Chickfactor 20 @ the Bell House (night 1 pics/video/review) — Small Factory, Black Tambourine, Dump, Versus & more
photos by Dominick Mastrangelo; words by Bill Pearis
"I feel like we're some weird meat stuck between two pieces of amazing bread." Small Factory drummer Phoebe Summerquash was referring to her band's placement on the bill between Versus and reformed indiepop legends Black Tambourine at Night One of CF*2012: for the love of pop! The three night event at The Bell House celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the '90s-era zine and co-founder Gail O'Hara has gotten a lot of bands to reform/come out of hiding just for the occasion. "Someone said I am like the mafia," she joked. "No one can say no to me!"
Small Factory haven't played in 17 years but, despite Pheobe's protests, the trio sounded like no time had passed whatsoever and were the clear highlight of night one for this reviewer, a justification of the entire three-day shindig. Songs like "Hopefully," "What to Want" and "Suggestions" haven't aged a bit and the band was together and rockin'. (They also played Cake Shop on Friday.) Small Factory are also in some ways the quintessential chickfactor band. The have a song called "Versus Tape" and their cover of Lois Maffeo's "Valentine" had the entire audience singing. If there was a snapshot of the whole night, that was it.
Lois Maffeo, whose 1993 album Strumpet is a Clinton-era indie rock classic, did her own set earlier in the night, playing a few songs solo before bringing out "The Lois Plus": original drummer Molly Neuman and Heavenly's Peter Momtchiloff on electric guitar. She was a real charmer and the Strumpet-era songs really hold up. Lois is also a very funny person. "I'm so glad I made music in the '90s," she said. "'Magazine' is easy to rhyme. I have trouble working 'Tumblr' into my lyrics."
Versus, who are still a highly functioning band with a recent album on Merge, gave, unsurprisingly the tightest set of the evening but I'll admit to not paying that close attention, as I've seen them probably eight times in the last four years. Richard Balyut looked very Easter Sunday dapper in suit and bowtie.
Black Tambourine @ the Bell House
Headliners Black Tambourine were fun but felt more like you were watching some friends' pick-up band at a party. Which was essentially what happened. The instrument switching between Archie Moore, Brian Nelson and Mike Schulman every few songs felt arbitrary, like the all wanted their turn on drums, bass and guitar.
Which isn't to say it was bad at all. It was fun, and clearly they were having a blast. Schulman, in particular, tore into what ever instrument he was playing. And when Moore was on drums -- usually the more gothy, tribal songs (okay maybe it wasn't totally arbitrary) -- they sounded pretty great. Singer Pam Berry seemed nervous, but her voice was clear and as pretty as ever. And, as chickfactor founder Gail O'Hara said in her introduction, you could actually hear the vocals this time around. I never saw them back in the day, so I'll take her word on that.
In addition to BT classics like "Throw Aggi Off the Bridge," "For Ex-Lovers Only" and "We Can't Be Friends," the band did a number of covers including Love's "Can't Explain," The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," and "Dream Baby Dream" by Suicide. Rose Melberg came out to sing Strawberry Switchblade's "Since Yesterday" which had the place dancing. It was a genuine party atmosphere.
The night, which was hosted wittily by Gaylord Fields, started with two unannounced guests. The first was James McNew's Dump who played a low-key set that included a great cover of Prince's "Pop Life." And then Mark Robinson came out to excited cheers to do solo electric versions of Unrest's "Yes She is My Skinhead Girl" and "Isabel".
The chickfactor anniversary party continued on Wednesday with headliners The Aislers Set, Pipas, personal faves The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group and Bridget St. John and more, and then ended Thursday night... but more about those nights later.
Lots more photos and some videos of the first night's fun are after the jump....
The Lois Plus
Small Factory performs "I'm Not Giving Up" at The Bell House
Small Factory performs "Suggestions" at The Bell House
Black Tambourine performs "Pack You Up" at The Bell House