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Monday, September 24, 2007

Bittersweet EndFest 16

posted by on September 24 at 8:01 AM

I had only the lowest of expectations going into EndFest on Saturday. I assumed I would spend the day milling about a concrete corral, surrounded by many people and wasting many dollars on battery acid coffee. The mindfield of a line-up was littered with bombs like Shiny Toy Guns and Paramore. And then there was the elephant in the room. The whole Smashing Pumpkins thing.

But it really wasn’t that bad.

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(although my pictures are; I’m scanning drugstore prints with a very ancient piece of equipment)

Through my own lack of preparation, I missed both Against Me! and Minus the Bear; I had neglected to do my pre-EndFest homework and look up a schedule, falsely assuming they were too big to be playing as early as they did. But apparently the Young and the Restless stage was shut down at 3 and the What’s Next stage at 6 or so, with sets staggered so that overlap was minimal. The layout was awkward, with stages all facing eachother, and obviously it’d be better if there were grass to sit on, but the visible skyline is remarkably picturesque for a parking lot. If more single-stage concerts were scheduled for the space, I might even be into it. Might be, but even with the view, there was still an ever-present tail-gate-party ambience.

When I finally got in, I had missed most of Satellite Party, Perry Ferrell’s latest Jane’s Addiction rehazing. Actually, they weren’t good enough to be called that, but closed with “Jane Says” anyway. Ferrell wouldn’t miss an opportunity to remind us.
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Bright Eyes took the mainstage right when the sky was getting all pretty and yellow, and for half an hour all the violent crowding of the pit ceased slightly. Tender faces were all turned up towards Conor Oberst, and singing along (I didn’t see any tears, but isn’t it a given that there were some?). The only other time I’d seen Bright Eyes there’d been serious folk ensemble backing him; this time it was only the basic accompaniment, and I have to say I kind of missed the strings. Oberst played well, albeit somewhat half-heartedly. There wasn’t the characteristically shaky emotional outpouring, only a dozen well-rehearsed and safely-performed folk songs. I think he could tell how ambivalent the crowd was about his performance; he was the little lamb in a mess of black sheep.

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The vast majority of EndFest’s attendees was monotonously enthusiastic. They were into being ROCK FANS and ROCKING OUT; everything slightly up-tempo bang heads to, every vague sarcastic comment alluding to the state of global affairs, every statement that could be responded to with a “FUCK YEAH” or at least a chorus of raised middle-fingers. All the bands kept playing the “WHAT’S UP SEATTLE!?!?!” card (followed, of course, by a “OH COME ON, YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT, I SAID WHAT’S UP SEATTLE!?!?”), followed by screaming and pogo-sticking. Earlier, to start off their set, the head honcho of The Used had even launched into a spiel about people who were “there for the right reasons” and how he loved music, but everyone else was probably liars with alterior motives. Apparently this was just an intro to the song he was about to play, presumably titled something liar-related, off the new record titled Lies for the Liars.

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After Social D, tension escalated. Sweaty kids were getting lifted out by their shirt collars like puppies, tees were torn off revealing Smashing Pumpkins-related tattoos. It was a bizarre mix of first wave SP fans and the second wave, turned on by the new record presumably, plus the everyone else’s who probably got dragged there by a significant other, won tickets somewhere, or still regretted missing the Pumpkins back in their hayday. I couldn’t tell if I was the only one who felt slightly wrong about being there, about seeing Smashing Pumpkins so far removed from their era. Yes, I’ve been waiting the majority of my short life to see those classic songs performed live, but without ever thinking it was going to happen. If I was too young and clueless to be into them the first time around, seeing them now wasn’t going to make up for it.

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When Billy Corgan took the stage in his striped onesy and white boots, the parking lot exploded. Lights flashed. Bodies were thrown into the air. But it wasn’t Smashing Pumpkins. True, every other song was achingly familiar; the crowd issued a collective sigh with every trademark opening riff. Those songs were just as I’d imagined they would be live, thick and heavy and important, saturated in all the moments they’ve influenced and all the lives they changed, because Smashing Pumpkins were that pivotal of a band. But every time I got comfortable in my warm nostalgia security blanket I got slapped in the face with the tragedy that is Zeitgeist.

