On Saturday, August 28, and Sunday, August 29, the inaugural LouFest took place in Forest Park. Under gorgeous, sun-filled skies, eighteen acts performed in front of mellow, appreciative crowds. Below are some highlights from the festival. For setlists, more reviews and photos, go to www.rftmusic.com/loufest.Saturday, August 28
New Jersey noise-punks Titus Andronicus showed up armed to the teeth with guitars and fury. After kicking off the set with a rousing version of "A More Perfect Union," the opening tune from 2010's The Monitor, the quintet ran into some sound issues which seemed to linger for a couple songs. The glitch was eventually cured, and the band went about its business and delivered one of the most high-energy sets of the day.
Die-hard fans were treated to more of a mixed setlist compared to what the band has been playing lately in support of Monitor. The performance touched on older classics ("Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ" and "Titus Andronicus"), but still managed to nail all the new heavy hitters ("Theme from 'Cheers,'" "...And Ever," "Four Score and Seven"). Perhaps the highlight was "No Future, Pt. Three: Escape from No Future" which had everyone's inner dork reeling as the band repeatedly sang in unison, "You'll always be a loser." For a few minutes, it actually felt pretty cool to be one.
— Michael Dauphin
As Lucero ringleader Ben Nichols stepped to the microphone at the beginning of its set, he issued a warning that he was a little under the weather, and told the crowd that he had "a date with an IV" after the band finished. Any long-time fan of the group probably wasn't worried: Nichols and Lucero are infamous for showing up half-tanked, but they always churn out an enjoyable show. Unfortunately, the band's LouFest set was the exception.
It kicked things off with fan-favorite "That Much Further West" and quickly lunged into "Can't Feel a Thing," from 2010's 1372 Overton Park. You could tell the band was playing with a sense of urgency — like it knew the wheels were about to fall off. Lucero tried to cover all of its notable songs ("Tears Don't Matter Much," the Jawbreaker cover "Kiss the Bottle,"), but it was evident that Nichols was struggling. His struggles became even clearer as the band laid into "Wasted" and Nichols couldn't come up with the proper verses. Shortly after, the singer took a spill behind the drum kit and its set was over. (MD)
Later in the night, as the sun started to set, Built to Spill took the stage and reminded everyone why it's one of the more well- respected live acts around. The band started its 75-minute set in a mellow way, with some breezy, Pacific Northwest-styled indie-rock. (The band's not the "Death Cab for Cutie of beard rock" for nothing.) As is its wont, though, Built to Spill soon cranked up the snarling guitars to augment its moody, '80s alt-rock vibes and pure pop undercurrents.
Vocalist/guitarist Doug Martsch — whose trembling voice always quavers on the edge of pleading, in a charming way — dedicated a song to his mom (who he said was in the crowd) and repeatedly joked that the band had too many songs for its timeslot. (Really, with seven studio albums under its belt, Built to Spill could have played for hours.) Highlights included "Twin Falls" (which was popularized by Ben Folds Five), "Kicked It in the Sun" and a set-closing "Carry the Zero."
— Annie Zaleski
Broken Social Scene delivered the loudest set by any band of the day. From the moment all nine performing members took their places (eight were touring members, one was a local horn player recruited for the show), the all-encompassing sound was thump-thumping inside each audience member's chest. By the time the second song ("Stars and Sons") began, people were completely blissed out.
During "Texico Bitches" Kevin Drew wiped out while jumping from the stage into the crowd. He bounced back and spent most of the spacey track singing elevated in the crowd or standing on the barricade. For "7/4 Shoreline" the audience heard current female vocalist Lisa Lobsinger. Lobsinger, dressed in curls and looking like a hipster babydoll, is the lead singer of Reverie Sound Review, but she kept her parts understated and deferred to Andrew Whiteman on vocals. A few times, I would have liked for Lobsinger to belt it out — but with Broken Social Scene, she was a team player.
Nearly every song received the extra-long treatment, with plenty of interaction between Drew and the crowd as well as with other band members. After an exhibition of pushups, Drew introduced a bobbing, warbling "Sweetest Kill" because, as he said, "so many people break up on a Saturday night."
— Katie Moulton
Carolina Chocolate Drops played at two in the afternoon to an enthusiastic, attentive audience. This wasn't a surprise: The trio's old-time string music is a popular draw in St. Louis. (In fact, CCD is playing at the Sheldon on October 20.) Banjo, fiddle and clattering percussion buckled together, and the band members took turns in the vocal spotlight; the crooning harmonies and lead melodies were as vintage-sounding as a crackling 78 RPM record. (AZ)
Alejandro Escovedo opened his set with "Always a Friend" — a Springsteen-caliber bar-rock tune from 2008's Real Animal — and followed it up with a howling, gang-vocal-strewn new song, "This Bed Is Getting Crowded." Escovedo's honky-tonk, roadhouse blues, Spanish and twang-rock influences are well known, but he's also held on fiercely to his punk roots. At LouFest, he often came across like Iggy Pop — if the latter had cut his teeth in Texas instead of Michigan. The new song "Tender Heart" in particular screamed Stooges — from the flailing riffs down to the scabrous exhortation, "Do you want to be in my dream?" (AZ)
Unsurprisingly, Jeff Tweedy's solo appearance was what many LouFesters came to see. Wilco's frontman obliged fans with an 85-minute acoustic set featuring both obscurities and familiar songs. The night's first tune, "Sunken Treasure," conjured chills — from its wavering harmonica and understated acoustic riffs to its jarringly lonely lyrics ("I am so out of tune with you") and whispered secrets ("Music is our savior").
The crowd was quiet and respectful during "Treasure." (It was just as shocking that the reverent tone continued throughout the set.) As a result, the vulnerability of the songs performed cut to the quick. Wilco's "One Wing" sounded like an Elliott Smith song, all fragile and fluttery. "Via Chicago" was delicate and aching; as always, so was "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," whose sentiments sound so raw and exposed without the studio bells and whistles. (AZ)
A tip of the hat goes to the LouFest organizers for choosing She & Him to close out the two-day festival. It's almost as if they knew the sun would descend and bring in the perfect summer breeze to complement M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel's timeless, breezy pop standards. The pair's wholesome, soothing sound provided the perfect backdrop to a particularly gorgeous night.
Backed by an ever-so-sturdy rhythm section, an extra guitar player and a couple backup singers, Deschanel led the band through twenty-plus songs of pure pop bliss and hit every note with ease. But even as her voice barreled through Forest Park with the confidence and poise of a veteran indie-pop songstress, you had the sense that she's still getting used to the "lead lady" role. Deschanel let Ward do most of the between-song talking and seemed a bit anchored down early in the set. In all fairness though, she had her hands full: If she wasn't strumming away on her mandolin, she was laying down durable piano chords or layering the sound with fervent tambourine tapping. (MD)