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Grimes Fest 2018

  • Art In 1444 East Washington Avenue Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Things Falling Apart and Transformer Lootbag are among the highlights at this annual celebration of oddball rock. Info

Things Falling Apart.

Things Falling Apart.

Grimes Fest is one of Madison's least-heralded yet most distinctive "fests," offering a reprieve from sweaty outdoor settings with a potluck-style culinary approach and booker Dan Grimes' focus on regional bands that are either heavy and/or sonically skewed. This year's eight-artist lineup ranges from the atmospheric post-rock of DeKalb, Illinois six-piece Things Falling Apart to the frenetic post-punk of Madison's Transformer Lootbag.

Things Falling Apart's latest album, this year's Hex Debts, is a bit gentler and more approachable than their 2016 effort Blind Hammer, I Miss You Like Nails. Formed out of tracks that didn't make the cut of the latter, Hex Debts favors shorter pieces and places the band's guitars in more subtle, supporting roles. On tracks like "Telta Aeta," there's more space for droning synth figures and violin and banjo segments to take center-stage at times. Despite the relative brevity of Hex Debts, it feels just as full as blind hammer, in that it offers an even greater range of musicality in less space. However, the title track features brooding, distorted, and clashing guitar parts and thumping percussion, and closes the album in a fashion that's a bit more in line with the band's past, offering a thrilling coda to what is overall a relatively soothing album.

Transformer Lootbag have only ever released one album, a self-titled effort from 2003, but have firmly established themselves as one of the most brilliantly fried bands to ever emerge from Madison. The album opens with "Big Top Icon Contender," a track that's gleefully tuneful when it's not veering into stabs of dissonance. It concludes with the thrashing, disjointed "Crowning The Ant King." In between these two tracks, the trio's performances grow more chaotic, the vocals (each member sings and shouts) more terse and less melodic, the guitars more distorted, and the percussion more boisterous. "Observation Crew," the album's fourth song, is the one that bridges these two extremes and is also the record's high point. Ricky Riemer's guitar cycles in hectic, but controlled phrases, Matt Abplanalp's drums establish a tumbling groove, and the group's vocals carry a note of barely suppressed panic. —Henry Solo