Saturday, August 29, 2009

Street Scene 2009, Day 1

Street Scene 2009 kicked off this weekend, feeling a lot more like Coachella Day 3. San Diego's summer heat decided to turn up and man, it was brutal. Looks like there won't be much of a reprieve today, either, with noon time temps already in the mid to high 80's. Still, it's all about the music, and despite some sound issues on just about every stage and walking around all night feeling like a sweaty monkey, I definitely got my fill of some stellar performances. Packed with my usual festival goods (hat, sunscreen, anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, water bottle, camera, etc.), I joined thousands on the streets of San Diego.
Mastodon, face-melting...

I got to Street Scene before the gates opened, stopping by Lolita's to grab a California burrito and ready to hit the pavement. The festival grounds were buzzing as all the vendors waited for the onslaught of concert goers to enter. It was a little anti-climactic, however, because it seemed a lot of people waited for sundown before braving the festival. That said, there were still plenty of people there enjoying the early sets.

Local boys Dirty Sweet kicked off the day with a rousing set of music. I was happy to hear some of the tracks from their new record, which I don't think is released as yet, but it's REALLY good, so keep an eye out for it.

Here's a track off the new record- Marionette.

Dirty Sweet - Marionette from Dirty Sweet on Vimeo.

From Dirty Sweet I wandered over to enjoy the stylings of Extra Golden who were so good. "We're from America and Kenya." Throw some rock along with some African beats and I was a happy girl. The singer had these really cute dance moves while the band jammed out.

From Extra Golden, it was on to the Zarabanda stage which was pushed back another half block and felt much less claustrophobic than last year. There was even a beer garden on the side of the stage. Good move, Street Scene! Dungen was getting started. I'd heard great things about Dungen, but the guitarist (left) was cranky as hell about his sound. Here's the thing about festivals...I would guess that less than 10% of the crowd for any one band are hard-core fans. The rest are passive listeners just going to check you out. Complaining repeatedly over sound issues, specifically ones that probably aren't going to be resolved throughout your entire set (or the whole day for that matter), is a waste of time. I know it's your job and you are a professional musician, so it drives you crazy, but roll with it. I stayed for precisely 2 songs, and went on to find some non-cranky musicians that despite the heat and the sound problems, were genuinely happy to be there.

I wandered back to one of the main stages...Fulana or see Devendra Banhart. He was looking less wooly than I've seen him before and revealed that he is one sexy dude. He played his entire set seated because he broke a rib at their show in Anaheim the previous night. And was he complaining? No. Though he did comment on the heat. "Next year, can we get some fucking astroturf up in here?" I'd have to agree. Coachella is hot as hell, but at least there's grass, tents, water misting stations. Our usually temperate climate is always unpredictable in August and September. Planning for heat would've made the day slightly less uncomfortable. From Devendra I walked to the Casbah stage for Wavves. Full of crazy overexagerrated reverb and one song sounded like the next. They had a handful of enthusiastic fans up front but I didn't stick around long, knowing I'll likely end up at the Casbah after party tonight.

From there it was on to Band of Horses. If you don't know my history with Band of Horses, you can read all about it here and here. That thing I said about wasting my time on cranky bands...well, let's just say I never thought I'd see BoH again. But of course, among my friends, there was just something really satisfying about being in that photo pit. At one point, security tried to kick everyone out saying there were no photos allowed, which made me just think, "of course!"...but that issue resolved and we got to stay. And that was it. Ben came out in the ultimate white trash t-shirt, played his music, I took a couple photos, making sure I was the closest photographer in his line of sight, and then I left.

This brings up another thing. While waiting for Band of Horses, some chick with a camera was bitching about the photo pit being so crowded. She dissed bloggers and said they're "not media" and went on to say, "there wouldn't be a problem in the pit if they didn't give every fucking blogger who applied a goddamn photo badge." Naturally I wanted to claw her eyes out. On the other hand, the photo pits were insanely full, and I know of at least a couple low traffic or inactive sites that were granted multiple passes for their "crew", or photographers who get photo passes for their girlfriends to just hang out. I appreciate that I have a pass, but should they perhaps be a little more restrictive? Probably. But then I probably wouldn't have a pass.

That said, this year I'm taking it easy in the pits...acknowledging that I am not a photographer but merely need a few snapshots of each act, most of the time leaving before the first song is even done. I'm over taking 1000 pictures and sorting through them all, so sorry my shots are fuzzed out. You want real photos, go check out Natalie from It's Too Sunny Out Here or Andrew at Amateur Chemist, who I'm sure are both editing photos as I write this.

From Band of Horses, I moved on to the Green stage to catch Holy Fuck. I am bummed I missed them last time around at the Casbah because of Independence Jam, in fact, I was supposed to do merch but had Abraham cover for me instead, but I did see them at 4th & B, I think they opened for M.I.A., and I forgot how exhilarating their live act can be. Lots of pedals and knobs and their signature moviola and I stayed in the pit a little longer just for their energy. Makes me kinda wish they were playing tonight's after party.

