Friday, October 31, 2008

ACL Day Three

By day three, we had heard many bands complain about the sun, the heat and the early(for rock stars) start times. Hearing this while holding a dollar can of Diet Coke, eating a six dollar chicken wrap, and having paid hundreds of dollars for a three-day festival pass, I didn't really give a shit. Hell, I wish my workday could start at one in the afternoon. I realize the time the band goes on isn't the literal start to their "work" day, but I don't have an entourage to help me get to the office, so I still don't give a shit. And believe me, I could use an entourage and some roadies, bringing me coffee to help with a hangover, telling me how awesome my code is, doing the boring coding1 for me, and telling my boss I need at least a two hour lunch break and a vodka-cranberry or I'm not coming back.

Despite my general lack of rock star empathy, however, if there was one band I did feel sorry for, it was The Kills. The indie-duo, and their extremely danceable2 blues/garage rock, are best after sundown. Part of the reason they were a must see for Leslie and I was morbid curiosity: we wondered if they would make it through their set or spontaneously combust like a pair of vampires.

During their set, in front of me danced a white girl with dreadlocks. Her hair reminded
me of the pancaked-squirrel roadkill I had seen in the hotel parking
lot. Initially, they seemed - relatively - fine. Guitarist Jamie Hince said, "We've never played in the sun before, this is a novelty."

Maybe they weren't as averse to daytime as we had thought. Things quickly devolved, however, as the sun and heat got to them:

"We are going to publish the number of our agent on our website, so you can call him from the hours of four AM to five AM to complain about this fucking heat."

I wondered, what did their agent tell them ACL was going to be like?

To their credit, Hince and the other half of The Kills, singer Allison Mosshart, didn't mail it in. Mosshart, withering like the Wicked Witch in her nightclub garb under the Austin sun, retreated to the back of the stage("Sorry guys, I'm not built for the sun, I'll be back here"), but wandered back to the front of the stage after a bottle of water and a failed attempt to take her burning boots off. Hince, in between tuning and adjusting the drum machine3, did his half-moonwalk, full-on-sexy shuffle while playing his catchy, abrasive guitar licks. Mosshart, seemingly moments away from dying of heat exhaustion, still delivered with her smoky-sweet vocals. It was my favorite show of the festival. Later, Leslie said she had trouble enjoying the show because the Kills were obviously not having fun. Considering Hince's last words, I can't blame her:

"Come see us when it's dark, this is fucking bullshit."


The day before Leslie and I thought we had found the infamous Barton Springs. Little more than a spot in the river were we could cool off our feet and - if we felt adventurous - maybe swim, we were not impressed. Certainly pleasant, but not what the festival guide had promised.

On the third day, thankfully, we had found the real Barton Springs. Essentially it's a swimming pool constructed in the middle of and fed by the river. A sign said "Bottom surface is natural and may be slippery." It should be shortened to "Bottom is slippery".

Taking a dip in the cool, not freezing water was just the break we needed after baking in the festival fields for three days. The Springs was an oasis of sorts, full of hipsters and their ilk swimming, sunbathing and jumping off the lone diving board. It was a cartoonish version of paradise.

Close to dozing off in the grass, I saw a father wading with his baby. When lowered near the surface, the baby excitedly smacked the water with his tiny hands as if it was the most extraordinary thing he had ever touched. As his father lifted him up, his arms would slow to a stop, only to furiously start up again like hummingbird wings when close to the water.


Okkervil River started out a little weak. They seemed a little out of tune - and were there sound problems, or was Will Sheff smacking his head into the microphone? Maybe the band was as distracted as I was, wondering what the score of the Redskins/Cowboys game was.

Texas takes football seriously, so it was no surprise that there was a tent showing the game(the day before they showed the Longhorns game). I was tempted, but decided I was here for music, not football. When else would I have the chance to hear all of these great bands?

Still - and maybe I bit hypocritically - there I was, furiously reloading the box score on my iPhone. Below an orange stage banner that read 'AT&T - Blue Room' the EDGE network struggled to let me know if the Redskins were holding onto their slim lead. Frustrated, I finally put the phone down and hoped Okkervil River could keep my mind off all the various ways the Skins could still lose. They killed "John Allyn Smith Sails", and as they segued into the song's send-up of "Sloop John B", I did briefly escape the need to know what was happening in Texas Stadium. That's no small feat.

