Finally the hangovers have been cured, the food has digested, and the ringing in our ears from being too close to the speakers has quieted. Yes, it’s time for the annual Musikfest wrap-up. This year we’re dividing it into five parts (first weekend music reviews, midweek music reviews, closing weekend music reviews, food reviews, and closing thoughts) because there’s just too much to write about and too many photos to share. And so we begin with the first three nights of the festival:
The first night we hit up perennial favorite Brittany Ann for a short period of time, who was entertaining a decent sized crowd inside at Lyrikplatz. After checking that out for a bit we went to our first ever show at the Sands Steel Stage for Young the Giant and Portugal. The Man. Portugal’s set was OK, but not nearly as energetic or intense as when we saw them at a small club in Connecticut. It seems as though they have a ways to go before they’re ready to play such a huge stage.
It was, well, fucking weird. You had the normal drunk people dancing, as well as some lady in her mid-50s dancing like she just dropped a whole sheet of acid, and people that looked fresh from the trailer park grinding disgustingly all over each other. It was a bit…surreal. The group themselves, who mixed synths, DJing, and live drums, were excellent. Perhaps it’s, unfortunately, too early for Musikfest to bring in electronica.
Saturday it was off to see Spuyten Duyvil, a New York band that played Americana. The show was OK, but there were other bands that did the genre far better, and so it was time to move on. A few steps away was the Graveyard Lovers, who we mentioned in our preview sound like the White Stripes. Everyday is a War, available on their Bandcamp for free, translated live extremely well. The loud, raw guitar cranking out catchy riffs with the backing drums made music that made you wish they were playing in front of a mosh pit instead of a seated crowd.
Sunday was reserved for MGMT, one of the most exciting and fresh acts the festival has booked in recent years. The opener, Atlas Sound, who is a solo act and the frontman of indie darlings Deerhunter, was…interesting. And not in a good way. After droning through a long, yawn-worthy stretch of indiscernible songs, the acid must’ve kicked in. He began asking the crowd if they wanted him off stage so MGMT could come on, to which everyone naturally cheered. He then began asking if the crowd wanted him dead, and wanted to see his blood dripping. Pointing to a kid in a rain poncho, he exclaimed, “This child, wrapped in plastic: Do you want to see my blood dripping down?!” So yeah, there was that.
Then MGMT came on. The mass of kids that was rebuffed by show security began chanting early on in the set with a chorus of “Security sucks!” The band obviously took note, commenting to the tune of “I think you guys should be allowed to come up front.” With a glance to one another and a shrug, the security personnel relented and fun was had by all (except those who paid a premium for front row seats and were denied a view).
The music itself was fluid, practiced, and elegantly disheveled, if distant. MGMT is a great band, no doubt. They’ve won awards, hit the charts with a bang, and won over a lot of fans since their days of playing tiny bars in Philadelphia. But perhaps small clubs are where they do their best. Sitting about midway through the ground in the audience one couldn’t help but feel detached from the show. It sounded great, alright, but the band is just not an arena (or similarly-sized crowd) ready.
On more popular (and catchy) songs like Time to Pretend and Electric Feel, where people were moving their feet a bit, the show ebbed and flowed with precision. But on the many newer songs they performed, and even their rendition of a Rolling Stones tune (a band member remarked, “this next one is a cover, but don’t try to sleep under it”), you couldn’t help but sit back in your seat and wish you were up front with the crowd of people who actually knew the lyrics and gave a damn to sing along.
And the omission of easily their most popular hit, Kids, did nothing to assuage the notion. The one song that they could’ve broken out to rile up the entire crowd, even for just one, closing song, they passed on. And it was so that the show ended on a mediocre note, which seemed to be the status quo for most of the show, save for a few highlights.
Coming tomorrow: Part Two of Musikfest 2012 with our thoughts on the mid-week music.