‘Colbchella ‘012’: Political Satirist as Music Curator

Airing on Comedy Central this week, StePhest Colbchella '012: RocktAugustFest featured four bands and managed to dodge the rain but production difficulties kept people aboard the USS Intrepid late.

On the last day of July, Stephen Colbert made an announcement on his show, The Colbert Report. In just over one week, Colbert would be revisiting his 2011 week-long music event “StePhest Colbchella ‘011: Rock You Like a Thirst-Icane” with a newer version, “StePhest Colbchella ‘012: RocktAugustFest”. Last year, Colbert’s musical guests included Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine, Talib Kweli, and Jack White all with in-studio sessions and interviews broadcast on the television show. This year, Colbert decided to rock the boat a little and host Colbchella outdoors and on the USS Intrepid Museum in front of a larger audience.

Colbchella ‘012 featured four acts, one each to be broadcast nightly, including fun., Grizzly Bear, Santigold and the Flaming Lips. For the audience members lucky enough to get tickets (reportedly there was only a 1500 person capacity), they were treated to a couple of beers and a snack for their time plus a chance to see abbreviated sets from each of the acts. Unfortunately, as is the case with television recordings, some performances required multiple takes, including two from Grizzly Bear and Santigold, in order to be appropriately captured. To be sure, the three songs each artist performed would not all air on TV, some are internet exclusives. But the technical difficulties that may have marred the recordings did not necessarily ruin the song for those on the boat (excluding the moisture that got into one of effects pedals). It was to much annoyance that songs were redone and when the show finally ended around 12:30 am, people were deservedly tired. Even Grandmaster Flash, Colbert’s second in command, bailed from his decks on the deck before the night was through.

The Colbert Report is frequently referenced at the Newseum in Washington D.C.

None of that detracted from the tongue in cheek humor of the renowned political satirist that is Colbert. Going easy on the politics for the evening, Colbert appeared on stage behind a wheeled wheel stuffed into a vintage naval officer’s uniform that was the butt of many jokes (his epaulettes that signaled a rank versus Captain Crunch, he was performing in H.M.S. Pinafore. He brandished a sabre, plugged his sponsors Pepsi and T-Mobile, chatted with and played Battleship against Jon Stewart (prerecorded), sang the national anthem at the audience’s behest and later sang “Happy Birthday” to someone in the audience in Latin. Meanwhile, in the DJ tower, Grandmaster Flash spun hip-hop and RnB jams during breaks and repeatedly asked the crowd to get their “hands up in the air”.

The music itself was good despite the repeated listens. fun.’s performance included their hit “We are Young” as well as “Carry On” and “Some Nights”. Grizzly Bear’s first live performance in several years included “Two Weeks” (x2), a song off their forthcoming album Shields (which received a ‘Colbert Bump’) and demonstrated the technical troubles that later affected Santigold’s set. I wonder if her backup dancers were as reluctant to redo the same songs over and over as the audience was to continue giving them their full attention (of no fault of the band’s).

Expectedly, the biggest act was held till last but there was still more fun to be had after that. Wayne Coyne led the Flaming Lips through a song off Heady Fwends and the band closed with “Do You Realize?”. But as typical of a Lips performance, Coyne had a giant inflatable hamster balls plus one for Colbert. A seasoned pro, Coyne maintained his balance in ball well and one could not help but laugh as Colbert struggled to stay on his feet. Carried by the enthusiastic crowd who still remained, Colbert and Coyne rolled back onto the stage and gave the audience their goodnight.

I’m not sure to what extent this would be televised, but for some behind the scenes footage or to watch some outtakes, I recommend you search for fan made Colbchella videos.

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Grandmaster Flash:

Grizzly Bear:


The Flaming Lips: