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Festival Review: CoS at Chicago’s Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

on July 11, 2011, 6:25pm
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Saturday, July 9th

Liz Phair- South Works Stage- 4:45 p.m.

dmbc 325 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

Representing the ladies on Day 2 of the fest was Liz Phair. She took the stage in a short black dress, leaving her blonde hair to stand out as it flowed in the lake breeze. This turned out to be the best thing about a set that suffered from bad sound mixing and low energy. Phair’s vocals could barely be heard over the drum set, and she couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to even “yeah” convincingly during her own song. After a few minutes, most of the audience turned their attention to procuring dinner.

G. Love and Special Sauce- Lakeside Stage- 5:30 p.m.

dmbc 330 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

G. Love, aka Garrett Dutton, came on stage wearing a harmonica in a holder around his neck and carrying an acoustic guitar. “This is a song about coffee—you all like coffee? Me too—whaaat!” he cried, reeling into “Milk and Sugar”. G. Love’s music is a mix of hip hop and blues-flavored, knee-slapping good times, which sat just fine with the audience. In a backwards ball cap and sunglasses, Dutton could’ve been mistaken for a festival-goer himself, except that he deftly played his harmonica and guitar at the same time while a guy on the upright bass got funky behind him. G. Love’s set also included a rollicking cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”, which inspired a haphazard, drunken sing-along from the crowd. He might look like a bro, but Dutton plays the hell out of his guitar.

Ben Folds- South Works Stage- 6:00 p.m.

dmbc 333 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011Ben Folds started his set with the super-topical “Levi Johnston’s Blues”, which rang home all the more for its opening lyric: “Woke up this morning/ what do I see/ 3000 cameras pointing at me.” Folds crouched over the piano, beating maniacally at the keys (and a fabulous camera angle showed the key depressions on the projector screen, which was awesome). Levi Johnston’s big moment may have passed, but Folds didn’t care what we thought about that—or anything else, it seems. In a black t-shirt and hipster glasses, he was a larger than life nerd posterboy, proud to be up there doing his thing, and the crowd loved it.

Promising a cover song—“whatever is the #1 cover song on iTunes”—the band did Ke$ha’s “Sleazy” to a first disbelieving and then grooving crowd. The keyboard player intoned “get sleazy” in a voice so low and so regular that it sounded like a pre-recorded sample, with Folds singing the verses higher above the beat. Even the sign language interpreter got down to that. Folds played a long and varied set, including “Annie Waits”, “Still Fighting It”, and “Saskia Hamilton”, the latter of which was drop-dead gorgeous live, complete with manic pianos and a crowd sing-along.

Kid Cudi- Lakeside Stage- 7:00 p.m.

dmbc 338 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

One of the most anticipated sets of the weekend—and one of the only non-jam, non-folksy acts on the bill—Kid Cudi had amassed a crush of people before he even took the stage. By the time he emerged, dressed in a bedazzled jean jacket, to a pounding, epic bass reverb, things had reached a fever pitch. “Are you ready for the revolution?” he shouted, launching into “REVOFEV”. His work seemed on the surface to be incongruous with the style of the weekend, but Cudi raps at the speed of jam, meaning all the crowd had to do was sway along to the beats and holler when he said something provocative. “Soundtrack 2 My Life” was met with a roar, the sick bass throbbing in everyone’s ears and Cudi’s voice coming warm and easy like a summer beer. He waved his hands and egged them on: “This is epic—this is a sea of people! And you’re here to see me!” Playing a cross-section of his catalogue, Cudi kept things rolling with a simple imperative: “We’re here to party—keep that in mind.”

Dave Matthews Band- South Works Stage- 8:05 p.m.

dmbc 348 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

On the second night of their three-show residency, Dave Matthews Band took things back a bit. Whereas the first set hit a lot of newer material, the second was a feel-good, fan favorite set that struck just the right note amongst the legions of sun-roasted and drunken audience members. Saturday’s crowd swelled to apparently peak capacity, and DMB kept things appropriately cool and friendly. They started their set with classic “#41”, which featured long solo sections by Boyd Tinsley and Tim Reynolds that eventually grounded down into near-silence. “This is a whole lot of lovemaking!” Matthews mumbled cheerfully. Lest they lose momentum, they picked up the pace next with hard-driving guitars and pounding bass on “Seven”, and then blew the doors off with a cover of Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House”, featuring a deeply funky guitar line and Rashawn Ross helping with vocal duties.

Things got sentimental with “Why I Am”, a tribute to late sax man LeRoi Moore, which featured Jeff Coffin switching from soprano to tenor sax mid-song, as Moore was famous for doing often. Reynolds’ guitar solo on the same song was so spirited and powerful that women screamed. A delicate rendition of “Proudest Monkey” was followed by perennial favorite “Satellite”, colored by the contrast of tinkling, swirling chimes and a deep, booming bass beat.

dmbc 351 Festival Review: CoS at Chicagos Dave Matthews Band Caravan 2011

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

There were many other songs and many other moments, but the best of the night was “Crush”. Tinsley and Matthews danced together, soloing face to face as they are wont to do in the heat of the moment, encapsulated in their own little world together in front of thousands of people. The crowd sang together, not screaming as they had on many other tracks, but singing sweetly along, all the lyrics clean and clear in unison, arms stretched overhead, reaching and smiling, Matthews surfacing enough to give his winking half-smile, the lights reflecting up into the stars overhead.

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