July 29th, 2008
Continuing on with our “coverage” of the weekend, here are my experiences (straight from my eyes and head—spooky) from Day 2 at Ye Ol’ Block Party. The day was highlighted by an even bigger crowd full of people doing their darnedest to look ugly, several more first time encounters with a band (6 out of 9!), the ridiculous amount of trash produced by all the free garbage being given away (Jones Soda, Monster, Kettle Corn), and a delicious Polish sausage to accompany my High Life. To the music…
Fresh off several months of massive globe trotting, the local boys from the Cave Singers played to a hot and humble crowd, who was eagerly awaiting their ghostly folk tunes. Fudesco busted out an electric-acoustic and played first fiddle on a new song more akin to set-closer “Dancing On Our Graves” than the more protracted and chilling ”New Monuments”. If the second album has the up tick in tempo and improved craftsmanship the band employed on Saturday, look for it to be highly anticipated. Kinda like Pete Quirk after he ate that pot brownie and had to escape his ceiling fan the night before. True story.
Huh. Coulda swore the Physics were supposed to play the Vera Stage at 4:15. Turned out to be these dudes, bent on gettin’ us to make some nooooooooooize.
Kimya Dawson (sweet photo, huh?)
Ah, Kimya Dawson, the feel-good set of the weekend. My primary exposure to her up to this point was from the release of Juno, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Not only did her quirky, innocent-auctioneer delivery complement her eccentric and candid story-telling, but she also invited her little bro “Junglefoot” up on stage to perform for the first (or near-first) time one of his own equally individual songs. My heart is warm with affection and blood. I am an animal, after all.
The Builders & The Butchers (another keeper pic)
I think this band won LB’s fabled “Best Band Seen That I Previously Knew Little About”. Oh sure, I’d heard about their wave-making down in Portland over the past few months, but hadn’t really had the chance to delve into their music. As we decided to head into their set at Neumos on a whim, we were met with a rollicking set of gritty, unwavering, Mountain Goats-meets-Zeppelin-via-Beirut folk-rock. This band has a lead mandolin player, for chrissakes. And a Frank Zappa lookalike on acoustic bass to boot! Egad! The perfect excuse for a road trip down to P-town.
Fleet Foxes [not pictured]
I suppose the sound directly in front of the main stage was adequate, but hanging in a beer garden packed to the gills with drunkards, the gentle harmonies and plaintive guitars of the city’s current favorite sons were simply lost somewhere along the way. When people shut up, you could actually hear Robin Pecknold’s voice penetrate the cool summer air and Sky Skjelset’s strings shimmer with the cloud-covered sun. But since I’ve made a habit of seeing this band over the past few years, we went to abuse our eardrums listening to…
Another Portland band I’d heard little about prior to this day, Black Elk fuckin’ rocked the Vera Stage like it was CBGB’s circa 1978. So much so, that the band’s drummer had to replace his broken kick pedal for the final song with that of following act Akimbo. Vocalist Tom Glose shimmied and contorted his body to the blistering bass lines of Don Capuano as if he hadn’t been doing the exact same thing for the past 15 years (I suspect he has). Think These Arms Are Snakes without the fancy keyboards and goth-poetry lyricism, and you might get yourself closer to the dark, rip-roarin’ anthems of Black Elk.
Chromeo is all well and good. They’re two fun-loving guys who really know how to use a vocoder, a few different keyboards, and a call/response with the crowd (not sure about the guitar, however). I actually like Chromeo’s escapist dance music—and boogied just to prove it—but for some reason, I kept feeling like I should’ve been inside a thumping, sweaty Chop Suey to get their full effect. Crappy Sound 2, LB 0.
I’ll be honest (since I mostly lie), Craig Finn’s voice really kind of bugs me. But I went into this performance with an open mind due to The Hold Steady’s obvious musical talent and wealth of energy—mostly channeled through Finn’s barefaced geekiness and hometown lyricism. The man would absolutely not stop moving back and forth from one end of the stage to the next, pleading with the people. But it all fell into the right place as the crowd couldn’t get enough of their bloozy, innocuous punk rock.
In all truth, I’m not sure there’s another band I would’ve rather ended my Block Party experience with than Feral Children. You might have noticed that I’ve written about this chaotic drum-fest AD NAUSEAM, but it’s only because they keep getting freakin’ better. Every time I see this band, their songs and performances are fleshier, more frenzied, more obsessive, and altogether affecting. This is not feel-good rock for the masses, it’s menacing and malicious noise-rock that’ll blow yer socks right the fuck off.