My friend recently noted that the acronym is confusing, making one think of the IMF, so I decided to spell it out. Just putting that out there.
This was the 13th edition of the festival but my first. I must say I was unfamiliar with most of the bands, though I knew many of them by name; this is what happens when you read Exclaim! constantly but never actually get around to listening to what’s in the pages. So I welcomed the experience of seeing and hearing new things, even if the music wouldn’t necessarily be straight up my alley.
We missed the opening act at the outdoor stage because it takes large groups of people a while to get going. We also missed most of the set by the second act.
Great Lake Swimmers:
I had read about them many times but never heard their music. We arrived near the end of the set and it was difficult to pay attention while we got our passes, got our beer and generally took in everything. If a performance lacks some kind of obvious immediacy – hooks, energy, some kind of gimmick – I need a while to digest songs, to tell whether they are good or not. And so I can’t really tell you anything about GLS except that they are very folky.
After that we went to the General Wolfe Hotel for the indoor portion. In hindsight, I should have gone to the Island Grill, where a programme probably more to my liking was unfolding, but at the time I had no idea.
I have nothing positive to say about this band. They sound like a million other “indie rock” bands out there. The programme wrongly labeled them “Shoegaze” but I must say I was happy about that. I am sick to death of newgaze / nugaze. Unfortunately for me, I am still tired of new new wave as well.
He brought the house down and many people clearly loved him. He had a show based almost completely on audience interaction. To paraphrase a festival attendee: this is not something I would listen to in my bedroom. His music was partially pre-programmed electro pop. I don’t like electro pop. I don’t like crowd interaction particularly. I found nothing of any interest, except when he used my brother’s friend’s comedy skit as part of his slideshow. But I get it. He is clearly very good at what he does. It’s just not my thing. I like watching musicians.
The other bar sounded like it had a little more “rock” oriented night, but I found this out later.
We missed the first three acts because of the same reason we missed the first act on Friday night. But also, the more experienced festival goers had spent 12 hours at it previously and found it too much. So we deliberately stayed away for a bit. Another reason: the opening act of the nearly 12 hour day had a claim to fame of winning their high school battle of the bands contest. Yuck.
The first band we saw was sort of an indie roots thing. As my brother noted, there are a million bands like them. But I must say that my musical highlight of festival came during this set. The band launched into a “loud version” of one of their songs which at one point features the bass player playing bass and melodica at the same time. It was loud, a little unhinged / chaotic, musical and unexpected. It was great. The band on the whole was more interesting / captivating during their louder songs, and less so during the slow numbers. Unfortunately, most of the set was slow numbers.
I found her pleasant. That’s it. Just pleasant. She was wearing a dress that didn’t work for the weather (billowy and it was windy). Her banter was okay. Her sideman cracked a hilarious joke about Michael McDonald. But the performance was a little loose for this kind of thing – it was clear they didn’t do this all the time – and I really didn’t love her songs. (Though as I said it takes me a while with stuff like this.)
PS I Love You:
I stayed away as we were warned they would be loud and they were. I recently had two bad experiences with too-loud speakers so I watched from afar. I didn’t really get into it as a result. I sort of wished I paid more attention. On the other hand, I’m really sort of tired of duos. And the whole noisy-but-catchy thing has never been my cup of tea.
Plants and Animals:
My set highlight of the festival. They were engaging, they had chops (especially the lead guitarist) and they put on a good show. I am now interested in hearing their albums (though my brother tells me they sound very different on record). I quite liked the band even though they never quite reached the high of that “loud version” from the Wooden Sky. For me they still but up the best overall set.
I don’t like hip hop but this guy was literate, entertaining / funny, engaging and he almost did a cover of “Return of the Mac.” As good a hip hop set as I can imagine.
Though I was generally surprised at how loud they got a few times (that is a good thing) on the whole I was underwhelmed (unlike virtually everyone there). They were way too theatrical / mellowdramatic, with both singers sort of behaving like hack actors. They threw flowers in the crowd repeatedly. Their songs were too poppy for my liking and most of the jamming out of those songs lacked the kind of sheer musicality I look for.
Additionally, my brother had predisposed me to dislike their male singer by calling him a dick and I looked for dickish evidence from him only to find tons. He continually asked the engineer to raise his keyboard in the mix, he constantly grabbed his heart inexplicably, his banter was almost uniformly terrible / embarrassing – except when he thanked the security guards for being mellow, which was good – and he frankly seemed to be very concerned that he was the centre of the show – standing farther forward on stage than his co-vocalist nearly the entire set.
I’m glad everyone else enjoyed them. I don’t have any interest in seeing/hearing them again.