Walking towards the bathrooms after River finished their set with a rousing rendition of "Kicks", I called my family back in Maryland to see what had happened. Last update I got, the Skins were ahead 26-24 with under two minutes to play.

"We won! It's over!" my father answered.

"Awesome!" I replied. "Now I'm going to be surrounded by sad Cowboys fans! This is the best weekend ever!"

Right after hanging up with my Dad, I overheard one such fan on her cellphone:

"They LOST? How could they lose? But...oh well...we'll beat them in Washington."

No darling, no you won't.


A disc in Jack White's back is in the wrong place. His doctor told him that this morning, and now he is telling us this - for the third time in as many songs. If it bothered him, it didn't show in the least. He, Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence, and Patrick Keeler4 were great as usual, from the opening song to the set-closing, transcendent extended take on "Blue Veins".

In the middle of the set, a slightly older man(late thirties, early forties) asked me something I will never forget:

"Hey, hey man - what does 4:20 mean to you? I mean, if I say 4:20, what do you think of?"

Blinking, I looked at him and his(very attractive) girlfriend, trying to determine if he was serious.

"He seriously doesn't know," she said. "I told him ask anyone - ANYONE - here and they would know."

"Oh...well, it's a marijuana reference. You know, pot?" I said.

"Really? Where does that come from?" he asked.

"I don't really know," I said.

"Well, I've been smoking pot for twenty years and I've never heard of it!" he said5. "Well - what's your name? - oh, well Kris, should we get you high for that?"

I declined.

As usual, after finishing their show all four Raconteurs huddled and bowed. I wondered, would they do this if they weren't a "super group"? The show of solidarity, is it a reminder that they are a "real" group and not just a collaboration?

I still wonder.


Leaving early, but fully satisfied with our ACL experience, Leslie and I walked to Lamberts, a restaurant Leslie had read about. The great thing about traveling with Leslie is she has great, extraordinary taste when it comes to food, and Lambert's was no exception. The chips and queso that started the meal off would have been enough; the chips were warm, crisp and the queso was rich and creamy. The Mexican Coke tasted extra, extra sweet after three days of festival Diet Cokes, and the southern-style mac and cheese was the definition of decadence, baked and served in a bowl. And then, the ribs came. Damn, I wish I was eating at Lamberts right now.

Anyway, while digging into our meals, Leslie and I talked about the festival highlights(in between praising the food). Somehow we got onto Jack White: which of his bands is better(I say it's a toss up), his relationship with Meg White, and her drumming ability. Then, the guy seated one table to my right leaned over to me and said:

"Hey, did I just hear you guys talking about The White Stripes?"

"Uh, yeah."

"I thought so. Did you notice Jack White is sitting right behind us?"

I looked over my shoulder. Fuck. Me.

It was Jack White, Meg White, and the back of some mysterious strangers head. Less than twenty feet away. I briefly wondered if Meg had overheard Leslie and I talking about whether or not she was a good drummer, and if she and Jack got along anymore. I hoped not(even though, for the record Meg, I came down on your side on both issues).

A little starstruck, we tried to continue eating. We played it pretty cool the rest of our meal, only glancing over fifty or so times. Leslie had it harder than I did; my back was to their table while Leslie had to act as if she didn't notice the table of rock stars in her field of vision. When Meg, Jack and company got up and left, Leslie and I stared directly at each other - the epitome of not-caring New Yorkers6. The second they were out the door, we laughed at our ridiculousness.

And with that, the festival was really over.


1I know, I know - isn't all coding boring? Still a geek, folks.

2"Sour Cherry" almost - almost - made me forget I was sitting at work, get up and dance.

3Leslie and I have a continuing discussion/debate about whether the Kills should add a human drummer. I say if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Not sure how this applies to a drum machine, but seems to make sense.

4Yes, I had to look up the two other members.

Do you suppose he's just smoked so much, he forgot?

6Fine, I don't yet qualify as a New Yorker - how many years does it take?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Wrecking Ball", Dead Confederate

  • Artist: Dead Confederate
  • Album Title: Wrecking Ball
  • Record Label: Razor & Tie
  • Release Date: 9/16/2008
  • Rating: 8.5
  • Bands Web Site:
  • Sound: Indie Rock(Grunge mixed with Psychedelia and Alt-Country)
  • Similar Artists: No one really at the moment.

