02 August 2006

so the pitchforkateers "covered" their festival with a bunch of photos and some interviews, so i guess it's up to me to write about what actually happened. didn't necessarily feel much of the vibe of the website carrying over to the festival proceedings, which isn't too surprising, since at this point the site seems a little too big to have a distinct personality. it's kind of nonspecifically co-terminous with the 'indie music community,' which these days can include any number of things, but for the weekend seemed mostly predictably twenty-something white kids with clever t-shirt slogans - way too many t-shirts to keep up with, and i have to admit that as much as i completely fail to comprehend why people still think got milk? jokes are funny, what, twelve years after the ads started running?, my favorite was probably the neighborhoodies' clever-but-not-clever-clever "got tigermilk?"

anyway, i didn't find any major surprises in the audience demographics or anything else about the festival. (minor surprises: the food was not way unreasonably priced; the heat wasn't too ridiculously unbearable; the guy doing announcements on the main stage seemed to be the most bizarrely out-of-touch person they could have gotten to be the festival mouthpiece.) the line-up was certainly indierock-er than my recent tastes, but it didn't matter because 1) it was for the most part unquestionably good and interesting indie rock (and i hardly count old friends like mr. leo and the kaplan-hubley-mcnew family anyway) and 2) in between just about every band we went over to the (shaded!) auxiliary biz3 tent-stage and got our dance on to consistently great electronica dj sets.

basically this stage was where they put all the techno, hip-hop, jazz, experimental, and otherwise "other" performances (except for one rap act on the main stage mid-sunday.) definitely some rockism underlying that arrangement, or more specifically, and by extension, the festival as a whole, since despite its defensible claim of musical diversity, the highest-profile acts certainly skewed rockward. (so therefore did the draw and the audience, presumably, but fine with me if it means more space in the tent to dance to, for instance, matthew dear.) compare for instance the village voice's historically indie-as-fuck (and this year completely under my radar) siren festival, whose headliner was apparently the dance-oriented scissor sisters. (one other thing - there was a very noticeable lack of women performers at the festival: with the exception of CSS and jens lekman's backing harem, there were something like 5 or 6 women among 41 acts, and only two of them fronting their respective bands.)

a potential exception to some of this, and to most other things as well, would be os mutantes - but i'll have to get to them later, and start at the beginning.


having arrived too late on day one to catch 8 bold souls (in fact, we didn't really see any jazz all weekend), we sauntered past man man on the main stage bleating that one about the mask he wears (love love for man man, but we're from the same town so you know) and let flosstradamus start our party proper. flosstra is basically chicago's version of hollertronix - slightly poppier and less booty-bass-obsessed, and of course a year or two after the curve - and with a way sillier name - and their set was not the last time that day we heard nelly's "promiscuous" improved by a creative mash-back-up. also, they brought the guest rappers and vocalists and even a high-school step/dance team. all very sweet - would definitely have liked to catch them at the club later that night.

plenty of time to get in position for the mountain goats while band of horses wrapped their set on the apparently-so-called "connector stage" (don't know where those stage names came from, but nobody used them, and also there was no list of set times either posted or provided in other form by the festival, so we relied on whatever newspaper or magazine previews we could find.) would like to have gotten to check out those horses, but annoyingly the stages were too far apart to really hear the music from one while standing reasonably close to the other, and yet too close together for bands to be playing on both at the same time. (meaning you had to either wander back and forth between each set without ever getting close, or else choose to fight through the crowd for one band and completely miss the set before it on the other stage.)

anyway - mr. goats and mr. hughes were having a grand old time and did not disappoint us neither. it was quite a crowd-pleasing set, opening with "jenny" and including both "cubs in five" and "no children," along with "southwood plantation rd." and "dance music" (the only one from sunset tree but ok) and a song from his first 7". two (i think?) new songs which were quite lovely, especially the one about walking around barefoot by the expressway in the autumn and falling down and lying in the grass. also a franklin bruno cover (cuz he was playing piano) and closing "terror song" - apparently by somebody/thing called furniture huschle - which he introduced by saying we had to sing it with him because we'd someday find ourselves in a situation where we'd want to have that song by our side. thought it might be "this year"... but no.

