by Jeff Radon
Just coming off the busiest time of the year for Radon Lounge festivals, and gearing up for a nice break with the fam. But first I need to record how things went at AudioFeed 2016.
Once again I was in charge of managing the 3rd largest AudioFeed stage, which happened to be the Radon Lounge tent, the place where you go to rest after raging in the pit at the other stages. This year the Baristie Boys upped their coffee game with totally rad Nitros, Pour Overs, and Thai Iced Coffees.
I heard multiple reports AudioFeed established itself this year. Attendance was certainly up, despite rain. It’s safe to say it is now the premier midwest summer festival for really weird Christians (and non-believers, no stones thrown here) who don’t fit in anywhere else. If you’re a person who hasn’t let western politics tamper with your faith, thinks christian radio sucks, or just wants to live a full life following Jesus, this is your fest.
As expected, AudioFeed felt like a family reunion. So many bands we’ve hosted at Radon shows over the years come together to play this fest and hang. I couldn’t walk anywhere without bumping into another person to hug and share what’s going on in our lives, it was really hard getting work done.
So much good music happened this year, it would be really hard to describe all of it. I’m going to talk about some of my favorite performances. Unfortunately since I’m busy most of the time managing the stage, I miss a lot of stuff going on elsewhere. I did not get to see some of my top picks for new bands such as Jackie-Hill Perry, Josh Garrels, Tow’rs, and The Hunts. I also didn’t get see some other performances that were reported to me as killer, such as Comrades, Dad Jokes, Listener, Emery, Analecta, Levi the Poet, Flatfoot 56, Propoganda, and ’68.
I’m going to list my top 5 sets of the fest, which is dangerous. There are sooo many good bands, and bands that give their best performances at AudioFeed as many consider this their big set of the year and pull out all the stops. And of course I’m always going to forget something while I’m writing and totally kick myself about it later. Also my perception is relative to a lot of things. My experience could be affected by whether I’m too busy to focus, too hungry, too warm/cold, too much unhealthy food (don’t wanna explain that further), just dealt with an asshole, or screwed something up for someone and felt bad about it. All that aside, some of these sets just hit me in the perfect place where I could die right there on the spot having lived a complete life.
#5 Must Build Jacuzzi – This was actually a last minute add for the fest. Another band cancelled and they happened to be available. I actually thought this band no longer existed. But who can say no to a good ska band now and then. They drew the wildest crowd of the whole fest to the Radon tent with infinity skanking and circle pits, especially considering they were on the stage pretty early on during the first day of the fest and after 3 laid-back female singer-songwriters. It was definitely the biggest genre-shock I’ve ever experienced, and that’s saying something when it comes to my shows.
#4 Sam Arias – This was a beautiful set. I might have done some arm twisting to make sure at least one of these bands that I’ve discovered in the Chicago area would get to play. Looks like Sam got the luck of the draw, but he in turn brought everyone else in his tight-knit circle. Sam, backed by members of Qajaq, Families, and NAAL (maybe others too that I don’t even know about). His band was so tight, it definitely felt like a once in a lifetime experience.
#3 Zoo – I knew this would be good, and I was looking forward to it the whole fest. Zoo had performed previously as a duo at one of my basement shows last year, and it was my favorite basement set of that year. This time he brought a full band and they were TIGHT, so good, cannot recommend Zoo enough. I really think this band is going “blow up” someday as long as people don’t keep confusing it with another zoo from their hometown of Cincinnati.
#2 Red Sweater Lullaby – I’ve seen Red Sweater a handful of times, each time it’s a little different. Sometimes it’s just Kris Rochelle (of Listener) with an acoustic guitar, sometimes it’s a band. This time it was a band, with Dan Smith (of Listener, I think) on bass, and members of Foxhollow on drums and guitar. I was completely not ready for how much this band slayed. He sang his heart completely out and they rocked so hard. I couldn’t gush enough backstage.
