Nothing went quite as planned at this past weekend’s Intonation Music Festival in Chicago. Lady Sovereign refused to say anything remotely cheeky between songs, nor did she rap with the swagger of a first-grader sent to the timeout corner for kicking a boy. The Stills failed to rock hard. Devin the Dude was pure class. Mike Skinner was incapable of commanding a thousand too-cool/too-beautiful Chicagoans to crouch down to the ground in unison and then jump up in a spastic fury. Ghostface did nothing to inspire youngsters to want to invent a new language, start rapping, and sport huge iced out pieces of Christian iconography on the regular. Annie was unattractive. All in all, a whopping failure. PSYCH!
But seriously, what can we tell you that you don’t already know? With a lineup that boasted five former FADER cover stars (Lupe, Devin, Ghostface, Bloc Party, Lady Sov) plus numerous FADER favorites (um, everybody), we knew what we were getting into. The weather cooperated. The sound system was massive. Everyone sported the proper uniform — New Eras for the fellas, huge sunglasses for the ladies (so nobody saw anybody’s face), and striped shirts aplenty on some last-page-of-Where’s Waldo shit. Even the location, Chicago, which The Stills’ lead singer, Dave Hamelin, proclaimed is “the indie-most of cities,” seemed almost too fitting for the two-day event. Sometimes, however, one must appreciate the rare ease with which a musical event is pulled off.
Highlights included psychedelic pioneer Roky Erickson making his first appearance outside of Texas in, well, quite some time. Most indicative of the generation gap between Erickson and the other Intonation performers was that he smiled for the duration of his guitar-shredding set. As an Austin-based friend put it, of Erickson’s recent shows, “His live performances are basically a testament to him still being alive.” Ghostface went all Peter Gammons on us, giving a parting shout-out to the Chicago’s most recent world champions: “The White Sox! Y’all is goin' hard right now. I like they manager too. That nigga’s an ill nigga” — which we can only infer to be a reference to Ozzie Guillen’s recent insane behavior. Rivaling Ghost in the random shout-out department, Lupe Fiasco’s hypeman, Bishop G, went a little shout-out happy during their set, prompting Lupe to ask, “Yo, how do you know everybody in the crowd all the time?” Bishop’s response was an exuberant, “MYSPACE.COM!” which proved to be perhaps the most generation-defining moment of the entire festival. Oh, and who was the coolest country in the room? JAPAN, obviously. The Osaka-born Boredoms stole the entire festival, with their trademark relentless multi-percussive attack and Yamatsuka Eye’s screaming chants. Those guys provided pretty much the perfect soundtrack to a festival where people were drinking Sparks like it was Aquafina. Good times.