Friday, August 28, 2015

Float Fest, August 28, 2015, at the Cool River Ranch

A summer trip to see Brian, who lives near Dallas, that could have possibly been going to Austin turned into my official bachelor party there once Seth got involved.  Staying in the city to party was great (as long as we stayed away from 6th Street and the kids) but it could be great to go outside of Austin too. Of course we had to check out a music festival, whether or not the weekend was contingent on one happening in the first place (I was just happy to be there). Austin might have a music festival every weekend but we got a good one with Float Fest. Most festivals are a good enough time, with music and drinking and carrying on, but this one was even fun, with the added component of river-rafting. Brian's truck broke down the morning of, before we even got out of Austin, so that left Seth and me with a 46-minute Uber ride, including back-roads near the site, which all turned into its own adventure. No matter that we would eventually have to figure out a way back that night, assuming all the Ubers would be taken up for the long drive back to town. But even just Seth and me is a party (see: Lincoln, late 2004) and we decided to do up the day, as if there was any other choice. After a ride on a rickety, very-used school bus to the top of the river, we took a few hours to lazily raft down, fighting a few floating snakes and spiders but with plenty of Miller Lite. To answer the most popular question about the show: No, there were not bands playing on the river -- they were all on site at the end. So it was a music festival with optional river-rafting and however much you want to mix those -- certainly something you couldn't get in a lot of other places, especially in southern California. The river trip was fun enough to do again, as it was still the height of the day, but we made our way around the concert site, an inviting place since, being Friday at a modest festival, it was nearly empty. Not much exaggeration: it was the most sparsely-attended music festival I've ever been to, by a long shot. It could have just been a middling festival that hadn't established itself on a greater scale, competing with all of Austin's other events, so far outside of the city, and on a Friday. So we got our fill of local brews and slip n' slide races and wandering the easy, wide-open space. There weren't a lot of acts to be there for -- it was all about that night's headliners -- so we decided when we got there to pick one and go crazy like we were big fans. We went with Robert Ellis, who played about halfway up the bill, and whose performance we were able to walk up close enough to to touch the stage, and even to heckle the band and have the keyboardist play along. But the guy was actually pretty great, enough for us to be embarrassed that we had to use him as a distraction for the day. It wasn't long after that that Esquire magazine ran a feature on him. After that was probably more Fireball shots until the night, when we ate and listened to Bright Light Social Hour at a distance (not enough to make an impression), and maybe Dr. Dog could have been something if our un-sober attention had drifted that way, but mostly it was the wait for Local Natives. To be honest, I'm not necessarily a big fan. Carla loved them from before we got together, and we'd seen them, and Seth knew them well enough to want to be in for their show. They might not have the album I want to put on but live, on that day, with that much alcohol and the bro-magic of a bachelor party weekend, they were fantastic. They played enough material that we knew (they were touring their second album, which neither of us had) and even a covers (though a predictable one). Being among a crowd sparse enough to not get cajoled while enjoying the main stage act was a rare pleasure. The relatively-few people there were also into it, likely real fans, and the vibe was contagious. Maybe it could have been any band and still have been a good time, but the fact that it was actually a good band that were fun live put it over the top to be one of the best moments among many great moments that weekend. And great to see L.A.-locals (if not natives) do so well in another city. Once the set was over we had to figure out a way back to the city, without an Uber (which, even if there was one, would be 10x the usual rate). Obviously we did, and that was an adventure too, as you could expect with the Seth & Mar Show.

Local Natives’ set-list:
“World News“
“Wide Eyes“
“Black Balloons“
“Sea of Years“
“Warning Sign“ (Talking Heads cover)
“Fountain of Youth“
“You & I“
“Whatever We Want“
“Camera Talk“
“Heavy Feet“
“Who Knows, Who Cares“
“Sun Hands“

Saturday, August 22, 2015

FYF Fest, August 22 & 23, 2015 at L.A. Sports Arena and Coliseum, Exposition Park

