Like Kevin did, I apologize for the delay with this. This weekend was kind of crazy. Awesome, but crazy. So here goes nothing.
For festivals, I have the bar set unreasonably high due to my experience in May out at Sasquatch. That being said, I wasn’t expecting FreeFest to live up to it, but with bands like Pavement, LCD Soundsystem, Neon Indian, and the like there, I did have pretty decent expectations. So did it live up expectations? Let’s find out.
I arrived at Merriweather with my ride at about 10:30 in the morning, a half-hour before doors were set to open. I met the friends who I would be experiencing the day’s festivities with. We stayed out in the parking lot, just hanging out and people watching along with listening to the alt sounds coming from people’s speakers. Eventually, it was time to go in.
We passed through security without a problem, got a card for a free burrito, and staked out a spot in the shade while we were waiting for the music to start. At that point, the lawn was not crowded at all and I reunited with Kevin (seen below) while we were waiting for the music to start.
Eventually, the winner of the Book the Band Contest, Brite Lite Brite, took the stage and we didn’t really notice. The music was an attempt at dubstep with some M.I.A.-type vocals over it, but it just wasn’t too appealing. It went ignored while friends caught up.
Eventually we decided to explore so we walked over to where the West Stage was and heard that one Temper Trap song (from a great distance, mind you) that’s pretty good but isn’t “Sweet Disposition.” So we were down with that. We also found the overpriced food and the Dance Forest where Will Eastman was kicking off his set. From our walk, we found that the walks between the main stage and the West Stage was pretty far and would significantly hamper any attempt at getting from stage to stage quickly. We decided that we were going to have to set a goal and focus on it. Our goal became Pavement and LCD Soundsystem.
After reuniting on the lawn, we went back to the Dance Forest for the rest of Eastman’s set. I’m usually not a huge fan of these DJs and their thumping bass remixes, but Eastman’s set clicked with me and I found myself bobbing my head and dancing around with my friends for a great, great time.
I took a breather after Eastman’s set to see Jimmy Eat World play “The Middle” and then came back for Wolfgang Gartner’s set. I’d heard some good stuff about Gartner due to his association with deadmau5, and I was pretty down with what he was doing. The only problem was that it was extremely bass heavy and I was right now next to the speakers. Plus, some people next to me were dancing like it was a high school dance. Amateurs. I was exhausted from Titus Andronicus the night before and just needed some time to myself to regroup and prepare for the excitement to come.
I eventually ended up sitting on the lawn with my friends for a while and over this period of time saw a good amount of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros set. I might have seen “Home,” but I forget because I didn’t really care.
Then the fun started, but only after the first tough decision of the day. Yeasayer and Neon Indian were both slated for 3:45-4:45 time slots with Yeasayer on the West Stage and Neon Indian on the Dance Forest. We had the greatest idea of getting on the Ferris wheel for a Yeasayer song or two and then coming back to the Dance Forest, but from our position on the lawn, we decided to just go see Neon Indian.
We arrived just in time for the first song and were pretty far back. But as Kevin said, it appeared that the people there were waiting for some sort of music they could bump and grind and be indecent to, but that’s just not the chillwave way. So throughout the show, we moved closer and closer, aided by a girl passing out and all of her friends leaving to take care of her. I’ll admit that Kevin and I were “those kids,” jumping up and down and singing along to nearly every word and just freaking out. Which was awesome. Alan Palomo and the gang laid down theremin(!)-aided tracks perfectly.
The best song was a re-worked version of “Sleep Paralysist” which featured intense shredding over the entire song. It was so good. “Should have taken acid with you” and “Deadbeat Summer” were solid as always, but I was disappointed that Palomo didn’t take the opportunity to lay down any new tracks like “I Really Didn’t Need You Anyway.” But still, out of the three times I saw Neon Indian this year, this time was the best. The cozy-yet-stifling outdoor setting let me ride some chillwaves after a busy and semi-stressful morning. It finally felt like FreeFest was in full force.
So it was about five o’clock and we were looking towards Pavement at 7:40, and we got this idea: what if we go down to the pit during Joan Jett, stay there and get a good spot for Matt & Kim, and then slowly work our way up and be in the front for Pavement and LCD Soundsystem. Well this didn’t work out so well. We went to the pit for Joan Jett (mad boring y’all) but then were informed we needed to clear the pit, which was apparently being done after every performance on the main stage. Yeah bummer.
So instead of cutting in line for Matt & Kim, we waited along the side far up in the line for Pavement. Matt & Kim put on a classic Matt & Kim show: lots of running around, jumping up and down, and just an all around fun time. However, I was disappointed that no new material was unveiled and we also heard from our friends down in the pit that the sound wasn’t the best. But we were in line for Pavement.
Here I spent the only money I did all day: a $7 fruit smoothie which was pretty damn good. Go FreeFest.
Finally Matt & Kim finished and the rush was on to the pit. There we were. Second row. Mind-blowing. Amazing.
The band came out and, unlike at Sasquatch, I was right there. Right there. Every note, every word, every solo just resonated off of me and through the pavilion. Everyone there was there for Pavement because Ludacris was over on the West Stage, but Stephen Malkmus and the gang threw down nearly everything in a tight yet lackadaisically Pavement manner. From the first notes of “Grounded,” I could tell this was something special.
Songs like “Cut Your Hair,” “Date With Ikea,” “Summer Babe,” “Range Life,” “Shady Lane,” and “Spit On A Stranger,” and everything else was absolutely flawless. The half empty pit felt packed because everyone there knew all the songs, everyone was there to see Pavement rock, and everyone was having the time of their lives.
The climax came with the “Starlings Of The Slipstream”-“Gold Soundz”-“Here” finale. I sung along with each word and found tears streaming from the corners of my eyes at the end of “Gold Soundz.” It just felt like such a completing musical experience, to see this band in the form they were in and receiving blown kisses from Malkmus. I can’t remember being that into a show or having that much fun at a show.
Until LCD Soundsystem played.
Here, due to crazy circumstances of people rushing the pavilion, I ended up in the fourth or fifth row of people on the right side of the stage, still prime viewing position.
From the opening notes of “Dance Yrself Clean” through “I Can Change” to “Losing My Edge” to the closer “Home” (suck on that Edward Sharpe), I was in a constant state of motion, jumping up and down, moving side-to-side, all with a huge backpack on (yeah, I was that kid). James Murphy had the crowd at his command and it just turned into a huge dance party down in the pit. That’s all there is to say about it. LCD Soundsystem, why are you so awesome?
Totally indescribable day. Even though I just described it.
So for the day, I saw only full sets from three bands, but all three sets were amazing. Plus, I spent $7 for the day which I’d say is a pretty good deal for seeing amazing sets from Neon Indian, Pavement, and LCD Soundsystem. Am I going to be back at FreeFest next year? Well, we’ll have to wait and see. But for the mean time, I’m just basking in the glow of an awesome, awesome evening.