Coverage by Waylon O’Day Raj Radia
Wow, so the day finally came, the much anticipated Sound on Sound Fest went off
without with some slight hitches. Although these are to be expected when you are starting off what looks to be, and what I personally hope is the beginning of an amazing new Texas music festival; a real music festival, not an EDM listening party like so many of these “music” festivals are nowadays. Oh and did I mention that this festival is held in what is usually a Renaissance festival’s grounds? That’s a pretty important part of the aesthetic that this festival aims to achieve, and achieve they do.
The trio from Sacramento, California was obviously one of the bigger draws of the night, from my perspective, firmly in the middle of the crowd, there was no easy way to get out. If you were in this crowd when MC Ride showed up on stage shirtless, you were going to find it was nearly impossible to avoid the carnage that is a Death Grips show. The group opened, surprisingly, with “Whatever I Want (F*** Who’s Watching).” The song is one of their more obscure tracks, you could even go as far as to call it a B-side, and that’s how the majority of their fifty minute set went. There were no breaks, no “We are Death Grips,” none of that, just pure insanity for just short of an hour. I thought that the group would lean a little more on their latest release, Bottomless Pit, but they only played three songs off of it; “Bubbles Buried in This Jungle,” “Giving Bad People Good Ideas,” and “Hot Head.” I was sorely disappointed that I didn’t get to hear my favorite song off the album, “Three Bedrooms in a Good Neighborhood.” Other songs played include “Come Up and Get Me,” “Get Got,” “I’ve Seen Footage,” and “No Love.” The set was plagued by audio issues, a common theme for the main stage last night, but I’ll let it slide and blame it on Mother Nature, who had provided us a constant drizzle throughout the day. Flatlander, or Andy Morin, whichever you prefer was as pumped as ever last night, flailing his arms almost as much as MC Ride. Zach Hill looked like a man possessed on the drums, I’m almost positive his forehead changed from a pasty white to a crimson red, but then again I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Zach busted his head open at some point during the set. MC Ride was surprisingly reserved, he didn’t throw his body around like a rag doll like I have been accustomed to seeing. Ultimately, I don’t think I will ever be able to walk away from a Death Grips show with any disappointment. I mean, yeah it sucks they didn’t play all the songs I wanted to hear, but that’s life. I am just happy I got to witness this show, and more importantly, I survived without any flying limbs colliding with my face, so I can’t really complain, but I will because “Three Bedrooms in a Good Neighborhood” is the jam.
If I told you that I saw Denzel Curry open for Turnstile by a castle, you would think that I would be talking about a dream I had. Thanks to Sound on Sound, I can say that this was a reality. After Denzel Curry ended his set, the huge crowd left the stage and a whole new crowd started to form and take its place. Whenever I see live Turnstile videos, they are always at small venues, so I was interested to see how they would handle a festival setting. They started their set off with “Drop” and then transitioned to “Come for More,” which is off their new EP, Move Thu Me. As the set progressed, I could tell that they wanted more crowd interaction. It was a challenge because of the barrier in place. Eventually, vocalist Brendan Yates started jumping into the crowd and throwing the microphone at anyone that knew the lyrics. Even though they were out of their element, there were cool aspects of the show that I would never see at a regular Turnstile show. One in particular was the screen in the background. It was displaying psychedelic images, which blended well with their music. Most of the songs they played we’re off Nonstop Feelingand Step 2 Rhythm. They surprisingly only played one other song of the new EP, which was “Harder on You.” Overall, It was a great set. But I will always choose to see them at a small venue. They are a band that is driven through crowd engagement.
