Sunday, September 13, 2009

Monolith Festival: Day 1

The Antlers-WOXY

After what seemed like the longest ten minutes, The Antlers step onto stage comically requesting everyone to watch their language. Melodically commencing with “Bear” Peter softly delivers the opening lines. Swaying back and forth, leading up to Michael’s drums kicking in. Peter’s octave rises along with the band’s intensity. The crowd continues to grow in the tight and compact space where the WOXY stage is situated. Darby’s hair hangs over his eyes, while Peter is on his knees as they transition into the first song’s big ending. Silence is upon us, while Peter switches out his guitar and makes some “Thank Yous”. Drum count, hard smash, Peter hunched, everyone is bouncing to Michael’s tribal beat, distortion rings. Peter leads us into the chorus of “Sylvia”. Touring has already matured their sound since Pitchfork, bringing a darker edge to the music’s tonality. Tempo is high, drums bring a more distinctive quality to the sound. Peter screeching, Sylvia!!! in his last gasp of breath, obvious how emotionally important the subject matter is to him. He softly thanks us before the cymbals crash right into “Kettering”, his guitar play seems looser and more comfortable. The mics break up and the music stops on the crunchy sounding dispense of lyrics.

They restart from the beginning, Peter dances and bounces facing the drum set before he elevates his voice to the next octave. In between songs, Michael graciously mentions how the crowd was definitely worth the 30-hour cross-country drive from New York, Peter follows up with another affable thanks. “Two” begins off with the band leading in with hoots into those familiar first lines “In the middle of the night I was sleeping sitting up..” There really has been a re energization of the context in these songs, creating an overall happier sensation. Tempo rises and the crowd sways and dances. Tempo rises and the crowd sways and dances, before heads are banging and strong playing resumes. The hoots and moans return before Peter strums to a muted end. Silence falls upon us and Peter’s “Epilogue” begins. A more stylistic direction of the set brings this on the whole, celebratory context. The muted instrumentation spotlight Peter’s vocal symphony. Warming feeling rising with the volume. Darby commences the processional hymn, Peter stands in reflection. Michael punches his drums hard, Peter’s shreds return and it becomes a punchy dance to lead us out.

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down- Esurance Stage

The band nonchalantly walks onto stage, welcomed by fans and a steady breeze running through the mountains. Thao Nguyen shakes off her shivers and they begin to play. I was curious to see their stage presence not knowing too much about the band or their sound prior to this weekend. The was comprised primarily of tracks off their most recent album, We Brave Bee Stings and All and few teasers from the upcoming album, Know Better Learn Faster. Only taking up a small portion of the stage but created excitement in the crowd with enjoyable tunes and toe tapping beats. Thao thanks us before commencing a human beat box intro, while plucking at her strings into “Bag of Hammers”. Attracting seemingly a fairly young crowd dancing and shaking around with the band’s joyful folk tinged melodies. In between songs, she tells us of a fond memory of hers at Red Rocks. She had come to see Neil Young at an early age but unfortunately couldn’t remember much of the experience because of the abundance of “whatever” she had smoked. From the new songs they played during their set there was a nice hard beat and an up and down tempo exhibiting a variety of musical influences in its sound. It lead her right into the crowd favorite “Beat” Nguyen sings with a jazzercise standstill dance strumming away. The drummer, Willis Thompson begins to lead the crowd to clap into a clapping chorus. Her sweet raspy delivers each line as a nice harmony of instrumentation with a heavy steady pound on the drums accompanies her. She hoots along as she plays, leading the claps again; apparently a staple in their music. At some point all band members including Nguyen, pull out their drumsticks and start a drum jam, beating at the skins. A faint yelp from Thao is heard and she returns to her guitar. There is a hint of an oriental infusion in the melody that pleasantly compliments the style and aesthetic of their music. Overall, it was a nicely laid out set, playing well to the crowd and exhibiting a brilliant range of sound and emotion.

