Day One: Freelance Whales, Best Coast, & Sleigh Bells

I kicked off my musical weekend with Freelance Whales, a group I’ve been needing to see ever since I saw the Paste piece (filmed right in Atlanta at the EARL) over a year ago. We got to the tent a hot second late, but thankfully made it in time for favorites “Starring” and “Hannah.” To be honest, naming a “favorite” FW songs is a waste of time; I enjoyed the set from start to finish. They messed up a time or two, but how could they not? Looking around at the crowd, all of whom had a plethora of other live shows they could be seeing, and knowing that they chose to be there? If it was me, I don’t even know how I’d make it through a song. Next stop? Best Coast.

It’s hard to say why I listen to so much Best Coast. Before last night, I chalked it up to Bethany Cosentino’s Twitter banter with her boyfriend (Nathan of Wavves) and her well-known penchant for LOLCATS. Internet presence aside, I was of the distinct impression that anyone could play those lo-fi songs if they could play the guitar, and that Bethany just got lucky and wrote a few catchy beach tunes. Essentially, I didn’t think she’d be all that impressive on stage. Fortunately, I was pretty off the mark with that prediction; she was personable and witty, chatting on stage between songs, and I loved finally seeing the musician behind the album that got me through 10 hour flights and idyllic train rides this semester. I was instantly in a summer mood as the giant sweaty crowd bopped around to songs like “Crazy” and “Our Deal,” and I felt like a middle schooler at a Justin Bieber concert the way I belted the words to “Boyfriend.” Although her own songs don’t really showcase her voice (lots of echoes and somewhat monotonous melodies), she covered “Fist City” by Loretta Lynn, proving that there lies a talented musician beneath the cloudy sound effects. All in all, I’m dying to see Best Coast again, but definitely at a smaller venue. (Also, big disappointment that boyfriend Nathan didn’t come onstage and play a few, since his set wound down a few tents over just minutes before Bethany’s began.)

Last? Oh, Sleigh Bells. I’d skipped them in favor of an Edward Sharpe show in Atlanta last summer, despite the fact that Rill Rill was basically my summer anthem, and although I saw them at Moogfest, my view from the balcony made me feel more like a spectator than an energetic participant. Thankfully, this time around I had a sweet seat: I watched the entire set from the side-stage. Alexis Krauss is a fun girl to watch, and not just because she was wearing sparkly leggings. From “Crown on the Ground” to “Infinity Guitars” to “Tell ‘Em,” it was phenomenal.

The best part about being side-stage (aside from the whole, “oh-my-gosh-Alexis-Krauss-is-right-in-front-of-me” thing) is that you get to see the crowd. When you’re in the middle of thousands of people, it’s easy to get lost focusing on the dreadlocks in front of you blocking your vision or the brats pushing through your friends for a better spot. When you look out from the stage, it’s wonderful to be able to see the crowd as a collective whole, and no song made that clearer than “Rill Rill.” The entire crowd went nuts. I’m assuming my excitement was visible, considering that the guy next to me looks over and (with a little sarcasm) says, “Is this like totally your jam?

Er, yeah. It like totally is.

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