If there's one thing we've learned over the past decade, it's that the Cannery Row conglomeration of music venues knows how to throw some serious parties. Remember when Heypenny marching-banded their way to Manchester during the first Road to Bonnaroo series? Or when Girl Talk flooded the offices below Cannery because a water line burst under the weight of the onstage dance party? That's the kind of ridiculous shit we wanted to get into on Friday and Saturday night, when Mercy, Cannery and The High Watt all kicked open their doors for a 24-band local rock party to end all parties.
What we didn't expect was the hippie skirt dancing happening by the side of the stage.
The thing about booking 24 completely different bands across three music venues in the same building is that you're going to wind up with a weird crowd. At least 250 of these people showed up for the free show, which effectively turned Mercy Lounge's 10th anniversary — at least in terms of the crowd — into an enormous 8 off 8th. Which is a good and bad thing. On one hand, it's endlessly amusing to see ladies and bros in party attire get consumed by the JEFF mosh pit later in the evening. On the other, you often got the sense that nobody was all that interested in the music — which was patently obvious during Tristen's set upstairs in Mercy.
Meanwhile at The High Watt, Evan P. Donohue was banging out a guitar solo while wearing a hibachi chef's hat and accompanied just by a bassist and a low-key but very effective percussionist. For all of his Elvis Costello charm, Donohue's newer material sounds a bit closer to Buddy Holly, if Holly dropped more F-bombs in “That'll Be The Day.” And downstairs in Cannery, Ri¢hie was doing his own Andrew WK-goes-alt-country thing, giving us the kind of weirdo Southern rock that we grew to love when Ghostfinger was still a thing. Do you think they'd play “Born on the Moon” if we shouted it enough times at them? Yeah, we didn't think so either. Still, songs like “Gravitron” have enormous weight behind them, thanks to the double-drummer setup they've got going on.
We killed some time upstairs, enjoying Matt Friction's trip through a decade of being Matt Friction in The High Watt — we don't care who knows, we'll always love Silent Friction's amusingly immature songs about jail bait and whatever — but before long we were back downstairs in Cannery, fighting our way to the front for the main event.
By our count, JEFF the Brotherhood hasn't played a proper show in town since the last Freakin' Weekend, which had us in Bogus Bro withdrawals. As much shit as we get for covering JEFF as often as we do, it's hard to deny their live show — especially when you're in the thick of it. As Cannery filled with smoke and the dedicated crowd of minors we spied during Turbo Fruits started chanting “JEFF! JEFF! JEFF! JEFF!,” Jake and Jamin strolled onstage and launched into “Ripper,” followed by “Mellow Out” and “Heavy Days.” That was about when we realized that we're old and out of shape, retreating to a safe distance where we could watch security try and fail in Keystone Kop fashion to curtail stage divers. By the time JEFF settled into the droning psychedelic back end of their set — bolstered by D. Watusi's Christina Norwood on keys and the eponymous King Karl on guitar — security had all but given up on stopping crowd-surfers. That's the inevitable outcome of all JEFF shows.
As JEFF closed down Cannery, we caught precious little of James Wallace and the Naked Light in High Watt (playing respectably complex folk-pop in the vein of Josh Ritter) and Magnolia Sons in Mercy Lounge (playing the sort of adult contemporary throwback you'd expect from the brain behind The Comfies) before we realized we were totally beat. Before long, we surrendered, knowing that we had one more day of partying ahead of us.