Words by Marcus Dowling, Photos by Maya Moore
Given that Saturday afternoon’s All Things Go Fall Classic was only the third annual occurrence of a one-day event in a burgeoning event outpost, the fact that the festivities will likely be best remembered as being caked in a thick layer of mud. That does not make it Woodstock or Glastonbury-esque in legend. Rather, it was just a case of 11 hours of music being caught up in Hurricane Matthew’s undertow. However, caught up in a hurricane’s undertow, there was something unifying in the sound and spirit of acts like Empire of the Sun, Passion Pit, and Sylvan Esso that spoke to a certain undulating energy permeating the Nation’s Capital.
There were an estimated 10,000 wet and party-ready people at Yards Park, at the area in the venue on the corner of 2nd and M Sts, NW. As much as this was a gathering defined by celestial electro dance pop, it could’ve just as easily been Paradise By The CVS Front Door Light. If you disregarded the condominium construction happening exit stage right during Empire of the Sun’s transcendent headlining set, the day’s magical and out-of-nowhere purple-pink sunset giving way to a smoke-addled neon purple-pink stage show replete with a trio of on-stage dancers spoke directly to what clearly appears to be the mission of All Things Go’s Fall Classic: crystallize the essence of organic and effervescent good-time vibes and then shock them with a melodic, electric surge.
Passion Pit’s set was slightly plagued with synths clipping in and out, which added to the take-home from their performance. Nearly a decade ago, “Sleepyhead” seemingly emerged from “out of nowhere” being championed by blogs entirely similar to All Things Go. In hearing these songs in a somewhat less-than-optimal manner alongside other hits that have established the band as modern indie darlings like “Take A Walk,” it’s the blend of lead singer Michael Angelakos’ falsetto, Chris Hartz’s stentorian drumming and synths uniquely weaving and dicing through the the bizarre space between the falsely high and strikingly low that allows it to all make sense. When this sound even comes close to hitting its mark, it’s oxymoronic gentle power is worth beholding.
North Carolina-based Sylvan Esso were the day’s true standouts. There’s a dynamic and lineage that dates back to Brooklyn-based duo Matt and Kim that is very much a part of what makes the tandem phenomenal. Vocalist Amelia Meath is all indie rock bravado and awkward swagger, while Nick Sanborn puts his heart in his fingers leaving his body spastically keeping time behind the keyboard. Their new shuffling techno-pop single “Radio” works because it’s hook-driven and focused, even at an outdoor festival on a rainy day. That’s the genius of the pair and their sound. When human connectivity meets technical proficiency, the joy derived from their live performance is euphoric.
NYC-based duo Sofi Tukker and Maryland-based rapper Ace Cosgrove, two acts who alongside noise pop act Pop Etc and trap-pop vocalist Bishop Briggs, comprised the Fall Classic’s monsoon-esque rain soaked afternoon of offerings. Unfortunately, that list does not include Héloïse Letissier, who in a manner similar to Florence Welch being Florence and the Machine performs as Christine and the Queens. Via her Twitter, she noted that she “spent two hours” attempting to figure out how to give the crowd “the dance moves, the music, the lights,” in conditions that it would allow.
Instead, we were treated to a DJ set from the Tukker, half of Sofi Tukker, who played a fanciful mix of indie electro and throbbing techno, while Sofi led the crowd in neck rolls and other on-the-fly dance maneuvers. Ace Cosgrove barely even touched the stage during his set that opened the festival, and was crowd surfing during Sofi Tukker’s impromptu set. More cheeky and benign than anything, it spoke to the mood of the crowd and to the vibe of event. These weren’t KIDS TRYING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD, these were people who wanted to enjoy a sushi burrito while facing the realities of mud ruining their new white Chuck Taylor sneakers. Succeeding at having fun even against Mother Nature’s odds was the day-as-success’ best revenge.
A field surrounded by construction sites was an appropriate location for this year’s All Things Go’s Fall Classic. The best lesson is not to always focus on the face of drama and change, but to find joy in the electricity right now.