@ZackTeibloom It was a wild year two on the festival circuit. Year one was a midwest-focused year where we learned as we went and laughed (Unlike the film of the same name, which couldn’t have been less funny if it tried.) Year two I headed to Austin to kick off Festival Season for SXSW, met Andy in NOLA for Yazz fest, stayed an extra week and ran right out of money, but forged on to Bonnaroo anyway (sorry dad and Jason.)
Andy had to take on Rothbury, Pitchfork and 10KLF on without me on a busted ankle because this happened. We met up again for Lolla as I made an uninspired trip back to Chicago for two days with $7 in my pocket. Andy came down to Austin two months later and we found ourselves saying “We’ve done this before” as we did the festival the way only we can. I capped the season off with a whirlwind Fun Fun Fun fest that didn’t have any entries in the top 10. So here’s my top 10 of ’09. You can click on any write-up and it’ll show you my full review in a new tab/window. 2009 may have been Lady Gaga’s in pop, but it was the year of Phish 3.0. Enjoy.
Zack’s Top Festival Shows of 2009
10. Girl Talk at Bonnaroo
As I watched the toilet paper roll shooters at Girl Talk, it made me think of the Jonas Brothers’ foam guns. If you haven’t seen a clip of it, The J-Bros have massive guns that spray a white foam all over their overwhelmingly female audience. To be at a Jonas Brothers show is to have the virgin boy-band cum on your face.
At Girl Talk, the fans are shooting the toilet paper rolls on themselves. To be at a Jonas Brothers show is to have the virgin boy-band cum on your face. To be at a Girl Talk show is to cum on yourself. I don’t know how to feel about that. It’s fun, though.
9. Al Green at Bonnaroo
Some voices age like a fine wine, some age like the remnants of a jagerbomb. Thankfully, Al Green is firmly in the fine wine catgeory. The Reverend was a charmer, sashaying across the stage in a red breasted suit, throwing dozens of roses to the crowd as he led them through classics. And that voice. Oh, lordy. It’s never sounded so pure.
8. Metallica at Stubbs
There was no confusing what happened Friday night. Metallica tore the house down with an all-out assault. I had to put my ear plugs in during sound check and fight not to catch an elbow in the mosh pit.
7. Los Campesinos at Lollapalooza
Gareth constantly, needlessly, said “thank you for your patience” after nearly every song and looked at an onstage clock and asked “Do we really have half an hour left? Did we just play our songs twice as fast as normal?” No need for the nerves, Los Campesinos! blew up the main stage.
6. Them Crooked Vultures at ACL
It’s the first chance for my generation to see Grohl behind the kit and what a treat it is. He seems like he’s doing a John Bonham impression the whole time and, when you’re playing with JPJ, why not? His whole body is in upheaval. His hair splashes around as his muscular, tattooed arms swing with vigor. He counts out the beat before every song and is clearly the ring leader and he makes the most of it from behind the kit. I don’t think I’ve ever air-drummed at a show, but Grohl evoked it. Even more than air-drumming, he brought back the fist pump. It’s the only appropriate response for his thunder.
5. The Dead Weather at ACL
The piece de resistance from TDW is “Will There Be Enough Water.” I wish every song was like this. Jack and Alison share a mic and have their lips a tongue flicker away from making out. I’ve always thought this song was sexual innuendo and keep thinking Jack and Alison are going to just go at it.
Jack walked around the kit and I yelled “Give that man a guitar!” and the crowd cheered ecstatically as he picked up a white guitar to contrast his man in black look. He starts with a slow, subtle bluesy riff, builds layer after layer until he has a full-on shred going.
His stuttered, nuanced solos are simply jaw dropping. He gets wild, squealing sounds that no one else evokes from the guitar. Even though I had an incredibly sore jaw because of my Saturday night adventures, I noticed my mouth hanging completely open in awe. It was (by light years) the best solo of the weekend.
4. Kanye and friends at Fader Fort
I “worried about the wrong things. The wrong things.” I was so wrapped up in wondering how late Kanye would be and how awful he’d sound singing without his vocoder that I forgot how incredible he can be. I expected the worst. I forgot Kanye could “make it good. Make it hood. Make ya cum. Make ya go.” It was everything a hip-hop show should be:
Amazing guest stars making the most of their time on stage, Kanye deferring attention from himself and a constant trade-off as superstars put it all out there in a true showcase of talent. So, who did Kanye pull out of his arsenal Saturday night at Levi’s/Fader Fort? Simply everyone.
3. Phoenix at ACL
Phoenix is like Vampire Weekend’s older, wiser cousin from France. They both feature smart pop-rock with spry, high tinged guitars over frenetic dancing with a couple synths thrown in for good measure. While Vampire Weekend preps for the release of their second album after exploding on the scene last year, Phoenix’s rise to glory in the U.S. has taken pretty much the whole decade.
Phoenix has been pleasing wiser indie-rock fans since their first singles in 2000, but it took this years Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix to capture mainstream attention. I was sad to miss them at Bonnaroo and couldn’t wait to see how they’d play live. There’s two ways to handle a big single. You can save it for the end or just get it out of the way early. Phoenix went for the latter and blasted into “Lisztomania…”
1b. Neil Young at Jazzfest:
On stage you need: a tight band with a immense stable of songs to pull from. A front man who knows when to keep it tight, when to sprinkle in banter and when to solo. A well-paced set filled with crowd favorites, but not a best-of catalog, building to a dynamic finish and epic encore.
Off-stage you need the right spot: (5-10 rows from the barricade, near the center so you get the sweet spot from both speakers, but don’t get your ear drums blown out.) The crowd should be familiar with the songs enough that they can sing along, but not so obsessed that they trample each other, making you uncomfortable.
1a. Phish at Bonnaroo (6/12)
Bonnaroo 2009 didn’t hit its stride until Phish took the stage. There was an aprehensive feeling among the crowd until then. A holding back. Tip-toeing around the mud instead of splashing through it. Not enough wild hippie dancing. It hadn’t become Bonnaroo yet.
They gave me everything I hoped for. A packed set filled with personal favorites like “Divided Sky,” Wolfman’s Brother,” “YEM” and “Free,” introduced a new song and ripped through two covers I couldn’t have picked better if I tried.