Monday, October 17, 2011

Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival 2010

A rockin' crowd at Rise Against
Every year on Labor Day weekend, Seattle, Washington hosts it's three day music festival, called Bumbershoot (for those of you who find the name curious, "bumbershoot" is a turn-of-the-century reference to an umbrella). Seattle was a wonderful destination for the 2010 installment of our annual music fest trip. This year Bird and I both brought our girlfriends with us (Kailey and Ursa respectively), and met up with my sister, Mavis, and her husband, Jack who both live in the Seattle area.
This group was obviously a sharp contrast to the rowdy group of coworkers we had with us on the previous year in Austin, and was very fitting given the stark differences between the two festivals. While Austin City Limits festival was all about the music and had the frat party feel, Bumbershoot had a lot more to offer artistically, and much more mellow vibe. Held in Seattle Center, in the shadow of the iconic Space Needle, Bumbershoot had event centers housing art exhibits, stages for speaking engagements and multimedia acts, theater, contemporary dance, a stage dedicated to stand-up comedy, a film festival, also stunt shows and street performers to go along with the diverse collection musical acts. The atmosphere in general was less of a rowdy concert atmosphere and more of a local arts celebration atmosphere which was really quite nice.
Another one of the facilities in use at Bumbershoot that I really enjoyed was the Sky Church inside the EMP (Experience Music Project). The indoor stage had a huge multimedia set worthy of any large stadium tour, but they used the stage to feature local bands. The energy of the smaller named bands playing on such a wonderful stage was awesome! I hear that now the Sky Church is being utilized for electronic acts, which should also make for fun performances in years to come.


Angelique Kidjo, Anvil, Aterciopelados, Atlas Sound, Balkan Beat Box, Baroness, Billy Bragg, BOAT, Bob Dylan, Bob Schneider, Bobby Bare Jr., Bomba Estereo, Booker T, Born Anchors, Bouncing Souls, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, Brian Vogan, Chris Pureka, Civil Twilight, Crash Kings, David Bazan, Drake, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Fences, Fresh Espresso, Garotas Suecas, Grynch, Health, Hey Marseilles, Hole, Horse Feathers, J Cole, James Cotton, Jamie Lidell, Japandroids, Jay Electronica, Jeff the Brotherhood, Jenny and Johnny, Justin Townes Earle, Kings Go Forth, Laura Veirs, LMFAO, Loch Lomond, Mary J Blige, Meat Puppets, Motion City Soundtrack, Neko Case, Ozomatly, People Eating People, Plants & Animals, Ra Ra Riot, Rise Against, Solomon Burke, Star Anna & the Laughing Dogs, Surfer Blood, The Budos Band, The Clientele, The Constellations, The Dandy Warhols, The Decemberists, The English Beat, The Moondoggies, The Ravonettes, The Redwood Plan, The Splits, The Submarines, The Thermals, The Whigs, This Providence, Trampled By Turtles, Victor Shade, Visqueen, Weezer, Wild Orchid Children


