[UPDATE: Finished version. Yeah!]
Intonation Day Two:
I stayed up late on Saturday night, so my main goal on Sunday was to get to Union Park in time for Out Hud at 2:45. Let Us Never Speak of It Again is still one of my favorite records of this year, and I'd been kicking myself for waiting too long to get tickets when they played the Empty Bottle in April. I threw on my faded Tortoise t-shirt (which I justified by reasoning it was the day after their performance, in the same way that Amy Phillips had worn her green ringer Decemberists shirt on the day before), caught the el (the usually low-traffic Green Line again looking amusingly like the Indie Rock Express), and waltzed into the park about halfway through Xiu Xiu's set.
Out Hud was, of course, fantastic. Though singer Phyllis Forbes often appeared chagrined for some reason, the band happily delivered thick, pounding beats, doleful cello, and a dazzling array of electro blips triggered to get everyone dancing. And despite the 90-degree midday heat, we did. Okay, maybe not everyone: one girl spent half the set casually lying on a picnic blanket in the dead center of the crowd, reading the new Harry Potter (wtf?). Her opposite, though, was the sweaty, scrawny kid with neck zits and braces who pushed his way in front of me so he could convulse and smother-hump someone I presumed was his girlfriend. Anyway, you almost felt like a schmuck if you didn't dance, especially after Nic Offer, beaming and whooping it up, announced that he'd only gotten two hours of sleep the previous night: so, you know, what was your excuse? And though it's been quoted everywhere by now, the afternoon's funniest moment indeed came when Offer, having propelled water bottles into the crowd to counter dehydration, turned to the box of snack packets on the side of the stage: "Fucking Teddy Grahams!" he said, incredulous. "What, were these on Xiu Xiu's rider or something?"
I bought two water bottles to cool down, then headed over to the Holiday Stage for the Hold Steady, a band I've always wanted to like more than I do, but given their focus on narrative and their reliance on meat-and-potatoes rock, probably won't convert me just yet. Still, I'd heard good reports about their live act, and I did find Craig Finn an affable frontman. Apart from the rollicking "Your Little Hoodrat Friend," the most memorable aspect of the set was Finn's stage patter. "Any Twins fans out there? ... The problem with talking about baseball is that it tends to divide the auidence rather than unite them. So can we all just agree that the Yankees suck?" And this: "We were on Carson Daly, and Scarlett Johansson was scheduled to be on, too. Except I guess she had to cancel at the last minute, so instead of Scarlett Johansson we got ... Tucker Carlson. It was kind of like when I went to see Guns N Roses and Iron Maiden circa Appetite, and GNR dropped out and were replaced by Megadeth. [cocks ear to crowd] No, I'm sorry, Megadeth are not awesome." [EDIT: Apparently Tom was the one arguing the point!] The other highlight for me was the dapper Franz Nicolay, who'd do these huge keyboard swipes so cavalierly that I wondered if he was even playing at all!
Andrew Bird's lofty plucks and whistles made for nice wafting background music while I sat with friends by the third-base bleachers and played two rousing rounds of Uno in the late afternoon. I skipped Deerhoof for a black-bean-cake and roasted corn on the cob and then ignored the Wrens in favor of more commiserating, including nods at Shawn and Barry in the WLUW Record Fair Tent.
So: Les Savy Fav. I had high hopes for the performance, for sure, since I'd seen them once a couple of years ago and was bowled over by Tim Harrington's manic stage antics. Back then, though, all he really did was run into the crowd with his shirt off and snip locks of hair off audience members. On Sunday night he showed up in a tight red t-shirt and gym shorts, was bare-chested within five minutes, and ended up with a mess of foil on his dome and nothing but Polaroid-stuffed briefs below. In between, he attempted to make out with VIPs, convinced the crowd to crouch down and moan sexually, and later parted the audience so he could unfurl and then dive onto a Slip'N'Slide. His patter was a mix of scruffy-sweet enthusiasm in the manner of The Chris Farley Show -- "This concert is AWESOME, you guys" -- and jokes like this: "Hey ladies, lemme hear ya if you like a fella with money! Hey fellas, lemme hear ya if your testicles ache when you defecate!" Yeah, and uh, the band was rockin', too! I mean, I'm just happy they played "Reprobates Resume," which is easily my favorite LSF song. Also, it occurred to me during "Kidnapped" that there's a debt to Pavement in the band's tightly wound melodicism and half-sung vocab collage (perhaps I was also reminded of Malkmus's own kidnap tale, "The Hook"), and now, with the band's future in question (it was their first show in a year), I'm not sure who carries that legacy anymore. Pity.
About 10 minutes before LSF finished, I scurried over to the DJ tent for the first time all weekend to catch Diplo. When I showed up he was spinning "Blue Monday" and all the kids were dancing, so I was pleased. I mean, I'm sure some people complained about the obvious indie-ness of his set, but I don't care too much about that: I love dance parties where I look around and everyone in the room is singing along to "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" or whatever. I like the favela stuff, sure, but at that moment I was happier to hear "Banquet" mix into "Bombs Over Baghdad" and "Deceptacon," and danced much less self-consciously than I did in the middle of the heat-immobilized crowds earlier in the day. For his encore, Wes opened with "Wait (The Whisper Song)"; I'd been hoping to hear that song in a crowd where I could monitor people's reactions, but I couldn't really tell much. Nobody went crazy for it, nobody looked mortified. He closed with "Galang," natch.
I'd seen the Decemberists a few months ago, and I have sort of a love-hate relationship with the band, so I wasn't all about getting up close or anything. But as I wandered the grounds, watching girls in emo glasses moon over the band, mouthing all the words, and their boyfriends jumping in excitement, as I nodded along to "Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect" under the Chicago night sky, it occurred to me that it was the perfect way to end the weekend.
At the Hideout afterparty, I leaned over at one point to congratulate Ryan on the weekend's success. He thanked me, and I turned my head to see Tim Harrington attempting to breakdance, very poorly, while Scott Herren spun old jazz and soul. I leaned back and said, "In some ways it was probably worth it just for this, right?" He smiled.