Getting hot: Hacks take New York

The tall shirtless kid with the freckles sized up the Hackensaw Boys pretty well: "Man, you know De La Soul's never had an opener like this before. That was awesome."

That was the beauty of this August's Unlimited Sunshine tour, a roving conglomerate of what's hot in the world of (mostly) independent music– exquisitely incongruous pairings of fantastic bands. As an added bonus, from the Charlottesville point of view, how often do you get to see a local staple share the stage with some of your favorite, internationally known acts?

The Hackensaw Boys had a task that no one else could have pulled off: fill that lugubrious set-up time between bands at festivals. Theirs was a simple solution– go out and play a couple of your best, fastest songs, and set the multitudes dancing (keeping in mind that for this Brooklyn-heavy crowd, old-time music is something of a novelty). Just when they're really getting into you, dash off stage and wait your turn to fill a few more idle minutes later.

There's a distinct art to the Hackensaws' lo-fi approach when you put it on the big stage, and what impressed me most about the band this time around was their individual awareness of just how much they mattered at a given point in a song, and, thus, how close they were to the mike, which was effectively executed.

There's always something ridiculously fun about that many musicians crowded into such a small space, and their fast-talking, heavily accented banter was downright vaudevillian. I was almost expecting to see dogs jumping through hoops. The crazier things get, the more the boys shine.

Despite their hometown hero status, I'd be remiss if I limited the review to the Hacks' entr'acte quickies. Modest Mouse's set was the best I've seen them do (by which I mean that Isaac Brock was less of a dick than usual). De La Soul, who, apparently, rolled up half an hour late, quickly coerced the crowd into dancing, singing, arm-waving, and the like.

Cake, headliners of sorts, made the best of the exceedingly soggy conditions ("Unlimited Sunshine" indeed) and kept the audience captivated with John McCrea's cultishly monotone pronouncements. And, possibly topping my list of all-time favorite rock shows, Wayne Coyne's Stop Making Sense meets Jesus Christ Superstar shtick (not to mention the props, which might well have been borrowed from that zenith of late '60s TV drama, The Prisoner) powered the Flaming Lips' spine-tingling animal-suit-wearing karaoke madhouse.

And in the middle of it all, the Hackensaw Boys, playing the semi-epic role of the Chorus that pops into the proceedings from time to time to keep you oriented. The entirely non-partisan crowd of New Yorkers loved every second of it, and so did I.

The Hackensaws at Barracks Road

 –FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO

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