Comfest ’97


On a recent visit to the newest Used Kids Records location, I picked up a live CD documenting the 1997 edition of Comfest. While disappointed that their local section has shrunk considerably, I understand that they’re not running a charity and must do what they can to stay afloat. Nonetheless, I am thrilled to pick up this gem, as ’97 also marked the year I first moved to C-bus. And it’s always kind of haunted me that I had plenty of opportunities for attending Comfest that year, but didn’t.

Though living only an hour or so away for most of my life, and theoretically able to drive down since at least the age of sixteen, the ’97 event is the first clearly blown opportunity. In fact, I remember one guy walking around at work that weekend asking if anyone planned on attending, because he needed a ride – and I had no idea what he was talking about! In later years I would catch a number of these bands playing out around town, but listening to this disc now is kind of like glimpsing a spirit on the periphery…perhaps whichever one these people are dancing to on the trippy album cover!

I wouldn’t actually get around to attending a Community Festival until 2001. As a result, examining documents such as this will have to fill in the gaps. Here’s a rundown on the highly enjoyable 1997 souvenir. As far as I can determine, this album isn’t available for streaming anywhere, nor are any of the individual live tracks. So any clips featured below would be studio versions of the song:

  1. Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments – Down To High Street

A terrifically infectious track and one I should probably embed as the theme song for my High Street post. Perfect opening selection for this CD.

2. Watershed – Half Of Me

I would witness these gents playing a couple times and even meet them at a house party. They were always considered – nothing personal, guys, because I happen to disagree with popular sentiment – a bit cheesy and unimaginative. If listening to this track, however, the impartial observer will note that they serve up perfectly fine Midwestern rock tunes, kind of like if the Smithereens and the Jayhawks both moved to Ohio and a couple of members of both created their own supergroup in 1995. Or something like that. You get the drift.

3. Johnson Brothers – Chocolate

Energetic party jam from this legendary outfit, replete with horn section. The first conversation I ever had with my good friend Miles, o trivia buffs, centered around this band. He had seen these guys recently and was explaining to me the difference between them and 1970s band Brothers Johnson, of Strawberry Letter #23 fame.

4. Ekoostik Hookah – Lady Vanilla

I never actually caught these dudes live, but did see Cliff Starbuck once at Andyman’s Treehouse. This starts out like a rollicking almost bluegrassy or at least Allman Bros type number, but soon devolves into Dead-lite. It’s decent but nothing I’d go out of my way to hear.

5. Hoo Doo Soul Band – Love and Happiness

These cats were a fixture of Oldfield’s every Sunday night for years upon years – and might still be, as far as I know. If you ever wondered what kind of band might theoretically cram 386 paying customers into a room the size of your grandma’s assisted living kitchen, and keep them in palm of hand all night, well, here’s your answer. They would deliver a clinic on that topic every time out.

6. Tater – Want And Need

This sounds kind of like a garden variety angsty mid-90s rocker. But it’s pretty good, for what it is.

7. Scrawl – The Garden Path

I was never a huge fan of theirs. As far as I’m concerned, Marcy Mays’ greatest contribution to this fine city is the Surly Girl Saloon. It’s great that they eventually punched through to a major label deal and all, but, well, whatever. Having said that, this has to be the best song of theirs I’ve heard.

8. Rymocerous – Asleep On The Can

Wow, I know nothing about these guys and can’t find much online, either, but this sure is a fun track.

9. Moxie – Impressions

Nifty jazz tinklings which I didn’t expect based on the name of the group. The piano and sax players in particular are really smoking on this selection.

10. Ishkabibble – Tinker

Okay, it’s a little disconcerting to see that even fairly memorable acts like this haven’t bothered getting their music onboard for online streaming yet.

11. Triggahappy – Get A Job

These guys too. I suppose things disintegrate and it’s tough getting everyone on the same page, but…they were kind of popular back in the day, yet Googling this track yields nothing. It’s kind of sad, really.

12. Willie Phoenix and the Voodooz – No Woman No Cry

Willie is of course a Columbus institution at this point. The only time I remember actually seeing him play live was at Andyman’s Treehouse also but he’s one of the few guys who was semi-famous around town to where people would throw his CDs on just chilling at their houses or whatever. Here he presents a Bob Marley cover and of course does a fine job executing it.

13. Th’ Flyin’ Saucers – She’s Evil

These guys were a big deal too. They do at least have a Facebook page. But the website mentioned on said Facebook page is out of commission, so it would seem this isn’t a going concern for anyone involved.

14. Action Family – James Alley Blues

Entertaining enough scuzz rock, all things considered.

15. Salthorse – What D’ya Say

A funny story about Salthorse is that, if you have read my posts concerning 1990 1/2 Summit Street, the “skate punks” who lived there right before us – just a guess on our part, as we didn’t actually know who they were – must have counted Dan Focht among their members. We continued to get mail for him over a year after living there. In fact I would see Salthorse play live who knows how many times before making the connection.

In summary, as noted by the number of working links I was able to track down, most of these bands are now toast, or were possibly just local cover operations. It’s interesting to note that out of the 15 tracks, it’s definitely front-loaded in the first half of the disc with more groups who have taken themselves seriously all these years – that’s true now, but it must have been obvious even at the time. All I can say to these outfits who are no longer around, is that you should pretty please find a way to get your music online in some capacity, because this stuff still matters.

Comfest 97 back cover

Comfest 97 back cover

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