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BLVD, Face Melters Incorporated.

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   Last summer, I went on a road trip of epic proportions. I traveled 22,000 miles over the course of 139 days, hitting 36 states along the way.  During my trip, I went to a variety of music festivals, including some of the monsters, such as All Points West, Lollapalooza, Gathering of the Vibes and Phish 8.  


 My favorite of them all, though, was probably a smaller one called Camp Bisco, in Mariaville, N.Y.  Camp Bisco is put on by The Disco Biscuits, and though I really enjoyed the headliners, what set the festival apart was the smaller acts playing throughout the day and late into the night.


 That weekend was my first exposure to many acts that I now love:  Dr. Dog, Brother’s Past, K’naan, Chromeo, Bonobo, Pnuma Trio, Pretty Lights. 

 One of my favorite "discoveries" at Camp Bisco, BLVD, played at Harlows on Wednesday night.


 BLVD’s music is tough to categorize.  Their Myspace page describes the music as electro/electronica/breakbeat.  I’ve heard the group alternately described as "urban," "livetronica," "electronic rockers" and "electro dance rock."  If I had to put a label on it, I’d probably just go with "freaking awesome" and call it a day.


 I arrived at Harlow’s at 9 p.m. Wednesday, and immediately was struck by the crowd, which appeared to be mostly tatted-up, Affliction-wearing cage fighters and scantily clad ring-card girls.  This wasn’t what I’d imagined BLVD’s fan base would look like, but, then again, you never know.  Maybe this was one of those unlikely fan phenomena,  like Morrissey’s popularity with teenage Latinos.  As I got settled, however, I realized that a good portion of the crowd were Cinco de Mayo revelers, who had, unbeknownst to them, stumbled into the best show in town.  


I sat down at a table close to the stage and watched as the chairs around me began to fill up with people who were here specifically for the show.  By the time that opening act Vokab Kompany took the stage, the tables were full and the crowd was ready.  


Vokab Kompany is another act that refuses to be pigeonholed. Two MCs might  lead you to believe that it’s hip hop, but that doesn’t begin to tell the story.  The seven-piece band from San Diego played for more than an hour, a set that was at times funky, jazzy, heavy, bouncy, even bluegrassy.  At one point, it eased comfortably in and out of Stevie Wonder’s "Superstition."  A moment later, during a long electric fiddle solo, a young lady joined the fiddler on the floor and did her best "Lord of the Dance."  And it all made sense. Through it all, the  crowd was treated to microphonic gymnastics of the dueling MCs, Rob Hurt and Burkey.   The group is legit; see them.


Vokab Kompany set ’em up, BLVD knocked ’em down.


BLVD came out a bit before 11 and wasted no time getting the crowd, properly fluffed by the openers, into a tizzy.  The driving beats and pulsing bass laid down by Dylan Mcintosh and Tripp Bains demand your respect. Curtis Sloane’s guitar stylings make … look, the point is they’ll melt your face off.  And put a party in your pants.


In the past, BLVD also played with an MC, but they recently parted ways amicably.  While not having a singer may make its music a bit less accessible, it had very little effect on the quality of the band’s performance.              


All of the musicians in BLVD are very talented, but they have become festival staples because of their ability to work a crowd into a frenzy. Their music builds into a crescendo until you think they can’t go any longer, at which point they just keep right on going.  For an hour and a half at Harlows,  to the delight of their fans and a lucky few who happened to be in the right place at the right time, BLVD just kept building those crescendos, taking the crowd to the brink and beyond, into the throes of musical ecstasy.  It happened over and over, until those of us who spent the whole set dancing were ready to collapse.  It was 1 a.m.  I exchanged sweaty high fives with some of my fellow dance-floor warriors, and basked briefly in the afterglow of the evening’s festivities.


It had been a fantastic evening with two great groups that want you to get up off your butt and tear the dance floor a new one.  Really, the only thing missing from Wednesday night’s show was you.  You like to dance, don’t you?   Sure you do.  Next time you see Vokab or BLVD is coming to town, throw on your favorite pair of dance pants — mine happen to be silver — and get to that show. You can thank me later.


If you know what’s good for you, you’ll head up to The High Sierra Music Festival for the Fourth of July weekend.  BLVD is playing the 1:30 to 4:00 AM Thursday set, otherwise known as the gamechanger.  Do it, it’ll blow your mind.




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