Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Download This

To begin our honeymoon, we traveled to Mansfield, Massachusetts for the Download festival. The trip was not without its setbacks, but the show more than made up for those. After a brief stop at DeLorme headquarters, home to Eartha and 1,00os of maps, just not any of Fundy National Park, we were pulled by forces beyond us to Freeport.

For those who aren't familiar with Freeport, it is home to the L.L. Bean flagship store and a number of exquisite outlet stores, including North Face and Patagonia. After drooling over lots of equipment and apparel that we didn't really need, we picked up a dry sack for trash to use in the woods so that we could be sure to leave no trace, while not contaminating the rest of our gear with nastiness.

Back on the road, we made the mistake of thinking that Massachusetts had common sense and numbered its exits based on miles, not numerical order. So, thinking that we were making good time and only 30 miles from the venue we stopped at I.H.O.P. for a bite to eat. The food was delicious and arrived in no time, we even got our check when we got our food. We were sure that we'd be able to see Band of Horses and maybe even part of the opening band's set. I was fairly excited to Bang Camaro, a band that, in their words, took all of the good things (sing along choruses and guitar solos) about 80s metal and got rid of all the crap (lead singers and verses). Although we had our check and payment ready, it took over 30 minutes to pay for our meal. Back on the road and creeping towards the time that Band of Horses were to take the stage, we realized that we had 25 exits to go, not 25 miles.

We ended up making it to the venue just before Wolf Parade were to take the stage, we could here them doing their sound check. As we walked to what we thought was the entrance, we passed hundreds of people priming for the Guster show, and I was quickly reminded what it was about college and drinking that I hated. After walking some distance and past many people in event t-shirts we were greeted by others in event t-shirts who told us that we had to walk all the way around the parking lot and fenced in stage. (I want the convenience and facility fees, that doubled the ticket cost, back)

Upon arrival at the gate, the attendants scanned our tickets and directed us into the abyss that is the Tweeter Center. Once inside, we found our seats and didn't see or hear Wolf Parade. A little confused, we wondered around and eventually made it back outside, yet inside of the fenced in stage area. Wolf Parade were on stage and making things happen. Apparently they were not a big draw, as most people were still tailgating and throwing footballs. Despite the crowd's disinterest, Wolf Parade were awesome. They played mostly new/unreleased material and it was all really good, I'm excited for a new LP, as long as they can put their side projects away, long enough to record.

After a very energetic set, we followed the masses back inside, through throngs of "Ahoy Girls" passing out Old Spice samples and pinup girls posters (apparently Old Spice is trying to get on the Axe/Tag/Bod bandwagon), posters deriding the environmental effects of bottled water coupled with vendors selling $4 bottles of water, and an extra long line at the beer/mixed drink garden.

Back at our seats, we soon were treated to an amazing performance from Neko Case. Her voice is absolutely golden and the backing musicians were top-notch. Highlights were Neko's caws and when she played an acoustic guitar, sans pick guard, that I don't think will make through the end of the year. Unfortunately most people in attendance didn't have any idea who they were witnessing or, to be more precise, missing.

Once Neko cleared the stage it was time for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, surprisingly there still weren't a whole lot of people in attendance to Karen O and the boys. The YYYs have yet to let me down when they perform live. Brian was the most excited drummer I've ever seen. He had a smile from ear to ear for the entire show. Karen was as out of control as ever and I swear Nick stole the amps from Spinal Tap. As with Wolf Parade, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played some really good new material.

The penultimate bad was the one, that we couldn't really care less about. It soon became evident, however, that Guster had sold a lot of the event's tickets. During their set, I took the opportunity to use the facilities and purchase an overcooked, underheated, and overpriced "soft" pretzel. Delicious. Looking back, I guess it was just preparation for the food on the trail. The guys in Guster are definitely good musicians, I just don't really get into the hippie jam bandy stuff, though I find it interesting that the greeks have an affinity for it. Guster closed their set with a blistering dance punk rendition of a classic that I recognized from the H.O.R.D.E. festival back in '98. Before they left the stage, the lead singer confessed his love for the fellow bands at the festival and shared that he had a poster of Johnny Marr, on his wall, in high school.

Finally, it was time for the headliners. Modest Mouse were marvelous. They used two drum kits and multiple instrument arrangements to create sheer bliss. Isaac even used two different mics, one with effects. My only gripe is that almost everything they played was from "Good News" or "We were Dead." They did open my eyes the banjo though, I never realized how awesome the banjo can be, until I saw Isaac shred on his. It was incredible to hear Isaac, speak, sing and growl. He is so soft spoken, but a real show man when he has his guitar or banjo and is singing and when we gets into a song, he's like a man possessed.

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