Photos by Arlene Brown and Xander Deccio
AB: So, there we were. Sitting in the VIP Lounge watching hometown The Head and the Heart set up, when it occurred to me that we are the luckiest people ever to live in Seattle with all these amazing bands either being from here or come to play here. Seriously! I’m not a “native.” 15 years of living here doesn’t make me one either. So, I can tell you first hand, that we are so lucky to be in this corner of the world with such an amazing musical culture. Not everywhere can say this.
CM: I’ve been here all my life. I’ve travelled all over this nutty planet, and I’m jazzed as all get-out to call this place my home. I love it like I love the moss between my toes. That being said, I had never been to a Key Arena show (I know, I KNOW) before this night, and definitely haven’t been to a festival like this where it’s all one stage and you’re there, soaking it in for 8-9 hours straight (Bumbershoot is a whole other thing). I suppose I’m one of ‘those’ Washingtonians who crawl out from under a muddy rock and into a dark little room to hear music. So it was a bit jarring and overwhelmingly huge at times. I had to walk around the outside hall a couple of times to get a grip on myself. I saw a dude with a Tool shirt and chatted him up about Puscifer; he was from Marysville and was sort of in the same boat as I was as far as the huge scope of the show but he said he was surprised to find he was really enjoying himself.
AB: I guess we could also say that the theme of the night was “harmony.” Because every single band showed that blending voices well can give you chills and make you sweat at the same time. The first two opening bands hailed from jolly ol’ Great Britain. ChVrches opened up the night and the cold Key Arena got hot, fast. With their “synthpop” vibe and beautiful Scottish accents, how could you not fall in love with them? Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, Martin Doherty blended amazingly well together. Lauren’s sweet voice in “The Mother We Share” lulled the crowd into her spell. It was my first time ever seeing them live, and I can’t wait to see them again. ChVrches also performed a very intimate EndSession that just sealed the deal on my new fangirl status of them.
CM: I have to say that I really liked Chvrches. Lauren Mayberry has an otherworldly voice and a great stage presence. I enjoyed their whole 80’s throwback vibe. I also learned that high-waisted shorts are really in right now. I need some heavy tights in this weather. And booties. But one of the things I wished for during the show was actually less harmony, in the sense that I think that more musical diversity would have brought more energy to the whole festival. As it was, it seemed to me that the energy level/beats per minute stayed about the same, which sort of wore me out attention-wise. I suppose that I need a roller coaster. Thrills! Chills.
AM: Oxford, England’s Foals, is definitely going to leave their mark on my memories of the night. Wow. I love a good English accent. But don’t be fooled by their innocent looks. These guys make their guitars scream and shout. And they were loud. LOUD!!!!!!! Granted, I totally dug Yannis Philippakis’ voice. His voice mixed with the rest of the band to make something so powerful. I won’t forget it.
CM: They were so polite! I want to have tea with them. The kind with cream in it.
AB: You know my love of Lorde. 17 years old and she’s really just getting started on her music career. Probably the most anticipated set of the night, she owned the stage with her quirky dance moves, her alluring voice, and that amazingly beautiful head of curls. Even though her music is more “pop” than the other bands, she definitely rocked the house. BIG time! New Zealand, she belongs to the world, now.
CM: I think Lorde should start up a dance studio. I would totally go. Also, I love wigs. Can I get a Lorde wig anywhere? I think that all of that hair is like another character on stage, in a good way. But seriously, Lorde’s command of the stage is mind-blowing considering her age, and I wait with bated breath to hear that salty grumble of a voice age like a fine wine. Because, honestly, with Lorde it’s all about her voice and her incredible control of it. Dang, girl.
AB: Hips. Dancing. Energy. Sexxy. There. I said it. Arctic Monkeys was Sexxy. Lucky for us they also sounded tight. Clean, fresh, reenergized, and oh goodness were they sexy on that stage. We were left breathless, tongue tied, and wanting more. They were also dead on with every chord, note, beat, yeah. Alex Turner, you moved me. And 60,000 other people, too. Thank you.
CM: Alex Turner’s hips were…um…visually arresting. I also liked his suit. I can’t really speak to the band’s sound. I was…distracted…um. Wow. I looked up some of their song titles. Wow.
On a side note, I’m really glad that we were able to talk with DJ Gumbeaux, who warmed the crowd up before the festival started and was mixing it up in the VIP Lounge as well. Beauregard is well-versed in his craft and I wish we’d had more time to talk about the history of rock, punk, hip-hop…so I have to give him a shout-out. He’s a Cajun from NOLA, but he loves it here, just like we do.
