Sounds of Summer: Live 105’s BFD festival returns to Mountain View

Silversun Pickups (Danielle Lee/Staff)
Silversun Pickups (Danielle Lee/Staff)

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Ian Birnam and Ha Duong recap some memorable performances from radio station Live 105’s annual summer music festival — Big Fucking Day.

A B & the Sea

If New York City has the easing, bouncy vibes of Vampire Weekend, then the west coast has A B & the Sea — a beachy, pop-rock band from the foggy Bay shores of San Francisco. While it was an impressive feat alone that they were able to drown out the furious yells and angry stage banter from Pennywise at the Festival Stage, A B & the Sea were able to match the intensity of Pennywise with sunshine pop tunes and a charming, nautical characteristic.

The maritime melodies of the group soothed the audience, in combination with the beers and margaritas. In addition to songs from their past EPs, the group also played some tracks from their debut LP Constant Vacation, with a few lucky fans obtaining pre-release copies of the album after they finished their set. With their upbeat, feel-good tracks and seaside sing-a-long mentality, A B & the Sea provided the perfect soundtrack to the four o’clock Mountain View sunshine.

Ian Birnam

Geographer

Geographer’s latest album, Myth, marks an experimental chapter in their career, clearly defined by guitars as opposed to the synth-laden sounds typically associated with the band. However, their performance showed little to no signs of novice. Guitar-heavy songs such as “Lover’s Game” and “Myth of Youth” melded seamlessly with older songs “Original Sin” and “Kites,” proving the band’s steady and smooth maturation. The atmosphere Geographer creates is one of contradiction – hollow electronic beats seem to empty the mind, yet satiate the soul. The expansive, soft electronic sounds created by their signature synthesizers contrasted sharply with the clangs of the keyboard but only deepened the pangs of sorrow that drench the band’s sound. The delicate and desperate croons of lead singer Michael Deni only enhanced the gutting emotion they delivered, and the beautifully unrestrained cello that is so perfectly matched by the electronic beats undoubtedly entranced the crowd.

Ha Duong

K. Flay

Let’s face it. White girls in the hip-hop community haven’t always gotten the greatest amount of respect. However, K. Flay is the exception. After hearing mostly DJs at the Subsonic Dance tent, San Francisco rapper K. Flay tore up the stage with slick rhymes and a spunky demeanor. With nearly all her work available for free on her website, K. Flay has created a vast set of material to draw from. With songs sampling the likes of the xx, the Gossip and Alex Clare, the rapper laid out her lines in a collected manner, with the occasional high-pitched squeak popping in throughout her vocal onslaught. After one of her tracks, K. Flay even busted out a fast and furious set of rapid-fire verses and rhymes that would have made Twista proud as the crowd oohed and head-nodded in approval. Closing with bass-heavy track “Sunburn,” K. Flay proved her undeniable presence in the Bay Area hip-hop scene.

Ian Birnam

Imagine Dragons

Though the Las Vegas band Imagine Dragons has only recently begun taking off, with a little over 3 years of performing under their belts, the band is no novice to the art of performing. Since their debut in 2008, Imagine Dragons has released four EPs and won countless battle of the bands contests. Their performance reflected this experience as their relentless energy made their already rich and upbeat songs draw more and more vigor and excitement from the crowd.

Playing primarily from their recently released EP Continued Silence, Imagine Dragons’ music transcended multiple genres, aptly synthesizing various elements of alternative rock, indie, folk and electronic music, perhaps making them one of the most emblematic bands of their genre. Despite their varied sound, the gleeful whistles, clapping and constant drum beats in every song filled the summer air with seemingly eternal youth.

Ha Duong

Grouplove

Part zany rock and jungle jams, Grouplove danced and swung themselves in an ecstatic performance at the Festival Stage. From their quirky outfits to their ranging sonic styles, the five-piece band got the crowd up and jumping on a beautiful Saturday afternoon with their charismatic tracks. Singers Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper playfully harmonized and traded lead vocal duties as the band switched up grooves from distorted riffs to light plucking measures from their 2011 studio album Never Trust a Happy Song.

Regardless of how Grouplove tweaked their sound whilst romping through their infectiously catchy tracks, they managed to keep a consistent, dance-friendly vibe throughout their entire set. As the band closed down their show with their set’s penultimate song and chart-smashing hit “Tongue Tied,” the crowd applauded and cheered for more from the hyperactive Los Angeles quintet, proving that they are more than just a radio-friendly indie band.

Ian Birnam

Of Monsters and Men

Even as the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men were setting up, the audience burst with excitement, screaming and shouting long before the preceding act was done. Introduced as Live 105 host Miles the DJ’s “favorite band ever,” the group delivered what their fans impatiently waited for; their strong-hearted, upbeat sound proved the power of music – persistent optimism and a reminder that life is sweet. True to their folk sound, Of Monsters and Men’s performance of their album My Head is an Animal transported the audience to a world of glory and romance, where nature is at its purest and bliss abounds. By the time the band played their hit song “Little Talks,” the audience had already exhausted the lyrics of every song. With their charming Icelandic accents, sweeping trumpet sounds and fable-like lyrics, Of Monsters and Men demonstrated their talents in creating a true emotional experience, leaving the audience feeling sun-kissed and euphoric.

Ha Duong

Silversun Pickups

When Silversun Pickups first played BFD way back in 2007, they were playing the small Festival Stage with only their EP Pikul and album Carnavas under their belt. Now in their third BFD appearance, as well as their second time on the main stage, Silversun Pickups have grown from slightly timid indie rockers to energetic festival alumni, as they debuted new tracks in full, fuzzy-reverb delight on the BFD main stage.

This was not a collective performance of their entire catalogue. “The Royal We,” “Panic Switch” and “Lazy Eye” were the only old songs that made it onto the set list. The rest of the show was dedicated to new material from their third studio album, Neck of the Woods. “Dots and Dashes (Enough Already)” highlighted bassist Nikki Monninger’s airtight rhythm as she steadily plucked away with finesse. “Skin Graph” stood out with singer Brian Aubert’s androgynous vocals swirling around his guitar as keyboardist Joe Lester digitally warped the soundscape to his liking. Aside from Aubert’s screams coming off a bit jarring and sharp on “The Pit,” the band showcased a captivating preview of their new album, enticing excited fans who await their headlining tour this fall.

Ian Birnam

Walk the Moon

Though originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Walk the Moon has come a long way — not only in distance, but from their first album i want! i want!. Slated to release their next album Anna Sun on June 19, their title track has, in the past year, been deemed a “must listen” summer song by numerous lists and magazines, building undeniable momentum for the band. Luckily, their live performance meets this demand to the point that it makes their album versions fall flat. While their aesthetic is reminiscent of the cheesy, slightly embarrassing alternative rock songs everyone listened to in middle school, the full force of Walk the Moon can only be realized in the flesh, where it takes on dynamic dimensions. Effused with fuzzy electric pop, catchy guitar riffs and the ardent, yearning vocals of front man Nicholas Petricca, Walk the Moon’s sound is bound for popularity and definitely merits the band’s summer tune reputation.

Ha Duong