Fuzz Fest 6 takes frizzle fried rock riffs and distills them into a sweet musical liquor at the legendary Blind Pig in Ann Arbor.
Fuzz Fest 6
If Iggy Pop were in Michigan, he would be at Fuzz Fest 6. Let us be bold and say it out loud. Ann Arbor is home to some of the world’s finest punk and heavy rock bands in history. The Stooges, The Laughing Hyenas, Big Chief, and Taproot come to mind. It is only fitting that Ann Arbor host one of the state’s most eclectic rock festivals at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. This festival is here to remind us that rock is alive and well. Fuzz Fest also lets us know that there is fabulous music to be discovered. You just have to walk through the door.
Six years of fuzz. Let that sink into your marrow. Six years of no holds barred indie rock goodness. A cavalcade of 33 bands covering the spectrum of rock from hardcore, to punk, to cosmic light shapes on a whaler krillin with a human skull. Boom baby boom!
Fuzz Fest is Chris Taylor’s labor of love for the local music scene. The psychedelic light fandango known as the Overhead Army is at it again with Jeremy Wheeler manning the helm. Jeremy’s boisterous artwork on Fuzz Fest posters and shirts is gorgeous. Bold, vivid, and fun describe his work and captures the spirit of this festival. On hand to live stream all three days of rock is Max Green (aka Uncle Ghoulie) of Truth Porn Militia. Keeping the tunes blasting loud and clear is sound magician Adam Wilkinson. Last but not least, I have to praise Jim Symons and the dedicated staff at the Blind Pig. Jim handles logistics and the staff of the Blind Pig makes sure no one goes thirsty.
Fuzz Fest 6 – Day 1
Kicking off Fuzz Fest 6 with a blast of pure indie rock is Towner. They play unfettered rock that is the hallmark of punk and garage rock. Their songs were upbeat and snazzy like a perfect new pair of jeans. If you dig Dinosaur Jr. or Mudhoney, you should give Towner a run.
Strange Flavors were here to melt our brains with a big dose of psychedelic blues rock. Their name conjures memories of the first time you enjoyed falafels at Jerusalem Garden or dal at Earthen Jar. True to their name, the band’s music is spicy, hot, sweet, and satisfying. The band moved with the swelling waves of sound and drew us all into their humming embrace.
Cosmic Light Shapes
The swirling colors from the Overhead Army at Fuzz Fest 6 fit like a glove with the mind expansive tones of the Cosmic Light Shapes. Their songs and performance felt like a waking dream. The music oscillating between vigorous and sublime while always engaging.
You Look Poor
The band known as You Look Poor stole the show with their take on the theme song to the original Godzilla movie. You know that awesome original black and white with Raymond Burr. Yes, that song played with all the horrible dread and catastrophe that filled my young mind as I sat gob-smacked in front of the TV. Topping off their set was the story behind the band’s name. Jeff (bass) and Nate (drums) used to work at the Blind Pig. As they were leaving work and walking to get some pizza, someone from a passing car stops and yells “You Look Poor!”. They laughed and that tag line now is part of Fuzz Fess glory. A great set of thunder from a couple of homeless dudes.
“We haven’t played together in six months” was the announcement from Trout as they took the main stage at Fuzz Fest 6. Intriguing, yet I had already been primed to hear this band live. They did not disappoint with a set of house burning blues. If you think of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, you are in the right ballpark. Trout’s passion for this music filled the Blind Pig with joy.
The evil genius of Carl Perkins and The Cramps soaked in PBR with a shot of cocaine gives you a taste of Las Drogas. Rockabilly fashion draped in “I don’t give a fuck” punk sensibilities. The corner stage at Fuzz Fest was twitching and shaking all over.
Say it with me friends “Zee Zee – Vah – Vah“. It feels nice in your mouth. Like a tango with your jaw and tongue. As fun as the name is to say, the music is “funner”. Yep, “Funner” is the best word to describe the aura of bliss in the Blind Pig. The members of the band bopped between instruments in a musical roulette. They dished out tunes which captured the band’s own personas while invoking the spirit of the Talking Heads, Violent Femmes, and The Breeders.
Late night on a Thursday meant nothing to the crowd who continued to pack the Blind Pig and witness the aural fury of Super Thing. Everything about Super Thing is loud and devastating. They were perhaps one song into their set before people started moshing. A few hearty souls upped the ante with some crowd surfing. A testament to sweet mayhem. All the while, Super Thing blasted away a healthy layer of skin and at least a million fine ear hairs. The first rule of Super Thing is to rock with superiority.
I felt as though I had journeyed into a murky moor as moonlight draws me deeper into the mist. This all came upon me as Cruthu unleashed their first earth-rattling riff. There are doom bands and then there is Cruthu. These guys take the flag originally sewn by Sabbath and make it their own. The unwavering and complete solidity of Cruthu’s music held us transfixed in its gargantuan excellence.
