Rich Shivener & Nat Tracey-Miller were on the ground for us this weekend at Bunbury Festival. Here is a set-by-set recap of Bunbury Day 3!
500 Miles to Memphis 2:30 River Stage
Hometown boys getting the last day of the festival kicked off right. 500 Miles to Memphis are Bunbury veterans by now, and they maximized their short half hour with nine quick country punk bursts, starting off with “All My Friends Are Crazy.” “All I’m Asking For” and “Medication” showcased last year’s LP Stand There and Bleed, and they finished with a rollicking run through “Fireflies.” Ryan Malott’s banjo was kept a bit too low in the mix on the early songs to give the full effect, but David Rhodes Brown’s pedal steel screamed out above everything. This really is one of our finest bands. (NTM)
The Front Bottoms 3:00 Yeatman’s Cove Stage
This was one of the biggest surprises of the weekend for me. This unclassifiable (“indie” is trite, “folk” discounts the heaviness, “emo” sells them short) New Jersey quartet had a massive, devoted audience to kick off the afternoon at the mainstage, larger (and louder) than some acts later in the day. Led by songwriter Brian Sella, the band crafts narrative songs in the tradition of Okkervil River and The Mountain Goats, documenting teenage failures and relationship mishaps. “And I will remember that summer,” he sang on “The Beers,” “as the summer I was taking steroids/Because you like a man with muscles/And I like you.” Practically everybody in front of the soundboard seemed to know every word. One of the most impressive sets of the entire weekend. (NTM)
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band 3:45 River Stage
Definitely the only band at Bunbury with a lead washboardist (washboarder?). The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is no stranger to playing by the Ohio River, and they drew a sizable crowd to the River Stage. He gave a shout-out to WNKU, long-time supporters of his music, and performed his new single “Hell Naw,” decrying the overuse of cellphones, which he pointed is gaining traction on satellite radio.. On “Front Porch Trained,” the bearded picker gave the origin story of his own remarkable guitar skills (the band has no bass player, so he keeps a bassline going with his thumb), and he got sentimental on “Pot Roast and Kisses.” (NTM)
Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas 4:15 Pavilion Stage
This was a perfectly-timed injection of soul into a blistering afternoon. Hernandez is a native of Detroit, and her voice is astonishingly similar to that of a young Gwen Stefani. Her Deltas are a five-piece, laying down slick grooves for Hernandez’s clever lyrics. The Pavilion Stage has a major space advantage over its western counterpart, and the Deltas had people up and dancing on blankets hundreds of feet away. Most of her set was drawn from last summer’s debut album Secret Evil, but to these ears the highlight was her new single, “Don’t Take My Man to Idaho,” an alternately funny and heartbreaking song released as a 7” in April. (NTM)
Shakey Graves 5:30 River Stage
Shakey Graves’s stage placement was one of the biggest miscalculations of this year’s festival, as the River Stage was completely at capacity by the start of his first song. Throngs of people swarmed around the top of the Serpentine Wall to hear the Austin songwriter’s bluesy rock. Joined by a bassist and a drummer, Graves (née Alejandro Rose-Garcia) blasted through a collection of songs from last year’s And the War Came, from the quieter “Pansy Waltz” to the rousing closer “Dearly Departed.” The appeal here is obvious, with Graves’s full-throated drawl howling over slick slide guitar lines. (NTM)
Atmosphere 6:00 Sawyer Point Stage
Twin Cities indie rap titans Atmosphere stormed the stage right on time with “January on Lake Street.” Rapper Slug manages to straddle Sunday’s twin narratives of hip-hop and emo rock, laying down self-deprecating introspective verses over Ant’s skilled production. In the chunk of their set that I caught, they were in a retrospective mood, covering material from all parts of their nearly two decade career, all the way back to “Scapegoat” from 1997’s Overcast! Slug led the crowd in chants both between and during songs, and made sure to insert Queen City shoutouts into several of the songs. (NTM)
Brand New 6:30 Yeatman’s Cove Stage
Just as punishing of a sunset as last night’s Decemberists set, but this time it was the crowd and not the band that bore the brunt. The New York post-hardcore crew made it well worth our while, though, opening with their blistering new single “Mene.” Six years after their last full-length, there doesn’t seem to be a new album on the horizon, but the group gave such a convincing overview of their back catalogue that it frankly doesn’t bother me. The early stretch of the show drew from 2009’s Daisy, and three Deja Entendu tracks were played in succession right in the middle. “Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” found lead singer Jesse Lacey hoping “this song starts a craze...the kind of song that makes people glad/To be where they are.” Heat exhaustion aside, I think most of us were.