It wasn't much of a question if we'd go to FYF Fest or not, since it was the big summer, concert festival event of the year with our friends, but it helped that they had a strong line-up, even with a last-minute change in headliners (which worked in our favor). Since it was at the L.A. Sports Arena for a second year, they had worked out the kinks from the previous year, namely the bottlenecks to get from stage to stage and for the crowd to get in (even though it still took us a while, compared to the year before, when we accidentally jumped ahead in line). There was some hope on the horizon that this new home could work, to accommodate all the stages and people, and less dust than the historic park even if we had to drive. We got in early enough for Badbadnotgood, either to see an act when we had no other conflicts with or just to go inside the Sports Arena and get out of the height of the heat of the day. Their brand of new jazz couldn't get many people moving, and it was maybe a little much for any to have to consider so much about their music in the middle of the day. But they were getting around, so just outside of my orbit; I had high hopes for Dinosaur Jr., after having my face blown off by them two years before at the same fest, and now being prepared for their onslaught. Unfortunately, it was just another performance by them, flat by the standard I held them at from last time. They were solid enough, but they just rolled through their set, the only real electricity coming from how good the songs were, and that didn't require any particular effort, and it seemed like they didn't feel a need to bring it. Maybe they can turn it on and off, maybe any act can, but it was a disappointment after seeing them really bring it, even if it was only once; we spent most of the day wandering, until the evening, for Savages, another anticipation of ours. Carla was more familiar with them, but I rarely have a problem with tense, snarling, gothy girl groups. They were a little too cool to really be savages, but it still worked for them. They even noted that they were playing some songs they were still recording, which seems to be a rarity in an age of anything being put into the world as soon as it's recorded, usually unofficially. Though that next album didn't seem to go far so this might have been their height, but what it was was a highlight of the fest; Bloc Party are pretty well past their peak but they still have enough pull to tour well on new material and get an evening slot at festivals. I was still into them, getting new albums even if I couldn't tell them apart from past ones. Their base sound, of precise guitars and snappy drums and fresh production, always gets me. I didn't even know what album they were touring on but I probably got it. Apparently I was only keeping up with the albums because I didn't know they had a new drummer, a chick, who held up her end ably, and they sounded as good as they ever have, maybe even better when their sound gets out into the open night air. We only saw the end, which was enough, as it was singles I didn't recognize, but it was good enough to check in with them; Frank Ocean headlining didn't cause much excitement in our quarters. I, for one, was only tangentially familiar with him (and that was mostly from the Lonny Breaux album I got just to know him for the show, then I found out I got the wrong one). It probably wasn't bad but as art for the younger crowd, I need something with more bite, and this one didn't do much for me. The rest of the line-up was good enough that it didn't necessarily need him, but that would still leave a vacancy of a good top tier. We could have survived with or without him, as the worst that could happen would be we'd go home early, assuming there were no other acts, so when they replaced him with Kanye West, that was only extra, and a lot extra. With or without the music, he's one of the biggest names in this age. Heck, my parents know who Kanye is (though for the wrong reasons). He might be one of the few things that Carla & I disagree on, but he's as much a musical genius as we've had in the modern age, as far as I'm concerned. If rock music isn't going to bother being exciting anymore and new rock stars are lame, at least let him have a go at it. He's probably even too big for a local music festival that used to be a punk thing, but it certainly made a stake at standing alongside any of the others, especially since they were able to get him at nearly the last minute. Even if his name at the time was more from being a celebrity than a musician, it was misguided to forget that he had made his name on his impressive musical ability. For whatever reason he did it -- maybe charging his emergency rate, or to prove that he really could hang his name on his music like he says he can and didn't have to rely on the rest of the noise -- he brought it. It takes some courage to make yourself vulnerable as the only one on the stage, with only his DJ somewhere off-stage, but it wouldn't be the first time he's mixed up bravery and hubris. But when he can put on a performance like he did, he can do as he likes. You may not like Kanye's music (which is crazy since he's usually the top of the game in his class, so that's your problem) but what he has he cranked to the max that night.  It was just him and the music, and he knew it, and everyone else did, and he played as hard as anyone could. He never brought up the rest of the crap that seems to surround him, which he invited of course but that's just part of that world -- he was there for and with the music, and even if everyone else was aware of the rest of the static, he didn't put it out there and no one else seemed interested anyway (even if they were there hoping for a train-wreck. Did they expect him to bring a reality show on-stage? Though if he made a few fans from the curiosity of his circus, then maybe it was worth it). Though even a headliner gets only so much time in their set, and he was aware of it. By the time we got over there he was already winding it down, even though he had plenty of time to do several songs. But he had so many hits left to play, he told us, and he made a point of burning through as many as he could, down to the last seconds he had, even if some were left as snippets or he abandoned a few part-way through when he wanted to jump to the next one. It was a harried, dizzying spell, putting down more effort than most would bother, and more spontaneously than most rock shows. With as much money and fame as he had, he didn't have much to prove, and he could have left FYF out to dry, but he seemed dedicated to show that he could be as great as he said he was. Maybe he didn't pull out the stops all the time, but that night he pulled it off. Frank who?; the Jesus + Mary Chain could have been the headliners, at least for this crowd, and seeing them shunted to a side-stage was disappointing but probably appropriate. They were a high-point for the line-up, but by the end of the day, we were about done. We saw enough of their set to know it was their usual thing, which is generally electrifying, but with so many other bands co-opting their sound for so long, we were more than familiar with them one way or another, so to our exhausted spirits we could sacrifice them to leave. Missed: Metz (after everyone made a big deal about them a few years ago, but they were too early), Cold Cave (I was good, having seen them before), Flying Lotus (if for only the Thom Yorke connection).

