Although technical difficulties with one ticket scanner caused an enormous line of hot and restless festival-goers outside one gate, Spain Colored Orange started its set at 2:05 p.m. on the dot - before the gates had even opened. SCO informed the growing mass of people in front of the 29-95 stage that they were being allowed to re-start their set. The sort of band that music journalists love to write about, SCO plays music akin to movies that lend themselves to multiple viewings and discovery of nuances with each screening. No matter how many times we hear an SCO album or see the group live, it's still refreshing to catch new glimpses of Preservation Hall jazz, White Album Paul McCartney songwriting, the vocals of Elliot Smith, the psychedelics of the Flaming Lips, or bouncy keyboard parts a la Electric Light Orchestra. But Spain Colored Orange rocks in their own right. In many ways, SCO was the perfect band to kick off Summerfest. Their eclectic sound matched the diversity of acts that rocked Eleanor Tinsley Park all weekend, and trumpet player Eric Jackson wasted no time getting the festivities started right, taking large swigs of Dos Equis during and in between songs. In what might be the cleverest crowd draw of the day, SCO, recognizing that festival-goers would be in for the long haul beneath the hot Texas sun, offered everyone free bottles of water from a giant cooler in front of their stage. But the music didn't need any gimmicks.- Valerie Alberto
It makes us smile to witness a musical education unfold before our eyes, and that's exactly what happened during Mix Master Mike's performance on Saturday. Like eager pupils gathered around a podium, a very young crowd, bedecked in a rainbow of Urban Outfitter wayfarers, surrounded the stage coming off the heels of the Wild Moccasins' spirited performance.
Mix Master Mike took the stage to a slowed-down version of Prodigy's "Breathe," and class was in session for the many youths who likely wouldn't have been able to tell the Mix Master from the throngs of Serato DJs infiltrating our bars and clubs until today. It was hard for us not to geek out over this one ourselves - MMM, Beastie Boys DJ and member of the legendary Invisibl Scratch Piklz crew, is an acclaimed turntablism pioneer who reinvented the art of scratching.
He spun a very high-energy, electro-heavy set with a smattering of mash-ups and quick 30-second change-ups. His turntable acrobatics - cutting Rage Against the Machine with KRS-One, System of a Down with Fatboy Slim and Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G all together - left mouths agape and elicited a variety of reactions including, but not limited to, screams, ohhhs and shrieks.
Unfortunately, the type of energy demanded by his quick-tempo, hour-long set was difficult to sustain under the beating of our Texas sun. 40 minutes into the set, screaming and dancing gave way to head-nodding with an occasional arm-wave. It's not an obvious factor to someone hailing from the Bay Area.
But please, Mike, try to account for the sun next time you plan a summer festival set in Texas. Thanks. - V.A.
Kid Sister: In probably the strangest set transition we've seen to date, Kid Sister - the Chicago rapper, Kanye protégé and, come to find out, diva - followed Golden Axe's face-melting, mosh-worthy performance as the sun began to set Saturday. Muscled, tattooed moshers dispersed as she ran onstage, yelling "Houston motherfucking Texas!" and launching into her single off debut Ultraviolet, "Right Hand Hi."
She brimmed with fun and effervescence from start to finish, prompting an observer standing nearby to lean over and tell us on more than one occasion, "She is really good!" Yes, we know. We keep our ears to the streets up in this piece.
Perhaps channeling her inner En Vogue, while singing one new track, Kid Sister seemed to be having trouble opening up a bottle of water in her hand. She made eye contact several times with her assistant backstage, pointing to her throat, and the assistant eventually ran up to open the water bottle and set it down at the front of the stage.
At the close of the song, Kid Sister reached down for a water bottle, took a swig and grimaced saying, "This tastes like hot piss," glancing at her assistant backstage. Within moments, her assistant returned with a cold bottle of water. *snap snap snap*
Kid Sister closed out her set with "Switch Board" featuring DJ Gant-Man, a lightning-fast, frenetic track representative of a Chicago-brand of sped-up music and dance called "steppin' house" that's at the opposite end of the musical spectrum from Houston's own "chopped and screwed." "Houston is the home of chopped and screwed," she said. "Chicago doesn't have that shit. It's the birth of steppin' house."
After putting on display an arsenal of dance moves, along with her DJ, to "Switch Board's" beat, the diva was ready to call it quits. She thanked her audience and bolted offstage, tossing her mike to her assistant along the way. You did Mariah Carey proud tonight, Kid Sis. - V.A.
Miniature Tigers: The indie genre called "aw so cute" has another member equipped with an appropriately adorable name that makes you want to color in a coloring book, play jacks or at least buy a popsicle. Miniature Tigers, who played a late afternoon show Saturday on the mansion-master-bathroom-sized 29-95.com stage, in front of no more than twenty people, at least half of whom were 1) sitting down; 2) hula-hooping with hippie ennui; or 3) texting.
And it's a shame, because although the band didn't draw a large enough sample size to properly judge, seems to have a sound with some staying power. It's straight semi-dance/slow-dance pop, resembling (in a way) Peter, Bjorn & John before they turned to absolute shit but translates well to a festival setting.
Mostly singing songs from their criminally overlooked debut LP Tell It to the Volcano and their sophomore effort Fortress (out July 27), Miniature Tigers deserved more than the stage they were assigned and the number of people in the audience. Try to imagine, if possible, a hybrid of early to mid-good period Weezer with very very early Of Montreal and a bit of We Are Scientists-style Beatles-esque American Britpop ditties set to the colors of a nap on a rainy Sunday in the spring. - Brandon K. Hernsberger
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Grandfather Child: Grandfather Child's tag is "We are here to promote awareness, the duality of nature, oneness, spiritual ecstasy, brotherhood, sisterhood, motherhood, and fatherhood." Translation: We don't mind if you eat some mushrooms during our show.
1:42 p.m.: GC is inspiring a fair amount of dancing right now. If you're at a concert dancing, that's not crazy at all. But if you're at a show dancing with a hula hoop, well that diagnosis pretty much writes itself. Seriously, has there ever been a situation when you saw someone over nine years old with a hula hoop and thought, "That person's probably not nuts." Never, right?
1:45 p.m.: Man, Grandfather Child is really good. It's very bluesy, heartfelt rock. Bands like this, with the all-star lineup of guys plucked from other bands, usually lack that necessary pocket of relatable normalcy to make it feel like more than just an all-star lineup of guys plucked from other bands, but they pull it off. Very admirable. Remember in 2004 when the starting lineup for the Lakers included Kobe (Top 5 Guard of All Time), Shaq (Top 5 Center of All Time), Gary Payton (Top 10 Point Guard of All Time) and Karl Malone (Top 4 Power Forward of All Time)?
Grandfather Child is like that, only better. And way less likely to have one of them implicated in a rape case. They'd still probably lose to the Pistons, though. - Shea Serrano