In many ways, Frontier Psychiatrist is indebted to the A.V. Club. Like the cultural arm of the satirical newspaper The Onion, we dig for the deeper meaning in plain pop culture trends, be it ambition, degradation, reflection or abstraction. We’re both children/teenagers/adults of the 90s. We err on the side of obsession towards objects and ideas that others may just label as “entertainment.” We both strive for honesty in our reviews, emphasizing everyman insight. While FP may not have anywhere near the readership, staff or overall effectiveness of the A.V. Club, we both fill a similar void. By spotlighting relatively underrepresented artists or providing a new perspective on those overrepresented, we facilitate further conversation and thought where there may not have been before.
On September 10th and 11th, the A.V. Club brought their curatorial expertise to Chicago with their first annual music festival. Hosted by the legendary Hideout, A.V. Fest was a time of hearty pop culture reflection, with a smattering of under-the-radar or nearly forgotten acts. Not to take away from the effectiveness of the fest, most every band on the bill was necessary, and gave further insight into The A.V. Club and what the editors value as far as art is concerned. Just like the A.V. Club is a virtual (and print) destination for pop culture obsessives, A.V. Fest was a two-day festival tailored for live music obsessives.
In fact, that concept carried throughout the fest and its performers. Eef Barzelay is a songwriter’s songwriter. Maps & Atlases make progressive rock for those who are actually prepared for a new direction. Achers of Loaf have long been considered brainy grunge foils to the raw emotion of Nirvana or grounded pop counterparts to the persistent experimentation of Sonic Youth. All of these acts exist(ed) on the fringes of their scene; only those correctly tuned see their greatness. Without outlets like the A.V. Club or ourselves, audiences are left to their own devices, and may miss out on some truly unique pieces of art.
Then again, the A.V. Club are the kings of nostalgia. They’re constantly (obsessively) cataloguing (and re-cataloguing) and critiquing (and re-critiquing) material from yesteryear. Interested in how The Simpsons Fifth Season has held up over the last 15 years? They’re your guys. Sure, they review new material and often provide valuable insight on the ever-changing landscape of pop culture, but that seems to take a back seat to their content focused on the past. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s nearly impossible to find episode breakdowns of Twin Peaks anywhere else on the internet.
We at Frontier Psychiatrist take a different approach. Instead of being a place for only nerds to discuss and continue being nerds, we invite those less experienced to join in the conversation. Also, we serve as a counterpoint to all those haters who regularly want to say “there’s no good music anymore.” Just look at the YouTube comments on any music video 10 years old and beyond. By focusing on the here and now, we’re solidifying the present and looking towards the future. Again, the A.V. Club plays a part in the present conversation, but as evidenced by their fest’s lineup, they have placed themselves firmly in the camp of the past.
We just hold different perspectives, that’s all, and the real world manifestation the A.V. Club highlighted these differences. This falls into the next question, however: what would FP Fest look like, and how would it reflect on us? Hopefully that answer can come sooner rather than later.
Below is a further breakdown of the two-day event:
I love Dave von Bohlen, front man for Maritime and The Promise Ring, and he didn’t dissapoint on Saturday. Maritime’s classic yet fresh take on pop-rock is always refreshing, but they found a way to turn it up to eleven for the relatively lackluster crowd, drawing material mostly from this year’s Human Hearts. Check it out, for real.
Getting redundant here: I really love Eef Barzelay, front man for Clem Snide. He’s indie-rock’s perennial underdog, never to receive his deserved recognition. He’s over it. On Saturday, he gave one of the most perfectly idiosyncratic performances of the weekend. Inspired by his heartbreaking submission of Journey’s “Faithfully” on the uke to A.V. Undercover, brought out a few more Steve Perry classics, including “The Wheel In the Sky,” “Anyway You Want It” and, of course “Don’t Stop Believing.” The second half of his set was more noteworthy and less gimmicky, resurrecting old Clem Snide gems (“No One’s More Happy Than You”), debuting recently penned songs (“Sail On”) and unearthed songs from his personal songwriting project (“Song for Hilary”).
I didn’t know much about Disappears before Saturday, and I still don’t, but their dark, Joy Division-inspired take on surf rock was pretty cool to see live. I don’t think I’ll purchase any of their albums, but they still fit the bill quite well.
For once being indie-punk darlings, The Thermals don’t seem to care about what their audience wants to hear. After dragging us through their newest record, Personal Life, they plunged into b-sides. The set was rousing and boring at the same time. Luckily they jumped into their “hits” at the end: all three of them.
I missed HUM. For shame. Enjoy their best song, “Stars.”
These guys are great. One of the best live bands touring today, Maps + Atlases make extreme talent and band cohesiveness seem simple. Not much to say, however, you must see this band and beard in action to experience.
Without any doubt, Tokyo Police Club put on the most fun set of the weekend. 25 year-old rock veterans, TPC were clearly having a blast up there, which allowed the rest of us to follow suit. “Your English is good!”
Probably because their reunion tour has gone on almost a year now, Archers of Loaf weren’t rusty in the least despite not being a band for the last 10 years. Playing their unique brand of start-stop indie grunge with expert precision, Eric Bachmann and company rocked the nerds harder than any other band of the weekend. After all the kids filed out from Tokyo Police Club, the O.G. A.V. readers pushed up to the stage. Being in my mid-20s, it’s a rare experience to be one of the youngest audience members; it gave me an opportunity to show the geezers how we headbang today. It was especially interesting to see Archers of Loaf round out the weekend, since pretty much every band (HUM excepted) are indebted to them in some way or another.