This past Saturday, on one of the hottest days of summer, the Happy Owl Fest flew into the quaint, Grateful Dead-esque ‘venue bar’ known as American Beauty, located in the midtown section of Manhattan. Typically, I would not be very excited to be inside for a festival in the middle of the summer, but fortunately, this venue’s air conditioning battled the 100 degree heat without mercy. At times, there were rumblings of people actually being cold. Add to this the ample selection of good craft beer, and American Beauty’s only food offering, a free personal cheese pizza with each beer, and you have a lovely way to spend the better portion of your weekend day. I haven’t even talked of the line up yet, which of course was the reason I was there in the first place.
The schedule was ambitious, including nine acts between the hours of 3pm and 3am, with a bonus side hustle of the Phish webcast from Chula Vista, CA, which was projected in the main bar while the bands played on in the main stage area. I was one happy camper that I was able to catch the full sets of Polyvamp, Sylfox and the Hustler, Formula 5, and Sprocket. Alone across these four bands was an eclectic mix of music that should satisfy a majority of musical tastes. In sum, the Happy Owl Fest navigated improvisational rock, funk, and electronic with a dash of blues, not necessarily all at the same time.
Should this event take place again next year under similar circumstances, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the trip. The balance between venue, beer, food, music and price of admission was quite welcome. The only suggestion I would make is for the venue to make a small investment in a house lighting system. On one hand, the noir scene makes for a rare experience in dedicated club venues these days. On the other hand, a little lighting action would would inject some energy into the room, in this photographer’s opinion.
Till next year, enjoy my gallery from the first Happy Owl Fest.
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