In its third year now The Monolith Music Festival took center stage this past weekend at the majestic Red Rocks Amphitheater in beautiful Morrison, Colorado. This year brought an indie platter of goodness to the table as some of the industries up and comers and established veterans took to the masses. From prog- rockers to electro darlings to hip-hop pioneers there was something for everybody.
Some of the weekend’s best sets included The Antlers, whose three-piece outfit rocked the WOXY Stage on day 1. The indoor stages seemed to have been more crowded this year due to the inclement weather that was bestowed upon us on Saturday. Packed into the Radium Room Stage was Portland, Oregon outfit Starfucker who many considered the highlight of the first day of festivities, many complained that they should have been on one of the bigger stages which is true but having the sweaty masses all packed like sardines enhanced the set with perfection. The buzz band I was looking forward to on day 1 was Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, when asked to describe this band I would say picture a grittier, and by grittier I mean hippier, and by hippier I mean dirtier…and well you get the picture. It is as if I was seeing a Boulder, Colorado version of the Arcade Fire. Talk about an energetic set, they commanded the set with a tight sounding wave a musical bliss, that took everybody for a ride tripping’ or not.
Another of the first day standouts was the beat boxing, show stopping, guitar slinging, Thao and The Get Down Stay Down, I was reluctant to catch this set at the main stage due to the fact that I knew I had to trek all the way up the brutal Red Rocks stairs, which by the way created a cardio workout that may well indeed last until Thanksgiving. Thao wowed the crowd with her guitar and lyrical craftsmanship that may have been suited for a smaller setting, yet she knocked it out of the park on the main stage.
Another standout performance was by a band I had a chance to catch this past Spring during South By Southwest, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart take me back to a time when I started getting into music, with a sound reminiscent of early bands such as The Smiths mixed in with a little Psychedelic Furs topped off with a sprinkle of early Smashing Pumpkins, they would have provided an updated soundtrack to any John Hughes film today.
If anybody showed to exhibit the cool factor this year I would award it to The Walkmen, while others seemed in awe of the spectacular surroundings these guys came to do with what they do best and that is play a tight sounding set with beautifully crafted songs that stick in our mind, still today “The Rat” sounds just as good as it did 5 years ago.
One of the shows I did not want to miss was M. Ward who I truly consider one of the best talented showmen in the business, with a no holds barred guitar mastery Ward gives us a change of pace unmatched by others. With a backing band to accompany his lyrical art form M. Ward may have won a few younger fans unfamiliar with his work. The theme of this years fans seemed to be a younger crowd who were obviously in attendance for certain bands that catered to them. By the way the rumblings centered around OK Go’s main stage occupancy and Glitch Mob’s lackluster performance. Many thought Starfucker and HEALTH deserved a main stage billing, but they are kids what do they know?
Moving on, the awesome thing about festivals is the array of rumors that end up circulating abuzz throughout. As we patiently waited for Doom to take the stage his dj, dropped us a line about a possible Doom and TV On The Radio collaboration, will it see the light of day I guess we will have to wait. Besides who really knows if that was really Doom on stage after all.
By this time my legs are on the verge of falling off, I tell myself only 3 more climbs up and down…We made our way downstage to catch the one they call Girl Talk, now let’s just throw this out there now, Greg Gillis is often frowned upon by many dj’s who consider him a sort of black eye to the scene, although he may not be as conventional as those guys, in fact he doesn’t even refer to himself as a dj, one thing is for certain no matter what he does, no matter how he does, the truth of the matter is he knows how to pump up a crowd. I had a chance to see Girl Talk last summer in Boulder and really feel his set should be on a smaller stage, (again when we compare the Red Rocks main stage to others it fails in comparison). I think his set would have been more justified on the Southern Comfort Stage. He seems to mash-up a mixture of genres that well…just fit right, sometimes you scratch your head and wonder why wasn’t that the original piece in the first place.
Nothing sets the mood for the next band than a dude walking out in a suit wearing a rather enormous tiger head. Hailing from the musical hotbed of Athens, Georgia, Of Montreal brings a unique and must-see live performance of the unexpected. You never know what you are going to get with these guys. Kevin Barnes seems to have this aura of showmanship when he performs often leading you to focus on him the whole time. Undoubtedly one of the best sets of the day goes to these guys who pretty much rocked the SoCo Stage.
Although they have managed to tame down their once gritty punk rock persona in favor of a more pop-friendly indie outfit The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s continue to impress the masses with a style and showmanship by one of the best leading ladies in the business. Karen O, is the heart of the band, always leaving us wonder what kind of crazy outfit she is going to grace us with. Her outfit looked like Rainbow Brite got together with some Native Americans and decided that this years fashion line would go against the traditional warm Earth colors in favor of some bright ass futuristic war dress. On this night it really didn’t matter what she would have wore as her and Nick Zinner (is this guy seriously one of the most underrated axe men in the business) and Brian Chase (doesn’t he remind you of a guy who could play drums in a house band for some late night talk show) gave the crowd a musical and visual appealing show, nothing dramatic, yet a perfect way to close out Day 1.
Day 1 highlights:
Best Band: Edwin Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros and Starfucker (Tie)
Most Boring Band: Girl Talk (only because Red Rocks was to big for the one man show)
Best Dressed: Karen O followed right behind by Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes
Best Ode To The 80’s Era: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Enjoy the pics…….