"Edgefest 5" lived up to its name Sunday with a low-key lineup spotlighting some indie, up-and-coming and even local bands on the cutting edge of music.
The eight-hour concert sponsored by 103.3-FM The Edge at LaSalle Park had an interesting stylistic mix with industrial music played alongside rockabilly, hip-hop with hardcore, and the conga replaced moshing -- at least for a while.
There were outstanding performances by indie stalwarts They Might Be Giants and Buffalo Tom; a debut area appearance by hot buzz band Esthero and the techno-based industrial rumblings of God Lives Underwater and Gravity Kills.
The "local stage" was the surprise of the day as the bands relegated to the small kiddie stage all played their hearts out straining to be heard over the loud music from the two main stages.
God's Children and Oui 73 played intense, gut-driven sets that upstaged many of the bigger-named bands. The intense, melodic rock of God's Children, a Niagara Falls quintet, was as good as what Seven Mary Three was doing on the main stage.
Buffalo quartet Oui 73 defines cutting-edge music with a rich tapestry of textured modern rock. Guitarists Tony and Holly Ann Christiano have performed lately with a dynamic intensity that was more pronounced Sunday. Tony Christiano, especially, has tapped into a volatile core, ripping through "Acid Freak" and "See Ya Later, Miss Radley" with new vigor. Of the 24 bands that performed on the three stages, the Buffalo quartet had the one sound that stood on its own.
They Might Be Giants put on the most entertaining and amusing set of the day. Led by the core duo of John Flansburg and John Linnell, TMBG has crafted sophisticated and brilliantly humorous music since 1985, yet has never enjoyed the popular success they deserved. By the audience reaction to the band's quirky offerings, that seems to be changing. Between lively takes on "Birdhouse in Your Soul," "Doctor Worm" and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," Flansburg and Linnell talked the audience into dancing the conga around the main stage.
Buffalo Tom demonstrated how pop music can rock with intensity as the dynamic Boston trio let loose on songs spanning its decade-long career. Guitarist Bill Janovitz and bassist Chris Colbourn sang lush harmonies over dense instrumentals on the new single "Rachel" and older favorites including "Taillights Fade" and "Velvet Rope."
Virginia rockers Seven Mary Three hit it big two years ago with "Cumbersome," a single that also drew criticism as a poor imitation of the Seattle grunge scene. The band shows backbone with the release of the new CD "Orange Avenue," which was showcased with a dark, hard-rocking set.
"This is our best record yet," vocalist Jason Ross told the crowd before kicking into the pounding "Flagship Eleanor." The quartet moved through the slow rock of "Water's Edge" and dug deep for a set-ending "Cumbersome."
The new Canadian band Esthero was mesmerizing through its trip-hop meanderings. At 19, singer Jen-Bea Englishman already has a remarkable and seasoned voice, recalling the power of Sinead O'Connor and the character of Bjork. The coquettish singer's fittingly ethereal vocal stylings on the current single "Heaven Sent" created a sonic landscape against the song's bossa nova swag.
K's Choice, another female-fronted band, played a fairly mellow set that continued in the mode of the group's breakthrough single "Not an Addict." The throaty vocals of Sarah Bettens weaved a spell over the quintet's stripped-down alternative sound, allowing the often introspective beauty of songs like "Believe" to be heard.
The Amazing Royal Crowns punk rockabilly was energetic, frenetic and sweaty with vocalist Jason "King" Kendall and the quartet displaying a flair for showmanship. "We're here to teach you about dancing. And I want to see you dancing, none of that moshing," Kendall said.
2 Skinnee J's opened the day with a colorful hip-hop performance, followed by the alt-pop of Possum Dixon. God Lives Underwater can play techno for any mood, from hard-edged to soft pop.
The seven-piece band The Urge displayed an intriguing formula with ska horns, grinding hardcore guitar riffs and Steve Ewing's smooth vocals captured on "Don't Ask Why" and the catchy hip-hop-pop single "Jump Right In."
The frenetic techno-industrial rumblings of Gravity Kills were a potent end to the day. Vocalist Jeff Scheel was a madman, pounding across the stage and inciting the crowd to feel every pulsating beat of the music.