Marymore Park is one of the most relaxing places for a concert. The security is lax. You can bring in your own food. Families bring lawn chairs and blankets eager to camp out all day. It is a place where any music could be enjoyed in the sun.
107.7 The End’s annual Summer Camp took place Friday, under the radar compared to Labor Day weekend’s Bumbershoot activities. The End’s concert lacked a considerable headliner. There was no established draw. No MGMT or Flogging Molly. This wasn’t like an EndFest in the past. Summer Camp was cheap. For only twenty dollars you had the opportunity to check out ten bands. These were the kinds of bands you’ve probably heard their single, and liked it, but didn’t know much about the rest of their work, what the rest of their songs or complete albums sounded like. This was a good opportunity to find out. At the very least you could hang out in the sun at Marymore.
Needless to say, I didn’t know what to expect. I have a vague understanding of what The End plays right now. From my perspective, it seems like they’ve picked fifteen or so Indie-Rock singles to latch onto. The best performance of the day was one of the first bands I saw; Givers, who put all of their energy onto the sunny stage. They’re lead by a front woman who strums on the ukulele, sharply sings, and bangs on a drum kit. Their flutist gave them an Irish-jig vibe but their rock instruments kept them loud and engaging. They didn’t do anything complicated; they just kept their sound clean and fun.
It seemed like every band played their single as their last song. Portugal. The Man, who is always full of sound, exploded through a set of songs mostly on their newest record. The crowd seemed confused until they played ‘People Say’ their single from two years ago. Naked and Famous is a teenager’s wet dream, a sappy/catchy/high school fantasy. The kids love to wave their arms and clap along with the guitarist. They’re going to realize how cheesy this band is in a few years and wonder why they listened to them. Awolnation seemed unsure of what sound they were going for. They started by sounding like Depeshe Mode and then they growled like a hardcore metal band continuing to transfer between emo whines, punk riffs, and Indie-rock plucking. When they played their single I saw people running to the stage and I noticed the lyrics in the chorus were “blame it on the A.D.D.” I will blame it on your A.D.D. but it’s not much of an excuse.
The Joy Formitable was having more fun on stage than most bands I’ve seen in recent memory. They smile, make faces at each other and bump around the stage. The lead singer, an adorable blonde chick, commented on how they’re from North Wales where the sun never comes out. They raced through a set of fast pop punk hits. This is when I noticed the crowd surfing.
I haven’t seen this much crowd surfing since I was fifteen. Every thirty seconds someone would fall on top of me. Even though Manchester Orchestra always put on a powerful performance it was hard to appreciate because every thirty seconds someone would fall on top of me. There were as many as five or six kids crowd surfing at once. An irresponsible crowd surfer destroyed my friend’s glasses.
Have I grown up? I remember when I used to enjoy crowd surfing, moshing, and uninhibited fun. The crowd was having fun without thinking. They didn’t care that they only knew the singles. They weren’t thinking deeply. They weren’t plagued by another Seattle stereotype of standing with crossed arms. To quote one of my favorite high school banks “well I guess this is growing up”.
Portugal. The Man is one of the hardest working bands out there right now. They’re seemingly constantly touring. They develop and freshen their sound with every release and In The Mountain In The Clouds is their sixth album in six years. How many other bands are as proficient in the studio as they are? I can’t think of any. Their new album is their first on a major label but that hasn’t changed the progression they’ve been working on since the beginning. It has everything you expect from Portugal The Man; John Gourley's piercing falsetto, memorable hooks, and colorful guitar solos but it also takes their sound to their next level.
Portugal The Man have experimented their whole career. They were known for going into the studio without much preproduction and recording whatever music came out of their feelings, often resulting in prog-rock noise and free flowing jam outs. Their mainstream breakthrough The Satanic Satanist changed this with traditional song structure and very sunny and catchy tunes. In The Mountain In The Clouds takes their mixed bag of tools and sounds and turns it into a cohesive flowing piece of work. They take the cleaner mainstream structure and play with it, creating an album with layers and depthThe progression of the albums shows with by opening with “So American” an ironic rock-ballad and closing with “Sleep Forever” a mesmerizing psychedelic landscape. Along the way The Man uses every instrument they have to create diversity in their songs.
If you’re a fan of psychedelic guitars and catchy songs, Portugal The Man is a band to invest in. They’ll keep you interested by always morphing their sound in respectable ways. They’re always fresh with new material and around for tours. The question is: are they going to be able to make it seven albums in seven years? Either way, does that matter? For a band who works as hard as Portugal The Man, it shouldn’t have to.