Bob Mould couldn’t quite sell out the Bunkhouse. Neither could Mike Doughty, Washed Out or Beach Slang. But midway through Friday night’s all-locals bill, staff had to stem the flow of bodies into the 250-capacity club with one-out/one-in entry—and the crowd milling outside probably could have filled another room the same size.
Who drew the throng? Macro-Fi, the Vegas music collective best known for throwing longtime First Friday afterparty Common Ground and for unifying a diverse set of acts under a single banner and a shared goal: supporting homegrown talent. Friday night’s one-off reunion, which brought a handful of defunct acts back to the stage, felt as much like a homecoming for fans as for the bands—a chance to reconnect, high-five Macro-Fi co-founders John “Professor Def” Kiehlbauch and Scott “AmirRikkah” Quering and belt out lyrics to gone-but-not-forgotten tunes once more.
Musically, the show unfolded as it should have, a demonstration that hip-hop, indie rock, punk and even poetry can not only coexist peacefully, but complement one another when listeners arrive with open ears. Hip-hop grabbed the early spotlight—laser-aided in this case, thanks to a special light show that lasted all night—as Late for Dinner and then Outside Looking In filled the space with smart rhymes and slick beats. The latter played without one of its three rappers, Martin “Okword” Csanyi, and though Skooners frontman Blair Dewane later joked that he’d expected Okword to burst through the side door and grab a mic, OLI delivered a solid set without him.
Not unexpectedly, a huge swath of the crowd showed up for One Pin Short, the ska/reggae band marking its 10th anniversary by reuniting with singer Shawn Garnett, who now lives in Hawaii. Despite the time apart, the eight-piece crew sounded tight and focused, as the Bunkhouse filled up and left some fans listening from the courtyard. Next up: The Skooners, with brothers Blair and Ian Dewane—now of Rusty Maples—teaming up with former bandmates Jake Farmer and Anthony Fitzgerald. “We’re The Skooners, circa 2004-2007,” Blair Dewane said. “We don’t have keys. And we didn’t practice.” Nevertheless, the quartet kicked up some throwback fun, punctuated by The Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” complete with get-low-then-go-crazy crowd finish.
The night’s most interesting segment found rapper Hassan freestyling, backed by what you could call The Macro-Fi All-Star Band: bassist Zabi Naqshband (Holding Onto Sound), drummer Jordan Rosenthal (One Pin Short) and guitarist Ian Dewane. As that trio laid down a steady groove, the rapper took a lyrical trip from past to present, retelling the Macro-Fi story, detailing Downtown’s evolution and paying tribute to fallen comrades. And then it was time for the grand finale, the first appearance of Holding Onto Sound since the revered punk foursome’s sudden breakup in early 2013.
“We used to say, ‘Macro-Fi till we die,’” singer/guitarist Bennett Mains declared between songs, and his old band sounded far from dead. HOTS—Mains, Naqshband, guitarist Bob Gates and drummer Vanessa Tidwell—raged with fire and passion, thundering through their catalog despite limited practice leading up to the show. “I don’t need an army with the ocean at my back,” Mains sang during “Song for the Earth,” but he had an army at his feet nonetheless—a pit that consumed more space and grew more frantic as the classics piled up: “Song for the Children, “The Sea,” “A Girl Called Lightning” and more. The emotional Mains, back from Austin for the occasion, called it “maybe the best night of my life,” and he surely wasn’t the only one in the house feeling that way.