San Diego Serenade
In general the festival scene usually seems less and less appealing to me the older and crankier I get, since I sort of don't like many people, and festivals tend to be filled with many people, mostly of the sort I don't like. I do like music I can hear without yahoos chatting through the whole thing, or calling up friends on their cell phones saying how cool the concert is that they're now talking way too loudly at. Still, I vowed to be a new me, accepting of my fellow troglodyte concert-goers more interested in getting sloshed on $7 Millers than enjoying the music. Beyond making sure I was right up front to see Los Campesinos!, go native, I thought.
And it worked. It didn't hurt there was a Microbrew Area to comfort me, even if you only got five 3 oz. tasters for $10. But in addition to the usual San Diego brews like Stone, there was Lagunitas and Left Coast from San Clemente, that also had solid stuff. You could even see one of the stages from one corner of the Microbrew Area, where I glimpsed No Age for a couple songs and was sad I missed them in Santa Barbara--way more going on than you'd think from two kids.
Sidenote: Yeah, there were folks well into geezerdom beyond me there, but I might be growing too old for my tastes to appear a normal human. Luckily I appear young for my age, that fine combo of never perfect skin and lots of immaturity. Plus I love to suck the energy from the youth of today's music.
Now that I've introed this to death, plus a digression, here's report on who I saw:
Really only saw the last 3 songs of his set, but it seemed pretty super-powered. One of our rules going in was when in doubt, pick a band with horns. Horns is fun. Horns is plenty. So a guy who names himself after the long slide instrument but mostly plays trumpet (from what we saw)--including an endless cycle blow for about 2 minutes that looked pretty amazing on the big screen projection. The two largest stages had them, which made not getting too close bearable--you could go for both vibe and immediacy.
Ridiculous and utterly fascinating. I'm sure all my regular readers will be shocked to know I'm not a metal fan. But the folks we were with off and on throughout both evenings, the wonderful Sarah and Chuck, were interested, so we figured--a peek can't hurt. And then our faces melted.... OK, not my music, and borderline parody (not that, I'm sure, they think of that way, but a tattoo on your face, dude, please!), but fantastic force.
Matt & Kim
I'm less happy about my quick FB status on these two, calling them a Devo for the Aughts. For while they got that herky-jerky a-going a few times--Matt plays keybs, Kim drums--they're also in that Mates of State mold, too, except Kim rarely sings. But the energy amazes, and they seem to, of all things, be having fun. What will rock n roll think of next?
Connor Oberst (with Jenny Lewis)
I've seen, and liked a bunch, Oberst in his Bright Eyes guise, so figured it would be better to see something new. But we wandered by his stage just in time for him to introduce guest Jenny Lewis. Who I have not seen, but like a bunch, in any of her guises. They ripped into the Rilo Kiley tune "Portions for Foxes," trading verses. This is what makes festivals get good names. Thanks.
OK, I really didn't know them heading in, despite them being the pride of Sacramento. But I wanted to like them as people I like like them--you know how that is. But while I do enjoy the music--there's even a horn sometimes--and the stuttery funkiness is cool, the lead singer is a dick. It was a festival, so of course everyone had technical problems as they tried to keep the trains running on time. But all he would do is carp and bitch. And wear sunglasses at 10 pm. Fuck him, it was better to go see someone who cared.
Now these guys, even with so much of what they did electronic pipings-in, were a blast. The big dark cowboy hats don't hurt, or that the electronic duo are matched with a trumpet, accordion, and tuba. Now talk about your horns--bands need more tuba! So all that plinking and plonking gets matched with a polka beat blasted from the tuba. Delish. And when they lost power, they just worked on it, didn't bitch and moan like somebody else. It's called being a professional.
Really only watched for a couple of songs and they seemed fine, but I felt a tad disappointed. One piece of advice for bands playing festivals--no matter how good your slow songs are, and I actually really like "Blame It on the Tetons," don't play them in a shortened festival set. Major bummer. Get out that tuba and polka!
One of the highlights of Friday, but I figured that would be true going in. Their wonderful widescreen take on the Southwest enthralls me, and it only was more enhanced by the addition of their friends from Tucson, Salvador Duran and his Orquestra. That means six horns to do "Alone Again Or" (one of my favorite covers of all-time) and Duran doing Spanish language parts and an amazing mouth-click. Plus they did that cool rock-out Feelies-feeling moment at the end of "Not Even Stevie Nicks." Great great show. And all the weenies were at Black Eyed Peas, so more room for the cool kids.
See review linked above. I love this band more than I can say, and I'm not good at being adoring fanboy. You really really got to earn it. They do.
And then the circus came to town. The music actually had more variety than I thought it would going in--some more electronic based, some surprisingly crunchy guitar--but that lead guitarist hit the stage decked out like Brian Eno in his Roxy Music days, and then the stage show began--masks, weird acting, sort of imagine The Nutcracker as put on by the Residents. It was a blast.
My FB joke was they play their songs better than I do on Guitar Hero, and if that sounds like damning with faint praises, especially to those of you who have witnessed me playing Guitar Hero, it is. They clearly were giving it up on stage, but something just isn't enough for me about them. I'm really a song guy, when it comes down to it, so any riffs and runs band just isn't going to make me love them. Even if they can pull off stopping one song on a dime--I'm a sucker for that concert trick.
Everyone loved these folks, who seemed to be performing in black and (Jack) white. Another confession--I'm from the school of pop (my 7 year college radio show was called, spot the reference, "This Is Pop?"), so anything more rooted in bluesy rock won't do it for me. Again, Alison Mosshart is a powerful lead figure, even doing the cig drags between lines, but the music doesn't move me. It's one kind of hip I can't begin to aspire to.
And now I'll piss off a bunch of my reading audience who got excited about this band when I FBed--I like it, but it's sort of aural wallpaper to me. I'm still not sure if the exotic airs are integral or charming Third World graft on, but it sure helps to have the sitar live. So we watched a bit, then went off to sit curbside--standing for 8 hours sort of sucks when you're an old fart--to prepare for....
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
We chose them over MIA and don't regret it a bit. Another band friends I like like, so I figured, what better than a soul review to close out the two nights? The answer? Nothing. I have never seen a performer leave it all on stage like Sharon Jones, both a killer singer, one who has the pipes but also modulates (none of that bullshit American Idol emoting for her), and an insane crazy dancer. That she's such a buzz of action and the well-decked out Dap Kings just stand surrounding her only adds to the clever visual play. If you ever wondered what would happen if James Brown was a woman, Sharon Jones is the person you have to see.
(16 of 31 in the drive to 2500)