Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Back from Sasquatch

Well what a weekend. The weather proved to be a bit on the interesting side, but it didn't stop a great weekend of music. Saturday and Sunday were completely sold out, with tickets being scalped for upwards of $100. My apologies for the average photography. I elected not to bring an expensive camera, which proved to be a good move on my part. There are some clips up through MSN video, and reportedly there will be more by Thursday.

TV On The Radio were the only band I saw on Friday. It was interesting to see a bunch of goth kids go from being too-cool-for-school to nodding their heads to the music. The crowd seemed to enjoy the band, who are a hell of a lot of fun live, even if the samples and harmony-heavy music didn't translate as well as it could in such a large setting. But the band attempted to make up for any technical limitations through pure energy, and did a decent job of it.

It poured rain and got ridiculously cold that night - a precursor for Saturday.

Rogue Wave impressed me a lot. I gave their albums a few spins this winter, but hadn't really revisited them since. It's all pretty simple pop songwriting, but came across very well in a live setting. The band was enjoying themselves and did a good job of getting the crowd moving.

I only saw a bit of Architecture in Helsinki, but the band was decent. Though they had a tendency to get a bit too spastic for my tastes, whatever the band is going for is admirable. An odd mix of prog-rock, ska and 80's electro-pop.

Gomez was better than I had given them credit for. The band basically has three lead singers/songwriters, who all get a chance to take the lead and were all appealing. I definitely need to go back and listen to their albums.

I missed Stephen Malkmus, which I am a bit bummed about since I've been on a huge Pavement kick lately. Sufjan was Sufjan, and to tell you the truth I wasn't that impressed with his live show. I'm sure it would have came off better in a smaller venue, but it just seemed a bit lifeless. His entourage and their uber-American shtick was amusing, though. Makes me wish I had brought my American flag Converses. (Or any other pair of shoes for that matter.)

After a couple songs solo ("Naked As We Came" and "Sodom, South Georgia") Iron & Wine's backing band came out and made his music more of a Grateful Dead-ish stoner rock thing - a big change in arrangement, but it fit the mood of the day well and was much more interesting to watch than Mr. Beam by himself the entire time.

Then, all hell broke loose. Neko Case was probably my most-anticipated set of the weekend. Three songs in, however, mother nature gave us the middle finger. During the middle of "Star Witness" (still the most beautiful song written thus far this year, btw), the little sprinkling of rain that had begun turned into a massive hail storm like I've only heard about. At it's peak, I want to say the hail was a little less than dime-size in diameter. They have video of the whole ordeal under "Day 2 Highlights" on the MSN site. Neko and her band toughed it out and finished the song, though most people were too busy running for cover to care much. It was like DMB playing "Two Step" in rain, I tell you.

The music stopped for about an hour and a half, everyone dispersed to their campsites (many of which were turned into complete mud) in an attempt to dry off, which didn't work very well.

After The Gorge Management decided to readmit people (God bless their hearts), The Shins owned. I'd never seen the band, but they played their hearts out and the drenched and cold crowd loved it. The one new song sounded just like the old songs, which sounded awesome. Just judging by the crowd reaction, these guys have become a U2-like band for a huge segment of 20-somethings.

Due to the rain, Ben Harper and The Flaming Lips switched spots, with The Flaming Lips closing the night. According to my Ben Harper-loving friends, Ben was awesome. I think most of the adjectives need to be saved for the Flaming Lips, though. I've been reading old reviews of their live show, looking for help to put into words what I saw, but I just can't. Wayne Coyne walked across the crowd in a giant hamster ball to open the show. 25 people dressed in Santa Clause outfits danced their hearts out stage left. On the right, 25 people dressed as aliens did the same, stopping to shine spotlights and throw giant bouncy balls into the crowd. A huge screen behind the stage mixed the lyrics to the songs with bizarre images of a naked woman lathering herself with mustard and distorted images of Coyne and a boxing nun puppet talking into the camera mounted on his mic. Confetti flew everywhere. The band played their absolutely killer cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody." And 20,000 people simultaneously felt like they were on acid. Even if you think the band's music is kind of average (which it is, for the most part), you need to see this band. I didn't stay for the entire thing, but they reportedly played until 1:30-2 in the morning. I wonder how much festival organizers were charged for violating the curfew laws, but kudos to them for getting people their money's worth despite the weather.

On Sunday the weather was beautiful with the exception of a few sprinkles. Chad VanGaalen was very likable and did a good job of recreating his bedroom indie-pop on stage. Nada Surf was boring and the Arctic Monkeys insufferably terrible, as predicted. There is a reason the lead singer accentuates his British accent to the point of absurdity - without the novelty of singing like Noel Gallagher, this band has nothing left.

The Decemberists put on an entertaining set, as they always do, though the setlist was without some of my favorites of theirs (come on, we all know the audience participation part of "The Mariners Revenge Song" would be awesome at the Gorge).

It is worth noting at this point another great part of big festivals like these: artists have an interest in watching each other, and thus are often out with the common folk, enjoying the music with everyone else. This, of course, leaves them open to fan-boys like me, who want their picture taken with their favorite musicians so they can brag to their friends that they saw that musician in the flesh. I had sightings of Chad VanGaalen and Damien Jurado, as well as Sam Beam:

For the record, I don't wear sweaters around my shoulders all douchy-like as a fashion statement, I was keeping the sun off of the sunburn on my neck that I got on Saturday sometime. And I don't look like anymore of an unshowered homeless man than Sam (yeah, we're on a first name basis) does. Get a load of that beard. I would sell my first-born to be able to grow a beard like that. Definitely a new myspace photo for me.

Rocky Votolato was decent (I'd just like the point out that my spell check wants me to change "Votolato" to "Violator," which would make his name Rocky Violator, which would be the best porn star name ever), as was David Bazan's Headphones. The guy writes some great songs and has a great delivery, I just wish he'd pick up a guitar and do it Pedro The Lion style. I'm not usually a synthesizer kind of guy.

Probably the highlight of the day, music-wise was, surprisingly, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The second stage was packed to capacity with an odd mix of frat boys and hipster kids, but regardless of social label, everyone was enjoying the hell out of it. These guys could give the Arctic Monkeys a few lessons on how to be derivative yet not annoyingly so. Sure, I spent most of the set wondering how awesome it would have been to see the Talking Heads back in the day (the lead singer sings, moves and even looks just like David Byrne), but the music still seemed fresh and fun. As predicted "Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" tore the house down and made the kids who were too cool to dance nod their heads rhythmically and the frat kids crowd surf. (You're not 14 seeing Green Day anymore, tool.)

Death Cab For Cutie was better than I was expecting, playing a good mix of old and new. The band seemed excited to be there, and the sunset was beautiful. "What Sara Said" isn't even that bad of a song, it turns out.

Mitigating circumstances made me miss Beck, but I'm sure he was groovy as always.

In conclusion, a great, great weekend of music, though the weather put a bit of a damper on the partying. Aw, well.


At 10:14 PM, Blogger James Eric Watkins said...

cool blog.


At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Ardell said...

It's clear from the pictur of you and Sam Beam that you are the king of duchebaggery. I would have strangled a puppy to come and see Clap your hands. Lucky bitch.


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