Hillstock! Porches, Gunfight!, Sports Bar and Ava Luna

Hillstock. A DIY three-day music festival in Brooklyn (mostly in Clinton Hill) that promises unknown bands, block parties and day-drinking galore. This is the third year of Hillstock’s reign and it showed: they were prepared with a street permit, a kiddie pool, food, drinks and two stages and I was able to spend my glorious Saturday sitting on the street, crouching in the dirt and waving smoke out of my face as I watched group after group. There was the usual mix of good music, great music and…not so great music, but the main point of this festival was to just HANG OUT, which I did most artfully, thank you very much. Below are four bands I liked and had never seen or heard before.

Porches EDIT

Thanks to David Collis for the fix!

Porches is 5 dudes, who sounded more like 10, from Pleasantville, NY fronted by Aaron Maine. Their 90’s style riffs are fun and catchy and the vocal lines are simple, melodic and repetitive. I wish I had known their music beforehand because these guys are the perfect material for an outdoor summer sing-a-long. There are a lot of great synthesizer moments in their recorded music and the texture is so thick you could try cutting it with a  plastic picnic knife, but best of luck to you. This music makes me nostalgic for Los Angeles summers spent driving to Malibu, Palm Springs and Leo Carillo, finally escaped from our parents. Read: it’s emotional and rich, without being over done on any one point. Porches is an ideal name for this band; this is music to listen to in the summer as you sit by the lake and watch “the boys” jump off of things. Their website is here and be sure to check out their song “Rib Cage,” a soaring anthem for a summer night.

Gunfight!

This is serious rock and roll, with some sugar and spice thrown in. A little ska here, some grunge there, a touch of folk and the occasional Phish-style jam session all puts me in the GREATEST MOOD OF ALL TIME. It’s like I’m back at Coachella;  joints being freely passed around, and beers out the wazoo, but all the perfectly tanned and artfully naked people in the latest line of ray-ban wayfarers are blissfully absent. Instead, it’s just us kids, 20-somethings with a free Saturday to sit and sway to the tunes. Singer Drew Mintz has an unbelievably high voice with a hint of Neil Young around the edges, but those high in the sky notes are purely his own. This is road trip music, truly. Lots of driving percussion and rolling bass lines just scream out, “go drive somewhere, NOW!” These guys are great onstage, they get the audience to clap, dance and participate and they are clearly stoked to be playing. Check out their myspace here and listen to the song “I would be your Man.”

Sports Bar

Sports Bar is 3 dudes from Richmond, VA doing whatever the fuck they want. No, really. Some songs are 30 seconds long, some are 4 minutes. Some have structure, with verses and a chorus, some are just rants. This is garage rock, but Mom and Dad left the kids alone a long time ago. We are their audience, completely captivated by people who truly don’t care about anything but music. The live sound is, at times sparse, then is filled in with seriously epic solo guitar riffs. They’re scruffy and unkempt, but as their set nears its end, the songs are more urgent and poignant. “Camo Face” is a huge hit with the crowd as they sing “I want to be the greatest hunter in the world” and we cheer, hoping that one day, it will happen. Their website is pretty uninformative, though this is expected, but some of their music is here and you can listen to “Camo Face” and another good song “Anisa, nah she don’t live here no more.”

Ava luna

This was, by far, the most interesting and unique band of the day and definitely my favorite. Ava Luna is Soul, with a serious update; there are fabulous synth lines a la MGMT, wonderful funky bass, violin riffs so rich that even Marvin Gaye would be jealous and the lead singer, a handsome, somewhat dorky-looking guy whose Bar Mitzvah may or may not have been in the recent past has a sexy and agile voice. There are three girls singing back up, but their job title falls short. Their harmonies are complex and they create an incredibly rich support system for lead singer Carlos Hernandez’s crooning. There’s even some rock and roll-style crunchy guitar riffs, which satisfies the need for a little edge in what can often be a saccharin genre of music. “Past the Barbary” is the standout of their live set with a fun dancy bass line, synth-pop melodies and great, singable lyrics and for the first time in the whole day of music, people are dancing! Grooving, jamming, grinding in broad daylight in the middle of the street, it’s impossible not to have a great time. Their presentation falls a little flat, they need to interact more with their willing and appreciative audience and maybe discuss their wardrobe a bit but, otherwise, there is nothing wrong with this band. They did their job exactly right; I went home and bought their album and EP and I feel a definite need to share this gem with everyone I know. If you do nothing else today, go to their website and check out the songs “Clips” and “Past the Barbary” and have yourself a great time.

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