Photos By Jackie Garcia, Sarah Park, Words By Jeb Gavin, Tam Sackman
Jeb Gavin’s Take
I am approaching the point at which I can no longer go to “festivals” like All Things Go’s Fall Classic. It’s not the waiting in line for everything. It’s not the kids these days (!!!) getting wrecked and calling it fun (it’s a time-honored tradition.) It’s not even the music (seemingly all modern pop music in the past 18 months is derived directly from Corona’s 1993 hit “Rhythm of the Night.” Go on, look it up. I’ll wait. Do you hear it? No? Perhaps you’re listening to DeBarge instead. Actually, I take it back, all pop music from the past 18 months is derived from a song called “Rhythm of the Night,” regardless of who’s song it is.) No, I’m crabby this evening because somewhere along the line a financial decision was made to homogenize Experience, the last commodity of entertainment not instantly available on the web.
The Experience -specific and capitalized- has become the totem of choice when it comes to entertainment. It’s the being there, it’s the participation, live and sort of offline that matters. You can’t download it, so it’s the last thing on which you can make a buck at a music festival- not that there’s anything wrong with that. Never will I claim The Experience to be not worth the effort, because as a person you are a collection of your experiences. My concern is the attempt to pop-ify, to mold and boil down The Experience and apportion it to everyone equally.
A friend, one with whom I share an affinity for the music of Griz and The Floozies (I’ll circle back around to this,) went to see Cake a few months ago. His Experience was transcendent. He saw a band he loved play live, complete with standoffish stage banter. Leaving the show, he kept hearing kids not much younger than he complain about how terrible the set was. Why would anyone ever want to experience Cake live, they opined, within earshot of a guy who’s Experience in no way synced with their own? But one’s Experience should be that subjective. Sure, there are great shows, or shows everyone seems to love, but how you get to the show and how you get home is rarely the same path anyone else takes, so why would your Experience be all that similar to anyone else’s?
I knew I’d be late Saturday. I walked up just as The Knocks left the stage, and then began my wait in line for supper (every vendor sold out before I got anywhere close to a sushi burrito.) Then I began my wait in line for the bathroom, which turned out to be the line for the photo booth (for what is an Experience without proof it happened? Seriously, what would that even be? Mere existence?) Then more waiting at a bar. Waiting for portajohns. Waiting for Kygo. Given this is a review of a show, I suppose I should take a moment to discuss the headliner.
I don’t dislike Kygo’s music. I think I enjoy hunting for remixes of old Toto tracks, but Kygo isn’t making anything I’d consider aggressively bad. But that said, middle of the road is middle of the road for a reason. An hour and forty minutes of Logic Pro keys laid over party anthem staples played one after another (rather than mixed cohesively) and I couldn’t tell you a single track that moved me to dance. I’m not sure I could even name a single track, save for referencing the samples.
Again, this is not a screed against party music, which is really what this is rather than pop or electropop or deep house. Greg Wilson spins party music and I’d give my life to hear him mix live. I’ll always want to hear Chet Faker’s “No Diggity”, not just because of the reference, but because there’s a uniqueness to it, one I’ve tied to certain experiences in my life. Even guys like The Floozies or Griz, it’s party music- occasionally nondescript party music, but it’s good, and I identify it with good a number of good Experiences, all of which I arrived at organically.
This I think is the crux of my disillusionment. The Experience is about forging your own narrative, especially at a festival. A predetermined narrative, no matter how broad, will result in an experience, but not necessarily yours. You have to live your own life with whatever soundtrack you choose. If it’s Kygo, go forth. I’d recommend going to well-curated music festivals, because it’s nice when thought goes into an event (as this was. Please don’t let this read as anti-ATG.) But if you want to attend shitshow shit shows, you do you. That said, you have to find your own Experience. It can’t come prepackaged and one-size-fits-all. Otherwise you’ll find yourself waiting in a long line, unsure where it goes, insisting you’re having a good time listening to nondescript party music on a nondescript Saturday night.
Tam Sackman’s Take
I was incredibly stoked to return to Union Market for this year’s Fall Classic after having such a blast at last year’s. The space is perfect, if not underused, the day was beautiful (chilly in the shade of the market and hot in the sun) and the food was delicious. I wasn’t as familiar with this year’s lineup, but decided to give it a go and write down my thoughts along the way.
Once again, the event was aesthetically gorgeous. All Things Go is beautifully branded, and everything from the T-Shirts to the drink menus were on point. Most notably, the graphics displayed in the background really enhanced the experience. It’s easy to miss, but good graphics really add production value.