Being a whiny, white North American male I can easily relate to Dead Confederate and whatever demons they are trying to exorcise on their debut album Wrecking Ball. Many, many shitty bands have aped the earnest anguish of early grunge1, but no one has taken the "authentic" sound of the early nineties and mixed it so innovatively with something new; in this case the southern gothic of alt-country and the spacey indulgences of psychedelia.

Lead singer Handy Morris's wail waxes from restrained to completely, insanely unhinged - most effectively on "The Rat", the album's best song. Behind Morris's most even performance the band mixes a mesh of grunge minor chords with sparse spans of delicate guitar needling - all building into a psychedelic soundscapeof pain and desperation. The best songs on Wrecking Ball mirror "The Rat", blending equal(or nearly equal) parts Seattle and Stoner rock. It's a dark, sinister, cutting, innovative and interesting sound. Take "Goner", with its spacey-sounding verse that drives into a pounding, crashing chorus.  Or the haunting dirge "It Was A Rose": the band creates a void and then fills it with epic bursts of sound, ending in an ear-splitting guitar solo. To rob a line from another one of this year's best releases, there are many shades of black - of anger, despair, sadness - and Dead Confederate knows this. Instead of one-note scream fests, the band makes atmospheric songs that illuminate all the subtle shades of angst, and then knock you over. This is not a mopey, dumpy sound. You won't listen to this shoulders slumped, gazing dead-eyed into the world - you will feel alive, angry with passion and grit. No one better fuck with you while "Start Me Laughing" is playing.

Not all of the songs on Wrecking Ball have that level of intensity(though most do); the longer, more Pink Floyd style songs "The News Underneath" and "Flesh Colored Canvas"3 might grate on some. Let's face it, most of us want pop music and anything over five minutes - no matter how good - is asking to be skipped. Confederate slowly builds each song but keeps things interesting for almost twenty hypnotic minutes.

It will be interesting to see where Confederate goes from here. Will their next album expand on the grunge aspect, or will they dig deeper into their southern-rooted sound? Either way, I can't wait to find out.

1Most people will think of Staind. I won't debate their shittiness, but come one, you know you have at least "Outside" and "Been A While" floating around somewhere.

2When I write "soundscape", I really feel like a pretentious jackass.

3Most likely biggest fan, Hannibal Lecter.


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ACL Day Two

The makers of Amstel Light should be both very delighted and disappointed. Delighted that I love their commercial with people partying in Amsterdam, dancing in the streets and enjoying a bar-band show, but disappointed that the reason I'm happy when the commercial comes on is because I love the addictive song that accompanies all the young beautiful people wherever they go. And now that I know it's The Fratelis' "Chelsea Dagger", I'm going to download that song, play the fuck out of it for the next month or so, and never be anymore likely to buy Amstel Light than I was before I saw the commercial1.

The Fratelis, the first band we see on day two of ACL, really gets the crowd going with "Chelsea Dagger": people are actually kinda sorta dancing(or at least rhythmically bouncing). Some of them are drinking Heineken Light(at least it's a European beer). The Fratelis play some pretty good, hooky pop tunes. I'm constantly reminded these days, though, that just making catchy songs isn't enough - everyone has to be transcendent. Any band that seems like it will only be good for an album(or god forbid just a single) or two isn't worth anything. I'm not sure why to enjoy these songs 10 years from now The Fratelis will have to be considered - at the very least - a very good rock band, but I'll bet it has something to do with Radiohead. But I like JET, so what do I know.


The sun beat down like a death ray, with Leslie and I in the killzone. We watched Back Door Slam(a power-trio in the Cream tradition, according to the festival guide) finish up a pretty good version of "Outside Woman Blues". I wanted to be enthusiastic for Slam, with their old-school blues-rock approach that I usually eat up, but the heat was sapping what little energy I could muster for their mostly mundane performance. I felt bad Leslie was missing Band of Heathens for this, and felt worse when we could hear them from the BMI stage as we left the festival, heading for Barton Springs. They sounded much more interesting than Slam.

Interestingly, Leslie thought I had recommended both Band of Heathens and The Heartless Bastards to her. I'm not sure what this says about me, but it can't be good.


Leslie and I have no sense of direction; luckily Leslie has the sense to ask for directions.

We were headed in the exact opposite direction of Barton Springs(where there was a pool we wanted to use to cool off). It was hyped by the festival organizers and from what we'd heard, it was an actual swimming hole - it was right in the river. After some more helpful locals got us pointed in the right direction, we found it. We thought.

