Ah yes, the Fest is over now. Hopefully everyone’s bodies are recovered from the food and the continuous draining of mugs. Let’s pick up where we left off, at Day 8 on Friday.
The evening started with Lights Out, a Frankie Valli tribute group. They started out with one of Valli’s most famous songs, “Sherry”, which the crowd immediately responded to. Unfortunately the group’s prerecorded backing track, ill-fitting suits (and that hat), and bad dance moves made this all a bit cringe-worthy. Even when they switched to doing an a cappella routine it still proved to be lackluster.
It was then inside of the Musikfest Cafe to check out Ball in the House, a group that did a capella that we had a little bit more hope for. Unfortunately their set was delayed quite a bit as they were having audio issues stemming from equipment getting soaked during a downpour earlier during the day at Musikfest. Once they finally got going, although the sound still seemed a bit low, they were fantastic. They even allotted time for their beatboxer/vocal percussionist to display his impressive skills and demonstrate to the audience how they perform so well without a backing track.
Then it was time for the main event: Here Come The Mummies. For those who aren’t aware, HCTM is a band compromised of very talented, and in a few cases Grammy-nominated and Grammy Award-winning, artists who wear mummy costumes and play raunchy funk music. They entered the stage through the crowd, just as they did two years ago when they played Musikfest for the first time. By this time a massive crowd sprawled across the lawn of Americaplatz and beyond. They played through a fantastic set, frequently running across the stage and even using the speakers to stand on. They were as close to flawless as possible and continue to be one of the best bands at Musikfest, without question.
The next day we rushed over to Musikfest later on to catch the end of The Hunts’ set at Volksplatz. This collective of young siblings, as one Artsquest staffer pointed out, harmonize extremely well. Their indie-pop, melodic song “Make This Leap” hit national TV earlier this year in a Milkbone commercial of all things. Hopefully they all still continue to make music together in the future (their tour listing says they’re unavailable at the end of May next year due to graduating high school!) because what they’ve made so far is stellar.
After The Hunts it was time for a primer. Earlier that day we hit up Weyerbacher Brewery in Easton and snagged a fresh Double Simcoe to fill up the mug with. Paired with the always-delightful Take-A-Taco, how could you go wrong?
We then caught a good bunch of Quiet Company’s set at Americaplatz, where the Austin band played to a very small crowd. Although they’ve been active for about ten years, they were still relatively unknown until they were picked up by Grooveshark’s Artist Development Program, where they gained considerable attention. It’s clear to see why. They’re lively on stage, playing a solid set of rock infused with horns and piano, and are even funny when speaking to the crowd between songs. The icing on the cake? Their cover of indie cult band Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Holland 1945”.
And oh boy. Then time was closing in for the Ke$ha show. We trekked to The Steel Pub to take down copious amounts of Saucony Creek Brewing Company’s Sessions IPA, a perfect beer for the evening. Low in ABV but still flavorful, good enough to drink a lot and get drunk, but not so hammered you don’t remember Ke$ha telling you to teabag people. More on that in a minute.
The Steel Pub’s bathrooms? Covered in glitter. The Bethlehem Visitor’s Center? Covered in glitter. The ground outside of the Sands stage? Inundated with glitter. Concert-goers sprayed glue on themselves and dumped heaping shit-tons of glitter all over, covering each other with a thousand times more glitter than even the most obnoxious of greeting cards. Men wore eyelashes and fishnets. Girls had their eyes done up with Ke$ha’s signature pseudo-star. It was a hot, shimmering mess.
The opener, Semi Precious Weapons, was flamboyant, but boring. Their songs seemed to resound with no one and save for frontman Justin Tranter’s impressive split, they were a snooze. Maybe they’re better suited to stay opening for Lady Gaga (on her Monster Ball tour) or playing small clubs and hanging with Kate Moss (which apparently happened in the UK).
And then, the main show. Ke$ha came out with a group of masked men, who played some sort of trippy, Amazonian, samurai characters. She bounded across the stage, doing high kicks, spreading her legs, and just all around dancing provocatively with her dancers. Some of the local music media seemed shocked – SHOCKED – that she was singing to a recorded track, to which we say, NO SHIT?
