It's no joke, people: Elkfest is a big deal, and for three days its 14 bands will turn Browne's Addition into the most happening 'hood in the Inland Northwest.
The music will be mostly rock in its usual variations -- indie, classic, mellow, hard -- but a few Elkfest bands have an electronic vibe. There's something for everyone (except rap fans), but Elkfest's diverse collection of groups doesn't feel thrown together. If a mixtape were made using one song from each group's MySpace page, it would sound something like a condensed episode of NPR's All Songs Considered.
Unlike most multi-day festivals, Elkfest is set to unfurl at a manageable pace. Friday, Saturday and Sunday feature four, five and five bands respectively, so should you decide to see them all (and you should), it won't feel like a frantic, Sasquatch-style music marathon.
Before we get into the bands, it should be noted that Elkfest is not simply a music festival, but a specific type. Organic but well-planned, hip but unpretentious, it's the kind of festival that gives neighborhoods character. Multi-day, open-air concerts in residential areas bring strangers together on their home turf, not some neutral piece of scorched earth outside of town, and inspire feelings of genuine community between punk skaters and yuppie Republicans alike.
FRIDAY June 1
4 PM | Danny Webber
Loops and loops and loops! This kid loops! Much has been made of it in other publications, young Webber's embraced it, built a show around it, now here it is. D. Webb, the loop masta.
6 PM | La Cha Cha
Self-described "indie-pop-jazz-alt-rock-electronica" three-piece La Cha Cha is an unusual group. Hailing from Spokane, LCC makes smoothed-out soundscapes perfect for upscale martini-bar background music and sleek car commercials. It's a hybrid sound, pitting programmed drums against clean, delay-heavy guitar lines, and it goes down smooth.
8 PM | Kid Theodore & amp; Band of Annuals
Salt Lake City indie-rockers Kid Theodore sound like Tri-Cities heroes Mu Meson, which is a great thing. Their high-voltage, stutter-stop rock floats on tastefully dramatic vocals and energetic, strummy guitar work. Jaunty piano breakdowns are nice, but it's the soaring background vocals that put Kid Theodore over the top and into the "awesome" category. Playing alongside them are the brilliant Band of Annuals. Check page 41 for a lowdown on their new album.
SATURDAY June 2
Noon | Barcelona
Barcelona rocks with serene grace, possessing preciously practiced poise. Frontman Brian Fennel's vocals are pitch-perfect and full of feeling; Barcelona's Elkfest set should get the crowd swaying in that old lighters-in-the-air kind of way. Its original material is excellent, but so is the sureshot: an exhilarating and surprisingly faithful cover of Hall & amp; Oates' "Rich Girl." Trust me.
2 PM | A Pack of Wolves
This NorCal duo puts a digital spin on dance-pop. Repeating bleep-blip synth figures over driving drums, things get fleshed out with electric guitar power chords and vocals ranging from buoyant to brooding. Like Ratatat or Ghostland Observatory, APoW kicks out angular, propulsive jams.
4 PM | Tokio Weigh Station
This band is a rocking-er take on Beatlesey riffs with Elliott Smith-style melodic hooks. Tokio Weigh Station's chord changes and harmonic transitions are careful and dead-on, the kind of songs "they just don't make nowadays." The whole thing has a kind of '70s-ish flavor, and if it were up to me (and someday it will be) Tokio Weigh Station would be the sound of rock radio.
6 PM | Velella Velella
Dance music always and never sounded like this, because Velella Velella is the sound of now. Years of rare-groove, funk, and jazz-rock fusion inform the Seattle-via-Spokane four-piece, yielding momentous jams that come off like organic remixes of songs hip-hop producers might sample. It's one-of-a-kind stuff, and if you weren't so busy dancing, you might get the feeling that something important was going on here.
8 PM | Shim
Shim is Seattle-based heavy rock, and usually performs with a triangle-shaped bank of floodlights and a fog machine. The lights and fog help to, you know, put out the vibe, but Shim's muscular rock is far from nebulous mystery. Immediate and clever, they pound out riffy rock just this side of the metal divide, while whip-smart storytelling and odes to not climbing corporate ladders make up the lyrics. Shim's Elkfest set is the right time to switch to Pabst.
SUNDAY June 3
Noon | The Shook Twins
Straight out of Sandpoint, Idaho, The Shook Twins is a young (like still-in-school young), blonde, acoustic guitar-based sister act. The twist is that one of them beatboxes, but The Shook Twins is decidedly un-hip-hop. Instead, TST play like a Saddle Creek band, similar to a bourgeoning Azure Ray. It's coffee-shop beauty bound for VH1.
2 PM | Cris Lucas
The sometime Idahoan can't make up his mind if he's from around here or everywhere but. His sound is definitely familiar though, like Mr. A-Z.
4 PM | Joel Smith & amp; the Hands of Plenty
Inlander staffer Joel Smith sounds like Damien Jurado with a sense of humor. Stretching his appealing baritone over strummy acoustic guitar, his songs start out like your friend saying, "Hey, bro, listen to this." Then something clever happens with the lyrics, female harmonies sweeten the mix, and the pace is set: pretty, thoughtful, smart and weary. It sways like twangless country, and there's a vague alcoholism in its warmth.
6 PM | Hockey
Spokane by way of SoCal, Hockey is excellent local pop. It's a guitar-based band, but the sound is thoroughly modern, mixing sugar-pop vocals with a grooving, near-electronic feel. Young and cool, Hockey sounds accomplished, rhythm-heavy, and locked-in on every song, promising no filler for its Elkfest set. Every paper in town has written the hell out of this band. It's time you checked them out. Watch Hockey for the same reason people watch hockey: straight hits.
8 PM | Flicky & Jigsaw Republic
The two crews are keeping pretty quiet about the dual set, but from the brief sitar flit on Flicky's "Let It Ride" and Jigsaw's self-designation as a jam band, it's pretty clear they've got common ground to work from.