Monday, July 13, 2009

Rothbury Festival, Day 1: The Beginning

by Dave "Scout" Tafoya

13 hours is a long drive anywhere. But by yourself, through three states, with breaks only to get gas, and you're looking at one looong day. That's what my drive to Rothbury, MI was like for the Rothbury Festival. It takes determination (or maybe craziness) to do a thing like this alone but that's really all I and a lot of the other press people at Rothbury had, determination. With the exception of the few people who could afford the VIP packages, those who made the pilgrimage to Rothbury have to be called dedicated because it's in the middle of nowhere and the majority of the people I spoke to didn't come from Detroit, they were from Colorado, Los Angeles, New York, and Texas. But Rothbury’s press, bands and festival goers alike were lifers in terms of music. That’s why when they come together for events like this, there's a sort of synergy that makes the whole thing run. And that’s why I was thrilled to be there, even with a late arrival and an embarrassing amount of checkpoint confusion; it just didn’t matter.

Rothbury was unlike any other festival I've been to, one where the only thing keeping everybody sane was the sense of community. After getting my bearings, I wandered by Keller Williams and, though the production was cool, his music didn't really do it for me. He hopped around stage from one instrument to the next, running them through looping pedals, while bubbles and colorful lights and all kinds of other weird hippie stuff went on. Take away the millions of dollars worth of gimmicky stage show and anyone could do what he does. I left after about 15 minutes.

Night fell and I found the band Future Rock. This was my first taste of the downside and the upside of drug culture in the festival experience. Future Rock was good, playing electronic music with bass, drums, and keyboards, but all around, people were hardly paying attention. Glowsticks were wrapped around every finger, people danced, and a girl vomited while her friend unconcernedly held her hair. The dancers were blissfully tuned out to the specifics of the music and the band could literally have been anyone, thanks to the light and the incredibly loud PA system. But you know what? They were all in it together. That girl who got sick, she had a friend nearby. Everyone was of one mindset and suddenly Future Rock's music came into focus. And though we had different reasons, I, like everyone else present, had a great time.

Jonnie Russell and Matt Maust from Cold War Kids

The Cold War Kids set got pushed back to roughly 2 in the morning which made for a cool show. The fog machines were at full blast and the crowd was sleepy but the band made sure to end things on a solid note, pounding out a great 1:15 of rock.

Cold War Kids rock the socks off the nightowls

The band moves were dictated by jagged drums and razor-like guitar with the bass filling out the sound. Nathan Willett, the singer with an unrelenting wail, moved from piano to guitar and kept his odd Elvis-inspired dancing at a constant rate. Though there's no real soloing and Cold War Kids’ songs are simple, their rocking is relentless and they are one of the few acts with more distortion and grit than virtuosity, which I always like to see. Solid and somber rock makes for a lot of impassioned sing-alongs.

Nathan Willett, singer of Cold War Kids

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