From there, it was back to Zarabanda, where Mastodon was performing their face melting music. I got there a little late so only got in a quick few shots, but their crowd was going nuts and with good reason- they definitely know how to bring it.

I left Mastodon to catch Matt & Kim and like others, I was surprised how huge their crowd was. They stood out to me as the band most happy to be there, talking to the crowd and telling stories and being truly engaging. At one point, Kim told the crowd, "I can see every one of your faces and I'm sorry if I stare awkwardly at you, but I am just so glad you're all here." It was one of the few times I actually paid attention to the crowd and saw people throughout the crowd singing along.

After some Matt & Kim, it was on to Bright Eyes. Sporting a Jimi Hendrix tie dye and surprisingly no hat, the band played an engaging set for fans while I dodged the elbow of some rookie asshole who kept getting in front of everyone else's shots. Photographers aren't exactly known for being courteous. But more on that later. I stayed for a song or two, then wandered off to finish my California burrito and listen to the tunes from a distance.

I moved on to Deerhunter at the Casbah stage and after some excrutiating feedback, they got to playing and though I'd seen the band before, I realized I'm just not that into them. I don't know if it's because half their songs are spent creating loops or what, but they really just don't do it for me, but I finished that burrito listening to them all the while.

From there, I went to see Cake for about 3 seconds before remembering that I really cannot stand that band. And talk about whiners, the dude talked shit about the sound, the lights, and the set props the entire time. Waaah...Why this city keeps bringing this shit band back is beyond me.

It was back to the Green Stage for me, to catch Nortec Collective's Bostitch + Fussible, who were joined onstage by an accordion, trumpet and tuba. I used to live upstairs from a family of 8, all living in a two bedroom apartment, so every dinner seemed like a party. They would blare norteno and mariachi music and while I like the music, when you can only feel the tuba through the floor, it can get a little grating. In this case, I was hoping that the tuba was bleeding over to the mainstage just to give Cake one more thing to whine about. I missed the group when they opened Indie Jam last year, so it was my first live experience. The photo pit had perhaps 10 photographers and about 75 friends and family just there to dance, and in this case, that was fine by me. I don't know which is which, but the guy on the right looked like Gabe Vega. Secret life, Gabe??

I stayed for a while, then wandered back over to Modest Mouse. The crowd was the largest I'd seen for any one band and I tried to maneuver to the photo pit, but they weren't letting anyone else in because it was too crowded, being told I could go in when people came out. So I waited, and was pushed, mauled, and squashed, and when about 8 people did leave the pit, a group of entitled photographers pushed past me. Why do you have a 5 foot tall 19 year old girl doing security at one of the biggest performances of the night? She had no control whatsoever and I was quickly getting claustrophobic, so I pushed my way out. I heard Modest Mouse from the distance but really can't tell you anything about their performance. With that outta the way, I went to Girl Talk back on the Zarabanda stage. I took some photos of the many dancing bodies on stage, but it was crazy and chaotic and the pictures are shit. So there. I will say this about Girl Talk. Yes, it is a total dance party. Yes, people go totally nuts. Yes, there is an incredible art to mixing and sampling all that music. But for people who say it was the best performance of the night, I say this. Girl Talk basically mixes the top hits of all time into something new. It's like an A.D.D. DJ set of all the best music of all time. You have a crowd of party people and throw on Michael Jackson, shit is gonna get crazy. But is it fair to compare a DJ to bands performing live, original music? I don't think so. Then again, that's just me, apparently, because it seems that set was all anybody was talking about.

As for me, I was ready to wind down my night. The temperature was finally tolerable (at 10:30 pm) and I was ready to let the sweet tunes of Calexico carry me off into the night. I enjoyed the set, especially when they brought out a full horn section and a Mexican singer. It reminded me of the love songs my grandma always had playing on her AM radio when we'd go to her house for tamales. The music feels like it belongs in the warm night air and hangs over like a blanket. Natalie and I sat off to the side, recapping our night, watching the crowd do any variation of dancing to Calexico including the white boy bro jump, the Burning Man hippie dances, and one girl doing her best pole dance on her boyfriend's groin. And with that we ended our night.

And now, we shall do it all over again. See you at Street Scene!!


Unknown said...

Great recap! Thank you Rosie!

Wendy said...

"From there, I went to see Cake for about 3 seconds before remembering that I really cannot stand that band. And talk about whiners, the dude talked shit about the sound, the lights, and the set props the entire time. Waaah...Why this city keeps bringing this shit band back is beyond me."

THANK YOU from the bottom of my Cake-hating heart! I *heart* you though!

Wendy xoxo