Oh, BFD...you always beat me up, sunburn me, and make me pay $13 for a "margarita yard stick," but listen, where else would I be on a June Saturday? Music and me, we're in a long-term relationship. Support is no question.
Admittedly, I had my reservations about the Live 105 event, which boasted to be "the summer's premiere music festival" on PSAs and promo around the Bay Area. I absolutely hate the large-stadium feel of the venue BFD was going to be in and prefer intimate ones, and the line-up seemed schizo, with artists ranging from Cypress Hill to MGMT to DJ AM, but hey - that's more or less my own record collection, so I was one to talk. Plus, given the insanity of last year's extravaganza, I was curious to know if the station could top even itself.
The BFD madness began the night before with a free pre-party at 330 Ritch hosting The Whigs, who have also been one of our On The Cover artists. A cool garage rock trio who sound like they borrowed The Vines' Craig Nichols, transplanted him into the Black Keys temporarily, and then renamed themselves while picking the axe simultaneously, The Whigs played hard and faithfully despite a thin turnout. "Right Hand On My Heart" is a example of the classic rock vehicle these guys can maneuver, but it's also tracks like "Sleep Sunshine," a beautiful slow tempo with drowsy lyrics and slider guitar that provides the band to branch out, and ultimately glow. I really look forward to seeing what else these Georgia boys can deliver.
After grabbing late-night donuts post-show and watching Designing Women at the shop with my friend Danielle, I passed out to wake up early the next morning and caravan down to Mountain View's Shoreline Amphitheatre with friends Kristin, Mario, and Mars' friend Jesse, all of us excited for different reasons: MSTRKRFT, Alkaline Trio, the local stage. We arrived right past The Whigs set time and promptly split up to explore, so I settled into Atreyu's set before realizing that even when I was 14, I didn't like this shit, but I appreciated the shredding they were doing on stage. I wandered a bit to soak up the adjustments to this year's festival in comparison to 2007's: there was no main stage area anymore, but rather a split stage set-up in the parking lot where when one band finished, the other could start up almost instantaneously. The new creation of the Subsonic tent, dedicated to electronic and dance music, was tucked neatly in the back and hosted both DJ and live acts. The main festival stage that faced seats and lawn areas was now turned into a meet-and-greet area.
After deciding against and then caving into $8 plastic bottled beer (you read that right), Kristin and I stopped in on San Francisco hot DJ Omar of popscene and Leisure fame, who got the crowd moving at 3:30 in anticipation of the acts scheduled later on. I then moseyed over to see MGMT, who I was definitely not prepared to take in. "Weekend Wars" sort of sounds like if David Bowie decided to reincarnate himself with a folk twist but couldn't let go of his synth roots, and then his music had a bunch of sex with the New York post-punk music. Topped off with these ridiculous outfits composed of one-pieces and straw hats, the Brooklyn band ripped through "Electric Feel," "Time To Pretend," and ended with "Kids," which found Oakland bad Hottub crashing the stage and having an orgy with the MGMT kids while the band tried to play. It was definitely one of the highlights of the day.
A short pretzel break later, and we were back in the Subsonic tent, after acquiring my friend Maria at the gates and Nick in the tent, and a margarita deemed 'the yard stick' at the booze tables. Lyrics Born thrust out a funk-inspired set full of speedy rhymes and a sassy back-up singer, and I got in the mood to dance as DJ Steve Aoki prepped his turntables. If you've ever peeked at Aoki's itinerary, this guy is all over the place, literally - one day in Japan, the next in L.A., the next at a private party. Maybe all the jetlag got to him, or the heat that day, but he reminded me of a 14 year-old who got left alone with his dad's record collection for two hours for the first time. He headbanged-danced like a cross between an angry three year-old and a slam dancer (thank you, Nick); he zipped right across the stage, left, right, and then up and down, touching every amp in between; he climbed up on the speakers and tousled his hair like he was out of his mind. Needless to say, I was more impressed he could still mix properly lest suffer from a brain hemorrhage. Plus, I knew he was doing something right when I spotted The Kooks' lead singer Luke Pritchard dancing on one of the speakers midway through!
Aoki picked up his stuff to let friend DJ AM helm the tables after him; I wrote in January about the sheer propensity the L.A.-based DJ had to innately know what the crowd wanted, and it seems like the guy is just like wine, it only gets better with age. Jay Z to Daft Punk, Weezer to The Presets, mid-90s dance anthems and current singles, AM knows what he's doing, and I decided if I ever had a half million dollars to blow, I will hire this guy to DJ my wedding. We squeezed amongst a throng of a now-packed tent to dance to his set, which didn't disappoint in any capacity. Breathless, we simmered down to watch Santogold as she took front and center after AM. Her two backup dancers, dressed to perfection in pressed white collared shirts and tailored black pants, provided the most entertainment. Prerecorded backing tracking backed Santogold, and from there the mediocrity hit plateau. I really wanted to like her, considering the hype surrounding her M.I.A. meets Gwen Stefani sound, but maybe the half hour set she was limited to didn't allow her true potential to follow, she just couldn't own the stage.
I ended up sitting with Maria talking about my love life outside of the tent for MSTRKRFT's set, but knowing I would see them at the Mezzanine after party later in the night justified my tales of woe taking precedence. It did amuse me that Usher's "Love In This Club" made an appearance during the duo's set, and ashamed me to realize that I knew the lyrics as well. I serenaded Maria with "I'll be like your medicine, you'll take every dose of me!" much to her bemusement.
After an In'N'Out stop, we trekked back to the City to catch Motor live at Mezzanine in San Francisco before MSTRKRFT took stage. The London pair has songs about not being human and gays in America and have a decidedly industrial feel to them I didn't anticipate, but appreciated. It seemed like the packed house at Mezzanine also appreciated them, because I was getting pushed left and right; as MSTRKRFT came on we decided to push our way through to the middle of the floor and dance like no tomorrow. Sadly, my comrades could not take the stuffy air around us four songs in, so we relocated to the back to watch. Hunger and fatigue began to settle in, and a quick drop in to indie club Leisure and a late-night diner ended my BFD experience. And while I can't say if this year tops last, I can say with certainty that sunscreen indeed never washes off.