The closing salvo of four songs from 2006’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me was one of the strongest stretches of the entire weekend. The connection between Brand New and post-rock crescendo builders like Explosions in the Sky is often overlooked, and both “Sowing Season” and “Degausser” saw lead guitarist Vincent Accardi pulling the band to dizzying heights. “Jesus Christ” is probably the band’s best-known song, and in concert, it’s a dynamic powerhouse of unresolved tension, punctuated by Lacey’s ragged howl: “We’ve all got wood and nails/And we sleep inside of this machine.” Without missing a beat, they plowed into the instrumental “Welcome to Bangkok,” a relative rarity these days, leaving guitars and eardrums ringing as they walked offstage. (NTM)
Twenty One Pilots, 8:15 PM, Sawyer Point Stage
As the Sunday sun was fading, singer Tyler Joseph was high above the roaring crowd at the Sawyer Point Stage, hanging on the scaffolding of the lighting crew. I thought he was going to jump….
Let me back up. Twenty One Pilots is hard to pin down––physically and sonically. Perhaps this is why the Columbus-based duo was one of stage-closing acts of the Bunbury, surrounded by sets of rap, rock and electronica, all of which they synthesized in an hour set. “This is not rap, this is not hip hop, just another attempt to make the voices stop,” Joseph rhymed in the opener “Heavydirtysoul,” its hook consisting a soulful, eponymous chorus that gave way to a breakdown thick with distorted guitar and synth. In fact, “Heavydirtysoul” is the first track on the band’s 2015 album Blurryface. Its on-point transition to the second track “Stressed Out,” a rap-pop reflection on youth, signaled that Joseph and drummer Josh Dun were cueing up new singles and fan favorites. They worked with a load of pre-programmed samples, allowing the two to show the versatility of what and when they play song to song.
To say the band is versatile is a bit of an understatement. Let’s start with Dun, who I enjoyed watching the most. He had machine-like timing behind his kit, augmented with triggers and a chest-thumping floor tom, its intensity peaking during new single “Fairly Local,” which I might file under industrial-fused rap-rock. (Seriously, it’s hard to pin these guys down!) Later, Dun was found switching between drum shuffles and a trumpet for the band’s pop ditty “We Don’t Believe What’s On TV.” On “Ride,” he was found playing on a platform held up by the front rows of the crowd. Needless to say, his versatility was critical to the band’s high-octane performance.
As for Joseph, also versatile, he made the large crowd part of his small band. With a mandolin in one hand, he conducted a sing-along to “We Don’t Believe What’s On TV,” later causing an crowd wave as part of a music video for the dub-esque song “Lane Boy.” And after a few songs on bass and piano, including a tribute to Marley’s “No Woman No Cry,” he climbed up to the lighting crews as the crowd roared “whoa,” a seemingly endless echo that defined the show. (RS)
Snoop Dogg, 9:15 PM, Yeatman’s Cove Stage
What can be reviewed about Snoop Dogg other than what he said on Sunday night? The veteran of West Coast rap––and a certain plant that often courses through his lifeblood––had plenty to say, command and praise in his festival-closing performance. Here are some highlights.
“Where the sexy ladies at?” Snoop and his sonic crew (which for some reason I can’t find the names of––but they were amazing!) lit up plenty of bombastic, subwoofer-rattling songs for women, namely those who would “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle” and “drop like it’s hot” for him. He called on ladies often, even wishing they would all be “California Gurls” in a sample from Katy Perry’s summer hit. If he was at least wishing ladies would dance, he got it.
“What’s my motherf*ckin’ name?” A common ingredient of Snoop’s style is his self-referencing lyrics, the kind that look something like: “It's the bow to the wow, creepin and crawlin, Yiggy yes y'allin, Snoop Doggy Dogg in the motherf*ckin house like everyday.” And like this: “With so much drama in the L-B-C, It's kinda hard bein Snoop D-O-double-G.” He didn't have to apologize for his confidence. It was well earned and supported by hundreds singing his name. What's his name?
"R.I.P., 2Pac." Snoop turned some attention away from himself when he and the crew sampled the likes of 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., House of Pain and Joan Jett. While those were fun and fitting tributes to influential rapper and songwriters, his best tributes were those to which he was connected. "California Gurls" aside, "I Wanna F*ck You," "P.I.M.P." and "Wiggle" served as reminders of Snoop's influence in modern rap and hip-hop. His ego isn't too big for collaborations.
"Smoke weed, motherf*cker!" Snoop's self-described parting words of positivity echoed across Yeatman's Cove and were followed by Marley's "Jammin," the song that trailed off as everyone headed to the exits. Here's to jammin next year. (RS)