Soundboard

Off Beat fest: Eclectic, dynamic and relatively weird

Tahoe Onstage

Chaki wears a cape, plays Reno’s Off Beat Music Festival.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Tony Contini

Chaki, a self-proclaimed “funky alien wizard from outer space,” opened night two of the 2018 Off Beat Arts & Music Festival at The Saint. When the sound guy told the Oakland performer it was time to get the show started, he replied, “Let me grab a drink and my cape.”

He found both and took the stage to start the party behind his keyboard. He’s one-third Reggie Watts – programming beats hilariously, one-third Jack Black – silly and knows where humor and music collide, and one-third Parliament – dude brings the funk.

Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

Mojo Green’s Jenes Carter and The Professor Kevin Thomas.

The entirety of The Saint’s lineup that night was funky. Three of the five funk performers featured a kickass frontwoman on vocals, including Reno’s own Jenes Carter of Mojo Green.

They kept the energy and vocal expertise high until Planet Booty headlined and blew the Reno venue apart with laughter and twerking.

Tony COntini / Tahoe Onstage

Planet Booty, of course.

The Oakland three-piece with a Chromeo-vibe also meets at the intersection of talent and hilarity with endearing choruses about taking off your pants. Frontman Dylan Germick has the rap skills of a dirty Macklemore and the croons of a raunchy Brian McKnight. He’s a preacher who makes booty endearing.

The success of a music festival (in my opinion) is breadth. What different parties and adventures are at your fingertips at any block of time? This year’s Off Beat was dynamic to say the least. All of the venues featured a different vibe and temperament. There was an escape for all types of people and interests. From the sardine moshpit at 40 Mile Saloon to the reverbed young guns at Holland Project to the slow dancers at Ceol.

Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

Madi Gold with a pink hat.

There was a buzz in the air on the final day of the fest (Saturday). Everyone around Reno’s midtown was either in a band or dressing up like they were for funsies. The number of dudes wearing plaid, walking with 4-packs of IPAs, was staggering.

After catching a glimpse of a jam session featuring members of Failure Machine, Joan and the Rivers and Van Goat at Golden Jackal (vintage store), I headed to the alley behind Junkee Clothing Exchange to see Portland’s Fringe Class perform. Lead singer Madi Gold went shopping at the eclectic thrifter’s paradise before the set – she donned a pink hat and groovy green glasses.

Later that evening, I was sitting with Fringe Class’ bassist Brad Russell. We agreed about how good the lineup was. How there wasn’t a bad band and how the caliber was maintained between so many different cities and genres.

He asked who I saw, I rattled off some of the 25 sets I watched the night previous.  I went on to list the acts I wish I could’ve stayed the entire set for (including the miraculous Sun Valley Gun Club) instead of hustling to the next venue to fulfill my photography duties. At that moment, I saw Jeff McElroy, the bassist to Howlin’ Rain, sit at the table near us. I added, “…and the bassist from Howlin’ Rain just killed it.”

He truly did.  {Day 1 coverage LINK}

I looked at him and said, “That’s you, right?”

He launched out of his chair. I thought I had upset him.

Tony COntini / Tahoe Onstage

Jeff McElroy of Howlin Rain

He sat by us and said he really needed that. Moments ago, he was with a transient woman who was frozen still for some reason. He stayed with her and contemplated how to help. As a traveling performer, he’s reminded of the number of troubled people there are on the streets of every city.

He got in his head and was even asking himself if he should give up music as he heard me reference his virtuosic bass playing.

“That’s what music is all about,” McElroy said. ” It’s all about inspiring others.”

Even if it’s just for an evening or a mere moment, the power of music can make you remember, it can make you forget, it can make you feel powerful while alone, inside yourself, or it can make you connect with someone completely different than you. McElroy said he was sucked into others’ music or art more than five times this weekend.

Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

Slate performs at Holland Project.

I had one of those moments when Slate from Reno started the show at Holland on Saturday. They were refreshing. I hope that’s not some weird old-guy thing I’ll start saying when bands are easily a decade younger than me. Their approach was laidback, their demeanor was mature, and their music was atmospheric nerd punk to vibey with sweeping guitar solos.

Even just watching another disappear into their art is therapeutic. Two gentlemen in the back of The Saint were providing a light show of sorts behind each performer on Saturday. They dropped paint on gels on transparent projector turntables, creating spinning liquid art on the walls behind the artists like a psychedelic ’60s music video.

Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

The result alone was impressive, but their focus and longevity impressed me most. They stared continuously at the wall or their work, breaking every so often to communicate with each other. It was the perfect embellishment. It made The Bash Dog’s bold cover of The Doors’ “Light My Fire” even more badass.

Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

The Bash Dogs
Tahoe Onstage photos by Tony Contini

This article wouldn’t be complete without coverage of Lumerians from the Bay Area. I barely understand or remember what “krautrock” means, but whenever it’s used to describe an act or their influence (like Radiohead’s “Kid A” years and beyond), I’m down.

There is just something about a masked band. Music seeping from faceless creatures is exciting. Eye contact and facial expressions are exchanged for mysticism and intrigue. This is usually coupled with hyperbole – either via music or personality (see Ghost, Slipknot, GWAR, etc), in this case, it’s just a veil.

Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

Lumerians are iridescent in Reno.
Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

Lumerians had shtick without banter. Their faces were concealed and laser red dots replaced their eyes. They reminded me of the apocalyptic soldier on the cover of Megadeth’s “so far, so good… so what!”

Their music was intense and rigid. Their set climaxed to a Gregorian-esk chant, two notes cycling over lingering keyboard swells, sung out strongly. The monotonous singing went on for almost five minutes, but for some reason, I could listen to it all night. It was entrancing. When the beat finally broke, it was rewarding and groovy.

I panned the room to make sure everyone was enjoying the spectacle as much I was. I mistakenly saw two washed-out acid-trip hippies dancing all spiritually. As they realigned each other’s chakras, I thought to myself, “fucking weirdoes.” I then continued to take notes on faux-robots (fauxbots – I’m copyrighting that) playing music in sparkling cloaks.

At that moment, I recognized the relativity of weirdness.

— Tony Contini

Tahoe Onstage

Chaki opened Friday’s show at The Saint.
Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

The Fringe Class in Reno’s midtown.

Tahoe Onstage

Lumerians close down The Saint on Saturday.

Tahoe Onstage

Slate

About Tony Contini

Photographer and journalist Tony Contini graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in art photography. He loves working with bands and telling stories. Photography portfolio: https://www.TonyContini.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Share This