As we all begin to decompress from the week-long Mission Creek madness, it’s time to pause, take a deep breath, and then take stock of what the hell just happened. No doubt the major acts have settled well with us. Bomb Squad, Camera Obscura, Greg Brown, Xiu-Xiu, Meat Puppets et al. were amazing musical happenings that were each heavily attended and dearly loved. But with over 85 bands on the official lineup, the smorgasbord was too much for one person to safely consume. However, that’s precisely what I set out to do last week: become the Takeru Kobayashi of Mission Creek band watching.
In my futile attempt at taking photos of every single band for Little Village (I missed a few), there was no time for thoughtful contemplation, getting lost in the music, or sticking around for the crowd-favorite encore. It was only about shoving more in. Each band was budgeted the same amount of time, regardless of their hype or prestige. In the chaos, my attention was flattened to a simple “ok, you’ve got 10 minutes. Impress me.” What I lost in depth I certainly gained in breadth. Having just a little taste (usually one or two songs) of each band before hauling ass to the next venue left me with an American Idol style criterion for evaluating the music. Some of the bands that I thought I’d want to stay for were easy to abandon. Other groups that I would have otherwise skipped wooed me to the point of tardiness at the next scheduled stop.
Now that the music has been digested, there are a handful of groups that whetted my appetite for more. Each of these acts made me want to say, “Screw it. Lone-man-with-guitar can wait. I need to see this NOW.”
Carusella is a guitar-and-drums team hailing from Tel Aviv. I arrived in time for the end of their late sound check, which was torturous. They seemed like yet another band fussing too much about their monitor levels. As annoying as that is anyway, it was quadrupled by my time restraint. Those complaints quickly fell away after Tamar Aphek’s first guitar lick. I instantly understood what the fuss was about. This petite woman sounded like Jack White or Tony Iommi trying to save their soul in a guitar duel with the Devil. I had some important band to go document but I stayed for two more songs then came back later to see the end of their set.
No doubt they will be compared with Beach House or their fellow Brooklyn brothers Grizzly Bear but this is not an insult. Their polished style deserves a place next to those other bands on the mantel of harmonious indie-pop fandom. This was a group that I wanted to just sit with, relax, and enjoy every perfected note. They make the kind of music you want to listen to with your lover on a springtime walk. The group made every note seem effortless, a feat made more amazing by the fact that two of them had food poisoning the day before. I forgot for a moment that I was in a hurry and actually sat down to hear them.
Darian Gray & Jeremy Curtis
Not a band on the official roster and one you can’t buy an album from, but important all the same. Darian Gray and Jeremy Curtis, drummer and bassist for the Booker T band, stopped by the Yacht Club after the last set Wednesday night for a short jam. That was cool enough, but when Darian started laying down an ill freestyle over top I was blown away. First, this is what festivals are all about: spontaneous things emerging from the mix. But secondly, this was the only bit of hip-hop music in the whole festival. Sure there was the Chuck D/Shocklee panel discussion and some tracks at the dance party Thursday night, but no dedicated act to bob my head to in the clubs. When they finished, I wanted to shake their hands and just say “thank you”.
Maybe you did see tUnE-YarDs if you were at the Xiu-Xiu show, since they’re on tour together, but they should be mentioned here again. I couldn’t stay for more than one song but I knew instantly that they were wonderful. I’m a sucker for the experimental bands that are able to keep conventional song structure present throughout their artistic wanderings. This is precisely what tUnE-YarDs seems to manage well. From the opening drum beat to the last dadaist yodel in their opener, it was a joy to witness. Their music (having since listened to more) is both cerebral yet extremely listenable. If my window to go capture Booker T wasn’t so narrow, I would have definitely stayed for the entire set.
Where to begin? I arrived at 8:10 assuming everything was late and I’d have to watch some guy quietly setting up a drum set. Instead, I was blown away by a frenetic and sweaty dance party being lead by what looked like Jesus, a travelling circus, and a half-dozen band geeks. And it was FANTASTIC. I instantly became swept up in the enthusiasm these people were exuding and could almost feel the aura of joy radiating from the flailing dancers, some of whom felt no shame in joining the band for a minute before dropping back into the dance. There was a brief moment where I became suspicious that these people were part of some traveling church group because of their jubilation and revival style partying, but some of their snarkiness and wit quickly dismissed those fears. I should really include ALL of the bands on the Public Space One line up from Friday night because they’re all friends and all fans of each other. Mumford’s, Utopia Park (formerly Porno Galactica), Coyote Slingshot, The Poison Control Center, and Christopher the Conquered all hail from what I’m privately calling the Iowa Triangle, an imaginary zone of musical awesomeness between Ames, Des Moines, Fairfield, and Iowa City. I say this carefully and deliberately: the party thrown Friday night at Public Space One had every bit the energy and talent as the School of Flyentology/Database/Hood Internet/Bomb Squad show the night before at the Yacht Club.