That third festival day is rough.
Okay, in a lot of ways it isn’t, because you’re still there to see live music, and live music is very dope, but the Festival Magic (TM) is over. You’re over paying $6.25 for a Miller High Life. That awkward wristband tan-line isn’t going away. You know it’ll take nothing short of homicide or at least aggravated assault to be able to see a thing at the River Stage once a band’s started. You feel kind of like Jennifer Lawrence on the set of a new X-Men movie.
And yet you’re still there, loving it. Sunday might have been lower energy, but it had a lot of great bands, and the people-watching aspect kicked in. So instead of a straight recap or My Top 5 Hot Take Moments, here are some superlatives.
Hardest Rocking Stage: The River Stage.
Even though this is easily the stage I saw the least of, it housed the loudest and hardest rocking bands. Diarrhea Planet’s soundcheck alone on Saturday was rock and roll as fuck on its own, and the same went for Holy White Hounds’ yesterday, who rocked faces when I looped back around for their set, same for Cincy rockers Mad Anthony earlier in the day. Grizfolk were probably loud, too.
Stage Most Likely to Have Hosted a Future Motivational Speaker: The Sawyer Point Stage.
Between good-time-guys Red Wanting Blue and the wildly overeager X Ambassadors on Friday, Austin “Such a Nice Boy” Plaine on Saturday, and then Flint Eastwood all fired up yesterday, the Sawyer Point Stage attracted the weekend’s peppiest acts. Electropop singer-songwriter Flint Eastwood owned the shit out of her set, throwing impassioned speeches and thank yous between her impassioned (and pretty good!) songs. It’s gotta be a hard life playing the pre-4:00 slots, but her and Oddisee had to have picked up a lot of fans over the weekend. They earned it.
For like, 70% of the weekend, I thought this one was going to go to the person in a rubber chicken mask that held a cardboard sign announcing “#JoinTheRevolution.” But then, I found out today that the Chicken Man’s “revolution” is just the name of a local foodie joint, and now I’m conflicted because 1. I’ll be honest, I was expecting something way weirder, but 2. Who doesn’t like rotisserie chicken?
Anyway, the Rotisserie Revolution lost already because on Sunday, I saw a man standing in place with a handmade “LIVENATION KILLED PRINCE” sign, and fuck it, there’s no beating that.
Biggest Bunbury Look For Him and Her: Whatever was on the shelf at H&M.
I’m not a festival veteran or anything, but over the last twoish years that I’ve attended Bunbury, the festival look seems to have gotten pretty homogenized since H&M straight up branded themselves as “Shit you’re supposed to wear while watching HAIM play at sunset, dummy.” If you got mugged, and your only description of the couple who jumped you was “A woman 16-25 in high-waisted shorts and a crop-top and a 16-25 year old male in pastel shorts and boatshoes with a fully unbuttoned floral print Hawaiian shirt,” then either cut your losses or expect the police to interrogate half the festival.
Second Biggest Bunbury Look For Her: Rompers. What’s it like to wear a romper? Genuinely curious on this; I have no frame of reference, clothing-wise.
Second Biggest Bunbury Look For Him: Out of season basketball jerseys. The most interesting of the bunch were two dudes in coordinating home/away Iverson jerseys, two separate Tune-Squad ones, and a guy in a UNC Jordan jersey (depending on how cruel you’re feeling, you can include the legion of Cavs jerseys here, too).
Band Most Likely To Appear on a Teen Drama Soundtrack Before Year’s End: Lany.
Los Angeles’ Lany seem lab-grown to reach teenage heartthrob status. Their lead singer is a Sensitive Surfer longhair who thanked us for being the largest audience they’ve had, their songs include lines about driving in the summer (with you, natch), and they prominently displayed a gear case that had “Love Sucks Sometimes” taped on it. They make pop rock that my girlfriend pointed out sounds like The 1975, and I totally agree: if The 1975 hadn’t gone camp on their last record, this is what they’d sound like.
Most Entertaining Way to Kill Time Camped Out Between Sets: Watching footage of Elle King get progressively more sunburned at the opposite side of the festival while waiting for Of Monsters and Men. We also tried to guess when she was singing “Exes & Oh’s”
Presidential Candidate Elected Based on Number of T-Shirts: Bernie Sanders.
Although I suppose wearing Trump memorabilia at the same venue that Ice Cube is playing is just asking for a fight.
World’s Most Popular Band That Didn’t Play Bunbury Based on Number of T-Shirts: Pearl Jam
Apparently, Pearl Jam are becoming Springsteen-esque in that their tour merch is the go-to for any show.
