The All-Ages Scene: Tick Fest

By Mat Herron

Well, it didn't receive the heavy promotion of Lollapalooza or the redneck fervor of City Fair, nor were Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and Blood, Sweat and Tears engaging in onstage jams, but the acts on the Tick bill did provide an interesting bill of fare for those who attended.

A benefit for the Musicians' Emergency Relief (MERF) Fund and the brainchild of show-goer Nick Loeser, the second annual Tick Fest showcased eleven hours of some of the River City's best young and high-strung talent who, either because of sheer disappointment or the calling of higher education, will probably never realize the dream of being full-time musicians. Ho, hum.

Acts included Samson, comprised of four high school seniors-to-be who recently played their first show; the "midwestern emo" (to borrow a phrase from "I Stand Alone" fanzine) of Madison; the freak-rocking Month of Sundays, Four Rose Society, the Big Experiment and Blangk as the headliner.

'It would be an enormous lie to say a show of this magnitude went off smoothly. By the time I reached the festivities – complete with hacky-sacks, X's, and the occasional disgruntled fan – several band members had informed me that the PA overheated, subsequently stalling the show and pushing set times for the evening acts back an hour. Month of Sundays vocalist/guitarist Jim Olliges mentioned his outfit only played four songs and, when I asked how they turned out, pointed to the Spanish sentence scrawled on his shirt: "Es terrible." The only moshing being done was to avoid another mosquito bite, and people were wandering over the hills and far away in search of alternate methods of amusement.

Four Rose Society began after the break, churning out material that harkened back to early Born Against, combined with some new school punk rock and "Free Love" jokes by frontman Dave Pollard. Samson dispelled the punk vibe with its Sancred/Erchint-influenced brand of Louisville hardcore, mixing slow, half-metal trudges under nice quiet melodies. In light of Rusty's off-kilter stage persona, Madison performed rather well, playing charged, high-volume, straight-edge music. They've established themselves as an intense, full-throttle hardcore band, and fans should expect nothing less in the future. Look for their cut "Gender" on the upcoming compilation for the Center for Women and Families.

In some ways, the diversity in sound between the Big Experiment and the other groups at Tick Fest '96 could've been seen as a weakness. I saw it as a strength. On numerous occasions I have seen them play (most often in drummer Chris Guetig's basement) and heard rough demos of their tunes, but all of those pale by comparison to their stellar performance that evening. Catchy guitar hooks, tight harmonies and a heartwarming delivery made Big Experiment's set enjoyable and worth seeing them again. They prove you don't have to be crunchy and screamy to get your artistic point across.

And then came Blangk. Speaking as objectively as possible (I'm in the band), and judging from the crowd reaction, this show was one of the better ones. I was slightly apprehensive about playing so late, figuring most people would leave, nor was I sure how well the songs would sound, since we had played at Ground Zero's new location (1765 Bardstown Rd.) the night before and were extremely fatigued. Despite the reservations, the crowd seemed enthused, sang along some and had a good time.

Blangk has tentatively scheduled it's last show the first week of August, before I leave for the University of Kentucky. Two more releases of their material are planned: two songs on the Center for Women and Families benefit compilation, plus another song on a compilation disc from Retrogression Fanzine. Location and band roster for the show is still undetermined, however, so read Michael Huggins' all-ages column for further details.

Thanks to Nick, MERF., and the coordinators of Tick Fest for putting this on. For some groups this was their first time playing in front of an audience, and as many performers know, that situation can be extremely intimidating.