I’ve never before attended a festival concert. That’s kinda strange considering how much I love live music, right? Well here in the States, festivals aren’t quite as common as over in say, Europe. In fact, the festivals we have here are pretty damn tame by comparison. Back in their heyday, I remember seeing footage of Oasis shows overseas that had larger attendance than the population of my hometown. I live in a mediuml-large American city, St. Louis, and though we are a college town, we really don’t get very many massive music festivals (I don’t count traveling travesties like Van’s Warped Tour or Oz Fest). However, thanks to a relatively new festival (this is the third year) St. Louis finally has a rock festival worth talking about.
Forest Park is the jewel of St. Louis. That’s where our zoo and art gallery is located (both are free, both are awesome). It’s a special place where St. Louis goes to return to nature and relax. It’s also where I was married a few years back. A festival concert located with the park is a great idea, and since I live within walking distance of the park (and I love rock) I decided to buy two day passes. The bands this year are pretty good, I think. This year’s headliners are Flaming Lips, Girl Talk, Dr. Dog, and Dinosaur Jr. Of the 16 bands performing this weekend, I’ve only see one live before–I saw Dr. Dog at an awesome, free in-store event at Vintage Vinyl many years ago (someday I’ll write a post about that with the footage I shot).
Anyway, I went down to the park right when the box office opened at noon to pick up our wrist bands (the Mrs. was along for this adventure). Getting their super-early was nice because it gave us an opportunity to scope out the various vendors that had set-up shop. Probably the best vendor was local record shop Euclid Records little “Festival Store.” They had a nice fat stack of CD’s and *gasp* vinyl records for sale, representing all the bands on the line-up. Other vendors of note were Sony, who had a PS3 mega-rig and Spotify (the killer-music service) had a big green bus where they were presumably trying to explain what the heck Spotify is.
There was also a lot of really cool local restaurants and bars who’d come out to set up a little vending stall. The place was a ghost town because it was so early so we took our leave until later that afternoon when around 4:00. I felt bad skipping all the early Saturday bands, but I knew that because the majority of bands I wanted to see play tomorrow, I decided we’d better take it easy on Saturday. After all, I’m getting to be a pretty old dude.
The skies, which earlier in the day had been bright and cheery, had taken on a nasty gray hue. While we waited for alt-country dudes Son Volt to take the stage, the sky unleashed a ten-minute deluge. Earlier it had been hot, now we were chilled to the bone with cold rainwater. Such is life here in the midwest. Anyway, it continued to drizzle off and on all night, but for the most part the major rain was over just before Son Volt came on. I’d never really heard much Son Volt, but I found them to be pretty awesome. As I get older, I find myself liking alt-county more and more. With just enough (read: not too much) twang, I really enjoyed them. The beginning of their set featured a lot of simple love songs, which I thought were the best. My favorite was “Dynamite” of their album AMERICAN CENTRAL DUST. Another song I really liked was “Windfall” which struck me as being a bit Neil Young-ish. As they neared the end of their set list, the songs got a bit political/environmental, and I didn’t like them as much as the love songs. Still, I thought the band put on a great show and helped provide some variety to the days music.
The next band was Dinosaur Jr. Now I don’t know much about Dinosaur Jr., but I did enjoy their last album FARM when it came out a few years ago. I especially liked their song “Ocean In The Way” off that record. Did Dinosaur Jr. play that song? I honestly don’t know. I don’t know because the band was so loud it was pretty difficult to tell. The band was surrounded by a fat stack of Marshall amps. To say that Dinosaur Jr. was loud is a terrible, terrible understatement. They played their entire set at volume that can only be described as “Stupid Loud.” Watching them, a trio of aging hipsters, was actually kind of magical. The band seemed to spin a sonic cocoon around themselves. Washing themselves and the audience in layers of eagle-scream guitar solos and a blizzard of effect pedal wah-wah, Dinosaur Jr. seemed to transcende age. They played with the daring and the viciousness of much younger men. I won’t use the term possessed, but it did seem as though something overcame them, particularly J. Mascis. Mascic, who looks eerily like Gandalf, whipped his long white hair life a madman, it was fantastic. Unfortunately, the sound system was cranked so loud that the only song I could pick out with any certainty was their epic “Feel The Pain.” As their most famous song, it was met with a cheer from the mixed-age crowd (there was everything from toddlers to 60+).
After Dinosaur Jr. finished their sonic assault on my eardrums, it was time for the evening’s headliner…Girl Talk. Now, I’ve written about my rather mixed feelings towards Girl Talk before, so I won’t re-open that can of worms. But for those that don’t know, Girl Talk is really just one dude, DJ Greg Gillis, who illegally samples the shit of the pop music songbook (without paying or asking for permission). What sort of live “performance” could there really be for an act with such a schtick? Well it was about what I expected: a nerdy white dude with a laptop, confetti cannons, balloons, toilet paper blowers, and a wall of LCD screens. And yet, Girl Talk’s show was fun and funky, and it was just the palate cleanser one needed after the heaviness of Dinosaur Jr. The samples came fast and furious, and despite myself (and how tired I was) I found myself dancing. Or at least, the closest approximation a fat music blogger can do.
Overall, day one of LouFest was awesome. My legs ache and my ears are ringing. I can’t wait for tomorrow.