The slightly chilly weather seemed to have scared everyone away. We arrived to find no line of cars, no line of people waiting to get in, and no real crowd to speak of. The festivities at this eco friendly sponsored festival were pretty cool though. The Volkswagen people brought out a hammock, a ping pong table, video games, and they even brought along their garage for the local bands to jam in. They had a fleet of cars for everyone to drool over and we were given markers to draw on their white VW Bug.
Apollo Sunshine performed to a miniature version of a crowd as people were still filtering in. With some major technical difficulties delaying the start, Jesse promised the audience, "now we have to play something good." And they delivered with "Today is the Day" from their new self titled album. Later they sat down and did a Question & Answer session with the fans. When asked about the differences between concerts and festivals they said with a smile, "Concerts have walls and festivals are outside, and that's pretty much the main difference." Afterwards they entered the garage to offer their assistance. As I was walking away I heard a guy scream, "I can't believe Apollo Sunshine just tuned my guitar!"
Back at the stage, the band members of Bang Camaro came out raising their hands and inviting screams from the crowd. The twenty, that's right I said twenty, lead singers then flooded onto the stage spilling energy and excitement from their pores. The crowd had doubled in size as more people were arriving. Before long they were raising their hands and fists in tune with the music and shouting back parts of the chorus. The music was great, the energy was high, and there were twenty-five men on stage in front of me shaking everything they had. Ah, what a day! And to top it all off, they played "Push, Push, Lady Lightning" which I've managed to master on the medium level of Guitar Hero II.
Band of Horses followed and were met with great enthusiasm. They played a lot of tunes from their new album; they slowed the music down a bit and singer Ben Bridwell made us all feel special when he said, "I wanna make love to every one of you." He's going to have a busy night, someone should probably make him breakfast in the morning. Once he was finished memorizing us with his smooth voice, they did what everyone (especially Carina) was waiting for, they played "Funeral." It was like they were suddenly coming alive as they let out a roar of satisfaction.
Wolf Parade ended the Second Stage performances. They thanked everyone for coming to the festival "sponsored by horrible, fucking, stinging, insects," as he pointed out, the one and only thing making the crowd miserable, bees. The music was great, melodic with hard hitting deliveries,but I was glad the
sun was going down and it was time to move the show to the Main Stage and away from the bees.
Neko Case was first on the Main Stage. With Banjo and Cello accompanying her smooth folk voice, I imagined myself sitting peacefully on a Sunday morning, reading the paper and drinking coffee, with her music in the background. I always feel a little sorry for the opening act, everyone is walking to their seats and trying to get themselves organized, chatting with their friends, and they don't even notice the relaxing music coming from the stage.
When the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came on there were enough people seated to produce a pretty good cheer. Karen O graced the stage wearing a silver fringed cape, which she dropped to the floor revealing a leopard print leotard, reminiscent of Pat Benetar in her prime. She screamed out "BOSTON," and the
crowd cheered. Everyone seemed to enjoy the music; I think I even saw the dancing dude from the True Colors Tour. Karen and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs delivered a stellar performance. Her voice perfectly matching the pitch from the guitar, and more screams of "BOSTON" to get the crowd worked up.
When Guster came to the stage the audience finally found its energy. Using a slide up and down the neck of the guitar they delivered an eerily brilliant sound that kept us waiting to see what they had in store for us. While they didn't make their usual high profile entrance, the music was great. Everyone was on their feet as they played Satellite. Before leaving us they gave props to the other bands on the tour, admitting to having had a Johnny Marr poster on his wall as a teenager, and how grateful he was to be playing with people he had been "such a fan of and listened to their record over and over again."
Once the intermission was over, and the house lights went down, the fans screamed. They new it was time for Modest Mouse to come on. Blue lights lit the stage in confirmation as the music started. Isaac Brock mumbled something incoherent to the crowd, the crowd cheered, and then they played.
All in all the music was great. Though the hope of the Download Festival is to give the fans a chance to connect with the music, the only audience participation throughout the evening was that of Bang Camaro. I was slightly disappointed in the overall performance factor of the festival. More stage
play, more audience participation, more improv please.