Walking along the river, we saw a few festival attendees taking a dip in the river. It didn't seem that special. The river itself was pretty narrow, the water clear but the bottom a dubious collection of rocks, pebbles and slime. Plus, neither of us had brought a bathing suit. We dipped our feet, remarked at the slight disappointment Barton Springs was, and made our way back to the festival.

The next day, we would find the real Barton Springs.


Erykah Badu loves to talk; about her many nicknames2, the curious name of her last album(apparently World War III has already happened - I'm guessing we won?), and the possibility of a black President(which gets huge applause). My favorite part of her ramblings, though, was when she advocated overthrowing the United States government.

OK, that's the kind of gross simplification many public figures complain about, but tell me, how else would you interpret someone who told you we needed a whole new system? But that's not the best part of Badu's talk. The best part was when she likened the electing of the President to putting a new manager in a bowling alley, except you see we don't need a bowling alley, we need a skating rink. And what miracle-working manager is going to pull that kind of transformation off? Fucking bowling alleys.

Her music was great.


After Badu finishes her set, we stay put because Bright Eyes Conor Oberst will be playing at the same stage in a bit and we want to be fairly close for that. Well, Leslie stays put while I wander off to the food tents, because I have to eat every two hours, it seems. I did have a morning run, which in vacation rationality erases the following: two cokes, two beef-wursts with mustard, one tray of New York style potatoes, one beer, and the eggs, sausage and cheese Tex-Mex monstrosity I had for breakfast. Apparently, it takes four Vacation Calories to equal one normal calorie, and I ran a marathon on the Clarion Inn treadmill. True story.

I'd never seen Oberst, and if you haven't and don't care for him, you should stay away. Because his hipster good-looks and earnest vulnerability will crush whatever hatred you have of him. For the length of his set, you will become what you hate most - a doe-eyed Bright Eyes Conor Oberst fan, swaying to the beat, singing the choruses, and contemplating the vast, mysterious nature of life.

His set was mostly song-for-song from his last self-titled album(which is very good), but he and the Mystic Valley Band did a fantastic cover of "Kodachrome", a song I love because it was the first time I heard anything remotely resembling a bad word on the radio. Well that and "I'm Your Venus" by The Shocking Blue, because it sounded like she was singing 'I'm Your Penis'. And Penis, I don't have to tell you, is exactly the kind of word you want to hear when you're eleven years old and riding in a car with your parents.


We walked towards The Black Keys after Oberst's set; unfortunately they were on the other end of the festival grounds. It would be packed by the time we got there. Smoke drifted from the food court over ponds and pools of people; people mixed in a chaotic current flowing towards the stages, tents and bathrooms. These throngs with their poles and flags silhouetted against the evening sky resembled a post-apocalyptic army marching through the hot, flat wastelands of Texas. Should I be prepared to fend off cannibals?

Arriving at the outskirts of the Black Keys crowd, we could barely hear the band. I had heard the Keys were awesome live, so this situation was unacceptable. Leslie and I poked and prodded for openings in the crowd, slipping in between people to seize even the tiniest piece of show-gazing real estate. We kept our eyes open for anyone leaving, shuffling, or otherwise giving us an opportunity to move up. In no time at all, we were close enough to hear the band in full force. It was well worth it.

After the Keys, we stayed for a bit of Allison Krauss and Robert Plant. They did a slow, acoustic version of "Black Dog" that I only recognized by the lyrics at first, then the tune came into focus. It was pretty good. We considered Beck, but the crowd seemed to cover half of the festival grounds. We could barely see Beck on the stage screens we were so far away, but from what I could tell, he looked like a rock n' roll scarecrow(really fucking cool).

We left to find some food.


1I have no real Amstel Light opinion, if I'm in the mood for a light beer and it's on tap, hell I might buy it.

