On the weekend of October 7 through 9, the venerable, radical, colorful O+ Festival takes over the streets of Uptown Kingston, filling them with art, health services and most of all music: music around the clock in multiple venues including the street itself. In its earliest days, the O+ music lineup was demonstratively non-local in focus; it was conscious of its role as the alternative to the region’s default musical styles. That distinction has eased in recent years as A) the region has hipped up (no small thanks to O+) and B) O+ has relaxed the stylistic focus slightly.
As always, it’s paralysis by surfeit for me: too many good bands, too many choices. What works great on the street itself (music all day and night behind every door) works less well in writing. Let’s take a brief look at three acts: two of the headliners and one of up-and-comers.
Known for her distinctively percussive and polyrhythmic approach to the acoustic guitar, King’s 2003 solo instrumental debut Everybody Loves You is still a stunning listen, an outrageous exposé of the unexplored timbral properties of the guitar. I prefer it to Michael Hedges. It’s weirder. Since then she has released numerous instrumental records and collections of high-energy and ominous songs, like 2008’s Dreaming of Revenge and 2010’s Junior. 2015’s The Neck is a Bridge to the Body finds King headed home, as it were, with a collection of ambience-enhanced guitar instrumentals that feature way more fringe distress and noise than any New Age record that you are likely to find; thus, O+. King performs on Saturday at 8 p.m. in the big room at BSP at 323 Wall Street.
Swanky, jazz- and lounge-inflected Norwegian songsmith Sondre Lerche has built quite a catalogue of ’60s-influenced sophisti-pop that owes more to Burt Bacharach (and Elvis Costello, a Lerche mentor and collaborator, in croon mode) than to the Beatles. 2007’s considerably more agitated and rocking Phantom Punch is a highlight – sounding almost like the Strokes at times – but the whole catalogue is impressive. Like so much else these days, the 2015 EP Despite the Night trends electropop, but I suppose it is surprising that Lerche didn’t get there sooner, so natural is the fit. Sondre Lerche performs at the Old Dutch Church at 272 Wall Street on Saturday, October 8 at 9:30 p.m.
Fronted by New Paltz native, Hampshire College graduate and Northampton-area musician and music critic Will Meyer, Bucket has been on my radar since their rambunctious earliest demos. Reaching uncharacteristically for the “reference cocktail” approach to music description, I once described Bucket as “Neil Young forcing Pavement to cover Sabbath at gunpoint,” and I stand by that. Turns out that it is a deep and deepening stylistic vein for this excellent, irreverent four-piece rock group that works the heavier side of the indie-rock spectrum. Meyer’s songs are littered with acid and savvy leftist social commentary, delightfully surreal imagery, next-gen slack sentiments and profound, profound riffs. Bucket may sound some somewhat oversized in the Stockade Tavern at 313 Fair Street, where they perform on Saturday, October 8 at 9:30 p.m., but that should just enhance the sternum impact.
For the full O+ lineup of music, art and education, visit https://opositivefestival.org.