that, right? (Apparently Johnny Lydon still believes that). Happiness is an energy, too, but it's nice to have some variety.

The band got a little too angry, though. After telling the assembled moshers to do whatever they wanted, just don't mess with the drums, the drums were messed with and drummer Denny Bowen responded by launching one of his rack toms about 10 rows deep into the crowd, hitting two different people in the head and drawing some blood in the process. Ouch. Double Dagger managed to win both Angriest Band and Funniest Band. When one concertgoer claimed he came all the way from Japan, singer Nolen Strals deadpanned, "No, you just go to art school." After a quick pause he added, "Don't worry, we've all been there."

Double Dagger's performance was quite the contrast from Dan Deacon's set an hour earlier. There was an interview a month or so back on Pitchfork in which Deacon expressed some anger at constantly being referred to as an oddball/manchild and I felt bad for a second because I most definitely described him as both of those on more than one occasion. But then I see him play and I don't feel quite as bad. Maybe manchild isn't the right word, but if this whole indie-electro-blog star thing falls through Deacon will always have a career as a Bar Mitzvah game facilitator to fall back on.

Since most of Deacon's music is sample-based there's not much for him to do and there's not much to see, so he asks the audience to do ridiculous thing. And boy do they oblige. Chanting, making silly hand gestures, standing on opposite sides of the enclosed parking lot for some reason I couldn't quite figure out. I thought they might be preparing to play Red Rover or Coke and Pepsi. I was close. Instead it was a never-ending game of London Bridge. As people ran through the bridge they were encouraged to be extra sassy. It was certainly entertaining but at the same time but the music was obviously a second thought. Maybe even a third thought.

In a way you could say that about the entire weekend. But not really in a bad way. Whartsacpe was a lot of like-minded people putting together a completely DIY festival with a lot of friends, dressing in their most ridiculous outfits and enjoying some reliably-bizarre if not always great music. The weekend in the parking lot actually reminded me of some raves I went to in another lifetime. The sense of community was very important and the music was just one element of the equation. Granted, the people at Whartscape were infinitely more, um, with it than most ravers, and more into the music as well. The music rotated between three stages and I loved how once one act ended, everyone scurried over to the next stage, not wanting to miss a thing. It's a nifty little scene up there in Baltimore and if people like me can't completely keep up, well, maybe that's the entire point.

By David Malitz |  July 23, 2008; 5:47 PM ET Live Last Night
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"I Might Be Getting Too Old For This" - welcome to my world. Recently, I saw some punk wearing a shirt that said "If it's too loud, you're too old". It was a little depressing b/c there's truth to it.

Posted by: Jumbo Slice | July 23, 2008 7:18 PM

It sounds like Dan Deacon's changed his live routine since my last experience. The two times I saw him he was pretty much hunched over his equipment for the majority of the time while the crowd (which was literally right on top of him) proceeded to lose their collective mind. Granted, the first time I saw him was a few months before he emerged onto the Pitchfork/mainstream indie scene and was in a room with 50 people max where it was perfectly possible for Dan to be doing his thing while the crowd did theirs. It was the perfect example of what a Dan Deacon show is about and something that I'm not sure can be recreated these days what with his current level of popularity. I went in skeptical (many of the uber-scenesters at my school had been hyping him for months) and left a huge fan--it was the one of the most fun shows I've seen in a long time. Even when I saw him last year at Whartscape there were just too many people for that true connection to happen. Maybe he's reached a critical mass and isn't sure what step to take next, but I hope he can discover how to continue his manic fun without becoming some novelty act.

Posted by: Adam | July 24, 2008 11:30 AM

The only Whartscape thing I saw was Oxes late Saturday. I watched it from the alley behind the stage. It was pretty amazing. There's a video here that doesn't quite do it justice, but is cool:

http://www.vimeo.com/1377662

and there's some cool flickr pics including this one:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/60675567@N00/2686510773/


Posted by: vincey | July 24, 2008 2:41 PM

This guy is all hype and no substance. Amazing what being close with Baltimore hipsters will do for you.

Posted by: ajay | July 24, 2008 6:03 PM

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