I have a love/hate relationship with festivals. They're long, you inevitably miss some of the set of bands you want to see due to scheduling overlaps and walking between stages, but on the other hand you see a bunch of good bands all in one day at one moderate ticket price, you have that unique festival atmosphere, and you spend an entire day with music.
Some of the things I loved this time around included mud wrestling, band performances, and the lineup. Things I disliked included dehydration and the heat and drunks looking for fights. As to the performances...
Flobots were one of the best early performances of the day in my opinion. The sound was a little poorly mixed, and the guitarist had several gear issues which were distracting, but they themselves were able to work the crowd in the way only great openers do. The music was of course great, and they have taken some liberty when playing their songs live now which is nice to see.
Alkaline Trio was pretty disappointing this time around. I don't think they translate well to a festival atmosphere, they work best in smaller venues. Here, the songs felt less energetic and inspired, and though I love the songs, the performance did not come off as well as it has on previous tours.
Thrice was so much better than I expected, not because I expected a bad performance, far from, but I expected a performance much like the last couple I have seen in the last year, as they've released no material since then. Instead, I got a Beatles cover and The Red Death, a song from Illusion of Safety I'd neve heard live and which they said they hadn't touched in years. Quite a treat. Dustin's hesitancy to scream as much live as he used to is disappointing though. Put in a good mix of stuff spanning their discography.
Pennywise sounded like white noise almost. I blame the soundman, not them, but listening to their performance almost gave me a headache because it was so compressed. Not even on their CDs is the compression so atrocious. Still they put forth a lot of energy and when they managed to stop being a wall of noise they sounded good.
NOFX seemed either drunk, or just very goofy people. It's hard to tell because they come off the same on live CDs as they did here, though at least on CDs they fool around a little bit less. They stopped a few songs in the middle and decided to play something else instead. Played several <1 minute songs too, to fill space while thinking of a full song to play, it seemed. Still, the banter was good and quite entertaining because, as I said, they seemed not-sober. Banter is usually unessential but since that was at least 1/3 of their time on stage, it was important it was good.
Gogol Bordello was probably the best performance I saw. What more can you want from a band than cheerleaders, drumming on buckets, and an accordion? High energy, fun music, and entertaining stage antics defined te performance, and perhaps the most credit I can give them is they had people dancing out past the soundbooth. Most second stage bands couldn't even get an audience that far out.
Rise Against was alright. Solid performances of the songs, and the crowd knew most of the words to most of the songs, even out in the back. But nothing really made the performance stand out from the music on CD. The music happens to be great so it supports them well live, but they add nothing to it. They made a good call in setlist changeups though when they were forced to leave the stage due to lightning, and then only had half their set remaining once they returned. The songs they chose helped them regain momentum and hold it through the set.
Flogging Molly is really fun live. The front man is really awesome. Completely not what you'd expect to see in a Punk band, and yet totally fitting at the same time. Very high energy performance and though they take few liberties in their live versions of songs (a few added solos were sprikled in), they performance is so good you want to see this band live, not just listen to them on CD.
Atmosphere is always disappointing when I first listen to him, but by the time I stop I remain impressed. The same holds true live. For someone so well-regarded in more indie Hip-Hop circles, I always feel like his rapping is uninspired and generally lacking. At first. Then halfway into a CD/performace I just fall into it and then it becomes something else for me and it's very good.
Overall, the awesome lineup generally delivered, though a few performances lacked the extra luster I usually like to see in live music. Hopefully The Edge can put together such worthy lineups in the future. This year seemed focused on politically active bands, I wonder if there will be a theme for next year's.