First, a bropology: I sure as hell wasn’t going to miss the Niners game Sunday – a man’s got to have his priorities in order – though I might have been less okay with my choice had they lost (eat it, Detroit!). As more of a beats and bloops appreciator, I was the outcast in the circle I ran with for most of the weekend, a Day One kinda guy in a flock of Day Twoers. I missed everything up to the last bit of St. Vincent, and boy did I catch flak for it. Sorry Annie, I would have loved to shoot you googly eyes and swoon over your talent, but I hear there was plenty of that going on already.
St. Vincent and The Antlers dominated crowd talk until Explosions in the Sky showed up. Warpaint also impressed a fair number of people who plainly told me they weren’t expecting to be impressed (and it’s always toughest to win over your detractors). So to those three acts I missed: Sorry I stood you up, but maybe we’ll see each other again some time?
Day 2 Highlights
We thought we’d throw out a blanket and lay around for the Beach House show, and instead we nearly got trampled. I know they’ve amassed a rabid fanbase, but I didn’t expect her crowd to rival the size and passion of someone like Dizzee Rascal or Death Cab’s audience. Victoria Legrand’s voice held up to expectation, opening with the sultry “Gila,” her slow annunciations floating up into the clouds on a flawless San Francisco weekend. It was a perfect start to an hour-long serenade and the calm before the Friendly Fires storm that followed.
If the massive dance party was any indication, the genre-blind Friendly Fires were responsible for a great deal of damage to the turf in front of the Tunnel Stage. The pit was going crazy for singer Ed Macfarlane’s tireless “dance slash run laps around the stage” routine, and they absolutely owned their set with driving electro influence and aggressive pop prowess. I was fortunate enough to catch a seat on the ferris wheel for a fantastic view of their last two songs, so maybe I’m romanticizing a bit when I say this, but Friendly Fires really were the #1 revelation of the festival. Endless live energy on top of their already well-written songs.
Explosions in the Sky
I almost got punched in the face during this set. Seriously dude? It’s Explosions, they practically exist for the purpose of chilling the fuck out. A guy was waving around a huge stuffed Weiner dog, blocking people’s view and hitting me in the face a few times. If for no other reason than to maintain my dignity after multiple introductions to plush dog rump, I asked him to stop. Well, I meant to say “please be considerate of the people around you,” but I misspoke slightly and it came out as “you’re being an asshole and you’re probably going to get punched in the face if you keep doing that.” Whoops. When he Britishly asked me “What the fook was I gon’ do about it,” I moved ten feet to the right and carried on enjoying the music.
After that, the set was fantastic. Although you can knock Explosions for writing songs that are a little too samey, that formula translates exceptionally well live. They have a way of maintaining urgency in their buildups, throwing the audience into a fevered trance as their songs race forward. For a taste of their show, watch giant jellyfish dance above the crowd while they perform “The Only Moment We Were Alone.”
Death Cab For Cutie
Don’t let Death Cab’s albums tell you the whole story – what’s contained and contemplative on record comes forward with guts and sprawling energy in a live setting. Ben Gibbard, ever the showman, led his band to maximalist versions of DCFC favorites (there are tons), paying careful heed to Transatlanticism with extended takes on “The New Year” and “We Looked Like Giants.” Considering their veteran status in this industry (helloooo middle school memories!), it’s no surprise to run into an act full of deft instrumentalists who knows how to juice hit songs for all they’re worth live. Like seeing one last familiar face before you leave a party, Death Cab was wonderful exit music to close out the festival.
Download Mp3 – St. Vincent: “Surgeon”
Download Mp3 – Death Cab For Cutie: “No Sunlight”