By Todd Hamm
Special to The Seattle Times
Pulled together in a little over a month, the inaugural Macefield Music Festival in Ballard Saturday was a bit of a trial run for the newly minted group of organizers, who took over the event when it was dropped by The Seattle Weekly.
Playing it safe, the presenters scaled the festival back to three venues and 27 acts, roughly half the size of its precursor. That turned out to be a wise move. The talent level was high, and the venues mostly full for the duration of the night.
Staggered start times might have enabled more festival-style venue-hopping — sets began simultaneously at all three venues at the top of each hour — but it was possible to keep up with what was going on at the Tractor Tavern and Conor Byrne, across the street. Speed-walkers were a common sight, trying to catch the tail ends of shows at the Sunset.
The Fame Riot, which played a wild, gyration-heavy set at this year’s Sound Off! underage battle of the bands, had noticeably tightened things up, and played a winning set of synthy glam-rock at the Tractor. At Conor Byrne, improvisational jazz fusion champions Afrocop worked their now-trademark expansive, almost non-stop stream of sound, which continues to be one of the more inspiring live experiences in town.
After an ear-splitting performance by Princess (whose lead singer Andrew Chapman has effortless charisma and an enviable scream), The Intelligence provided another highlight at the Tractor. Taking full advantage of the performance aspect of its show, the band made a choreographed entrance, each member appearing at the moment his part kicked in during the opening number.
Casually adorned in sweaters and suit jackets, the Intelligence was on-point, and really teased the most out of its catchy indie pop. Their songs are slyly quirky, taking — well, yes — intelligent turns at the end of many sections, something aanother Tractor-stage band, The Blakes, who relied heavily on instantly gratifying pop numbers, couldn’t quite do.
Other bits and pieces that made an impression included the surfy-sounding LURES, heavy-hitting Constant Lovers and classical experimentalist Lori Goldston.