Saturday at the Willamette Valley Music Festival’s Student Stage, reports of inclement weather proved to be unfounded. The sun was out in full force and, despite the occasional gusts of wind, it proved to be a perfect day for an outdoor concert.
Not to be outdone by the weather, the bands playing the EMU Amphitheater were playing in top form.
“The talent at the student stage has been really blowing my mind,” said Andy Keller, a two-year veteran coordinator of the festival. “Both years have been great, but I’ve been really impressed today.”
The acts started at noon with Stein and their particular brand of hard rock: scratchy, jangly blues guitar reminiscent of the White Stripes with a touch of funk. Next up was the self-described “dance rock” group The Great Hiatum. They lived up to their moniker with plenty of grooves to keep the audience moving. Following them was the indie-pop three-piece Jade, which slowed things down a bit with its personal songwriting.
The first nonrock act of the day came next in the form of The Architex, a Eugene-based hip-hop super group comprised of six MCs. They began their set with some freestyling, but as soon as they started their rehearsed material, their DJ’s mixer literally caught fire, putting a $1,200 piece of equipment out of action and the entire show on hold.
However that didn’t stop The Architex from putting on a good show. Group member K.I. Design was immediately front and center with plenty of jokes. As host of a burlesque show, K.I. had fantastic presentation skill and was well-prepared to smooth things over with the audience should the worst occur. “Whenever that happens, (my groupmates) point at me and say, ‘K.I., get out there,’” Design said.
Eventually, with the decks out of commission, The Architex switched over to laptop playback of their beats and restored momentum, putting on an exceptional show.
After The Architex finished up their set, The Groundblooms brought their unique blend of new-wave and indie rock to the stage. Certainly a change of pace from the hip-hop antics of the set prior, The Groundblooms have a style deeply rooted in classic bands like Pavement and Guided By Voices while at the same time are unafraid to tease the barrier between harmony and noise.
Next was Homeschool, whose style is an even mix of jazz, blues and rock. They proved to be a crowd favorite, with nearly every song ending in a wave of applause. Tyler Morin, one of the band’s principal members, was forthcoming with their influences, citing Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Wes Montgomery.
Bringing the night to a close was Hot Milk with their smoky, intense take on jazz. Each member of the four-piece showed their prodigious talent with their respective instruments, but their ability to make a crowd move was unmatched throughout the day. Even as the sun was setting, the audience danced along to Hot Milk’s upbeat renditions of jazz standards and new material.
All throughout the day, the atmosphere around the concert was upbeat. With the great weather alongside great music, it was difficult to find a person who wasn’t happy to be there. Keller agreed. “I can’t complain. The sun is shining, we have live music … What more do you need?”