"Ok, by the two trees." We hid the bottle of Captain Morgan under the fence and walked to the park entrance. At the gate I expected at least a cursory patting down, remembering a lengthy list of restricted items that were had on a sign and on the festival website. Going through, though, I was only asked what was in my front pocket, to which I responded a wallet and phone. I retrieved the rum from its hiding place feeling like a teenager sneaking booze into a friends house. The lack of searching at the gate further revealed itself in copious cloudsmokes of reefer, which created an almost constant scent in the crowds. Oh, and the following are some additional details on selected artists and occurrences from Pitchfork on Sunday July 19th.
The first group to really capture my admiration was Killer Whales. Playing the smallest stage on the grounds, their fury was aggressive and immediate. They operated through bouncy and somewhat danceable grooves - hopping and hollering and having a whale of a time rippin' through sweet licks like orcas through seal hides. The KW's were four shirtlessly smooth males, two on flipper sticks and the other two on guitar and bass. Despite being vocally intranscribable, the falsetto squelches of the string players matched well with the consistent yet chaotic jamming(perhaps the musicians communicate with each other through high pitched sonar). Have I run out of whale quips already? This sucks.
I don't understand drink tickets. What I mean is, I think it has something to do with compulsively buying a bunch and obligating yourself to use or lose them, but the idea of giving somebody money and getting a ticket so you can give someone a few feet away the ticket for a beverage... it just seems so unnecessary. The idea and the effort offend me.
It was around 4 or 5 o'clock when I made my way to the stage where The Walkmen were about to begin. I was very excited to hear them play, as their latest album - You & Me - was one of my favorites of 2008. The performance they put on was awesome. Every note was nailed. The songs they played took a hold over your whole being and glued you in place. It seemed everyone was willingly entranced by their incredible ability. The set was mostly comprised of songs from You & Me, but included good selections from the past, including the driven and energetic The Rat. In addition to the five regular band members, a brass section consisting of five trumpeters and two tromboners shared the stage for several songs, contributing most successfully on the waltzy smoothness of "Red Moon." The powerful tone and sincerity of this gentle tune leaves you unable to detest it's simplicity. How could I ever get lost in such lyrics as "I miss you, I miss you there's noone else. I do, I do"?
I want to say it was the Abbey Pub vendor that ran out of fish and chips. The girl apologized and said we could wait 5-10 minutes or choose another food item they offered. I told her I'd buy a beef sandwich instead of fish, but only if they made it very big to compensate for being a second choice. She agreed to the deal and I soon had a hefty bun of wet meat in my hands. It wasn't long before I realized that asking for extra cheese was a mistake. The cheese ran like water over the meat, bread, and even found it's way out of the paper tub-plate. My hands and face became plastered with processed dairy. It was a bad day to have facial hair.
The Flaming Lips
I felt a build during the day as we approached the most anticipated act, The Flaming Lips. The crowd was packed around the stage as trippy tones played along with equally effective visuals. Bright colors iridesced from a large half-circle screen at the back of the stage, and soon they formed the naked features of a young woman. The girl on the screen squatted and spread her legs. Euphoric tones built in sync with the enlarging of her genitalia. When the vagina was as tall as the entire screen, people dressed as construction workers rolled a platform up to it. Yes, this was the bands entrance to the stage.
As hilariously entertaining as that was, it proved not to be promising of an equally spectacular show. I am a fan, fairly big fan, of the Flaming Lips. I enjoy their music and also liked the movie they somewhat recently completed which was called, and about, Christmas on Mars. That they were on the bill is what sealed the deal on my attendance. Even the casual fan can conger some fantastic foresight of their live shows, which have a reputation for being outrageous to the max. To be honest, they did bring a full bag of outrageousness. There were frogmen on the left of the stage, with catwomen to the right. Balloons and confetti littered the air. Streamers were constantly shot over the audience. However, all of this along with the videos that played behind them quickly crossed from being cute and amusing to coming off as overwrought and uninspired decorations that distracted and clashed with the musical expectations. The band brought out all the bells and whistles right at the start, so by the third song you had already seen enough yellow and orange to sick you for a week. Wayne, the Lips' lead singer, even did his crowd pleasing routine of walking on the audience while inside a huge clear bubble. It was kind of exciting to witness, but he was soon falling over and crawling back to the stage and turned it into a limited spectacle.
I can't speak for the rest of attendees - especially the high ones - but I was not pacified by flying colors and big balloons. Something about the set didn't satisfy. Wayne Coyne did a lot of talking about the bands love of performing while the rest of the band sat there waiting to actually perform. The banter, I would say, did a lot to hurt the momentum that should have been thriving in its place. Although I've made it all out to be pretty bad, I was able to still enjoy some parts. Songs like Mountainside and the Yeah Yeah Yeah Song took me. The two new songs they played yielded a mostly indifferent response, but were interesting enough. The stripped down "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" was pretty cool, and would have been more appreciated if not preceded earlier in the set by a similarly stripped down "Fight Test." "Do You Realize?" felt right for a closer, but the celebration was tired before it began. The same balloons and confetti were used, only a lot more of them. Wackiness is inextricably part of the Lips uniqueness. Their instrumental talents should shine despite the bands propensity to be goofy, but here they were all too often dulled. I've wanted to see The Flaming Lips live for years, and now that I have, all I can do is shrug.