Run the Jewels
So, I don’t know why Run the Jewels would even bother with playing a small venue, their music is just so festival ready it wouldn’t feel right in any other context. These guys know how to get a larger than normal crowd into a set, and quick. The duo of Killer Mike and El-P came out to Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” Killer Mike altered the crowd as to what was about to come next, “We came to f*** s*** up tonight.” That they did, opening up with their titular song, the 13 song set went along extremely smooth until about the fifty minute mark when DJ Trakstar’s controller bit the dust. At that point, El-P did a spoken word poem, which was complete trash, but hey he’s a rapper not a poet. You could argue the two are the same, but he started out as a producer, so I’ll give him a break. Killer Mike took some time out to talk about his feelings regarding this election to which he said “Man, f*** Trump, I don’t f*** with neither of them.” Killer Mike has been Feeling the Bern for a long time, so to hear him speak out in this way was not at all surprising. The best part of an RTJ show is just seeing the chemistry between Killer Mike and El-P, they feed off of each other’s energy, and finish off the other’s couplets with an air of ease. It’s kind of like a cute couple that finishes each other’s sentences, except they’re rappers rocking the crowd with their fluid chemistry. Songs the duo performed included “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” “Close Your Eyes (And Count to F***),” “Pew Pew Pew,” “Lie Cheat Steal.” The group brought out Memphis rap legend Gangsta Boo for “Love Again,” before closing with “Talk to Me.” The group will also be at Day for Night in Houston this December, depending on how the schedule shapes up, I might have to see them for a second time this year.
The first show I ever covered with Coog Radio was Touché Amoré at Fitzgerald’s over two years ago (check it out here), and this is one of the last shows I will ever cover with the blog. I’m definitely stoked that my time at Coog Radio has come full circle. After Turnstile, everyone took a fifteen-minute break from the Keep and came back for Touché Amoré. The sound check was longer than expected, but afterwards, the band wasted no time. They started their set with “Flowers and You,” the first song off their new album Stage Four. Throughout the set, they played a solid balance of their new album and old songs from their previous discography. The highlight of the set was when the band played their older songs, such as “Home Away from Here” and “Honest Sleep.” The crowd had an energy that was not there when they played some of their newer songs.
I have not until this moment had a reason to profess my love for the SoCal skate-punk quartet for Coog Radio. These guys are among my favorite bands of all time, this was the fourth or fifth time that I had seen them perform, and it always feels like the first time. The band opened with a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” this first time I had ever seen them open with anything other than “Cheap Beer,” but of course that song followed, and that’s when things got real rowdy. Not exactly cheap beer and limbs were all flying around as one for the majority of the set as they ran through classics like “Blackout Stout,” “No Waves,” “Drone,” “Hey Johnny,” “Wait for the Man,” “White on White,” “Max Can’t Surf,” “Punks,” “40 Oz. on Repeat,” and “West Coast.” During the minute long “5 to 9,” lead singer Zac Carper implored the crowd to get as many mosh pits going at once as possible, and of course there was a solid half dozen mosh pits. The band closed with the extremely raucous “Cocaine,” and left the audience just as pumped if not more pumped than they were when FIDLAR first hit the stage. In retrospect, I noticed they didn’t play many of their slower songs like “Whore,” or “LDA,” but I’m glad they didn’t because they have more than enough of that fast paced, throw your weight around music to fill up a fifty minute set. It’s always a treat to see the band whose acronym stands for “F*** it Dog, Life’s a Risk,” it’s one of those few times in my life where I can just let loose and be a maniac for an hour or so, and this performance was no different, in fact it may have been enhanced by the Renaissance themed buildings that surrounded the Forest Stage.
When I chose to cover Phantogram, I was excited to see what they would bring to their live performance. I thought it would be exciting, engaging, and visually stimulating. It was none of those. It was one of the most boring performances of my life. They started their set off with “Black Out Days.” The crowd seemed into the show, but I feel the band could’ve done more with crowd engagement. They would say something every now and again, and get the crowd to wave their arms, but did nothing that made their performance stand out. They continued their set, and played some of their hits, such as “Don’t Move” and “When I’m Small.” They ended their set with “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore.”
Thanks for reading, check in tomorrow to see what we saw on the second day of the inaugural Sound on Sound Music Festival.