SCRANTON — “Alternative” was the word of the day as “Fuzz Fest 2014” brought six bands and nearly six hours of music to The Pavilion at Montage Mountain on Sunday.
The second-annual festival sponsored by Fuzz 92.1 (WFUZ-FM) was headlined by Cage the Elephant, a quintet from Bowling Green, Kentucky. that has released three albums since 2008. Also on the bill were Kongos, Skaters, Unlikely Candidates, Brick+Mortar, and Northern Faces. Local band Graces Downfall also played early in the afternoon.
Cage the Elephant, which will be touring with The Black Keys in the fall, stormed the stage at about 10 minutes past 9 and owned it from the get-go. Frontman Matt Shultz furiously whipped his head around as the band worked its way through the highlights of its three albums.
Standouts from the 2008 self-titled album included “In One Ear,” “Back Against the Wall” and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” The second album, 2011’s “Thank You, Happy Birthday,” was represented by “Shake Me Down” and “Aberdeen.”
But the hour-long set was mostly filled with tunes from “Melophobia,” the group’s critically acclaimed third album released in October. Second single “Take It or Leave It” was an early-evening highlight and first single “Come a Little Closer” wrapped up the main set nicely.
“Thank you to everybody who decided it was better to get stuck in traffic than to leave early,” a now shirtless Shultz said before the band’s two-song encore. “You guys are awesome.”
Kongos, a band from South Africa comprised of the four Kongos brothers – Dylan on bass guitar and vocals, Daniel on guitar and vocals, Jesse on drums and vocals and Johnny on keyboards, accordion and vocals, turned in an impressive 45-minute set featuring songs from their album “Lunatic.”
Highlights included band originals “Sex on the Radio,” “Kids These Days” and “It’s a Good Life” plus a sort-of reggae version of The Beatles’ “Come Together” featuring a rapper who doubled as the band’s roadie.
Kongos ended its set with its most-famous song, “Come With Me Now,” which was first released in 2011 and made the charts in 2014, peaking as high as No. 1 on the Alternative Songs chart and No. 39 on the Hot 100.
Skaters, a five-piece post-punk band from New York City, revved up the crowd with originals like “Miss Teen Massachusetts” and a cover of The Ramones’ “Judy Is a Punk.”
The Unlikely Candidates, a quintet from Texas that appeared at last year’s inaugural Fuzz Fest, played tunes from its self-titled debut EP including “Howl,” “Just Breathe” and “Follow My Feet.” The band also scored big with a tasty cover of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun.”
Brick+Mortar, the duo of Brandon Asraf (bass guitar, vocals) and John Tacon (drums, electronic samples, vocals) from Toms River, New Jersey fired up the early arrivals with a 25-minute set featuring songs from its 2013 EP “Bangs.”
The audience was small by amphitheater standards, estimated at between 2,500 and 3,000. The lawn and 200-sections were closed off as the crowd piled into the 100-sections and a standing-room-only space in front of the stage.