After waking up, packing our things, checking out of our hotel room, eating lunch, and shopping at Waterloo Records (they were selling records and doing the signings at the fest, but we wanted to check the brick and mortar location (I picked up the new Total Control and Flesh Lights albums)), my friend and I finally made it to day three at the fest around 2:30, in time for Pissed Jeans. In hindsight, I’m a little bummed I missed Iron Reagan, but nothing I can do now.
I pretty much new going in that Sunday was going to be my day. The black stage lineup was absolutely ridiculous, and Pissed Jeans definitely set the pace for my day. Within mere seconds of their set, vocalist Matt Korvette tore off his shirt, picked up a guitar lying on the stage, started caressing it sensually, and repeatedly screamed “I LOVE GUITARS!” into his mic. An excellent start. At the beginning, they were “having an onstage meltdown”, acting as though they were going to break up on stage. Bradley “got miffed” at Matt’s antics, Matt told the crowd Bradley wasn’t important to the band’s success and was just “along for the ride”, and Sean threw a water bottle really hard into his drumkit. It was hilarious. Matt also went on to mock a guy in the photo pit, commenting “he doesn’t even like us” and that “it’s just a job to him”.
(You cannot see, but Sean is sporting a Hookworms shirt. Good on him.)
This was the first show that really got crazy that I saw at the main festival. People started stage diving without pause, starting one at a time, then two, and finally three. Matt seemed to protest multiple people stage diving at once at first, but once they did it anyway and pulled it off without people getting hurt, he remarked that the three at a time stage dive was “the only cool thing [he] saw all day”.
Noisy. Energetic. Sloppy. Unhinged. All of these describe their fantastic performance. It was an epic start to an epic day, their show’s end fittingly signaled by Sean sprinting from his drumkit and leaping into the crowd. Only way the show could’ve been better was if he puked on stage.
After Pissed Jeans on the black stage was Deafheaven, a band I originally had planned to skip. In general, their brand of blackgaze isn’t my cup of tea, but even so, their performance was undeniably impressive. They drew a massive crowd with their massive sound, and in terms of gaining new fans, may have been the most successful act of the weekend. George was a showman and the whole band was dressed in all black, giving the band a sense of visually aesthetic unity. They played several cuts off of their critically acclaimed album Sunbather, as well as their new song, “From the Kettle Onto the Coil”.
These guys got the stage diving going, too.
Some people wanted to hug George (though not shown, they were promptly thrown back into the crowd).
Ultimately, it was a show I enjoyed far more than I expected to. I may have to give Sunbather another listen.
After that, saw a dude ride a mechanical bull.
Then I went to Freddie Gibbs’ and Madlib’s set on the blue stage. They started a bit late (most of the blue stage shows I happened to see did), but the show was cool. It was definitely more of a Freddie Gibbs showcase than a Madlib one, with him rapping a cappella for quite a bit of the show and featuring several non-Piñata songs. Freddie Gibbs’ recent video shoot was shot up, which was addressed at the beginning of the show. He was solid at engaging with the crowd, getting a “Fuck the police!” call-and-response going, among other things. One of only two hip-hop shows I went to see in full, it was a pretty relaxed and enjoyable set, in contrast to the Run the Jewels hype machine on Friday.
Afterwards, I manged to catch the very end of Hot Water Music’s set. I’ve never gotten into them too much personally, but they seemed like they were managing to keep the black stage momentum together. Gorilla Biscuits were coming on right after, and I definitely couldn’t miss that show, but I wanted to check out Yo La Tengo for bit as well.
The most impressive thing that can be said about Yo La Tengo is that, even live, they can manage to play songs that sound completely different from each other in almost every aspect while still maintaining a sense of constant identity. I wish I could’ve stayed the whole time, as they were doing really well up until the point I left, but Gorilla Biscuits were calling me. In the brief time I was there, they played songs spanning several of their albums, not seeming to favor anyone album over another. I’m glad I could hear “Autumn Sweater” live. It was beautiful.
Basically, this was the beginning of the end for any other stage being a rational alternative. I didn’t even get to mosh at this show because I couldn’t muscle my way through, but the energy and level of audience participation were insane. Constant stage diving, moshing, etc., etc. Civ made it clear to everyone that Gorilla Biscuits shows weren’t about Gorilla Biscuits, they were about everyone. The energy that kept the show going was extremely positive, hammering home the messages of hard work and brotherhood. The highlight of the set was probably when Civ invited a couple of audience members to do a Minor Threat cover with him. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
I managed to muscle my way through for Rocket From the Crypt and they kept the good vibes going. They had a few issues with their equipment at first, but once they got rolling, it was awesome. Just an amazing set of catchy, hard rocking tunes. Everyone was singing along, giving each other shoulder massages, it was a total bonding experience. Rocket From the Crypt brings people together.
And then the Murder City Devils came. As a headliner alongside Wiz Khalifa and Neutral Milk Hotel, the Murder City Devils don’t have anywhere near the name recognition. It didn’t matter at all. There’s absolutely no way those shows were better.
They had no banner. They had no banter. Solely through the power of their music they caused people to go absolutely insane, including myself. I moshed for an hour straight, along with tons of others. Supposedly someone pooped their pants. Some chick flashed the crowd before stage diving. Spencer Moody tried to eat his microphone. People were falling all over the place. My face was covered with some dude’s hair. There was almost a respite with the more laid back “Hey Playboy”, but everyone was still so hopped up on adrenaline that even that slow burner was enough to incite aggression. After the set had abruptly ended, people were screaming for them to play more.
A dude turned to me, gave me a fist bump, and said, “That was fucking awesome.”
And I replied, sweating, with a giant grin on my face, “Fuck yeah it was.”
I seriously wanted that set to go on forever. I don’t have all that much experience going to shows, but it was without a doubt the best that I’ve been to.
In closing, Spencer Moody is a monster, and he slew everyone in the crowd. I, of course, didn’t see every act at the festival, but the triple threat of Gorilla Biscuits, Rocket From the Crypt, and the Murder City Devils seems completely insurmountable. The fest couldn’t have ended on a higher note.
See those three bands before you die, Sunday black stage wins the fest.
By Travis Shosa