We woke up to sunshine at our hotel, optimistic for the final day of the festival. We'd be seeing full sets instead of splitting our time between performers, and it was finally warm out! We took a MATA bus that drove past Sun Studio on its way downtown, but that was the last sun we'd see all day. When we got to Tom Lee Park, the clouds rolled in and the wind whipped the snot right out of my nose. But after Friday, it was a relative cakewalk. We set out for the Bud Light Stage, where we'd be watching three consecutive acts.
First up were the Kingston Springs, who I'd first seen supplying some gorgeous harmonies to Rayland Baxter's "Olivia" in this video. Left to their own devices, however, the Tennessee band are rockers. Sure, that rootsy Nashville sound is present, but on "Sweet Susie," Ian Ferguson sounded a lot like Jack White (although I guess Jack's been picking up that Nashville sound too). The vibe was friendly and relaxed, with long-haired bassist Alex Geddes asking the crowd, "Anybody out there getting drunk today? We are." Ian expounded, "We got off to an early start. We already finished all the beer in our trailer." "So whoever heard that, bring us some more beer," added Alex with a smile. The boys were accompanied by some squealing harmonica on "Lover," courtesy of Patrick Weickenand, who used to play with War. They clapped it up on the chugging "1991," which was enhanced with a little trumpet from James Guidry, before they closed it out with the hard-edged "Lowest of Animals." I would've bought a vinyl if I didn't have to carry it all day.
And who wants to carry anything but two beers during a Deer Tick set? They kicked things off with "The Bump," John McCauley punctuating "They call me the Bump" with a long snort on the microphone. They weren't entirely satisfied with the sound (or lack thereof) coming from their monitors, but McCauley skillfully worked in his "Hey! Hey!" mic-checking to the transition into easily the best "Easy" I've heard. After playing the catchy "The Dream is in the Ditch," Ian O'Neil asked the crowd, "How was that? Because I couldn't hear it," which was kind of nuts, considering the mix offstage was the best of the festival. As the technicians tried to remedy the issue, McC admitted, "We're the problem children at every festival," following it with a few Bon Scott screams of "Problem child!" For new number, "Really Just Friends," John put down his guitar, singing at the mic while holding a beer can and a cigarette like a white trash Sammy Davis, Jr. "If I was you, I would be watching Public Enemy right now," he confessed. But then I would've missed the funky keyboard jam in "These Old Shoes" that briefly turned into "Superstition." After a winning "Ashamed," McCauley said, "Happy Cinco de Mayo, bee tee dubs." The band crept into "Sleep Walk," and although I knew what Mexican treat was coming next, most in the crowd were delightfully surprised when they launched into their fully Spanish cover of "La Bamba." It was one of the top sets at the festival that I'm sure resulted in dozens of new Deer Tick fans.
My brother had pinned Gary Clark, Jr. as a "legend in the making" when he saw him at the 9:30 Club, so it was time to see for myself. Gary walked onto the stage, picked up his guitar, and smiled briefly before asking the eager crowd, "Y'all ready?" We all clapped like we were, but no one was prepared for the 13-and-a-half-minute "When My Train Pulls In" he pulled out. Gary Clark spent half of "Please Come Home" crooning in a sweet falsetto, and the other half ripping into his guitar, with members of Kingston Springs and Deer Tick watching studiously from the wings. "Travis County" and "Ain't Messin' 'Round" charged up the audience for the set's biggest moment, Clark's reinterpretive "Third Stone from the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say" medley. While returning to "Stone" from Collins' song, Clark transmogrified his six-string into a turntable, scratching out a string-breaking solo that dropped jaws. "Y'alright?" Clark asked with a wry grin. Because we'd only just gotten a taste of Albert Collins, GCJ covered the bluesman's "If Trouble Was Money." It was nice to hear so much Collins after seeing his guitar on the wall at Rum Boogie Cafe on Friday. He finished with "Bright Lights," and you could be damn sure that everyone in the constantly growing crowd knew his name by the end of the song. In fact, I bet you could edit the entire concert together from all the iPhone footage that was taken. "Well, it's been fun. Thanks for listening to me," he said bashfully at the song's end. While he did seem shy with the banter, there's no doubt the man has stage presence. His band spent the entire show flanking the drum riser, so it may be a bit forced, but this towering figure in front, grimacing in pain at the emotion he was dispelling out of his fingers and onto the strings is exactly what the blues are about. I foresee a brass note on Beale St. in his future for sure.
I was excited to see many of the bands at the festival, but after hearing Phoenix's new album Bankrupt!, the French band stood out as number one. They kicked things off with "Entertainment," pumping me up for a set of new tunes. Thomas Mars counted off, "Un, deux, trois," and the band launched into "Lasso." "Lisztomania" had the crowd going crazy, but not as much as I was while screaming out the chorus to "S.O.S. in Bel Air." They followed that with "Love Like a Sunset" with a hunk of "Bankrupt!" squeezed in the middle, a mash-up some have taken to calling "Sunskrupt!" When the first verse of "Too Young" gave way to "Girlfriend," I finally noticed a saddening trend: They weren't just favoring Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix; they were playing the entire album. Don't get me wrong; I like the record. But it's not on the same level as It's Never Been Like That or Bankrupt! In recent interviews, they'd discussed the possibility of failure after the success of Wolfgang, so it seemed too safe of them to play the album in full here. In spite of the song selection, they sounded excellent and put on a great show. Mars climbed offstage and onto the barricade mid-"Armistice" and stayed there for all of "1901." He even took the opportunity to crowdsurf a little during the encore. Fortunately, his shoes didn't appear to be muddied.
The Bump > Easy / Baltimore Blues No. 1 / Main Street / Problem Child (tease) / The Dream is in the Ditch / Bastards of Young > Mirror Walls / Clownin Around / Born at Zero / Really Just Friends* / Houston, TX / These Old Shoes > Superstition (tease) > These Old Shoes / Ashamed / Sleep Walk > La Bamba
GARY CLARK, JR. - 05.05.13 - BEALE ST. MUSIC FESTIVAL (1 hour, 13 minutes)
When My Train Pulls In / Don't Owe You a Thang / Please Come Home / Travis County / Ain't Messin' 'Round / Third Stone from the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say / If Trouble Was Money / Bright Lights
PHOENIX - 05.05.13 - BEALE ST. MUSIC FESTIVAL (1 hour, 7 minutes)
Entertainment / Lasso / Lisztomania / Long Distance Call / Fences / S.O.S. in Bel Air / Love Like a Sunset pt. I > Bankrupt! > Love Like a Sunset pt. II / Too Young > Girlfriend / Trying to Be Cool > Chloroform / Armistice / 1901
Countdown / Don't / Rome > Entertainment
THE FLAMING LIPS - 05.05.13 - BEALE ST. MUSIC FESTIVAL (1 hour, 15 minutes)
Look... The Sun is Rising / The Terror / The W.A.N.D. (The Will Always Negates Defeat) / Silver Trembling Hands / Try to Explain / Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die / One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21 / Heroes / Turning Violent / All We Have is Now
Do You Realize?? / Always There in Our Hearts