A grand congregation of local bands took place on Friday night (Feb. 10) in Iowa City at Gabe’s. Artists included Saint Silver, Worst Impressions, Fishbait, Dolliver, Critical Mass, and Kobe Williams and the Fantasy. These great musicians came together to compete for a spot on the 2023 Summer Camp Music Festival lineup.
The night started off with the six-piece band Saint Silver. They gave off the vibe of laid-back bluesy rock commune band to the likes of the Grateful Dead or Fleetwood Mac. The energy started off slow but built up with the interjection of a man joining them on stage to sing a freestyle.
Worst Impressions made their first impressions that night playing their first show ever as a band. Their style was defined by hard rocking riffs interchanging with slower sauntering moments backed by chords that bordered on being arpeggios. The performance felt shaky, but such are the growing pains of playing with new people. Nonetheless, the band put on a fantastic performance and set up the momentum for the rest of the night to come.
The next set was Fishbait, who ditched dressing in hardcore fashion for something more maritime. The bassist wore a captain’s coat and hat, the guitarist wore a shark onesie, and the drummer wore only a life vest. The trio played well organized, convulsing math rock, with a punching punk edge that would switch suddenly from deep grooves, to light whimsicality, to outright ripping. With their skill, demeanor, and all-around stage presence it made for an exciting and dynamic show that left many people buzzing throughout the rest of the night.
Dolliver went next, with a very instrumental heavy performance. Uncharacteristically, the crowd erupted into a chaotic mosh pit for the psyched-out laid-back surf rock band, rather than the faster paced bands that played before them. The venue’s hectic energy contrasted the mellow, grooving bass and shimmering, overlayed guitar tones. The band functioned well as an experienced cohesive unit and put on an enjoyable set.
Critical Mass followed them and performed their set to a still-frenzied crowd. This time, though, with their more hardcore style and metal sound, the moshing felt more fitting. Callous, hard-hitting sounds blasted from their amplifiers, then transitioning to chugging, sludging riffs. Laced between these were moments of somber resolution from ringing guitars and bellowing lyrics. The sounds encouraged the audience to head bang. The band finished their set with an appropriate Deftones cover.
Kobe Williams and the Fantasy played the final set. The energy had died down as many people had left after the previous set, along with less thrashing melodies. Williams, the front man, dressed as a 70’s rocker with a tasseled leather jacket and high heeled pink suede boots. The band played jangling, classic rock music with the occasional flair.
By the night’s end, the proctors of the battle of the bands were hastily counting votes. Instead of picking a favorite band, I folded my ticket into a paper plane, and threw it past the two men counting. It landed in an unknown location before I went downstairs. I left before finding out who won.