Day 2. A day that will live in infamy. Today I got to see my favorite local band play massive stage, my favorite band in high school make an epic comeback, and the greatest rap group of the last 20 years make a triumphant return to the stage. My life doesn’t suck…
Sometimes the best thing to do when you get to a festival is order a bowl of clam chowder for breakfast and wander around until you hear something good. The most perfect accompaniment to this meal was the latin jazz stylings of Locura on the Panhandle stage. After I finished my delicious meal, I joined the crowd, which was rather big considering the time, and had a nice bit of morning aerobics to start my day. Their bright rhythms punctuated by horns were the perfect way to start my day. I’d like to enjoy Locura as my post breakfast treat every morning!
Social Studies are playing a lot of festivals this year. For good reason, too! They are one of the best bands currently playing around the bay area. Hearing them on such a big stage, playing through a soundsystem set up for Phoenix, who were playing eight hours later on the same stage, was epic. The bass and synths were both loud and clear as a bell. Vocalist Natalia Rogovin’s voice, an instrument that so stunning, powerful, and downright sexy that my heart melts whenever I hear it, was balanced perfectly above the mix. The only mistake Social Studies made at this show was not selling any merch, because the crew of folks camped out in front of the stage all day to see Phoenix were definitely ready to buy some t-shirts and records.
Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction
This is a touring show that comes around every Sketchfest. It’s premise is simple enough: comedians are given a pop cultural phenomena, and then they have 20 minutes to write erotic fan fiction based on that subject. During that period, another set of comics do prepared erotic fan fiction. This afternoon, we were not only treated eight amazing stories, we also got to enjoy five minutes of Natasha Leggero, one of my personal favorite comedians. She mostly made fun of the whole show, but was in fine form. Especially since stand up comedy does not often happen during the daylight. Our first set of comics were excellent. Jesse Elias gave us a fine tale of Disney characters getting it on. Bruce McCulloch ignored the whole fan fiction element and just told a dirty story called “Sex Weekend.” However, Oakland’s Moshe Kasher and San Francisco’s Emily Heller were on equal footing with their tales. Heller made my eyes water to while she explained, in great detail, about Frasier & Niles Crane doing some very inappropriate things with Roz Doyle and Daphne Moon. Kasher did “Outside Lands Music Festival” as his bit of fiction, which brought us to a story of a young boy deserted by his mother so she could have sex with a man simply named Grok during Paul McCartney’s set, ending up backstage to find McCartney himself furiously masturbating to an oil painting of Yoko Ono. Then it got weird.
The closing sets were a little bit rougher around the edges, as expected. Kate Berlant, who wowed us the day before opening for Eugene Mirman, struggled through her Gilbert Godfried story. Matt Braunger did a funny tale about the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. However, Joe Mande absolutely destroyed with a tale of Captain Planet & The Planeteers (opening, of course, with two polar bears humping as their glacier melted). And, the man who won the contest, Dave Hill, owned the whole set with a story about Passion Of The Christ. When this show plays again, please buy a ticket. It’s the best decision you will ever make.
The Twin Peaks stage continued to sound amazing this day. Youth Lagoon’s unusual combination of emo, carnival music, and down tempo dance music sounded fantastic in this setting. This isn’t a band, but the alias of Trevor Powers. He performed alone on stage, and played sitting at his keyboard, triggering loops and playing keys while singing his beautiful songs. The stage show wasn’t much to look at, but it didn’t matter, because the music said more than enough.
Jurassic 5 was my most anticipated set of the day. I was kind of bummed when I saw that they were playing the main stage, because that meant that I couldn’t get up as close as I’d like. However, when the set actually happened, I was thrilled to see them playing to such a gigantic crowd. In their heyday, the largest venue I saw them at was the Greek Theater in Berkeley. There was easily three times the number of people getting into them here. The original six members were all there: Dj’s Cut Chemist and NuMark, as well as rappers Akil, Zaakir, Mark 7even, and Chali 2na. Chemist and NuMark are two of the most charismatic and gifted turntablists in the business, coming up with witty and creative beats that seriously got the crowd moving. Chali 2na’s deep baritone is still as nimble as ever, and Akil, seven years after their last big tour, was still doing his acrobatic break dancing moves. They also informed us that they will be back, so it looks like this isn’t a fly by night reunion tour.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen. Karen O is a once in a lifetime kind of performer. Her voice is the perfect rock voice- capable of singing tender and heart felt ballads, letting out a bratty snarl, doing the sexy disco queen, and letting out an earth shattering growl. The band, in general, is one of the most diverse and weird things you will ever experience. The crowd ate up every minute of it, getting down like there’s no tomorrow.
The setlist covered every portion of their career. It was amazing to hear O perform the song “Art Star” in front of 40,000 people. This song is essentially all growling, and the crowd was digging every moment of it. The new material was great alongside the classics. The songs of Mosquito have the punch of Fever To Tell with the accessibility of It’s Blitz. However, the crowd went the most crazy during numbers the hits. When they started the opening riff to “Maps,” it felt like 20% of the crowd was suddenly crowd surfing. Disco numbers like “Heads Will Roll” and “Zero” got the entire crowd in the kind of unified pogo gets your endorphins to their highest levels imaginable.
Under The Earth
Heads Will Roll
Date With The Night
Nine Inch Nails
To say that anticipation for Nine Inch Nails’ set was high would be one of the biggest understatements for the entire festival weekend, and when frontman Trent Reznor marched onstage just after the hour of 8:00pm, the thundering mass at the Lands’ End stage exploded with a stunned roar. Reznor kicked off the set alone, aided by a single light on a pole and a small synthesizer on a stand, and was joined moments later by the other four members of the current incarnation of his band as the light show kicked into overdrive. For the first three songs of the set, a blast of floodlights cast ominous shadows of the musicians onto the screens behind them, the dark figures towering over the crowd over the sounds of three brand-new pieces of music. Just when the crowd’s curiosity over the new songs was hitting its peak, the panels of the backdrop suddenly split apart, moving seemingly of their own accord, as the band roared into “1,000,000” and the stage burst into life with dozens of lights built into grated, industrial screens. All of the energy that had reared its head at the band’s first appearance reappeared with a furious gusto, and the churning mass slammed towards the barricade as Nine Inch Nails continued to barrel into their nearly-two-hour-long set.
For anyone who had been following the festival sets played thus far by the band, a lot of the set would have been obvious, but well-received — classics such as “Closer”, “Wish”, “Only” and “Terrible Lie” dominated the core and brought the loudest voices from the crowd in response. A few surprises were in store, however; a haunting, powerful version of “Something I Can Never Have” fell between the pummeling blows of “Reptile” and the unrelenting thunderstorm of “Burn”, two rare but exciting numbers that had not been heard for years. Reznor performed at the top of his game; he never once smiled, but the enthusiasm and raw passion were completely evident in every note he belted out and every guitar and mic stand he hurled across the stage. All of the chaotic energy of the Saturday night crowd seemed to channel into the performers onstage, and they unleashed an onslaught in the form of one of the best Nine Inch Nails sets (and live setups) that the band has ever constructed. (Jonathan Pirro)