anyway, the during the mgs set i completely forgot that there was the whole rest of the festival going on, which was a nice feeling. but there was, and realizing that i still couldn't stand destroyer my fourth time inadvertently seeing him/them, i went to check out ghislain poirier, whose name the ultra-laidback biz3 announcer (was that damon?) could at least be bothered to pronounce. pretty neat - reminded me of a mellower dj /rupture, without so much abstract noise. definitely noddable; sometimes even dancy. and of course he had that hip french canadian look going.

art brut then i s'pose - a good time, much as anticipated, though probably not as exciting since i'd seen them before, even if i felt like i could see them better this time. eddie was funny about the polish barber giving him "the most britpop haircut he'd ever had" and saying usually he'd tell us all to go form our own bands but that in this case that would really be too many bands. i didn't realize he was wearing those cool socks though! the problem is that only at most two-thirds of their songs are really good enough, and of course those are weighted towards the end of the set (the part i saw at the church, but left before this time.) so i stayed through "modern art" and "rusted gun of milan" but only heard "emily kane" as i was heading to the other end of the park.

staying for a good half of their set, plus the very long and disorganized port-a-potty line, meant that i missed the beginning of spank rock and only saw their mediocre mid-set (was hoping "backyard betty" would be late but apparently they opened with it.) it was crowded and hot in the tent and we weren't really feeling their groove (naeem juwan is a less effective hypeman than he is an emcee, and even armani xxxchange's beats - the best part of the outfit in my book - didn't always come across so well on the 'floor) so we ducked out, and only caught the closing "sweet talk" from a ways back. it looked pretty wild though, with a stage full of dancers from the audience and naeem and his buddy both on top of the speakers, gangster-leaning back. given the chance i'd still like to catch them in their philly "playground" before they explode.

we met up with kate in line for fish tacos, as ted leo's yelps to "where have all the rude boys gone" and something from tyranny became audible, and i was like "aw, teddy!!..." i hadn't realized he was gonna play the good stuff, i guess, or i'd let the fact that i've seen him a few times a few years back outweigh how great i performer i knew he was... well anyway, i didn't position myself to see his set, so we just sat and ate our tacos and listened to ted sing "timorous me" and cover "police and thieves" as we moved up to get a good spot for what we thought was the futuremen. except it turned out to be the walkheads instead. actually it was the walkmen. bummer, dude. they were fine enough the first time i saw them, but i had no real interest in seeing a third time. and even angela (a bigger fan than me) is not into the new record. watching that tall guy with his ugly scruff and reddening face wail inexplicably upward just made me kind of uncomfortable. but it wasn't a total loss: they played "the rat" third, so we rocked, if a bit formulaically, to that, and then high-tailed it.

cool b/c that way i caught the end of matmos' set (crazy burbling wonky party house with a guy playing a little euphonium(?) with a balloon in it, and drew with all kinds of effects on his mic - really wish i had seen the rest of that, and gotten to dance to it!) and we all caught matthew dear's from the beginning. kate and i, at least, stayed for almost all of it, and were pretty tempted to stay for the rest (but ang's futuretxt insisted otherwise) - anyway, dear ruled. he started by dropping an already fully-formed groove, and built it slowly but surely for the next half-hour, mostly staying in recognizable micro(not-micro)-house territory but with a fair amount of diversity and definitely getting more maximal. he never got on the mic, which i kept hoping for, nor did he play anything i could pinpoint as his (but i guess he's got a new lp coming out), but he would periodically release these great exciting swooshes of sound - it's like a big wind coming to sweep us up! - it's like a rollercoaster! - it's like the el! and need i say the dancing was some of the most fun and intense i've had in a while.

maybe it was some of that energy that carried forth and made the futureheads seem particularly exciting - because i certainly enjoyed them even more than i do on record, even standing quite far back and joining in midset (missing "meantime", ang's favorite, but at least she caught it.) it's not just because they're cute - although the main guy (ross?)'s sweater vest ensemble was kind of adorably clueless, and naturally they have accents. their music is cute but rocking in a very different way from most cute rock indie bands. maybe art brut is a good comparison. not sure about all this xtc talk, but okay. anyway, i bounced a lot and sang along loudly, and especially when they finished the set with possibly my three favorite songs from the debut; "carnival kids", "man ray" (the closer), and especially "hounds of love," which they made into a so-called "game."

