Norman Music Festival has always been a great time to check out the latest local buzz bands with some nationally touring headliners, but what about the regional bands? Year after year, NMF brings in quality talent from neighboring states, but these touring acts tend to get lost in an ocean of band names that renders them indistinguishable from small-time locals. Here are some performances that deserve to be on your radar.
Bloody Knives – Austin, TX
Fowler Honda Grey Street Stage
Friday, 9:00 PM
Combining heavy, clouded guitar sounds with glitchy electronics, post-punk/industrial rock outfit Bloody Knives is a marriage of so many disparate sonic elements that it’s a marvel they meld so well together.
Grungy, hard-hitting drums and bass lines counterpoint the soft, darkly angelic lead vocals, an element that serves to broaden the band’s appeal without compromising in the least. Bloody Knives’ unique sound will play well at the outdoor venue, where stage lights will have a huge impact after dusk. NMF is the final date in the group’s month-long tour supporting its new record, I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This.
A/B & Hola Beach – Austin, TX
Friday, 6:30 & 8:30 PM
Formerly known as Chipper Jones, A/B is a prog/post rock duo that specializes in softly percussive structures devised from looping and effects pedals. The instrumental act thrives on atmospheric builds with subtle changes that draw the listener into ever-expanding soundscapes.
The band was featured in a Spin magazine “Best New Artists” feature, and it’s not hard to see why. A/B’s cleancut work feels fresh and inspired in a genre typified by shoegaze guitar fuzz, and it will feel right at home in the chamber-like environment of the Sooner Stage at NMF 9.
A/B is currently on a regional tour with fellow Austinites Hola Beach, which plays the same stage a couple of hours earlier at 6:30. This band’s low-key, almost disinterested approach to self-promotion reflects its music, which features garage rock guitars and vocals that range from casual to deadpan. It isn’t lazy music, though; it just feels that way because it makes an effort to hit all the right lackadaisical notes.
Pagiins – Fayetteville, AR
Red Brick Bar
Saturday, 6:30 PM
With an title like Opium Den Pool Party, one might picture a rock album that’s a little psychedelic, a little indie, and a lot of fun. This would be completely correct. Pagiins are a crazy enjoyable listen, setting blink-and-miss-it lyrical moments against catchy bass riffs and quick, bouncy drums.
If Saturday night’s crowd can step away from the main stage acts for a while and check out this band’s set at Red Brick Bar, that venue may be the perfect place for them. The crowd/stage proximity is so close that the energy will be helplessly contagious.
The Dizzease – Austin, TX
Red Brick Bar
Friday, 9:30 PM
Bubbly lo-fi pop with a twist of doo-wop and surf rock, The Dizzease is a fun DIY group destined for hand-drawn band stickers and buttons. Lead female vocals, kitschy keyboards, and the occasional tambourine keep things lively, though the guitar and drum work also does its part to keep the feel loose within the band.
The riffs aren’t the most complex, and the harmonies don’t aim to be the tightest, but this adds to the band’s colorfully scrappy charm. The group is currently touring in support of their debut album.
Andy Sydow – Denver, CO
Red Brick Bar
Thursday, 7:30 PM
Americana singer-songwriter Andy Sydow writes piano-driven songs that frequently blur the line between rock and folk. He borrows elements from each and blends them with his unique, down-to-earth voice, one that was made to wear well with age.
Despite his Colorado roots, he draws inspiration from Southern Louisiana musicianship, a trait clearly spelled out in lead single “New Orleans.” He will be playing with a full band in support of his sophomore release, Trailhead, which dropped in 2015.
Phantom Head – Kansas City, MO
Thursday, 10:00 PM
Rough around the edges and full of fuzzed out guitar, Phantom Head features lyrics that are distant and indecipherable, a detail that will be magnified in the garage environment of Opolis’ indoor stage. Expect plenty of noise. The dismal, barely-sung vocal delivery conveys the band’s disdain for mainstream music standards and, likely, everything else considered mainstream as well.
The overall approach doesn’t feel introspective or thick enough to fit the shoegaze mold, it isn’t heavy enough to be considered metal, and it’s too sluggish to represent punk. Phantom Head is sort of its own swirl of indistinct distortion, which in a sense better captures rock angst than any of those genres.
Friday, beginning 3:30 PM
Every year, Guestroom brings in a lineup to perform in the alley space behind the store, and NMF 9 finds the record store mainstay doing the same with a handful of rowdy rock acts hailing from a number of cities. Austin-based Ghetto Ghouls and Nameless Frames boasts plenty of punk energy while Psychic Heat from Lawrence, KS, carries the psychedelic flame.
Honey, hailing all the way from Pittsburgh, PA, is sort of an intermediary between the two styles and will mix things up nicely between the two Austin bands. The first out-of-towner on the bill, Hidden Ritual, doesn’t take the stage until 5:30, but with 30-minute sets each, all five bands are expected to be done by 9 PM, leaving plenty of night to explore the rest of the festival stages.
This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.