For a certain breed of music fan, the Gentlemen of the Road festival in Salida this Friday and Saturday will be the highlight of the summer. GOTR is touting the traveling festival's "stopovers" as a "celebration of a real place, with real people. We bring the music, the stage, the flags and the fans; everything else belongs to the town."
Not only is it an opportunity to sample a variety of indie-rock acts, but also to camp out and explore the town in question. Like all good guests, attendees are invited to "arrive early, stay late, take the party to the town, eat the local food and drink the local drink, say a friendly hello to new faces, and have as much fun as humanly possible."
Now that you know the proper decorum, what of the bands performing? Indie rock fans are notoriously obsessive about detailed trivia minutiae, so this is the last place one wants to arrive unprepared. Luckily, I have compiled a handy guide to the headlining acts, so you can feel free to exchange not only friendly hellos, but serious indie credibility.
The Flaming Lips: Long-running rock band from Norman, Oklahoma, led by the delicate-voiced and delicate-haired weirdo Wayne Coyne. Their early efforts marked a novel fusion of the raw energy of punk rock with the non-sequitur hallucinogenics of psychedelia. Their mid-career material saw a shift to lush, Brian Wilson-esque chamber pop, and now they seem to be into electronic-driven prog rock and "re-interpreting" classic albums such as Dark Side of the Moon.
Unnecessary subgenre: Call them "Post-Butthole Surfers Space Rock" and watch the light die behind the eyes of your new friends.
Mumford & Sons: Plucky English quartet who cut their teeth playing anthemic indie-pop with folk instruments. Distinctly not Irish. Their latest effort, Wilder Mind, traded the folk instruments for a sleeker electric rock sound.
Unnecessary subgenre: Millennial Sincerity Indie-Folk Rock
Dawes: Californian folk-rock band led by brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith. They draw upon the classic 1960s and '70s folk sound of the Laurel Canyon scene.
Fun Fact: Their latest studio offering, All Your Favorite Bands, while well-regarded, may not eature all your favorite bands. Sorry.
The Vaccines: Unlike the folksier offerings at GOTR, these London rockers play a harder-edged, post punk-influenced brand of rock. The sound has won plenty of fans, including themselves, who described their latest album, English Graffiti, as "genre-defining."
Unnecessary subgenre: Remember the morons who said Interpol were the next Joy Division? I guess these guys are the next Jesus & Mary Chain!
tUnE-yArDs: Lo-fi project of singer Merrill Garbus, who creates loops and sound collages from all manner of samples and field recordings, leading to an ever-eclectic mix anchored by her soulful vocals.
Unnecessary subgenre: Say, "Hmm, it's like a mix of Laurie Anderson and Psychic TV." Trust me.
Jenny Lewis: After her early tenure as a child actress, Jenny Lewis rose to prominence fronting country-tinged indie rock act Rilo Kiley. Her solo career mostly trades the alt-country sound of her former band for the shimmering textures of '80s pop.
Pro tip: Most attendees will remember Rilo Kiley fondly, but the country leanings could be a trap when discussing her solo career. Change the subject.
James Vincent McMorrow: Irish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, purveyor of an atmospheric, falsetto-laden blend of folk and R&B.
Unnecessary subgenre: In McMorrow's own words, his sound "evokes a style of music without you having a clue what it sounds like. It's warm and familiar, but there's something there that's maybe not quite what you think it is." So let's call it "Opaque Beard-Folk."
Blake Mills: Aside from his solo career, Mills co-founded Dawes, works as a sought-after producer, and has contributed to recordings by Kid Rock, Alabama Shakes, Lana Del Rey, Danger Mouse, Jackson Browne and countless others.
Pro tip: If you play "Six Degrees of GOTR," Blake Mills is your trump card. He's worked with basically all the other headlining acts.
JEFF the Brotherhood: Amiable, psychedelic-influenced Nashville garage-rock duo consisting of brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall.
Fun fact: Jeff the Brotherhood provided instrumentation for the Insane Clown Posse's infamous single on Jack White's Third Man Records, which was an arrangement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's (alleged) scatological canon "Leck mich im Arsh."
If you'd like to stay closer to home this weekend, here are a few options.
Wednesday, Aug. 19, brings a marathon night of industrial metal to the Black Sheep, featuring Coal Chamber, Fear Factory, metal supergroup Devil You Know, Saint Ridley and Madlife.
On Aug. 21, New York-based indie rock act Joywave appears at Rawkus. Also that night, singer-songwriter Alphuh Eph plays the Patio Sessions at The Underground.
Finally, Aug. 22 marks the anticipated return of roots-rock godfather Steve Earle to Chico Basin Ranch, where he'll be joined by his backing band, The Dukes, and alt-country duo the Mastersons.