Friday, Sept. 1-Sunday, Sept. 3

When a person turns 21, it's cause for celebration--he or she has, after all, waited a long time to take that first sip of booze (yeah, right). When a club celebrates its 21st anniversary, though, it's a bit less monumental than, say, its 20th. So, if last year's bash felt like a legitimate reason to assemble a boatload of local bands, past and present, this year's event, which combined local acts with a rather impressive lineup of touring ones, felt merely like an awfully great music festival (and the knowledge that Congress plans to make the event annual only added to that feeling). And there's certainly nothing wrong with that; it's just different, that's all.

In fact, there was very much right about it. With so much talent in attendance, performing and observing, the musicians seemed more inspired to impress during their sets. Or, to use a tired cliché, everyone brought their A-game--I didn't see a bad set all weekend, so it's hard to pick favorites. But, here I go anyway: Fishbone's set at the Rialto was a scorcher that had the crowd going apeshit and lasted longer than their headlining gig at Congress earlier this year. Ian Moore was absolutely spellbinding, as he and his insanely talented multi-instrumentalist collaborator wove sonic textures that careened all over the place and landed perfectly every time. He performed "Wedding Day," written by Alejandro Escovedo, because, he said, Escovedo was bummed he couldn't make it, and brought on Luca for his last song of the night, a cover of Chris Bell's "I Am the Cosmos." Speaking of Luca, the trio had earlier performed the best set I've ever seen them play as part of Howe Gelb's BBQ, which was excellent from start to finish, and ended with an all-star band--Gelb, John Doe, Kristin Hersh, Vic Chesnutt and Tommy Larkins--covering "Wayfaring Stranger" and Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks." (Where else are you going to see something like that? Or, for that matter, members of Fishbone dancing to the Fraidy Cats?)

It seemed rather fitting that the last three acts of the weekend were all locals: Fourkiller Flats were dependably excellent; Al Foul, whose band included Naim Amor and Pork Torta drummer Lucas Mosely, turned in one of the most exciting sets of the weekend; and Doo Rag again reunited for a highly anticipated set that fulfilled all expectations.


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