With a vocal prowess and songwriting chops that belie her young age, Lydia Loveless is already a seasoned veteran. In some ways like a harder edged contemporary iteration of Stiff Records ingenue, and fellow Ohio native, Rachel Sweet, her music is equally fit for a Nashville honky-tonk or Columbus, Ohio’s D.I.Y. dives. All I know is, I never fully understood the term “country punk” until I spent a few hours with a Lydia Loveless record.
I’ve often written in the past about how my particular hometown of Columbus, Ohio is fiercely supportive of our local musicians (even sometimes to our detriment, if I’m being brutally honest). You may even recall a post from a few years titled something like “Columbus Loves Independent Musicians (and I’ve got the scars to prove it)” in which I covered a couple of local music festivals including Independents’ Day. I don’t believe I’ve covered Independents’ Day since that initial post, but I’ve continued to attend every year and this year saw the festival expand to three days (at least in theory, a rain delay led to the cancellation of most of Day One).
I’m not going to try to cover everything I saw at Independents’ Day this year. I saw 20 bands in twelve hours and no one wants to read about all of them. Nor do I want to write about all of them. But a few did leave their mark on me.
I think among those few, the one that most surprised me is Nervosas. It’s not that I expect anything more than a top notch performance from Nervosas every time out, especially given the veteran musicians involved in the band. I’ve been following Nervosas from the beginning. In fact, if you follow our YouTube channel, you may even remember this video I shot at Bernie’s way back in 2011 when Nervosas were Witches of Kelso, the night they bolted immediately following their set opening for Wavves to play a show with our old friends The Cell Phones. No, I expect nothing less than the best from Nervosas every time out. What gets me is that they constantly exceed my expectations. They just seem to get better every time I see them. Every set is tighter than the last one and Independents’ Day 2013 was the best I’ve seen. They have been touring around this part of the country a fair bit lately, and if they continue to improve at this rate, who knows if they’ll even be available to play this fest next September.
Speaking of improvements, as I left Nervosas, I turned the corner at Gay St. to catch what was left of Cliffs‘ set. I’ll be honest, it took me a while to come around to Cliffs. Mostly, because I’ve known the band members since they were in middle school and I don’t want to look like I’m showing favoritism, but also because I wasn’t blown away by the early demos they sent me. But I eventually caught up with the rest of Columbus about a year ago when Cliffs played an opening slot for Chicago garage punk juggernaut White Mystery. But Independents’ Day 2013 was the first chance I had to see the band play in front of an audience of any significant size. I have to hand it to them, these guys know how to have a good time with their audience. And I must commend drummer Adam Hardy for playing this show with a broken hip. I swear, I never would have known. Word from the band is, the test pressings for their first LP have come back and everything sounds great. Look for that to be out some time around November.
And while we’re on the subject of getting caught up with everyone else, I should say, even I am surprised that it took me as long as it did to see Connections. Granted, I actually saw Connections for the first time a few days before this show, but for all intents and purposes this week has been my first Connections experience, despite the fact that the band (featuring former members of past Columbus bands, including the late great Times New Viking) have been making waves around town for about a year. And here is why I love events like Independents’ Day. Yeah, going to shows in clubs is fun and intimate (at least when you go to the kinds of shows I do) but in a festival setting you really get a chance to see how the concert going public really reacts to them. Not everyone goes to every Connections show, but every Connections fan goes to Independents’ Day. I even paparazzied Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman at the Connections show. I guess even politicians like good solid indie rock.
One final thing that’s long overdue, and those of you who remember that first Independents’ Day post from a few years ago may know where I’m going with this. Way back in 2010, I wrote about how I’d heard countless good things about Lydia Loveless, but just barely missed her Independents’ Day set. (Lydia even emailed me later to assure me that satisfaction was guaranteed.) No worries, I did finally see Lydia perform not long after that near miss, and several times since then (some of you may even remember a photo set from a couple of Record Store Days ago). But I finally made up for missing her 2010 set this year, planting myself front and center this year for a set consisting almost entirely of new material. Which has left me very excited for her pending releases.
In my mind, Lydia has long since taken her place in my mind as the best act in Columbus. And I’m only slightly saddened by the fact that her contract with Bloodshot Records takes her away from us and out on the road as often as it does. Though, I must say, I do enjoy the messages I receive from friends around the country after Lydia plays their hometown, telling me how lucky I am to live in Columbus. I didn’t always agree with that sentiment, but I’m starting to come around to that idea, too.