Our Best Entertainment Value
Split Lip Rayfield
We discovered these Lawrence, Kansas thrash bluegrass guys a few years back in Tampa and have been big fans since. We flew halfway across the country and into a hurricane to see them, and on landing in Austin and grabbing the local paper we discovered that a key member has left the band.
That knowledge coupled with the hurricane thing might have kept us from leaving DC on Thursday. Seriously. Wayne Gottstein’s songs are that good.
We slouched to the front of the stage to discover that without Gottstein’s mid-tempo gems slowing down the set the band rages more furiously than before, and the other guys have more than enough tunes between them to pick up the slack. I stood there with a dumb grin on my face remembering again why I like music. It’s easy to forget these days.
Mike Doughty’s Band
As Split Lip walked off I looked at the one-hour gap in the schedule until Mike Doughty hit the stage and decided to park myself at the barrier and keep my front-row spot. It meant a long, slow hour in the 101-degree noon sun, an hour I spent making my own shade with items from the backpack.
The slow bake was worth it – Mike’s band put on a brisk, funky set of new tunes and Soul Coughing classics.
The stage crew took the stiff winds seriously, scrambling to batten down any swinging equipment.
Like many who came of age in the eighties I went through a heavy Husker Du phase in college and I’ve seen Bob about eight times since 1990. He’s had some great backing bands in the past but this one has a spark I don’t remember seeing before. Bob himself actually looked happy a few times. For my part that dumb grin was back – this ended up being my favorite set of the weekend, exceeding expectations and reminding me of lost Husker anthems like Celebrated Summer and Makes No Sense at All. Bravo.
Heineken Stage as Twilight Choke Point
The one drawback of this stage is it’s proximity to the art market – when a huge crowd gathers in the twilight for a band like Blues Traveler the flow of bodies can get pinched and desperate in the fading light.
The last big set we caught at the festival was the early part of the Black Keys performance – great slide blues done Local H style. Guitar and drums, no bass player – I protest the configuration on principle, but these guys pull it off really well.