Festival bills, for good or worse, often feature classic mismatches of genres owing to the sheer task of scheduling between the various committees, bands and venues on any given night. While many people attend an event with their beloved band in mind already, others certainly embrace the expanded bills hoping to stumble upon a new love. Thursday’s show at the Bottom of the Hill paired two openers rising on the local radar (Sholi and Here Here) with two of Sub Pop’s most recent buzz boomers, Blitzen Trapper and touring mates Fleet Foxes.
Sholi opened the evening with the night’s most experimental bent, alternating between their Blonde Redhead inspired melancholic but unconventional pop phrasing and fragmented free jazzy interludes led by drummer Jonathon Bafus. Featuring a new contributor on cello, the band was able to balance Bafus’ polyrhythmic meanderings more noticeably than in past performances. Singer/Guitarist Payam Bavafa led the band seamlessly through its set without gaps between tunes, showing more confidence and pronouncement in his vocals, especially on the closer “Hejrat”, originally by Iranian pop-diva Googoosh.
Following, local septet Here Here played to their evergrowing legion of local fans as the Bottom started to fill up. While the band may be indebted to the Arcade Fire for its emotive, milky gospel, it’s hard to deny the strength of their songwriting and charisma they bring to the stage. Hardly together for a year (well, MySpace dates them to March 2007), the group has a lot of room to grow and distinguish their aesthetic punch from the aforesaid, especially considering their talent for arrangement and complete disregard for ego.
On the eve of their “Best New Music” honors to be bestowed upon them by Pitchfork, and the setting of their first “out of town show” (according to sweet, gentle dude frontman Robin Pecknold), Washington’s Fleet Foxes mesmerized the crowd with its all vocal opener, “Sun Giant”. While the Foxes are sure to garner inevitable comparisons to My Morning Jacket, other folky/alt-country heavyweights and, of course, CSNY, they are truly tilling new soil in the indie heartland. With the exception of Brooklyn’s Ida, you’d be hard pressed to find richer or more stunning harmonies, shaped with nuances of gospel hymns and choirboy sincerity.
The evening’s headliner, Portland’s Blitzen Trapper (Sub Pop), may have just gotten a taste of times to come on their tour, trying to follow up such a brilliant act. To their credit, BT brought the purest rock of the night, appeasing an increasingly ‘wet’ crowd. Finally, the wanker behind me who kept thinking he was funny for taunting Fleet Foxes’ Pecknold for sitting on a stool, could get his fist-pumping on. BT’s live set threw me off a bit, as I looked forward to a bit more noodling and experimentation, but surprisingly, the group exhibited more of an extroverted pomp, along the lines of their Big Star/Zeppelin flavored hit “Wild Mountain Nation”. For the remainder of the set, the Trapper hammed up for the crowd with their good looks and seasoned showmanship, capping the night in proper festival form.
You can see photos from this show here.