ADD Fest 2011 was the 14th annual for the local hardcore/punk venue, the Mr. Roboto Project. Ten bands each playing or ten minutes is a pretty cool idea. I had never gone to any of the previous one's since the old Roboto was way off in Wilkinsburg, but now that it had just come to Penn Avenue, it looked like this year I would be going.
For the "opening ceremony" Brother Ong/Mike Tamburo played a short set in front of the stage on his huge gong. Despite not being one of the bands who were actually part of the festival, he stayed within the time limit, which I think helped his set over all; sometimes his gonging can go on for far too long with a limited variety of sounds. Here he created a developing soundscape like a dreaming drain or a fading world.
The first of the actual festival bands was Barren Scepter, who I had never heard of before. They were fronted by a female vocalist and had a sort of black/death metal sound. I wish that their songs had been shorter or less all over the place; harmonies, growls, soft, and loud parts sprang up every so often before quickly disappearing. They went way over the time limit at the end and were probably the band that bored me the most. Too bad they weren't just full-on black metal.
Second up was Glowworms who I had never heard of before. They were sort of a combination of the last band with Big Black; I liked Glowworms a lot more though. They also had a strange dancer with them who got progressively more naked as their set went on. After all of the stripping and sludge and metal rouper Brian DiSanto, Greg Kolls, and I all went to eat at Spak Brothers and take a break. The next band, Edhochuli, was setting up; I had heard of them before, but wasn't that interested in seeing another band like the last two.
When we came back Glowworms was finishing and Pancake came on quickly afterwards. I lost the good view that I had had previously and felt more like a spectator, but they sounded pretty good. Pancake is apparently an older riot grrl band with heavy drumming and sort of Sleater-Kinney vocals. Pancake ranged from full-on speed to weird plodding dissonance; some songs were like Bikini Kill's "Thurston Hearts the Who." The singer thrashed about in a cool way; I wish that I could have got a closer view.
After Pancake was done I got back to the front; Gutter Glitter was setting up. They had a glam look and a pop-punk sound. Nothing was very harsh or extreme, most of their songs being slow and melodic. Sometimes they rushed a little and did some sloppy/lo-fi solos. It was kind of like 60's pop + 80's lo-fi Sebadoh or Big Dipper stuff with a huge chance of their songs sticking in yr head for later. This was the start of when things began to be less hardcore all the time.
Sixth to play was Strip Club which was Manson Girls and Night Stalker combined. Josh Rievel, who is also in Free Clinic, wore a funny hat. Strip Club featured two drummers, playing mostly toms, and two guitarists, making mostly feedback. Not much changed for the length of their set which consumed all of the time available and didn't go into the excess. They were like early Sonic Youth or Swans with harsh no-wave noise and pounding plodding drums. Strip Club was awesome and a nice change of pace from all of the hard fast bands that made up a good chunk of the show.
After the repetitive onslaught of Strip Club was the very cool Blood Red, featuring Dave Rosenstraus of Pissed Jeans. I have never heard Pissed Jeans before but apparently they are a noise rock/hardcore band which I figure probably sounds like Big Black. Rosenstraus is involved with a lot of Braddock straight edge bands like Hounds of Hate and Drink Dust. Blood Red, in which he is the frontman, was awesome. They played hardcore and covered "The Big Takeover" by Bad Brains, which they humorously dedicated to Manny Theiner, and "Wave of Mutilation" by the Pixies.
I took another break while the next band, World's Scariest Police Chases, was setting up. I didn't like that they had a "uniform," all wearing similarly logo'd band shirts, but I still felt bad for going outside. Still it was pretty tiring seeing so many bands in a row.
When I came back there was The Lopez: a band with two members and very much dissimilar to the earlier bands. The Lopez was not at all hardcore, but they weren't like Strip Club or Gutter Glitter either. Using only a guitar, keyboards and drum machine they played loud, fast, and even noisy, pop similar to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Math the Band. The vocals were often like Kathleen Hannah's with the melodies treading into Ramones or Vaselines territory. Definitely an awesome set; lots of fun and very energetic.
Finally we have The Gotobeds, possibly named after a member of Wire. They were really exciting and fast and sounded super great, somewhat Minor Threat, somewhat The Damned. The singer/guitarist flailed around a lot; they had a cool uncaring attitude. It was all very punk in a garage rock way and made a good end to the DIY festival.
ADD Fest was pretty cool and I'll definitely go next year. Some aspects were kind of weird though. There should have been some younger, but still semi-established bands. So many people there seemed to be in their thirties or forties and sort of reliving the early nineties. I felt very out of loop. I don't think that the selection was really bad though and have nothing against the people who were there or anything. I hope next year though that there could be a little more variety (only slightly, I don't want Roboto to turn into the Shop or whatever, it should still retain the things that make it Roboto) and perhaps more East End bands.
Here are some MP3s from the festival.