Rock N Roll Partyfest
Saturday, June 20–Sunday, June 21, 2015
To some extent, every music festival is an endurance test. But the inaugural Rock N Roll Partyfest in Raleigh somehow kept from becoming a dull blur. Its two nights might have started early and ended late, but a casual vibe and quick sets ensured it never got boring, while consistently good sound and dynamic contrasts between bands kept the energy high.
The two-night dash, with more than 20 bands crammed between dinnertime and last call, was the brainchild of local musician Brian Cruse. He said the idea for Partyfest came to him at work, back in January. A lot of his favorite bands seemed underrepresented in Raleigh clubs; a low-key festival might remedy that. “Mostly,” he said, “I just wanted to get all my buddies together and do something rad.”
And so he did. The weekend was filled with highlights and interesting pairings. Saturday afternoon’s back-to-back sets from Winston Facials and SOON contrasted the former’s howling battery of noise-rock with the latter’s patient and deliberate doom. On Sunday, Bandages would precede The Old One-Two, marking the fest’s most pronounced juxtaposition; the jolt from Bandages’ scathing, tense hardcore to The Old One-Two’s spartan blues rock felt a bit like skipping from Black Flag to the Black Keys.
That sonic diversity made Drag Sounds’ proto-punk choogle mesh with Paint Fumes’ garage-rock snarl. It also turned the weekend’s occasional covers into a guiding playlist, ranging from The Velvet Underground (“Sister Ray,” as played by Shitty Boots) and The Stooges (via Paint Fumes’ “1970”) to Merle Haggard (subverted into “Hippie from Dinwiddie” by Virginia’s The Dinwiddies) and traditional blues (in the form of The Old One-Two’s reverent take on “John the Revelator”).
No Love’s 15-minute close on Saturday night was a potent splash of hooky, aggressive punk. Acid Chaperone’s Sunday night set was an instrumental psych-rock epic. The Wahya’s compelled a dense crowd with bare-bones garage-rock. And Natural Causes turned synth-punk spasms into lingering earworms. Black Zinfandel returned after a year-long hiatus with one of the weekend’s most engaging and crowd-baiting sets. And Royal Nites fused hardcore intensity to ‘70s hard-rock groove.
“Thanks for coming out to Rock N Roll Partyfest,” Cruse offered during Shitty Boots’ Saturday set. “It’s been really nerve-wracking and really rewarding, and it’s punk as fuck, and I hope you have a good time.”
Most of those in attendance flowed in and out of Slim’s—to hang out on the patio, or grab food, or get to bed at a reasonable hour on Sunday. But judging by the high-fives and bear-hugs, broad smiles and empty cans, there’s little question they had fun—and that they, like Rock N Roll Partyfest, are bound to return.