Awful Fest 2018 Review

Awful Fest
July 12-14, 2018
Awful House - Kansas City, MO
Eu1ogy at Awful House. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.
Although the venue's final show came later that month, Awful House's inaugural and final Awful Fest in mid-July was the best testament to what the West Bottoms DIY spot stood for during its brief year of existence. The crowds they deserved never materialized, but roughly two dozen talented LGBTQ and POC acts performed over the course of these three nights. Despite several of the fest's most anticipated acts dropping off the lineup without much notice (and the scheduling mess that this triggered), each night still held its fair share of highlights.

As I approached the warehouse on foot Thursday evening, I was unsure whether I was hearing a freight train rumbling through the Bottoms, or one of the fest's first performers. Upon arriving, to my delight, I discovered that I had been hearing the sounds of Cholera. Most of Kansas City's noise scene operates independently of the punk scene, but Kennedy Bronson's act is one of a small handful of frequent crossovers. Assisted by Lance Rutledge in this collaborative performance, Bronson's droning audio misanthropy was channeled through small amps, pedals, a guitar, and a microphone swinging like a pendulum for feedback.

Other Thursday evening highlights included a sub-15 minute set from Omaha noise powerhouse CBN and an industrial gothic ritual from Kansas City's Killus. The night was closed out by Piper Harrow, who delivered an enchantingly bizarre set while draped in chain mail. Harrow chanted about the evils of Earth as she lit candles, clanged chains, clattered a sword, and provided pensive bits of guitar and synth play. I didn't quite catch what it was in reference to, but Harrow ended her set by asking for a moment of silence. The total darkness and silence that enveloped Awful House in that moment was blissful and rejuvenating; a refreshing way to cap off the first day of a music festival.

Day two ushered in the bulk of Awful Fest's touring talent and the highest attendance of its three days. Ms. Gendered provided an early evening dance soundtrack, followed by an audio/visual presentation from Boi Boy that cobbled together viral videos and movie clips to create an all-encompassing inspirational speech. Denver's Faim played the most straightforward hardcore punk set of the fest, abbreviated with blasts of powerviolence and political calls to action.

Friday's most outlandish set was provided by Period Bomb: a Miami band whose endearingly sloppy punk rock and frighteningly freakish antics (among other things, the bassist's face was covered in blood) brought smiles to the faces of all who crowded around them. Not long after this, the warehouse floor was usurped by Eu1ogy for what was arguably the most exhilarating performance of the fest. Baltimore native Isaac Shane acted as a one man hardcore band, fusing together mosh-ready guitar riffs, noise rap beats that hit like a battering ram, and dog-bark vocals. Most attendees didn't know quite how to react to such compositions, but most chose to pump their arms and cheerfully bounce in place.

Saturday was primarily a locals only affair. Topeka DJ and Young Mvchetes collaborator Alpha Beta kept things moving at a leisurely pace throughout the evening with intermittent sets of dance and hip-hop. Noelle Johnson, one of the fest's main organizers, took a break from the exhaustive work of running the show to become its sole focus for a brief moment. This Bath Consolidated set was shorter than most, but Johnson still wreaked havoc from behind the DJ booth, screaming into a makeshift telephone mic as her music reached its climax, and pulled anxiously at a cigarette during its lulls.

The night also included laudable sets from Linkrot, CXPA, a bizarre duo with a penchant for sampling strange YouTube clips, and back-to-back performances from the three founding members of UN/TUCK (MX.MRS, Btrfly, and Floraviolet). While much of the fest felt as though it was held together with duct tape, the moments of solidarity it fostered and the underappreciated artists it uplifted made sweating it out in the dark for three summer days more than worthwhile.

Full photo galleries here: Thursday / Friday / Saturday

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