Saturday, September 4
I strolled into the festival grounds around 3 P.M. and headed straight for the Center Square Stage to see L.A.’s HEALTH. I’d seen theM about three years ago in a tiny bar in Northern California playing to a crowd of less than 20. Since that time, they’ve increased their media exposure, notoriety and level of popularity. Rightly so. HEALTH’s clusterfuck of sound falls somewhere in between electronica, post-punk and noise madness destruction. Basically, they’re post-everything, which is brilliant as it is hard to categorize and comes off refreshingly original and innovative.
The band played a majority of the material off 2009’s Get Color. The songs on this, their third album, are slightly more subdued, with mellow vocals frolicking over the swirl of chaotic noise below. I was psyched to see such a great performance by the first band of the day.
On my way over to Flatsock, the massive exhibition of rock n’ roll poster art, I ran in to Nat Damm, drummer from Akimbo. He had a booth set up and was selling his original designs. We’d met once before, so I said hello and discussed mutual acquaintances. He noticed my NadaMucho.com press pass and said he was familiar with the site and appreciated the positive press Akimbo had received in the past.
As I walked to the Broad Street stage, I noticed a yellow helicopter flying overhead. “Hey, maybe Bob Dylan’s in there,” someone beside me commented.
I arrived a few songs into Atlas Sound’s set. Bradford Cox, the man behind Atlas Sound, is also the lead guitarist/vocalist in Deerhunter, and I’m a huge fan. I was a bit surprised to see Bradford by himself. I would have thought he’d brought a backing band.
He sounded great nevertheless, looping layers underneath his subtle acoustic plucking and vocals to create a very low key, stoner, atmospheric vibe. By this time it was late in the afternoon, and many folks were sprawled out in the grass soaking up the soothing, dreamy sounds. Cox had a solid stage presence, engaging the crowd in subtle conversation and sounding genuinely enthusiastic and appreciative of the positive reaction.
I found some shitty pizza for $3.50 per slice and headed back to the press area for a bit. Next year I’m showing up in an all beige suit with a matching old-time hat with a “PRESS,” card in it. I’ll walk straight up to the press room with a pad of paper, chewing a cigar and mutter to the woman in charge, “I’m here to get the scoop, Mac.”
Sitting on the giant steps of the EMP, I listened to a few songs by Civil Twilight. The Bumbershoot “official guide” compared them to Oasis and Coldplay, automatically making me hesitant of giving them a fair chance. They actually sounded alright, with heavily layered, delay-ridden guitars and catchy hooks.
I charged straight into the EMP, where the Feral Children were playing, and was immediately underwhelmed. I’d seen them open for Goon Moon (Twiggy Ramierez’s band) at Chop Suey a few years back, and thought they were great, but today’s set left a lot to be desired. They weren’t terrible, they just didn’t do anything memorable – kind of like seeing Dave Mathews at The Gorge. I do give the drummer/singer “props” for wearing an ironic animal shirt. I love those things!
I made my way back to the press room to sip some coffee and take another little “break,” as well update the Twitter flow. I sat and listened to Visqueen’s Rachel Flotard give an interview. She seems like a nice lady and has lovely red hair.
Next I met my friend Bethany at Memorial Stadium for the Decemberists. She’s much more of an aficionado than I am, and gave me info on the songs and what albums they were off. Apparently they were playing a lot of material off The Crane Wife, and I recognized a few songs off The Hazzards of Love, including “Rake’s Song.” For my money, The Decememberists don’t get any better than when Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond belts out the vocal part near the end of “Hazzard’s” “The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid.” I wish I could have heard that epic jam, but the set was rock solid regardless, and Colin Meloy was wearing plaid.
Perhaps I had slightly too high of expectations for Bob Dylan, but his set seemed to largely disappoint many festivalgoers. He opened with “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” also known as “Everybody Must Get Stoned.” The crowd took this song literally, as a haze of pot smoke drifted over the masses. Perhaps it was just his backing band, or maybe the key he was playing the songs in, but even his hits sounded different than the album versions.
There was a lot of obscure, filler material in the middle of the set. Bob alternated between guitar, keyboards, and just vocals. He didn’t say much during the performance, and was slightly unenthusiastic, like he’d rather have been at a Bingo Hall or at home watching "The Price is Right." This is not surprising as the man is nearly 70 now, but still tours 100 days a year. Also, his voice is completely shot at this point, his growl sounding like the yelp of a diseased baboon.
One thing I will say for Dylan’s performance is that he’s true to himself and did and always does whatever the hell he wants, just as an Advanced artist should. If he didn’t feel like playing his hits, he wasn’t going to. If he didn’t feel enthusiastic, he wasn’t going to be animated on stage. Throughout his epic career Bob has never second guessed himself, ignoring critics and creating art true to his mysterious, if slightly strange vision. I wouldn’t be surprised if his next album was all techno club remixes of his most popular songs.
Dylan concluded the show with “Like A Rolling Stone,” arguably his most famous and beloved song. It seemed an appropriate climax to an action packed day, the crowd swaying gently and singing along in unison.