It's 6:00 PM and I'm still horrendously sore from a weekend spent on my feet in 90+ degree weather, but I'm a trooper. The festival went off mostly without a hitch, minus long lines for the food, taking too long to open the gates on Saturday morning, and a few sound problems that plagued bands like Prefuse 73 (too much bass obscuring the rest of their sound) and Xiu Xiu and the Hold Steady (certain instruments clearly not amped at times during their sets). Other than that every band started on time, water was plentiful and the mood was generally jovial. I was actually fairly surprised at how well-run it was, given what must have been a very low budget. Kudos to festival promoter and organizer Mike Reed.
Hideout co-owner Tim Tutton introduced each band, and Thax Douglas provided 21 poems for the festivities, each with titles like "Thunderbirds Are Now! #2" and "Andrew Bird #4." By generally eschewing many of the other activities like the DJ tent, record fair and merch tables, I managed to hear and/or see almost every single band this weekend. I'll avoid making comments on every band for the sake of brevity, but here are some highlights and other notables:
-Carl Newman, the redheaded frontman of AC Newman, started off his set with a guitar string completely out of tune. The band trudged through the "On the Table" and alerted him to the fact once it ended. Luckily, he managed to laugh it off, tune his guitar, and restart the show with an in-tune version of "On the Table." Andrew Bird later joined the band to whistle along with "Drink to Me Babe Then," guided by local alt-country singer Nora O'Connor, who provided back-up vocals and revealed herself to be quite pregnant.
-Four Tet's Kieren Hebden performed alone with two laptops and a mixing board, a set up that may have fared better in the DJ tent. Though he sounded great, there wasn't much to watch for 45 minutes. I later spotted him hanging out with friends during the Wrens and snapped a quick picture.
-The Go! Team was a treat, with singer/rapper Ninja keeping the crowd involved in their brand of 1970's action television show theme song music (Ladies say "Go," men say "Team!" "Go!" "Team!" "Go!" "Team!"). She eventually brought up a dozen or so neighborhood kids who had clearly just come from the park's public pool to dance along, which was adorable and hilarious.
-Frenchkiss Records got the most love from the festival this weekend, with their three signature bands all featured on Sunday's lineup- Thunderbirds Are Now!, The Hold Steady, and Les Savy Fav. They were also three of the best sets of the weekend. TAN! showcased an incredible amount of energy on stage and a variety of circus tricks with their tambourines, and Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington joined them on stage for a raucous finale. Meanwhile, the Hold Steady are one of my favorite bands of the moment, and singer Craig Finn showed a ton of personality to go along with his very unique voice and style of singing. And of course, what more can be said about Les Savy Fav. Tim Harrington is certifiably insane, and LSF puts on a serious show. He fashioned himself a hat out of tin foil, got the entire crowd to sit down together, threw a blow-up raft into the crowd, and poured a variety of substances over himself. They also played one of my favorite LSF songs, "Adoptduction," a story of a man kidnapped by "a dude with a moustache and a chick with an eyepatch." Classic.
-The Decemberists closed the event with a set list that spanned all three of their studio albums. Singer Colin Meloy also managed to get the crowd to sit down for him, and at one point during "The Infanta" the wind was blowing so hard at the band it seemed like they were fighting to get through the song, an effect that strangely added perfectly to their pirate-rock sound.
Check out the photoblog for a visual review of the festival and more specific commentary on the bands I was able to see. For $22 this weekend's festivities were a steal, and I hope the organizers will learn from the weekend's minor faults and make Intonation an annual event.