July 19, 2011

Aaron Frank is not pictured in this photo. Or is he?

Enter No Age, on a broiling Saturday afternoon, rocking the Red Stage with supreme LA skate-punk thrash.  They were awesome, but you already knew I was going to say that. Or maybe you watched the streaming performance online where the crowd went Flocka for cuts like “Teen Creeps.” Eventually, security had to double up in the photo pit just to push back the crowd surfers. But Randy and Dean fed off the energy, thrashing their through a taut 45 minute set that felt endless in the right way.

Wild Nothing followed across the park, exploiting their mellow surroundings and early set time to test-run a few new tracks that expanded upon the C-86 aesthetic of Gemini and Evertide — which also made their way into the set list (including “Live In Dreams” and “Your Rabbit Feet.”)  The former track translated incredibly well live, but left little room for the tracks to breathe — unlike Twin Shadow’s set later on, which maintained a looser experimental feel.

Saturday’s centerpiece was unquestionably Gang Gang Dance — who only played a handful of songs but used their short set to tease them out,  rearranging heavy new grooves like “Mindkilla” and “Chinese High,” “into expansive astral-dub dance tracks.  Owning the spotlight, lead singer Lizzie Bougatsos wailed on various percussion elements, letting her witchy but soothing vocals blanket the field — while the band’s “vibe coordinator” danced behind her, burning sage and waving a makeshift flag constructed from a trashbag.

Calling Gang Gang transcendent undersells them.  Unlike any other set of the weekend, people wandered in curious, and reacted with absolute jubilation. During the 11-minute jam “Glass Jar,” most of the crowd seemed to be a trance, despite the heat being particularly searing.

Twin Shadow followed shortly after at the Blue Stage, taking time out to mention the awkwardness of playing directly across from one of his favorite bands as a teenager. His set started late after sound issues, but that didn’t prevent the band from performing excellent renditions of “Shooting Holes At The Moon” and other tracks from their debut LP. At the Red Stage, the crowd was already camped out for DJ Shadow’s set, trying to determine how his visuals would fare in the sun. The result was mildly disappointing, but Shadow still performed a wide array of originals and live remixes, including the classic “Midnight In a Perfect World” and his new single “I Gotta Rokk”, both of which worked well.

Halfway through his set, Shadow brought out a white globe, which was also supposed to serve as a projection screen for visuals. But since the visuals weren’t working properly with the sun still up, it was nice to have at least a genuine human element to observe during the set. The crowd started shift over to the Green Stage towards the end of set, many excited to see Fleet Foxes and a few others likely disappointed in the lack of visual excitement.

Fleet Foxes certainly didn’t disappoint though, and for what is primarily a folk-rock band, they surprisingly fulfilled every aspect of their obligation as Saturday night headliners. Throughout the set, there were various moments ripe for dancing among the crowd, and several others that welcomed contemplation, including a moving performance of “Blue Spotted Tail” from their new album. Most of the beginning of their set hinged on earlier material, but there was a noticeable gain in crowd reaction after new songs like “Grown Ocean” and “Sim Sala Bim”.

The highlight was unquestionably the 8 minute jam “The Shrine/An Argument”, which unfurled to 10 minutes with three separate suites that gave the band a chance to show their chops. While Animal Collective flattened the crowd the night before, Fleet Foxes infused the festival with a traditional virtuosity.  All day Sunday, you seemed to hear the endlessly repeated comment, that the Foxes had been the best performers of the weekend.