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The Wall of Sound Festival '07

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Nearly two weeks ago, I traveled eastward on an excursion to the Lone Star State. I expected Texas to be a hostile experience filled with unnecessarily aggressive, booze-fueled behemoths. You know the truck driving, cowboy kind. My weekend trip proved it to be quite the opposite. I arrived at LaGrave Field, home of Ft. Worth's AAA baseball team, bright and early for the 3rd annual Wall of Sound Festival. Considering all of our Spector coverage, I figured it would only be fitting to attend a music festival with such a name. I must also confess that I couldn't resist the stellar line-up of Indie rock heavyweights Explosions In The Sky, Pinback, Midlake, Ghostland Observatory, and The Books . As I checked in, I saw Austinist on the press list. I was determined to find one of these fine folk and bond over, what my friend has properly coined, the ist-evers.

After being completely misdirected by a series of inept persons, I found my way to the terribly neglected Stage Three. There were two massive main stages on the actual baseball field. So while one band played their forty minute set on one stage, the other band set up. However, this Stage Three business resided outside of, but within a close enough vicinity to, the baseball diamond. Unfortunately, all you could really hear was the main stage acts.

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Not the smartest of ideas, but I had the opportunity to catch some great local artists. My good friend Daniel Folmer, who hails from Denton, TX, played a laid-back set of tunes from his lo-fi rock album Gloria. Not very many people have showed up by the 11AM gate time, but the ones who did make it sat on the grass under the Fort Worth sun to watch Folmer or Tame...Tame and Quiet.

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Tame...Tame and Quiet hail from the general Metroplex area and people compare them to the likes of Mission To Burma and Slint. It wasn't my favorite combination of elements, but they were talented musicians. After watching a few minutes of their sophisticated, overly technical art rock, I went back over to the sad, sad Stage Three.

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A fine young woman named Sarah Jaffe played compelling folk rock via acoustic guitar and an occasional string addition. I felt as though her voice sounds a lot like Mindy Smith's, but my friends joked, "More like Tori Amos". She's set to be opening for Jens Lekman at the Granada Theatre on November 13th. So she must be doing a whole lot right.

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Austin/Phoenix's instrumental duo Lymbyc System put on a very engaging instrumental set, incorporating various electronic mediums. I particularly enjoyed the xylophone addition. It's truly amazing that these two fine young gentlemen manage to pump out such expansive, dynamic instrumentals.

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Dallas' own Paper Chase played crazed, spasmodic rock in vein of Cursive. Out of all the openers they put on the most energetic show. Songs from their 2006 release Now You Are One Of Us were showcased. I particularly enjoyed "We Know Where You Sleep" because watching all the instrumental chaos onstage was entertaining. The drummer must've played too hard because near the end of the stage he threw up all over the place. He continued to rock despite the violent upheaval.

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A little boy told me that a lot of people came for The Sword. This surprised me because I only know their music from shredding it on Guitar Hero 2. I believe I may have referred to it as "insufferable" in times past. Regardless, I sat through their metal-tinged set of extensive solos and massive shred-fests. I must admit this type of music draws a certain type of crowd, one that I'm not entirely fond of. Let's just say there were older women, who shouldn't have been wearing bikinis, head banging with little children. So wrong.

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Micah P Hinson put on a very raw set of songs from his 2006 release Micah P. Hinson And The Opera Circuit. Although I had always expected it, Micah confirmed that his album has done much better in Europe, an unfortunate reality. His drummer switched between drums and banjo for a folk-infused set. Micah puts on a raw, occasionally scream-filled performance that tends to throw people aback, but I enjoyed this rare opportunity to watch him give it his all.

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Seeing Rob Crow and Pinback is always an enjoyable experience. Although after a few beers Rob tends to give into his careless ways. His dexterity seems to suffer tremendously at the hand of alcohol. People relentlessly screamed for "Penelope!" I find it funny that traveling all the way to the center of the country doesn't change all that much. Pinback ran through a set primarily comprised of tunes from their latest release Autumn of The Seraphs, Blue Screen Life, and Summer In Abandon. No surprises. Highlights included "Good To Sea", "Sender", "Non-Photo Blue", "Fortress", and, of course, "Penelope".

