With a string of three shows – starting tonight and ending Saturday – the KDVS 90.3 FM organized Feats of Strength music festival returns to the Davis and Sacramento area. The show locations are as diverse as the bands: tonight’s show with headliner AIDS Wolf is on-campus in the Silo Union, Friday’s concert is inside Sacramento restaurant Luigi’s Fungarden, while Saturday’s bands will perform in the living room of the DAM house in Davis.
Rick Ele, a KDVS DJ and the primary organizer of the three shows, said Feats of Strength is less of a festival and more of an informal moniker for an unusually attractive set of concerts in the area.
“The first time I declared a Feats of Strength fest was from July 26 through Aug. 6, 2007, when I had set up 10 shows during those 12 nights which were particularly outstanding enough to warrant some kind of special billing,” Ele said.
Last year’s FOS festival included up-and-coming acts Times New Viking and Mika Miko along with a number of other local and touring bands.
“Nearly all of the shows featured bands who play music that can be described as part of this new ‘weirdpunk‘ or ‘artpunk‘ movement that has been growing at the intersection of garage, punk and other more atavistic or experimental styles,” he said.
This year’s festival includes a Friday night show with two notable new bands – the indie rock group Love Is All from Sweden and the all-female Vivian Girls from New York City.
Both bands have received their fair share of favorable reviews. Blender Magazine called the Vivian Girls‘ debut self-titled album “admirably skuzzy” and described their sound as a “sassy guitar racket, with a bit of B-52‘s beach-party frolic in [the] beat.” Love Is All – on tour to promote their newly released second album A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night – were praised by Allmusicguide.com as “as good as indie rock gets in the late 2000s.“
Ele said that booking well-publicized bands like Love Is All and Vivian Girls wasn’t difficult because of their popularity on KDVS radio shows.
“Vivian Girls and Love Is All have been two of the top-played bands at KDVS for the last couple years and the last month or two especially, so it was really rather natural for them to seek us out for the booking,” he said.
Sean Ongley, a member of Death Worth Living – one of the opening bands tonight at the Silo for noise-rockers AIDS Wolf – said that his band’s role will be to give the audience a break from the intensity of the other acts.
“AIDS Wolf play noise songs. Mayyors are rockers, straight up. Our sound is, I think, a lot smoother and relaxed,” Ongley said in an e-mail. “I think our function for this show is to serve as a calm down, or to clean the ear-palette.“
Besides the Feats of Strength event itself, the use of the Silo as a venue for tonight’s concert also represents a recent development for KDVS. Until recently, the radio station had been using the on-campus theater rehearsal space known as the Firehouse to host shows, KDVS events coordinator Darach Miller said in an e-mail.
“The Silo arrangement comes out of the ruins of the Firehouse,” Miller said. “It turns out we were booking on a misunderstanding, as according to Campus Events and Visitor Services only the Entertainment Council is allowed to do shows on campus.“
Miller said that the philosophy of KDVS hosting cheap shows to expose people to new bands and ideas is in conflict with the university’s policy.
“We need to have zero overhead. That means cheap space and no mandates of paying for Aggie Hosts to baby-sit a crowd of 50,” he said. “Otherwise, you can’t make ends meet.“
In response, Miller said KDVS is now collaborating with Campus Unions to arrange shows at the Silo while also working with the EC to bring monthly shows to the ASUCD Coffee House, beginning the third week of February. On the other hand, Miller said that KDVS is also looking to examine university policy about on-campus events.
“We’d like to head up an effort to review and revise the policies that prevent shows from happening on campus,” he said. “On other UC campuses, you can get a show approved in a day. Not so at Davis.“
Ele said he sees the FOS shows as a statement about the strong music community in the Davis and Sacramento area.
“It’s the surest proof that ‘nothing fun ever happens in Sacramento and Davis‘ is a lie. I am guaranteeing that each show will be a great time.“
ZACK FREDERICK can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org