Friday, September 26, 2008

Virgin Festival 2008, Day 2

This was originally posted last week, but for reasons unknown I got a notice from Google, saying it violated copyright and they pulled it. I have no idea why - these words and photos are all mine. If anyone has complaints, let me know...

I'm still hanging on to summer. The new season has been caused a swift change of packed days and sleepless nights, a pretty lame digression from lots of hanging out - not to mention live music. I'm feeling pretty nostalgic, so it's nice to be able to relive the good times. Timely this isn't, but sometimes it takes a while to move on.


Chromeo has always tried to be suave, and they often succeed. But the odds were against them: the noon sun flooding the Dance Tent and the crowd presumably wanted to move, rather than appreciate any lyrical cleverness. The duo of Dave 1 and P-Thugg played gamely, and their crossover appeal is undeniable. But they were in a bit of a tight spot: not relentless enough for raving, but not authentically rockist enough to be promoted to a full stage. Their stop-and-go set had moments, particularly the covers - Journey's "Any Way You Want It " and the Outfield's "Your Love " are fantastic jams. But there were a lot of rough edges compared to the swaggering studio cuts. This is a fun band, but probably more effective when blasting from boomboxes at home.

MP3: Chromeo - Fancy Footwork
MySpace: Chromeo
Official Site: Chromeo

Andrew Bird

The violin has gained such a ubiquity in indie pop that it's virtually mandatory, in order to gain the glowing tag of "orchestral." But that's okay; it's a distinct, swoon-inducing instrument, and Andrew Bird knows how to play one. His songs meander, casting a laid-back but intricate vibe. His songs are earthy but not parochial, sophisticated but unpretentious. It's no wonder that he's a critical darling , and his next album, due in January, should garner a similar amount of praise.

MP3: Andrew Bird - A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left
MySpace: Andrew Bird
Official Site: Andrew Bird

She & Him

As I suspected, it was more her than him. Zooey Deschanel, indie film starlet and all-around swooner took center stage, while her collaborator M. Ward had a fleeting presence. Indie folk fans will surely protest the veteran Ward's secondary status, but if the duo was going for pure appeal, Deschanel was the clear choice. For one, she's got a great voice and charming stage presence. Say what you will of actresses becoming musicians, but in this case, I think the switch is justified.

MP3: She & Him - Why Don't You Let Me Stay Here
MySpace: She & Him
Official Site: She & Him

Lil Wayne

After waiting for the longest time between sets, Wayne's posse finally came on stage. They paraded around, and at long last, Weezy himself appeared. As you might imagine, rap is not my forte, but I had given Tha Carter III a few tentative spins, and the album has definite upsides. "Mrs. Officer" is hilarious and strangely touching ("I'll do the time but her love is timeless"). And the police siren imitation isn't just fun; it's a great hook. I can't say I'm that big on his other stuff, and I squeezed my way to the dance tent before the end, but it wasn't bad.

MP3: Lil Wayne - Mrs. Officer
MySpace: Lil Wayne
Official Site: Lil Wayne

Richie Hawtin

Richie Hawtin is the man. Not only does he run the trendsetting label, M_nus , but the British-Canadian DJ has recorded an astounding back catalogue, including masterpieces under the name Plastikman. I was really curious to see how it would translate live. The answer was quite well: his set was relentless, austere and impressive. While the definition of an acquired taste, minimal techno has become surprisingly fashionable of late, and it was a treat to see one of the great figures of the genre perform. Did anyone catch him at Minitek ?

MP3: Plastikman - Plastique
MySpace: Richie Hawtin
Official Site: Richie Hawtin


Don't call it a comeback. Moby's pretty much hung up his superstar hat (or astronaut helmet) in the last couple years, and his set was pretty much business as usual. He DJs a bunch of smaller parties here in the city, and blended a dependably dancey mix. I wasn't there for the whole thing, but what I heard was pretty good. I find it kind of amusing that the disclaimer (DJ Set) was next to Moby's name on the schedule, but it was accurate - he was playing other people's music. Kind of a downer for those hoping for cuts from the megahit Play , and I'm curious as to whether he spun anything off of his last album. Incidentally, he hasn't completely shed his legendary status - a number of times he stood on his deck, arms outstretched. I guess he's earned that much.

MP3: Moby - We Are All Made of Stars
MySpace: Moby
Official Site: Moby

Bob Dylan

How does one critique a legend? When it's someone of such stature, but in such a sad present state, it's a hard thing to do. Admittedly, I was never a huge Dylan fan - I respect the lyrics, but that voice is just a big obstacle to overcome. Unfortunately, the man's in no position to really impress. He sat and played piano, and it seemed as if most of the crowd wasn't even paying attention. Sorry to admit it, but to the consternation of some, I went back to Moby after a few songs. If you were there, you would probably have done the same.

Armin van Buuren

Trance. It has some pretty negative connotations: commercial, over-the-top, sissy lyrics. After experiencing Armin's set, I'd have to say, guilty as charged! But what the haters overlook is the sheer force of the genre - especially in a live setting. Sometimes the solution is to just wave your hands in the air and hop. And yes, the vocal samples are embarrassing, with their romantic exultation and melodrama, but talk about mass appeal. By no means was this a terribly interesting or thought-provoking set, but did it justify the headliner slot? Absolutely. Armin's understandably one of the world's biggest DJs, and while he doesn't do anything particularly innovative, it's undeniably effective.

MP3: Above & Beyond - Can't Sleep
MySpace: Armin Van Buuren
Official Site: Armin Van Buuren

So what does it all mean? Well, last year had the benefit of quasi-headliner Interpol, who I had been dying to see, whereas this one just sort of ended. I would have to say that this year, the festival lineup wasn't quite as jaw-dropping. But it was still a big highlight of a packed summer, between the environment, getting to see some frickin' electronic music without getting carded, and yes, getting out of NYC for a little bit. Despite the inevitable fatigue that sets in, both in the two days here and pretty much for the last two years, live music is still one of the best parts of my life, and I don't see that changing any time soon. I will, however, work on getting these posts up quicker.

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