Live

LIVE: The Sweetlife Festival Presented by Sweetgreen

by Winston "Stone" Ford

Photos by Sweetlife, video from Rick Dalberg‘s Youtube stream. 

Sure, I’m a bit biased, but The Sweetlife Festival has muscled its way to becoming on of the most unique music events on the East Coast in just a few short years. The food and music festival has evolved from a gathering in a parking lot into a full fledged extravaganza drawing over 20,000 fans to the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD. In addition to the music, there was food from vendors such as Luke’s Lobster Pound, Toki Underground, and Rogue 24 (a food post is coming later this week).

So let’s break down the concert shall we?

(NOTE: I didn’t hang around the emerging artist filled Treehouse stage much, so this review consists of mainly main stage performers. It is what it is.)

Gary Clark Jr

The truth. Many people would say that the blues is a dying artform and honestly I would agree. However it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks when Gary Clark Jr is on the stage. The 28 year old blues man is so good that you must stop, turn around, and pay attention. The term “making love to the guitar” might be a bit cliche, but the dude was working the strings so fiercely that you would think he would be making a porno.

At the end of the set, the crowd (who was slightly unfamiliar with Jr before his set) were chanting “GARY, GARY, GARY” afterwards. That’s a testament to a dude who can win over a crowd of sweaty teenagers and 30 somethings with a so-called “dead” artform.

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Karen O is happy. And this makes me happy. The post-punk New York band has entered a revival of sorts with a new album and tour that’s being well received by critics and fans alike. The band was cool, but all eyes were on Karen, who’s bright smiles and feisty attitude are the direct antithesis of a post-punk rock band. She honestly enjoyed herself on stage and in turn the audience enjoyed her.

Draped by a huge black YYY backdrop, its hard to forget how many hit’s that this band has had over the their past decade and a half of existence. From the addictive “Heads Will Roll,” to the new track “Sacrilege,” and the venerable “Maps,” the group proved to the festival that they have the staying power to prevail.

Kendrick Lamar

The people have spoken. Kendrick is the new face of hip-hop. First off, the addition of Kendrick is a rather controversial choice still in 2013. I sat in an entire section of people who either get offended, sat down, or downright left when Lamar entered into his mixtape track “Pussy and Patron.” It was a tad too much for some of more er… suburban ears in the crowd.

But hey, the kids love Kendrick, and Lamar got one of the largest responses of the day. As a Kendrick supporter it’s assuring to see how he has grown and matured over the last two years. Beginning as an emerging rapper for bloggers “in the know,” to one that has a platinum selling album and the complete admiration of the crowd.

This is the first time I’ve seen Kendrick outside of a true hip-hop audience, and even Lamar was wondering how he would be perceived at the mostly rock and indie festival. “This is the first time I’ve been in your city,” he said with a slight nervousness. But it didn’t matter when 10,000 people are singing “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” alongside you.

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Passion Pit

Nerd rock wins. I’ve never seen Passion Pit live, so I was slightly skeptical about how their synth driven approach to music would play on such a large stage (especially after Kendrick’s hyped up set). However, I could tell off the bat that the band has thought of these issues when constructing their live set.

The sets hit harder, and were livelier than anything that I expected.  Fronted by singer Michael Angelakos (who dressed like he was going out on a date instead of a rock show) brings a passionate (pun intended) vibe to their set. Even laid back songs like “Sleepyhead,” and “Constant Conversations,” were hype enough to wake up the crowd. The band proved that synth-based music doesn’t have to be a total snoozefest (have you been to a Grimes show before?) and they’re on their way to being the sleeper arena rock band of their time.

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Phoenix

These Frenchmen have risen to become one of the greatest bands in the world. But outside of two songs, they’re not there yet in terms of true recognition in The States. At least in my opinion. However, that doesn’t stop them from putting on a fierce stage show worthy of their headline status.

By the time the band got on stage (around 9PM), the Sweetlife festival experienced bouts of rain, mud, clogged toilets, and the general tiredness of being outside for 10 hours. But that didn’t not stop the Parians from throwing down a delightful set that included tracks from their first two albums, Untitled and Alphabetical (sadly, only recently available in The States) in addition to their US hits “1901” and “Lisztomania.”

But even if the audience didn’t know Phoenix, they were respected, and they’re well on their way to becoming an arena-filling band.

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