On the second day of its second year, Monolith solidified its place as a festival to be reckoned with. Also, Jesus took the stage in a glowing cloud of blue light — oh wait, no that’s Band of Horses. Close to divine.
Although the attendance this year was a ways from capacity, Monolith is still one of the better festivals I’ve been to recently, with its diverse lineup of acts –from hip hop to acoustic indie, cock rock to electronica– and gorgeous Colorado scenery. Maybe it’s just our mountain air but everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Each time slot had at least one band I wanted to see, usually three or sometimes four. I could live the festival through another few rounds (with permission from my liver, of course) in order to see all the acts I missed. Kudos all around this year on a solid festival well done.
If Monolith returns in ’09, I still hold onto the hope that they can bribe somebody from the Dept of Parks and Wildlife or whatever, and find a way to incorporate camping on some of the rolling land stretching out around Red Rocks (what a gorgeous location, right?) to make it more of a destination festival, like Coachella. Staying six miles down the highway at the Sheraton West was nice but not quite the same.
So Sunday — armed with Chipotle and some parking lot libations — we rolled in for day two of the festival. After braving the unseasonably nasty elements the night before, we were pleased to see gorgeous skies again that this time stayed all day. The remnants of summer were the perfect backdrop to the sunny music of Pomegranates, the first whole set I caught on Sunday.
Pomegranates sound at once epic and approachable — music that demands you take notice but in such a chiming, iridescent way. Over sugary flourishes, their multilayered percussion built and anticipated then crashed down in avalanches of catharsis. I loved their set. WOXY sponsored their stage, and also loves them; check a full live Lounge Act set here.
Appreciations – Pomegranates
I heard the hard-driving scowl and Southern rock of American Bang reverberating through a wall and tentatively opened the door to see who was playing. I was summarily knocked flat; theirs was one of those sets you happen upon and everyone walks out saying, “Who WAS that?!” Kings of Leon comparisons are easy (before KOL got all clean cut and pretty) with their Nashville roots, classic rock swagger, screams and skinny jeans. It’s stuff to play loud from your 1970 Chevelle while you drive to get tickets for the Aerosmith show, and it was great.
The Stones – American Bang
Tokyo Police Club played at the mid-afternoon mark, and the kids from Saddle Creek seemed competent on the large stage and unrestrained in their delight. I always think I hear a smile in Dave Monks’ voice on this song, and you can see it in the pictures below.
Tessellate – Tokyo Police Club
For the final song of the Avett Brothers‘ sundrenched set on Sunday aftenoon, bassist Bob Crawford laid aside the gorgeous baroque curves of his golden standup bass and picked up an electric guitar. As the band raged and thrashed their sweaty bodies through that final song, a sort of transliteration hit me. The electric guitar personified the same sentiment of outright rock that their whole set had spoken, but in the language of things like banjos.
Moreso than the first time I saw them a few weeks ago, this set was gutting to me. I kept finding myself riveted by a wry twist of lyric in a song that was new to me, or marvelling at how their voices blended, cooperated, and fought in the way that only brothers can. Their set caught the attention of the casual listeners and the unfamiliar — even the gruff security guard down in the photo pit. I noticed him listening intently, and then forsaking his post to turn around and gape as they launched into “Die, Die, Die.” He pressed me for all the details I knew about them and actually took notes. I think a lot of folks walked away with a desire to seek out more.
The Avetts have recently spent a few weeks in the studio with producer Rick Rubin for a new album due out in the Spring. They played one of those new songs, a sweet and simple tune called “Standing With You.” When I heard it last week I was struck by the lyric, “So many nights go by like a flash, from a camera without any film” — so much so that I typed it into my phone as a memo. Maybe I took a shine to it because I have a horrible memory. But I was pleased to find this video [via] and I ripped the tune for now (so I won’t forget):
Standing With You (live at Monolith) – The Avett Brothers
With my head spinning from the Avetts, I climbed the 472 stairs to see the talent show spectacle of Tilly And The Wall. Their set was infectiously amazing fun because they have a tap-dancer as percussionist, don’t ya know. I never learned tap dance, but if I had, this is precisely the band I would want to be in.
Bessa – Tilly And The Wall
I only caught the tail end of the set from sexy London garage punk duo The Kills, but as I wedged myself into the area between the edge of the stage, some scaffolding, and various amps to try and get a few good pics while I enjoyed their sounds, Jamie Hince spotted me and directed a little bit of his rock god energy my way. Blending equal parts Bowie and PJ Harvey with that clear White Stripes energy, I was impressed.
Ura Fever – The Kills
Band of Horses was seriously meant to play a venue like Red Rocks. Along with recent groups like My Morning Jacket who have sent their majestic songs cascading through the oxygenless air to rain down upon the happy masses, Ben Bridwell’s haunting high tenor sounded flawless, the band powerful in that setting.
The Funeral (live on KEXP) – Band of Horses
Airborne Toxic Event has been busy in the week since Monolith, defending their art to the soulcrushers at Pitchfork, but at the show I saw they were single-mindedly focused on bringing their songs to life. They played on one of the smallest stages Monolith had to offer and packed it in — imagine the swells of this immense and cinematic song bouncing off the wall of red rock in that underground cubbyhole. Is it just me, or is this a great song? “You just have to see her; you know that she’ll break you in two.”
Sometime Around Midnight – Airborne Toxic Event
After Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip impressed the heck out of me at Coachella, I told everyone who was undecided in the late afternoon that their set was the one to see. With their intelligent and literate songcraft mixed with can’t-sit-still beats, I wasn’t disappointed this time either. Theirs was the single most crowded show I saw on the WOXY stage. There were two entrances into the hallway pitstop where the stage was wedged, and both doors had a line 20-30 people deep trying to get in to hear them. Deservedly so.
Thou Shalt Always Kill – Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip
(the original version, which I like better than the cut that made the album)
Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS) was in their element headlining the second stage in the gusty September wind while the tightly-packed crowd danced under the stars. They sounded fantastic and fun, although I must say that Lovefoxx kind of confused me with that fluffy thing that maybe she borrowed from Bjork. By that point in the night it is good to know that Matt Picasso and I were on the same page; he wrote about the “poofiness that defied gravity” and admitted “while I should’ve probably been focused on how great they sounded, I kept thinking ‘wow, that Christmas tree thing is amazing.’” I’m so right there with you buddy. But the best thing was that watching her dance in it made me want to dance too. Which I suppose is the point.
Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex (Switch feat Mapei Mix) – Cansei De Ser Sexy
Finally, after a full day of marvelous music, French electronica duo Justice took the stage with what can only be described as massively imposing stage presence. As Gaspard AugÃ© and Xavier de Rosnay peeked over the top of a gigantic stack of amps and blinking machines, behind their trademark glowing cross, the crowd prepared to dance. They unleashed a visceral, hedonistic crush of danceable sound (despite a few sound problems that broke up the set early on). It was a rather epic ending to an epic weekend.
DVNO – Justice