Slotted in an absolutely terrible time slot, 10 a.m., and tucked away on the Beach Stage — which was essentially a concession stand — McCordsville, Ind.’s Five Til Dawn didn’t draw much of a crowd for their set. That didn’t help their sound, which needs at least a little audience energy: Think AC/DC plus The Hold Steady minus Angus Young.
Still, one has to admire a band that takes an empty stage, plays to an empty floor and still manages to pour an iota of energy into their performance. They made it count.Everthus the Deadbeats (2-3 p.m.)
The Deadbeats’ set at Wuhnurth was the worst I’ve seen them play. I’m tempted to give them a pass on account of the fact that it seemed like the only people in the crowd were married to or dating band members, but as Five Til Dawn demonstrated, lack of a crowd doesn’t excuse poor performance.
The Deadbeats' normally ecstatic set was drowned in a sea of reverb that made the nuances of their material almost incomprehensible and at times mercilessly drowned the high end of songs like “Woman” or “Human Paraquat.” It was a problem that was only marginally noticeable during other band’s sets at the Field Stage, which leads me to think the band was experimenting.
And that’s fine. But they seemed bored and disinterested. They played their set — frontloaded with material from “John Kill and the Microscopic Lullaby” and material from forthcoming releases — like they didn’t really want to be there. It’s too bad.
But at least no one saw it. Tea Leaf Green (8-10:30 p.m.)
Afternoon sets were poorly attended, but the evening bands — especially Tea Leaf Green and Midwest Hype — played to a large and enthusiastic crowd. One of the interesting things about covering a festival like Wuhnurth is observing the sometimes distinct differences between jam bands. It’s a terribly-named genre. Tea Leaf Green and Midwest Hype played one after another, and though both can be neatly categorized as jam bands — they played Wuhnurth after all — they don’t really share common DNA.
Tea Leaf Green spent a good portion of their set bathed in complete darkness, punctuated by earthy blues and greens and the occasional strobe light. The light show augmented the dynamic shifts in their music.
They’ve got a hard-driving, funk and psychedelic-centric sound that effectively counters the excessive noodling that plagues most jam bands. When guitarist Josh Clark shreds, bassist Reed Mathis holds the composition down with a driving bass riff.
Even for non-jam band fans, a band like Tea Leaf Green can work as an entry point into the genre. They’re structured enough to avoid indulgence, but trippy enough to stretch the limits of each guitar solo as far as they can. Midwest Hype (11:30 p.m.-1 a.m.)
As opposed to Tea Leaf Green — a band distinguished by professionalism, diligence and restraint — Midwest Hype’s lunacy is perhaps their most endearing trait. Shifting from madcap appropriations of reggae, funk and gangsta rap, the band surely has a handle on the notion of a using music as a party.
To an extent, it makes them a better band than Tea Leaf Green. But they’re almost distractingly sloppy, despite the obvious talent the group has at guitar.
One annoying trait: The band’s pesky insistence on adopting Jamaican accents for their reggae material and rougher, harder accents for their funkier, hip-hop material. LaPorte, Ind., is not the ghetto, dude.