This show was about one thing, and one thing only: a party. It was not about hearing Ke$ha’s musical talents (which she has, by the way). It was about uninhibited ridiculousness. Someone blatantly brought in a bottle of vodka. A couple were grinding and simulating giving blowjobs in the aisles (before the show even started). It was about the spectacle. Was it ridiculous and over the top? Yes. Was it a ‘good’ show, and was it fun? Yes.
And then there was the idiot parent. This genius was yelling at an Artsquest staffer because the show was billed as ‘all ages’ and it was ‘clearly a 21 and over’ show. Seriously, crappy parent of the year? Her first hit started off with singing about brushing her teeth with whiskey. Her Wikipedia page, within the first two paragraphs, states that most of her music is about partying and binge drinking. Her last tour was called “Get Sleazy.” So cheers to you, naive parent who was too stupid to use The Googles.
But yes, her set was trashy and laden with expletives. That’s something we noticed this year…Musikfest seems a bit more relaxed about the cursing later at night. It may have been a gradual change over time, but with the Red Elvises dropping the f-bomb at the free stages, it’s a welcome change to treating the audiences late at night like adults. Back in 2000 when Sugar Ray sold out the main stage at Musikfest, the band played a much more PC set than it was playing at other venues. Ke$ha took it all to another level. She repeatedly said “fuck”, told the crowd to “get inside of my vagina”, told them to teabag their neighbors, and to pull out their boobs and make out with their neighbors. She capped off the evening by wishing her fans well, telling them she hopes they get laid.
After that extravaganza, we were fairly…groggy…on Sunday. We used that as both an excuse and an opportunity to devour a slew of food that we didn’t get to eat earlier in the week. First up was a Karl Ehmer bratwurst. It’s a German-themed festival, so it was a must. After pondering over some German ketchup that had not a hint of English description on it, we went for the mustard instead. Delicious, although the bun was a bit dry.
Then it was off to a new vendor, the mango man. They make one product: a mango on a stick. It was $5, which is a lot for a mango. We opted for our mango doused with lime juice and sprinkled with cayenne. It was a tasty (and refreshingly healthy) summer treat. It was also the ripest, juiciest mango in existence. $5 is a bit much, but damn if it wasn’t tasty.
So in our mission to dehangover, we had meat and vitamins so far. We needed another staple: fried food. And so a portuguese donut (or elephant ear) it was. It’s bascially a giant piece of fried dough as covered in cinnamon sugar as Ke$ha fans were in glitter. Oh yes.
We then took a stroll over to Zuzu’s, where we previously had a raspberry basil ice pop. This time we opted for the cucumber lime mint. Holy balls. This ice pop is like eating summertime. Tart, slightly herbal, and a touch of sweetness. Sunshine for days.
After thoroughly stuffing ourselves silly it was finally time to check out the last bands of the day. We saw Philly singer/songwriter Reverend TJ McGlinchey play for a while at Lyrikplatz. Although seemingly over-serious, he started off his set by playing a prelude of the Willy Wonka theme song. Whether it was the sound levels or voice problems is anyone’s guess, but his voice seemed a bit strained and grating as he projected.
Caravan of Thieves, the self-billed gypsy swing folk band from Connecticut, was up next in the Musikfest Cafe. Just as last year, their set was entertaining and drew a good crowd. Their use of egg beaters and buckets as drums was both appropriately quirky and interesting. Their gypsy theme, and subsequent use of bucket, isn’t over the top, in your face, or particularly obnoxious. Playing to a mostly seated crowd of families, their whimsy and generally upbeat demeanor was a crowd-pleaser. The only parts where the band particularly suffered were some of the solo performances, which ran into the “OK, we get it” territory, going from impressive and cute to flat out too long.
We set off for home not much longer, too tired to bother with any more bands or to wait it out til 10 for the fireworks. And that’s another fest in the books. When do the 2014 headliner announcements start?