Most people were all too aware of Corgan’s lackluster stage presence, and Corgan was aware too. If he was trying not to look like a pompous asshole, he made a couple of key errors. With the first song Corgan actually segued into a whaling guitar-solo rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Really, Billy? Really?

I’ll admit it. “Today” gave me goosebumps. It almost made up for the uneven and shockingly-short hour they played. Almost. I thought for sure that with that last chord I could leave, happy and fulfilled with that fuzzy after-show high. But Corgan just couldn’t leave the stage and spent a minute doing that applauding-the-audience thing, you know, “I would be nothing without you, you are the wind beneath my wings”… Because Billy Corgan needs us to feel important? Nah, he will always be something to himself, with or without anyone filling him with hot air.

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I think I’m glad I attended, but I know it wasn’t Smashing Pumpkins at the performance I witnessed. I saw a believable knock-off with some recognizable characteristics of the original. It’s like vegan BBQ ribs. You like the taste, and it’s sort of the same, but the whole composition is off. I mean, there’s just no meat there.

RSS icon Comments

1

great post!

i couldn't have cared less about any of these bands. you did a good job relaying why.

whatever you say about your camera, there's a nice haze to all the photos.

Posted by terry miller | September 24, 2007 9:32 AM
2

I love these pictures. Don't ever use another camera or scanner. Or drugstore.

Posted by Levislade | September 24, 2007 9:53 AM
3

It was quite dissapointing, yeah?
Even down to the $7.50 garlic fries. Ew.

I thought the "Drown" rendition was pretty alright. And the free Odwalla. And Minus the Bear. That's all.

Posted by Chona | September 24, 2007 10:01 AM
4

Boo! It totally was SP. Billy and Jimmy are the Smashing Pumpkins. It was short, but what do you expect from a radio festival ? They freaking played DROWN.

Posted by C | September 24, 2007 1:39 PM
5

My friend and I drove 12 hours to Seattle, up from Northern California, for Endfest. We both thought it was great... I've never been a hardcore SP fan, but Billy got something in me that I hadn't previously realized could be there. "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" kicked ass, live.

Social D played a better performance when they played in my town in August, but now I can say I've seen Social D twice. I might sound like a poser, but I can say it.

As far as the Used and the rest of the typical rock band "How you feeling, Seattle?" stuff... well, perhaps I was in the right head-space for it. We were, after all, at a radio station festival. With limited set times for each band and all... I love festivals, and this one was really well organized (and ran on time! Almost unhead of.)

And shit, I finally got to see the Bravery. I'm a happy girl for that, alone.

~Monica~

Posted by Monica | September 24, 2007 11:55 PM
6

I thought this show was shit. Minus The Bear, Against Me!, and Kay Kay all played WAY too early in the day and only half-hour sets. I can deal with half-hour sets when I go to Warped Tour because those bands can fit like 10-15 songs in a 30-minute slot, but with 3 stages there's no reason for most of the bands being stuck with 30-minute sets. Hell, even the headliners only played for an hour. I usually go to these festivals prepared to miss one or two bands I want to see due to overlap.

At any rate, I left after Minus The Bear because the only other band of the day I cared about was Social D and I didn't want to sit through 3 hours of mediocre bands just to see them. Probably the last time I'll go to Endfest.

Posted by T | September 25, 2007 8:35 AM
7

Congrats, you're cooler than Endfest. We get it. Saying that Minus the Bear and Against Me! are way too big to play that early in the day is a very "green" statement. Maybe you should look at some soundscan reports and where these bands typically play when they headline a show on their own. Filling up Neumos is different than filling up the Showbox or Paramount. Also, ever think that the Pumpkins only agreed to play an hour? Don't blame the "corporate" radio station for everything. Get off your high horse.

Posted by you're awesome | September 25, 2007 2:16 PM

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