The picnic blankets are out, the beer is flowing, and youth is in full flower. First on stage are Brooklyn outfit Big Thief. They’re scrawny, geeky and hesitant, and fighting some obvious sound issues. But frontwoman Adrianne Lenker has the kind of voice that can light up a frumpy early-morning train trip, and her opening number, sung and played solo, has all the makings of a very raw and beautiful talent. “I hope this isn’t one of those gigs where the support act is scrappy but great, and the main act is tight but fucking boring”, I say to my companion, who will henceforth be known as Jeff.

Lord knows I hate being right. Warpaint arrive on stage, the lights get suitably trippy, and they warm up the crowd with an instrumental before seguing into Keep It Healthy. It’s like Joy Division, except the despair has been replaced with effortless California cool, and for some reason the snare sounds like drummer Stella Mozgawa is slapping a turkey. Boredom ensues, and it’s only really a few songs in before things get slightly more interesting when they saunter into the crowd-pleaser Undertow. I did say they were tight, but the exception is that every so often singer Emily Kokal dips in and out of key, which is by far the most interesting musical event of the set. About one in every three songs features a lazy improv section, where the band hang onto lacklustre hemiolas in order to generate interest in its overly attractive hipster crowd.

“Hope the animals are enjoying it!” Kokal quips. The sheer implausibility of this statement makes me stop in my tracks. Just why the hell are we in a zoo? I wonder. Surely the last thing captive animals need is to be awoken at 10pm by loud fuzzy guitar tones? They’re already far from their native habitat, and it’s not as if the nearby Bengal tigers have somehow developed an evolutionary appreciation for this shit while they waded through the Sundarbans for the last 2 million years. Jeff nervously anticipates an imaginary announcement from the tour manager: “Sorry to interrupt guys, just to let you know, one gorilla has escaped and is on the loose. The platypus enclosure is a warzone”.

Nevertheless, chaos doesn’t eventuate, and the band keeps pumping along. No Way Out has a vaguely ominous vibe, and nearby bats fly overhead through the blood red sky as if on cue. This music kind of makes drugs look bad. How is it so… bland? All the beautiful people surrounding me look blasé too. One lies down beside me checking her phone. Swipe, swipe. The only person who seems to be really enjoying the concert is a 6 year old kid in front of me who giggles as she makes Yankee Doodle Dandee impressions, obviously delirious to be finally spending some quality time with her hitherto disinterested Gen-X parents.

“This is from our newwww albummm”. Every time Kokal decides to talk to the crowd, something really awkward comes out. Something distinctly Valley Girl. This has me briefly considering the possible political repercussions of instituting a Trump-like ban on visitors from California. Surely these people pose some sort of security threat? New Song follows, with more pitchy vocals. In the mad scramble to choose a final song, the band hesitates, trying to decipher the mood of the mob:

“Everyone’s screaming at us!”

But they really aren’t.

Just to ram home the sheer obnoxiousness of the evening, Kokal decides to impart a timeless message of serenity on the unsuspecting audience: “You’re all so beautiful… shiiiit! Shanti shanti, namaste!” It’s time to go home. The nearby Indian elephant enclosure breathes a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that all things must pass, including industry hype.

Noah

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