One day later and I’ve mostly recovered. Physically, that is. It was probably noon today before I could walk and be sure my legs would hold me up, but that’s also because of the actifed I took when I got home last night to combat being-outside-all-day-in-the-dust-and-dry-grass allergies. Still, everything was totally worth it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Here’s a sampling of who I saw and enjoyed. Though there were three stages at the festival, I pretty much hung out at Stage 1, since that’s where all the bands I’d heard of were playing, and thus I suspected that I would have a good chance of liking the other bands there as well. Generally, that was right. I could hear the bands on Stage 2 any time Stage 1 bands weren’t playing, and they were playing really LOUD punk rock over there. Far too heavy for my tastes. I couldn’t hear Stage 3 very much, but the one time I wandered over there, there was a rapper up, so I wandered back pretty quickly. Thankfully, most everybody on Stage 1 was listenable to one degree or another. If you saw my Twitters during the show, you’ll know I didn’t care for the first four or so on Sunday, but they still weren’t awful. Anyway, here are the eight or nine I enjoyed the most, with my very favorites at the top.
edit: Great photos here, from photographer Chad Wadsworth.
I’m giving Headlights the number one spot mostly because I was pleasantly surprised by how great they were. I’d been sitting in the back through four bands that I mostly disliked (far too screamy; fine if you like that sort of thing, but I don’t), and then Headlights came on, and they were somewhere about four bars in before I was up by the stage totally into it–and not just because they were so much better than the previous bands. I hadn’t heard of them before, and in addition to the music being good, they were also adorable. Erin Fein, the lead singer, seemed taken by surprise that we liked them so much. That was also a nice change from the earlier bands, who were convinced they didn’t suck, even though they kinda did. I’m sorry, that was biased. Anyway, I fell in love with them, and headed straight up to their merchandise table and bought their album. And I’m not usually an impulse buyer. But I figure, buying things at concerts gets more money to the artist, so if there’s ever a time to impulse buy, that’s it.
PEOPLE IN ST. LOUIS: Headlights is actually playing St. Louis this Wednesday (November 7th), at the Bluebird on Olive Street downtown. See http://bluebirdstl.com for more info. It’s only like $7-9, so you should totally go.
(video – multiple; I think “Lions” is one)
The New Pornographers
I’ve liked the New Pornographers for a few months now, but have held off posting their stuff because, yes, of their name. But you know what, I can’t help what they call themselves, and they make some really great music (which is not at all pornographic in nature). And they were basically the biggest drawing card for me going to the festival in the first place. The only reason they’re not at the top of this list is because I expected them to be good, whereas Headlights surprised me. Anyway, I was five feet from the stage! They did all my favorite songs off “Challengers” as well as a lot I liked but didn’t know (must be off “Twin Cinema,” which I haven’t heard). Interestingly, “Myriad Harbor” (my current all-time favorite song) doesn’t work as well live as it does on the album; I think because in the recorded version, Dan Bejar is so very introspective and quiet in parts, almost like we’re overhearing something we shouldn’t be, and that’s one of my favorite things about it. But you can’t do that in a live show, you’ve gotta be forceful enough to be heard, and it came out harsher. But it was still good. And the other songs, “Challengers,” “My Rights Versus Yours,” etc., were awesome. Plus, they were more comfortable playing with the crowd than some of the other groups. At one point Neko Case got a serious craving for Rice Krispie Treats (they had a huge sign straight in front of her at the food stand where they were selling them), and said she wanted a mattress of them. Next song break, a stagehand brought a handful of them to her and Carl Newman, so we had a brief snack break. It was fun. I enjoy stuff like that at concerts.
(video – “My Rights versus Yours”)
Three from them, one led by Dan Bejar, one featuring Neko Case, and one with the whole band, but mostly Carl Newman:
The New Pornographers – Myriad Harbor
The New Pornographers – Mutiny, I Promise You
The New Pornographers – Challengers
More after the jump.
