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I spent yesterday afternoon and evening at a rock festival out near the university. I arrived early through pouring rain to scope the place out, wearing my army surplus rain cape and southwester and fieldwork boots, attracting looks. Because of my face? My funny hat? Both? One young man turned to me for help with his ticket. He thought I was crew. My gear is good, though my knees got soaked and my hands numb.

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Christopher Sander and his band opened the event. He used to head a band named Nothing. In Swedish: Ingenting. His new band were eleven people and played good space-groove tunes à la Spacemen 3 mixed with poppier items. A little subdued but good stuff.

A number of bands failed to draw me in. It was touching to see the pleased looks on the faces of the many grizzled original Pretenders fans who were there. I was basically there for the same reason as them: to hear a band that was huge when I was seventeen. (Though I didn’t catch on to them until years after they’d disbanded.)

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Miss Li was a great and pleasant surprise. She plays the piano and has a huge voice, a great stage presence and an awesome band. Cabaret music, big band blues, even some klezmer: unbelievably good! (I may be somewhat biased by the fact that the talented Miss Li is also a sight for sore eyes.)

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Seasick Steve also ruled. Roots blues, roots boogie, simply unbelievable the amount of music the man can pull out of a guitar with three strings! And he won the stage banter contest hands down.

Kristofer Åström & the Rainaways played some good sad-hearted country rock. Funny to hear young Åström sing with the heartbroken voice of a man with three bad divorces behind him and sound completely believable. And the band’s scruffy looks were lovely.

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And then the band I really came for: the Pixies, who released their last album in 1991. I love them, I love Frank Black’s solo work, never attended a gig before. I knew from live recordings that the Pixies used to play their songs pretty much like on the records, and they still do. When the time came for a cover even that was a tune they used to play back in the day. It was an excellent Pixies gig, I certainly wasn’t disappointed, but it seems a little odd that someone as creative and productive as Frank Black wouldn’t ask the band to learn a new tune or two.

I like rock festivals that I can commute to from home, though it’s been three years since the last one for me. Never wanted to go to one where I have to live in a tent and put up with a lot of drunks. It’s good to be able to wander from one gig to another, all happening on time, with food stalls and a lot of funny people to look at. Even when it’s raining.

Comments

  1. #1 doug l
    June 13, 2009

    Ah…I’d swim through a sea of mud to hear Ms Hynde and the Pretenders again. Thanks for the memories.
    Re archeology: what would be the distinguishing characteristics of a depositional sequence in a location/site where outdoor rock concerts were held?

  2. #2 Martin R
    June 13, 2009

    Since we weren’t allowed to bring beer, you wouldn’t find many aluminium can rings. You might find a coin scatter around the food & drink stalls’ sites. I have a feeling though that most festivals make less of an imprint beneath the turf layer than simply ploughing the fields in question would.

  3. #3 Markk
    June 13, 2009

    Ah.. Francis Black. Pixies. Any band with a song dealing with El Nino has to be cool. I think Pixies are kind of archival now live. They do make new music but not as the Pixies but things like Frank Black and the Catholics (It’s a beautiful day, It’s a horrible day). And others. He also sings a mean version of Robert Wilson, Tom Waits and William Burroughs “The Black Rider”. He can sound like the devil very well!

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