August 25, 2005

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

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The summer concert is an honored tradition, especially for college students on summer break who are just looking for a good time. The combination of the outdoors, warm weather and great music always makes for a good time. This summer saw popular bands like Dave Matthews and pop wonders The Killers as well as lesser-known greats like Kings of Leon. (For those of us who couldn’t be there to chill with the likes of Madonna and Paul McCartney at Live8). Daze gives you a round up of some of the concerts we saw this summer. Enjoy!

Dave Matthew’s Band Island Getaway
(Randall’s Island, NYC)

Despite soaring temperatures and a venue that added up to little more than a tremendous dust bowl, the Dave Matthews Band still managed to throw one of the biggest parties of the summer. As the only appropriate follow-up event to 2003’s free concert at Central Park (attended by more than 100,000 people), DMB once again returned to NYC with ambitious goals and a commitment to one-upping themselves.

Although the two-day event held on Randall’s Island, NYC, seemed more like an amusement park than a tropical paradise at times, Dave Matthews Band managed to pull off the day with grace. Thousands of concert goers packed the would-be midway, as cups of beer overflowed in the hands of Abercrombie-afflicted college kids sitting on any piece of cardboard available in an attempt to avoid sitting in the dirt.

Fans were treated to two stages of live music with artists handpicked by the band, including supporting acts JEM (a Dido clone), Mike Doughty (ex-lead singer of Soul Coughing and Ray Lamontagne (soulful acoustic crooner). Additionally, Robert Randolph and the Family Band started off the evening’s music on the main stage with their energetic and deeply gospel-influenced brand of Steel Pedal funk. Openers The Black Eyed Peas also proved that they were more than just a few radio hits, as they were backed by a live band and actually got most of the otherwise tame crowd dancing and on their feet.

The stars of the night took the stage around 9 p.m. and wowed fans for nearly two and a half hours. As marijuana filled the air, songs varied from classic staples such as “Ants Marching,” to fantastic renditions of new tracks from the band’s most recent release, Stand Up. One of those songs included the band’s new single, “Dreamgirl,” which included a vocal harmony that Lady Smith Black Mambazo would have applauded. Drummer Carter Beauford’s touch helped transition the band from smooth jazz to rock as his attack varied from feather light to martial at times. Robert Randolph guested on the title track from the new album, as well as on set closer “All Along the Watchtower.” Finally, the night ended with a nearly 20 minute rendition of the often chanted and classic closer “Two Step” with the nearly six football fields worth of fans singing along. Eight hours after the day started, fans began to disperse, a little bit sunburned, a little bit dirty, but entirely satisfied. — Ben Jurist

Kings of Leon/The Secret Machines Summer Tour
(Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA)

Coming fresh off the Vertigo world tour with U2, the Kings of Leon took the stage like they had something to prove Saturday night to a near capacity crowd at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, PA. Although tour-mates and co-headliners The Secret Machines had announced earlier that day that they would not be performing due to the death of a close friend, The Kings more than made up for their opener’s lack of presence, delivering a hard-hitting show with straight to the point attitude.

Skipping the formalities of chatting up the crowd, the band appeared comforted enough by each other’s presence, as the three brothers, Caleb, Jared and Matthew Followill, as well as drummer/cousin Nathan Followill, stuck to what they do best: playing their own down home style of rock and roll. For those unfamiliar with the brothers’ energetic blend of country twang, New York indie rock, and psychedelic and garage band passion, the Kings of Leon made it known that their confident swagger was backed up with more than just looks.

Stopping only to tune their guitars, the brothers, dressed in indie attire, burned through most of the material from their 2003 debut album, as well as this year’s major release Aha Shake Heartbreak. Hundreds of fans impressively sang along to nearly 20 of the King’s often lyrically indiscernible three minute songs, screaming requests during the brief pauses.

While the King’s sound has earned them widespread praise over the last year, I found the performance to be a little too much, too fast. The majority of songs sounded nearly identical and while lead singer Nathan did manage to slow things down during new track “Rememo,” the night’s worth of pounding drums and howling vocals left little impression on my personal soundscape. — Ben Jurist

The Killers
(Central Park Summer Stage, NYC)

The Killers played Summer Stage in Central Park this summer bringing a little indie rock and roll to the famed New York City park. The band Louis XIV opened up the set with some indie cred and The Killers, led by lead singer Brandon Flowers, followed suit with his blend of indie-glamour rock. Flowers had a theatricality to his performance that made him fun to watch the entire time and they seemed glad to be playing in New York City (they are from Las Vegas). The band played their radio hits like “Smile Like You Mean It” and “Mr. Brightside,” which were exciting to hear live, since I had been singing along to them on the radio for so long. Even better was hearing songs I didn’t recognize, and finding out what a great band The Killers are. After attending the concert, I went home and downloaded the songs I didn’t already have from their album Hot Fuss, which came out earlier this year. The band’s lead singer, Brandon Flowers, was also married this summer to a fellow Mormon (bet you didn’t see that one coming). — Logan Bromer

Govn’t Mule with Yonder Mountain String Band and Xavier Rudd
(House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC)

Got there early and stood about eight feet from all the acts. A really long show, so I was lucky to be completely obliterated, but it was definitely worth it. Xavier Rudd is a one-man wrecking crew, laying waste to conventionalism with a slew of didgeridoos. Yonder is fun, and it seems that the blue-grass revolution is swiftly descending. And I don’t really need to say much about Gov’t Mule. A power blues band in the mold of Cream, Warren Haynes leads the quartet through enormous sets, this one clocking in at over two and a half hours. Not a single dull moment on the night, highlighted by the Mule’s cover of Traffic’s “Empty Pages” and an epic drum solo by stud Mule drummer Matt Abts. — Stan Feldman

Archived article by Sun Staff