On Sunday night I headed out in my finest (read: banana suit) to see Arcade Fire at the Verizon Center. All the people who didn’t dress up with the suggested formal wear/costume dress code? You are no fun.
Antibalas opened with their politically charged afrobeat and was decidedly meh. Dan Deacon was better, even though I don’t like his music. Why? Because he was 1) hilarious and 2) succeeded in getting an arena full of people to dance in hilarious and entertaining ways. First, he created a giant circle on the floor for a dance contest and lambasted the idiot with a Miller Lite who refused to leave the circle. This was a good start. Next he selected two people from the crowd to lead their half of the arena in a Simon Says style interpretive dance. Then he had everyone do a wall of death mosh pit but with high fives instead of just running into each other. This made for fabulous people watching. My favorite moment was when someone dressed as a mime entered the dance contest and just did mime stuff for a minute.
A few minutes after the wall of high fives, a man in a mirrored suit (a walking disco ball of sorts) appeared in the middle of the arena to introduce Arcade Fire, who launched into “Afterlife” with an a gaggle of 13 people on stage. A few songs in they busted out a rousing rendition of (my favorite) “Rebellion (Lies)” which was awesome but seemed too soon, then did “Joan of Arc.” By the time the mid-set rendition of “The Suburbs” rolled around, I had moved down to a better seat to escape the idiots behind me who 1) wouldn’t stop talking, 2) kept saying “I don’t know any of these songs!” (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?), and 3) would occasionally shout “Why is everyone dressed up?”
Now in a much happier place, I enjoyed “Ready to Start” “No Cars Go” and “We Exist” surrounded by people who actually enjoyed the artist they were there to see. Go figure. AF ended the set with “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” To start the encore, the fake band the Reflektors popped up in the middle of the arena with a Marvin Gaye song playing, before the real band was back on stage and interrupted them to launch into a cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room.” They’ve been playing a different cover in each city, similar to what Ben Gibbard did on his solo tour a few years back. Fugazi was clearly a great choice sonically for the band, even if it was bizarre to see a Fugazi song played in an arena. It wasn’t that much more awkward than seeing Arcade Fire songs played in an arena.
The rest of the fab encore continued with “Reflektor” “Normal Person” “Here Comes the Night Time” and “Wake Up.” They really filled the arena well. The energy was high and the lights were great. The costumes really did make the whole thing more fun. I just wish I could see them in a venue with better sound. I would pay approximately a ba-gillion dollars to see them play a place like the 9:30 Club again.
Venue pictures here. BYT review and pictures here.
On Saturday I headed out to a beautiful fairground outside of Annapolis for the second Silopanna Music Festival. I hadn’t heard of the first Silopanna Music Festival, probably because the lineup was awful. But this time the Flaming Lips were headlining. So it was bound to be awesome.
The food options were good and reasonably priced. And it was a beautiful setting with trees everywhere. It was also a small festival, so it wasn’t super crowded and you could get close to any stage you wanted pretty easily. Here are the bands I saw, all performing on the main stage:
Hellogoodbye – You know, the band that had this song on MTV forever ago. That song didn’t sound very good live. Either I haven’t listened to it in forever and/or they tried to change it up a little for their live show because they are sick of playing it (but of course they can never stop playing it because it is the only song that anyone knows). There were, perplexingly enough, several people in the crowd sporting Hellogoodbye t-shirts, but I guess they have a fan base outside of that one song on MTV. They were okay, I guess. In retrospect, I could have arrived later and skipped this and not missed anything other than seeing some very enthusiastic ukulele playing from one of their guys. They get bonus points for being in the crowd close to the stage (a few people away from us) to watch the Flaming Lips set.