2My favorite being "Analog Girl In A Digital World", because it's the most bullshit way of saying your "old-school" I've ever heard.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"The 59 Sound" - The Gaslight Anthem, Review

  • Artist: The Gaslight Anthem
  • Album Title: The '59 Sound
  • Record Label: Side One Dummy
  • Release Date: 8/25/2008
  • Rating: 9.0
  • Bands Web Site:
  • Sound: Punk Rock, Garage Rock, Pop
  • Similar Artists: Against Me!, Dropkick Murphys, The Replacements, Bruce Springsteen

Drunkenly walking home across the Pulaski Bridge to Brooklyn one night last
week, "Great Expectations" from the Gaslight Anthem's new album The '59 Sound came on my iPod and I was swept up in the band's wickedly sweet sound: a mix of punk energy with New Jersey, blue-jeans-and-bars classic rock. Perfect for an inebriated streetlamp lit walk back home. Along with lead singer Brian Fallon I belted out the chorus 'I saw daylights/Last night/and I dreamed about my first wife/Everybody leaves and I'd expect the same from you', no doubt startling a couple of my fellow late-night pedestrians, but I couldn't help it - I felt like the song was about me. Music is always better when it feels personal; with that in mind, I may be swept up in the honeymoon stage of love with The '59 Sound, so take my enthusiasm with a grain of salt(but just a grain, the band is really good).

The best songs from the tight, 12 song affair are energizing; full of head-bobbing riffs and dramatic melodies. It's a sweaty bar-basement show where you shout out the choruses2 as the band rips through their set. Fallon's soulful, often heartbreaking vocals sets the band apart from their peers(imagine the Hold Steady fronted by a 1980s Paul Westerberg). Fallon's lyrics drip with earnest('And Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand/I always kinda sorta wished I looked like Elvis/And in my head there's all these classic cars and outlaw cowboy bands/I always kinda sorta wished I was someone else' from "High Lonesome") and tell a unique story you can still relate to. I may have never been a Jersey boy wishing he was Johnny Cash or Elvis, but everyone has wished they were someone else at some point.

When a band has a winning formula, there is a danger of all the songs sounding the same. Luckily, Gaslight Anthem avoids that(like on a great AC/DC album) - you'll never find yourself thinking 'this song rocks, but which one is it?'(like on a good AC/DC album)3. In fact, there are so many good songs I had a hard time deciding which ones in particular to write about; '59 Sound could be a greatest hits album all by itself. Next Saturday night, download this album, grab a beer, a buddy, and enjoy.


1This is the sound I think Brandon Flowers was going for, and largely failed to get, on Sam's Town. Guess you need a band from Jersey to channel the Boss.

2You will be singing: 'Don't wait too long to come home/My have the years of our youth passed on/Don't wait too long to come home/I'll leave the front light on' from "Miles Davis & The Cool" and 'Can I get a witness pretty baby/I still love Tom Petty songs/And driving old men crazy' from "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues".

3Yes, these are the only two kinds of AC/DC albums.


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Friday, October 10, 2008

ACL Day One

"Haven't you heard 'Keep Austin Weird'?" Veronica, of the Austin Clarion Inn, asked with an uneasy smile.

Honestly, I had not: this was my first time in Austin, for my first Austin City Limits festival. In fact, Leslie and I were so unfamiliar with the bohemian Austin spirit that we were shocked to find the small problem with our hotel room that had Veronica nervously pondering her computer: all the furniture had been piled on-top of the unmade beds.

After traveling all day it almost made sense in my disorientated, just-get-to-a-bed state. Yeah, it's one of these arrange the furniture and make up the bed rooms. Of course.

It was bad enough to be in a smoking room(another mysterious Clarion mistake), but this? At least Veronica was friendly. She quickly found us another room(still smoking). As she handed us the room "keys", I noticed the little plastic card had an ad for Domino's Pizza on it. Ha! I was in Austin; I was here to enjoy genuine Texas food! Why would I eat something I could get back in New York? She handed me a separate key for the hotel's "fitness center". The treadmill was also something I could do back in New York, but considering all the barbecue I expected to eat over the next few days, I thought it was best to at least have the option of keeping that habit up.


The next day Leslie and I almost took the bus in the opposite direction of downtown Austin. Thankfully before taking a ride to only God knows where, we realized we needed exact change for the bus. One dollar. So we went back to the Exxon station(I had just been there in a futile attempt to find sunblock, which I had to find soon or it would be short, red and painful festival for me), bought some bottled water, and upon our return were turned around by some helpful locals.

One dollar for the bus? I liked Austin already. Fellow festival-goers rode awkwardly with blankets, backpacks, and outstretched maps. Being totally unprepared, I had no such encumbrances. The locals sat looking bored and used to the annual invasions of their city(in addition to ACL, South By Southwest is held in Austin). Passing the state capitol building, we eavesdropped on a conversation between a local and couple with folding-chairs and wide-rimmed hats for any useful festival information. There wasn't any.


