LIVE AND DIRECT: All Points West Day Three


BY KYLEE MESSNER The last day of All Points West was sure to be full of surprises. As we arrived, we were informed no bands would be playing for quite some time, given the storm that had just hit. We wondered if the show would be canceled. “Of course not, millions of dollars have been raised from this festival,” a staff worker told us. How reassuring, I thought. It wasn’t until four o’clock that a sea of people began to form lines, many leaving, others remaining, all clueless as to when they would be let into the festival. “How unorganized,” one girl said. “Bullshit,” the crowd began to shout, wondering why they hadn’t been let in yet when the sun was clearly making an appearance, the rain having stopped over an hour ago. Not even security seemed to know what was happening; unable to answer the questions angry ticket-holders plagued them with. Finally, at around 5 o’clock the gates had opened.  All bands prior to the hour were canceled. Perhaps next year the festival will have a better plan for what do when it rains.

The first act of the evening was Silversun Pickups. I can remember a time two years ago when I was told this band was “the perfect music for a date with a girl.” After a few listens, I never really got that impression, and it’s something I’ll never understand to this day. Clearly I was missing something Silversun Pickups fans know quite well, as couples filed hand in hand towards the main stage. (Or maybe it was due to the fact that nobody else was playing at that time.) Fangirls began to scream as lead guitarist Brian Aubert approached the stage, beginning his set without a word to the fans that waited hours in line just to get to this point. The Los Angeles natives began their set with “Panic Switch,” a track driven by guitar distortion off their 2009 album Swoon. I looked back at my best friend, noting the look of displeasure on her face. Needless to say, Silversun Pickups did not swoon us in a positive way. The crowd cheered for the tight-lipped bassist Nikki Monniger, who appeared to be holding something back as Aubert went into a series of screams. I couldn’t help but think this band enjoyed Coheed and Cambria’s In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3, especially on tracks like “There Are No Secrets This Year.” Had the band debuted in the early millennium, perhaps I would have been more receptive to their shoegaze style. But their use of distortion pedals and high-pitched screams was nothing new to me, I had heard all of this before during my “screamo stage.” I had a hard time respecting a guitarist who was heavily winded after just two songs, despite his lack of movement. It wasn’t until “Little Lovers So Polite” when Monniger used her voice, singing sweetly into the mic over Aubert’s raspy vocals. Take note Silversun Pickups—Monniger should sing more, Aubert should be replaced.

The rest of the night was owned by England’s finest, with performances from Elbow, Echo and the Bunnymen, and the night’s headliners Coldplay soon to come. I had heard of Mercury Prize winners Elbow just this year, taking note of their strong following by Philadelphia’s blogosphere. What exactly they sounded like I wasn’t sure, but I was about to find out. Tracks like “The Bones of You” and “Station Approach” may lead listeners to view Elbow as an alternative rock band, but they appear to have much more going on than that. Besides, who doesn’t respect anyone with a complete horn and string section in their live act? (Maybe just me, a former orchestra geek.) Lead singer Guy Garvey thanked the crowd for being there between each song, showing a sincere concern for their well being. Guy Garvey may be an older guy playing in a young man’s alternative scene. But he’s got it down better than anyone you’ll hear on mainstream radio, (especially Creed) giving the Manchester band’s sound enough power to fill an opera house. The crowd however, didn’t seem to be as receptive as I was, given that many of them were my age, and probably unfamiliar with the band. Nevertheless, I think we’ll be hearing more of Elbow in the future; they seem to have a lot going for them. Following the Manchester group was Echo and the Bunnymen.

Beginning their set with complaints and f-bombs, Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch belted out “Lips Like Sugar” taking breaks throughout to complain and mumble gibberish at the crowd and to his crew. Dressed like Bono’s understudy in ripped jeans and lame sunglasses, McCulloch’s surviving band mate, Will Sergeant, banged out chords from behind his keyboard, appearing calm and unaffected by McCulloch’s booze induced chatter. Crocodiles’ “Rescue” rang out jangly and lyrically eerie, with instrumental perfection and unfortunately scruffy vocals. Scanning the crowd, it was obvious more than half of Echo’s audience didn’t know who they were and most likely waiting for their set to end so Coldplay could take the stage. Despite the scattered applause that followed after each song, Echo and the Bunnymen’s befitting “Stormy Weather” felt like a power ballad composed by New Wave’s best. Between “Seven Seas” and “Bring On the Dancing Horses,” McCulloch’s onstage banter, at this point, unintelligible, annoyed and confused the crowd. Luckily, “The Killing Moon” (yeah, that song from Donnie Darko) in addition to “The Cutter” earned the audience’s attention, with diehard fans in Joy Division tees singing loudly along. As some Elvis Costello lookalike standing nearby announced before their set, it did appear that seeing Echo and the Bunnymen’s live set was “like going to church.” Our last and final stop before slopping through the mud towards the parking lot, McCulloch’s set was the best of times and the worst of times, with McCulloch’s erratic performance making him seem like an eligible candidate for A&E’s “Intervention.”




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