A part of me has been dreading this post, to be honest. While my festival experiences were, on the whole, extremely enjoyable and satisfying, there were exceptions and qualms in the mix. It will perhaps shock some to hear that this is my most negative post of the entire week’s coverage; hopefully my reviews explain my mixed feelings.
Portugal. The Man
Originally from Alaska and now situated in Portland, Portugal. The Man has been around since 2004 with their brand of what is alternately referred to as prog rock, psychadelic rock, psychadelic pop and so on. Their sound is difficult to nail down precisely – accessible pop melodies blend with a mainstream rock sound and are seasoned in moments of folky guitar and overtones of dance. While their music certainly isn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination, and while the band demonstrated a solid ability to command their stage, ultimately Portugal. The Man simply isn’t that memorable. Nothing about their 40-minute set stood out to me; it all faded into the background quickly after the band departed. It almost feels like the band, in trying to do a little of everything, fails to do enough of something to set them apart. Not to my liking, unfortunately, although the crowd seemed pretty happy.
The Flaming Lips
One of the most hyped shows of NXNE 2012 was the free set by The Flaming Lips in Yonge Dundas Square. Placed at the end of a very long line-up of music beneath a sweltering sun, and given that the front half of the crowd gathered by 4pm, one can imagine how restless the natives were becoming once Portugal. The Man left the stage at 8:40. But that was fine: what’s another twenty minutes at that point, right?
Ha. Try fifty minutes.
Media reps were crowded into their pit in front of the stage at five minutes to nine, and promptly sat through another thirty-five minutes of endless set-up, fifteen minutes of soundchecking just the drums, and frontman Wayne Coyne randomly strutting onto the stage every five minutes to shout into the mic or shoot confetti, as if this somehow excused the lag. It came off incredibly unprofessional and disorganized, and given my attendance the night before, I know that NXNE plans their shows. If the set for The Flaming Lips was too complex to quickly pull into place in twenty minutes – and I personally believe they reasonably needed thirty minutes – they never should have been scheduled as such. No explanations were given for the delay, and people like me against the front barricade were getting crushed by the impatient crowd.
Once the show began, I give credit where it’s due: the psychadelic-rock vibe of The Flaming Lips becomes a wild show of projections, dancing groupie girls, entering stage via a projected image of a woman’s genitals and the infamous Zorb ball. The band sounded good too, quickly moving from their cover of “Sweet Leaf” into hit tune “She Don’t Use Jelly”. If the delay were my only issue, I would have enjoyed the show and been satisfied. However, there was another elephant in the square: Wayne Coyne is the neediest singer I have ever seen live. Seriously, what the hell was up with him constantly demanding screaming and applause between songs, going so far as to refuse to continue without it? The applause at the end of each number was loud, and 25,000 people were crammed into the streets for the gig. If that sea of shouting bodies isn’t enough to stroke your rock star ego (never mind your big-breasted groupie flanks), you need therapy. It was so grating to be treated like sheep bleating on command and truly took away from the otherwise stellar performance. You’ve been a band since 1983; that longevity alone speaks to being appreciated. Enough.
Final gripe: no “Yoshimi”? Seriously? Every casual fan there was waiting the entire night for that one.
It broke my heart to be so let down by what was one of my most anticipated performances of the festival. Not worth the strained leg muscles, half-deafness from shrieking teenage girls obeying Coyne’s demands directly into my ear and the lengthy wait.
Phew! Now that’s out of the way, I move on to the brighter ending of my Saturday night. Stay tuned!