There was about 10 or 12 of them on the roof of the Skull Manor, peering down upon the scene in the back yard with hollow, black eyes. Each one of them looked like a giant lemur dressed in the hippest of threads. Occasionally one of them would inch out to the edge and peer over. I felt like I was being watched and judged. I was unnerved and it was time for my buzz to turn paranoid. I imagined a rain of lemur shit falling down on us, but instead, a skinny dirty looking white kid in a dingy pair of underwear came out on the deck and melted my face off.
This was where Magic Milk rocked my world, and this is the moment when Cataracts became a truly great festival. Featuring a boy-girl rhythm section and the weird white boy up front, Magic Milk uses the Dave Clark Five as a jumping off point and adds in some left-field acid rock for some ass stomping tunes. Their last and best song, a breathless raver called “Demolition Blue” that didn't quit rattling around my head until halfway through the next set.
To my knowledge, there isn't another house party festival like Cataracts in the country, and what makes this fest so cool and unique is a combo of a nascent scene getting to its teething stage in an area that the great unwashed masses haven't discovered yet and a larger regional sound that fits in nicely with what our local boys are doing. On this day I witnessed the future of Midwestern rock as well as a new way to put on a festival.
The fest was a free, BYOB affair, absent any of the hype and silliness of events like SXSW where the bands were clearly there to party and rock hard enough to sell enough T-shirts to get them to the next town. Here, bands like Milwaukee's stoner popsters Ramma Lamma, Knoxville's heavy-as-fuck Three Man Band and Sebadoh obsessives Smoking Nurse, NC's Syd Barrett-obsessives The Soft Opening and Nashville's Stones-loving noisesters Natural Child showed off a healthy heart of rock and roll still beating.
Ancient Slang and Crys represented Indy quite well pouring out a couple loud, druggy, upbeat shoegazing sets even the roof lemurs approved of. Marmoset also pleased the crowd. Then, was the bratty, tight as God beach blanket psychedelic Vacation Club set that cemented Jeb and the boys as Indy's band of the moment. Bloomington brought Thee Open Sex to the dance party. It was the weird Tim Gick kid from Lafayette and his TV Ghost band that once again stole the show with an out of control, scorched earth set of rock weirdness.
Judgmental lemurs aside, Cataracts has the potential to be the new Midwest music showcase, and expand to an event that encompasses the whole of Fountain Square. But to do that requires sponsorships and such, and strips Cataracts of it's anti-establishment off-the-grid DIY charm. How this event grows will be interesting to watch. In any case I'm already looking forward to Cataracts Fest 2013.