A buddy of mine has what he calls Lotto Ticket Days: days where enough random, inconvenient, and trifling bullshit happens that you might as well buy a lottery ticket because fuck it, how’s your day gonna get weirder at this point? Between storms, rain delays, and a kooky line-up even by Bunbury standards, yesterday was the festival’s Lotto Ticket Day. Let’s begin.
So, I’m just never going to get to Bunbury’s Saturday shows on time. To show up late in 2014 was happenstance, to happen again last year was understandable, but if I’ve run late for 3 years in a row now for the same day, the problem is me. And I accept this character flaw. Some people can’t cross bridges, some people can’t get their life together before 2 PM on a Saturday. This year, it meant seeing Foxing’s last thirty seconds of playing, and what a cathartic half a minute it was.
Having gotten my 30 seconds of emo for the day, I made my way to the main stage to see Oddisee and his band Good Company, who–because of Bunbury’s weird availability scheduling–was the only act playing during his entire set. But it was time well-spent: Oddisee’s a conscious rapper with a live soul band sound, and with his every-man raps and affable presence, he played well off the crowd and made the main stage feel intimate. He reminded me of a slicker, smarter J.Cole. The cloud cover that started during his set crested with rain as he wrapped up an actually pretty funny piss-take “trap” version of one of his songs, but what’s a few rain drops ever hurt?
The friends I was meeting for the day caught up with me during Conner Youngblood’s rain-delayed soundcheck, and I interrupted our conversation with the above as Youngblood’s intermittent effects-heavy electric guitar strums and synth loops became more constant but not louder electric guitar strums and synth loops. I usually roll my eyes when someone calls an artist “post-The Weeknd” because it strikes me as a try-hard description, but I could definitely see a younger, er, Youngblood jamming on “Wicked Games” or “The Party & the After Party;” he seems to favor The Weeknd’s brand of gauzy R&B. Which sounds good on record, but has trouble translating live: maybe the rain delay threw him off, but Youngblood seemed a little listless during a relatively lowkey set that convinced me he has a good SoundCloud page. A bit of an off set, but he powered through it, rain or shine.
I’ve carped about this basically since the line-up was announced, but this year’s Bunbury gets plain damn weird with its roster. No where is this summed up better than sort of R&B, sort of pop, sort of rock one hit wonders The Neighbourhood getting a 5:00 to 6:00 set. Admittedly, it’s an uphill battle for a lot of bands to look cool in sunlight (see: Coldplay’s daytime Super Bowl performance), but a temperate group that leans on #aesthetic as hard as The Neighbourhood does really needs a nighttime set to even have a chance at looking convincing. Otherwise, their occasionally AutoTuned, mid-tempo balladry just looks corny.
But they were also responsible for my favorite “break character” moves of the day. The storm clouds from earlier came rolling back in after about 6 or 7 songs no one recognized. The rain came back during sort-of hit “Afraid,” and my friend remarked that, “This would be a good time for some sweater weather!” Shit you not, frontman Jesse Rutherford made a show of stopping “Afraid” midway through, and tried to hint around to his bandmates to start “Sweater Weather” without giving away that he wanted to play “Sweater Weather” in the rain. After a few “Hey, play the…you know” and “Start doing [drum pattern]”, he sang part of the chorus, and they got it. As they soldiered through “Sweater Weather,” the rain picked up into a near storm, then a full storm, causing them to say “Thanks!” and duck off as everyone headed for shelter. Was hearing “Sweater Weather” worth getting soaked through? Apparently, yes, but it was definitely cold by that point.
After The Neighbourhood officially won the Tame Impala Memorial Rainbury Award around 5:45, the next two hours was like the camping part of the last Harry Potter book: a buncha slow shit while everyone waited on the plot (or in this case, the festival) to kick back in. We waited out the storm in the tunnel under the Purple People Bridge, ate, and then we parked it in front of the Sawyer Point stage for Big Grams to start at 7:00. People behind us were swatting around a beach ball (I guess they were Death Eaters, if we’re taking this Potter comparison further), and just as BG was about to start, it starts storming again, but with the fun, fun addition of lightning. At that point, the Bunbury staff started telling people head for cover again. I don’t remember how long the delay was, but it was long enough that we went back to the tunnel, and I remembered that everyone, and I mean everyone hates that fucking camping part of Harry Potter.
But they ended up being exactly what I needed live. I still haven’t heard any of their recorded stuff, but live, they’re responsible for some massive, cooler-than-you bangers that it’s easy to lose your shit to. Sarah Barthel’s hooks and vocals were great, Big Boi is one of the coolest people on the planet at any given moment, and the two worked great together with Big Grams songs, plus Phantogram and Outkast song or two apiece. The rain and mud soaked crowd lapped it up, and my friend and I had a blast. Some yahoo in front of us said “These two are feeling it” and it’s like no shit, bro, why wouldn’t we? Why aren’t you?
Bunbury’s scheduling again meant that after some day acts had the festival to themselves, later names had to compete with each other. For my part, this meant being torn between seeing Ice Cube, and up and coming rockers Diarrhea Planet, who were playing opposing night times. I ran into a few kids I went to school with while sitting at DP’s facemelting sound check, and one of them made the (late night festival, but logically sound) argument that Cube was the better pick because his solo tickets went for like $200, and DP would probably let you into their next show in the area for a 24 pack of cheap beer.
So, it was off to O’Shea Jackson’s set we went. At this point, Ice Cube’s able to tour off of being motherfucking Ice Cube, and he delivered in damn near every way. “Natural Born Killaz,” “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It,” “You Can Do It,” and “Check Yo’ Self” all appeared, as did N.W.A. standbys “Straight Outta Compton,” “Gangsta, Gangsta,” and “Fuck Tha Police” with his son O’Shea Jackson Jr.; there was barely anything that went un-performed. He didn’t have any elaborate setup, only a screen that played music videos in background, and he didn’t need one: Ice Cube’s just a cool enough (ha) and funny enough guy that he can show up, crack shit out, and call it a blast. He even did a side vs. side chant where I got to say “fuck you!” to the people in the V.I.P, what’s not to like? Between him and Big Grams, this wet, confusing, muddy day almost made sense again.
After big sets from an alternative rock act, an indie-pop meets southern hip-hop duo, a jam band, beer-swilling garage punks, and a rap veteran, day 2 of Bunbury ended with an EDM show. I don’t get it, either.
If I’m being honest “I don’t get it” is also gonna apply to DeadMau5, a choice so bizarre that I thought the late announcement that he was headlining was trolling. Y’all know me: EDM doesn’t get covered a lot on here. It’s not that I’m adverse to it, it’s just not by and large my scene, DeadMau5 especially. His tempo and beat seemed monotonous and without texture, there wasn’t anything to latch onto, and there was only so much of seeing him at the console with the mouse head sitting next to him that I could find engaging. I’ve always heard that EDM is one of those “for the drugs” things, and after seeing DeadMau5, I could kinda see it: if you’re not fucked up, there’s a limited appeal. For a genre called “electronic dance music,” I had an easier time dancing to Big Grams or Cube than this. I don’t know, maybe I need to see Calvin Harris or whoever, instead.
But for now, me and my still probably damp shoes are back off for day 3.