Somewhere in between Pinback and The Books I happen to struck up a conversation with a fellow photographer in a cowboy hat. As luck would have it, he was from Austinist and his name was Keith. We bonded in ist-ever union over the clusterfuck of Wall of Sound-related issues. There were no proper barricades for the press to shoot photos. There was no real security and on top of that, where's the man in charge? We had no one to express our concerns to really. We decided to take matters into our own hands by proceeding to scale speakers for snapshots.

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I was anticipating The Books' performance the most. I was so goddamn curious about how their set would play out logistically that I went over to their stage early to watch them set up. Oh, an acoustic guitar, and an electric standup bass, not so out of the ordinary. However, when they took stage it all came together.

A projector displayed short films behind them while they provided the appropriate soundtrack. Some singing, scattered acoustic guitar lines, almost orchestral bass backings, a plethora of sound clips, and random images made their set an unforgettable journey through experimental minimalism. They played a lot of songs from Lost And Safe, a few from The Lemon Of Pink, and some from Thought for Food. I was thoroughly impressed by their live set, even though I was secretly hating myself the whole time for having missed them perform at the Getty in the past.

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I was completely discombobulated as Midlake was supposed to take stage, but instead Ghostland Observatory did. Festival mishap of sorts? A fellow blogger approached me and started going off about how awesome they are live. He had seen them at ACL the week prior and was, apparently, still jazzed about seeing them again. I found this promising.

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Keyboardist/percussionist Thomas Turner entered the stage with his usual cape ensemble on. It sort of makes him look like Count Chocula. As soon as "Sad Sad City" came into effect, the crowd blew up. Front man Aaron Behrens puts on one of the most energetic, captivating live performance I've seen in some time. He is an exemplary front man, mainly because of his awesome dance moves. Behren's voice sounds like Prince and James Brown with a hint of Mars Volta front man Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

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It must also be noted that they are quite the Texas sensation. People were on top of speakers: dancing, letting it all hang out, making complete fools of themselves and not giving a damn. It was a beautiful sight. The duo put on a vibrant set including songs like "Sad Sad City", "Midnight Voyage", "Piano Man" and "Vibrate" off of their 2006 release Paparazzi Lightning.

Ghostland Observatory is coming to the Music Box at Henry Fonda on November 30th.

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The photographers joked about how they felt badly for Midlake, Denton's much blogged about indie rock act. To follow up such a jaw-dropping, in-your-face live performance like Ghostland's would be impossible. Their low-energy set seemed to drag after such a lively, engaging precursor. Nevertheless, they performed a seamless set of songs from their 2006 effort The Trials of Van Occupanther, including my personal favorites "Roscoe" and "Young Bride". I wasn't terribly excited by their performance. It came across as lacking effervescence, flat in many ways.

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Under a warm Ft. Worth sky the anticipation brew. People bum-rushed the makeshift barricades (ribbon) and soon Explosions In The Sky were engulfed in a sea of fans. At this point, I'm a little scared for my life because I'm standing on the actual wall of sound (speakers) shooting pictures. They proceeded to stun everyone with a fervent instrumental set, sampling their latest album All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone, as well as The Rescue, and The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. Seeing Explosions In The Sky in a baseball diamond in Texas was almost like experiencing Friday Night Lights in real life. It was completely bizarre.

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All in all, the Wall of Sound Festival was a small-scale operation with lofty aspirations. I found myself completely bewildered at many moments throughout the day, but I had a killer time. I discovered so many new things: 1. I can eat hot dogs all day, but then I end up feeling sick 2. Frito Pie is just another term for chili on top of Fritos 3. Never put bandanas in my back pocket(my friend showed me the gay hanky codes). I'd like to thank the hospitable people of Texas for being so pleasant.

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