The crowd for the the WCDB 34th Anniversary Music Festival at Valentine’s was a mix of rowdy students, veteran DJs and rock-show enthusiasts, with some in attendance donning paper-happy birthday hats and balloons. Stretched over two nights on two stages with almost 30 bands, the festival was like Late. . . . With Jools Holland.
Hanslick Rebllion, led by local music eccentric Jed Davis, shredded keyboards and made the paint on the walls bubble with their medley of the Monkees’ “Sugar” and “Heroin” by the Velvet Underground.
Lit by eerie bare bulbs, Around the World and Back’s anthemic set culminated in the band pounding out a syncopated rhythm on a communal floor tom and rattling the liquor bottles with fuzz.
Unexpected cover songs abounded as the Parlor (formerly We Are Jeneric) played buoyant covers of the Flaming Lips’ “Race for the Prize” and “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn, and John. Eric Krans’ David Lee Roth jump kicks on the barn-burning original tune “Murder of Crows” tickled the spring in the crowd’s hamstring.
Indie rock wunderkind Avi Buffalo played a solo acoustic set downstairs to a restless crowd that had been rocked all night, but his plangent vocals obliterated the mumble of the crowd on songs like the upbeat “Summer Cum.”
Barons in the Attic closed out Friday night, celebrating the release of their new album, Turn It Off and Take out the Battery. They focused on songs from that release, like the infectious “Title Credits for a 90’s Sitcom” and “Julia” featuring Jen O’Connor of the Parlor singing harmony. The whisper/roar dynamism of “Hudson Valley Top Doctor” incited a small-scale circle pit of boozy college kids.
Shapeshifter Matthew Carefully played a set for electric guitar and voice composed of material written in 2005. Heavy delay on the guitar made the distance hauntingly palpable, especially on the song “New York Guest,” where he left the crowd with the smoky repeated line “They remained friends.”
Boston band the Neighborhoods brought a 12 oz. can of snarl. Bass player Lee Harrington smashed a chair onstage and sneered at the puckish crowd. He then crystallized the band’s performance with this choice sound bite: “That song was about my dick.”
After watching the Neighborhoods, the stage setup for diamond-in-the-rough Brian Dewan looked like the set for Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! With a homemade electric zither on a card table and a dulcimer on a church pulpit, Dewan played witty left-field ballads and blues. His opener, “Creatures,” detailed a close encounter of the third kind in which the space invaders hand out presents to earthlings with Dewan zithering a “Dark Was the Night” slide lick.
Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned debuted new material, including a slow burner lead by Alex Muro on vocals called “In the Riverbed.” The spaghetti-western horn breakdown shook sternums with its swell.
To close out the festival, Jersey devils Titus Andronicus burned the mother down on “A More Perfect Union,” from 2010’s The Monitor. With sweat sheeting on his forehead, Patrick Stickles screamed, “Tramps like us, maybe we were born to die,” and slashed a guitar solo that nearly snapped the neck off his pawn-shop Peavey. Thirteenth unexpected cover of the weekend: “The Boys are Back in Town.”