by Josh Bis
on Mon, May 28, 2012 at 1:30 PM
Blind Pilot: Indie and sincere
If there was any big picture message to yesterday evening's mainstage lineup at Sasquatch, it might have been something about sentimentality and suspension of critical detachment. Glanced at the wrong angle, each of the three bands at the top of the bill are a half step and a smart writer away from being SNL skits about the ridiculousness of a particular thread of indie music. Foot stomping praise choruses, eastern european folk music re-appropriated by a headstrong high school dropout, and falsetto word salads born from woodsy isolation. But, in the always majestic setting of the Gorge with the sun setting behind the hills, I was pretty happy to be on the side of buying in to the whole ball of mushy sincerity.
More on Head and the Heart, Beirut, Bon Iver, and Beat Connection after the jump...
The Head and the Heart
Though the Head and the Heart remain a band where I'm more excited to hear what they do with a second album, particularly in terms of lyrical depth, I will never deny their ability to write some infectiously affecting melodies. Particularly when performed live for an increasingly large increasingly devoted audience, it's a real spectacle.
I'm not the type to really have lists of favorite bands, but I realized last night that if I were to make one Beirut would have to be at the top of that list. I'm a huge sucker for the appeal of a stray horn here or there in an indie band; so a whole lot of them in service of re-purposing various strains of wandering european folk traditions is exponentially better. Throw in some ukulele, buttery smooth baritone vocals, and an accordion here and there and I'm good for days. This was my third time seeing the band in just over a month and let's just say that the wind had kicked up a lot of dust by the time Zach Condon performed a solo rendition of "the Penalty" to stall while an emergency accordion operation happened off stage.
And then there's the astonishing fact of Bon Iver in a headlining spot. More than the existence of this situation, the fact that Justin Vernon has turned his solitary broken hearted cabin wolf excorcisms into material that slay as arena rock. Aside from the ratty abandoned haunted dockside stage set, there's the amplitude of the full band with its dramatic trombones and Colin Stetson's deal-with-the-devil saxophonery and a loud-quiet-loud setlist that culminates with call-and-response singalongs to "the Wolves", a pin-drop silent solo rendition of "re: Stacks", and the eighties monster "Beth/Rest" — a thesis statement about the possibility of happy coexistence between the dueling forces of earnest irony and pretentious ridiculousness in modern musical settings. Like I said, I could imagine how people could dismiss this all, but am kind of glad that I don't.
Are Beat Connection huge yet? Do they fly from gig to gig on moodlit private jets? If not, there's something seriously wrong with the universe. They're smart, attractive, and put on the most fun set of the day. Having recently expanded from duo to quartet and picked up a horn section and guest vocalists, their calypso/electro shenanigans were accompanied by tripped out live visuals and turned the dusty dance tent into a great big house party that culminated with arrival of summer appropriate "In the Water". I can't wait to hear their new record.
It's unseemly to wish sorrow on anyone, but I nevertheless couldn't help thinking how much more I like M. Ward when he's a little depressed ("Beginners") vs. the newer feelgood honkytonk.
A whole lot of seventies rock revivialism in effect.
Unsurprisingly, James Murphy is a really good DJ. Emerging from whiskery retirement, the LCD Soundsystem mastermind disappeared into the background of song selection and lasers while everyone crowded into the dance tent for dancing rather than celebrity gawking.
I know. It's been a few years since they wrapped the mainstage in dark plastic and groans about this are getting old. But it's still kind of sad when the bands have to ask the audience to e-mail pictures of the jaw-dropping scenic backdrop that they can't see because they're performing in a black box. Certainly if we whine hard enough, someone might discover and employ technology to block wind but not light.