at that point, a-trak and his tent-party was the obvious consensus choice over the silver jews, whom i might have happily sat and listened to almost any other hot summer night. as it was i just heard parts of "smith and jones forever" and "animal shapes" as i went to the bathroom, and "pet politics" as we walked to the train - and it all sounded impressively good and mellow - but that was good enough. a-trak didn't make his turntablist genius excessively apparent, but that's probably part of the point. he did pull off some fly (as in on-the-) mash-up-mixing, like when he played outkast rapping over a different outkast track. it was similar to hollertronix/flosstradamus style party spinning, but nothing wrong with that. we retreated to the fence and practiced our bootyshake.


okay, sunday. again we got there around 2:00, this time missing the cline/parker quartet (a.k.a. tortoise and wilco guitarists play the jazz they wanted to all along) and danielson (are they successfully convincing people that they are a different band than the danielson family/lle? it kind of seems like it) but whatever. we were just in time for jens lekman. who was robbed with his 1/2 hour timeslot (coming all the way from swedeland? with the ho-hum midwest national getting an hour just afterward?), more so since he only had time for six songs, all of which he'd done at the church last week. (and only one was from his album album. i kept perversely wanting "black cab" to turn into "a higher power," since it's the same chords.) but that's okay, because they are good songs, and he is irresistable. and so is his cohort of six female instrument-players, who as alyssa and i were discussing today aren't exactly a band so much as some back-up performers, who just-maybe might not all have been selected for their instrument-playing ability. which is not to say the horn lines weren't tight. jens said he would sit somewhere in the park and play more songs. so we spent a while looking, but we didn't find him.

too bad, because nothing much else was going on. cansei de ser sexy (why do we have to refer to them by acronym, when, for example, the harder to pronounce, and less fun to say, bonde do role, or however you damn spell it, get their full name said/mangled?) were entertaining for a while but not quite worth the crowd heat, or something - well, they seemed to promise excitement but it wasn't actually that exciting, although the lead singer gal was pretty excited. whatever. if they played "let's make love and listen death from above" (everyone ok with that rendering of the title?) i didn't hear it.

didn't hear cage or liars either (well, heard liars a little bit, but it just sounded like droning and drumming to me), i guess cause we were looking for lekman and also checked out the rock poster show. by the way, the most interesting thing at the various booths was definitely the 'rock for kids' charity, i think, which was having a silent-auction of mix-cds made by many of the performers at the festival. last i checked john darnielle's was going for $225. very cool idea. wish i could have looked at some of those tracklists.

we regrouped (and reunited with kate) for aesop rock/mr. lif. good but not great - started and ended better than it middled, despite a decent showcase for the dj. they ruined their momentum on a weak dancehall-style joint, and only got it back with "fast cars, danger, fire, knives" and closing "daylight." but it was fun to see ace spitting live, even if i couldn't understand a lot of what either of them were saying. and the discrepancy between his and lif's styles didn't seem all that great.

what else. well, unlike most people i haven't managed to figure out why i should be interested in mission of burma (well, i know why i should be), so it was an easy choice to avoid that crowd and opt for ada. she started a bit late, and got off to a kind of funny start with something that wasn't quite danceable enough, but ultimately she did not disappoint - a few abrupt transitions didn't detract from a steady stream of fun new elements to the mix, and she seemed to be playing around with the tracks more than matthew dear had, or at least more obviously. "luckycharm" (her one on erlend's dj-kicks) got some recognition applause - i don't know anything else by her (yet) but that should change. it was all peachy and lovely until a very abrupt (and i think unintentional) ending. oh whoops.

then it was time for the home stretch, the mainstage heavy-hitters, which unfortunately meant that was it for us for german techno. i decided to follow the ladies back to the main area for devendra banhart rather than watch glenn kotche do his solo drum thing, (though i did check out his set-up and it looked like it would be pretty cool), mostly to make up for the several times i'd tried to see db and it didn't work out. i guess i should have caught him when he was just a freak and not so freaky though, because i wasn't that into his deal, even if it was quite appropriate for the surroundings. shirtless long-haired folk jams and all that. but it was nice enough to have it in the background while yo la set up (well, except for "just like a child", which we could barely hear but still danced to in the middle of the picnic-blanketers.)

