Monday, July 21, 2008

datarock, m83, and mates of state at the gibson

Nothing about the Download Festival made any sense. The overwhelming theme - if one was hard pressed enough to look for one - was, "hey guys, why don't we pick bands out of a hat launch a tour and rake in lots of cash!" Or maybe it's just that they realize with the prevalence of downloading, their target audience, twenty-something's, music collection is similar to a Vegas buffet. Quantity! Give us more! Bigger is better! This is by no means a self-righteous indictment. More like a self-righteous pot calling a kettle black. I'm a whiner. A whiner who rode the Flavorpill gravy train...thus leaving me without a leg to stand on. That's okay, I'm an old woman, and the seats at the Gibson, combined with the rotating stage, suited me just fine.

A funny thing happens at festivals. Ear fatigue. Thus, while there were many capable musicians1 (Duke Spiritand Kaki King being the best of the rest) there were only three major standouts. Am I the concert going equivalent of Cesar's Rome, looking for bigger "bloodier" musical acts? At least no one has died amidst striving for funnier on-stage banter.

Datarock was by far the biggest surprise of the afternoon. With only a twenty-five minute set, they managed to win me over at lightning speed. Entering perched on the drumset in their trademark red jumpsuits....oh who am I kidding, the theatrics had me won over from the get go. Their on-stage antics where as calculated as their performance attire. Goofy half-rapped songs about computer geeks and mean girls named Judy, it's impossible not to admire their desire to revive the moonwalk. This is Norway's answer the Beastie Boys, and while their English as a second language wordplay may not be an active threat to our favorite Brooklyn punks, I definitely wouldn't turn my back on their over the top stage antics. It's important and awesome to note that Datarock hails from Bergen, the same small town that brought us the dulcet tones of Sondre Lerche and Kings of Convenience. I freaking love Scandinavia!

I'll admit, M83 was the sole reason I spent the better part of the week trying to win tickets. Despite my near pathological fear of French men, Saturdays=Youth is currently sitting near the top of my "best of 2008" list. Apparently said fear can be tempered by cheesy 1980s synths. Although here I'll have to complain again...twenty-five minute sets? Seriously? The median song length on Saturdays=Youth is five minutes! The set opener, "Couleurs" was eight and a half. Maybe I'm just grouchy since he didn't play "Graveyard Girl." What Anthony Gonzales and crew did manage, sans single, was nothing short of awe inspiring. Again, imprecise, since it did inspire a good deal of awe in me. Granted, it was an awe that two-thirds of the audience didn't seem to share. Really, you couldn't have cut out a few bands and while you were at it, slanted the lineup in my favor2? M83 live is like being smacked in the face with a wall of synth-driven sound. The second time I've seen them and the second time I've managed to forget my earplugs. It's like I'm begging to go deaf.

I find it funny that while M83 left much of the audience cold, synth-driven, candy-coated Mates of State was a huge hit. On a tip from Smarties-loving ako, I was sure to stick around for their set, a sweet from start to finish concoction that made me long for another nutella crepe3. Of course they had two things going for them even before they began: the two band member dynamic (one hopes they operate as a married couple with as much skill as they do a musical duel), and a singing drummer. Yes, I realize the Eagles have made the singing drummer paradigm a bit cheesy, but I'm a soft touch. Of course the addition of a rock cellist halfway though the set didn't hurt in swaying my opinion towards the positive. Tell me I'm not the only one that finds it interesting how the eighties can influence two polar extremes like M83 and Mates of State. In the Vegas buffet of sound, they are clearly dessert...and a beautiful place to take an evening's satisfying, early leave.

1. The only exception to the rule being one of Albert Hammond Jr.'s opening bands...who I swear are stalking me with their faux 70s badness.
2. For today, I am a practicing narcissist.
3. In the interest of full disclosure: it doesn't take much for me to start caving a crepe...but really it was a sweet set.

mp3: "Fa-Fa-Fa" by Datarock
mp3: "Kim & Jesse (Montag Remix)" by M83
mp3: "We Own the Sky (Maps Remix)" by M83
mp3: "California" by Mates of State & Ira Glass
mp3: "The 80s" by Mates of State

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