Bellingham’s Federation X expanded to a four-piece so that lead singer Bill Badgley could concentrate on his vocal duties. The results are evident from first listen to the band’s new live lineup. Though the group hasn’t released a record since 2005’s Rally Day, the heavy rockers have been intermittently touring since, melting faces at house parties and concert gigs alike. 2001’s American Folk Horror saw critical acclaim and garnered the Federation a local cult following, many of whom will doubtlessly mob the stage for their Block Party performance. There’s no better show than when everyone in the crowd is adoring and anxious, and the Federation’s will not disappoint.
Despite a pre-performance onstage mishap involving a dropped guitar, Federation X took to the Caffe Vita stage with gusto, taking no prisoners as their half-naked drummer yelled the count-off the band’s heavy, growling guitars. Present were the original trio, with a suitably scruffy Badgley shredding and yelling away. The walls and floor seemed to reverberate with the furious cacophony, burning away the heat with feedback. A stalwart collection of longtime fans and curious bystanders held their ground (and occasionally their hands to their ears) for the band’s melodic onslaught.
The group’s rendition of their hit “Slave Song” was blistering and brought out some of the harder headbanging from diehard concertgoers, as Badgley seemed desperate to blow out his microphone. He wasn’t so much singing as yelling in-tune, a harsh but fitting edge to the band’s abrasively noisy setup. Afterwards the band showed off their more melodic, heartstrings-tugging side with “Anna Mist,” which came to a head with a series of soaring riffs over chugging bass rhythms, a proggier look at what the hard-rockers can do.
Closing the set with the explosive two-minute banger “In This Sad Room, In This Dark Gloom, We Live Like Beasts,” it seemed as though the drummer couldn’t hit the cymbals enough, while Badgley unleashed primal screaming and intricate, layered guitar lines that culminated in a roar of feedback. The appreciative crowd whistled and cried out for more, but they (and we) will have to wait for Sunday to see what the trio can do on the Neumo’s stage.