Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wall of Sound Festival 2007

Could there be a better way to spend the last night of summer, than listening to Explosions in the Sky, Ghostland Observatory, Midlake, The Books, and Pinback? Not really. But, those performances aside, Wall of Sound was somewhat of a bust. Waiting out all day heat was one thing I was prepared to do, but I was not prepared to be bombarded with bands that, well... sucked. Not only did a majority of the bands that played the festival sound bad, but the sound sounded bad as well. From the front, a large part of the sound was muddied and the sound even cut out completely sometimes. 
Complaining aside (I lie, there will be more in just a minute) the headliners that everyone was obviously there to see, were absolutely wonderful. I haven't ever heard much from Pinback, but I was probably one of the few. Most of the crowd knew a majority of the lyrics and from scanning the faces of those singing along, the band seems to be one of those that "got you through high school", much like Pedro the Lion. I hadn't felt so out of the loop since seeing David Bazan, which makes me want to delve more into the world of Pinback
I've heard some material from The Books and had friends tell me how good they are, but I never have put them into heavy rotation in my iTunes library. However, that may be a good thing because the band is much more visual than auditory, which may seem a little off. My eyes were glued to the projections playing behind them, most of them odd and strangely funny. It seemed like someone was forcing me to watch their home videos while they played instruments, sung a little, and talked; but this family is one that I love. They were placid, yet captivating and that made them such a joy to watch. 
Ghostland Observatory, was... Ghostland Observatory. I don't think I really need to say much more. The crowd waiting at stage one (in vein) to see Explosions in the Sky ended up craning their necks around the tall stacks of speakers to see what all the fuss was about. Girls screaming as they took the stage, the band did the usual and made everyone shake their butts. The females in the crowd clearly out numbered the males 5/1 (at least). Note to the guys: if you are single and Ghostland is in town, you know where to head for the night.
Midlake and Ghostland had to switch set times due to a hitch in Midlake's set-up, but they went on with apologies and a welcome from the crowd. Just like a friend of mine said, living up here, you can see Midlake just about every other weekend, so seeing them this weekend wasn't all that amazing, but the band was on point as always. They are a hometown favorite of mine and their set was short but definitely sweet.
The climax of the night/day came when Explosions in the Sky took the stage. Thanks to a much much much too long set from the critically over rated San Fransisco droners Om. The band also had to set up on the wrong stage thanks to Midlake's set up troubles, but they were just as amazing as ever. They never cease to amaze and it was wonderful to see the faces of people in the crowd who hadn't ever seen them play before. The guys are some of the most generous people I have encountered in music, giving all that they have on the stage for however long they have to play. Although they played a 20~30 minute set thanks to Om's greedy set, I think it would be safe to say that they satisfied everyone who came out to see them. If someone wasn't, they just weren't paying attention. When the crowd cheered for one more song, the guys wholeheartedly came out to thank the crowd for waiting for them and told them that Ft. Worth had a curfew which didn't allow them to play any longer. Hopefully next time they are in the metroplex, they will get a full time slot to play. 

(Sorry about the resolution on these photos. Blogger has seriously depelted the quality of them! If you'd like hi-res copys, I can e-mail them to you or something. And, as always, all of these photos were taken by me, Trent Lesikar, and are copyright of The Grizzly Life, 2007.)


The Books

Ghostland Observatory


Explosions in the Sky

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Austin City Limits Day 3

Day 3 would be the day that all of the good bands were spread out across the festival. I didn't mind waiting out for My Morning Jacket/ a couple of songs of Bob Dylan, though. The AT&T stage had a mediocre line-up for most of the day until it came to My Morning Jacket and then super headliner Bob Dylan.
The first act of the day worth mentioning was Ben Kweller. After last year's nosebleed incident, Kweller seemed poised to deliver a full show this time and did just that. It seems that he was bound to comment on the situation and happily told the crowd "There's no blood in this nose ACL!" as he took the stage. Now I've never really heard much of Kweller's material but some of my friends seem to enjoy his music so I thought I wouldn't mind his show, and I must say that I didn't. He wasn't anything too special, but nothing worth hating or talking down about like some acts at ACL seem to have been. He announced that he would be recording a new album right in Austin for the next couple of weeks or months, which was met with much enthusiasm, mostly from the local folk. Kweller's brand of pop music is for some, and I admit that I enjoyed some of his tunes, but not all is for me.
The next act on the big stage were London natives Bloc Party. Again, Bloc Party is a band that I wouldn't see outside of the festival, or spend too much time listening to on my own, but their performance was enjoyable. Their style of British dancey-alternative translated well to the festival setting and was a refreshing break in the day. Singer Kele Okereke charmed the crowd with his banter in between songs, providing the best crowd interaction that I saw throughout the festival. The band played a mixture of both new and old songs, including crowd favorites Helicopter, Banquet, and Like Eating Glass.
The biggest band of the day for me was My Morning Jacket. The choice between their set or Wilco's was a hard one to make, but after hearing about Wilco's set at ACL, I'm glad about the choice I made. MMJ's set blew everyone else away (that I saw) from day 3. The band put the crowd in the perfect mood with their tropical setting, complete with painted island background, tiki statues, dudes with metal detectors, girls with pineapples, and tropical costumes. I was expecting lead singer/guitarist Jim James to take off his long blonde wig at one point or another in the band's set, but he kept it on his head for the entire length of their performance. Andrew Bird graced the stage with his presence for a few songs, playing violin and providing backing vocals, which almost makes up for not catching his set on day 2. Little to say to the crowd, the band chugged through 11 full songs, which seemed like double the amount thanks to copious guitar solos and breakdowns in the music. Jim James's voice works just as well as it does on their records, and I was surprised at its wonderfully full tone. The band provided both an amusing and awe inspiring take on their music and their performance and that's why they have my vote for best performance of day 3.
The much awaited performance of super headliner Bob Dylan was quite anticlimactic. He didn't allow for photos (which always annoys the photographer in me) and stayed confined to the shadows for most of what I caught of his performance. As I was leaving, walking down Barton Springs, an ambulance passed and one slightly inebriated gentleman shouted "He's on the stage! He's up there singing!" as if to poke fun of the fact that Dylan's singing was pretty hoarse and he appeared to be ready to break at any moment. I was also talking with my girlfriend as we left, singing bits of the original version of one of my favorite Dylan songs, It Aint Me Babe. When I pointed out to her that it was the second song he played, she looked at me in disbelief, saying that she didn't even recognize it and that it was also a favorite of hers. Maybe next year they will have a more vibrant headliner for day 3. Here's to hoping.

My Morning Jacket's setlist:
Wonderful Man
Off the Record
Wordless Chorus
Phone Went West
Lay Low
One Big Holiday

Note: All photos taken by Trent Lesikar and copyright of The Grizzly Life 2007.

Ben Kweller

Bloc Party

My Morning Jacket