By Jerry Kranitz
Photos by Deb Kranitz
From Aural Innovations #7 (July 1999)
From humble beginnings in 1994 featuring only a handful of bands, Camp Buzz 6 put the spotlight on 17 bands during the weekend of June 18-20. The festival was held on the property of the Southern Ohio Road Riders near Portsmouth, Ohio, a sizable and quite nice grounds for a camp out music festival. The stage was at the end of a large meadow surrounded by trees and far enough away from neighbors that noise and late music didn't have to be an issue.
Camp Buzz features bands representing all genres, particularly some great indie bands from Columbus, Ohio. I had been thinking about checking it out for some time as I knew quarkspace was scheduled for a duel set with National Steam. Then I saw that Columbus spacers Go Evolshiki had been added to the line up, and then the clincher came when Martian Death Lyric, the aliens from South Carolina were booked.
I drove down Friday after work with Debbie playing navigator guiding me through all the dead man's curvy roads leading to the festival site. Entering the grounds I met festival organizer Chuck Queen who gave us info on setting up the AI vending table. This was about 9pm and the party was already in full swing with the music having started at 7pm. So we found ourselves a nice spot to pitch our tent (by a restroom... always by a restroom), grabbed our table and set off around the bend to set up shop. A number of other introductions were made, among them Queen's partner Ryan Bussey, the buzz' in Camp Buzz.
The band already underway once our attention was turned to the music was Sporadic Still. From Columbus, the band is a guitar, bass, drums, vocals ensemble that plays heavy metal on the doomy stoner side. The singer has the growl down pat and even has a bit of a rap style at times. They played well and rocked hard. Next up was Yen Renaissance, the non-space band that impressed me the most that weekend. The Cincinnati based band is a guitar, bass, drums trio with the guitarist handling vocal duties. Yen Renaissance are a very interesting group of rockers. At times having a Grateful Dead sound, at others doing a jazzy-rapping style, they nonetheless set themselves apart from the other bands playing. My favorite tune was when they did a Primus styled jam with scat vocals. A cover of "Sunshine Of Your Love" snuck it's way into the set which sounded weird and unnecessary given the strength of the band's own material.
As late evening set in it started to get cold. And I mean COLD! Hell, it must have got into the high 30's. Numerous campfires appeared and me and Debbie took turns warming ourselves. Next to our table was a winnebago running a tattoo business and the two artists' ink guns didn't stop buzzing all night. I guess it's true about drinking party crowds and tattoos cause these guys were doing a brisk business. Next up on the stage was the Schaefers, a high energy, at times punkish ska band. They were a tight group of musicians with a pounding bass and rapid fire horn section. The song that stuck in my mind the most was the last tune which was like a heavy metal ska rap number. Interesting.
About 2am quarkspace took the stage and launched into their trademark brand of flowing spacerock. Exhaustion (I'd been up since 6am) was getting the better of me and the cold wasn't helping so I can't say much about their set except it seemed to pretty much follow the show they did a couple weeks earlier opening for Porcupine Tree in Cleveland. I was glad to see several people up by the stage obviously enjoying the band which proved to not be the norm this weekend with the bands being somewhat secondary to the partying. The lateness of the whole thing prompted the band to drop the National Steam portion of the set and just get up there and jam. So about 3am I gave in to my body's desire for sleep and we went off to our tent to crash.
Saturday morning I awoke, quite abruptly, to the sound of Metallica blaring outside our tent. A peak at my watch showed that it was 6am, just a few hours after going to sleep. Then a voice yelled out, "who wants to play drunk football!!!", and a game proceeded outside our tent. None of this bothered me as everyone was behaving and getting on quite well and I managed to drift into a half sleep until about 7am when I realized that all was silent. The Friday night crowd had finally called it a night. I'm really starting to feel like an old fart...