of course it was wonderful to see yo la tengo again. well, of course. they were playing new songs, exclusively i think, presumably to appear on the putatively-acronymed IANAOYAIWKYA. but they all sounded good, good and yolatengoey. i liked "the weakest part", i think it was called, all tinkly and with georgia singing. i liked their discoey piano song which was probably a cover. i liked ira's ripping noisy guitar playing on the long song with a repeating bass part. he was funny and charming ("some of you are probably wondering why we're wearing pants...well we've been together for over twenty years now and you should be aware that we always go the extra mile to look good; for you, the audience.") and james is the best. i don't know why i thought it was a good idea to leave after four songs.

well, i do, it was so we could get up close to see spoon, because of how awesome it had been to see them up close last summer - even though some of that intensity was because it was inside and dark, and yo la tengo are probably a better band to see in that particular setting, and they seemed particularly on and enjoyable that day, and, if you do the math, there are way more songs ylt could conceivably have played that i'd be excited to hear... all things that occurred to me later, but whatever, i don't really regret the decision. too bad though that we essentially couldn't hear the rest of their set at all, though i could look back and see them rocking out.

anyway, we did get decently close for spoon, and it was decently solid. they absolutely know how to play their songs, and basically they are great, although perhaps i was hoping it would somehow be great in a new and exciting way even my fourth time seeing them. the most exciting thing was that they finally played "stay don't go" (which i always yelled for the other times - good thing to say for an encore, but that's not the whole reason.) sadly, britt did not beatbox; they did it with drums and maracas. "paper tiger" and "they never got you" were especially good. nothing from the first three albums. two new songs sounded like spoon songs. britt said "this is a cool festival. it's a chic festival. we're into it." and he was completely serious saying that, which made him seem like a weirdo. but clearly he is in fact too cool for all of us. (unlike ylt, who are too cool but will never let themselves get too cool for us.) so, cool.

and then that was that, except for the little matter of the rather insanely improbable festival headliners, who probably a solid majority of the audience had never heard, but were nevertheless allowed to be legends in a foreign land, at least for the night: os mutantes. but first, i ran into john williams. hi john. jonah too. we'd heard unkind rumors that this version of o.m. was more like a "santana/lounge-band playing mutantes songs" and so my expectations were accordingly unfathomable (really, who could know what to expect) - but anyway it was great and extremely fun, and just so cool for it to be happening at all, so yeah. i understand where those naysayers were coming from - the band and stage set-up were maybe a tad unnecessarily large, and there was something of a crosby-stills-nash vibe about the first few tunes (even before they launched into full-on "judy blue eyes" doot-do-doots on, i think, "tecnicolor") - but on balance i think that's an unfair and unrealistic and certainly unfun assessment. i mean, these guys have always had their cheesy smooth-pop side (especially after their first couple albums, but even, for instance, "baby", which is on their debut), and who would begrudge them a few bells and whistles and a polished studio-grade touring band for their thirty-year reunion?

besides, once they got into the meat of the set - "baby" and silly dance-blast "cantor de mambo" - everyone else was having too much fun dancing and marvelling to care. they were totally doing the hits. ang and kate - sitting by the gate since diplo's set was done by the time they got bored and went over there - wanted me to head to the exits early, but when they started playing "a minha menina" - and then, better yet - "bat macumba" (!!) - forget it. as they were finishing up "bat macumba" i went and danced with the crazy brazilian flag waving contingent nearby, and then ran bursting through the air over towards k+a, and as we walked around the park to get out, the mutants closed with "panis et circenses". and i was happy. mmmhmm.


Dave said...

Cool! And you avoided complaining about the heat! Probably because T-shirts NOT plastered with ironic (not ironic) (you've got me doing it) slogans breathe well.

Ross said...

yeah, sorry (not sorry) about that.

the heat, whatever - of course it was hot, but nothing unreasonable, and it was fine especially if you spent some time in the tents and in the shade and kept drinking, etc. i was wearing spf 15 and had no trouble. people just like to complain.