Cheezburger Networks CTO, Scott Porad
Mavis and Jack had decided to alternate days they would attend Bumbershoot, so that one of them would always be available to watch their daughter, Ava. So on the first morning, Jack met us at the condo we had rented, and we all walked down to Seattle Center. We started the day off by catching a speaking engagement by film maker Britta Johnson who discussed a very interesting hypothesis called the "uncanny valley", which was related to the fields of 3D animation and robotics and dealt with the reasons why people are so put off when a human simulation doesn't look quite human enough. That was followed by a talk by Cheezburger Networks CTO, Scott Porad. Porad (whose network also produces Failblog, and Failbook) provided one of the most ironic moments of the festival when his computer failed to properly connect to the projector screen.
Squonk Opera
Next we went over to one of the other theaters to see the multimedia performance, Squonk Opera. Using a wide variety of inventive stage props, unusual instruments, light show, beautiful music, and theatrics; Squonk Opera was an exceptional spectacle to see. It was a thoroughly engaging performance.
We left Squonk Opera and got some noodles from one of the many food vendors, and ate while watching an outdoor glass blowing exhibition.
Now it was time to get down to the serious wine-&-song business for which we had come to Bumbershoot! First up, Civil Twilight and a Longhammer IPA. The IPA was good and hoppy. The South African band, Civil Twilight had an unfortunately unmemorable stage show, which is sad really, because their studio stuff shows so much promise.  Although I can't recommend seeing them live, I will recommend giving their album a listen (the song "Next to Me" has gotten into my head more than a little).
Jamie Lidell
After a few Longhammers we headed over to the Broad Street Stage to get a good spot for Jamie Lidell. Ursa and I had seen Jamie Lidell before, on a trip through Portland, Oregon, at Doug Fir Lounge, what an exceptional entertainer! The soulful British singer has a wonderful personality and a diverse sound that ranges from Motown to beat boxing. One of my favorite shows of the festival (which is odd considering that I already knew what to expect having seen him perform only a few months earlier). I suppose it didn't hurt that the sun had come out  from under the clouds and was warming the crowd on what had turned into a beautiful day.
From there we made our way back to the Starbucks Stage to see Bob Schneider play. The Starbucks Stage is a wonderfully located meeting place, right next to a long row of food vendors, also near the indie market and the flatstock exhibition (which was awesome, I bought a bitchin' Built to Spill playbill). So everyone could go their separate ways and easily meet back up. I just got a burrito and played pivot-man, by hanging out, listening to Bob Schneider while everyone else came and went. I'm personally very taken with Mr. Schneider who manages to take that whole indy-folk songwriter sound and make it just poppy enough to be both smart and palatable. Strong show.
Balkan Beat Box
From there we headed over to a beer garden which overlooked the stage where Balkan Beat Box was performing. To tell you the truth, Balkan Beat Box was one of those bands that I was super geeked out on before we came, and while I enjoyed them very much, I'm pretty sure that I was the only one. Ursa later said that she didn't mind their live show, but she just wasn't fond of the sample tracks that I had downloaded for her (but I'm pretty sure she only said that to spare my feelings, because I was so excited to see a band that she thought was crap). My predilection for strange music aside, Balkan Beat Box is an eclectic mix of rap, horns and lots of drums in a sound that's been called "New Mediterraneo". It may not be for everybody, but I strongly endorse finding out if it's for you.
Bob Dylan
Now properly beered up, we made our way into Memorial Stadium to see the day's headliner, Bob Dylan. Bob had taken a lot of artistic licence with his songs (musically they sounded great though) and while he has never been known for his vocal skills, his voice was very scratchy and mumbled even by Bob Dylan's lofty standards. The result was a wonderfully performed jam band sound, but nobody in the crowd had any clue what song was being played until about midway through the song, when they'd catch an arbitrary "woman" or ". . . ust git stoned" or "gingle sup in blue". But you know what, it was fine, because he's Bob freaking Dylan and he really doesn't owe any of us an excuse or explanation for anything he does; he's a legendary artist, and allowed to take as much license with his songs as he likes. You still rock Bob!