#1 Forrister – Ok, I know what you’re thinking. “You’re just all starstruck… Julien Baker… blah blah blah”. Well, yeah that’s part of it. But I tried real hard to put that bias aside. Of course Julien’s solo work is blowing up and is awesome, etc, but there really isn’t much out there about her band Forrister. They have a bandcamp site with one song, and it’s pretty good, but maybe not mind-blowing. I wasn’t sure if this band would just be all hype or actually good, needless to say I was skeptical. I met Julien right before she went on stage and she was really, really nice. Her whole band was really excited to be there, as if they were just excited we allowed them to play our fest. They were totally not rock stars about anything. We talked about DIY stuff for a bit and then she went on. They obliterated AudioFeed, The End.
Kevin Schlereth – I’ve seen Kevin perform quite a few times, but not lately. He’s really re-invented himself and after being snubbed by the fest for 3 years, he got his revenge with a massive crowd, huge sing-alongs, and the only crowdsurf of the Radon tent.
Mike Mains & the Branches – This band has some attention for sure, I’ve just never listened. I was worried they would be “too poppy”, but they rocked hard and it was good and I am now won over.
6’10 – did not disappoint just like at the Horse Show. Huge sing-alongs and you can tell they’re one of the best loved bands of the fest. It was hard not adding them to my top 5, just too many good bands, we need to stop booking so many good bands.
Adjy – I was so looking forward to this band and they were just as good if not better than I imagined. I found out their lack of online presence is on purpose as they are against social media and promoting the band through modern means. But they do believe in building personal relationships with their audience and they are some very genuinely present people. They even offered to help me load my pinball machine at the end of the fest. Their sound might just help me forget my eternal sadness when Anathallo broke up years ago. The only thing keeping them from my top 5 is all the technical difficulties we had during the set. We didn’t have near enough setup time scheduled for this kind of kitchen sink band, and had problems throughout the set, so it was hard to really get into the music. Next time we’ll be prepared. Hopefully we won’t have to wait till the next AudioFeed…
Hushpad – played 2 sets, the first set felt like a practice set to the 2nd. The 2nd set being the final performance of AudioFeed 2016, which was a perfect way to end the fest. The hope was to have the festival converge on the Flatfoot 56 set, and then come and relax to Hushpad’s chill vibes. Unfortunately not many got the memo, but their loss. The tent really felt like a Radon Lounge show as so many friends who we’ve hosted got together to hang and make good vibes together. This was a very memorable set, which included performers from many different phases of Hushpad through the years, basically a super Hushpad that slayed and made us feel good about life.
No Place – I couldn’t find much about this band before the fest, probably because they just changed names. I was pretty distracted during their set with lots of business to take care of with different people acting like rock stars, but when I got to stop and listen, it was soo good. I can’t remember much of their set as that time was a blur, but I couldn’t help but appreciate this band’s energy and good vibes. I can’t wait to see them again.
Strahan – from New Zealand! He happened to be touring with Josh Garrels and somehow got dumped on my stage. Definitely the virtuoso acoustic guitar singer-songwriter on my stage for the fest. His songwriting is certainly on point.
Trouper – almost made my top 5, I fall for this band more and more each time I hear it as it just keeps getting better and better. This is another band that’s gone through many different lineup and sound changes, but it seems they’re now perfecting a good thing, everyone needs to hear this band!
Cubits – Unexpected pleasure. I thought Nicholas (Mr Nasti) was going to do a solo set, but instead he brought his brand new band. This set could have been better, but we ran into some tech problems, but the songs that worked out were super good. Rumor has it we’ll get to try again this year to take in this band…
Timbre – Timbre will always be on my list. AudioFeed just wouldn’t be the same without her neo-classical indie harp-pop. She just hits me right there, and I fall in love with her beautiful harp playing and voice again and again.
I’m already thinking of things to do better next year at the Radon tent. I’m looking forward to putting heads together with the Baristie Boys to put on the best Radon experience ever. I’ve got new equipment ideas, and ideas to enhance the artist and audience experience. It’s only going to get better.
Long Live AudioFeed