We arrived a bit earlier on Sunday, and traffic wasn’t as bad, so I was able to make it to an earlier show and then get a terrific spot for Ted Leo.
Mates of State: This is a husband-and-wife synth pop duo that I went to on Julianne’s recommendation. It was a good one to start with, not too intense and fairly upbeat. It’s impressive what they can do with just a keyboard and a drum kit.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: I’ve been wanting to hear Ted Leo since I bought Shake the Sheets last year, and have managed to miss them the last three times they visited San Francisco. I didn’t intend to miss them this time, and staked out a spot pretty close to the stage. In fact, I was close enough that I could watch his hands while he played the guitar, which was very interesting in itself (damn he’s fast). He seemed annoyed by the heat but played like a demon anyway, at one point taking “Counting Down The Hours” into an extended rendition of “Little Dawn” without a break. Definitely as fun and energetic as I’d heard.
Wolf Parade: Well, actually I didn’t see Wolf Parade. I waited for about twenty minutes after their scheduled start time, but due to technical problems they didn’t get going until after I had already left to get in position for Sleater-Kinney. Everything in the Mojave tent was delayed about half an hour after this.
Sleater-Kinney: This is actually the only band here that I’d seen live before, so I knew what to expect: it would be loud and awesome. Many of the musicians here seem amazed by the experience, but Sleater-Kinney were completely unperturbed. (Of course, they’ve been around a while and have probably done it before.) Mostly they played selections from The Woods, spending about twenty percent of their set on “Let’s Call It Love”, along with a few songs from One Beat and “Get Up” from The Hot Rock. At one point there was an exchange something like this:
Carrie Brownstein: We’re more like Tool than Madonna.
Corin Tucker: [alarmed] I don’t think so.
I also overheard a related dialogue among some people near me in the audience:
Girl: Are you going to see Madonna later?
Guy: I don’t know. She is the Queen of Pop. Someday my kids are going to ask me if I ever saw Madonna. “No, I went to Massive Attack instead.” “I don’t know who the fuck that is!”
Anyway, Sleater-Kinney were awesome as usual, and as a bonus I was close to the stage for
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Despite being a bit disappointed with their latest album, I was quite impressed by this show. Karen O has a ton of energy and really lived up to my pre-Show Your Bones expectations. It also helped that they played some of my favorite tracks from Fever To Tell, namely “Black Tongue”, “Pin”, “Maps”, and “Y Control”. Even coming right after Sleater-Kinney, the music was expecially raw and intense, and being near the front of a huge crowd, the effect was pretty powerful.
Mogwai: Watching the sound check I thought it seemed like they had an unusually large number of amps on stage, and indeed this band has a ridiculous number of guitars. At one point they had four people playing guitar simultaneously, and they seemed to switch guitars between every track. They didn’t interact with the audience much, and the effect wasn’t too different than it would be to play their CDs at incredibly loud volume. However, it does sound good that way.
The Go! Team: This band was on the other end of the spectrum in terms of audience interaction. Although the music didn’t sound as good as it does in recording—they make heavy use of recorded samples and it doesn’t translate very well into a stage show—they more than made up for it by getting the crowd involved. Their frontwoman, a British rapper who goes by the name Ninja, was expert at getting the crowd moving and singing along, and I found myself dancing more energetically than at any other performance, despite the fact that by that point in the day I could barely stand. As a result it was a terrifically fun show and brought my energy back up for the last hour of the festival.
Dungen: We decided we were too cool for Tool (also, school) and went to the now-sparsely-populated Mojave tent to catch Art Brut, only to find that (due to the aforementioned delays) Dungen were still playing. We only caught the tail end of the last song, though, so I can’t say much about it.
Art Brut: I’d heard this band was good but knew nothing about them, so I didn’t know what to expect. It turns out that they are total goof-offs. It’s not that they play joke songs, although “Rusted Gun of Milan”, a song about impotence with sixties-pop style backing vocals, is indeed pretty funny. It’s more that they have a kind of playful approach to rock, especially frontman Eddie Argos who carried on a running (but somewhat one-sided) conversation with the audience, sometimes in the middle of songs; played jump-rope with the microphone cable (and seemed surprised when he tried to use it afterwards and it had popped out of its socket), and delighted in running overtime (he claimed it cost the festival $2000 a minute to go over curfew, and then announced he would use the extra time to play b-sides). This was one of the most entertaining performances I saw, and I definitely plan to buy their album when the U.S. release comes up (next week, I think). Between the Go! Team and Art Brut the end of the festival was immensely fun, and I left with a smile on my face.