Sunday, September 8, 2013

Day One in The Sun - LouFest is back!

Photo: Jason Stoff
Day one of the new, bigger and better LouFest went by in a flash.  If you ask the promoters of the festival, they will tell you that in addition to bigger acts and a much bigger footprint, what they were most excited about was the way the days have been programmed. The day played through like a well thought out mixtape.  Like Space Capone leading straight into Fitz & The Tantrums and Jim James stripping his sound down at the end of his set and segueing perfectly into Wilco to end the opening the day. 

For the first time, it’s impossible to see all the bands playing – and that can be a good thing and a bad thing of course.  It gives festival goers options, not into one band?  Don’t worry, there’s someone who you maybe haven’t seen blowing minds on the other stage.  But the Main Stage still features it’s acts unopposed, so the biggest bands can still demand all of your attention. 

The day started with St. Louis favorites Kentucky Knife Fight playing the cozy BMI Stage, the smallest – but most comfortable – stage of the three.  Under the shade of two large trees, the band tore up their opening set, bringing more heat that the noon-day St. Louis sun.  

Kentucky Knife Fight's Jason Holler and Jason Koenig
Photo: Jason Stoff

Those two trees made the BMI a popular place (as did its easy access to the Schlafly “Brewtopia”) and the stage was loaded with great bands, like Chicago’s Wild Belles and a duo of Nashville bands, the afore mentioned Space Capone and their friends Modoc, both of whom seemed genuinely excited to be playing St. Louis for the first time.   These were also the first real conflicts of the day, with Robert DeLong on the Forest Park Stage at the same time as Modoc and Ra Ra Riot going against Space Capone. 

Space Capone
Photo: Jason Stoff

The funk started around 3:30 on the BMI stage with the Disco of Space Capone, but Fitz & The Tantrums kicked it up another notch on the Bud Light Stage an hour later.  This is what festivals are about.  The middle of the day, the crowd having swelled to it’s full potential and everyone inside the fences dancing, singing and moving together to that power pop soul that Micheal Fitzpatrick and his Tantrums do so well. 
Michael Fitzpatrick
Photo: Jason Stoff
Toro y Moi on the Forest Park stage drew most of the crowd away from the main stage and served as the perfect appetizer to the National.

The National may just be the perfect band at sunset.   And it was also the first sign that LouFest has grown quite a bit.  In the past years, The National would be the exact band that would be closing out the festival and here they were, playing in the daylight hours.

The National's Matt Berninger
Photo: Jarred Gastrich

Once the sun went down and light sprinkle came from the clouds, finally cooling everyone off, Jim James took to the Forest Park stage and promptly showed everyone why he is one of the last true rock stars around today.  With his trademark Flying V set on a stand at the front of the stage, seemingly yearning for a rock god to crack out a power chord, James wowed the crowd with the material from his latest solo effort.  

Jim James
Photo: Jason Stoff

And just as a St. Louis band had started off the day, another “almost, kinda, sorta, really is” St. Louis band, Wilco closed it out.  Sometimes it’s said that Jeff Tweedy avoids St. Louis or doesn’t like playing here.  It’s said that maybe he runs from his past sometimes.  That was certainly not the case at LouFest.  His area roots were well apparent.  From the setlist with St. Louis-heavy songs like the Uncle Tupelo-era “New Madrid” to “Casino Queen” and the ubiquitous “Heavy Metal Drummer”, Tweedy wasn’t shying away at all from his past.  The most poignant moment of the day, and probably the whole weekend was when Tweedy dedicated “Born Alone” to St. Louis’ own Bob Reuter and to his own brother, who passed away just days before the festival.  It was clearly a tough week for Tweedy and he used the music, as so many do, as catharsis. 

Jeff Tweedy
Photo: Jason Stoff
It all ended too soon, maybe one day LouFest can convince the city that going past 10pm on a weekend is perfectly reasonable. 

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