Festival Review: Homesick Festival 2023 at UC Theatre in Berkeley, CA

Homesick Fest can be summed up easily with the word variety. That’s where Homesick Fest excels. Going there enthusiastically in anticipation of seeing Deafheaven, I became equally excited when seeing an Italian Discotec group called Nuovo Testamento, a ’70’s, classic rock-inspired band called Sheer Mag, and an indie bedroom rock style like Snail Mail on the lineup. I can honestly say every single band of the two-day lineup was excellent. While some styles catered more to a certain pallet, you most certainly left with a new favorite band you may not have expected.

Day one was a beautiful mixed bag. Starting things off strongly with power pop bangers was Super Crush, a Seattle four-piece playing a combo of paisley pop, power pop, and jangle. Their bright aesthetic, catchy hooks, and melodies are something only a band as technically and sensibly talented as Super Crush could pull off. Plus I love their album art and visual aesthetics. Next, followed Nuovo Testamento, which provided an interesting counterbalance to Super Crush with dance-laden dark wave, and ’80’s synth hooks making you feel like you were suddenly in a dance club in the middle of Berlin or Milan.

Next was Lilys, a vast mixture of sounds within themselves: shoegaze, brit pop, alternative rock, psychedelic, and more. Lily’s debut album was in ‘92, so it was interesting to see a mixture of bands, not just in sound but of different time periods altogether. Before you have time to fully digest the previous three groups, Sunami storms the stage, this time with a foreboding word of caution from the festival staff… “NO FIGHTING,” Sunami brought all the correct energy that would instigate plenty of fights, but instead, it was a raucous 30 minutes of mosh anthems and guitar chugs.

To close out the night were performances by Sheer Mag and Snail Mail. To say I was blown away by Sheer Mag would be an understatement. I wasn’t expecting to love them so much, but the ’70’s style of classic rock vocal melodies, group backing vocals, and cutting guitar chops left an impression on me. Snail Mail wrapped up all of day one, with something a bit more soothing and traditional in the sense of indie rock. Being personable, warm, and melodic was an ideal way to wrap up day 1 of the festival.

On day two, Zzzahara was first up, a Los Angeles four-piece, playing a hybrid of sounds ranging from alternative rock, synth-driven indie rock, pop, electro, and more. Delivery and presence were very soothing and lulling, with plenty of catchy songs in a similar vein comparable to Toro Y Moi. Next up was Margaritas Podridas, a Mexican noise rock/shoegaze band. I was particularly stoked to see their set, as I had never seen a shoegaze band from Mexico before.

Spy and Fiddlehead chopped things up with high-energy punk/hardcore sets that fully engaged the audience. Crowd surfing, moshing, fist-pumping… the whole shebang. Screaming Females, a three-piece from New Jersey, were a sight to behold. Channeling grunge, alternative rock, and a dash of Sleater Kinney, this was a highlight performance for me. Marissa Patternosa, the lead guitarist and vocalist, is an absolute wizard of technical ability, melody, and rhythm.

The following acts shifted the mood back to dark, melancholy, and dramatic. Tempers performed a low-lit, gothic-esque electro/industrial set. Deafheaven concluded the two-day festival by commanding the presence of every inch of the music venue with their signature intensity, grimness, and beauty. Playing songs off their entire discography, they crafted a set brimming with dynamics, and a ruthless cacophony of energy. Deafheaven have superseded their once-narrow genre definition of an American black metal band, to a world-class musical act, surely to be remembered in the halls of heavy music for decades to come.

Day 1

Day 2

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