Thanks to the extreme last-minute generosity of two kind and well-connected friends, I was able to attend the Intonation Music Festival at Union Park this weekend.
The weather was perfect, and, though I'm still struggling to connect the dots of what I actually did and heard for most of those two days thanks to the 48-hour haze of beer and motherfucking Sparks I was operating under, I'm fairly certain I enjoyed the hell out of the whole circus.
I'm sure I'll be in turbo must. hear. every. note. mode when the Pitchfork Music Festival rolls around next month, but it was easy for me to be chilled out about not seeing all the acts this weekend since I didn't pay for the passes and had much less invested, personally and emotionally, in the artists collectively appearing on the bill. I'm sad I didn't arrive in time to catch Jose Gonzalez (who by most bloggers' accounts was fantastic), but I kept an ear open for High on Fire, Roky Erickson, and Boredoms from afar, I wiggled into the crowd toward the back to check out the end of Ghostface's set (he was so instantly charismatic that it didn't take long for me to have my fist raised in the air, cheering my lungs out as part of the collective, chanted homage to "Oh! Dee! Bee!"), and I made sure to grab a good patch of grass early in the day for the Stills (I was the one clapping in annoying syncopation to "Oh, Shoplifter").
I swung around to the front stage right area for Lady Sovereign (who I'd spied earlier in the afternoon tooling around in a groundskeeper's golf cart that she'd obviously commandeered with her utter fierceness--awesome), mostly to put myself in a good position for the Streets headlining set.
Kittens, aside from perhaps Spoon, who I'll be seeing next month at the 'Fork fest anyway, I can't think of another group I would currently be as excited to catch live as Mike Skinner and his band of merry geezers. I was able to jockey myself into an exceptional position in front of the stage-right stack of speakers, thanks to the courtesy of the other (taller) members of the audience who, upon seeing me lodged up in their armpits, would invariably observe, "oh, you're really short. Why don't you stand in front of us?" Mad, mad love for good festival manners! I mean, sure, standing in front of the speakers made my esophagus vibrate at near escape velocity in my chest cavity and the fact that I forgot to pack earplugs for the day resulted in ringing ears for a good 18 subsequent hours, but it was a small price to pay to jump around like a maniac and bask in the mass of irresistible contradictions that is Mike Skinner's flow.
I honestly don't even remember much of what they played. I know they definitely took care of the big ones like "Never Went to Church," "Dry Your Eyes," "When You Wasn't Famous," and "Could Well Be In," but beyond a few other educated guesses ("Pranging Out"? "Never Con an Honest John"?), I couldn't tell you in what order or what they supplemented the set with from the album I know least well, Original Pirate Material. Regardless. There was audience participation (a jumping contest with a front row denizen affectionately dubbed The Green Man, a Decemberists-style request for everyone to crouch down and then jump back up on cue) and a general "we're all in this together so let's fucking party" vibe. I mean, it was no Radiohead at Bonnaroo or anything, but still an amazing, rewarding live concert experience.
Sunday started out a bit more subdued, thanks to the early afternoon drizzle and my general unfamiliarity with the nuances of a beer-only hangover (choosy drunks choose bourbon!), but I eased back into things with Annie and Lupe Fiasco (this guy's gonna be huge). I made sure to stop by for Jon Brion's set; though I sometimes have my beefs with his film scores, he's so clearly a musician's musician that I couldn't help but love listening to him rock out on his guitar, even if he ran on a little long. I, lamentably, never got a chance to see a Guided by Voices show before they officially disbanded, so I knew I couldn't miss Uncle Bob's set.
The only song I recognized was "Game of Pricks" (from the sound of the stage banter, I think most of the rest of the stuff they played was from From a Compound Eye) but, at a certain point, it didn't seem to matter; a Pollard tune sounds like a Pollard tune, sure, but there's also that wonderful Pollard voice. I don't think I've ever fully appreciated what a singular instrument it is, but when he ripped into his first song, I was just bowled over by how great he sounded. Love the Bob, and I did get to see one of his legendary high kicks. I missed most of the Dead Prez set, between emptying the bladder and bidding farewell to my exhausted and goosebump'd companions and getting in position for Bloc Party.
I've come a long way in my appreciation of the band since my days of casual meh dismissal. The album is still a bit too long for my attention span these days, and the lyrics can border on off-puttingly sincere ("the price! Of gaa-hass! Keeps on rize-ih-hing!"), but they really do have a knack for taking you on a journey within the world of each song with meaty textures and teasingly taut momentum. Not to mention the fact that their fluid melodies don't get nearly as much credit as they're due. (Aside from Pallett's obvious formal prowess, there's a reason that Final Fantasy cover of "This Modern Love" affected me as deeply as it did.) Their set felt like the perfect closer to the day, and the weekend, between the rapturous excitement of the audience and the band's own enthusiastic willingness to live up to the responsibility of playing their self-proclaimed first-ever festival-headlining gig.
So, yes yes. It was quite a weekend, and I give a top of the lungs shout-out to CL-II for the ticket and NI for suggesting I might want to go and Kateri (and David Geb. and Karen) for being groovy to hang with. ClusterFest '06 has only just begun! (Viddy the rest of my pics here and a hearty hail-fellow-well-met to anyone who might have ended up here from NowPublic.)