Sunday was, of course, more of the same.  Carla and her feet had had enough of the previous day so I went it alone, riding in with Rachel and Jen but wandering on my own for much of it and meeting up with the others as it happened.  
The first half of the day was a bit sparse, with my first act being Spiritualized in the indoor sports arena.  They're a good band, maybe even better than flogging Ladies & Gentlemen... far more than it had distance, but they're unextraordinary on stage as a full band. Credit that guy with taking a chance when it was just himself and a string quartet, no matter how nap-worthy, but that wasn't the case here. But a decent way to ease into the day; I probably remember more of what I was drinking (beer) in the garden more than Toro Y Moi. It was probably some nice vibes for the afternoon but at the time forgettable enough that I shot portraits of everyone in our group that was there, who showed up in number enough for this but I'm not sure why; dark came quickly, and with it choices for what to see, so by default there was the main stage and Flume, who I guessed was a DJ, but he actually got it going and earned the spot. I'm not opposed to DJs and whatever they're doing, it's just not what I'm there for. But I can always appreciate good tunes, no matter where they come from or how they're made. Flume sounded good, enough to hang around for, even if there was even less to look at than the average band (since his visuals, obligatory anymore for any act who performs just standing there, were just blandly standard psychedelic graphics). Then he brought up Lorde, which was notable just that she was there, even if their collaboration went right through me. She looked like any other concert-goer so maybe we saw her earlier in the day and maybe that was her intention, but the moment was enough to make that dude's show stand out for the day; the other big anticipation of the day was a gamble, a band I had barely ever heard of and only knew by reputation: Death Grips.  In a short amount of time they had accumulated their own notoriety, or even infamy, which wasn't so unappealing for a band peddling horror-rap. That was enough for me (even if it that point they mostly stood out because I thought they'd already broken up, so maybe it was convincing that it was a big deal that they were back together, if not that they had even existed in the first place). Through the haze of blinding, maroon lights, they crushed the stage, screaming vocals that could be heavy-metal or grindcore or punk if it was human at all. That dude would have been scary enough but the performance sealed the deal. If a band could ever be terrifying, and not campy like so many have fallen to (sorry, Marilyn Manson), this was it. It was something to build on, if they even cared, and if they could stay together long enough to keep it going. At least we got that night, and they were as good as any cautious anticipation could expect; of course the main reason to be there, as for anyone, was Morrissey. It seemed a shock when he was announced on the line-up but then it made perfect sense, and seemed strange that he hadn't done it before.  He hasn't been big enough to headline Coachella, though he had been on the main stage multiple times, including the first year. And with the Latino population of southern California that loves him so much, he'll fill any local venue that will have him, and he might as well be the biggest name at a local festival. As good as it is to see him on a festival line-up, as well as inevitable, I'd probably seen him enough by that point and I wasn't waiting around for him to trudge out an obscure Smiths chestnut to make my life complete. That said, he had been playing "Speedway" on this tour, and while that was not necessarily quite enough to go out of my way for one of his shows, if I was already there I'd see him, if I wasn't planning to already (and I probably would be anyway).  Obviously there was a Morrissey crowd -- gothy, Latino, Brit-mod, over-aged (though not usually more than one of those) -- and there was reverence, even if there was some nervousness about if he was actually going to play the show. It's doubtful that anyone even noticed that the food vendors near the stage weren't selling anything with meat (and maybe the rest of the place but we didn't notice for beyond that area). On my own, I got in position. It was the usual Morrissey performance -- at this point he's not going to change what works, save for what songs he's picked and what shirt is going to be sacrificed to the crowd. The band, as ever, were faceless but diligent and it sounded as good as it ever does. "Speedway" was early, as I knew it would be, and it bought the biggest surprise: he surrendered the song to one of his band members, who sang/spoke it in Spanish. It was an interesting change-up but that's one that I just wanted performed, not monkeyed with. Luckily, I've seen it before, played straight. But it was a good attempt to bring out one of his best tracks (and one I hold even over the Smiths catalog) even if it went right over the crowd. Seeing it also meant that I was free to leave, so I wandered off. I was good with missing out on any Smiths high-points later on, since I'd also likely seen those as well, so I'd had my fill of Moz and I was good for the day; there wasn't much to see after that, after the other stages were shut down either to not compete with the headliners or because they were done for the day, so I started heading to the exit. But made a stop at Thee Oh Sees to cap it off. I had gotten into them, for at least one album (Mutilator Defeated At Last), after Rollins had played a track of theirs on his show which was sufficient to blow me away.  I didn't have enough appreciation for them to stick around long, and they seem to play the festival and local venues pretty regularly so I'd see them again. So a sampling, maybe even caught "Web", then I was done with the festival for another year. Missed: Belle & Sebastian (who I'd seen enough of, even though I'd keep getting their albums. A festival is probably not the best place to see them anyway (even though that's the only places I've ever seen them)).

