Monday, September 14, 2009

Monolith Festival: Day 2

I arrived at Red Rocks early in the day’s lineup, the skies were clear and there was a light breeze that blew over the venue. I was excited to see the young lads from Glasgow, We Were Promised Jetpacks, who commence their nation wide tour with Scottish pals, Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad. Arriving promptly just prior to their set I was not expecting for the WOXY stage to be once again to capacity so early in the day. I had some time on my hands since the majority of the bands on my list to see played later in the afternoon along with my interviews who weren’t anytime near. I had the pleasure of floating around the venue to reflect upon the evening prior’s experience and enjoying the various acts in the background. There was a sort of peacefulness and sense of serenity that falls over you with these natural backdrops and the dissonance of clashing drums and shredding guitars. My curiosity was peaked for certain bands, but again knowing I had the remainder of the Scots and Bad Veins to interview, I wasn’t sure how many acts I was going to get to thoroughly review today. After my conversation with James Graham from The Twilight Sad and Jetpacks overwhelming excited thumbs up, I could not resist getting an early spot at the WOXY stage for The Twilight Sad’s set.

The Twilight Sad- WOXY

Lights dim, the drums pound hard, James Graham begins to dance with the mic as we are slowly led into the music. Looking upward, James begins to sing, slowly unraveling us into their gloomy dim world. As their chorus dictates for people dancing, James continues his Scottish jig while cymbals crash and distortion in the guitar continuously rings. The drum counts down and the tempo rises as the strobe begins to flash throughout the room, James has fallen to his knees belting out lines. Andy Macfarlane slows down his guitar play and the drums ring back in. At this point, rumors have proved true of the band’s deafening quality as they ring in harmony, following James who is heaving himself about the stage wailing his supernatural anxieties into the air. The bassist, Craig Orzel stands stonewall facing the crowd effortlessly thumbing through his strings. James garbles out in his barely understandable dialect an introduction into the next song and thanks everyone for showing up. The drums lead us into his lyrics are softly delivered in a crooning manner, the drums become louder and James is now screaming at the top of his lungs, his eyes rolled back in a possessed manner. They are an orchestrated symphony of sadness. At this point, an issue arises with the bass amp. James attempts to subdue the crowd, “The bass amp is fucked, I wish I was funny right now, I would tell you something, but I’m not”. The crowd chatters as the band awkwardly stand about stage waiting for the issue to be resolved, Sean from Jetpacks notes to me the amp is shared between the three bands and some shopping will have to be done prior to their next show in Salt Lake.
Crisis is diverted and James garbles out the title, “” joking he never really became one. The music returns and James continues to move up and down and all over the stage in a hauntingly crazed manner chanting the chorus in the air with the crashing drums around him. With an expression of agony, James is leaning against his mic stand, dancing and belting lyrics inaudibly upward. The distortion and dissonance rings throughout as James sips from his pint. James’ melodious crooning sound returns his eyes leave the impression his mindset may be elsewhere allowing his words to transport himself through his subconscious. He indistinguishably introduces the next song for the Arse holes from Jetpacks (note: I had to have a Jetpacker translate for me) James resumes his stage dance as the tempo and volume rise beyond the standard decibel of loud. Staring outwards, as the lights flash about in a flailing manner, it feels as though we are amidst a melodic nightmare. Inaudible yells and a slow lead in, softly laid out with a passionate exhale. James resembles the horror flick character, Carrie as though just doused in cow’s blood, staring out into the darkness as the chords ring out the ending of the set.
After a scheduling switch up when MSTRKFT dropped out of the festival, Phoenix moved down to the Esurance stage leaving Passion Pit to take over their slot. Unfortunately with this alteration, I wasn’t able to catch the PP set in its entirety. I had been curious all summer as the buzz surrounding their live performance was that it didn’t match the quality of the sound created on the album. When I finally did make it to the SOCO stage, the crowd was already elbow-to-elbow of drunken festival goers raucously dancing and singing along with the band. I have to say from everything I saw and heard there was no disappointment from my part. Whether others have had unrealistic expectations for a live show or the constant touring has matured the group creatively, I can’t say there was any real low point in their set list. The performance was high energy and excited the crowd, finding authentic ways to recreate what was originally synthesized on the album. I held out as long as I could before retiring to the interview my final band of the evening.

The final band I was truly excited over this weekend’s festival, was Phoenix the indie pop band from France. This summer they have been touring the States supporting their most recent release, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. After a longer period to tune and set up on the Esurance stage, I’m assuming because of the lineup switch and the hassle of moving everything . Phoenix appeared on stage in the midst of a dark cloud of smoke. They begin the set with the new album lead in, “Lisztomania” crouching through minimal light Thomas Mars delivered the lyrics with high tempo and energy. They steadily grooved through their set exciting the large crowd who showed up to dance along to their French Pop sound. Although Laurent Brancowitz, guitarist was having issue with his amp outputting a nasty feedback the band continued on flawlessly. Mars expressed gratitude before proceeding on. With the lights flashing in and out a happy balance is created in sound and atmosphere. I begin my final walk up the stairs having to make my way back to the hotel, prep time for a 5a wake up. In the distance, as I depart I hear Mars playing into the crowd as the drums are pounded and the loud guitars are ringing through the Colorado misty air. Until next year, I depart with a number of great memories and amazing images to reminisce.

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