This was the set I anticipated the most heavily, but I didn’t expect the rest of the crowd feel the same way. By far, Wavves’ crowd was the youngest, most desperate, and difficult to please of any band in the first two days. It would be easy to point to Nathan Williams’ heavily-publicized Barcelona incident as the hype factor, but dudes, that was like, so last month. Wavves’s popularity makes complete sense to me: it’s the only current act by someone under the age of 25 intended for music fans under the age of 25. We’ve seen Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Arctic Monkeys, and Lily Allen emerge from nowhere due to the wonders of modern technology’s ability to distrubite rock music. Nathan Williams’ GarageBand ramblings is arguably the first use of the same technology to produce rock music, and Williams makes it look easy. Rather than cause a scene, yell at his fickle hypemongers, or “meltdown” in any way shape or form, Wavves proved to be what the act’s main appeal has always been: a good rock band that takes what’s given to them and goes beyond what anyone could have hoped, something every young person dreams of doing. This may have been the breakthrough moment of the entire festival.
Vaudeville punk is great, but it doesn’t play arenas well. I’d totally want these guys to perform at a house party I’m hosting, but as a featured player at a rock festival, Beirut proved remarkably disappointing. The problem with theatrical rock is that it demands audience engagement. When an audience is meeting up with friends, shopping for vinyl, and looking for food and beer because it’s 7:30 and you’ve been out all afternoon, nuanced theatrics are impossible. Unlike many Saturday bands, Beirut’s appeal is not tied to Pitchfork’s praise, and Zach Condon is too good a ringleader to let this kind of thing get to him. But like Yo La Tengo on Friday, this set was a dud more created by poor circumstances than the band itself.
Matt and Kim
Brooklyn bands have a tough enough time avoiding Midwestern scorn; when a straight-from-Williamsburg keyboard and drums set like Matt and Kim takes the stage late when more than a few fans are waiting for the Black Lips, they may have faced the biggest challenges of the night. But Matt & Kim killed because of what separates them from many of their Brooklyn peers: they’re first priority is on creating fun, rather than on promoting themselves and their so-called importance. Matt & Kim’s set was impossibly fun; if they still reaked New York to Midwesterners, it was more They Might Be Giants than Lydia Lunch, which is perhaps the only way this kind of band could have avoided massive heckling. There were the inevitable blanket statements of idiocy like jokes about Oprah crowd surfing and being inspired by Beyonce at Madison Square Garden. But before fans went crazy moshing to the Black Lips, Matt and Kim let them go crazy dancing drunkenly first.