Saturday turned out to be the sunniest and hottest day of the weekend. It seemed that a good amount of the festival goers tended to skip the first few acts and the grounds didn’t start to really fill up until 4:00 or 5:00. Most of us however knew there was good music to be heard, so we were there when the bands started to play.
First Aid Kit
There seemed to be a good amount of anticipation built up for the Swedish sister duo, and from the hill overlooking the main stage, they provided the perfect soundtrack for some sunshine relaxation. They mixed in songs from their upcoming sophomore album Stay Gold with old and familiar favorites, and their harmonies sounded as lovely live as they do on record. Dressed in flowing sundresses, the sisters were joined on stage by a drummer and a slide guitar player.
The Dodos played on the Bigfoot stage at the same time as First Aid Kit, but luckily I was still able to catch the last 20 minutes or so of their set. Front man and guitarist Meric Long moved back and forth between two microphones, with one mic providing more echo than the other. The crowd really reacted strongly to their 2008 hit “Fools” and with good reason. The upbeat percussion-fueled track is perfect for festival sing-a-longs.
Seattle hip-hop world traveler Sol followed The Dodos on the afternoon portion of the Bigfoot stage and drew quite a sizeable audience. Backed by a live band (which seems to be a refreshing pattern lately among hip-hop artists) Sol rocked the crowd with songs about drinking and smoking among other things. He even premiered a brand new song he wrote while on a recent months-long journey through India and the Far East.
Violent Femmes wasted no time giving the fans what they came to see, kicking off their set with “Blister in the Sun”, which it felt like everyone within ear shot gleefully danced and sang along to. In fact, the first 4 or 5 songs they played were all hits from their 1983 debut self-titled album. “Kiss Off”, “Gone Daddy Gone”, “Please Don’t Go” and “Add It Up” all had the crowd moving. Lead singer Gordon Gano played an accordion for one song, bass players Brian Ritchie played the biggest acoustic bass guitar I’ve ever seen, and another band member sat on a wooden box while drumming on it with his hands. They closed the set off with another crowd favorite, the 1991 single “American Music.”
For a band commonly grouped into the “chillwave” genre of the late 2000’s, their live show is decidedly more dance oriented and upbeat than their music is on record. Maybe it was the volume or the mix, but all the beats seemed to hit harder than usual, and the emphasis was geared a lot more towards dancing and having a good time, rather than getting stoned and enjoying the mellow bliss. There were a few moments of momentary relaxation though, notably “Feel it all Around”, which most people not that familiar with Washed Out probably know as the theme song to Portlandia.
Festival scheduling dilemmas, they’re bound to happen. Neko Case overlapping with Washed Out was a tough one, so I split the difference and managed to catch the end of Neko’s set while simultaneously getting in prime position for M.I.A., who followed her. Neko’s voice sounded as good as ever, and she had some playful banter going on with her audience. Towards the end of her set, she brought The Dodos up on stage to sing back-up vocals with her, and the trio looked happy just to be along for the ride.
This was my third time seeing M.I.A., and each previous time I was completely floored and captivated by her live performances. This performance however, topped them all. Dressed in all gold and flanked by 3 dancers (one who also helped out on back-up vocals), M.I.A. opened her show with the throwback favorite “Bucky Done Gun.” One of her dancers was a slim dude dressed in all white and he was completely captivating to watch, just popping and locking and putting down some seriously top-notch dance moves. The crowd was incredibly energetic, jumping and dancing along the entire time. The video screen behind the performance was a epileptic’s nightmare but captivating to the rest of us; a constant stream of neon images from parrots to assault rifles zoomed across the screen. She brought around 30 girls on stage for “Boyz”, all of them dancing along and taking plenty of selfies to preserve the moment. For “Double Bubble Trouble” she flew two neon peace signs attached to mini remote-controlled helicopter rotors, which hovered above the performance much like they do in the video for the song.
Before breaking into “Paper Planes”, she let the melody play while she sang the chorus to Lorde’s “Royals” over the music. It was hard to tell if she was calling out Lorde or paying homage, but it didn’t’t seem to matter to most people watching. She closed the show out with “Bad Girls” as the song’s truly awesome video played on the video screen. For me, M.I.A. put on the best show of the weekend.
The National’s set started out kind of slowly, working their way through their strong collection of songs before picking up steam towards the end. Lead singer Matt Berninger also seemed to get angrier with each passing song, eventually breaking some glasses on stage as she screamed into the microphone. He also made his way down into the crowd a few times, much to the enjoyment of those in the front rows.
Cut Copy closed out Saturday with a massive dance party, and every person who showed up to participate seemed to have more than enough energy to dance along. They created such a party in the audience that there were numerous dust clouds kicked up by dancing fans. The Australian quartet was backed by a plethora of flashing lights. In between plenty of new songs off of their newest album “Free Your Mind”, they mixed in fan favorites from their 2008 breakthrough album “In Ghost Colours.” “Hearts on Fire” and “Lights and Music” were especially popular among the energetic crowd, who fervently sang along with the band.