You would think that when opening a new music venue, you’d consider location; not so with Cameo Gallery. The cool—but entirely too hard to find—space puts the “ironically clandestine” in Williamsburg, because it’s behind a nice little cafe. Or apartment building. I can’t tell, I think it depends what door you use. Once I finally made my way inside for the Surprise Attack! Music Festival, I noticed a.) the venue looked a bit like a spooky, overly artistic high school gym (with bourbon punch!) and b.) there were about 10 people there. Granted, it was 4PM on a Sunday afternoon, but the mini-festival had started at two. Couldn’t anyone be bothered to show up?
It was oh so cool Brooklyn’s loss though, because it really was a fantastic lineup that put The Deli Magazine’s B.E.A.F. Alt-Rock stage at Spike Hill to serious shame. The first band I caught was new-favorite New York Rivals. A lesser band may not have worked as hard for such a sad excuse for an audience, but these lads are true professionals, and every minute of their performance was exciting to watch. Blasting through an all-too-short set of some of their best songs, including “Black and Blue” and “Revenge,” Josh Moran and Co. make hard rocking look easy. For all the hipsters out there who were busy basking in the lazy glory of a post-brunch nap: You missed out.
Beast Make Bomb was up next and surprisingly good. Combining the best aspects of Hole, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and even The Slits, this group is truly solid in the best fuzzy, ear-blasting way possible. From Ceci Gomez's alternately growling and sweet vocals to Hartley Lewis' blaring drums, each song felt vital and exciting. Those in attendance took notice—this band is crafting a summer-ready sound that might be all dirty fun on the surface, but ultimately belies a deep understanding of the weird intricacies of modern life.
A note to all aspiring rockers: When something goes wrong (and it always will), do not act like a petulant child. Technical difficulties of all kinds are part of performing live, and a seasoned band will do their absolute best to ensure that the audience doesn't notice. This was not the case with Edelweiss. Despite boasting clear musical talent, the Pennsylvania-based band’s The Cure-lite set was completely marred by lead singer Thomas Vitale’s bratty reaction to an issue he was having with his bass. Instead of calmly addressing the problem, he cursed at the microphone, moaned for someone to lend him a spare bass, and consequently ate up a significant portion of their playing time. Suddenly his quirky, youthful affectations and dreamcatcher-embellished bass weren’t cute anymore. No amount of accessories and manufactured weirdness can make up for annoying and childish behavior—especially when people are paying to see you.
Slam Donahue followed with a peculiar-but-fun set that was cut short because, well, it seemed like they just didn’t feel like playing that much. Their sound was sort of like a grungy MGMT with less catchy hooks. So it shouldn’t be all that surprising that David Otto, Thomas Sommerville, and Keenan Mitchell have such a laid-back attitude about their work. They might show up, and yeah, they’ll play, but they aren’t going to slave over it.
HITS was an interesting counterpoint to that because they do care—and their passion shows. Tearing their way through a set of new material (their EP comes out in late June), Louis Epstein and Co.’s expertly crafted throwback pop had many in the audience dancing. Like a less-screechy Ghostland Observatory, HITS makes fun, synth-inflected songs that beg to be enjoyed.
Team Spirit took to the stage next for a set of pure, no-frills rock. In the vein of Green Day and the Foo Fighters, this group makes music that you can’t help but bop your head to: It’s catchy, it’s happy, it’s loud; it’s everything you want in your local rock band. With a truly infectious level of enthusiasm, lead singer and guitarist Ayad Al Adhamy wailed throughout the set all with his glasses on (they were smartly tied to his head, a nice trick). It was all so fun and so on point that, looking around, I wished more people had been there.
By the time 9:30 rolled around, I decided to head out. The space seemed to be losing bodies by the minute, and even though I wanted to see The Click Clack Boom, I wasn’t sticking around till some distant time after midnight for them. I guess one music festival a weekend is enough. Either that, or bring snacks.