Rise and shine! My early bed time on Saturday night has me feeling rejuvenated and ready for action. Annie goes on at 3:45, but I wouldn't mind catching Rhymefest at 3:10 and maybe even The Constantines at 2:30. After double checking my lame "man bag" to ensure that I have all my supplies, I grab a cab and am on my way. No waiting around for anyone today. It's game time.
The enormous thunderstorm that swept through Chicago this AM seems to be subsiding a bit and even though Weather.com's hour-by-hour breakdown says it's supposed to rain all damn day, I'm not too worried (that shit is ALWAYS wrong). Large cumulonimbus clouds hang low over this beautiful city as I slouch back in a cab blasting text messages to see who's already at the park and arrange to meet some friends to give them their passes for the day. Walking into the venue with my friend Alissa, we grab some waters and hustle over to the far stage to catch the Constantines. Alissa loves them and knows one of the members from back in the day or something. They're rocking pretty hard with a number of members on stage. I'm getting a country vibe from their tunes, but they're all about rocking everyone's socks off. I look behind me to check out the crowd situation and spot Chicago's most famous music journalist Greg Kott. I'm pretty sure we make eye contact (through our sunglasses) and he says something like "hey dude, I read all of your stuff" via mental telepathy.
This water hits the spot. No beer until at least 5pm (I'm pacing myself) and no Sparks at all (I'm trying not to die).
Constantines close with a bang. I give Solid PR Celeste a high five on the way to the other stage to catch Rhymefest. I saw him a couple weeks ago at the Apple store. He rolled in with three or four huge dudes wearing $5,000 suits but was surprisingly cool. There were about 45 people there. He did a "storytellers" of sorts and then answered a bunch of questions from fans. Anyway... back to real time.
A dude on a Segway (literally) rolls across the stage and announces that the winners of the Intonation local band contest (or something) are about to perform. Hustle Man D and T.C.O. take the stage. In case you haven't guessed, they're a hip hop duo. They're "ok." Their first song is "hard," with SUPER heavy bass and tons of "niggas" shouted in that really hard, "I will kick your fucking ass if you look at me wrong" kind of way. I need more water.
Rhymefest hits the stage, but I stop for a second to catch up with Todd from TVT and Goose Island Gregg. I thank him for the all the free beer I will drink later in the day and want to tell him that I saw him on Conan, but I think that might be weird, so I don't.
Damn, these indie rock kids LOVE them some hip hop. Some of them know the words, but it doesn't matter. They have their hands flung high in the air as the sun begins to peek its head out from under the cloud cover above. This hoodie I'm wearing will become a liability if this keeps up. 60 degrees and raining all day? Nice fucking work Weather.com. I'm SO over you. Yahoo weather, you're my new bitch.
It's now 3:30. Rhymefest is killing it, but I haven't had a single thing to eat all day and my stomach is letting me know. I wander over by the outer ring of food tents and pass home girl Sarah C at the Onion tent on the way. She takes this sweet snap of Tom and Alissa and me toasting our waters.
A messy chicken pita (with all the fixins) later and it's time for Annie. I love her record. The music is super fun and danceable and brings with it an instant good mood. But live... well Annie leaves a little to be desired. Maybe I'm just being bitchy, but if your songs are some of the most poppy, fun songs one planet, it might be a good idea to move around a little, right? Annie just kind of stands there with her mic. Sometimes she wanders around the stage a bit looking cute, but she might as well be sitting down reading a book or something. It's not like I want her to break dance, but I'm just not feeling her no-energy as she plows through "The Wedding" and "Me +1." The sun is starting to bake me, so it's back to the shade for safety.
I grab my third bottle of water head back out into the sun to see Lupe Fiasco. Another hometown hero, The FADER cover boy is on fire from the start. ALL of the kids in the front row are singing every word to every song... seriously. I'm impressed to say the least. Lupe's the best hip hop artist at the entire festival... not that I'm an expert, but I'm digging the shit out of his set. Damn these songs are catchy.
From hip hop to metal, The Sword take the far stage in black t-shirts and jeans, except for the drummer who seems to be naked (but I think he just has his shirt off). The Austin-based quartet rip through songs from their debut album, Age Of Winters. Wailing guitar solos and crunchy power chords ensue. There are some fists in the air and a few old dudes in front of me who LOVE this band, but slight head nodding is the dance of the hour for this crowd right now watching this band. Maybe everyone's tired from shaking their ass to Lupe.