Frightened Rabbit- Esurance Stage

The crowd begins to file in, as there is a drizzle of rain in the sky. We stand waiting for Scott Hutchinson and crew to finally arrive on stage thanking everyone for their presence. Excited to see another performance since their stint in Chicago for the Pitchfork Festival. “Modern Leper” begins the set with high tempo and comfort ability as Scott easily unravels his emotional aftertaste from a past heartbreak. As the play gets louder, the crowd continues to get larger. “The altitude already has me woozy and I’ve only had one beer”, jokes Hutchinson in that same humorous stage commentary I recall from their previous performance I witnessed. The lyrics he fervently belched reverberates up along the rocks as his heart is laid out on display once again. “Is the rain finished…Fuck It!!! exclaims Scott lightly strums us into “Good Arm vs. Bad Arm”. He screeches along while dancing back and forth with the mic stand, and the rest of the band finds a melody harmonizing with backup Ohs! At one point, he leans back towards the sky while strumming and bring the tempo back up screaming the chorus,” at arms length”. A decent turnout braves the chilly rain as the clouds darken the sky. Tempo raises and the drizzle becomes a steady rainfall. With a plan to split up the hour between Frightened Rabbit and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, the final song in the set for me began with a misqueue, Scott quick apologizes as his set list just blew away and correcting the error, “Old, Old Fashion”. As I start my hike up the mountain of stairs to the SOCO stage, I see Scott in the distance raising his hands requesting the crowd to participate in the chorus. As I made my way towards the Pains stage, the crowd was sizeable and the energy from stage was as suspected super high tempo, playfully jamming to the rain. Unfortunately, the rain wasn’t in my cards at the moment and listened to their joyful wonderfulness from the distance of the media tent. I was definitely grateful I had the pleasure of enjoying their full set in Chicago earlier in the week.
Rain blew over the venue around the same time as my meeting with various bands to interview and photograph. It was fortuitous in a sense but at the same time, being hyped to finally see Cymbals Eat Guitars I had to unfortunately miss out as capacity was reached at the WOXY stage and the fire marshal did not allow any more entries. Shooting up to the SOCO stage hopefully to ignore the rain and check out The Walkmen who were in midst of the set. Although outside, the crowd was overwhelmingly large and I once again resorted to returning to the media tent, I enjoyed their set from a distance while having the opportunity to meet some really great bands in the process. During that time night fell upon us along with a steady rain.
At some point, I ventured back out into the evening’s sets as the sky continued to fall and a brisk wind blew through the Colorado mountains. Even from a distance the performance on the Esurance stage appeared different and as though a raving party had taken over it. In fact, the mish mash dj, Girl Talk had commenced his set and had invited a stage full of dancers who were getting down to his nasty mixes. The rain did nothing but fuel the energy emitting from and around the stage and in the crowd. Girl Talk’s Greg Gillis stood hunched over two laptops bouncing back and forth with a commanding presence. Admittedly at times I enjoy revisiting his albums on my ipod but in all honesty who wouldn’t mind tiny nostalgic clips of music from their youth. With that said, I’m not sure how seriously I can write about a non-performance act. In appearance I could not tell how much mixing was actually going on, more as steering a booze cruise on stage. I am not sure how long a musical phase like this can last, I guess I could always Wiki Moby and see how long his career lasted before the music scene moved on. If anything Gillis had a great authority on stage at times jumping atop the table dancing and directing the audience as confetti and toilet paper flew into the wet air. He played a nonstop set with countless snippets from his three-album catalog and the endless list of music hits. Rumor has it, he is moving the direction of his music into a more linear fashion that could drastically alter many of the popular facets of his music. If that’s the case I would be intrigued especially if the army of frats lost interest and returned to whatever trend band is looking for a sell out fan base.
This evening’s headliners were the ever so popular trio from Brooklyn,NY, the YeahYeahYeahs, who have definitely made their festival rounds this year. It seems as though the band have not stopped since the release of It’s Blitz, the band’s third album; which found them experimenting with their sound while retaining much of that edge that made them popular in the onset of their career. I was torn at this point, the rain had let up a little, as the stage was being prepared for the evening’s closer. Tiredness had set in and the knowledge of the amount of work still needed to accomplish when returning to the hotel was a looming factor when I made the final decision not to stay for the entire YYYs set. I did however make my way to the pit to enjoy the onset of the evening’s performance from as close as possible and hopefully some shots that would work out.
In the dark mist the band arrives on stage, the familiar opening keys of “Runaway” begin the set as Karen O takes her position readied for what seems like a Hiawatha modern Geisha dance with a Michael Jackson like pink glove donned. There was a fourth member along for the ride, who after further investigation turned out to be the beautiful, Jessica Dobson from the LA band, Deep Sea Diver, who played bass and keyboards and is touring with the band during their popularized summer tour. The few songs played are a blur as I was more focused to capture the perfect image of Karen in all of her glory as her true performance side was naturally emitted as she serenaded us through a nice mix from their album catalog thus far. Just as I remember from their earlier performance in May in the onset of their tour there was still a commanding force in the cohesiveness of their musical skill as fans were beyond excited to just catch a glimpse and sing along with the former art school rockers. I turned one last time to take in the excitement and originality coming off stage before my final hike up those steep stairs to exit and prepare for the following day.

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