Today couldn’t possibly have started out better than it did—walking from a train through the front gates at Union Park into the shaded (and coolest) section of Union Park to see Thee Oh Sees getting set up before ripping into the giant crowd amassed to see them (the size was truly staggering) for an abbreviated but insanely manic, intense set. They played a lot of the same songs I’ve seen them play the other few times I’ve seen them but, as always, the songs were torn apart and reassembled in ways that are difficult to imagine from their recorded versions. As always everyone bopped together in unison. Water sprayed through the air, Alex and Francis White of White Mystery bounced around backstage, someone blew a ton of bubbles throughout the set, another wonderful individual kept flashing a pair of fans that were shaped like ducks. John Dwyer jumped up and down, back and forth with his guitar high up below his chin and his tongue hanging out. You could see the sweat flying from his hair. Bassist Petey Dammit bopped frantically seemingly oblivious to the heat under which so many others that day would wilt. It was beautiful as only an Oh Sees show can be and it could’ve gone on forever and few would’ve minded (even at a huge festival).
My first bone to pick of the day is that I would like to know who in their right mind decided to schedule Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall with overlapping set times. They share a huge cross-section of devoted and passionate fans. Fuck, they’re from the same city, play shows together and are each other’s cheerleaders. During Thee Oh Sees set Dwyer called out ‘Ty Segall?! Can you hear me?! Yell if you can hear me?! You guys are going to have some moving to do soon. Not yet! Please stay!’ There was a fast-moving mass exodus across the length of the entire park to catch the remaining 30 minutes of Ty’s set on the red stage. During Segall’s set he got the entire crowd to yell out ‘Dwyer!’ twice only to look over at the VIP area to find Dwyer himself waving from the side of the stage. The highlights from Segall’s set included a distinctive cover of ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ during which Segall got the crowd to chant the ‘oi!’s for him. At one point he went down into the crowd, microphone in hand (until the microphone died) and direct the crowd to carry him almost all the way to the soundboard and safely back to the stage. When another crowd member was lifted up he even said, ‘Take that kid to the back and then bring him back up here! I believe in you guys!’ The music was every bit as fierce and face-melting as it had been at Lincoln Hall a few months ago.
Watching from a spot next to the soundboard at the green stage while waiting for Real Estate to start the bar had been set impossibly high. What would’ve worked would in place of Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees having overlapping set times would be that Segall and Real Estate could’ve been switched. It would’ve been nice to have a breather and not have condensed two highlights from the day into a little over an hour. Real Estate’s live show isn’t exactly what one would expect from hearing their recorded output—it’s still mellow and smooth but they do manage to inject a surprising amount of energy into their material when they play it live. After witnessing the mighty Oh Sees/Ty Segall double-header this fact becomes little more than an amusing footnote. I didn’t enjoy their set as much as I had when I saw them at Lincoln Hall last Halloween, but they did play ‘Out of Tune’ which is probably my favourite song of theirs. They also wilted a bit under the unforgiving sun—the green stage is situated perfectly to achieve this affect, which is why there were volunteers next to the soundboard on hand giving out free bottles of water throughout the day. A group of kids even carried one of their friends who had collapsed up next to the soundboard and everyone gave this dehydrated kid a lot of room—the volunteers got him a folding chair and some type of electrolyte-heavy drink while waiting for the EMS staff to come and take him to their tent. They were speedy getting there as well. Witnessing these types of things always does a great deal to restore my faith in humanity—it’s nice to know that people still instinctually want to help each other out in a similar situation. Once the clock struck five we were ready to leave in pursuit of food and to say ‘hi’ to all of our friends with booths at Flatstock—this would be Dan Grezca, Sonnezimmer and the Bird Machine. This couldn’t have happened at a better time as the area was nice, shady and cool and I was starting to feel a bit woozy and overwhelmed myself.
On our way back to the red stage as Chavez were finishing up we stopped by the volunteers at the green stage to grab a few more bottles of water (we’d both drank about three bottles each by this time in the day) before staking out a prime spot next to the red stage soundboard. We were able to sit and stretch out in the shade that had just started to cover the grass in front of the red stage as we listened to AraabMuzik. At first I found it a bit grating, what with the recurring scream samples and whatnot, but as his set continued I found myself positively hypnotized by some of the huge sounds. About 20 minutes before Beach House started people started to smash their way into our personal space to the point where we finally just gave up and went toward the back. While it was a shame to give up a really nice angle from which to snap a few pictures (yes, I ended up having to take a few jumbotron pictures) I think it was a good decision that allowed me to enjoy their set more since it was the main reason I wanted to attend the festival at all this year. I’ve missed Beach House at every stop they’ve had in town since 2009. There’s always been something that’s gotten in the way, which was a real shame since I loved ‘Teen Dream’ so much. I watched the webcast of their set at Pitchfork in 2010 (there hadn’t been enough other bands that I wanted to see to warrant shelling out the money for a ticket). My expectations were mainly based on that experience and were actually set quite high. Somehow they managed to surpass my lofty expectations despite the fact that we were really far away from the stage, a lot of people around us were talking and the full impact of the sound system kept getting carried away in the open air. Their 50 minute set was surprisingly emotional for me. 2010 was quite a crazy year and ‘Teen Dream’ was the soundtrack for most of it. I found myself feeling things I hadn’t felt at a concert since when I went to see the Cure five times on their Dream Tour in 2000. I also found that they played most of the songs off of ‘Bloom’ that I wasn’t that wild about but witnessing them in a live setting made them make more sense to me—another commonality that they share with the Cure. This is an increasing rarity for me these days and all of this packed quite the emotional wallop. As if that weren’t enough they had a fantastic light show and as they were playing the sun started to set. I know that Beach House are feeling the backlash from all of the hype that has surrounded them and built to the breaking point over the last two years, but I can honestly say I couldn’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks of them—anyone who isn’t into them is really missing out. Victoria Legrand’s voice was a bit scratchy and sounded road-worn when she would speak, but somehow sounded smooth and flawless when she sang. ‘Silver Soul’ seemed restrained, wistful and sad in contrast to the vibrance of the album version. ‘Myth,’ ‘Lazuli’ and ‘Other People’ packed quite the punch live and were incredibly, achingly beautiful. When they played ‘10 Mile Stereo‘ I was sure it was over and then they launched into my favourite track off of ‘Bloom’—the endlessly building album-closing epic ‘Irene.’ Not surprisingly, it was even more massive live. It sent chills up and down my spine at at least three different points. For some reason I thought they’d leave it out of their festival set, but the fact that they ended with it couldn’t’ve made for a better end to today. It was magical. I was already excited having a ticket to their show in October at the Riviera, but now I can hardly wait. While I thought that this particular Pitchfork lineup was pretty weak all around this year I was relieved that all of the best acts were piled into the last day of the festival. Seriously, though, whoever scheduled Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall deserves a spanking. How COULD you?!