Small Black, Delicate Steve, Sun Airway, and Dustin Wong at Ottobar

I trekked up to Baltimore with some friends last night to Ottobar to catch hometown hero Dustin Wong, Philadelphia’s Sun Airway, a band I’d never heard of in Delicate Steve, and chillwavers Small Black. The event was put on by ChangeUp Magazine as “The Jump-Off 2.0 Launch Party” which I’m pretty sure is to celebrate a website re-design with new features. Just what I gathered from the tenor of the event and from the ChangeUp Magazine website.

This also meant that this was a corporate event, meaning it was a little…weird, in a Red Bull SoundClash kind of way. There were guys walking around with bulky video cameras taking crowd shots and bumping me out of my spot along with just a bunch of dudes with bulky DSLRs taking pictures with flash of anything and everything. It’s one of those things where I’m curious to see all the pictures so I can see where I end up.

Anyway, the music. Dustin Wong, who I caught in December at Subterranean A, was amazing as usual. The layers upon layers of guitars he puts together is purely amazing, as he’s able to manipulate the guitar sounds in what seems like a new way every single time. Another aspect of his guitar playing that I think is really cool is that he doesn’t loop chords and then build over the chords like it seems logical (to me at least) to do. Instead, he builds all of his single note riffs before adding the chords, something that I think is just really, really cool. I feel pretty inspired to break out the loop pedal today. If only I could actually get the motivation to do that.

Up next was Sun Airway, whose album Nocturne of Exploding Crystal Chandelier is a solid 2010 release. You learn something new every day, and last night I learned that there indeed are Sun Airway fan girls. Which was new. But anyway, Sun Airway threw down a nearly flawless set with selections from Nocturne, the high point for me being the rendition of “Waiting On You,” which came together so well in the space. Many times I feel like synths can cause vocals to get lost in the mix, but this wasn’t the case at Ottobar, as everything came across crisp and clear.

Delicate Steve had much to live up to after Sun Airway, in my opinion, and fell pretty short. I was into the first couple of jams, which featured some epic guitar soloing from Steve, but everything became pretty instrumental with minimal use of the vocals. The instrumentation was pretty cool with stand-up drums and some electronic aspects, but it was all pretty repetitive and I just couldn’t latch on to the grooves and go with it. But hey, a good number of the people there dug it, so what do I know?

Finally, Small Black was up, who I would throw into the new genre of “brochillwave,” because, well, they’re bros. And who knew bros could make awesome chillwave? I didn’t before Small Black. That being said, the four-piece threw down, dropping great tracks from the Small Black EP and from their rad 2010 album New Chain. “Despicable Dogs,” “Camouflage,” and “New Chain” were all highlights, but the best of their set was the closure, “Photojournalist,” one of my favorite songs of 2010. The bass lines in the music really popped in the live setting and were more than impressive, while the synths wafted over everything, creating a layer of fuzz that added to the chilled out vibes.

Overall, it was an extremely solid show, accented by the Baltimore music figure sightings of Animal Collective’s Avey Tare, Future Island’s William Cashion and possibly Rapdragons’ Nick Often. I’d totally recommend catching Dustin Wong, Sun Airway or Small Black to anyone, and Delicate Steve if you’re really into that kind of thing.

All photos by Marko M. For more of his pictures, check out his Flickr.

–Daniel

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