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Audiotree delivers on festival excellence once again

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Audiotree delivers on festival excellence once again

Photo by Mike Heinz

Photo by Mike Heinz

Photo by Mike Heinz

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It was a picturesque start to the weekend — the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and songs of resistance and cacophonous noise rang through the still Kalamazoo, Michigan, air. After Denver’s Flaural, Brooklyn punk rockers Stuyedeyed took the mainstage and Chicago’s self-described “noise polluters”  Melkbelly followed in an even louder and disorienting fashion. The Audiotree Music Festival was officially back at Kalamazoo’s Arcadia Festival Creek Park for its sixth year.

Kalamazoo is known largely as a college town and a beer town (thanks to Western Michigan University and Bell’s Brewery, respectively). If Audiotree has its way, it’ll be known as a Midwest music hub too. The bill full of music industry mainstays and fresh-faced newcomers offered a lot to see this year. Josh Tillman (better known as Father John Misty) touring his recently released fourth album, indie titans Real Estate still supporting last year’s “In Mind,” and plenty of up-and-coming artists highlighted by a new expansion to the intimate festival. The WIDR FM stage, a sidestage booked jointly by Audiotree and Western Michigan’s campus radio station, featured many smaller local Midwest groups on a festival stage, the likes of which few of them have had the opportunity to play on yet. It was a fitting addition to the festival. A great music festival is defined by great music though, and Marquette Radio was on hand to witness plenty of those.

The noisy beginnings of the festival didn’t end with Melkbelly. Around the golden hour of Saturday evening Diet Cig presented its bright take on pop-punk in a commanding performance. Lead singer Alex Luciano commanded the stage in a vibrantly striped jumpsuit with jumps and high-kicks, completely undeterred by a sizable knee brace (she tore her ACL mid-set during a recent performance in Philadelphia (worth noting she finished that set with said torn ACL)). Diet Cig’s set brought a beautiful amount of color and light to the evening.

In a jaw-dropping set, Houston’s Khruangbin took the stage around sunset. Their stage set up was simple: a bare bones three-piece drum kit, strikingly modest Fender guitar and bass amps, three talented musicians and two black wigs. The music of Khruangbin is intoxicating, taking listeners on a ride through Eastern-influenced rhythms and scales while Mark Speer shows off that he is quite possibly the greatest living guitarist. The night’s headliner Local Natives would express that sentiment in their own way as well when vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kelcey Ayer switched from keyboards to guitar mid-set. “I’m about to play guitar, which is my second job in this band so it shouldn’t be a big deal,” he said. “But I’m having to play guitar after Khruangbin. And that guy is incredible.”

The afterparty for this year’s festival came mid-weekend at Kalamazoo’s Old Dog Tavern, where Chicago’s Pool Holograph shared the stage with Flaural and Stuyedeyed. Keeping in tradition with years past, these acts were all either early afternoon or sidestage performers, but at the afterparty they were given evening sets to showcase themselves before all their peers. And it was enjoyable for sure — the psych rock stylings of Flaural take a few pages from Australian bands like Tame Impala and Pond, but they carve their own path musically with their reliance on strong instrumental composition. Stuyedeyed, in a late-night setting much more fitting than the earlier 12:50 p.m. start time, delivered a set with the intensity that makes you wonder: How does a band do this night after night? The comfortable and accessible backyard stage at the Old Dog was once again the perfect setting for fans and artists alike.

Brigitte Naggar, the woman behind Montreal’s Common Holly, started the day Sunday with a set of hauntingly beautiful confessions and soundscapes. Playing largely from 2017’s criminally underappreciated debut album “Playing House,” she enraptured the lucky audience of early arrivals. Her set highlight was “I’m Crazy, OK” from her forthcoming sophomore album, a song that starts beautifully intimate and ends with a calculated aggression that surely left many people in the crowd excited for the impending album.

Post Animal may have gotten a publicity boost in their early days from a healthy amount of “Stranger Things” related buzz, but there’s no denying that they have grown into a bonafide killer psych rock outfit as well. The afternoon’s set was equal parts tight and loose. The band members have performed so much in the past year that they play with each other as a band impeccably. Despite coming off of a late night set at Prism Fest in Wisconsin barely 14 hours prior, they delivered a festival-highlighting set.

Come nightfall it was headliner time. With Father John Misty’s night-capping set he proved that his name sits atop the bill for good reason. When he put his guitar down and took the mic off the stand, he entered full frontman mode. Every theatric movement had confidence, every vocal felt effortless, and it’s near impossible to not come away from his set a fan. Not to miss his typical deadpan sense of humor, he stopped at one point to comment on branded beach balls that were intermittently soaring through the crowd and hitting unsuspecting attendees. “I would love to have been in that board meeting,” he said, launching into his recreation of the corporate scene he vividly envisioned. “Yeah, boss, I don’t get it. We didn’t spend much money on it, they bounce around and hit people in the face, but it’s been a very profitable quarter for us. I think we double down.” Multiple audience members recounted how much they couldn’t help but appreciate the set from “rock’s most fabulous miserabilist.”

When the dust settled it was music that won this weekend. Music fans, music creators and music workers — Audiotree Music Festival is made for you. As many people who have worked with the company through sessions, bookings or any of the numerous ways the platform engages the industry would attest, those working tirelessly in music have a respite in the hands of the hardworking people of Audiotree. From someone who considers himself a fan, creator and worker, a personal thank you must be extended to the Audiotree team once again. The hard work shows. Audiotree is what’s great about the music industry in 2018.

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About the Writer
Jimmy Drenovsky, Assistant Publicist

Jimmy Drenovsky is a junior at Marquette who spends most of his time procrastinating his engineering responsibilities by finding new and obscure music...

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