Seeking to further shake the foundation of the Blind Pig at Fuzz Fest 6 is the sledgehammer riffs of Wizard Union. If the Dark Lord Sauron played in a band, it would be in Wizard Union. Thick overdrive was shoveled into the air without mercy. A storm filled with leaden thunder reverberated into the marrow of our bones.
I sometimes feel sorry for the last bands each night of Fuzz Fest because the crowds tend to taper off. This was not the case tonight with the shockwave of strange from Child Bite. I have seen this band a number of times and I never fail to grin in shocked amazement. The sweaty magnetic ball of spastic energy had fans bouncing and crowd-surfing. Child Bite was frantic and fantastic.
Fuzz Fest 6 – Day 2
With the buzz from the first night of Fuzz Fest 6 still in the air, a granite hammer of riffs descended with forceful might for day 2.
Riding an overdrive wave from Hell is the titanic twosome called Orc. Thunderous drums and punchy chest thumping bass created a pulsing groove. This dynamic duo pulled no punches and set the night up for an avalanche of loud and proud rock music.
The Liars Circle
Tearing up the side stage with a full-on groove and soaring vocals is The Liars Circle. Burly riffs and mammoth rhythms that reminded me of Spiritual Beggars and Orange Goblin. The hooks within each tune kept the audience riveted and stomping with the beat. This band is now on my radar and should be on yours too.
Sweden’s loss is our gain as Slumlord Radio make another appearance at Fuzz Fest. Their set was filled with snarling rock spitting with punk. Imagine a junkyard dog barking and snapping for the full visual. Slumlord Radio’s raucous performance evokes what we love about rock; raw power with a vicious thump.
The Jackpine Snag
Expressing all of your frustration, pain, and suffering in a sonic tornado is the Jackpine Snag. Every damn time I see this band, I am blown away. You get the sense when watching them play that they can barely contain the forces tearing through them with each note. Thrashing and grimacing with eyes rolled back for attack, The Jackpine Snag don’t play; they explode. One of the most gratifying sets of the entire Fuzz Fest 6 was spewed all over the Blind Pig.
It has been a minute since seeing Whaler back at Fuzz Fest 2. They are still churning out massive riffs and monstrous rhythms in the vein of Alabama Thunderpussy or Fireball Ministry. Shrouded in fog, Whaler lashed us with muscular music that sets your hair on end.
Screaming with the glory of hard rock is Electric Huldra. Fuzz Fest is about giving fans a chance to experience the best in rock music and this band is at the top. The riffs and rhythms make you want to weep they are so crushingly heavy. The music of Electric Huldra radiates with power and emotion. Heightening the emotive quality of their set is the expressive playing and potent vocals. The overall effect is sheer joy for fans of hard rock.
The golden touch of Midas invoked the metal gods of old at Fuzz Fest 6. Midas is a supergroup of sorts having formed from members of Blue Snaggletooth, Wild Savages, and Bison Machine. Flashing golden flying V’s and a savage rhythm section, they summoned the essence of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and the Scorpions. Harmonized licks soared upon ass-kicking bass and drums. Midas were entertaining as hell and definitely worth checking out when they tour your town.
King Under The Mountain
I can’t help but think of dwarves manning forges crafting fine jewelry and weapons under the Lonely mountain when I hear King Under The Mountain. The clamor of drums and bass with fevered guitars casts an image of workers busy in their mountain lair. A grumbling rumble mixed with the clash of steel kept us all at attention.
Temple of the Fuzz Witch
The weight of the heavens on the back of Atlas cannot compare to the heaviness leveled upon the Blind Pig by Temple of the Fuzz Witch. This band crushes completely. Stoney riffs that pound mountains into dust. They certainly have studied the tombs of Iommi, Ward, and Butler in depth. While Temple of the Fuzz Witch doesn’t put on the most energetic shows, their music is all you really need.
Bubak put on a showcase of feral riffs. They gnashed and tore like a starving wolf on a desperation kill. A sound that captures the shredded ruin within the circle of life. The funny thing is that like a lot of musicians who play aggressive music, these are some of the nicest dudes you’ll ever meet. A Friday night feeding frenzy with Bubak is always a good time.
Capping off the second night of Fuzz Fest with a seething set of cacophonous hardcore was S.N.A.F.U. In a world where the shit seems to constantly be hitting the fan, it is cathartic to project all that anger and despair through this band’s music. Stark and vicious guitars wailing upon a Herculean blast of bass and drums set the blood to boil. While the music is merciless, the mind finds peace. S.N.A.F.U. allows us to reach a state of mindfulness through chaos.
Fuzz Fest 6 – Day 3
A sweet dream evening delving into the surreal side of fuzz. The final night of Fuzz Fest 6 bursts upon your senses like a big mouthful of pistachio ice cream as your brain sizzles on LSD.