Hey Marseilles
My sister, Mavis met us down at Seattle Center for the second day of Bumbershoot. We began the day by grabbing up some wine and sitting in the grass to listen to Hey Marseilles, which was a lovely beginning to the day. Hey Marseilles has a cheerful, buttery take on orchestral pop, kind of like if Decemberists remembered to take their happy pills. Their show felt more like a picnic with friends than a rock show and they were, in a word, charming.
The next show that we were really looking forward to was The Redwood Plan who would be playing in the Sky Church (inside the EMP), and unfortunately we had to wait in a line to get in. Luckily for us the line was right behind the Center Square Stage, so we got to listen to LA trio, Crash Kings, who were a good solid rock band though they, interestingly, had no guitar. I couldn't see much of their show from where I was, but I did enjoy their beat-heavy sound.
The Redwood Plan
Finally we made our way into the EMP to see Redwood Plan, and boy were they worth the wait! The punk/pop local favorite tore through their set behind talented lead singer Lesli Wood and her shock of neon red hair (oh, and the gym shorts, I would be remiss if I forgot to mention Lesli Wood's well filled out gym shorts. . . SMOKIN'!). The sound of Redwood Plan is a fusion of punk rock and dancible, pop beats. Very catchy, and the audience there was energetic and fun. Cool band, cool venue, cool crowd. . . A+
We didn't have far to travel after The Redwood Plan, just back outside to the Center Square Stage, were we got to see punk rock veterans The Bouncing Souls put on a killer set. The band had has been together for a long time now, and they have become very polished, which may seem like a counterintuitive thing to say about a punk band, but the longer you spend on it the better you get at your craft, and the Bouncing Souls have become masters of what they do best.
The Bouncing Souls
Rise Against
Memorial Stadium hosted 3 headliners every day, but day 2 was the only time we really wanted to go out of our way to see all 3 bands. We made our way inside to catch the first of them, Rise Against. We stayed up in the bleachers for the most part during this show, in part because it was nice to sit and watch a show for a bit, knowing that we'd be standing for the next several hours for the subsequent shows. Also because, let's face it, I'm not 23 anymore and getting a bit old to be rucking it out in the mosh pit of a hardcore show with a bunch of twentysomethings (you have to admit this stuff to yourself sometimes). Though I didn't venture into the throng of fans, it was still fun to watch the mass of humanity surge around like an angry sea. While I'm not huge on hardcore, I've come to really like Rise Against, they kind of bridge the gap between hardcore and punk, and have good, solid lyrics as well.
Hole lead singer, Courtney Love
We then had a nice break to get stocked back up with strong drink (or in my case, strong latte and get ready for the next band, Hole. Courtney Love's last appearance at Seattle Center was 2 days after her husband, Kurt Cobain, had shot himself, and she read his suicide note to the fans who gathered here.
Now, 16 years later, this member of grunge royalty returned home. The crowd for Hole was frankly divided though, between actual fans of the band, and the morbidly curious who just wanted to see the Courtney Love meltdown. Those who came for the latter would leave disappointed, as the meltdown never came. The first thing (and most shocking considering that we're talking about Courtney Love) was that Courtney looked really, really good! She didn't look frighteningly skinny, or appear to be out of her head on drugs, and even her infamously bad skin had cleared up (though that was probably the result of a heavy makeup job). The set they played went very well and spanned Love's career, with the exception of a cover of Pearl Jam's, "Jeremy" which Courtney prefaced before the song began by saying, "We suck at it. It's awkwardly charming at best." But all things being equal I was willing to forgive quite a bit with Hole, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I have never heard much about Weezer's live shows, which meant that I didn't have my hopes up very high, but boy was I wrong! If we could find a method of harvesting the energy released by Rivers Cuomo's stage presence then we could be powering all of Seattle for years to come. He did everything from climbing up on top of a port-a-john to sing "Beverly Hills" to jumping on a stage prop trampoline, and scaling a shipping container.
Rivers Cuomo from Weezer
The fantastic stage show aside, one thing that grabbed me was the crowd who showed up for Weezer. One: they were seriously into it, singing along, dancing, crowd surfing, flags waving, beach balls bouncing. . . the works; and two: they were much younger than I had expected which was a much welcomed enthusiasm. This was seriously one of the funnest concerts that I've ever attended, and I left wondering why Weezer doesn't have a bigger reputation for their live performances, because this one had it all. Outstanding!