Before walking to the festival pickup point downtown, we had breakfast at a "funky" coffee house. Funky means the waitresses have tattoos and local art hangs on the walls. This seems to be the minimum requirement for any establishment to be "funky" or "quirky" regardless of where you are in the country. Conformity doesn't only come in Starbucks green and brown.

We had to pay at the register before sitting. I ordered some french toast, a side of bacon and the very inviting freshly-squeezed orange juice. Maybe the oranges are from just across the border, I thought, from the orange groves Conor Oberst sings about on "Cape Canaveral". The ones he saw in Mexico while recording his last album; a song he would probably perform when we saw him on day two. How fitting. Before handing us our table marker, the nice girl behind the counter poured my orange juice from a carton.

Sipping my freshly-poured orange juice, I talked with Leslie about who we were excited to see the first day. I was only hyper-familiar with one band on the docket, Vampire Weekend(who I like, though I find it interesting Peter Gabriel managed to somehow split himself into four Columbia students). I was really looking forward to The Mars Volta, because I'd only heard of them, but never actually heard them. I had a sound in my head; a heavy, terribly chaotic but beautiful sound that I imagined was theirs. I was a little uneasy, because the sound I end up hearing almost never matches what I imagine, but I was eager to see how closely reality matched what I had culled from reading about the band.


I still didn't feel like I was in Austin. We had redeemed our tickets for wristbands(which we would have to wear during the entire three-day festival, which I thought odd), and were on the bus to the festival grounds. I imagined it would feel strange to be in Austin, a place I'd never been, so far away from home. Outside, the city could have been a summer day in any American town. The only clue I had was the Texas license plates and the slightly higher proportion of cowboy boots to all other forms of footwear.

At the grounds, it finally hit me. The huge, sweeping fields were filled with people walking around with banners and flags flying from long poles sticking out of their backpacks, looking like hipster-samurais. The cheering mixed with thundering bass-lines from the nearby stages came from all sides. I was in Austin, finally. At the first stage, watching a Brooklyn band called Yeasayer, the joy and excitement culminated in the defining existential crisis of concert-goers: do we really just stand here?

In the dry, Texas heat listening to Yeasayer's unique brand of wandering, spacey indie rock, excited, anxious, I really just stand here? Should I try to dance? This is a festival, shouldn't I be a little more festive? Freak-out at every good part, jump up and down flailing my arms like a maniac or something?

No. I'm white(like most here), so I'll just stand, swaying and bobbing slightly(like most here).


Watching Vampire Weekend, I was getting a little pissed off. Not at the band, but at their fans. They weren't belligerent, stuck-up, or graham-cracker boring and they weren't talking mindlessly through the set. No, they were throwing up the horns.

For. Vampire. Weekend.

The demonic sign of heavy fucking metal, for Vampire Weekend, makers of hyper-literate ivy-league dance pop. Look people, that's not fucking Slayer up there. I don't see Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax or even Billy Fucking Idol. What the fuck is wrong with the world that people are calling on Satan during "Oxford Comma"?

A frequent offender was an attractive woman dancing on top of a security fence during most of VW's set. The guard nearest her didn't mind, in fact, he was obviously enjoying the view. She was dressed like a neo-hippie: a hippie's wardrobe but modern hygiene. Enticing, but then two other security guards came over and made her get down. Behind me, I heard another woman say 'Thank GAWD!'

The men were silent.


M. Ward was my favorite show of day one, and not just because he played away from the sun under the tent at the WaMu Memorial stage. In his arresting acoustic opener, Ward handled his guitar like a lover, holding it low, leaning over it attentively - almost drunkenly - as he played. Later in the set he switched to a black electric guitar with silver accents, and as he and his band thundered through some great country-rock songs, Ward and the guitar became an iconic image in my mind of what a rock musician should look and sound like.


It was dark by the time the Mars Volta came on, and they were everything I expected. Within five minutes I could see why their hardcore fans love them(super-technical virtuoso musicianship, extraordinary stage presence, and a mind-blowing hard, loud sound) and why so many other people hate them(musical indulgences that would make even Led Zeppelin say, hey, that's a little much. Seriously, I was there for thirty minutes and they got through maybe two and a half songs).

We left early because Leslie wasn't feeling too well. Back at the hotel, I ordered Domino's, and wondered what day two would bring.