Before embarking on their opening gigs with the Super Furry Animals, Columbus’ Times New Viking capped the well-selected collection of Ohio’s underground musicians at the first annual Festival 71, on January 26. Named in honor of the interstate that connects the music scenes and hometowns (mainly Cleveland & Columbus) of each of the participating ten bands, the festival allowed for a grouping that revealed how weird, talented, and disjointed Ohio’s underground music has once again become. For the time being, recent Matador signees TNV well represented the Ohio collective (which includes the Black Swans and the Homostupids).
Speaking in-between songs about what it means to be a mid-westerner, and the importance of realizing that things in-fact do happen in the rust-belt and not only on the coasts (they do?), guitarist and co-vocalist Jared Phillips spoke for a generation of intelligent young people who have watched their friends move away from a struggling economy and too-familiar surroundings. His comical rally to apparently see if people were feeling positively average, “is everyone doing alright, feeling pretty good about things?” started the set of infectious pop melodies emerging from murky distorted noise.
The shortened festival set, which the band played on the floor of the ballroom while crowd-members could walk on stage to view a show in reverse, was long enough to cover “my head,” “teenage lust,” and “we got rocket,” among quite a few others. The band sounded better live simply because their recording techniques and equipment are fairly rudimentary, and, well, shitty. Any perceived pretension that may come along with the idea of purposeful noise is shaken off by TNV’s energy and genuine love for what they do. Rather than jumping to separate themselves from their surroundings, they wallow in a tradition of proto-punk and lo-fi racket that began in the area during the early to mid-1970s with bands such as the Electric Eels and Rocket from the Tomb and later in the mid 1990s with New Bomb Turks and Guided by Voices.
TNV care less about great musicianship and set their goals accordingly. They realize the freedom that comes with existing in a place where expectations are low. Most importantly, TNV created a good time. Something that isn’t easy to do during an Ohio winter.