On Friday morning, the heat woke me early enough to get up in time to make the trek to the gates of the venue about an hour before Elephant Revival’s set was supposed to start. We weren’t allowed in the gates until noon, and people were getting antsy and bitching to get let in before their set started. I finally got in the gate and rushed in to the Dragon stage in the dusty heat. The crowd was sparse, and although Elephant Revival has seemed to be growing in popularity over the summer, it seemed as if a lot of people might not be as familiar with the band as they were simply awake and ready to do something. They played for an hour or so, and Bonnie Paine’s fragile vocals, the indie quintet’s soft harmonies, and the use of a variety of instruments were the perfect wake-up to the afternoon.
The Wood Brothers
After heading back to camp to cool off and chill out for a bit, I returned for The Wood Brothers – a band I have often heard of but really knew nothing about. Everything about them (including their name) gave off a folk-y vibe, and once they started, I found that they weren’t too far off from what I had been expecting as soon as they walked on stage. Although the set started off slowly and I assumed it was going to stay that pace during the lazy afternoon, less than a few songs in, their blues/folk-rock had plenty of sweaty people dancing like crazy.
I had no idea what to expect from this act, but within a few minutes of their opening song, a light bulb sparked on and I realized the reason for their name. A “conductor,” who I later learned was Matt Butler, ran around on stage like a wild man, directing a random group of musicians from ALO, Rubblebucket, and Elephant Revival into a variety of different improvisations. It was awesome to watch all of the musicians intently focused on Butler, and his energy was incredible – although he played no instruments, as he ran around on stage, his gestures, facial expressions, and wild waving of a whiteboard with written commands on it (to both the band and the crowd) kept my attention throughout the whole set. It was also really enjoyable to watch how intensely each musician kept their eyes on him and each other, often looking surprised and pleased with themselves and the others on stage.
Yonder Mountain String Band
Yonder played at my favorite set time – they started when it was still light, and played until night began to set in. From the very beginning of their set, their jammy bluegrass twang had everyone hopping around like maniacs. Roosevelt Collier played the steel guitar for a Talking Heads cover of “Girlfriend Is Better,” and the crowd overflowed from the Dragon Stage to the Crane Stage as those who had been mulling around all day were finally beginning to make it down for the night’s artists. Everything about this set seemed to fit together incredibly naturally – and as it got darker, the band’s enthusiasm matched that of the crowd’s all the way until it ended and we shifted our attention to the main stage once again.
The Pimps of Joytime
I had also never heard of the Pimps of Joytime, and as soon as they started, I could tell that this was a big mistake. I felt like I was at a weird, funky New Orleans dance party – with bright lights and random rage-sticks flying everywhere. Their time on stage felt disappointingly short, especially when they broke into “Janxta Funk” right before the end of the set, and everyone seemed to be getting really comfortable with what they were bringing. I was sad to see the set end, but got over it quickly, making a mental note to check them out again, when I realized who was about to play next.
The Flaming Lips
To my excitement, the Lips opened with “Race for the Prize,” giving Wayne Coyne the chance to run around guitar-less shooting off confetti and smoke from an airhorn. Huge balloon/ball things bumped into dancing Dorothys from the Wizard of Oz jumping around on the sides of the stage, and Coyne, grinning like a little kid the whole time, used his guitar to pop said balloons and add to the madness. As with other Flaming Lips shows I’ve seen before, there was so much going on at times that I often felt like I had literally no idea what was going on in any direction I looked. Coyne ran around on top of the crowd in his bubble at the beginning of Pink Floyd’s “On The Run,” bringing a more psychedelic vibe to the remainder of the set. At the end of the two hour set, Coyne thanked the crowd, noting that he wished everyone in the world was more like the freaks partying that night before closing with a sentimentally smoke and confetti filled extended version of “Do You Realize?” As with most Lips shows, I know more than a few tears were shed – my own included.
I’ve seen Papadosio several times at venues around Michigan, and this set blew me away in comparison. Fireworks brought in the set, and a weird psychedelic energy flew from the stage throughout the short time they were on it. Although there wasn’t a single part of their set I didn’t enjoy, “Magreenery,” was fantastic, and accepted warmly by the crowd. Each member of the band was equally exciting to watch, especially dready Anthony Thogmartin on guitar. I was having a hard time believing this was the same band I had seen just two years ago for a few bucks at a local bar — but it was apparent that due to their raw talent and unique sound, Papadosio is only bound to get bigger.
Galactic brought their funky New Orleans jazz for a stellar ending to Friday night. They did good by the audience with classic covers like Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” and the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” and generally kept everyone dancing into the morning like it was the first set of the day. Trombone player Corey Henry from the Rebirth Brass Band smoothly stole my damn heart, and Living Colour vocalist Corey Glover, donned in an Adidas track suit, brought a ton of energy to a typically instrumental set, making this my favorite late-night of the festival…which is saying a lot.