YR15 in review, pt. II
Night two: Friday, Oct. 12
With all due respect to Fountains of Wayne, Sloan was the real headliner at the hump night of Yep Roc 15. Before the Canadian power-pop outfit played the night’s third set, the packed house began chanting its name, hungry for the group’s trademark energy. Sloan delivered and then some, playing plenty of cuts from both of their Yep Roc releases, especially last year’s Double Cross — itself a celebration of the band hitting the 20-year mark. The outfit’s livewire set showed no signs of such age. Powerfully precise riffs matched perfect hooks as all four members took turns singing songs. It was a purposeful expression of the veteran vitality Yep Roc has come to represent, a fitting set for the label’s birthday bash.
Fountains, who played last to a half-empty Cat’s Cradle, were solid, but not nearly as compelling as Sloan. Methodically working through kinetic, catchy rockers and folk-tinged ballads, the time-tested outfit displayed the pop craftsmanship that has long made them respected in underground circles. The “one-hit wonder” also offered an impassioned if kitschy rendition of “Stacy’s Mom,” the 2003 song that gave the band a momentary taste of mainstream success. Fountains played, but it didn’t quite live up to the excellent night that preceded it. Given that Fountains have only released one LP on Yep Roc (2011’s Sky Full of Holes), their set was a disappointing and somewhat puzzling finale.
The rest of Saturday’s line-up was an exciting exploration of Yep Roc’s rich and diverse history. Chapel Hill hallmarks Mayflies USA offered up a vibrant rendition of their own irresistible pop, making one wonder why the ‘90s touchstones don’t play out more often. Cheyenne Marie Mize’s delicate, electro-leaning pop proved that Yep Roc also has a knack for nurturing exciting new talent. Josh Rouse’s smoky acoustic ballads were arresting, delivered with a grittier savvy that one would expect from a singer just entering his 30s. Liam Finn’s lively, loop-filled gimmicks turned a two-person performance into something far more complex, intricate art-pop delivered with incredible energy, preceding Fountains with an impact they just couldn’t match.
It’s hard to sum up 15 years of music in a one night — let alone three — but Friday’s show came close to pulling it off. It was a winning display filled with performances that affirmed Yep Roc as an appealingly diverse imprint. The last set stalled that momentum, serving as an unfortunate reminder of Yep Roc’s persistent reputation for delivering traditional sounds from artists beyond their prime. After a night that emphatically declared the opposite, it was an especially irksome end. –Jordan Lawrence