This weekend Danna and I went to End Fest 13. What is End Fest? It’s a day-long concert featuring lots and lots of alternative bands put on by one of the local radio stations here in Seattle. Danna and I haven’t been for one hell of a long time, but the line up looked pretty good, so we went for it.
End Fest this year was held at the White River Ampitheatre, which was probably too big a venue for it. The arena was probably only about 60% to capacity. On the up side, this made parking really easy.
End Fest consists of mostly three kinds of bands: old, geriatric alterative bands, new popular alterative bands, and local bands on a separate stage. There’s a ton of music. We got there about half way through (neither of us can be troubled with getting up that early and making a day of it on a Saturday).
First up for us was a band called the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I’ve heard one of their songs on the radio and was looking forward to hearing some more. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed. The lead singer was so out of her head she couldn’t sing, or really even remember lyrics. She spent the majority of her stage time rolling around on the floor of the stage with the microphone stuck in her mouth. While entertaining, it wasn’t terribly musical.
Next up was the band X. I haven’t heard X in years – my last X album is actually on vinyl and is somewhere in storage. However, they sounded exactly as I remembered them: a great mix of punk energy and folky harmonies. It’s an odd mix, but it works for them. It’s equally odd to see them now after so many years: watching John Doe and Exene play is a lot like watching your parents up on stage and it is a little concerning to watch them jump around.
After X came the Violent Femmes. I’ve seen the Femmes once before and they never disappoint. It’s easy to forget just how many great hit songs they have had, but I’d say that the audience sang along with the majority of songs. Even though the Femmes were popping Geritol once every five minutes they didn’t quite have the father mother complex of X. Much of the angst is gone but Gordon Gano’s forever nasal voice still has attitude.
After the Femmes came Franz Ferdinand, the first recent and still recording band we saw. I’ve only heard one or two songs from them on the radio, but I have to admit after seeing them live I’m a fan. Lead singer Alex Kapranos is a true crooner, and their music is very original.
Franz was followed by a very large bag of kettlecorn, which I have to say was a lot better than the band that also followed: Echo and the Bunnymen. The lead singer, Ian McCulloch, kept blaming the terrible sound on the sound board and PA system, and even stopped a song once and switched over to a different tune. He kept asking to increase the upper end because it sounded flat. It didn’t sound flat to me – it sounded way too tinny and sharp, and this was causing feedback everywhere. I think a lot of years in a rock band may have had an impact on Ian’s hearing. In addition, it was clear that his voice was just not up to the challenge. He smoked while on stage, which I’m sure didn’t help with the high notes, and he was off key a lot of the time. He kept the lights down so low that the cameras that projected the stage out to the nether reaches of the crowed could only display black, and he blamed all of it on a big conspiracy against him. Toward the end of the set he had little good to say but “fuck you” to the entire front row.
After Echo and the Bunnymen left the stage we would have been happy with nearly anything. The Presidents closed the show, however, and it is just not possible to find fault with them. They are funny, fun, and great performers. I’ve never seen them when they’ve taken themselves seriously, which was a complete reversal of Echo’s major problem. The crowd new every song the presidents played, and they even came on for a great encore where they closed the show with a cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Problem”, even going so far as to trash the entire stage when they were through – exactly as the Sex Pistols would have done.
Danna and I really should make this an annual event. We may be getting old and broken, but we still know good music.