Coming off of the busiest week of my year, I decided to make the trek out to Michigan to hang out with some great buddies and see the National. This was the first North American Laneway Music Festival date and due to the festival’s success, modest Detroit has locked down a return date in the future.
I primarily went for the Detroit Party Marching Band (DPMB), one of only two acts to hail from Detroit. DPMB is comprised of 30 members, dressed in black and gold attire. Their performances, to the audience, are often unexpected and at random often serving as a backup party band for bigger acts. They made four separate appearances at the festival, one very special one ushering in their fellow Michigan-native My Brightest Diamond. Subsequent appearances were comprised of pop up shows across the festival grounds. Despite having one of the most challenging jobs of the festival, playing four sets between 12-5, all 30 members looked ecstatic to be doing what they were doing. Watching this band is truly like attending the best party you didn’t know you were even invited to. While the DPMB was acknowledged in the line up, they weren’t slotted formal gig times in the schedule. While they maintained their guerrilla brass vibe, I feel as though they may’ve nabbed more fans if they actually had scheduled set times.
Shortly after a staying for a tune or two of My Brightest Diamond, I scooted off to catch the last few Youth Lagoon tunes. This being the second time I’ve seen Youth Lagoon, I felt pretty confident that they’d play the tune “17” and I was pretty certain it would be played near the end of their set. Sadly, I was let down… There are a lot of bands that I’ve fallen for based on my immense adoration of one song, it however is usually a shoe-in that they’ll play the tunes in their live gigs. Unless, you’re MGMT and you’re pulling a dick move. I know for a fact, Youth Lagoon has played “17” recently thanks to this video evidence:
I’ve sorta let Phosphorescent go over the last few years since their 2010 release of the album Here’s To Taking It Easy. It was around that time that I saw him play for the first and only other time. Frontman Matthew Houck is a scrappy looking dude, with a wispy, thinning mop of dirty blonde hair and a ripped up black shirt, you wouldn’t suspect he’d right such lovely tunes. Seeing him play a few years back, he donned the stage in a black wife beater, a past thought that makes me chuckle! Throughout the set Houck asked the crowd to send over a one of the mobile beer sellers, his request didn’t seem like it was met throughout their set. I was surprised to hear how well “Song for Zula,” Muchacho‘s anthem, translated in the live setting…
Warpaint was next on tap for me, another act that I haven’t seen play for over two years. I remember being blown away by their Coachella 2011 performance. Their band members seemed a bit thin, perhaps that was just their thin sound throughout the set. This differed greatly from my memory of them performing two years prior. I remember them rocking super hard and being five of the most beautiful women at Coachella, which is saying a lot. This time around, I felt like their performance and tunes severely lacked the intensity I felt a few years prior. The band struggled with sound issues for the majority of the set and even fessed up to them at the beginning of the set, acknowledging that the beginning was a bit rough but that they had a blast nearing the end of it. I embarrassingly spent the first four or five songs snoozing on the grass further back from the stage.
Seeing Savages play a few slots later really jolted energy and complete awe into the crowd. Between their rocking band and their outrageous yet somewhat modest lead singer, it was pretty astounding to see these gals rock out. I’m not the biggest fan of their music, but it was quite the spectacle nonetheless.
One of my favourite recent discoveries is a Scottish outfit called Frightened Rabbit. I’ll admit, I was holding out for one of the only tunes I’m very familiar with called “The Woodpile,” I enjoyed their entire set thoroughly and look forward to catching them on their Toronto leg of their fall tour, and maybe even the New York gig too!!!
Between sleeping in the grass and passively listening to Warpaint, I stood up after hearing the first ringing guitar strums of their “hit” “Undertow.” I managed to find some Ann Arbor pals and we took in the remainder of their set together. The last time I saw them under the hot Coachella sun, I remember raving how amazing they were. This time, it looked like they were down one band member, and they were struggling with sound issues. They sounded OK, but I just wasn’t blown away. Singer/guitarist and lover of James Blake, Theresa Wayman, thanked everyone for coming out to their set and acknowledged the rough start and that it was fun by the end. I sure wasn’t blown away by their passive set.
Deerhunter were absolutely stunning live. For this day, frontman Bradford Cox in the right mood. Fresh off of the premier of the film Dallas Buyer’s Club, Cox seemed in high spirits. He donned a black wig, that for the first three-quarters of the set I thought was just his haired dyed. He apparently wore the same wig the Dallas Buyer’s Club premier. Cox portrays Jared Leto’s lover in the film (!!!). I had initially rushed out to see my friends band play, however stopped myself because I heard the first few bars of one of my favourite “Cover Me (Slowly).” I should’ve suspected they’d play that tune first… It wasn’t the first time. I stayed for that one tune and rushed off to see the Detroit Party Marching band slay another set. This time it was near the food carts and not far off from the Deerhunter set. The poor band was a bit misplaced throughout the whole set, however I think they’re quite used to playing awkward spacing, being a guerrilla brass band. I managed to find my way back and caught the remainder of their set… It was a good mix of all of their albums and served as a terrific reminder for me to really soak my toes into Monomania.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear Alunageorge from a distance and didn’t hate it. I also was surprised by Solange’s performance, I had no idea Beyonce’s sibling had such talent and style, one cool broad.
This was my second time Sigur Ros. Seeing them at a similar hour at Coachella, I made sure to dress warm at this gig. I have not so distant memories of freezing my butt off in a sheer dress and a bikini at their Coachella set back in April. This time, very appropriately, wore a wool sweater from Iceland and jeans, comfy dress. We found a good seat to the side of the stage and got settled in. It was really nice to be able to sit and watch Sigur Ros because it’s so atmospheric and serene. I zipped out a bit early to get a good spot to see my favourite band, The National.
At the same time, thousands of other people leafed from Sigur Ros’ set. Many folks had even camped out at the stage the National were playing at. I found a good spot to the side, where I could see 3/5 of the band. My friend found me and brought me back about fifty rows, but in the centre where the whole band was visible. I was so sure how I felt about this, as I really wanted to get a good view of everyone and everything. Fortunately, when frontman Matt Berninger did is ritualistic crowd walk during “Mr. November” happened to walk right by our row. In the midst of my out-my-mind National high, I followed Matt a metre or so and bopped my head on some other person’s. It was just the jolt I needed to remember to keep my cool. This show, for the most part, was like any other National gig I went to. All the crowd pleasers were busted out and the band played their “international smash hit” “Fake Empire” and closed with “Terrible Love.” I was surprised and slightly relieved they didn’t play “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” to close shop. Overall, my favourite moment of the day.