If a bluegrass band playing a note for note cover of a Radiohead song sounds like the geekiest thing in the world to you, you may be right. If you also think it sounds amazing and fun, then you’re probably already familiar with Punch Brothers. Sure, calling them a bluegrass band is a bit reductive as the band incorporates so many influences into their sound, from pop to jazz, even a hint of R’nB and much more, but when you’ve got mandolin, banjo, and fiddle onstage and you play a Bill Monroe number in your set, you’re basically a bluegrass band, albeit a very progressive and eclectic one. Chrile Thile led the band through a great set that totally got the crowd going and showed off their musical talents to the full extent. Besides the aforementioned Radiohead cover, other highlights included “Don’t Get Married Without Me” and a cover of The Band’s “Ophelia.” I figured their midnight set would be the perfect way to end my Friday night.
Of course, as these things go, my night didn’t quite end there. It ended with a pretty raucous set by Amsterdam DJ collective Amsterdance (clever name, no?), which was not part of my original plan. My original plan was to make my way to the train station where I would catch the train back to Copenhagen for the night. Yup, too old and used to comfort for camping. Naturally, I had to wait nearly an hour until the next train would arrive and so I took it upon myself to explore the nearby campgrounds. So, arming myself with a can of beer so as to fit in, I ventured into the strange little society that is a European festival campground. Dudes having a mini dance party to Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years,” people chucking empty bottles into a pile in the middle of the pathway, others who had set up elaborate (and kind of impressive) soundsystems and even functioning bars at their campsite – these are among the sights I saw. It’s definitely a weird scene, but one that looks like a lot of fun in it’s own way. I can see why they set up the electronic dance music stage (which was inflatable by the way) outside of the proper festival grounds and near the campsite. This is where the party happens. And Amsterdance brought the party. It was everything a late night dance party in a muddy field should be. Still glad I wasn’t camping though. That place kind of smelled like a urinal full of mud.
Highlights from earlier in the day included Gossip‘s Beth Ditto going all disco diva on the crowd and learning the word “skol,” which she used throughout her set, Dorit Chrysler playing some late night theremin music, and The Vaccines rocking out with a totally fun set of tunes. Way more fun than The Cult, whose set overlapped with theirs. Not sure why I felt the need to checck out The Cult again, since I saw them just over a year ago at Hellfest, but hey, sometimes you just want to hear “Love Removal Machine.” When I saw them last, I noted that Ian Astbury seemed a bit weird. Maybe he was just having a bad day i thought. Nope, I think the dude’s just constantly cranky. That’s not to say the band didn’t rock out. They did (though I wasn’t really feeling the tunes off their latest, Choice Of Weapon). It’s just The Vaccines power pop tunes seemed more fun at the time.
The set of the day for me though, would have to have been Lee Ranaldo. The former Sonic Youth guitarist led his band through a solid set that was immensely satisfying. Playing tunes from Between The Times And Tides, his latest solo album and first with real, actual songs on it, along with covers of Neil Young and The Talking Heads, Ranaldo impressed the diehards up front, which included oldsters who probably started listening to Sonic Youth when they started in the early ’80s along with kids who may not have even been born in the ’80s. No matter. As one t-shirt being sold on the fest declared, “music had no borders.” I would imagine that includes age as well.