What does it mean to be the closing act at a major festival? It means you’re the shit. The xx came on stage Sunday night to the festivals largest crowd. When the trio took their positions, a giant illuminated plexiglass “X” towered behind them; in front of them stood a crowd stretching as far back as the eye can see at 10 p.m. on an island. An immense amount of fog took over the stage, essentially convincing me that all prior bands must have had to ration the use of the fog machine to simply fulfill the requests of The xx. The sound of the reverbed guitar echoed as they opened to the riff of “Angels.” They went on to perform much of their new album, Coexist, as well as past classics like “VCR” and “Crystalised.” The set was transfixing and short, though the group surely surpassed their time requirement. It was the type of performance that brings about unknown emotions; I guess that’s what the x stands for.
If someone can bring a raging festival crowd of 12,000 to act in a subdued manner, it’s Joanna Newsom. Performing on the festival’s main stage, Newsom followed head-banging local artist Ty Segall with the harmonies of her signature angelic harp in what can only be described as a beautiful contrast of sound. From the first plucked note to the last muffled snare hit on the drums, the audience was transfixed in a state somewhere in between the pleasantries of Van Dyke Parks and the raw emotion of Journey’s “Lights.” As she contorted her mouth to seemingly uncomfortable shapes and sizes, it became a pleasure to associate such awkwardness with the immaculate voice that casually but triumphantly eased out of the towering speakers and floated through the grounds as if on a golden cloud saturated in the key of goodness. By far the classiest performer in the festival, Newsom is the act your parents would approve of.
SBTRKT (pronounced subtract) took the stage right when the crowd was getting really antsy. The British DJ hastily walked up to the microphone and said, “Sorry, things are a little hectic right now; we just came from Mexico City.” The lights faded, and “SBTRKT” was projected onto the backdrop of the stage; the show had finally begun. After building a beat on the drum machine, SBTRKT positioned himself behind a drum set for the remainder of the show, allowing his musical collaborator Sampha to do most of the singing and button pushing. After a few songs, the band transitioned into a remixed version the crowd pleasing “Wildfire,” which features vocals by Little Dragon. The show itself wasn’t flashy, but much of that had to do with it being a festival setting. After a few prolonged remixes, the group apologized for having to stop, claiming that they would “normally do a lot more, but we’ve ran out of time.” Though it was a short set, it was well executed. It left me wanting some of that “more” that he was talking about.
If there are skinny blue people in a galaxy far away getting it on right now, they’re probably getting it on to Grimes. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes Grimes good — it’s hard enough to know what she’s talking about half the time. You can’t really categorize her music; you can’t really label her fashion sense, either. She lies somewhere between yawning cats and beautiful synthetic harmonies; throw in a poncho and a set decor of neon flowers and you’ve got her performance this past Saturday. The early time slot didn’t do much for the enthusiasm of the crowd. As the dark beats and melodies played under a blazing midday sun, the atmosphere felt somewhat out of place. The single “Oblivion” managed to turn the tide and put everyone under a common head nod. Her signature high-pitched screeches served as intros to many of her songs, making for a somewhat amusing yet captivating exhibition of range and flamboyance. Funny ponchos aside, the set was solid in unconventional ways perhaps best understood in a galaxy far way.
The hour was roughly 6:30 pm. Workers briskly walked about putting finishing touches on the stage, casually placing Heineken cans at the foot of amps to replenish the thirsty musicians who were about to take the stage. In the front row were a handful of dedicated fans who were convinced they were about to witness history. Consisting of Spoon singer and guitarist Britt Daniel and Wolf Parade guitarist Dan Boeckner, Divine Fits is a high caliber mash up whose recent album sounds more like the work of a band whose been together for decades. Not known for flashy shows or elaborate musicianship, Divine Fits resides along the lines of an Arcade Fire; essentially known for their universal appeal and plain’ole good music. Their veteran status was evident as they flawlessly performed all their hits with laser precision. With a time slot of only 45 minutes, the set ended as quickly as it began. To some it was good, to most it was great and to some it was divine.
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