I have a major loved/hate relationship with radio shows. On one hand, the typically all day events usually provide a wide variety of bands all playing a collection of their greatest hits with a smattering of new or rare cuts interspersed. On the other hand, the shows usually feel rushed, and the amount of logistics involved with pulling them off usually leads to something slipping through the cracks.
I decided to check out KTCL’s Big Gig 2015 mainly because of Awolnation and also that earworm of a song “Cecilia and the Satellite”, by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. While I knew songs by the rest of the artists, those were the main deciding factors for me.
I had no luck securing a press pass for the show, (the referral chain led to the promoter, AEG, who apparently doesn’t check their email!), so I decided to just to bite the bullet and buy tickets. After a failed attempt to buy tickets at the Fiddler’s Green box office, (they were closed even though their posted hours said they were supposed to be open…), I rolled the dice on the show not selling out and went back to the box office on the day of the show.
Day of tickets were more expensive than the presale price, and even though I tried to argue that I should get the presale price because the box office had been closed the day before during their scheduled hours of operation, the ticket agent wouldn’t have any of it. Before I could begrudgingly hand over my credit card and pay full price, a stranger approached and offered a free set of GA tickets, no strings attached. Graciously accepting the change of fortune, I took the tickets and headed in to the venue.
I arrived just before the first band, Pandas and People, kicked things off. They are an local alt-folk band that won a contest through KTCL to secure the opening spot on the main stage. After a few songs I made my way to the “Locals Only” stage, which was located outside the main amphitheater.
While I think it’s cool that radio stations tend to have a stage promoting local artists at their shows, it hardly ever works out as well as it might seem in theory. Often times, like at Big Gig, the second stage is in an out of the way spot and the set times usually overlap the times of the main stage acts. I tried to split my time between the two stages, but as the show progressed it became a nuisance to walk back and forth and never actually catch either bands full set. I gave up after the third round trip. I honestly think that a better system would be to have the local’s stage set up somewhere in the main area, have them play shorter sets, and have those sets be in between the sets of the main stage artists, with the locals playing while the nationals are breaking down and setting up. This would afford better exposure for the local bands, give the audience something better than house music to listen to, and also give the nationals a tiny bit more time to go about the business of setting up. Maybe one day I’ll be on a committee that plans such things, but until then I guess I’ll just have to hope that someone else has the same idea as me.
A number of the bands that were on the bill are current up and comers. St. Motel, Banks, and Atlas Genius all have one song that everyone in the crowd knew, so there was a general blasé attitude during their sets until they played the well known radio song, at which point people got to their feet and acted like they were at a concert.
As is more common than you’d think with festival style shows, technical issues plagued the day. At one point the speakers that pumped sound to the lawn went out, making it feel as if we were watching the show from the parking lot and listening to it on the neighborhood boombox. The stage microphones seem to be having difficulty as well, and all the problems led to Banks set being cut down to only 3 songs. While I think she was the one act on the bill that I had no real desire to see, the three songs that she played did prove to me that she has an amazing voice. When she announced that her set was being cut, she seemed genuinely upset about it. While I may be a cynical ass, I couldn’t help but feel bad for her.
The biggest surprise for me was probably how much I enjoyed the New Politics set. While I was on tour with Man on Earth, the band’s drummer would play New Politics on the regular while he was driving, so I had a decent sense of what to expect musically from their set. What you don’t get from listening to an album is the high energy, break dance riddled performance that got an otherwise docile crowd moving. New Politics brought that in force, commanding the crowd with a thoroughly entertaining experience.
Andrew McMahon and Nate Ruess both played solid sets, covering their individual catalogues well. Both had plenty of material from their previous bands, with Andrew McMahon breaking out songs from his Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin days, and Nate Ruess playing enough Fun. songs that I feel like it might as well been a Fun. show.
All the day’s build up led to Awolnation’s headlining slot. Their set was obviously the one that the promoters were banking on being the show’s selling point, as evidenced by the fact that the level of production for Awolnation was miles above the rest of the bands on the ticket. They brought in their own lighting rig that, as a lightning director, I was completely jealous of.
The 11:15pm curfew meant that Awolnation only played for an hour, but they managed to put on an incredible show in that short time. At 11:15 sharp, the show was over and the sodium lights came on, cueing everyone to clear out, stat. After an 8 hour show, I was more then happy to oblige.