Save the best for last? Yeah, we’ll go with that. Sasquatch! 2012 4eva.
The double-headline punch
In what seemed to be a reaction to the not-terribly-exciting festival-ending duo of Wilco and The Decemberists last year, Monday sent the crowd home on a fun note with Tenacious D and Beck playing back-to-back.
The D were full-on schtick — not that there was anything wrong with that. We know all the jokes in “Kielbasa Sausage” and “Fuck Her Gently,” but it’s still fun to sing along to. And as much as we could see that something was gonna come out of the giant inflatable dong behind the band, it was still hilarious when it confettied all over the stage.
As for Beck, he seemed to be either out of practice or bored with some of his more popular songs (he appeared to forget lyrics from time to time, most notably on “Loser”), but a mini-set of beautiful acoustic songs from 2002’s Sea Change and choice cuts from 2009’s trippy Modern Guilt made up for it.
The two worlds of the headliners collided for Beck’s incredibly fun encore, with both Kyle Gass and Jack Black dancing and singing along to “Mutherfucker” and “E-Pro” (video of the performance below). The danceability and na-na-nas of “E-Pro” were a great release after four (or three, in my case) days of overstimulation, if I may say so myself.
More than pop
Believe or not, one of my favorite sets of the whole festival was Feist, who proved to be much more than that lady with the catchy song from the Apple commercial years back.
She opened with a stunning gospel-like number that started with country-style guitar, moved to her singing the first verse with only plodding drums behind her, then ended with a death-march calamity as the rest of the band filled in. Recent single “How Come You Never Go There” was arresting, especially with a trio of female backup singers (collectively the indie folk band Mountain Men) that added show-stealing harmonies. And while there was no “1 2 3 4,” the aforementioned Apple commercial song and undeniably Feist’s biggest hit, it wasn’t needed. “My Moon My Man” brought up the energy with its signature low-note piano riff, and “A Commotion” was an appropriately chaotic highlight.
Shut up and play your guitar
Monday was a good day for me, as it was the day where I finally got to see some fantastic guitar players do their thing (Jack White on Saturday of course being the lone exception).
Gary Clark, Jr., more or less billed as The Next Great Blues Guitarist, certainly wowed me and the rest of the crowd, who chanted “Gary, Gary, Gary” before his set and in between nearly every song. Though he still needs to write some more songs, he stretched out the ones he has with solos that echoed Hendrix’s flair, Jimmy Page’s punch, Clapton’s precision and Tom Morello’s audacity.
Though sound problems beforehand cut out a good portion of Seattle folk hero Damien Jurado’s set, he let his crackerjack new band get their blues-rock rocks off on cuts from his excellent new album Mariqopa. Jurado also found time to set his acoustic down, grab the mic, turn his back to the crowd and amp up the intensity of his vocals. A bit later he rolled around on the Bigfoot stage while his band trudged their way through one of his stellar tunes.
Opening the main stage, Saskatchewan’s finest, The Sheepdogs, got all Allman Brothers on everyone’s asses. They are legitimate rock stars in a very 70s way — hairy, tightly-dressed, and dirty as hell. And trust me, this is a good thing.
Walk the Moon busted out a synth-heavy cover of Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” early in the day on the Bigfoot stage. It was not bad, but certainly a different take. Speaking of covers, Grouplove (who were great fun in the early afternoon on the main stage) turned the end of one of their songs into a fun version of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and Deer Tick (filling in for the absent Mogwai) appeared for the second time in as many days by playing an all-covers set. The proud sons of Rhode Island split their set up into band themes, including Deereplacements and Deervana. The latter of course was the best thing ever, as frontman John McCauley was spot-on playing the part of Kurt Cobain on “On A Plane,” “Been A Son” and the impossibly heavy “Scentless Apprentice.”
I nearly kicked myself for not planning on seeing Vintage Trouble, who grabbed my attention right quick as I was walking by the Yeti stage early in the evening. They’re another soul revival band, but the absence of keys allows the guitarist to take them in a more hard blues direction than their contemporaries. And my God, do they have stage presence or what? Do yourself a favor and check them out.
In the Seattle acts subset, the bluesy/folky Cave Singers sounded good with new bass player Morgan Henderson (Fleet Foxes/Blood Brothers), and killer electro-tinged hip-hoppers Fresh Espresso were aided by the impossibly cool Trent Moorman on drums. Both bands kicked ass and make me dance, but in very different ways.
Video of Beck & Tenacious D performing together courtesy Bryce at 107.7 The End.