On the final day of Bumbershoot, both Mavis and Jack came down for the festival and brought my darling niece, Ava, with them. That's one nice thing about Bumbershoot is how family friendly it is. Even though there are some large crowds, there are also plenty of open spaces and areas for kids to play. There is also a children's stage available which was very nice. One of the highlights of the Youngershoot Stage was Presidents of the United States of America front man, Chris Ballew, who performed under the name Caspar Babypants.
Victor Shade
We began our day by making our way to the art exhibits, but stopped along the way to see a little of the performance of an emerging local rap act named Victor Shade. I kind of respect Victor Shade (as much as I can respect anyone in a superhero costume), and I'll keep an ear out for what he's doing in the future. His raps are stretching a little too much for that epic rap sound, but they are fairly tight, so I can see a lot of potential there. His live show was awesomely over the top with himself dressed as a superhero and a dance group dressed as robbers; while it may seem bawdy, I'm sure that he only gets just so many chances to showcase himself for a festival crowd, so he'd better make it memorable. Go for it, Victor!
Having seen Victor Shade, we finished our journey back to see the art exhibits, which frankly were one of the highlights of the festival for me. I'm not really doing it justice by referring to it as an art exhibit, because there was all manner of curiosities there. There was a computer designed to improvise music, and interactive music themed activities, as well as contemporary art exhibits, and an interactive sculpture built entirely of coffee stir sticks which were held together using nothing but tension (no glue or other support was used).
My personal favorite was the street art exhibit. I've always loved street art, partly because of it's temporary, and changing nature. You will see it one day and enjoy it, then two days later something will be added and change the context of the whole image, or maybe it's been whitewashed over entirely in preparation for the next piece to begin. There is also just seeing how much these artists are capable of by just using spraypaint. I thought it was a wonderful idea to have a feature of these talented artists who work in an underappreciated media.
With our art fancy finally sated, we were free to get back to the music. We began by making our way over to the EMP's Sky Church to see a local band that I was really looking forward to seeing, named BOAT. Their live act really brings out their quirky, nerdy, charm. Lead singer David Crane is affable and fun, and the band comes off as a group that has staying power because they refuse to take themselves too seriously. It's an admirable quality, and a lively show.
The Whigs
Next, we went outside to the Center Square Stage to see a trio from Georgia called The Whigs. They were good, not fantastic but a good solid rock band. I think they gave a good effort with their performance, but their overall sound just wasn't particularly memorable. Jack and I stayed through the whole show, even though it was beginning to drizzle down some rain. From there we went over to the Broad Street Stage and found a nice, uncrowded spot under some trees to get away from the rain, and to have a base where we could hear the music but didn't have to drag little Ava into the crowds.
The Meat Puppets
We wanted to hear the next two bands at the Broad Street Stage, the first one being The Meat Puppets. The Meat Puppets are a band that has been dancing at the fringes of the alternative rock scene for a long time, and received a great deal of exposure in 1993 when they performed with Nirvana on MTV Unplugged, and Kurt Cobain covered their song "Lake of Fire". The Meat Puppets were definitely one of the bands at the festival that I was most looking forward to seeing. While we were there, this awesomely crazy old guy started dancing. . . and he never stopped! He kept this crazy dance up for the whole show. Apparently he shows up at Bumbershoot every year and does the same thing, just dances all day long, according to a story about him in the Seattle Weekly. EPIC!
The Japandroids
After the Meat Puppets we adjourned back to our little base under the tree and played with Ava while the next band got set up on stage. She was all giggles and running about. We had a nice break to sit in the grass and wait for the next band, The Japandroids. The two piece band (singer/guitarist Brian King, and drummer David Prowse) were out of Vancouver, British Columbia, and were very, very good. There were some catchy songs coming out through the fog of distorted punk fuzz. They also had the kind of passionate performance that captures an audience and says just how much this band really believes in what they're doing.
Mavis and Ava
After seeing the Japandroids we went to the Starbucks Stage like we had on the first day of Bumbershoot and everybody kinda came and went getting food and drinks while Mavis and I played with Ava and listened to Jenny and Johnny, who are a sweet, happy pop band who manage to straddle the line between being upbeat and overly saccharine. They were the perfect band to listen to at that moment. Enjoying our food, and enjoying each other.
From there we went inside Memorial Stadium to see the second half of Drake's performance and decide if we wanted to stick around for Mary J Blige or go see one of the smaller stage headliners. Fortunately (or perhaps UNfortunately) Drake made our minds up for us. I try to stay on positive or at least on an open minded note on this blog, so I won't dwell on Drake's performance for long, other than to say that it was shit, and so we left.
Booker T
Once outside Memorial Stadium we made our way over to the Starbucks Stage and saw the legendary Booker T, best known for his 1962 instrumental hit, "Green Onions". How fortunate we were to see this wonderful artist. The show was like an episode of VH1's Storytellers, where the Booker T plays one enduring hit after another, pausing in between to calmly say, "I wrote this song with my friend William Bell," and lays into Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign" (a song later covered by Cream). Then "While me and the MGs were still with Stax Records we recorded this song with a young man named Otis Redding" and starts in on "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay." The whole show went like this, with plenty of licence taken on each song to showcase the very talented band he had backing him up. What a fantastic way to end a wonderful festival.


