The clouds over Union Park looked to signal yet another weather delay in the festivities. Fortunately, there was no rain and things began and ended smoothly.
Opening bands are always difficult to parse at music festivals. Some groups end up being surprisingly impressive while others are disappointing assaults on the ear.
First the good. Sydney rockers Royal Headache suspended all my disheartened mopiness with their Guided By Voices inspired power-pop. Digable Planets and Girl Band crashed the Red Stage noisily and led swathes of young music fans away from their overpriced beers and vegan torture huts.
Now for the bad. Circuit Des Yeux was boring and focused more on imagery and attempting some sort of hypnosis than actually playing songs. Kevin Morby ripped off Jesus and Mary Chain complete with their general disinterest in fan interaction. Neither was awful, but as festivals go they were boring stepping stones to the more exciting headliners.
As for the headliners, Savages was incredible as usual. Singer Jehnny Beth stage-dived and confronted the audience with pure aggression. Intense at the very least.
Blood Orange sounds better on record, in my opinion. Still, Dev Hines’ acclaimed project blew most acts away. The audience became a makeshift dance party of sorts, but electronic music always sounds better with headphones or in a closed off space.
The weirdest and heaviest attended artist of the festival so far was the legendary Brian Wilson. Playing the influential “Pet Sounds” all the way, his voice still sounds just as young as it did all those years ago. John and Joan Cusack, Chicago natives, came on stage to sing “Sloop John B”, which was cheesy but funny.
Finally, the main headliner of the night was Sufjan Stevens. Still riding on the laurels of records released years ago, there was plenty of old material presented in a fresh way. But when he played songs off his newest record, “Carrie & Lowell”, things became incredibly emotional.
Definitely still one of the best songwriters of his generation, but more importantly one of the most interesting live acts. Complete with the infamous angel wings, Stevens’ set was rife with a theatricality that most artists can only dream of.
Saturday is definitely the best day of the festival. There was soft balladry, raucous post-punk and boundary pushing rap and electronic music. Check back tomorrow for a recap on artists like Porches, FKA Twigs and Miguel.