My friend Erin told me I’d probably like Emma Pollock, and she was way right. Emma got my day one CD purchase (Headlights was on day two). She fronted the band Delgados before going solo, and I’d vaguely heard a couple of Delgados songs and liked them, but didn’t really know much about the band. Including that they were from Glasgow! When she started talking, and I caught her accent, and then she confirmed she was from Glasgow, I was hooked. I’m pretty much in love with Glasgow stuff right now. Anyway, she’s great. She commented about how warm it was for November (eighty-ish, normal for Texas, but not so much for Scotland) and asked what happens in summer, weather-wise. Heh. You don’t want to know, believe me.
(video – “Adrenaline”)
mates of state
People have been telling me about this Austin band for like two years, and I’ve only vaguely listened. I mean, I’d heard a couple of their songs, and not been affected much one way or another. Well, now I’m converted. If I hadn’t already bought the Headlights CD earlier in the day, I probably would’ve bought mates of state’s. I don’t really do a good job researching bands (at least until I reach the point of obsession), so I didn’t realize that the band is a married duo, Jason Hemmell on drums, Kori Gardner on keyboards. It sounds awesome, though, and on one song, she used a setting that sounded so much like a guitar I don’t think you could tell on a recording. She was about seven months pregnant and about halfway through, she got tired and sat on a chair, but Jason reassured us that “she can still rock.” He wasn’t wrong.
(video = “Running Out”)
Another one Erin told me to look out for. It took me probably about half of their set to really get into them, but I ended up liking them quite a bit. I kept being afraid the lead singer was going to pass out on stage, though. (He admitted extreme tiredness due to just finishing a tour, and they were leaving for a European tour the next day–when I decide to start a band, remind me that it’d be a rough job and I’m probably better off just listening to them.) But I guess it’s not really a rock concert until you fear for the life of some band member, right? I particularly like the reuse they make of the Beach Boy’s “Sloop John B” in “John Allyn Smith Sails.” Note on the video – this is a performance in Waterloo Records, aka THE BEST MUSIC STORE EVER. It’s a must-stop every time I’m in Austin.
(video – “Unless It’s Kicks”)
Wow. Now, I’ve seen pictures of Of Montreal in concert before, so I should’ve been prepared, but I forgot. They had one guy come out with a lion head on. Then the bassist came out with eagle’s wings on his back. Then frontman Kevin Barnes came out, well, like the first picture here (Pitchfork has a bunch of great photos there, check them out). His left eye has a star painted over it, if you can’t see well in the photo. Later he took the vest off, and still later, he changed completely into a skin-tight, short-legged I don’t even know what. Tell you what, there is a man comfortable with his sexuality, whatever it is. During some of the songs, a girl came out and danced with a sword. Oh, plus they had a screen projecting animations and feeds from cameras attached to their mic stands. They really took the theatricality of show business seriously. Made it a fun show, but they mostly did songs like the one in the video below, and I prefer the cutesier but quieter ones, like the two MP3s I have below.
(video = “She’s a Rejecter”)
Cat Power was the last show of the festival, one of the big names. Which is sort of interesting, because she’s far more bluesy/folksy than anyone else in the lineup. Not that that’s a bad thing; far from it. She’s got a gorgeous husky voice, which was made even huskier last night because she was fighting a cough/sinus infection. She was concerned throughout that she was singing offkey, because she couldn’t hear herself at all, but if she put a note wrong, I couldn’t tell.
(video – “Maybe Not”)
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Now if you want to see someone rock out, go see Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. The guitar skills alone, man, but he can also sing and the stage presence, whoa. They’re not really the type of music I listen to a lot these days (unless I’m driving; it’s good driving music), but for a live show, they was a lot of fun to watch. And if anyone who knows how much I dislike screamy rock wants to point out that Ted Leo screams sometimes, I will answer with, yes, he does, but for effect. He also actually sings.
(video – “Biomusicology”)
Okay, I have to include Final Fantasy in here, just because I was so terribly impressed. One Canadian guy with a violin? In a rock concert? I know, right? But the boy has serious talent. He had a sampling machine, so he’d play and record two or three loops on the violin over each other, and by the time he started singing (and playing live), it sounded like he had a whole string section with him. Not really something I’d buy and listen to all the time, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to see him once.
(video – “The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead”)