1) We All Sing Along  Bouncing Souls
2) Expiration  The Redwood Plan
3) Move It  Balkan Beat Box
4) Save It For Later The English Beat
5) Hash Pipe  Weezer
6) We Want It! We Want It!  B.O.A.T.
7) Skinny Little Bitch  Hole
8) Damn Thing  The Meat Puppets
9) Art Czars  Japandroids
10) Hand Me Down  Visqueen
11) Rio  Hey Marseilles
12) 1985  Crash Kings
13) Little Bit of Feel Good  Jamie Lidell
14) Pound It Out  Booker T
15) Next to Me  Civil Twilight
16) Autograffiti  Victor Shade
17) Savior  Rise Against
18) Rainy Day Women #12 & 35  Bob Dylan
19) Kill Me Carolyn  The Whigs
20) 40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet)  Bob Schneider

Bird and Ursa getting photobombed!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2009

Hell yeah! Bird, Shawn and myself rockin' out to Flogging Molly.
Our trip to Austin, Texas in 2009 for Austin City Limits Music Festival would be the first of what has become an annual tradition of sorts. Each fall, me and my friend Bird, and a revolving cast of characters take a trip to a music festival in different cities around the country. This particular trip began with 4 of my buddies from work: Keegan, Big John, Shawn, and of course Bird. Keegan also brought along his longtime friend Matt who was from Portland, OR.
As one point of clarification, ACL the music festival, should not be confused with Austin City Limits the television show, though they are obviously related. The program on PBS showcases a number of bands every year, while the festival is an annual event which hosts 130 bands over 3 days.
With 130 bands to choose from everybody's experience at an event like this is going to be very different. I found myself spending most of my time with Bird and Shawn, mostly because we all had very similar musical tastes.
Keegan's busted up toe
At the end of each day we would walk back to the house we had rented and sort out what had happened to everyone else. Specifically Keegan, who didn't seem to be able to leave the house without sustaining some sort of injury. On day 1, he had managed to trip and fall down on top of some girl who was sitting in the grass in between shows and  cracked a couple of his ribs (and probably put that poor girl in the hospital in the process). On the second day he was running at full speed across the street and stubbed his toe on a traffic island, breaking his toe and flying out into traffic and was nearly hit by a cab. In retrospect, I suppose we're lucky that Keegan survived at all.


Kings of Leon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Thievery Corporation, John Legend, Them Crooked Vultures, Coheed and Cambria, Andrew Bird, Phoenix, Bassnectar, Medeski Martin and Wood, Avett Brothers, Reckless Kelly, Raphael Saadiq, Los Amigos Invisibles, The Walkmen, Asleep At The Wheel, Poi Dog Pondering, Dr Dog, Blitzen Trapper, The Knux, Daniel Johnston, School of Seven Bells, Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3, Todd Sneider, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, K'Naan, The Greencards, The Wood Brothers, Sara Watkins, The Parlor Mob, The Low Anthem, Mishka, Leatherbag, Prescott Curleywolf, Jonell Mosser, Sara Siskind, Nelo, Dave Matthews Band, The Levon Helm Band, Ghostland Observatory, Mos Def, The Decemberists, Flogging Molly, Citizen Cope, STS9, Bon Iver, Mutemath, !!!, And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Devotchka, The Airborne Toxic Event, The Scabs, Grizzly Bear,
The Ravonettes, The Felice Brothers, Federico Aubele, Eek-A-Mouse, Henry Butler, John Vanderslice, Zac Brown Band, The Virgins, Alberta Cross, Sam Roberts Band, Bell X-1, Deer Tick, The Henry Clay People, Cotton Jones, Papa Mali, Johnathan Tyler & the Northern Lights, Mimicking Birds, Sarah Jaffe, The Soul Stirrers, Jeffery Steele, Damien Horn, Pearl Jam, Ben Harper & The Relentless 7, The Dead Weather, Toadies, The B-52s, Arctic Monkeys, Clutch, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Girl Talk, Passion Pit, Dirty Projectors, Heartless Bastards, White Lies, Dan Auerbach, Raul Malo, Brett Dennen, The Dodos, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, State Radio, Here We Go Magic, Neon Indian, David Garza, Rodriguez, The Rebirth Jazz Band, Alela Diane, Mike Posner and the Braintrust, Ben Sollee, LAX, Suckers, Matt Morris, Sons of Bill, Jypsi, Danny Brooks, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, The Durdens


