We hit the Village Voice day party to catch a little bit of the moody/pleasant rock of Meese along with some sweet fajitas, and we were only at the Next Big Nashville day party long enough to catch some tuning up in between acts, but that's because we managed to finagle some Spin Magazine invite-only laminates, and we wanted to catch Boston's Passion Pit, Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins' new outfit Hot Leg and maybe a little of Echo and the Bunnymen. So it was off to Stubb's to clamor along with other badge-holders for a glimpse of what's typically though of as a must-attend party. But we're in a recession folks.
Where last year had more free-flowing liquor, this year had free-flowing beers. Cheap beers. Domestic beers. Sure, it's all icing, and no one's complaining here, but you tend to notice when one year it's free Dewars all day and the next year it's free Miller High Lifes. But hey, industry types are guilty of champagne taste on a beer budget, so it was nothing new.
Also noticeably different is that this year's festival is lacking in that one, massively buzzed-about band. There's no on the cusp, about to break out artist like Amy Winehouse or Vampire Weekend of previous years. Some people have called this a return to the industry's true roots, but no doubt some people are finding themselves frustrated at having to chase the trends without hardly a nod from the gatekeepers this year.
That said, the Spin party had virtually no line, and was never all that packed until the very end. First we caught a little of Passion Pit, whose glammy falsetto screams, 3 keyboards worth of perky synths and danceable beats reminded us of MGMT's little cousin.
Singer and keyboardist Michael Angelakos jumped around and danced on or caressed nearly every piece of stage equipment around, which we applaud in general as highly entertaining in lieu of any other options for frontmannery.
After getting our buttholes thumped beyond all imagination from in-between-set DJ offerings from Crystal Method, it was time for Hot Leg. Dude from Brooklyn Vegan told us that Hot Leg's new record--only available in the UK--was "better than the second Darkness record but not better than the first Darkness record." But when the band came onstage (featuring Hawkins sporting a full-length studded metal jumpsuit with a red bandanna and matching red leather gloves), we really can't say that we cared anymore. We were here to be entertained, not courted.
The other guitarist looked like someone straight out of that band Kingdom Come (yeah! Remember them!?!?!), replete with billowy pirate shirt and leather vest. And the bass player? He knew what he was there for, and it was to make aggressively metal chewy faces.
But on to the tunes. It sounded like The Darkness, and on paper, it was everything you could want from falsetto-heavy glam rock with Queen harmonies straight off the Sunset Strip: It had blistering guitar solos, big finishes and all the over-the-top ridiculous posturing and bombast you'd expect. And there were lots of low, crotchy stances.
But not one of the songs' choruses were memorable even mere minutes after the set was over. Ultimately, not one could hold a candle to "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" or even "You're Really Growing On Me." Highly entertaining, though.
We missed the Black Lips, but Glasvegas offered a perfectly solid set of moody, achy, Scottish pop. It kinda sounded like an angstier, Scottish Elvis Costello. That's really all there is to say.
Unfortunately we didn't see all of the Echo and the Bunnymen show--who were introduced briefly by Perry Farrell--but what we did catch was a sleepy set of songs like "Rescue" off Crocodiles, "Villiers Terrace" and Ocean Rain's "Seven Seas."
In the midst was a subdued cover of "Walk on the Wild Side," and it was strange to see such young folks singing along to songs over 25 years old, even if it was the older folks who seemed truly moved by the spectacle.