Saturday afternoon in Washington Park, Tulip Fest partiers were greeted by a wailing hailstorm just as headliners OK Go were launching into the oh-so-appropriate song, “WTF?”
Weather-wise, it was quite the mix – hot sun, cold rain and, yes, hail, too. Musically, it was a pretty good mix, too.
TREVOR HALL: Melding reggae with rock (and a bit of acoustic styling thrown in for good measure), the blond-dreaded singer-guitarist and his three-piece band got things warmed up nicely despite the soggy parade grounds and intermittent showers. Vocally, he sounds a bit too much like Dave Matthews, but he delivered the goods during his 45-minute opening set that spanned the ballad-ish anti-war song “Where’s the Love” to the closing, clap-along anthem “Unity.” “The Lime Tree” – which bridged both ends of the musical spectrum – was the most ambitious selection and probably the best.
THE CONSTELLATIONS: Gotta give WEQX-FM big props for booking these guys, especially considering that their debut album, “Southern Gothic,” won’t hit the stores til next month. Best show of the day. Part rock, part funk, part hip-hop, the eight-piece Atlanta band had no problem connecting with the crowd. “Perfect Day,” “We’re Here to Save the Day,” “December”… thumping rhythms, hooky riffs and a party vibe. “Weighing Me Down” was straight-up rap. “Setback” was a dark, psychedelic swirl of sound. The salacious “Felicia” might have been a bit too raunchy for a “family-friendly” fest, but there was no denying the groove, and the two female back-up vocalists got a chance to shine. But bongo-playing ringmaster Elijah Jones summed it up best during the band’s best tune – “It’s a modern-day freak show.” An obvious homage to Tom Waits, “Step Right Up” was a woozy, boozy, Bukowski-style, stream-of-consciousness rap flowing over a bed of clattering rhythms and distortion-driven guitars. After that, even their cover of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for My Man” seemed somewhat anti-climatic.
OK GO: I’m not really enamored of the band’s new Prince-style funk direction. They used to one of the best power-pop combos around, and they still hit the mark hardest on Saturday with their poppiest numbers – “Don’t Ask Me,” “A Million Ways” and “Here It Goes Again” (no treadmills, of course). Damian Kulash’s falsetto seemed strained, but he employed it an awful lot. And Andy Ross’ guitar was too loud in the mix – thin and piercing. Whatever the heck inspired them to cover the Pixies’ “Debaser?” I don’t know, and I don’t care. Just don’t do it again, OK? Ultimately, I liked ’em better when they played the Tulip Fest in 2006.THE CHARLIE WATTS RIOTS: I didn’t get over to the Lakehouse Amphitheater stage as much as I’d hoped during the afternoon because it was just too crowded to try to thread my way back and forth across the park quickly. But CWR was cleverly using their Tulip Fest performance as a CD release party for their debut album, “Long Story Short,” and I’m glad I made the end-around dash over. Looking as dapper as ever in their black suits and ties, white shirts and sneakers, guitarist-vocalists Brendan Pendergast and Seth Powell traded vocals back and forth as they cranked out an ever so tasty helping of megawatt power pop. “Dress Up” was especially inspired, although they scored with “Greater Good” and “Running in Place,” as well.
I’m especially annoyed that I didn’t catch the tail end of Mike Gent’s closing set, as he took the stage as a power trio with John Powhida on bass. I heard good reports on Lindsey Mae and Alta Mira as well, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to catch them in action this time around, either.
A BRIEF RANT: So why did the music start at the same time on both stages? Who made up this schedule? Why not stagger the starting times so there’s always something to see on one of the stages? Instead, both stages started at 1pm, the band played 45 minutes, and then there’s a half-hour intermission at both stages. That just doesn’t make sense to me…
Read my review in The Times Union
OK GO SET LIST
A Million Ways
Back From Kathmandu
I Want You So Bad I Can’t Breathe
A Good Idea at the Time
Here It Goes Again
Get Over It
Don’t Ask Me
This Too Shall Pass
Do What You Want
Photos by Andrzej Pilarczyk. See more of Andrzej’s photos in the Nippertown photo archive.