Morrissey's set-list:
"The Queen Is Dead"(The Smiths)
"Alma Matters"
"Kiss Me a Lot"
"Staircase at the University"
"World Peace Is None of Your Business"
"I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris"
"Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before
"(The Smiths)

"First of the Gang to Die"
"Everyday Is Like Sunday"
"The Bullfighter Dies"
"Meat Is Murder
"(The Smiths)

"Now My Heart Is Full"
"I Will See You in Far-Off Places"
"What She Said
"(The Smiths)

Kanye West's set-list:
"No Church in the Wild"(JAY Z & Kanye West cover)
"Black Skinhead"
"Niggas in Paris
"(JAY Z & Kanye West cover)

"All Day"
"Can't Tell Me Nothing"
"I Don't Like
"(Chief Keef cover)

"(Big Sean cover)

"New Slaves"
"Blood on the Leaves"
"Upper Echelon
"(Travi$ Scott cover; with Travis Scott)

"Antidote"(Travi$ Scott cover; with Travis Scott)
"(with Rihanna singing from the pit)

"10 years of hits in 10 minutes": "Jesus Walks"/"All Falls Down"/"Gold Digger"/"All of the Lights"(with Rihanna)/"Touch the Sky"/"Good Life"/"Only One"

Bloc Partys' set-list:
"The Good News"
"Hunting for Witches"
"Positive Tension"
"Real Talk"
"Waiting for the 7.18"
"Song for Clay
" (Disappear Here) (Kele's "Tenderoni" Intro)

"One More Chance"
"This Modern Love

Dinosaur Jr.s' set-list:
"The Lung"
"Start Choppin'"
"Watch the Corners"
"Feel the Pain"
"Just Like Heaven
"(The Cure cover)

"Little Fury Things"

Death Grips' set-list:
"Come Up and Get Me"
"Inanimate Sensation"
"Get Got"
"I've Seen Footage"
"You Might Think He Loves You for Your Money but I Know What He Really Loves You for 
It's Your Brand New Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat"

"Hustle Bones"
"Lock Your Doors"
"The Fever (Aye Aye)"
"No Love"
"Big House"
"Anne Bonny

Savages' set-list:

"City's Full"
"Shut Up"
"I Need Something New"
"Sad Person"
"I Am Here"
"She Will"
"Hit Me"


Flume's set-list:

"Tennis Court"(Lorde)
"Turning"(Collarbones; Flume Remix)
"Some Minds"
"You & Me
"(Disclosure; Flume Remix)

"Warm Thoughts"