Pictures and words by Duane Clawson
I would like to tell you as I begin this article that I had some sort of agenda in mind before covering this event but I didn’t. Why, you ask? I’ve never been to a music festival and had no idea how it was all going to unfold. So being the flexible guy I am, I packed my camera and gear and bound off to Forest Park to cover Loufest. I arrived a tad early as the good Loufest coordinators were still sorting out some things and assigning the volunteers their duties. I waited patiently in front of the press table awaiting my pass and in a moment’s notice, the girls working the press pass table were given the word and with pass in hand, I was in.
My first impression as I entered the festival grounds was that Woodstock had come to St. Louis (minus the nude bathers in the creek). A bit of history on Loufest: this was the second year for this event, the festival is a two-day event, the festival is a decent mix of local talent and national acts. There were vendors on hand from the St. Louis area including a diverse mix of merchants from Whole Foods to Euclid Records were represented. The festival is also geared to the green movement with plenty of recycling stations. One green promotion I utilized to the fullest was the refillable water bottle station. Loufest provided an awesome press area complete with Wi-Fi hot spots and my second best friend on Saturday, an AC unit.
Saturday’s music commenced with John Hardy & the Public, who were representing St. Louis. John Hardy’s sound would be a draw in a musical boxing ring if they were to go up against R.E.M. JHATP chose to open the day’s festivities with an excellent cover of the Band’s “Don’t Do It”. Already a few of observations: things at a festival started slow, Loufest allows photographers to only shoot the first three songs of each band, and I’ve gotta get my ass moving to get my shots. One thing that was amazing to witness was watching the festival grounds fill up with people. At the onset of JHATP’s 12 o’clock set there were at most 200 people on hand. By day’s end, I estimate a good 5,000 people had found their way to Forest Park.
Loufest’s festival grounds included two stages of music, with each act playing an hour-long set; the headliners closed out each day by filing a ninety-minute slot. After each band on Saturday, I found myself heading back to the press area to cool off before moving over to the next stage. Saturday was a beautiful, hot day but also a day that was conducive to a great music festival vibe. As festival goers converged on the scene, it was almost humorous to watch the human migration from stage to stage. Later in the day, the migration ceased when the Loufest became full and more resembled a campground. Second band of the day was St. Louis’s Troubadour Dali. Troubadour Dali brought to the stage a sound reminiscent of the Animals crossbred with early Tom Petty. Filling the third opening was Sleepy Sun from California, with their unique brand of music to entertain the strengthening Loufest audience. Sleepy Sun was part jam band part Jefferson Airplane sprinkled with bursts of noise that hypnotized those that were listening.
Just as quickly as Loufest was hypnotized by Sleepy Sun they were about to be slapped back to reality by the ultra funky Kings Go Forth. Gracing the stage in matching all white island clothing, KGF brought straight up funk to an already hot afternoon. KGF took a page from the Sly and the Family Stone’s playbook: ‘bring it big, bring it powerful, bring it loud, and people will love it’. After my three song limit, I found myself out in front of the stage to catch a majority of KGF’s show. Before catching Dom’s set, I needed food, which wasn’t a problem, as food was in abundance at Loufest. Many local establishments were represented and brought their best culinary creations. I chose the Atomic Wrap from the Atomic Cowboy booth, a good choice and it lived up to its name with emphasis on the Atomic. When attending Loufest, be prepared to be shocked by the wallet-friendly food and drink prices. A $20 bill got me through both days.
Dom, from Massachusetts, had the unenviable task of following KGF. Dom took a time machine back to the 80’s to find their sound. Dom’s musical canvas is painted with Pet Shop Boys, Tears for Fears, signed with a dash of melodic noise. Up next, Surfer Blood remained true to their name with some amped up surf rock; think Beach Boys on steroids. DJ Questlove (drummer of the Roots) was in the St. Louis area and filled a void left by his band. The Roots were scheduled to perform as Saturday’s headliner, but chose not risk traveling during hurricane Irene. Can’t argue with that logic. Questlove apologized on behalf of the Roots and proceeded to let St. Louis know he was in da house. Questlove stated he was going to cover 85 years of musical history and made a valiant attempt to do so. Questlove had Loufest bouncing with remixes of songs by Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, and Kanye West.
Deerhunter took the stage as the sun was setting on day one of Loufest. Deerhunter’s sound could qualify as up-tempo stoner rock, if there is such a thing? Deerhunter’s live sound is a powerful one that is interlaced with sonic loops and delays that give you chills. Rounding out my 10+ hour day of photojournalism was the Hold Steady. It was clear from the onset of THS’s gig they were well-rested and ready to rock. THS’s frontman, Craig Finn, while onstage is a crazed preacher of the THS gospel. Mr. Finn moved at sonic speeds from one side of the stage to the other during THS’s 90-minute set. The Hold Steady did a great job covering for the Roots and concluding this hectic day at Loufest. As I left, Loufest echoes of the day follow me home and fuel dreams of what Day Two may have in store. Pictures of Day One are below:
John Hardy & the Public
Kings Go Forth
The Hold SteadyContributed by Duane Clawson