Stage That Came Closest to Maximum On-Stage Occupancy: Main stage
Most acts this weekend came in at a respectable 4 or 5 members, and then Of Monsters and Men brought half of Iceland with them for their 9 person ensemble. Not to be outdone, Florence + the Machine brought 12 people, and Florence Welch lamented not being able to bring a choir for “Shake It Out,” asking us to be her “hungover angels” instead. We obliged. It was wonderful.
Best Singing Voice Vs. Talking Disparity: Singing “Spectrum,” Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine has a voice Stereogum once called “a solar flare.” Talking to her audience between songs, she has the voice of a teacher gently reminding Ms. Welch’s kindergarten class of the importance of washing our hands before snack. I don’t get it, either.
Artist Most Considerate of the Audience: Grimes introduced “Scream” by explaining that Aristophanes wasn’t there to rap her verses in Mandarin, and asking if it was okay with us if she did them in Russian instead (sidenote: Grimes is the best). At other points, she advised us to put in earplugs if we wanted to because this next song was loud, apologized for hitting wrong buttons on her console because the sun was still out, thanked her back-up singers/dancers, and explained after “Ave Maria” that the dance break looks cooler in the dark.
I realize that might scan as apologetic, but in concert, it was much more like a mad scientist explaining that she’s about to create a lightning storm in her lab, or taking a second to make sure she’s properly going to turn causality on its head. I loved last year’s Art Angels, and seeing large parts of it live was wonderful; “Flesh Without Blood” made an appearance, everyone lost their shit to “Scream” (Grimes does those throat-shredding yells live, too), and in “Venus Fly” she had a bigger, meaner EDM jam than anything DeadMau5 did the night before. And not only was “Kill V. Maim” one of last year’s best songs, it’s apparently her favorite to play live. Grimes spent time between songs constantly at her synths and workstations making sure everything was right, and it made sense why: her music and live show are so intricate but fully formed that they seem teleported from some cyberpunk anime pop star’s alternate dimension. She even had one of the best crowds, too (Grimes is, again, the best). If you ever get a chance, see her live; it’s like getting shot into space.
Best Bunbury Sets Ranked by How Much I Danced
5. Charles Bradley
4. The Killers
3. Big Grams
2. Florence + the Machine
Ad I Was Sickest Of By the End of the Festival: Mikey’s Late Night Slice has pizza good enough and cheap enough that I had it twice ($5 a pop for a slice as big as my face was great for my hungry and broke ass–other sidenote: never move the week before a music festival), but they have the fucking creepiest looking mascot, and that jackass was on like, 4 different looping promos and I think there was even a costumed one running around, terrifying children.
Most Pleasantly Surprising Fashion Trend: Chokers are back in a big way. No one told me.
Most Unpleasantly Surprising Fashion Trend: Dear God, the number of obnoxious dudes I saw in Stars & Stripes shorts and/or American Flag brotanks. The same basic bros who wear them are the same dudes who’ll tell you about their idea for a startup, or about that time them and their man Austin got hammered at Applebees happy hour “ironically.” Might as well be a damn tuxedo t-shirt.
Most Adorable Act Witnessed: Florence Welch encouraged everyone to put someone on their shoulders as part of “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” (get it, “raise it up”? ha ha ha), and right away, most people did. Just in front of us, I saw this endearingly shy pair of slight looking teenagers whose body language said so loudly that they wanted to try it, if only the other one said “Okay, so we’re doing this.” They would lean into position, but pull back because they were waiting on confirmation from the other one to go for it. I was actively rooting for them after, like, the third attempt. Warmed my heart.
Artist Most Likely to Have Written an Album Specifically for Festivals: Florence+ the Machine. I don’t know that Welch and company wrote last year’s How Big How Blue How Beautiful to make sure they always had a font size over like, Fitz and the Tantrums, on festival posters, but as a conspiracy theory, it’s at least as credible as LiveNation killing Prince. That album’s larger than life cuts (“What Kind of Man,” the title track, “Mother,” and “Delilah”) are able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of their earlier work, all of which is incredibly live/festival friendly. The chorus to “Shake It Out” will always sound ebullient, but gets even more so when you’re belting it out pressed next to kids with flower crowns and drawstring bags. Welch sang as she ran around the stage, climbed parts of the rigging for “Rabbit Heart,” and leaped into the crowd, but she almost didn’t have to because we sang every word right with her.
It was also a blast to see because Florence + the Machine is my girlfriend’s favorite band ever, and seeing someone see their favorite band live is it’s own form of magic, and an excellent end to this year’s massive, muddy, Bunbury.