Monday, September 3, 2007

connect - saturday, 9/1/07

disclaimer: i would've had this published yesterday, but we lost internet in the media tent. many apologies. i hope to have sunday's review up by tomorrow, or wednesday at the latest.

saturday dawned wet and cold - at least, i assume it did, because i was sleeping at dawn. it was wet and cold when i woke up in what i've come to (not-so) affectionately think of as the smallest tent in the world, but the weather did little more than threaten until the end of the night, a glorious and climactic end to a disappointing day.

it started well, with a short set from 1990s ("no 'the' and no apostrophe!"), a glasgow band with ties to franz ferdinand. their sound is different, however, with a greater emphasis on pop melodies and wild guitar solos, and far less of a post-punk aesthetic. they enjoyed a large following in the crowd, especially considering their early time slot, and worked (and played) hard for their fans.

next up was the highly-touted bat for lashes. it was my first time seeing them, not by accident. up to this point, i hadn't been impressed with any of natasha khan's work, and her performance, despite its performative accuracy, didn't bring me any closer to liking her music. technically, bat for lashes was spot on, every note nailed, every howl, um, howled, but
i found khan's songwriting to be static and distant. from their ornate headdresses to the stick khan pounded on the stage for their last song, bat for lashes' pagan influences are obvious, suffusing khan's lyrics with holistic and gaia-esque qualities. maybe i'm a little too narrow to appreciate howling, but i felt more alienated by their set than encouraged to listen to them more.

we caught one song from vashti bunyan before heading over to the oyster stage for the hold steady. here's a picture of her. i don't know anything about her or her music, but tearknee was interested because one of her songs is currently being used in an advert for wind power, or "something good like that."

then, ah, the hold steady. i'd been boycotting their shows since boys and girls in america came out (i really really didn't like the album), but i was hoping they would break out some older songs in this set. how foolish was i. they went on stage late, apologizing for their tardiness (apparently, they'd just arrived), to much rejoicing from the crowd. fortuitously, the sun made its sole appearance of the day, adding to the crowd's excitement. this was to be my fourth hold steady show, so i believed myself well-versed in their style, but this show was both a surprise and a disappointment. first of all, they were sober. even when i saw them perform an acoustic set at river to river last summer, they had been drinking. the hold steady and booze go together like tea and milk, and, while finn sputtered and struck poses, his posturing felt hollow without a beer behind him. secondly, every song (save one) was off boys and girls. while i understand that they might prefer playing new songs, ones that they aren't so tired of, their refusal to play other songs hints at something darker. most damningly, after coming on late, they left early, more than ten minutes before their scheduled departure. after waiting for their set with bated breath, i felt let down and even cheated. unless they clean up their act on their next album, this might be the end of my relationship with the hold steady.

saturday's early evening lineup wasn't particularly attractive, and the weather was pretty shitty, so we headed back to our tent to cook up some food before returning for the beginning of mogwai's set.

it was as if god was listening in on this gig, for the rain started moments after scotland's moody guitar kings took the stage. the crowd was rabid with excitement, and the rain, which started first as a drizzle, only incensed us, bringing enthusiasm for mogwai's blistering guitar screeches to a head. the set began with some songs i couldn't place, but quickly moved into "like herod." i was astonished and very pleased, having not expected any young team material to make it into their set. they followed "like herod"'s thunder with "moses i amn't," at which point we made the very tough decision to move on to two gallants and modest mouse.

i suppose connect is allowed some leniency, as it is only it's first year, but the timing of sets has been disastrous so far. we missed nouvelle vague on friday and only caught the end of beastie boys (having to sacrifice the end of super furry animals), but saturday has been terribly mismanaged, mainly because mogwai, modest mouse, and two gallants all clashed. i know i previously said how upset i'd be if i had to chose between the hold steady and two gallants, but this scheduling blunder nearly had me in tears. of the three, i'd only seen two gallants before, opening for the decemberists two years ago, and the ferocity of their set absolutely dictated that i check them out. unfortunately, i'd also long dreamed of seeing mogwai (though i would've preferred indoors, where my ears would've had a chance to bleed appropriately), and modest mouse would be well worth my time as well. so, we went to all three, a truly shitty compromise, but one we were truly forced to make. unfortunately, this wasn't to be the end of terrible scheduling, but it was by far the worst. connect, shame on you.

we arrived just in time for two gallants' last song, the epic, ragged, "nothing to you." maybe adam stephens and tyson vogel are hurting more than they let on (stephens said "this could be the last song i ever sing"), but they played with trademark brutality to a much too small crowd, blame for which lies at connect's door for scheduling them at a terrible time, and putting them in the manicured noise tent, when they should've been rocking on one of the main stages.

a quick walk outside led us right to modest mouse, where the crowd was huge, despite the increasingly heavy rain. the picture to the right is not one of my best, but it certainly gives a good impression of the torrential downpour we suffered through, albeit gladly, as isaac brock sang himself hoarse. i'd written modest mouse off after we were dead before the ship even sank (no good), but brock, marr, and co. were really fantastic live, stomping through "tiny cities made of ashes," "float on," "satin in a coffin," and a newer song to end the set, which quickly unraveled with a meandering trumpet solo and aimless guitars. however, their intensity really surprised me, since i had been expecting something a little more mellow and forlorn (a la their albums). but modest mouse really kicked it live, even in the pouring rain, and i would not hesitate at seeing them again.

just as modest mouse's set was trumpeting to a close, the rain took its cue and petered out as well, leaving us free to catch a few songs from echo and the bunnymen (more out of curiosity than anything else) before heading over to see the end of the primal scream set. tearknee was shocked to learn that i'd never heard of them, nor any of their songs, and i'm now officially able to say that i have heard them, and some of their songs. we caught just a song or two before it all wound down, including their ancient hit "loaded," which featured a badass light show, and caused several thousand drunk britons to dance unhesitatingly. i'm not sure if i have any opinions on them or not. check the videos below.

1990s - "see you at the lights"

bat for lashes - "prescilla"

the hold steady - "party pit"

mogwai - "travel is dangerous"

two gallants - "nothing to you"

modest mouse - "satin in a coffin"

primal scream - "loaded"

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