I can’t imagine how many people were in the crowd for The Walking Sticks, because the next act, Photocomfort, had 12 people tops in front of the stage. A solid half of those people were other artists enjoying free range of the event before things really heated up and drunk girls would swarm asking to take pictures. Photocomfort was cute in a way that felt like their set was a commercial for Forever 21. I feel like the meeting where they decided to be a band went a little something like “CHVRCHES is a great band! Let’s do what they’re doing!” Their lead singer, not unlike CHVRCHES, is a tiny little girl on a synth. It was kind of hard to make out what she was saying but it didn’t sound bad. The coolest part about their band is that their bassist/guitarist plays a COMBINATION BASS/GUITAR (two necks! two sets of strings!) and switches between the two. It wasn’t even gimmicky, it was just cool.
Next up was Chelsea Lankes, dressed in an outfit that looked straight out of a country music video if that music video was about an ammo-toting, gunslinging outlaw from the future. Despite being dressed for a barn dance between warlords, her music sounded more like a pop star who really, really wanted to be influenced by soul music. She flailed around awkwardly on the stage and sang a song called “Down For Whatever”. Her voice, appearance and band all seemed to be from different acts until her last song, where the three came together. She covered Motley Crue’s “Too Young to Fall in Love” and when she asked the crowd where her Motley Crue fans were, one guy clapped.
After a few technical difficulties, Powers hit the stage and the shift in energy was palpable. Suddenly, the crowd was filled, and not just with anyone– with hot people dancing to hot music. Even hotter than the crowd and the music were the people on stage– Powers is an objectively HOT band that knows how to work a crowd. They even have a song that consists 80% of the words “I’m so hot”, which is cool cause they weren’t wrong. They also sounded perfect in a way that made me suspicious. Between sounding perfect and moving perfect and looking perfect I began wondering if Powers was a group of well-oiled, sexy animatronics. Their song “Beat of My Drum”, which everyone knows but doesn’t know that they know, sounded even better live than recorded. People were both crowding the front of the stage to get closer and swing dancing in the back where there was space, and everything felt right.
I should add that in between sets, DJ Jan Rosenfeld aka Lightwaves (also the name of his band) had the increasingly drunk crowd dancing their asses off. His near perfect remixes of popular songs and throwbacks had alcohol-fueled dance circles popping up all over the place. I understand why All Things Go brought him back after last year.
Baio played a late afternoon set with just himself on a mixer/synth/keyboard contraption and his friend George on a guitar. The Vampire Weekend bassist announced that this was the 10th show he’d ever played as Baio, and the now significantly-sized crowd said “awww” and then “really?” as he started a really strange set. Baio sounds like an American Jens Lekman singing on a cruise ship and dances by pushing his knees together to one direction and then the other. He sang over tracks and George’s live guitar (reminiscent of The XX but more worldly in that Vampire Weekend way). When he was done singing he would return to the mixer and occasionally add a couple of trappy samples or press a well-worn clamshell button. A lot of songs, like his most popular “Sister of Pearl”, were actually pretty good, but felt empty without a full band to play them.
When I read Niykee Heaton’s name on the lineup, I expected to see the only act of the day fronted by a person of color. Instead, I saw a very white, very sexy young woman in a white one piece bathing suit writhing around on an empty stage. The graphics behind her displayed a picture of herself in bed while “The Bedroom Tour” flashed as she she suggestively ran her hands over her body. It wasn’t the right act for an outdoor festival showcasing new music, but rather the inside of a very sweaty nightclub (maybe one with poles). The small population of 60+ concertgoers averted their gaze to the inside of their wine cups. In an ostensibly sweet act, she pulled a young girl on stage, claiming she was her biggest fan, to sing a song with her. Heaton pranced around as the girl took snapchats of herself. Niykee Heaton is actually a good singer. Her voices has tinges of soul and is unexpectedly powerful. For her final song, she lipsynced to her latest release, “Finessin” featuring Baby E.
The dock was packed by the time Penguin Prison went on. They were rockier than I expected, with a little bit of a retro feel. Lights and visuals complimented the first 5-piece band of the night as they got the crowd (whose drugs were starting to enter their bloodstreams just in time for headliner Kygo) on their feet. Like most of the acts before them, Penguin Prison played danceable pop-rock hits, with their set being one of the days longest. Most songs were good, albeit blending into each other, but the biggest, most welcome surprise was a spot-on cover of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long”. There was this universal feeling of “I don’t know why this is happening but I’m shockingly okay with it.” They ended on 2011’s “Don’t Fuck With My Money” as digital images of hundred dollar bills rained down the screen.
At a few points during the day, I took a mental survey of the crowd. I don’t know why I was shocked to see so many former frat stars now in their late 20s and early 30s getting blackout drunk, but for some reason I was. All Things Go knows how to throw an event where people dance their asses off, but they don’t yet know how to ensure that not all of those people are rich white dudes.
The Walking Sticks