What do you get when you mix groove-infused punk, femme art rock, and African rhythm? A genre-bending musical experience full of experimental sounds and bewitching performances!
Last Friday night, three very different bands took to Gabe’s upstairs stage, shaking the fairy-lighted ceiling with their completely individual sounds. As a part of this year’s Witching Hour festival, Commanders, Younger, and Here Lies Man came together for an incredible show that showcased the festival’s mission to “explore the unknown, discuss the creative process, and present new work.”
The Commanders’ vibe started out as one one of swaying hips and subdued tones that brought the word “groovy” to mind as the lead singer sashayed across the stage. The light atmosphere of muted vocals quickly gave way to plagued screams and the guitarist’s intense improvised guitar solos that mesmerized the room. This lighter tone and the hard, chaotic sound expected for a punk show pushed the expectations of Commanders’ genre.
Younger took to Gabe’s stage next, instantly distinguishing themselves from Commanders as Sarah Mannix (top) set out her drum kit adorned with a flower crown. The Iowa City-based trio’s sound was harder than you might expect from their appearance, but as they say, they are “a rock n roll band.” A mix of smiles, enchanting vocals, and shrill harmonies, Younger played a set that was impossible not to dance along to. They showcased old inspirations and new work, including their most recent release “Night Milk,” which ended with an unexpected lullaby outro to contrast the rock atmosphere of the rest of the song.
Here Lies Man
As Here Lies Man set up, TV static sparked in the background, a rust orange glow playing over their faces. Frontman Marcos Garcia (top) took a moment before diving into his conceptual soundscape to tell the crowd they were playing the soundtrack to an imaginary movie… “and this is the part of the movie where everything goes wrong.” The dissonant chords of the predominantly instrumental songs created a dark and tumultuous atmosphere, only contrasted with the sharp and singing trill from the keyboard. The most astonishing thing about their set was that they hardly stopped playing—each song transitioned seamlessly into the next, each reached the same level of intensity as the last. These seamless transitions come from the influence of African rhythms in their music, adding to their vastly unique and haunting sound.
These three distinct bands came together at Witching Hour to showcase their unique genre-bending sounds. The festival not only provided an outlet for artists like Commanders, Younger, and Here Lies Man to present their new work, but it also gave people in Iowa City an opportunity to discover new artists.
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Photography by Gavin DuPont