I head back to the shady comfort of the VIP tent to get my drink on. It's after 5. It appears that the Chicago scenesters all made their own VIP passes at kinkos again this year (they did the same thing last year on day two). One of the kids gets their hands on a real one... some photo shop and a stop at kinkos later and all the fixed gear bike riders are sipping back icy cold free brews and Sparks. Those kids love sparks.
The beer line is seemingly 100 people deep and I ponder grabbing a Sparks to avoid the wait. Luckily pal Erica steers me away from the devil's sweat by agreeing to wait in the giant line with me. Bad decision avoided, phew.
Heading out to see Blue Cheer and... wow, these dudes are OLD. "Vice loves these old guys," I think as the smell of pot smoke fills the crowd. Luckily for me Blue Cheer is a lot more polished that Roky was. In fact, the lead guitar player is pretty damn sick. His fingers flow across the frets with the wizardry of a savvy rock & roll veteran. His axe is pumped through FOUR marshal stacks and sounds like a little slice of heaven. Singer Dickie Peterson should probably have smoked about 1 million less cigarettes over the course of his lifetime, as his voice sounds kind of like dying gazelle yelping for help as an alligator (or crock, I don't remember which is which), pulls it into the watering hole. Haha. It's not really that bad. He might just have a cold, but it doesn't really matter anyway, as each vocal line is followed by a 10 minute instrumental jam. Damn, that guitar player is good. These old dudes just showed The Sword how its done.
I'm now double fisting a bottle of water and a cup of beer, trying my best to maintain focus and energy level. I miss Jon Brion's entire set by going to get another beer, waiting in a massive line and then getting stuck schmoozing with various industry types and a few dirtball hipsters who don't smell as bad up close as I thought.
Bob Pollard takes the stage to a flurry of cheers. This place is really starting to fill up. I think everyone is here for Bloc Party. Pollard runs through the classics and some songs I've never heard (not sure if they were old or new). I think I'm here for Bloc Party too.
Dead Prez rocked the far stage for about 45 and I'm getting psyched up for Bloc Party. Their SXSW performance LAST year was great. Their show at Metro was equally as good, but these guys have been touring their asses off, playing huge shows in Europe and I'm expecting them to make this Intonation Festival their bitch.
The sun sets as Dead Prez finish up and the venue feel really really full for the first time all weekend. There's excitement in the air. Maybe it's the 10 beers I've had, but I holler like a true fan as the band takes the stage. They unleash a rock & roll assault of epic proportions. There's no denying that they have a fistful of fucking hits to run though and since the last time I saw them, they have honed their live show like a pack Shaolin Monks. They'll kill you 10 different ways with their rock.
"Helicopter," "Like Eating Glass," "Banquet" !!! There's no leaving early tonight! The mass of sweaty bodies moves in unison as Kele sings "And yer nose is bleedin! And yer nose is bleedin! You've been lying to me." The sky starts to open up and raindrops begin to fall... just slightly... not the drenching kind of rain... yet.
A friend loses the top of my dugout and I don't even care. Bloc Party are owning this show and at this point I'm not even sure a round house kick to the face would put me in a bad mood. The people who paid their 20 bucks for this band are getting more than their money's worth.
Bloc Party ends with a bang and I feel like I just got laid... hard.
As the venue begins to clear out, the chances of catching a cab drop down to zero and gang of pals wanders over to Cobra Lounge. Not surprisingly, everyone seems to be there, including the entire Vice gang. I see Vice Records mastermind Adam Shore for the first time all weekend, tell him thanks for the festival. It feels like 3am. The rest of the night should probably remain unpublished for the sake of everyone involved, but lets just say there were shots of Jameson involved.
Intonation was cool. I had blast, especially on day two. The bands weren't always great. They weren't always the focus of attention, but Vice gave Chicago one hell of a summer weekend between Intonation and the various after and pre parties. They probably could have sold more tickets with a different line-up, but they did things the way they wanted to and that was that. Thanks for the good time Vice. See you again soon.
[Photos (the good ones) by Sarah C]