Doctor Peter Larson
As I eyed the array of musical instruments upon the stage for Doctor Peter Larson, I said to myself “This should be interesting”. Then the music started; my mind was blown. At its heart was a constant pulse; what I will call the cosmic thrum. The pieces embed and flowed like a vast ocean. Tiny notes rippled like a school of fish as swelling drums and guitar shadowed unseen creatures within the depths. While it may seem that Doctor Peter Larson is a trippy band name, it is the actual name of a man named Peter Larson. He is a doctor doing some great work in public health in Africa. Intriguing music to start off our last day of Fuzz Fest.
The Real Cool Fuzz Band
They really were a Real Cool Fuzz Band. A couple of younger dudes jamming MC5 and Stooges tunes with legendary Weapons bassist and Schoolhouse Studio engineer, Pete Bankert. I was floored by their ardent performance. In particular, the guitarist/vocalist seemed to be possessed by the spirit of Wayne Kramer and Rob Tyner. Writhing with the blues on a Saturday night is alright with me.
Watching Vapourbile is nearly as captivating as the music created. Alfred Turner single-handedly creates a mosaic of sound before your eyes. With a broad stroke of keyboard, splashes of droning bass, accenting grace notes a lone guitar string and finished with primal drums; a soundscape is experienced visually and sonically. This was a mesmerizing performance.
From out of left field comes the Loose Koozies. A country band embracing the ethos of DIY rock like country use to be back in the early days of Elvis and Cash. You know that time when rock and country were kissing cousins of the blues. With two guitars, bass, drums and a pedal steel they were packed in tight on the side stage at Fuzz Fest 6. You won’t find the polish and pop of what passes for country music these days and that is just fine with me. Instead, you’ll get songs that resonate with honesty and a love of cheap beer.
I first heard Kommander at Fuzz Fest 5 and was sold after one song. At Fuzz Fest 6 they played as a three piece which threw me for a moment. However, I regained my composure. You can’t be stymied in the presence of the mighty Kommander. Riffs this good could get you locked up anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. The intrinsic power of the band’s music was undeniable during this set. Even with some amp technical issues, they rocked with intensity.
Thankfully, Cyrano Jones did not show up with a bag of tribbles during their gig at Fuzz Fest. They did bring their trippy tunes featuring popping beats, a beefy bass, and fuzzy wah-wah guitars. When this music was applied to the weird and wild lighting, the mind could start to fold in upon itself in the most unusual ways. If you dig a modern take on The 13th Floor Elevators, you should check out the intergalactic criminals of Cyrano Jones.
I feel confident that a lot of the crowd for the final night of Fuzz Fest 6 showed up just in time to see and hear the psychedelic surf-rock sagas of Krillin. For those new to these inter-dimensional galactic outlaws, they appear at local venues to fry up some surf rock. In the process, they inevitably end up doing battle with their psychic overlords to save themselves (and us in the process). Krillin’s Fuzz Fest rigmarole included plenty of fuzzy surf, a disembowelment, and a beheading. Not bad for a 30-minute show.
With Mad Max on the screen, Toe Cutter ripped into a muscular set of hefty riffs. Sadly, they just got started when a power strip shorted out and killed half the PA. Adam and Chris dove in and did some quick problem-solving to salvage the set. After that hiccup, Toe Cutter picked up where they left off with crunchy grooves packing a pant-load of a low-end wallop. If you dig the music of Corrosion of Conformity or Down, then you should spend some time with Toe Cutter.
Bouncy, buoyant, blissful, brilliant, and I don’t know why I want to use words that start with “B” to describe an “A+++” performance by Scissor Now. The veterans of all Fuzz Fests except number 3, this band never fails to make me smile. The music is zany, weird, funky, and deft. Add in humorous lyrics and a performance to match and you have another stellar showcase from Scissor Now.
Human Skull pulled in plenty of fans to regale them with their jangly garage rock splendor. The rhythm of their music hits you first. As if you have no control, your head is bobbing. Then you see your feet are moving. You may even feel the impulse to hop around. Go ahead, embrace the punchy bass and popping drums. Then let the guitars and vocals really dig deep and move you. The power of Human Skull has spoken.
The Amino Acids
Without the Amino Acids, there is no life. Period. You can’t build a protein without them. This concludes our science lesson. Fuzz Fest 6 surfed out on a psychedelic wave of punk with Detroit’s Amino Acids. The maniacal grin on their masks belies their peaceful nature. But wait, I have a report that they are in fact aliens here to destroy us. Scratch the peace, there may be acid in this water. I’m not sure if my tongue is blue or I just ate a Smurph. In any case, another Fuzz Fest has climaxed and we can only thank the Amino Acids for showing us the light.
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