Who: LP Stiles (feat. Kuf Knotz), Bellflur, Derry Miller & the Veil, Lost in Society, Kalob Griffin Band, Creepoid
Where: World Cafe Life
When: February 26, 2012
Words by: Matthew Latessa
Photos by: David Turcotte, Keanan Barbour-March, Michael Trojan, Steven Philips, Rhys Asplundh, Dan Debes
The Tri-State Indie Awards happened this past weekend, and for those of you who missed it, you really missed out. To start out this XPN Welcomes event, the line to the red carpet (yes red freakin’ carpet) amounted to a row of sponsors giving away free stuff ranging from shots of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, some tasty Kind Bars to bottles of a brand new flavor of Vitamin Water. Then, of course was the photo op. Who wouldn’t want to have their pic taken by professionals at Pennsylvania’s very finest independent music awards show? Everyone from bands nominated for awards to casual fans ready for the show showed off their candid smiles on the way into the venue. Keep in mind this is all before the show started!
Then the show actually started. LP Stiles featuring Philly’s own Kuf Knotz (award winner for the ‘best indie hip hop artist’ category) opened with some of the best all live rap/jam/soul/blues/awesome music you could think of. Think The Roots minus all of ?uestlove’s twitter bitching and plus all the technical musicianship out there. Simply put, they were great as the house band. The combination of soul beats, jam solos, and inventive hip-hop flow accentuated the best talents of the whole band. They really set the stage for some awesome performances.
Bellflur, nominated for the ‘Best Maryland/DC indie band’ award took the stage first. The seven-part ensemble took me for a loop. They huddled around the drum set and put on one of the better performances I’ve seen in a long time. For those who aren’t familiar with the band, they play a kind of ambient indie pop-rock that evades almost any discernible genre. Electro samples flow in and out acoustic guitars, violins and keyboards. All this on top of dangerously melodic vocals make their music both really easy to listen to, and very, very interesting and experimental. It was cool to see them harmoniously huddle in a semi-circle producing lullaby-ish chill jams and then transitioning into prog-rock epicness in the span of five or so minutes. The chemistry of the band was incredible, as the semi-circle arrangement allowed them to create a collaborative musical experience in which everyone shined, but nobody took over. Bellflur is truly, sincerely, a band, and their performance showed this.
Next on the ticket was Darry Miller & the Veil. They are a very, very likeable band. They even won the award for the ‘best Central PA indie band’ category. Even in a live setting, you can hear the lush production that is their music. I suppose that pop-rock might be the best term to describe their sound. And boy, are they catchy. They broke out a “Time to Pretend” cover that was more rock than the original’s electronic vibe, and it got the crowd goin.’ This combined with the master guitar work and catchy as hell vocals on their original stuff made for a fun and entertaining performance to say the least.
Straight out of Asbury Park NJ, Lost In Society brought more angst and power to the stage than most bands can muster these days. Nominated for the ‘best indie punk band’ award, this band showed an incredible amount of energy that fits the punk nature of their music. Suffice it to say that drummer Hector Bonora has a piece of his high-hat missing presumably because he bashes so hard on the damn thing. The power chords and blistering bass lines fit the lyrics “Nice to meet you/Fuck you too/Because I don’t need anything from you/I’m not afraid.” They rock. In every sense of the word. At one point bassist, Nick Ruroede knocked over his mic-stand while thrashing around the stage. All the while, between verses and choruses, Zack Moyle on the guitar and lead vocals bounced all over the stage while hammering his guitar like it owed him money or something. The pure presence of this band shocked and impressed me as I became an instant fan. The art of punk, with a stress on pure emotion and brain-bashing guitar riffs really came to light here.
This was followed by the alt-country/americana rockers Kalob Griffin Band. Needless to say, this was a stark contrast. The unique qualities of the KGB was a jaunty danceability that got quite a few of the fans out of their seats and into the aisles. Backwoods instruments and songs about whiskey made up this performance. Deservedly, they won the award for the ‘best Philly indie band’ category. Between the drinking ballads and backwards love songs, it was truly hard to not dance (or at least bob your head) while they played. The best part was how relaxed the entire five-man band looked while they played. They all looked like they were at home up there, and it translated in the crowd’s reaction. Everyone had a great time with this show. The mix of moonshine and Kalob Griffin’s excellent beard made it a fantastic time.
Creepoid, the final show of the night, had an entirely different approach to musical performance. Rather than the blatant accessibility that the KGB brought, Creepoid brought a brilliant display of post-grunge experimentation to the game. Nominated for the ‘best Philly indie band’ award, this band surely explored areas of music that defy normal notions of sound and redefine what popular music can be. Fuzz-tone guitars and barely audible vocals made up the majority of the performance. Each of the four musicians seemed to be in their own little world as they crafted some of the most interesting and often counter-intuitive pieces I’ve ever heard. The ending of their show was fitting, as dissonance, rather than harmony took hold. The lead guitarist (if there was one), Joe Urban leaned his guitar upside-down facing the amp to create a wash of feedback while Sean Miller (vocalist/guitarist) literally dug his fingers under the bridge of his Fender Jazzmaster in order to rip the strings off of it. The show was nuts, like a trippy noise-fest that wouldn’t release its relentless grip on the crowd until the last note cut from the amps. All in all, Creepoid showed their commitment to experimentation as one of Philly’s best up and coming bands.
The Tri-State Indie Awards was truly a wonderful night for music. Not only did it give a crowd with a genuine love for music a forum to express their emotion, but it also gave validation to bands (whether they won or not) who operate in the diverse and multi-faceted subculture that is “indie.” Personally, I had a fantastic time as I got the chance to see some of the best local bands perform in a relaxed, fun-loving environment. The focus for this night was the music, not egos, publicity, or personalities. In this way, it advanced the careers of up and coming bands while celebrating the music. Not only this, but the awards who were awarded by a slue of regional industry big wigs, celebrated the fans, which we all are deep down. So in a sense it’s a celebration of us. Whether we play, listen, sing or dance, we all love indie music. And if you do too, I hope to see you next year at the Tri-State Indie Awards!