The 48 Hour Music Festival

The 48 Hour Music Festival
various artists
free online release

Click to hear: “Night Driver,” by VCR

The annual 48 Hour Music Festival, in which local musicians are grouped together at random and must prepare a live set in two days’ time, is becoming a tradition, and once again the impromptu bands are reconvening to record this material in a studio. Three 48 Hour bands from last year’s fest have released mini-albums online, which you can hear and download free of charge at the festivals’ Bandcamp site.

Charlemagne, a five-piece comprised of three guitarists (including Nate Soule of The Mallett Brothers Band), drummer Elijah True and bassist/vocalist Sydney Bourke laid down two tracks reminiscent of Bourke’s previous band, Marie Stella, that are similarly forgettable.

Sister Rita threw country-punkers Gary Meres and Caleb Coulthard in the same room with Casey McCurry (of the indie-pop collective Sunset Hearts) and drummer D.J. Moore (of indie-rockers Brenda and others). The combination looks promising on paper, but two days is clearly not enough time for it to flower. McCurry’s keyboard is buried beneath a mess of loud guitar and sneering vocals, and his knack for writing killer hooks is nowhere in evidence. The best of the four cuts here, “Mystery Driver,” achieves the kind of thrown-together glory Pussy Galore was infamous for, but I doubt you’ll go back to it.

The real treat is VCR. The lineup of this band is so inspired it’s hard to believe it wasn’t planned. Kevin “Boo” Leavitt of Covered in Bees fame handles vocals. He’s had some practice making an album under a ridiculous deadline (see the Bees’ crazy-entertaining 24 Hour Album), and anytime you put a mic in his hand something interesting happens. The guitarist is Joe Martignetti of the fantastic prog-rock band Sunrunner, a kindred (evil) sprit for sore. They’re joined by circuit-bender Galen Richmond (Computer at Sea) and drummer Mike Cunnane (The RattleSnakes, Huak, Sunset Hearts).

The results are a twisted magic indeed. The first of the six tracks they made is “Night Driver,” a song about the classic Atari game that’s as fun as you’d expect. “Ladder of Fire” could be a Bees B-side. It rocks at speed-metal speed with just a hint of electro-boing (courtesy of Richmond) for about three minutes before taking an off-ramp into a poppy outro.

On “XO,” Boo uses his pinched Brian Johnson voice to deliver jokey lines like “You’ll be the Robin, I’ll be the Batman, that makes us Super Friends” over a crog-mag riff. This alternates a couple times with a floaty chorus, then Martignetti shreds the song to pieces. The strange, atmospheric “White Whale” is worth several listens, as is “Santa Land,” an electro-pop ditty about the amusingly equates the big guy’s workshop with a sweatshop.

The fourth annual 48 Fest happens Feb. 18 at SPACE Gallery. This year’s participants include Delta blues phenom Samuel James and chamber-pop savant Sean Morin. You can bet it’ll be another good one.

— Chris Busby

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