AB: I like Alt-J. A lot. I don’t obsess over them, but let’s just say, there’s something about their voices that just hypnotizes me. And I can’t get enough of it. The harmonizing of Gwil Sainsbury, Joe Newman, Thom Green, and Gus Unger-Hamilton mixed with the perfect mix of keys and strings makes me want to dance and well, “Tessellate.”
CM: I am not sure about the lead singer’s voice. It reminded me of Aaron Neville…sorry. Like…Aaron Neville signing with a toddler’s grasp on good enunciation. Ohhhhhh…sorry, sorry. That song “Matilda” that they performed onstage and during their EndSession bugged me. Sorry. I do like “Tessellate” though, but I think it means something naughty. I also like their use of the xylophone. I can play Hall and Oates’ “Private Eyes” on the xylophone. But I think Alt-J could do a better job of it.
AB: Just noticed that not one single band so far has been from the good ol’ USofA. WHAT? Really? Well, Thank God for the next band. Not only are they from the USofA, they’re from SEATTLE!! Yes, The Head and The Heart. After watching these guys grow and get better and better over the last couple of years, I was so excited to see them again. They really do improve every time I see them. Whether it’s in a small EndSession with them doing 3 acoustic songs or in front of thousands at Key Arena, they blend together like butter. Melted carmel. Silky smooth. How could you not dance and smile during their set? I will say that many around us declared this their favorite of the whole entire night.
CM: I’ll admit that I had had a few beers by this point. So, The Head and the Heart’s performance had me near tears several times, especially during the song “Another Story”. Don’t tell the beer girl about breakups and not being able to see your children as much as you like…okay, they can, I can take it, because TH+TH make it sound so pretty. And you are right about their harmonies…absolutely amazing. Charity Rose Thielen has just the greatest, textured voice, though, and I really wanted to hear her sing “Summertime”! I am also happy that she plays violin. Does every band these days have keyboards galore? More violins, please. And xylophones.
AB: So there were two headliners. Phoenix and Vampire Weekend. Okay, Phoenix makes me giddy. Butterflies in my stomach. Star struck. Not sure why. Just something about them intimidates me. Maybe because they’re French? Who knows. All I know is that Thom Mars is phenomenal. When their first song didn’t start off like they wanted, he stood in the crowd and sang. With only a guitar to back him up, he sang “Countdown” to and with the crowd. Talk about making a venue of 60,000 people feel intimate, up close and very personal (to those that were within touching distance.) The rest of the set went off without any more glitches. So professional. And everyone was singing along to almost every song, especially crowd favorite “Lisztomania.” By the way…no one will ever forget Thom going back and standing on the crowd, rolling over the crowd, and swimming over the crowd. It was incredible! For many, this was the end of the night. Maybe they thought they couldn’t take any more. Maybe they forgot that there was ONE MORE BAND!!
CM: I walked around and popped out above and a little bit to the back side of the stage, and it was a great view up there, sort of like being able to see the magician’s tricks if you know what I mean. Phoenix definitely took the trophy home for the most energetic, crowd-connected performance. When they did “Lisztomania” the crowd started flipping out! I love seeing that give and take going on. I bought their t-shirt. Now I just need to get my washing machine fixed so I can wear it.
AB: Oh, that’s right, the band with the #1 album for 2013, according to Rolling Stone, VAMPIRE WEEKEND! If anyone could have followed Pheonix’s show stopping performance, it would be Ezra Koenig and crew. This New York based foursome led off their show with one of their biggest hits to date, “Diane Young.” That takes guts. I mean, you start slow and build to the end, right? Wrong. You start strong and end stronger. Their surfer beats and steel guitars and marimba dance feels just got in everyone’s shoes and you couldn’t help but dance. Yes, this was the 8th band. Yes, everyone was tired. Yes, we were dancing. In the aisles, on seats, all over the stadium, people were dancing. Everywhere. And I have to admit, Vampire Weekend was just a little off at first, but after a quick sound fix, they were dead on the rest of their set. And what a set!!! Even sporting his jammies, Ezra Koenig was having fun. I had fun. And that’s what counts in the end.
CM: For me, Vampire Weekend was just okay. I think it would have been better for Phoenix to have closed it out with their higher energy set. If nothing else indicated that, it was that Ezra was already ready for bed! Okay, okay. I DID like the surf-iness of their songs. But those jammies made me want to go home for my blankie. It was a long, fun day-to-night. Thank you, Wonder Twin. 😉 ‘I love you so! I love you so!’ DARN YOU, Alt-J!