A little bit of breakin' on stage with The Knux
As we walked down to Zilker Park for the first day of the festival, we weren't entirely sure what to expect. The weather on the previous day was oppressively hot, but the forecast had been calling for rain. As we entered the park, we caught the tail end of Nelo performing at the stage nearest the entrance, whom I really enjoyed. We spent the first couple of hours just getting a lay of the land (i.e. mapping out where the beer tents were located), and heard a little from Bright Lights Social Hour along the way. They had won a local battle of the bands to get a spot at ACL. We also heard from School of 7 Bells. . . meh, and from Asleep at the Wheel, who traditionally open the festival, and saw a little of Blitzen Trapper as well. With our exploring done we got some food and collected ourselves watching The Knux from the back of the crowd. The New Orleans rap duo (comprised of brothers Kentrell  "Krispy" Lindsey and Alvin "Joey" Lindsey) definitely knew how to work the crowd and their act showed a lot of promise.
The Parlor Mob
Now, refreshed and fed, we were ready for a band that I had expected to be pretty good, The Parlor Mob. I love it when you have high enough expectations only to have a band step up and completely overwhelm those expectations. The Parlor Mob was a fantastic act! Easily among the top 5 bands we saw at the entire festival. Mark Melicia's voice is an absolute force of nature. To this day, I don't know how this band has continued to remain under people's radar, but they have somehow managed. Expect to be hearing from this band in the future. By the way, check out the video, it was shot by a guy standing right in front of us at the show, and you can even hear Keegan whooting in the background!

Bird and I at Poi Dog Pondering
At this point we all split up for a bit; Bird and I went to watch Poi Dog Pondering, who was an intriguing mix of funk, rock, folk, and electronic music, and pulled together with the chops of a veteran touring act. It's admittedly an eclectic sound that's maybe not for everybody, but we enjoyed them.
Then we headed over to watch K'Naan who we'd been really looking forward to. If you haven't heard of the Somali-born rapper, put him on your "to download" list. His flow is smooth and his lyrics are both intelligent and inspired.
Bird and I met back up with the others, and we all found our spots for Them Crooked Vultures. This would be the coming out party for the supergroup comprised of Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) who had played a few small shows together in Chicago and in Australia, but this would be their first big concert together and everyone was excited to see what their sound would be like. And from the first funky baseline of "Gunman" you knew that something special was happening. Everyone knew going into it that the combination of Grohl and Jones would make a rockin rhythm section, but by the end of the show I was starting to wonder if Grohl was going to have the endurance to keep up the pace that he had set. That was a lineup and a show to be remembered!
The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs had a great stage
Surprisingly, Them Crooked Vultures were not the final show of the night. There were still two headliners to choose from and I went with John to get good seats for the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs rather than walk all the way across the park to get a mediocre view of Kings of Leon. It was a better choice I feel, as that I knew more or less what KOL was all about and being at a music festival is all about seeing new things. The Yeah, Yeah, Yeas were a bit of an unknown to me so I was a little more jazzed about their show.


After starting the day with Keegan's special skillet breakfast, we made it down to Zilker Park in time to see The Virgins, which turned out  to be a quality early day band. I guess that the highest praise that I can give a band from a music festival is that of the 30-odd bands we saw over the weekend, and the 130  bands that performed at the festival, I only purchased 7 albums at the music tent, and The Virgins was one of them.
Once The Virgins had gotten us all in the mood (sorry, I couldn't help myself) Shawn, Bird and myself made our way across the park to see Mutemath, with a stop off for some Tecates along the way. The skies were beginning to darken in Austin a little at this point and a misting rain had begun, but it didn't seem to be getting the crowd down at all. Mutemath was far far better than I had expected. Their drummer, Darren King, is absolutely insane. Seeing the band live really showed how much of King's immense talent has been lost in translation during their studio work.
From there, the drizzling rain let up a bit, and we trekked to a new stage to see one of my favorite bands, The Airborne Toxic Event. This band is a wonderful blend of smart, well crafted lyrics and undeniable musicianship. If you are not familiar with this band. . . get familiar. They do put on an entertaining live show, but their strength is their studio albums which are awesome.
Flogging Molly, undeterred by the downpour
Bar none, the best show, not only of the day, but of the entire festival was Flogging Molly! As the band took the stage to perform their opening song, Drunken Lullabies, the skies opened up an let loose a fantastic warm Texas rainstorm. The crowd erupted with dancing and singing and playing in the rain. I've seen many concerts before and since this, but I have never seen a crowd turn to bedlam quite like this one did! It was fantastic, just fucking fantastic!
Mos Def
It was ironic that we should follow up the best show of the weekend with one of the most disappointing. Mos Def showed up on stage 20 minutes late for his 1 hour set, and spent the first 3 songs of his set behind a drum kit, therefore remaining unseen by the audience for the majority of his show. It was really sad, too, because I like Mos Def, and was rather surprised to see him not put out a better effort. We left early to get some fresh beers and a better vantage to see Dave Matthews.
Dave Matthews
The decision to see Dave Matthews was interesting as well, because I kind of viewed Dave Matthews Band as a known commodity and would have rather seen Austin locals, Ghostland Observatory, much the same way I felt the previous day about not seeing Kings of Leon. Nevertheless I ended up getting beers from a vendor very near to the DMB stage and figured what the hell. I later reflected, "How many people can honestly claim that they SETTLED for seeing the Dave Matthews Band." Not a bad problem to have I suppose. As expected, DMB was a great show, and Dave Matthews himself had a much more charming stage presence than I expected.


