BY BRIAN KEYES, STYLE EDITOR
The yearly summer concerts at Fort Reno are a chance for local bands to cut their teeth on a fresh audience, and to even perhaps gain the beginnings of a following. Sadly, Monday was the last of the year, so I thought it my civic duty to go and silently judge the musicians and everyone else there.
I arrived at around seven, leaned up against a tree, and watched the crowd fill in as I took in the vibe of the scene. I must say, the crowd skewed older and much more hipster than I was expecting. This was the first time I had ever been to one of the Fort Reno concerts and I had been led to believe it would be mostly teenagers with things on the explicitly banned list, but instead the crowd seemed to be made up of people slightly too old to be considered millennials, and their four- to six-year-old children. I did see one group of people in my age range, but they were from BCC, so as a matter of honor I had to shun them for daring to venture into DC.
The music actually started sometime around 7:30, with the band Jack on Fire starting off. The band was composed of a drum machine on autopilot, one guitarist who often lent his voice to the music, one bassist who did not, and a lead singer. After listening to them for a few minutes, I came to realize their sound was very similar to another DC band, Ex Hex. The classic guitar-driven alt-rock was something I appreciated, feeling it has been missing in recent music.
However, while Jack on Fire’s stage presence and energy was great, the experience was hampered by lackluster vocals. They sounded more like they were trying to imitate the B-52’s, or David Byrne from the Talking Heads, a style that does not mix easily with background music like that of Franz Ferdinand. Even with the vocals though, I really enjoyed their set, comprised of songs basically complaining about things in DC, like the rise of condos, or songs written for the DC Abortion Fund. Plus one of their friends who had come to watch was dancing right up in front of the stage which was entertaining.
After a 20 minute break where I could go and get a snowcone from a nearby ice cream truck and glare at the BCC kids a little more, the music returned, this time with 80’s inspired band Polyon.
Polyon’s setup was interesting because along with a guitar and drums, they had a synthesizer being used like it came straight out of Unknown Pleasures, instead of more modern sounds, such as CHVRCHES. In fact, the first thing that came to my mind when I was listening to Polyon was the soundtrack to the Transformers TV show from the 80’s. But the synthesizer mixed with the guitar and drums definitely reminded of New Order, but once again the vocals did not match up with the music. The lead singer sounded like he would have been more at home recording that strange genre of pop-punk/hardcore. The singing was a little whiny at times and more than a little shouty at times. It wasn’t that the the lead wasn’t a good singer, it just didn’t match with the music.
Overall I enjoyed the experience. It’s interesting to see bands when they are very rough and unpolished, because you get to see where they go from there. I honestly hope both Jack on Fire and Polyon refine their sound as time goes on, and find a way into a more mainstream venue in DC.