Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lolla: Day three wrapup

Note: Apologies for this being so late. I've had a lot to do since I got back. Anyway, here goes...

On Sunday, I saw a lot more than just Mumford & Sons and Frightened Rabbit.

I also caught MGMT, a band I've been wanting to see for years. They've only played in Omaha one time and it was an opening spot for, I believe, LCD Soundsystem back before MGMT had even put out a full-length.

I wandered over to where they were playing to discover the largest non-headliner crowd I met with all weekend. At least 20,000 were packed in there to watch, if not more. I honestly had an easier time finding a spot close to the stage for that night's headliner, Arcade Fire, but more on that later.

It was cool to hear songs like "Electric Feel" and "Time To Pretend," but the songs from the band's latest album were absolute crap. I've expressed my distaste for the songs on "Congratulations" before, but hearing them played right next to the band's excellent previous efforts made the contrast that much more apparent.

Later in the afternoon, I caught a bit of the Temper Trap. I like the song "Sweet Disposition," which is on the "(500) Days of Summer" soundtrack. A lot of the band's music sounds like that, but not quite as good, I thought. They also played some slow songs, which, by that point in the festival, really made me lose my desire to see them. Slow songs at the end of a three-day festival just make you lose about any interest you had in a band. Your energy is draining, so you need music that pushes you through, not slows you down.

I headed back to the media area to grab my bag. I saw Erykah Badu (she's really short), noticed the place was all but empty, grabbed my bad and headed back out to the fest.

Cypress Hill was finishing up their set with "Rock Superstar" and "Insane In The Brain," which definitely brought me back.

I found a decent spot near the other stage on that field and waited. Shortly after, the lights came on and the last band took the stage.

It was Soundgarden and they were playing their first big show in 12 years. Chris Cornell had longer hair than he did 20 years ago and sounded even better. Plus the band was easily the most hard-rocking of the festival. If not that, then the heaviest. I mean, grunge is pretty heavy when you've been listening to garage rock, indie pop and folk rock for three days.

While listening, I realized that Cornell has one of those singular voices in rock 'n roll. It's powerful, it's distinct, it's instantly recognizable. It's the kind of voice that Creed or Nickelback guys are trying for, but they fall flat on their faces. There's no comparison.

It was fun to watch. I heard a ton of longs that I love, including "Spoonman," "Fell On Black Days," "Black Hole Sun" and a whole bunch of others. They even played a lot of old, pre-mainstream breakthrough songs, which was cool. There were a lot of Soundgarden diehards around.

I picked Soundgarden over Arcade Fire, the night's other headliner, because I've never really liked Arcade Fire. Soundgarden, however, I practically grew up on.

But at a certain point, I realized that I heard every Soundgarden song that I knew and there wasn't much else they could do that would leave me excited. With a little time left in the night, and despite my previously stated opinion of the band, I hoofed it to the other end of the festival to catch the end of Arcade Fire.

Now, I still don't like them that much, but they did play three pretty cool songs. "Month of May" was going when I got there and they played "Keep the Car Running" and then an encore of "Wake Up." I enjoyed "Keep The Car Running" the most and would probably listen to it again.

There's something about that band that bugs me and I think it's that they use a lot of weird instruments and strange melodies for simply the sake of being weird or strange. It doesn't add anything to the music for me and, frankly, it's pretty distracting. I know I'm in the minority on this one, but that's what I think.

By the end of the night, I was ready to just collapse in a heap and sleep for a few days. But it was a great show.

* * *

A full weekend wrapup is coming soon...


  1. MGMT opened for Yeasayer at the Slowdown front room shortly after both of their debut albums came out. I was there for Yeasayer and apparently everyone else was there for MGMT because after they were done (without playing "Kids", which everyone was shouting for) the place practically cleared out. I thought Yeasayer put on a great show and to this day still like them more live than on record. I hadn't heard MGMT at all at that point and wasn't much into the live show, they were dressed weird and I couldn't get into it, however now I can appreciate them. Even parts of the new album which many people loathe.

  2. I am surprised you hadn't heard of Mumford & Sons. Paste, Pitchfork, NPR and even A-list actors interviewed by GQ and Esquire have lauded the band since the U.S. release of its first album, Sigh No More. in February. The band did a brief U.S. tour around its performance at Bonnaroo and sold out every show, I believe. It ventured no closer to Omaha than Kansas City and tickets were snatched up too quickly to even begin justifying 6 hours of driving to see them live.
    Mumford and Sons' popularity has solidified the resurgence of bluegrass and folk influenced multi-instrumental artists now popular with alternative listeners grown tired of acoustic crooners and synthesized 80's throwbacks. The voice of lead singer Marcus Mumford is soft and pleasant but crescendos to a raspy, masculine growl when necessitated by the choral fervor of the emotive and thoughtful lyrics. Mr. Mumford's vocals are as if spoken by one's favorite uncle recounting slightly taboo tales of love and adventure with harsh yet articulate locution. His band mates provide soaring harmony and pitch-perfect accompaniment with an array of instruments. Although at times a bit too poetic and rhythmically repetitive, each song provides layers of sound and depth that keep the album fresh and enjoyable even after many listens.

  3. Full disclosure: I do not own a copy of Congratulations and have listened to it from beginning to end only once (while standing at one of Homer's listening stations). I do not own it because I could not bring myself to buy it. I have this vision of the two band mates bending backwards and bellowing laughter every time a copy is purchased. I wonder, did they make this album simply as a Pied Piper inspired experiment to see how far they could waywardly lead consumers enthralled by a few catchy tunes?

    Some have said that "Congratulations" is MGMT thumbing its nose toward its record label, Columbia Records. The band, readily admitting there are no true singles amongst the new tracks, has described it as an "earphones album". A radio-ready single is by no means a prerequisite to a good album. It would be nice, however, to have a stand-out song or two.

    I could describe their latest effort as dreamy, drug-induced pseudo rock reminiscent of music from the late 60's and early 70's. It could more accurately be called a classic sophomore flop. With years to create and perfect the hits of "Oracular Spectacular", MGMT, thrust suddenly into the spotlight and under the demands of a major label, found themselves making their second album because it was demanded and not because they had anything new to offer. No song stands on its own musically and the album as a whole is no greater than its individual parts.

    Maybe, however, MGMT knows something we do not. They are still packing live shows and selling albums. In two years will we look back and sing the praises of "Congratulations" and MGMT for taking chances and leading the music world in a new direction?. Maybe, but if MGMT continues down the path of this sort of uninteresting experimentation and "earphones only" territory, we will just as likely have forgotten all about them.


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