Forest Park in St. Louis dropped its traditional role as quiet urban oasis over the weekend to host the fifth-ever LouFest, where OutKast, Arctic Monkeys, Future Islands and other staples of this winding-down festival season gave record crowds a reason to dance, sweat and just basically shake off a tumultuous month in the area.
Not that there were many direct mentions of Michael Brown or Ferguson, a suburb just a few miles away from the hilly festival grounds, but the weekend did end with an explosive OutKast set that saw Andre 3000 acknowledge the unrest with his jumpsuit message (“Can one rest in peace & violence?”). For his statement, bandmate Big Boi entered the stage arms raised in the “hands up, don’t shoot” pose that has come to symbolize the death of Brown, an unarmed teen killed by police last month.
They were blink-and-miss-it moments in a jubilant 90-minute thrill ride through two decades of the beloved hip-hop duo, and solid proof that whatever ailed ’em back in April, when they kicked off this festival tour at Coachella to concerned reviews, had long been cured. This was two old friends jamming and hamming it up for an ecstatic St. Louis, which it turns out holds a special place for one member. “I met 2pac for the first time out here,” said Andre, who noted he has family in the area.
Andre 3000 and Big Boi scorched through 24 songs on the night, beginning with “B.O.B.” and eventually touching on all the hits, like “Ms. Jackson,” “Hey Ya!” “Roses,” “Player’s Ball” and “So Fresh, So Clean,” “GhettoMusick,” among others. As they’ve shown throughout the reunion tour, OutKast doesn’t skimp on older cuts either — at one point Andre jokingly asked if there were any “real OutKast fans out there” — and they dutifully busted out Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik essentials like “Hootie Hoo” and “Crumblin’ Erb.” Along the way there were solo detours to perform tracks from Speakerboxx/The Love Below and they closed it all out with “The Whole Wide World.”
It was a blow-out ending to the C3-produced festival, which attracted 17,000 on Saturday and 19,000 on Sunday, a new record for single-day attendance, according to LouFest officials. The growing festival is spread out over four stages, and dotted with spots for local craft beer, a “nosh” pit for food and a bazaar featuring area artisans selling jewelry and shirts emblazoned with things like “Saint Fucking Louis.” There’s a STL pride type thing going on that did not feel forced or contrived.
Other major highlights on Sunday came in the form of Portugal. The Man, who opened with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” before segueing into its own “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” Guitarist John Gourley and bassist Zachary Carothers’ vocals paired nicely for tracks off 2013’s Evil Friends, including “Modern Jesus” and “Atomic Man,” and they made sure to flash some semi-oddball wit with one-liners like “We’re an American rock band… if we can’t do it, nobody can!” and “Let’s hear it for Portugal. The Man!”
Later, the Alaska-bred band returned to the same stage to help electro-popsters Grouplove tear through The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.” Before that surprise cameo, Grouplove — led by newly shorn guitarist/singer Christian Zucconi and keyboardist/singer Hannah Hooper — kept the energy levels at (11) for songs including “I’m With You,” “Tongue Tied” and a cover of Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love.”
More Sunday Notes:
Glass Animals haven’t released an album yet in the States, but their tour kickoff — which got off to a late start — drew a curious crowd for the Oxford-based trip hop/lounge act. “We don’t get this wet back in England” admitted whispy-voiced singer Dave Bayley, reacting to the encroaching sun.
The soulful vocals, Prince-ly squeals and singular choice of clothing of Young & Sick mastermind Nick Van Hofwegen captivated attendees at the Forest Park Stage. Amid gems like “Heartache Fetish,” a request from the crowd for him to “take it off” was rebuffed by another bandmember. “He’s wearing a onsie.”
New Orleans-based hornsman Trombone Shorty created a feeding frenzy of funk during his late-afternoon set, but the highlight came when the band’s guitarist started crunching out Green Day’s “Brain Stew.” The result? A big, fat bowl of crazy that’s what.
If it was ever okay to say “adorbs,” then Matt & Kim would fit that description perfectly. Their show kicked off with craptacular sound issues, but they brushed it all off as no big thang. They went on to cheerfully romp through favorites like “Let’s Go,” “Block After Block” and a cover of R. Kelly’s “Ignition.”
The lineup on Saturday was no less engaging or eclectic. Organizers topped the bill with Arctic Monkeys and they showed why they’re one of the most popular bands in Britain. A taut and sexy 90 minutes of no-nonsense rock kicked off with “Do I Wanna Know?” via 2013’s AM and included hits “Snap Out of It,” “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” and early classic “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.”
Whereas Alex Taylor and his fellow Arctic Monkeys avoided any theatrics on stage, earlier occupants of the same space were not so staid. Led by magnetic showman Samuel Herring, Baltimore synthpop trio Future Islands made LouFest the final stop of its tour in support of breakthrough album Singles. Herring did not skimp on showing off his flair for dramatic gestures and death-metal growls in a set that included “Long Way From Home,” “Seasons (Waiting on You)” and “A Song for Our Grandfathers.”
Manchester’s The 1975 had that certain something (that is, the power to attract young women) during their mainstage romp, which OF COURSE included last year’s drop of “Chocolate” and the much-better “Girls,” both off the ‘80s-inspired guitar pop band’s self-titled debut.
More Saturday Notes:
Ernest Greene’s Washed Out is categorized as chillwave, but the Georgia native’s LouFest debut had the feeling of a party, with a sonic-synth attack and moody, even Morrissey-level vocals. Obvious highlight: “Feel It All Around” (you know, the Portlandia theme) which trickled and bounced through the grounds.
Yo La Tengo, who were a late addition to the lineup after Kelis dropped out, dedicated a Lou Reed song their “favorite Lou in Missouri,” Lou Whitney, a veteran producer and bassist (The Skeletons, The Morrells) from Springfield.
Sydney folk duo The Falls delivered blissful harmonies during its early afternoon set. Highlights included two songs with California in mind, an elegant original titled “Hollywood” and Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”