Since festivals of the "many bars, one wristband" nature book bands all over creation, you can find yourself inside bars you might not normally patronize. The first unfamiliar place I found myself in during the second annual BAM (Big Arizona Music) festival was the Hut on Fourth Avenue at 9 p.m. to see Portland's Stars of Track and Field, a three-piece in thrift-store suits who played Coldplay-styled dramatic rock. With two guitars, a drummer, a drum machine and a keyboard, the band played songs almost wary of being too drawn out: As soon as the songs seemed like they were actually going to go somewhere, the band would stop.
The 10 o'clock hour found locals Fourkiller Flats playing to a packed Che's crowd. Although it was hard to hear all three guitars above the drunken din, the recently re-grouped band sounded even smoother and more together than they did a few years back when they were grinning from the pages of No Depression. New bassist Chris Morrison, also of locals the Ten Percenters, provided a steady and rolling backbone to Jim Cox, Neal Bonser and Jim Peeken's cool alt.country.
And then, at 11:45, Bob Log III began thumping his drum and guitar to a rowdy O'Malley's crowd. While it at first seemed strange to see Tucson's most unique musical character blaring his songs through his helmet phone at a bar usually frequented by a less avant-garde crowd, the crowd was mostly made up of Log fans anyway, and those new to his fast one-man-in-a-tracksuit band with a slide guitar were raising their plastic cups in admiration.
I wasn't able to catch some of the touring bands that I wanted to see, like California's Built Like Alaska on the Congress Street Stage at 9 p.m., or Donita Sparks of L7 at Club Congress at midnight; and interestingly, no bands were scheduled past the witching hour.
This year's BAM festival felt a lot like the Club Crawls used to: like a family reunion with both your creepy cousin and your favorite aunt. The festival placed performances at every place they could plug in a PA along Congress, Fourth Avenue and University Avenue, making our downtown feel for one night like a big-city downtown does every night. The festival was markedly more organized and bigger than last year's; let's hope next year's festival moves even further toward realizing its goals and living up to its name.