Credit: Katie Hasty
Bonnaroo is technically a four-day event, though the Thursday lineup differs from the proceeding dates on slate: Music really only gets started around 3 p.m. as opposed to noon, and goes until only about 1:30, whereas Friday/Saturday has a schedule through 4 a.m.
Additionally, it’s not a real top-heavy day, with its headliner marquee boasting Wale
, The xx
and Lotus. Not exactly the same draw caliber as Dave Matthews Band or Jay-Z, but Thursday’s still a school day.
That being said, The xx seemed to draw the biggest numbers, as somber as the band can be. In all black, the British trio murmured through their mopey 2009 set “xx,” just enough material to fit the hour-and-fifteen slot.
“Shelter” got everyone hot and bothered, and “Islands” was a pleaser early on, but the huddled, humming masses had left in large numbers by song number seven ("VCR").
[Much more after the jump...]
This is the thing: xx’s melodies and the “feel” of their simple, vowel-dependent lyrics are memorable enough that it matters less the band members themselves aren’t that great of singers, or scorching players. Bassist Oliver Sim lurches like a dinosaur over and with his bass, his right hand a claw from his elbow being perched on the guitar’s body. Romy Madley Croft won’t so much as scuttle away from the microphone, but her demure disposition at her tough task is so car-wrecky, yet triumphant. Jamie Smith looks, like, 14.
They’ve got character. But while critics and new fans continue to caw over their self-titled set, they need more. They’ve still got plenty of room (and time) to develop as an engaging live act, trying to turn a bedroom record into a fest-size show.
Meanwhile, tracks like Usher’s “OMG” blurted out from speakers where Wale was supposed to perform; at a festival that has generally run no more than five minutes late so far, the rapper took a 25 minute mulligan – something about sleeping on the bus. He “appreciated” the threat of ladies wanting to take their tops off, and reiterated his devotion to Nashville by a short anecdote about taking pot on the plane (or something).
He did tracks like “D.A.N.C.E.W.A.L.E.,” “Mirror Mirror” and “Mama Told Me” and had a full, fleshy live band. Several audience members got to jump up on stage – some invited (like, 50 “Pretty Girls”), others not. Note to potential stage-mates: white hippie dance only looks funny to some Wale.
Wale was interested in Wale, and had some issues getting call and response to work. Still, dead-on verses, and made the dull points on “Attention Deficit” perk up quite a bit. Decent for a buggy night.
Other moments of note:
Local Natives was, I think, the only set I stayed all the way through. I’ve extolled before; since, I’ve become a wreck over how beautiful those indie Ken dolls are in concert. Besides that, they leave me wondering: How do they do it? How did they arrive at those three-stacked, irregular, harmonies, and the clicks of sticks on drums’ edges, and at what point in rehearsals did they all decide they should just switch around instruments. Album “Gorilla Manor” still has so much to stick with you. Plus, they do a mean Talking Heads cover, “Warning Sign.”
I’d never heard of The Entrance Band
before, but the shiny pants did me in. With all the windmilling and string-groove shredding of ‘70s rockers, they roared proggily and thoroughly. Be sure to check that insane, thomping bassist.
Recent “Eclipse” soundtrack inductees Fanfarlo seemed to fit the day’s Talking Heads theme in a way; there’s that catch in the frontman’s throat and a sort of playfully, bouncy quality to this well-practiced and sweet-sounding group.
Just shortly before I came to Nashville, I got an email from a friend who sent the Baroness
song “The Sweetest Curse,” with the subject line “Check It.” It should have read “F*ckin’ Yeah,” ‘cuz that’s pretty much all anybody had to say during their metal, righteous and good go. I thought to myself, “I’m glad I’m not seeing Diane Birch right now” (sorry, Diane Birch), as she played only a hundred yards or so away. They’re super earnest about being both heavy and melodic, and believable, physical players. Frontdude looks like bizarro Bonnie Prince Billy.
I did catch the tail end of Here We Go Magic,
who I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in Brooklyn several times. They’re as hard-working a group as you’ll see here, with a rock-chamber-pop result. I interviewed Luke Temple before he had started this particular band, he said the songs were there, and people will like them, they just need to be played right. Well, they got it right. “Collector” is especially killer.
I can see why people like NeedtoBreathe. They have a built in fanbase, considering they’re from the South and the South loves to support its own artist (and now, I end over-generalizing). But they look and strut like rock stars. Their Southern rock on pianah’ (not to be confused with piano) and banjo even out the beefcakey vocals. Frontman Bear Rinehart brought some drama as he lifted his arm just so during the song “The Outsiders” to reveal a tattoo (or well-meaning marker) that said “The Outsiders,” a nuance lost on the thousands and thousands of eyeballs (mostly male) there to see them. The guitarist leaped from stage to a neatly, pre-arrange stack of gear boxes, to the crowd, which everyone loved. But this band has the tendency to beat the hell out of their choruses, disallowing a good melody to die a death of natural causes. There’s no need to blow out a chorus, have an instrumental revamp, a pre-chorus and blow-out (again) on every song.
I have a few entertainment career suggestions for Mayer Hawthorne
. Become a fresh-faced, recurring character on “Glee,” but sing only your songs. Have a big picture house make a biopic of you, and cast Tobey Maguire as you. Score and create a soundtrack to a sequel to “The Big Chill,” thusly “The Bigger Chill.” Hit the road with Jarvis Cocker and turn straight boys gay all over this nation. This man is an entertainer
; he arrives in a seersucker suit and bowtie and does some damage on a cover of “Gangsta Luv.” He’s got a positive vibe, in which all fest-goers are invested, which made him a standout tonight as well.