By Saturday, I had figured out the mass transit rituals that the city offered to me. I found it easier to make random friends on the street, than to find a spot on a bus. As we all rode those couple dozen blocks, festival goers told me how cool I was for what I do and I couldn’t agree more. There’s a small bit of prestige that you feel whilst donning the media wristband/lanyard that I get at every event.
This time, I got up earlier, to make sure that I didn’t miss the phenomenal bay area artists in the Zion I crew. The energetic duo and their set partners were energetic and proved wonderful in getting the early birds (they played at 12:30, so I use the term loosely) ready for the rest of the day. Playing a good chunk of their February release The Takeover, I was very impressed by the power of the Zion I crew. It was one of those situations where you aren’t sure of if you’re going to love an artist the same once you see them live. The main stage music quality seemed to waver most of the weekend, but luckily this was not the case for this set.
After a short break, and reconvening with my friends in the press tent, I made my way back down to the main stage to catch a glimpse up close of the legendary Raphael Saadiq. Let me first say that the guy doesn’t look a day over thirty, but he’s already 43. Not only did he and his crew look like a snapshot of yesteryear, but also equivocally captured that 60’s sound.
Not only did he play one of my favorite songs by him (or Lucy Pearl rather), Dance Tonight; but also surprised me with a track from his first album Instant Vintage, Be Here. The song originally features D’Angelo, but this version was on a whole new level. Don’t get me wrong, D’Angelo would have been amazing to see in tow, but the live band created an original rendition of his 2002 hit. Unfortunately this set ran parallel to the Street Sweeper Social Club set, but luckily I caught them live earlier this year.
Portugal. The Man
Next up was the Portugal. The Man. The thing about Portugal. The Man, is that unlike a good chunk of the musicians I have met, these guys are true gentleman, who are quick to make a friend (or at least a tagalong). Most artists would take the back alleys to get to the stages, to remain hidden from the crowd. Maybe it’s because they aren’t “big time” yet, but they had no problem walking about the crowds and engaging with fans that approached them.
Their generosity to their fans was only matched by their ability to captivate an audience. Drawing songs mainly from the recent album, The Satanic Satanist, complimented by songs off Censored Colors and Church Mouth, this was one of the best sets of the weekend.
Jason played the role of the smooth operator on the drums, donning his red headband throughout the set. Ryan did excellent quadruple duty as always, with multiple keyboards shakers and a percussion passion to boot. John rocked the mic for us, hitting the high notes without problem or delay. However I believe the star of this set was bassist Zach Carothers. Obviously, I’m a bass and percussion fan, but even that aside, it was very entertaining to watch the stage presence of an overlooked position on the stage. And it’s not like those notes packed together were easy to play; yet still he prevailed. Well played gentlemen.
Bat For Lashes
Bat For Lashes was probably my sleeper hit of the weekend, as it was my first time seeing, let alone hearing about the beautiful British singer. Usually a multi instrumentalist, she brought along her live band crew to sooth us in the afternoon shade. It’s hard to describe her musical prowess. It was like shoegaze, but with a more comforting feeling to it. Also, she had the 80’s look and even 80’s mannerisms, complete with fist pumps and other entertaining hand gestures.
If I had to put labels on it, I would say she had the sense of if Sia met Moby and had a lovechild. Give her a listen yourself to get a head trip with her latest album, Two Suns.
TV on the Radio
I was faced with a pivotal choice at this point in the evening. Do I go to the main stage to see the Black Eyed Peas? Or stay true to my boy Tunde and watch TV on the Radio? Seeing as the Black Eyed Peas boarded the fail boat after Fergie joined their ranks, I choose the latter.
I saw them at Coachella, but Twin Peaks stage made the experience that much more intimate, with Tunde reminding us to take in the beauty of the people and environment around us, as he’d done before last time I saw them.
What I love about their sets, is that they can make the turmoil of the world very danceable, with Tunde doing his signature hand claps, and weird sliding shuffle. I knew once the horns of Wrong Way started to blare, we were in for some serious shit.
The Mars Volta
My last serious take on the night was a long awaited performance by The Mars Volta. It would be my sixth time seeing the crew live, and I needed to make up for seeing them at the lacklust Ventura Theatre. Not only was the sound quality much better, but Cedric wasn’t sick as he was at the last show. During the set, Ced took time out to break down the bands sign and carry it across his back, before playing peek-a-boo behind it, coming up to scream lyrics.
I’m somehow always surprised at the display of energy from this band, with rippling waves smashing into you on every note. The highlight for me however, was when Omar started playing a familiar (albeit only to me) guitar riff, with Juan coming in on the drums. A big Volta fan turned to me and asked “wait…what song is this” to which I looked to him and said “oh shit, it’s Eunuch Provocateur!” After this, Thomas kicked in with the insane drum work, and all hell broke loose into an epic dance fury. For those of you not in the true Volta know, Eunuch Provocateur is a song off their original Tremulant EP, and was the first time I had heard it live. A song that dates back to 2001, it was a true masterpiece to watch enacted in front of us. Here’s the entire setlist from the show:
- Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)
- Eunuch Provocateur
- Viscera Eyes
- Halo Of Nembutals
- Drunkship of Lanterns
- Luciforms (to which the band dedicated to the members of Mastodon, standing backstage)
- The Widow
- Wax Simulacra
I made my way back to the main stage to meet up with my crew, and caught the last twenty minutes of Dave Matthews Band. It was perfect timing too, as the band played a long rendition of Sly and the Family Stone’s Thank You For Lettin’ Me Be Myself Again. Afterward, I watch in awe of the love showed to ambidextrous drummer Carter Beauford’s ten minute ovation, as he threw dozens of drum sticks out to the crowd at the end of the performance. This was a perfect way to end the evening, leaving me with one more day of musical bliss.
Happy Labor Day! Until next time my friends,