Sleeper Agent – I hadn’t seen them since the Weezer Cruise (I had tickets to their show in DC in January but had to go out of town for work at the last minute, sigh) and I’m LOVING their new album that came out in the spring. They were even better live than I remembered. The set was about 70% new album, 30% debut album. I was really tempted to start the Weezer Cruise Sleeper Agent chant* but didn’t want to deal with the glares from all the Maryland bros in attendance (and my goodness were there a lot of bros in Maryland flag tank tops and sunglasses at this festival!). At one point the drummer yelled “Bangerang!” and Alex (the lead singer) turned around, very confused to ask “Why did you just yell Bangerang?” which launched an awkward “It’s from Hook.” “What?” exchange that I will forgive her for because she’s young (but she should still rent Hook because, come on, everyone knows that quote).
Matt and Kim – Their set was basically the same as it always is, which is why I’m always excited to see them at a festival and why I would never pay money to see a straight up Matt and Kim show at a smaller club. It’s fun but extremely predictable. They will throw balloons into the crowd, ask the audience to blow them up, and have people through them into the air during the countdown to “Cutdown.” They will begin most of their songs with hip hop samples. They will cover “Ignition.” Kim will booty dance. And they will both stand up on their instruments at least one during each song.
Dashboard Confessional – This was their first band show in two years. A few years ago I saw Chris do a solo show at the National in Richmond that was a nostalgic, giant crowd sing-a-long. I wish that was the last time I’d see them. This time wasn’t very nostalgic and felt generally kind of sad when Chris would try to get the crowd to sing-a-long and it was mostly silent, minus a few fans near the front of the stage. Most people around me were like, “Who is this guy? I’ve never heard of any of these songs.” The whole things just had a weird vibe. The fact that they were squeezed between Matt and Kim and the Flaming Lips didn’t help much. Those musical Venn Diagrams barely overlap, if at all. “Vindicated” and “Hands Down” got decent receptions from the crowd, but that’s about it.
Flaming Lips – The mystery of the Flaming Lips set starts well before the Flaming Lips set. Throughout the day, the stage crew would basically test crazy lights and such in between each set on the main stage and it was pretty obvious that said lights had nothing to do with the band up next, but were instead being saved for the Lips. Before the Dashboard set, the crew wheeled out a giant wood box and placed it about 50 feet back from the stage in the middle of the crowd, right next to where I was standing. This prompted 2+ hours of speculation and drunk people knocking on the box yelling “Wayne, are you in there!?” He was not.
They kicked things off with “The Abandoned Hospital Ship,” multiple confetti canons, and an array of giant inflatable mushrooms and rainbows. During occasional slow moments Wayne would pause and say, “A giant inflatable mushroom,” point to the mushroom, and everyone would cheer.
It was so bizarre and happy, which are basically the two adjectives that best describe all aspects of their live show. It was joyous in a really, really weird way. The lights were great. Weird inflatable things (aliens, the sun, “a giant weird butterfly thing”) would constantly appear on stage, be introduced by Wayne, dance around, and promptly leave when the song was over. “She Don’t Use Jelly” and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” were early highlights in the set.
Near the end of the set they had to stop the show to let the paramedics come in and take out a girl who was having a seizure because of all the crazy lights. Wayne handled it really well and kept the crowd calm, but the delay ultimately meant that the two-song encore they’ve been playing all summer got cut because of the noise curfew. So no “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” cover, sadly.
The box, it turns out, was Wayne’s landing spot as he zorbed into the crowd (and directly over me!) during one of the last songs. He rested on top of the box, sang the song, then zorbed back to the stage to end the show with, of course, “Do You Realize?” It was magical. Absolutely magical.
*Sleeper Agent has the honor of being one of only two bands for which a spontaneous chant emerged for throughout the Weezer Cruise – a clear sign that they were a crowd favorite. People often double fisting on the Weezer Cruise but still wanted to express their enthusiasm via clapping for Sleeper Agent. So thus emerged a chant of “Sleeper Agent Clap Clap ClapClapClap” in which we would yell the words “clap” rather than clapping. Stupid, and yet very enjoyable while double fisting at a Sleeper Agent show on a cruise ship. The other chant was for Ozma and consistent of “Ozma Cruise, Ozma Cruise, Ozma Cruise…” (and was constantly chanted on both cruises).