This picture is worth at least two thousand words.
With there being only two full days of festival, waking up Saturday morning came with a great feeling: the first night went hard, and it was already time to leave it all on the field for the last night! Two day festivals are awesome. The first sign that this day was stepped up was finding a mechanical bull and inflatable jousting ring assembled in the main food/walking area. What an awesome touch. These things got people together in a great way, inviting both participation and hilarious entertainment. The layout of this festival was so compact that it made stage hopping during the day incredibly smooth. Derick Howard, Soap, and Covert were all great daytime sets spread out over three different stages, so it was like everywhere you went there was good music to find.
The standout set of the day was Jaik Willis. As a one man band, this guy’s energy alone is astonishing. He doesn’t just sing, he belts his lyrics out, all while hammering on his guitar, dancing around, and stomping his feet as if the energy of his music is just flowing out of every end. His songwriting style is really unique as well; he doesn’t always use hooks or choruses, instead often weaving these extended prose-poetic verses filled with candid humor. The acoustic Flying V guitar might suggest rock star but Willis is a genuine raconteur, as unpretentious as it gets. Near the end of his set is where things got even better. Following a shout of “Beat Box!” from the back of the barn, Willis said, “That sounds like a request” and jumped into a dazzling ten minute improvised beat box version of “Superstitious.” He went from spinning folk rock yarns to spitting a sharp, almost electronic-sounding remix of a funky classic… with only his mouth and a microphone. Jaik Willis is one hell of a talented musician.
As the sun began to go down, Bad Dagger was getting the tent all hot once again. This might have been the most surprising set of the weekend. If you’re familiar with Cam Reel of The Twin Cats, you know he plays one of the funkiest bass guitars around. And what he does with Bad Dagger only amplifies his dynamic slap style, while driving towards a breakneck electro-rock sound with relentless energy. These guys flowed through one gnarly song after another, including a sick cover of The New Deal’s “Gone Gone Gone.” Bad Dagger blew the damn roof off the tent and the sun was still peeking out.
Then it was Midwest Hype’s turn in the tent. The sun was gone now, which is when this band always seems to shine. Their hip hop-upon-jam-rock style is pretty much unlike any other band in the region, so when they totally nail a set, they really offer something special. And they brought a really special moment when they busted a cover of Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” out of nowhere. This was easily one of the peak moments of whole festival, it was like a party bomb got dropped in the middle of the tent and people just went apeshit. Thanks to their hybrid nature, Midwest Hype is an ideal band to cover Beastie Boys and they did this iconic song tremendous justice.
Future Rock was the perfect headliner Friday night, then Papadosio came along and filled the exact same role on Saturday night. These two bands really embody the Midwestern jam-electronic scene, the cream of the crop in this area, so it’s hard to imagine two bands more well-suited to christen the new king of small Midwestern festivals. All the stops got pulled for this set: there were at least 12 artists live painting, glow-hooping girls on the platforms, a non-stop poi circle with some incredibly talented dancers, and a giant apparatus set-up for aerialists to do some wild trapeze stunts. It was a cornucopia of visual stimulation sprawling out of the barn into the open yard, all adding a magical feeling to a beautiful Papadosio set. If there’s one signature move of this band, it’s their ability to steadily climb the mountain during their set, ending up at a place where the energy is at its absolute peak.
They played a bunch of new songs from their not-quite-released-yet album T.E.T.I.O.S. The set started very mellow and atmospheric, easing through “The Sum,” a song marked by a feathery mix of organics and electronics that was reminiscent of very early Lotus, and “We Are Water,” which got a bit more aggressive but retained a definite effervescence. But naturally they cranked up the heat towards the end with a couple of fan favorites. The set ended with “Method Of Control,” their newest ‘monster’ song. Papadosio has always fallen into the ‘jam’ pool of electronic music, but their style of jamming has really begun to come into a palpable maturity. Their jams are really unique due to the way that they feel like they dissolve, not veer or drop or space out like a lot of other bands. Something about their sound suggest that it’s expanding at the molecular level, like it’s changing states but is still made up of its elements the whole time. “Method” felt like it was nearly doubled in length, effortlessly expanded in a gorgeous way. With only the encore left, Anthony explained that there was only one choice of which song to play. After a beautiful apex like that, the only thing they could do was play “All I Knew,” the most sentimental selection of their entire catalogue. All things considered, this was probably the best & most complete set of the festival. Or in other words: Papadosio did what they always do.
The Twin Cats
There was still three sets left, Saturday night was far from over. Up next was Eumatik, who put up a good fight with Bad Dagger for most surprising set of the festival. This was a Eumatik that sounded more in control, more engaging, and simply more electric than ever. They featured a fourth member on percussion for this show, who was really good and seemed to coalesce the whole sound. They played this crazy, deconstructed cover/remix of “Thriller” that seemed to stretch on through a couple of different jam directions. Then The Twin Cats filled the barn up one last time with their singularly unique brand of raw-dog funk. There’s something just inherently dirty about their sound, like somehow the funk has turned just a little funkier. Basically, they were once again a band perfectly placed on the schedule.
Then to wrap up the entire party was the Midwest’s newest electronic powerhouse Cosby Sweater. They wasted no time in cranking their energy through the roof, throwing down a set that was every bit as awesome as Bad Dagger and Eumatik, but with the added bonus of being the very last set. Let’s just say that the tent was a giant, sloppy, ridiculously fun, slap-happy shitshow of a good time. And it ended with a personal cherry on top as they squeezed in an amazing cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean” that made me go insane. I plowed to the center of the crowd and sang at the top of my lungs, getting all my festival energy out one last time, because soon after the one and only blemish of the weekend occurred when curfew was absolutely reached and everything had to shut off immediately. It was alright though, Cosby Sweater was an fantastic way to close the festival.
The Herm Productions crew did a phenomenal job considering this was their first ever festival. Everyone from the stage crews (Zach Swinderman, Alan Osbourne, Malcolm Johnson and others), the logistics by Sara Elifritz, the production by Herm and Brent Nixon, down to the festival crazy glue (Brandon Hammer) all pulled off the task with flying colors. The turnout was even better than I think anyone anticipated and the entire weekend was just a smash success. And the music was one balls-to-the-wall set after another, for two consecutive days… I might be prone to hyperbole, but you gotta believe me when I say this was the best small festival I’ve ever been to. The future for Hyperion is surface-of-the-sun bright, and I honestly can’t wait to see how this festival grows next year, and for many years to come.