I had more hope going into Saturday as I had a much better hangover (Friday started at 6pm and it's hard to carry a hangover that deep) and our team was four strong, burgeoned by the addition of Alex and Adrienne. The downside, however, was that we were staring down the barrell of at least two hours of rain. Nevertheless, we soldiered into the afternoon as both Adrienne and I wanted to make it in time for openers Titus Andronicus.
And thank God we did. Frontman Patrick Stickles opened by playing a solo cover of Pulp's "Common People," making it through the first verse and one chorus before the rest of the band joined him and the group slammed into an original number. From there, the set was a frenetic half-hour bash along that featured some scaffolding-climbing by Stickles and several unhinged and awesome cuts from their debut record The Airing of Grievances (which I subsequently picked up). They somehow managed to combine some crazy Dylan-y swinging with about as much punk force as a blast furnace. Stickles closed his set with a speech about remembering the community spirit of an indie rock festival when we all returned to our normal jobs on Monday where everyone is out to get one another. My surprise hit of the festival!
We skipped most of the Jay Reatard set to meet up with Jeff and secure solid spots for the upcoming Caribou performance, which turned out to be quite a spectacle. With a decent selection of both older songs and stuff from Andorra, Dan Snaith and his band put on an excellent show. The band's drummer is an ungodly good musician and the moments when Snaith stopped playing guitar to join in on drums were transcendent. As Jeff observed, "It looks like a mirror!" Highlights included "Melody Day" and "She's the One," my favorite song from the new record.
I'm not exactly sure how I fucked up and missed this part, but I've heard that the opening section of Fleet Foxes set was quite moving as they charmed the audience to silence. I saw most of the set from the extreme right of the stage, close enough to hear the music but too far away to hear Robin Pecknold's audience banter. Fortunately, I got to hear "White Winter Hymnal" before we split to get a better spot for for Dizzee Rascal.
After bursting onto the stage and dismissing Fleet Foxes as "folk shit," Dizzee Rascal started his first song twice in between shouting at the sound guy. (Note: Caribou went on about ten minutes late due to sound problems at the same stage and apparently the sound tech was a dick about it. What goes around comes around, eh?) After the initial fuckups, however, DR put on a highly fun and refreshingly gunshot-free hip-hop show.
We caught about a third of the Vampire Weekend set from somewhere near the sound tent, surrounded by a number of much bigger fans. According to Adrienne, we really pissed off a bunch of the people around us (my best joke: "I think the bassist is one of their dads!") and they were pretty boring out in the open air. Frankly, VW makes music aimed at indie-ish girls (to wit: the whole front row was filled with cute blondes who knew all the words) and I don't really care for it. "Oxford Comma" is a pretty good song, though.
Though Jeff was pretty excited for !!!, he graciously agreed to watch them from across the field so we could get close for the Hold Steady. I'm glad with our choice, because then the heavyweights showed up.
I've been enamored of Craig Finn and Co. for almost a whole year now, with feelings of admiration persisting for almost two years. I understand there's not a terrible amount of innovation to what they do, but once you see them live you realize that there doesn't need to be. Since Saturday, I've seen two responses to their set. Response A: I love the Hold Steady and they were awesome!!! or, Response B: I don't really like the Hold Steady...but they were awesome!!! And indeed they were. The emcee introduced them by saying "Ready? Hold...hold...Hold...Steady!" and then the five gents strolled onstage. Finn stepped to the mic and shouted "Hey Chicago, we're gonna build something this summer!" after which the group threw themselves headlong into "Constructive Summer" from their excellent new LP Stay Positive. I was grinning so much that I nearly forgot to breathe as Finn jumped to the front of the stage and began excitedly punching the air. As the song slowed down, I noticed that I had been squealing with delight throughout the opener but it was too loud for me to hear myself. Anyway, he introduced the group's next number as being about "A girl, a guy and a horse!" before the quintet slammed into "Chips Ahoy!" The set included a fair number of songs both from the new record and Boys and Girls in America. At one point I turned to Alex to shout "I'd pay five hundred dollars to go drinking with them one night! One of us wouldn't make it!...It would be me!!" Other highlights: Finn changed some lyrics in "Massive Nights" to involve drinking in a church and closed it out with "You guys are the hardest motherfuckers in this town!" Also, the audience got the group out for a one-song encore, "Killer Parties" from their debut Almost Killed Me. Before the song, as the band vamped, Finn offered: "I'm gonna say something...and I say it a lot, but I say it because it's true...there is so much joy in what we do up here--and we're glad that all of you could be a part of it." As the song drew to a close, he gleefully announced "All of us--and all of you--and all of your friends--and all of our friends--we are all...The Hold Steady!" I've never had more fun at a show and I've never seen a band take more joy in playing music. It. Was. Awesome.
Jeff had dipped out midway through THS to check out Atlas Sound, so Alex, Adrienne and I refilled our Goose Island beers and took up spots near the edge of the crowd for Jarvis Cocker, another of my heroes. While I was a bit far from the madding crowd to get the brunt of the set, Cocker is an undeniable showman and I'm glad I got to see him. He managed to take off his jacket by leaping and delivered a charming lecture on notable Chicagoans with a hefty amount of his British sense of humo(u)r peppered in to boot. The set contained no Pulp songs (oddly, Titus Andronicus were the only band to play anything by his old group) but did close with "Running the World," perhaps the only protest song to so prominently and gracefully feature the epithet "cunt."
I'm not all that into ghost effects so, though the light show was quite impressive, we skipped Animal Collective to see a bit of No Age before slipping out the back gate with Jeff. Unfortunately, I missed the NA/Abe Vigoda Replacements cover, though I could hear it from the other side of the wall.
Crammed full and exhausted after nine hours of live music, we set out to drag each other through every seedy watering hole that the Windy City had to offer. Though by that time I was too tired to get drunk (!), we still managed to drain Chicago of an admirable amount of its beer in preparation for the next day.
Stay tuned for Sunday highlights.