Concert review: LouFest wins in Central Field, Saturday, August 28
It’s 8:35 a.m. the morning after the first day of LouFest. I’m a bit sore. 11 hours in Central Field at Forest Park best belongs to the dragonflies, burrowed rabbits and the significantly younger.
As it turned out, LouFest, despite a good first-year crowd — could there have been more than 3000 through the gates? correct me if I’m wrong — seemed dominated by the 35-and-up, though the starting lineup was the most youthful of the first two days. And most of my aging cohorts stuck it out to see the 7/8 moon rise over the east and an epic closing set by definitive indie rock collective, the Broken Social Scene.
Mostly the day raced by, with astonishingly few snafus. The only line in sight was for the free water refill, and the only regular complaint I heard was directed at the Bud Light monopoly, though not even sun stroke could explain why anyone would choose that over the plentiful Schlafly ales. Sure, it was hot, but I felt a day-long breeze, and a high of 91 is nothing to wilt over. I looked in vain for a cloud in the endless blue sky, but only saw the white underbelly of a jet heading somewhere less awesome.
How do I know that? By definition: Everywhere was less awesome on such a freaking gorgeous day.
The Bottle Rockets started at noon sharp with “Lucky Break,” an inside joke for those who knew the band almost didn’t make the bill. The Northwoods pulled out, and we should all thank that band for breaking up. The Rockets took the slot and cruised through some of their best but under-appreciated rock songs, including “Every Kind of Everything,” “Done It All Before,” and “Give Me Room,” as well as the essential closing suite of “Indianapolis,” “Radar Gun,” “Welfare Music” and “The Long Way.” The band seemed to have a blast, sounded crisp and spunky, and I only wish more people could have seen the set.
Stephaniesid, from Asheville, N.C. followed just 30 yards away at the Orange Stage, doing a bit of Bjork meets the voice of Joanna Newsom and the moves of pole-dancing Liz Phair, which actually sounded OK, even if the lack of songs was palpable. She managed a singalong with an unfamiliar crowd, no small feat, so props for that, and for a cover of “Life in a Northern Town.”
STL band #2, So Many Dynamos, demonstrated why they are the math fuzz funk kings of the cowbell, even when the set halts two songs in because of crackling cables. The Funky Butt Brass Band joined in for two final songs, including a grand skronkfest to close out one of the most accessible, danceable sets I’ve heard from the band.
Adam Reichmann and his new band, the Ghosts of Electricity, played next, with a strong but under-attended set of songs, some from Nadine, including a fast, power poppy “Twilight,” as well as the relatively new gorgeous opener “Georgia Summer” and perhaps the best rocker Reichmann has written: “Sixes and Sevens.”
Next, Titus Andronicus blasted out their Springsteen-meets-Fugazi-punk, and while one never expects this band to sound good, they did, with violin licks, and some ragged and wonderful solos from Patrick Stickles. Pretty spectacular, and one of the biggest surprises of the day.
Lucero faired less well, starting 10 minutes late, due to Ben Nichols looking for a compost bin to puke in. The singer looked like hell on the half shell, and though he tried to make it through 4 songs, he ultimately staggered off stage, hurled, came back and finished “Drink ‘Till We’re Gone.” “Sorry,” he apologized. “That’s all I can do. I have a date with an IV.” He promised to come back soon. No riots or cat fights ensued.
I’ll disclose that I have no familiarity with the Airborne Toxic Event, so take the following in that context. Aside from a nice cover of Yo La Tengo’s “Sugar Cube,” the band seemed like a mediocre version of the the National at best, simply generic at its worst. A tepid cover of Springsteen’s “Fire” didn’t help. There’s a comment section; feel free to let me know what I’m missing here.
Built to Spill, however, made clear just how far three-guitar rock can go. Singer Doug Martsch seemed annoyed by some set-up issues at the start, and dallied with tuning, but then the band was off, with brilliantly catchy but never cliched rock & roll, wholly in sync, and playing to win the day. Highlights included “Distopian Dream Girl” and “You Were Right,” as well as an apocalyptic “Twin Falls,” dedicated to Martschs mom.
The sun was gone by the end of the set, and while I wished for a jumbotron — at LouFest one must settle for a pixelated minitron — I fought my way forward for Broken Social Scene, who seemed utterly intent on partying their asses off. Singer Kevin Drew chewed out the sound guy a half dozen times, but the mood was festive and reckless, as Drew jumped into the photo pit on second song “Texaco Bitches,” wiping out completely, and then teetering on the rail above the crowd. Well-played. The horns carried the band through the night, and highlights included the great new song “Forced to Love,” with pushups from Drew, and “Sweetest Kill” and “Frightening,” dedicated to Damien, a soldier just returned from Iraq who the band met backstage. The band bounced like lottery balls across the stage all night, and closed out with medley/singalong of “Money Changes Everything” and “Superconnected,” which blew the stage lights, though the band played on through the dark with a stormy three-chord jam and a final encore of “It’s All Gonna Break,” with ear-splitting synth freak out, when the group learned they had 15 minutes to spare.
“Thank whatever god you believe in,” Drew called out. I don’t believe in any, so I’ll just thank good music, a good festival, and a beautiful end-of-the-summer day in St. Louis.