The rain turned the park into a slimy mudhole.
Day three at Zilker Park was hot, and muggy, and muddy as hell after the previous day's deluge. It wasn't just any mud either, it was a slimy, silty mud that had my feet trying to slip out from under me all day long, to the point that when the day was finally over all of the stabilizer muscles in my lower calf were aching for a week afterward.
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
The good news is that the humid air was a nice offset to the first band we saw, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, because all good funk should be hot and sweaty. Any of you who like the brassy, throwback sound of James Brown style funk will love Black Joe Lewis. He played a bombastic set which included a new song, She's So Scandalous. The song would become the title track of his next album which wasn't released until early 2011.
Other than seeing Black Joe Lewis, my friend John and I spent a good part of the third day wandering around, getting short glimpses at a lot of new music. Danny Brooks. . . meh, David Garza. . . pretty good, White Lies. . . overhyped, Dirty Projectors. . . more meh. John and I finally met back up with everybody late in the afternoon to see Arctic Monkeys, who are one of those bands who are far better live than their studio work would lead you to believe. Having heard their stuff on the radio I could have taken or left this show but they had a solid live sound and I'm glad that I went.
Ben Harper
Next up was a personal favorite of mine, Ben Harper and the Relentless 7. I knew that I would enjoy that show, and wasn't disappointed. You wouldn't think that a guy who plays lap guitar could have much of a stage presence but then you be wrong, because Ben Harper has a great stage show and is an amazing musician to boot.
After Ben Harper we met back up with Bird at a stage near the main entrance where a talented singer/songwriter named Matt Morris was playing. Interestingly, Bird's cousin, John Powers, was playing the drums, so we stuck around and watched the show, which was actually quite good.
Michael Franti and Spearhead
From there we squished our way through the muck to a nearby stage to see Michael Franti and Spearhead. Michal has an energetic stage show with tons of audience participation. While some of his older music is very much political, his newer stuff is all about the love. Love ever, hurt never. . . share the love, Michael!
street dancing in Austin
While the previous two days of the festival had 2 main stages to choose from, the final day had only one headliner, Pearl Jam. We had chosen to get good seats for Michael Franti and had therefore sacrificed the chance to get up close for the biggest show of the festival. That's okay though, even from far away the sound was good and we met up with some locals and partied it up in the wayback section. There were several very cool special guests who showed up on stage with PJ including Ben Harper, and Perry Ferrell which was very cool. After the show was done, the party continued on the walk home, as The Gourds were playing on the patio at Emo's and a street dance had formed outside the club. Good times had by all.


1) Heads Will Roll  Yeah Yeah Yeahs
2) Electrify  Mutemath
3) Gunman  Them Crooked Vultures
4) Wavin' Flag  K'Naan
5) One Week of Danger  The Virgins
6) God's Hands  David Garza
7) Drunken Lullabies  Flogging Molly
8) Shimmer & Shine  Ben Harper
9) Use Somebody  Kings of Leon
10) Unthought Known  Pearl Jam
11) Thieves in the Night  Mos Def
12) Yell Fire  Michael Franti & Spearhead
13) Carnival of Crows  The Parlor Mob
14) Bang! Bang!  The Knux
15) Treat Me Like Your Mother  The Dead Weather
16) What Would You Say  Dave Matthews Band
17) Wishing Well  The Airborne Toxic Event
18) Sad Sad City  Ghostland Observatory
19) All Gone To Nothing  Nelo
20) She's So Scandalous  Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

Keep it weird, Austin!