A festival spread out over two days has its limits. People who came for both days are more apt to be tired, more languid on the second day. So if you can, it’s good to make the second day worth it. And Monolith did just that in spades.
Again, people who came early were treated to some of the best performances of the festival. Washington, D.C.’s Jukebox the Ghost was my first show of the day and it set a high bar for the rest of the festival, cruising as they did through an infectious set of grandiose piano-driven pop. For a 1:00 crowd, it was a packed and energetic room.
The main stage was even more crowded, from beginning to end, with great bands on the second day. Tokyo Police Club, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and the Rosewood Thieves all put on solid, if not great, performances. Easily the highlight of the main stage were the Avett Brothers (photo above) and Band of Horses. The Avetts, whose touring ranks have now swollen to four members, pulled a mid-day crowd from all corners of the festival for a yowling, energetic, barnstorming performance. They played a few songs off their upcoming debut for American Recordings and in talking with Scott Avett after the show, they seem genuinely very excited about the product. “It’s interesting because now we’re serious artists – not that the people we worked with before didn’t treat us as not serious – but working with this label and Rick [Rubin] is just a different world,” he said. Something to look forward to, definitely.
Band of Horses, another swollen band, grew to six members for this live performance. Whether that’s standard or not, I don’t know, having never seen them live, but they put on a tremendous show of their own. Their brand of music is actually really well suited for a large, open-air place like Red Rocks. The night air and full moon didn’t hurt either.
Throughout the day the smaller stages were stealing moments of glory all their own. Atlanta, Georgia’s Snowden laid down their own brand of shoegaze, 80s indie and even a dash of Girls Against Boys – maybe it was the two bass players? – and seemed to impress the crowd quite handily. As did the Whigs in probably one of the most energetic shows of the festival. Again it was a packed room as the Whigs were situated in one of the smaller stages inside the amphitheater complex. Stuck near the back, it was hard to see, but easy to hear as they tore through songs from both of their LPs. Their lives shows are torrential and never a let down.
The curse of the crowded room came back to haunt people again on the second day. This time it was for the back to back performances of Does It Offend You, Yeah? and Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip. Entries into the WOXY stage had to be sealed off as the rooms were packed to capacity. This was my only real complaint of the weekend, as bands that I felt might’ve been better served on the larger stage, packed the smaller rooms to the point where not everyone who wanted to could see them.
Meanwhile, back upstairs on that larger stage, Akron/Family was turning listeners’ eardrums inside out. The entire right-hand part of the audience, directly in front of the speakers, was abandoned – probably to the preservation of about 20dB per ear. They would be followed by CSS whose live performance – a mix of the Tom Tom Club and early B52’s with a bit of modernization and some broken English phrases thrown in – was to the second night what Atmosphere’s had been to the first – a certifiable dance party.
However, for me, it was the Giraffes who completely stole Saturday night out from under most of the other performers. The Brooklyn band’s stage show – a blitzkrieg of focused 70s sleaze rock and punk – was punctuated with ice cubes, cups, water, beer and anything else the audience felt like throwing at them. The band just took it, standing up with the occasional middle finger towards the people throwing things, as they plowed through their set. Lead singer Aaron Lazar was the picture of detached pretension – even pulling a comb out at one point to slick back his now damp hair and to comb out his mustache. For pure stage show, in addition to amazing energy, it was one of the absolute highlights of the entire weekend. And then I went home.
Previously: Monolith 2008 :: Recap, Day One