Monday, July 18, 2005

The big test for bands at Intonation was whether these little indie-rock bands could carry themselves in front of a huge crowd, whether they'd come through with the sort of transcendent moments that only happen at big shows or whether they'd look scared and stranded. The Hold Steady, as much as I love them, didn't come off the way I was hoping they would - they sound better as fake arena rock in a club than as real arena rock in front of an arena-sized audience, and Finn's vocals were buried in the mix. I still loved seeing them in front of this many people, but it wasn't the highlight I was hoping for. Dungen apparently is Swedish for "time to get a sandwich", although said sandwich caused me to miss a guitarist tantrum that was supposedly pretty funny. But Thunderbirds Are Now absolutely blazed at 1 in the afternoon, doing Matrix shit with tambourines and probably making themselves twice as famous in half an hour. Out Hud is perfect for huge crowds; those squiggley elastic beats are way too big for clubs, and an Out Hud club set works even better in front of a crowd like that. Les Savy Fav tore shit up and whipped the crowd up to the point where we couldn't stand in front of the barricades because they looked like they were about to fall down. Deerhoof sounded like Deerhoof, which is pretty good I guess. I have my quibbles with the Decemberists - not with the music itself, but with the fact that this is the new standard-bearer, the thing that everyone loves and I just don't get. But I get them more now. I only caught the end of their set, but it was pretty and warm and nice, and I will never be mad at seeing a field of thousands of people singing along with just about anything. Diplo's set in the DJ tent was sort of weird because he was on a stage and people were watching him like he was a band. Just dance! But I can't believe I've never heard anyone mix "Bombs Over Bagdhad" into "Deceptacon" before. How great and obvious is that? But anyway: festivals are never about the music; they're about the people you're with and the weather that day and whether that hot dog gave you food poisoning, and Intonation totally succeeded on every level. I felt lucky to be there, and I feel like that would be the case even if I didn't have a VIP pass on the whole time. The Siren Festival, probably the closest cousin of Intontion, crams people on warped hot blacktop and forces them into these narrow pens where you have to fight to walk between the stages. Intonation was wide and open with plenty of room and clear sightlines and shade all around the edges. I didn't come for the music; I came for a chance to meet and hang out with all the other writers and walk around like I was somebody for a weekend, and I did that, and it was great. One surreal moment: Fennessey and Dombal and I were lucky enough to find a cabdriver who knew what he was doing, and we were some of the first people at the afterparty. When we walked into the bar, there were about five people in the room, and Prefuse was DJing. This happens? And I was there? Weird!