First and favoritest, was Toronto’s Diamond Rings. You’ll read a pretty down review I wrote of John O’Regan’s debut album here in a little bit, and while I stand by it in theory, seeing him live made all the difference. As you might expect, the visual impression of a model-pretty 8-foot-tall dude from the future with the side of his head shaved and rainbow-painted, wearing a vintage Sixers windbreaker, veering off from a laptop set-up with a unicorn flag hanging from it to play sex-crazed glam guitar is, uh, strong. On record it’s a little over-familiar maybe, but live, how could it be? If Kevin Barnes animated a cartoon about his life, he'd draw himself like O’Regan really looks. All the little 10 year old girls there bowling were totally having weirded-out by Bowie in Labyrinth reactions and it was hilarious. Man, I didn’t until just now think about how queasy their parents must have felt when, post-guitar playing he sighed, “Oh, time to put my dick back in. That was fun, thanks.” In context it was even charming and funny instead of gross! In terms of presentation and commitment, such a breath of fresh air after all those bland flannel shirt dudes all weekend. Just one-guy, but the best new “band” I saw all weekend, probably.
Cults sound like oldies radio, like three songs of it in a row, by different artists. It was pretty retrograde stuff, but actively pleasant while it was transpiring. They played “Go Outside” near the end, heavying up its B-part nicely in the process, confirming that they haven’t written anything else that’s nearly as good, yet. The last song, which sounded like the Jackson 5-via-stoner space rock was pretty promising.
Active Child, from LA was probably the only band from the day show who I really actively disliked. He played a harp and moaned over electro beats, and it sounded like music someone would choreograph an ice-skating routine to.
Javelin are a party band, or a party crew, or a party. Singer George Langford slips his sung bits of pop detritus into the mix in a way that’s both subtle and totally not. I mean, singing the hook from “Heart of Glass” is not subtle, but working it seamlessly into a song in a way that doesn’t torpedo their own compositions? Sorta subtle?
You know, I beat up Cloud Nothings yesterday for being straight-ahead pop-punk, and philosophically I should probably rip Ty Segall for being straight-up garage rock. But maybe I like garage rock more than pop-punk? I wouldn’t have thought that was true, but here we are. Maybe the Buzzcocks have thrown the curve off?
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s set just sort of got lost down the memory hole, though it was perfectly fine. I know when they started out they sort of tried to stress the “noise” part of their chosen noise-pop genre, but they are such a cool, gentle breeze of a band that I’m not sure we should use the modifier anymore. Even the new songs they played, which tried even harder to rock out, were like a baby duck wearing a vest and a beret. Adorable, tough to hate, but impossible to be frightened of.
Matthew Dear is doing a very modern take on the whole, downtown New York in the early 80s, differing threads bleeding together, kind of disco. He’s the closest thing we’ve got to James Chance (not counting old James Chance). I sort of sneered as he set up his full salad bar’s worth of gear, but shouldn’t have. It was just great. I did not, however, like it as much as the two dudes who got shirtless and had a super dance throwdown. They liked it the most, for sure.
When people talk about the oncoming glut of 90s revivalism, they aren’t talking about the thugged out gangsta rap of Freddie Gibbs, but they probably should be. SO 90s. My working knowledge of rap from that period is my most thorough, so I don’t feel like too much of a poseur saying his crew sounded like a mix of Tu-Pac, Wu-Tang, and Tribe Called Quest. Not my thing anymore, really, but well done. Two things, though: Is it gross for a bunch of indie kids in a bowling alley/alt-culture pleasure dome to chant “Fuck Police” on cue? Yes. Did Gibbs, jacked and shirtless with jeans belted tight below his boxer-briefed ass, have the most homoerotic outfit of the day, including Diamond Rings? Yes.
Titus Andronicus pretty much killed it. Never lacking for effort, those kids, and the crowd loved them. Screaming big mantras like “The Enemy is Everywhere!” and “Your Life is Over!” is good, grumpy fun. But, you know, thinking about them in the face of all I’d seen the past three days, it struck me that if newness, or “the future,” was what we were after, this ain’t it.
OK, so everyone in the world at this point knew we were waiting for Kanye West even as we had to go through the motions of pretending we were there for the Fool’s Gold 3rd annivesary. If they forgot for a second, they were texted ten times. The buzz was strong enough around 11:30 that getting in to the huge venue was difficult for the first time all #Offline. Of course, West didn’t actually hit the stage until after 2. Everything before that was a tense guessing game. Are these Japanese girls setting up going to be his backing band? (No, that was the punky Tokyo band The Suzan, and I don’t know why they are on Fool’s Gold, but it was kinda cool.) Is Kanye that foam-headed Fool’s Gold mascot that was walking around in disguise? No. when Kanye takes the stage, he’ll be the one wearing the humongous gold Horus necklace. Check. He did five songs, all new or new-ish, and it was genuinely electric in that room. Can’t say that I was even very into it musically, but man, it was totally a big deal.
Phew, that’s so much stuff, that we’ll just wait until later to talk about the fest as a whole, its successes, its comparison to CMJ at large, and what conclusions we can draw about the direction of music in the face of three heaping days of it. Meet me here later.