Cropped Out Fest not only succeeded in coming back a second time, a feat not easily accomplished, the stridently fringe celebration also returned in bigger and better fashion - in terms of attendance, community enthusiasm, facilities, and that intangible vibe that can make or break a multi-stage weekend event. Cropped Out 2011 certainly became the product of learning what worked and what didn’t from the inaugural fest last year. Though the weather is beautiful in this part of the country during the fall, it can also act unpredictably, as we learned during Cropped Out 2010 – in which Sic Alps shivered their way through their late Sunday night performance on the outdoor stage, as wind shears off the Ohio River ripped through the 40 degree air at American Turners Club. This year, attendees got the best of both worlds – the main evening stages remained inside a very comfortable and spacious warehouse in the Nulu district. But if you had a jonesin’ to go outside on a nice crisp autumn evening (which summed up the weather all weekend), the festival grounds offered a large plaza of urban campfires for mingling and s’more opportunities, not to mention a reasonably-priced beer garden (which only an underground DIY event can offer, among other things – more on that later) and a revolving cast of the city’s best food trucks throughout the three-day sonic smorgasbord.
What remained the same this year though: the spirit of the festival. The primary organizers, Ryan Davis and James Ardery, start with what they know and branch out. They ask their friends from around the country as well as local bands they dig if they’re available that weekend, and the lineup starts there. They then rope in Drag City‘s Sabrina Rush for beaucoup administrative support and spiritual guidance. Soon serious names start coming into the fold – Shit & Shine, The Men, ex-Harry Pussy acoustic noodler Bill Orcutt, the mighty Sun Araw, and of course, the reunited Scratch Acid, one of only ten dates that David Yow and company booked. Finally, the collective throws the party in some usual and underused space in the city that unleashed some of the most inventive flavors of indie rock in the past two decades – Louisville, Ky.
Oh hey, speaking of Scratch Acid and clandestine DIY, here is where “flying under the radar” gets interesting. Sure, it’s important to stay legal insofar as proper alcohol and performance permits, and you do the courtesy of making good with the neighbors by informing them of what’s going down. Which indeed happened. But cool warehouses in developing neighborhoods aren’t always – what’s the phrase – “zoned properly for a few hundred people to attend live music?” Thus, Cropped Out featured no signage outside and generally played it cool. So, like… when a burglar alarm for the space was accidentally tripped Sunday afternoon shortly after Scratch Acid loaded in, the police didn’t assume it was because of production crews and bands mulling about. They assumed it’s a break-in. And David Yow ends up staring down the barrel of a constable’s gun and treated to an almost-trip to the pokey. True story, and for some reason, it totally makes sense this happened to Yow. Fortunately, things were smoothed over and the police let the show go on – until 2 a.m. when Scratch Acid had to forfeit their six-song encore due to noise complaints in the witching hour. Some fans might’ve felt disappointed (see the horseshit LEO Weekly column too asinine to even link). But guess what, fuckers – that’s punk rock. Love it or loaf it. The band still played for an hour and change, and it still ruled.
And the other acts? They ranged from pretty good (Mount Carmel, Natural Child) to earth-shatteringly tectonic (Angel Olsen, Black God, Dope Body, The Men, Sun Araw). Whispy folk, hardcore punk, noise, avant garde, swamp boogie, psych rock – you got all those raw sounds and then some from upwards of 40 acts. And considering the cost of a weekend pass, that’s less than a buck per act without sponsorship. Some names you knew, some you didn’t, and as such, the festival acts as a lightning rod of music discovery. Technical difficulties and delays were minimal, the sound was crisp, and the environment was decidedly funky. Besides the campfire gatherings outside, the inside of Cropped Out featured a sitting lounge decorated with blood red furniture, an assortment of malapropos dolls, lawn ornaments, Christmas lights, and the artwork of the organizers draped over the walls. A Justin Bieber collage stared at potential customers from behind the merch table. Cabby and Vincent, the host puppets from Friday Night Somewhere (the bizarro mock Internet talk show you might’ve seen that Bill Callahan video premiere on last summer) roved the audience. No corporate partner banners, no ads, no programs – every visual stimuli within the festival grounds was lovingly handmade by the people surrounding the organization. There’s really nothing, in my experience, quite like this festival.
Cropped Out retains an unequivocally distinct personality and a serious gusto for the weird. Cropped Out embraces a true local flair while encapsulating the art and culture of the national underground. As well, the festival also demonstrates a palpable potential to grow larger. If these are the results of only the second festival in its history, Cropped Out VII or whatever will be a motherfucker. Start minding your P’s and Q’s, ATP!
SHIT AND SHINE
Hey, that’s Sun Araw right there ^. Collab in the future, perhaps?!
MV & EE
LAST YEAR’S MEN