Well, folks, it's here and it is awesome so far! What am I talking about? Bunbury, of course!
Our first day was jam-packed with so many awesome bands, I don't even know where to begin, so I think I'll go through things chronologically. What I want to do is really talk about the bands at the festival, with a few details about the set up, and do a total wrap-up Thursday, so that's where I'll begin.
For starters, the folks at Bunbury ended up changing their bag policy again, so drawstring bags were OK. It's yet to be seen as to whether or not this will change next year, but for now, all is good. Getting into the festival was pretty easy, and now that we have our wristbands, it should go a lot faster.
The layout of this year's festival is a bit different as well, with a relocated main stage that has really fixed the bottleneck problem of year's past. There are LOADS of food vendors, the merch table is out of the fray in a relatively accessible area, and there is lots to do and see, in addition to the bands.
For Friday, we ended up having the fullest of our festival days so far, as well as one of our most solid ones. There was not a single band we saw Friday afternoon that we disliked - all were amazing. Allen and I came out of the festival Friday with different favorites, but everyone put on a hell of a show. We're hoping Saturday will bring just as much great sounds as Friday did.
We got our Friday started out with Royal Teeth, who was a great band to get the festival started with (for us). They were upbeat and energetic and had a great stage presence. This was a band who truly loved (and loves) their fans, and everyone who came out to the river stage to see them play. Co-lead-singer Nora's voice was just as incredible live as it is recorded, if not better. This is a band with some excellent summer music, combining alt-rock with pop in a very successful manner.
From there, we went to the main stage to see X Ambassadors. This band is grittier and very, VERY heavy on the bass. We could feel the bass shaking our bodies and the ground as they played through their short set. The interesting thing we noted about this band is that if you were to remove the bass and replace it with twangy guitar, the songs would be at-home in the country genre as well. The lead singer of the band has a strong voice and even played saxophone on a few songs. That was an interesting and pleasant surprise. While X Ambassadors isn't music I go for right now, they definitely put on quite a good performance!
Next up, we made our first and only trek of the day out to the Warsteiner lawn stage to see Panama Wedding. This band appears to have been a late but really good addition to the lineup. They play what I can only describe as soft alt-pop. There is lots of synthesizer along with a light tinkling keyboard. It was upbeat but mellow music, and the band's stage presence was okay - not high energy, but not lacking either. I told Allen that it felt like islandy music or summer break music. It was like lazy Sunday music. Or, alternately, Vampire Saturday Afternoon in lieu of Vampire Weekend.
Since we basically didn't stop moving until nine, we raced from the Warsteiner stage all the way back to the main stage for Wild Cub, who was high energy with upbeat music all the way. They played through a good catalogue of their music and kept the audience well engaged throughout their set. One thing to note at this point is that the crowd at Bunbury Friday was large relative to other years, and this band drew quite the crowd for their performance. While they played a good set, we were feeling all of the racing around of the morning and early afternoon, so didn't pay as much attention to the set as we should have. BUT - this was still an awesome band to catch.
Onto J Roddy Walston & The Business, where we finally took a seat on the serpentine wall to take in this highly recommended group. All I could think was that this was classically made rock all the way. The band had a hair-band appearance without the hair band sound, with energetic performers, a slightly bluesy sound, with clear guitar. At times they had a jam-band feel, in the best way possible. This was a band that was great to lead into our packed evening with, as they really set a solid tone for the rest of the night.
One of the bands we were most looking forward to seeing was Cage the Elephant, a semi-local band to us. They. Were. Amazing. The lead singer of the band was like watching a young Mick Jagger play as he worked the stage back and forth, feeding off the energy of the crowd. They have excellent stage presence and crowd engagement. This is a band who is high energy to the max and they greatly exceeded my expectations. Of all the bands we saw Friday, this was Allen's favorite.
Now, ever since I first heard the Bad Suns' song cardiac arrest I've wanted to see them live. The lead singer has a deep and clear voice, and live this band is mellow with a California rock feel. They like to dance - a lot, and this adds to their stage presence. Between bands, this was a good way to wind down for a bit before heading into the high-energy conclusion of our evening, starting with Fitz and the Tantrums.
Okay, so, last year? Fitz and the Tantrums released the song "Out of My League," and we fell for it as soon as we heard it. It's high energy. It's fun. And really? It's just a good song. This was another high (HIGH) energy band who I thought was INCREDIBLE. By far it was my favorite of the night. They interacted with the crowd so much it was amazing. They did two covers, including Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams," and ended on a high energy song. By the end of this band? I was ready for the headliner.>
Finally, we had our headliners: Empire of the Sun. This was performance art with music, to a tee. There were head dresses, costume changes, light shows, dancers, and even tee shirt cannons. And yes, you did read that right: tee shirt cannons. Who does that at a concert? I can't accurately describe the sound of this band without using the word "techno." They're like alt-dance, alt-electronic, and alt-techno all rolled into one. Their stage performance was exceptional and kept the crowd engaged right up until the end of the evening. I was skeptical about them when I first heard of them, but once I heard them and saw them live? Hooked.
Friday's Bunbury performances were amazing, and I'm already excited to see what Saturday is going to bring.