So after another hour of dozing we got up and took the Coleman stove over to our table area where we sat in the quiet morning sun sipping coffee. As the morning went on people started to appear and we found ourselves providing first aid water to a few who had found themselves having partied a bit more than they're used to. After a while a couple fellows approached the table who turned out to be Bill and.... er I mean... Replink and Yigrac of Martian Death Lyric. Having come from South Carolina, Martian Death Lyric had traveled the furthest to perform at Camp Buzz. No big deal really when you consider they'd come to Earth from Mars. And for a couple of guys who have threatened to reduce our planet to a parking lot they were remarkably friendly. I guess they've since warmed up to us Earthlings.
In any event, Martian Death Lyric was the first to play Saturday and they were a hit. Martian Death Lyric performs in their native Martian garb and Replink's high pitched vocal style was turning heads and attracting attention all the way to the back camping area. The band is a trio with Replink Slerb on keyboards and vocals, Yigrac Eeenik on bass, and Neyek Vieke on drums. They ran through a set of their good fun garage styled B-52's meets Devo rock and got more people up to the stage than any band I'd seen yet. Replink told the story of how the band crash landed in South Carolina and haven't yet been able to afford repairs to their spaceship. Yigrac plays the most high energy bass I've ever seen and even did an aggressive glissando freakout at one point. The band ran through a set of their short powerhouse tunes finishing with a Martian version of "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap". Afterwards, they hung out by their car still in costume as various people came by for photos. Martian Death Lyric has one 7" release to date (see review in AI #6) and another coming out this summer.
Next on the bill was Voodoo 101 from Columbus who played a solid set of college radio styled alternative rock. During their set someone came up to the table and handed me a CD. Doug McMahan introduced himself as a member of the next scheduled band, Escape Velocity saying they play a surf styled spacerock. Cool! I wasn't expecting another space band. We chatted for a bit and it turns out Doug was at Strange Daze last year.
Escape Velocity went on after Voodoo 101 and are a three piece of guitar and drums, with Doug on synths and vocals. Their music is a like a darker version of Martian Death Lyric and indeed the two bands would make a great pairing in concert. Cool spacey synths combine with melodic surf guitar and simple drum rhythms. Doug's vocals have a new wavish Nik Turner sound to them. The surf part though is just one side of the band. There were other songs that had a strong Hawkwind feel to them, and one tune really struck me with it's wah-wah guitar and fuzz solo. I enjoyed their set and was pleased to have had the bonus of discovering a band I wasn't expecting.
The next two bands were both rock trios. The Fuzz are a heavy rock band that plays solid guitar, bass, drums power trio stuff. Blue Collar Robot - also guitar, bass, drums - are punk though I don't think I'd call them hardcore. Actually they kind of defy labels. They have their lighter moments in which the guitarist/vocalist sounds like Bruce Springsteen, though at the same time he's blasting around the stage like Angus Young. We'll call them a punked out version of the Grateful Dead.
As evening set in Columbus's newest space greats Go Evol Shiki started to set up. Debbie and I decided to break down the AI table and settled ourselves in up by the stage. I'd seen the band twice before and, in fact, guitarist/keyboardist Ricki Thompson is the first person I'd met (in early '98) as a result of doing Aural Innovations and he's kept me up to date on his various musical projects since then. Well I hope the Shiki's last as they're a strong band. The lineup is guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and Ricki alternating between second guitarist and second keyboard player. The two previous times I'd seen them they also had a female vocalist though she was absent for the Camp Buzz performance. Go Evol Shiki's music is a dreamy melodic spacerock that lulls you with it's songs but then drifts off into powerful instrumental explorations. The band is planning a CD release for this summer and they are definitely a group that the spacerock community should be on the lookout for.
Saturday evening was cool but comfortable and Go Evol Shiki drew a good crowd to the stage for their performance. There were still a few bands left to play but we needed to get back to Columbus and after grabbing a bite to eat we said our goodbyes and headed out. Chuck Queen tells me the attendance for Camp Buzz 6 was around 800 which was a disappointment after the nearly 2000 that showed up last year. They still must be doing something right as I know a couple festivals that would give a limb to get a turnout of 800. Thanks to Chuck and Ryan for a good time and we'll see you next year.