Monday, June 26, 2006

Intonation Festival: Not Altogether Offensive

This past weekend was the Intonation Festival at Union Park and Richard my brother and I went to check it out. The lineup looked interesting and we figured it would be a good warmup for both Pitchfork (July) and Lollapalooza (August). We skipped Saturday because there weren’t any acts we wanted to see, and Sunday had Bloc Party (the only band I was really interested in) and Richard wanted to see Annie, a singer for Sweden. And besides, I haven’t been to an outdoor music fest in a long time and I wasn’t getting any younger (although as evidenced here, I was given a year of my life back last week so technically I was getting younger. But anyway.)

We had all the makings for a great day: Bob, Kariya, Richard and I were all in good moods, the weather was good (despite the fact that it rained all morning, but at least it wasn’t hot), and we were supposed to meet up with friends once there. As we were getting ready, Richard prepped us by playing a few Annie (the musician we were about to see, not the Broadway musical) songs, and it sounded a little strange. It was sorta Betty Boo meets Cathy Dennis meets Dido (and if that doesn’t sound complimentary, you’re hearing me correctly). Me: “So this is Annie, huh?”
Richard: “Yes.”
Me (trying to act nonchalant): “Do all her songs sound like this?”
Richard: “Pretty much, yes.”
Me (again, trying to sound nonchalant): “Oh.”
Suddenly I’m not so excited to go see Annie, but I figure what the heck, there are lots of other acts playing even if I don’t end up liking her.

We arrive at about 3, ready to go in. Kariya, upon looking at the lineup and hearing the band currently on stage almost instantly decides it isn’t worth the $20 admission price and decides to bail with his friend. Philistine. Bob calls his two friends who are supposed to meet us there and they tell him they’re running late but will be there in about an hour.

A few minutes later, the three of us are in the park and heading for the stage for Annie’s 3:45 performance. She opened with a song called, “Will You Marry Me?” which consisted of her reciting the question over and over and over again to the audience, while pointing at certain people saying “And you. And you. And you.” (Which in her thick Swedish accent sounded like she was signing “Et tu. Et tu. Et tu.”) And now I’m thinking: “Aren’t you supposed to open you show with a really kickass song to get the crowd going?” I feel a headache coming on. But to be fair, Annie was by no means awful, but overall not what I was expecting from an artist performing at Intonation. At various points during her 45 minute performance, I found myself wishing she actually was Betty Boo or Cathy Dennis, because at least then I might have a bit more fun.

Annie is done at about 4:30, which means there’s a good 4+ hours of acts before Bloc Party comes on, and I’m hoping the acts get better as the day goes on (which, by the way, should be the natural law of music fests: bands get better leading up to the headlining act). Bob, Richard and I find a nice spot on the lawn to people watch, drink a beer and listen to the music. To make a long story short, I’m not impressed with the acts that follow over the next several hours which consist of Dokken-style speed and/or goth metal, or gangsta rap. I’m suddenly wishing Annie was back on stage instead of The Sword and Blue Cheer.

Bob’s friends call to say they’re not coming so he takes stock in the afternoon so far and decides to bail. I call Fed & Laura (who are supposed to be coming later for Bloc Party) and suddenly they’re waffling on the whole deal. I don’t have the heart to lie and tell them what a kick-ass time we’re having. Richard and I entertain ourselves by trying to guess what the hell musician Robert Pollard (who is either British, drunk and slurring his words or both) is singing (Did he just say “Doctors and surgeons touch my pink girdle?”).

One of the acts, I guy named Jon Brion (who, as Richard says, “Is not offensive”) goes over his allotted set time, causing all other acts to follow to be 20 minutes late. I look at my watch and calculate that Bloc Party won’t be on until 9:30, which means they’ll finish up at 10:30. And while normally 10:30 would not be considered a late time to finish a concert, when you’ve been sitting there listening to bad music for hours at a time, 10:30 is hella long, like sometime just right before breakfast. At one point, as the crowd is waiting for Bloc Party to come on, a girl standing behind us yells out what we’ve all been thinking: “C’mon already! Some of us have to work tomorrow morning, assholes!”

Dead Prez comes on around 8:30, and they’re yelling to the crowd trying to get everyone into it: “Wassup, Chi-town? Let’s get it together, Chi-town! All you people in the back, come on over here! Let me hear you, Chi-town!” While this is going on I’m standing in line for a port-o-potty, wondering how long they’re going to be on stage, hoping it goes by quickly so Bloc Party can begin and then we can all go home. Dead Prez is still yelling “Chi-town!” at the audience, and a girl standing behind me in line says: “Oh my God, this is going to suck.”

But soon enough Bloc Party does come on stage, and they give a really great performance, and the crowd is friendly and fun and really into it, and you think: “I could be in worse places on a Sunday night.” And it is all pretty much mostly worth it. What else was I going to do on a Sunday anyway – at least today I got to hang out outside with my brother and Richard, drink a beer and listen to music. And that my friends was Intonation Festival 2006.

Overall Rating:

  • Lineup: 5 (if no Bloc Party: 3). I’m probably being a bit generous here but I owe it to the novelty of it all, because even crappy bands sound OK if you’re outside sitting on the cool grass with friends and a few beers.
  • Facilities: 8. Union Park was nice, within walking distance from the condo; plenty of grassy areas to lay down on; well-placed port-o-potties with a short lines.
  • Extras: 7. Beer – and good beer: Goose Island – was only $4; volunteers were friendly; spectators were friendly and happy; weather was pretty nice; interesting booths and a great poster and clothing tent.

UPDATE: I have been informed that Annie was not singing, "... And you. And you. And you.” Rather, she was signing, "...I do. I do. I do." Cherry Ride regrets the error, especially because in light of this change, the song would have been so much more enjoyable.

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