The second full day at Nateva provided splendid, cloud free blue skies, along with blazing sun and scorching temperatures. The day’s lineup was also the most eclectic and diverse, exemplified by main stage headliners the Flaming Lips and a sunset set from trance rockers Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9).
The Flaming Lips headlining set was a psychedelic mind bender, both visually and audible stunning. Opening with the atmospheric space age freak out “The Fear” with a massive, pulsating display behind him, frontman Wayne Coyne stepped into his inflatable orb and out over the hands of a delighted crowd. Dispersed in a setlist heavy on songs from the bands latest release, Embryonic, (“Worm Mountain”, “The Sparrow Looks Up at the Machine”…) were some of the Lips more popular hits. A large portion of the massive crowd sang along with Coyne the entertainer, his hands raised in the air, on “She Don’t Use Jelly”, the 1993 hit song that brought the band to the forefront of the then burgeoning MTV crowd.
The Flaming Lips / Photo: Nick Fitanides
The man can talk too, as he addressed the crowd in discourse about his anger and frustration for George Bush II and against the war, then introduced “The Yea Yea Yea Song” as a celebration for the election of President Obama. Huge balloons and balls bounced around the heads and hands of fans throughout while effervescent glowing lights flashed around the stage and tweenagers dressed in bright orange costumes danced on the wings of the stage on both sides.
On “I Can Be a Frog” he played a call-and response game with the crowd, baiting us with “whatever I say, your gonna scream it back at me at maximum fucking volume, come on!” The lovely, acoustic lullaby “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1”, belied its futuristic lyrical bent but was also a huge sing along for the crowd. Eerily, I noticed as he sang the words, “You won’t let those evil robots win”, fans dressed in robots costumes brushed by my side. The band brought the show to a dazzling conclusion with yet their biggest hit, “Do You Realize”, amidst exploding streamers and confetti shot from cannons and an extravagant, glowing light display on the screen behind the band. Yes, multi instrumentalist Steven Drozd was back on stage with the band after his recent hospitalization. And though the stage show may be a choreographed spectacle played out at festivals across the globe, it’s obviously one worth seeing, whether for the first time or again and again.
STS9 / Photo: Nick Fitanides
STS9 took to the stage just as the sun dropped below the horizon, and opened fittingly with a rarely played “Twilight”. A mellow opener with an atmospheric ambience, it drew curious denizens from the outskirts of the concert field to take in something new. Later, as darkness had fallen on the fairgrounds, they stepped up the tempo and brought harder edged beats and pumped up psychedelic spirals of synthesized techno rock on songs such as “Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist”, and the vibrant rocker “New Soma”. “Rent” ascended upon a slow, steady peak of keyboards, guitars and percussion, as multihued red and yellow and green lights enveloped the band amidst a dense fog. Tribe’s light show was one of the most fantastic of the weekend, and they brought it all back to where it started on “EHM”, a mellow, spooky trance like song to close the set.
Further adding to the diversity of the line up was the pop perfection of She & Him, fleshed out by two backing singers/instrumentalists, a rhythm section of bass and drums, and an additional guitarist supporting their songs from Volume One and Volume Two. The duo of pop starlet Zooey Deschanel & folkie Matt Ward drew a large crowd to the main stage, for their wispy, breezy harmonies and subtle arrangements. On songs such as “Theives” and “Don’t Look Back” Deschanel’s waif like, high-pitched vocals were thin and she had a hard time connecting with the audience. But when she sang in chorus with Ward and the backing singers on the flirtations cover of NRBQ’s “Riding In My car”, it inspired the audience to sway and move in rhythm. While the bands sweet pop was a pleasant alternative to the jam heavy line up, their music seemed more fitting for the intimacy of a club or small theater.
The McLovins are a Connecticut based trio of teens—two of whom resemble the Superbad character. The band began its five song set innocently enough with “Bedhead Crystal Bugger”, drummer Jake Huffman absolutely pounding on the skins. To put it simply, 15-year-old Jeff Howard is a guitar phenom, and his solos mesh fluidly with the tight rhythm of Huffman and bassist Jason Ott. As they moved through the mellow and groovy “Milktoast Man”, the crowd continued to grow and grow, till they’d drawn the largest crowd (well over 1,200) the PCMH shed had seen. Howard’s fingers deftly slid up and down the neck of his instrument on the closing rocker “Virtual Circle”. The crowd demanded with rapturous applause, an encore (a rarity at any multiple band festival) from the trio, and they responded with an incendiary cover of the Phish nugget “Tweezer Reprise” that figuratively blew the roof off the shed.
The Ryan Montbleau Band has become a regular attraction at festivals all over New England and always seems to pepper its set with lyrical references to sunshine. Early Saturday, he opened with a jazzy, “Inspired By No One” singing the line “And she eases up my mind, good things and sunshine all the time”. It was a harbinger of things to come under a cloudless, azure sky. In an upbeat lyrical scat, he referenced the 4th of July weekend and people dancing in the sunshine. The band played two new songs from an upcoming and as of yet untitled CD, “Songbird” and “Straw in the Wind”, which couldn’t be more different from each other lyrically. “That was our dark, heavy metal portion of the set, for us that’s some really heavy shit”, he said of the latter, which was underscored by vivid, swirling keyboards from Jason Cohen. He followed it up with the cheerful, well, “75 & Sunny”, though it was already closer to 95 degrees. Nateva got a wonderful treat when he sandwiched his groovy, tone poem, “A Hand Beside Me” between “Maybe Today”. The poem his account of a particular trippy festival experience, albeit one that many listeners could easily identify with. Again, sunshine abound. With four minutes left, the Bleau Crew had one more, a funky new song from the aforementioned CD called “Lovesongs”, which was anchored by tight rhythm, rumbling bass and dynamic percussion. Though far to short and early in the day, RMB’s set was certainly one of the festivals highlights.
// Notes from the Road
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