Rockers fight for their right to restore dignity to the Download Festival
Success! Oh yes!
Silicon Valley put its spin on the UK's Download Festival this weekend with an 11-hour marathon of melodramatic music and plenty of misplaced advertising.
The kids were quite clearly most moved by the idea of The Killers - still humping the success of their "Hot Fuss" debut - closing the show here at the awkward Shoreline Amphitheatre. Other names, including Modest Mouse, The Arcade Fire, and Doves, pulled in the fans as well. The performances of all these largely Brit-tinged bands managed to undercut some of the heavy-handed marketing ploys from the likes of AOL, Gametap and Napster.
It's hard to say what made this festival a "Download Festival" other than the tech-themed booths surrounding the side and main stages. SanDisk had a small tent where concert goers stood in a long line, hoping to win an MP3 player via a type of Wheel of Disk competition. Napster too owned a propaganda tent and had been meant to give all of the kids a one-month free subscription to its music rental service, although no one we talked to knew about this. The biggest sponsor of all was Gametap, which provides a download service for pulling down old video games and playing them on your PC. Gametap's marketing agenda, while bold, would go horribly awry later in the show.
British Sea Power accepted the difficult task of kicking off the main stage play. This meant strumming away to an only quarter-filled - at best - theatre baked by the mid-afternoon sun. To their credit, the Brighton rockers embraced the sedentary, still sober audience and tried to ply the people as much as possible. Keyboardist Eamon left the stage with a drum in hand and part of a tree tucked into his pants. He made it right up through the VIP section, through the seats and into the massive grassy field that takes up most of Shoreline. The kids enjoyed this.
The Doves followed with a clean set full of some of their most melancholy, sumptuous ballads. While many of the Shoreline crew had come specifically to see the Manchester lads, most appeared to have little idea who they were. Lead singer Jimi Goodwin's sarcastic humor didn't go over well in the land of processors and rich children.
"You are witnessing the rebirth of Spinal Tap mark two," Goodwin said. No laughs.
After a couple of songs, with the crowd still planted in their seats Goodwin pleaded for help.
"I've seen more life at a knitting circle," he said. "Is everybody okay? I just wanted to check if you were feeling alright?"
For our money, which went primarily to $8 beers, the Doves stole the early part of the Festival even if most of the crowd weren't yet drunk enough to appreciate the music.
"Enjoy the rest of your weenie roast," Goodwin closed. And so we did.
The concert went into an extended pause as the sun began to settle. Organizers decided it would be cute to post AOL IM chat sessions between the bands and what appeared to be pre-pubercized girls on large screens flanking the main stage. The questions went along the lines of, "Is this really the band?" "Why are you so great" "Where are you from" and "When will I turn into a woman?" The good-spirited rockers, or at least their handlers in virtual disguise, answered the queries as best as possible.
Overall, we weren't the only ones confused by the use of the "Download" name or the fluffy programs that surrounded the show.
"It looks like a marketing idea gone wrong," said Michael Grimm, who came to the show from Reno, Nevada. "I don't get the booth with the 14-year-old video games like Pac-Man and Joust. I'm not sure what they were thinking here."
Typically, the bands proved to thwart the advertisers' best efforts to bunkify the show.
"The music is good though," Grimm added.
And the best was yet to come.
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