SUNDAY, JULY 13th
Day 2 at Redmond, Wa.’s Marymoor Park was just as hot and sunny as the first, with only white fluffy clouds passing overhead instead of menacing rain clouds that are said to always hover over the city of Seattle. After 20 years in the major northwest city, Sub Pop knows a thing or two about Seattle weather and couldn’t have picked a more gorgeous weekend to host their birthday party.
Paranoid at arriving late again, I showed up at Marymoor Park with an hour and a half to burn before the second day of Sub Pop 20 got underway. I was in good company, so the time easily passed before newly duo’d The Ruby Suns hit the stage at noon. The recent loss of now former band mate Imogen Taylor had little effect on Ryan McPhun and Amee Robinson as they each tackled an array of instruments throughout their experimental set. McPhun and Robinson, both of whom play guitar, keys, percussion and sing, created sweeping melodies along with afro beats and pulsing bass lines that had the audience dancing under the hot sun.
Despite their place as the day’s opener, The Ruby Suns pulled in lots of support as their set wore on. The early birds in the crowd made their way up to the stage to admire McPhun and Robinson’s stellar set and they stayed put for the 20 minutes in between sets to ensure a good place for Grand Archives. The afternoon pressed forward as more Sub Pop fans arrived to the sweet sounds of Grand Archives’ super airy melodies and ridiculously upbeat tunes.
After powering through their first song, guitarist/keyboardist Ron Lewis announced, “I just got a 97% on Rock Band, so I think this is gonna be a good show.” And a good show it was! The Grand Archives’ sounds matched their surroundings: sunny; vibrant; energetic; and just massively fun. In addition to staples of their debut, self-titled album like “Torn Blue Foam Couch,” the guys played 2 brand new songs just as jaunty and carefree as you’ve come to expect from the surprisingly bubbly rockers.
The energy and intensity with which Grand Archives played was matched by successor Blitzen Trapper. The indie folk rockers were laid-back playing some mellow tunes reminiscent of Tom Petty or Neil Young but also shocked the audience with some harder songs. Blitzen Trapper had a great energy that pumped the crowd up for one of my favorite acts of the 2-day birthday bonanza, Kinski, a Seattle native.
The primarily instrumental experimental, space-rock quartet puts together a dynamic set that both rocks hard with killer riffs and mellows out with ambient melodies. On the occasion that Kinski front man Chris Martin lends his voice to a song, he never once draws focus from the sweeping and intense guitars or sudden bursts of sound. They ended their powerful set with my favorite Kinski song “Semaphore” (download), from 2003’s Airs Above Your Station. With a huge crowd packed in front of the stage, Martin and crew nailed the song proving themselves to be a powerhouse of indie rock.
Following Kinksi was British dance, art rockers Foals. The five-piece brought an energy and intensity to the stage that no act before them that weekend could match, exhibited by guitar Jimmy Smith‘s ability to rally through the the band’s 40 minute set after having gotten sick on stage around minute 20. His warped riffs coupled with the intense energy of drummer Jack Bevan‘s high-powered beats created a non-stop dance party in front of the crowded main stage.
Foals vocalist/guitarist Yannis Philippakis remained very subdued throughout the set, engaging in the stereotypically British demeanor. Despite his calm on stage, Philippakis ripped through power chords on his guitar and banged away on a floor tom, at one pointing using the microphone as a makeshift drumstick after an actual drumstick flew out of his hands and into the crowd. Watching Foals perform reminded me of Tokyo Police Club, whose wild energy they match but whose attention span they trump.
Les Thugs followed energetically and enthusiastically with a loud, fast, post-punk set rife with ripping and driving riffs and pounding beats. L.A. duo No Age was up next. Their performance left much to be desired, despite a Nirvana cover in tribute to Sub Pop and Seattle. While the instrumentation was on par, drummer Dean Spunt‘s vocals were pretty torturous. To be completely honest, I left Sub Pop 20 about halfway through No Age’s set. A friend had traveled all the way to Seattle with me and we wanted to soak up as much of Seattle as we could before leaving the next afternoon.
The remainder of the day saw performances by Red Red Meat, Comets on Fire, Beachwood Sparks, Green River and Wolf Parade. As for Red Red Meat and Comets on Fire, I was told that their sets were “solidly unremarkable” by a source who stayed through the latter’s set. I am bummed out about missing headliner Wolf Parade’s set, which I can only speculate was amazing, but that’s nothing short of my own fault.
Despite my sneaking out early on Sunday, I’d like to extend a huge thanks to Sub Pop for putting on such a special and amazing event. To those of you lucky enough to attend, I hope you had as wonderful a time as I did. If you weren’t there, make it your business to get to Seattle in another 20 years — it’s an amazing place — and hopefully I’ll see you at Sub Pop 40.
Happy 20th Birthday, Sub Pop!
Filed under: concerts | Tagged: beachwood sparks, blitzen trapper, comets on fire, foals, grand archives, happy birthday, kinksi, les thugs, music festival, no age, red red meat, seattle, Sub Pop, sub pop 20, sub pop records, the ruby suns, wolf parade |