Seven Bands to See at U+N Fest 5
Now in its fifth year, U+N Fest has featured bands from multiple genres that touch on punk, whether that's the classic garage of the Gories, emo-pioneers Moss Icon, the melodic hardcore of Angel Du$t or future stars like Sheer Mag. This year is no different, enlisting the post-punk funk of ESG, the Ramones-y Dark Thoughts and the driving garage of Mean Jeans for a weekend of fun in Baltimore. But according to organizer Dana Murphy, the fun does not end with those bands — so we asked her to pick out seven must-see artists for this year's U+N Fest, the results of which are below. U+N Fest goes down October 21-22 at the Ottobar in Baltimore. Tickets are still available.
Though we’re a hard sell on reunion bands (notable exceptions being Moss Icon and the Gories), we jumped at the chance to have ESG headline this year. Formed in 1978 by three teenage sisters from the South Bronx with minimal musical training, ESG went on to become a hugely influential and well-regarded band in both punk and hip-hop circles. ESG’s music has been sampled by everyone from the Beastie Boys and the Wu-Tang Clan to Jay Z and Unrest, and despite their ubiquitous presence, this underground band has managed to stay truly underground, making this performance extremely special and exciting. Top pick for band to watch — and dance to.
When talking about hardcore in 2016, it’s impossible not talk about D.C. With bands like Pure Disgust, Protester, Zipper, Standoff and many more, D.C. hardcore continues to thrive. In a place where the bar is set so high, the question then becomes, “What’s REALLY good?” With D.C., I posit that Stuck Pigs are the answer. Fresh off a crushing performance at Not Dead Yet, Stuck Pigs are fast, furious and totally engaging. Sarah King anchors a band of scene vets (members of Pure Disgust, Protester, Red Death, Heatwave, Guilt Parade, Claim and a bunch more) that plays flawlessly and sounds ready to explode.
Permanent Waves is the new project from Christina Billotte (Quix*o*tic, Slant 6). Backed by the members of the beloved now-defunct Baltimore band Thank You and current band Oh Hang, Permanent Waves have a sound all their own. Billotte is a wildly engaging frontwoman whose voice stands tall over distinct heavy psychedelic punk. The sound is fresh, and although this is a brand new band, it’s clear that this music is the the work of pros.
Big Mouth are Baltimore punk’s best-kept secret. Featuring members of Give and Post Pink, Big Mouth play a classic Md. / D.C. style of early 2000s-influenced punk. The vocals roar and highlights of the Dischord discography weave throughout. People show up for this band, and it’s easy to see why — they absolutely destroy it live. Dressed in formalwear, Big Mouth unleash a performance that gets better and better each time on crowds that are expectant, yet somehow never ready for them. Every member of this band holds their own, and with a frontwoman as wildly intense as Angela Swiecicki, that’s saying something. A punk band that’s fun — and good — as hell.
In Baltimore, when a show hits, it hits. Such was the case back in 2011 when San Francisco’s Terry Malts showed up a relative unknown and absolutely shredded the Tex-Mex restaurant where they played. In the five years since, their return has been summoned again and again, and finally they’re back. Though power-pop is a notoriously tough sell in this town, the band won themselves a strong following. Terry Malts pull a delicate balance, managing to play songs that are catchy, but still tough; emotive without being at all wussy. Not to be missed.
Playing as Olivia Neutron John, Chain and the Gang’s Anna Nasty makes solo music that is part punk, part performance art and part wild electronic noise. It’s rare to see a solo artist fill a space all on her own, or to see music that is confronting without feeling confrontational, but O-N-J’s music does all of this and more. Despite all this, the music doesn’t take itself seriously, and ultimately O-N-J comes across as smart, but still very fun.
Snail Mail founder and frontwoman Lindsey Jordan is 17 years old. She makes simple pop songs about teenage life and being in high school, but don’t be deceived by her age. A student of Mary Timony, Jordan is a serious musician worthy of attention; to date, her song “Thinning” has over 90,000 plays on Spotify, and her last record was released through Sister Polygon (Downtown Boys, Post Pink, Priests). Snail Mail have been rapidly gaining speed, and it’s easy to see why. Jordan's presence is unassuming, but Snail Mail’s music is powerfully affecting.