On a hot late-summer afternoon on Saturday, a group of Baltimore bands of various genres, both veterans of the scene and relative newcomers, came together at Pier Six Pavilion. Organized to raise money for the Living Classroom Foundation’s Believe in Music program, which supports music education in Baltimore, the Windjammer Festival served as not only a celebration of the city but also as a chance for the musicians to give back to the community and to help enable the next generation to follow after them. The sold-to-capacity venue cheered as Dan Deacon spoke sincerely and eloquently in the middle of his set to the importance of being able to learn music as a means of self-expression, and it was clear throughout the day that the other performers on the bill shared his sentiments.
Lo-fi indie rockers Romantic States opened the afternoon, and while the pavilion was still sparsely populated at that point, their subdued sounds helped to get the day off to a solid start. Taking the energy up several levels, hip hop duo Bond St. District followed, with rapper DDm and producer Paul Hudson joined on-stage by a live drummer and, later in the set, by a pair of dancers. Ed Schrader’s Music Beat closed out the opening sets with their unique blend of post-punk and Schrader’s droll humor.
By the time evening rolled around and the first of the trio of headliners took to the stage, the audience was quickly filling in. Electronic musician Dan Deacon started his set off with a trio of tracks from his recent release Gliss Riffer, accompanied by a drummer. An attempt by Deacon to start a dance contest at the front of the stage was quickly squashed by a less-than-amused security staff, but Deacon was quick to make certain that it didn’t sour the vibe. Bringing out an eight-piece horn section, Deacon finished off his set with a performance of the “USA Suite” from his 2012 album America.
Of the bands playing that day, Beach House has been most in the news recently, as their set at the Windjammer Festival came one day after the release of their most recent album, Depression Cherry. Though the band played four tracks from this new release (including opening track “Levitation,” “Space Song,” “PPP,” and “Sparks”), they avoided weighing down the set too heavily with new material by featuring an equal number of tracks from their 2012 album Bloom (“Wild,” “Lazuli,” “Wishes,” and “Myth”), as well as several from earlier releases (“Norway” and “Silver Soul” from Teen Dream, and “Gila” from Devotion). The dimly lit stage and the cooling evening air blowing in from over the Inner Harbor helped to create a moody atmosphere well suited to accompany their dream pop sound.
Finally, the night was finished by what has arguably been Baltimore’s biggest breakout act of the last several years, Future Islands. Still riding on a wave of popularity accompanying their highly successful 2014 album Singles, the synth pop transplants from North Carolina have been fully adopted by their chosen city of residence, as evidenced by the enthusiastic response of the crowd. Frontman Samuel Herring noted that it was their first Baltimore show in nearly a year, and it felt like a homecoming after a time of heavy touring that has seen the band playing large venues and festival stages all over the world, as well as the band playing their 1000th show earlier in the summer. The setlist drew largely on Singles, with their biggest hit so far, “Seasons (Waiting On You)” as the clear centerpiece, but also equally looked back with an equal number of tracks from their 2010 album, In the Evening Air. Both songs from their recently released single, “The Chase” and “Haunted By You,” were featured, as well as “Balance” from 2011’s On the Water. After saying goodnight and thanking the crowd, the band returned to the stage to play “Little Dreamer” from their 2008 debut Wave Like Home to close out the night.
All-in-all, the Windjammer Festival was successful not only in helping out an important local cause, but also to showcase the vitality of the Baltimore music scene. We can only hope that it receives an encore performance in the years to come.