Harvest Showcase 1999

By Cheryl Chastine

I watched the Harvest Showcase all three nights this year. But the third night, I wasn't even in Louisville. In fact, if you didn't catch the Showcase this year, you can still watch it.

It's all happening via the magic of the Internet. This year's Harvest was webcast live, bringing over 10,000 virtual concert-goers from all over the world to Headliners Music Hall for the event's 24 hours of live music. The streaming video for all three days has been posted at the website (www.harvestshowcase.com), where you can still watch it just as though it were happening live.

Thanks to several big-name sponsors, notably Microsoft and mp3.com, the entire event has made a quantum leap in terms of computerization. All the winning song entries were available for download in MP3 format at several websites and in Microsoft MediaPlayer form at the official site. This year's Harvest CD, distributed free at the door, contained all the songs in MP3 format rather than standard audio. The compressed format meant that every song entered in the event - not just the winners - could be included on the CD.

Billy Bartley of slackshop has having a great time during his band's performance. Photo by Paul Moffett

Unfortunately, it also meant that the CD won't play in a standard CD player; like the webcast, it's usable only in a fairly top-of-the-line computer. This made it useless to many of the working class, and/or less than computer savvy, attendees, including many of the performers themselves.

The webcast had festival organizer Chaz Rough in even more of a perpetual frenzy than usual. Between emceeing, tracking down performers and conducting interviews that were broadcast between sets, it was impressive that he made it through the showcase without collapsing.

With all the fuss over the webcast, the music itself was almost eclipsed. This would have been tragic. The quality of this year's roster of bands almost, but not quite, equaled last year's superb lineup. Despite the last-minute no-show of New Jersey's the Selzers, out-of-towners were again well represented, with Michyksaseal coming in from Missouri, Moe Loughran and the Bloody Lovelies driving from Nashville, and a host of bands turning out from all over Kentucky. Start times were an hour apart this year (rather than 45 minutes), giving each band a longer time to develop their presence.

The first high point of Thursday night came from Elizabethtown's Jive Rockets. The band had played last year during the VIP party, before the actual event, so it was great to see them participating full-scale this year. The Jive Rockets graced us with a gleeful batch of original swingabilly tunes that had several members of the audience showing off their swing dancing skills.

100 Acre Wood followed this competently with a complete change of tone. Previewing songs from their forthcoming album, Laughing At the Trees, the Woodies showcased their revamped sound, a self-assured pop rock that's more mature and coherent than their former folk/rock/blues hodgepodge.

The problem with the longer set time was that the first and last artists' sets were sorely under-attended. I was one of only a few people still around to hear Zero Cycle's 2 a.m. set at the end of Thursday night. Perhaps discouraged by this, Zero Cycle played a short but scintillating set that deserved to have been heard by a packed hall.

My Friday night began with a pleasant surprise: the excellence of Lexington's Candy Says. Their set was much better than any show of theirs I'd yet seen. It was also a nice gesture of coming full circle for the band, which played at the very first Harvest Showcase seven years ago.

Twyman, the new band fronted by Dave Ernst (ex-Swifty and Starbilly), demonstrated their commitment to loud rock by managing, through sheer volume, to knock down both Harvest-logo paint cans that were sitting in front of the speakers.

Lexington's Delicious Trip Attendants were the shocker of the evening. Formed from the ashes of Mulch, DTA is similarly powerful but more refined. Lead singer Melissa "Tree" Jackson-Nolan's vocals alternate at lightning speed from a throaty scream to a sultry coo, and everywhere in between.

Missouri's Michyksaseal was another striking genre-bender. It was a loud, poppy rock band with an enormous variety of percussion and vocals in both English and Spanish. ("This is called `Baja,' and we're going to play the Spanish version for you tonight.") As if that weren't enough, lead singer Eddie Gumucio jumped off the stage and break-danced during an instrumental break, apparently possessed by the sheer energy of the music.

Cooler took the stage immediately afterward, with lead singer Mark Ritcher making an insolent and unprintable comment about the preceding band(s) and asking, "Are you ready to ROCK?!" They proceeded to do just that.

Saturday night's show was a bit more difficult to appreciate due to the limitations of the webcasting technology. The low resolution and less-than-crystal sound quality made the webcast a poor (but certainly better-than-nothing) substitute for the live show. I'm sure several highly talented bands lost a lot of impact in the translation.

The show did feature obviously high quality performances from the always-excellent Paul K and from the Pennies, the latter demonstrating a more pronounced tilt than ever toward big, hook-y pop songs. The evening closed out with a grating, misogynistic performance from local Limp Bizkit imitators E-Flat, and a fascinatingly dark set from Berea's Chiaroscuro which I wished I'd been able to appreciate.

For more information about this year's Harvest Showcase,

see www.harvestshowcase.com.