On Saturday, the bustling northern 'burb of Frisco hosted many thousands of modern-rock lovers at Toyota Stadium for the annual, all-day Edgefest aural orgy (the 24th installment, no less).
Saturday's festival roster proved to be one that, maybe more than any recent Edgefest, bridged the generational gap of those who began listening to the station in the early 1990's and the teenagers who are only now learning why some old dude was the star of the night.
More than a dozen bands performed over the course of nine hours on two stages situated on either end of the soccer stadium's floor. As is the case with just about any day-long affair, there were ups and downs to accompany the ebbs and flows. Here are five acts that encapsulated the mostly prize-filled grab-bag that was Edgefest 24.
Grouplove: Led by guitarist/lead-shouter Christian Zucconi (who with his stringy, wildly-dyed hair and high-pitch wail, was eerily reminiscent of "She Don't Use Jelly"-era Wayne Coyne), and unitard-sporting, keyboard playing and occasionally rapping Hannah Hooper, Grouplove's brand of bubble-gum rock was rather fun. Their songs sound happy, even if the subject matter isn't always so peachy. More than any of the daytime slotted acts, Grouplove felt as though they truly belonged on the main stage. Zucconi and crew lent an effortless energy to the day. Though only two studio albums into their time together, the band was able to strut like headliners as they rattled off "Itching on a Photograph," "Tongue Tied," and "Colours," with uncontained joy that spread through the stadium.
Chvrches: The Scottish electro-dance outfit, starring diminutive singer Lauren Mayberry proffered a quick, tight set of infectious tunes and left no questions as to why the buzzing noise you probably hear is the pop-world chattering about them. But, as is the case with almost any electronic-based band, playing under the sun, rendering any lighting or video accompaniment completely useless, some life was sapped from their 6:00 p.m. set. Not that the band seemed to care. Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, who flanked Mayberry onstage with their keyboards and synths, bounced and hyped the crowd with authentic zeal. After seeing a girl near the stage get kicked in the head by a crowd surfer, Mayberry sweetly but firmly reminded the crowd, "You're good time isn't any more important than everyone else's good time." The trio closed out with a perfectly-pitched "Recover" as thousands sang along loudly. Interestingly enough, the brand of electronic pop Chvrches excels in would've been a fantastic fit on some of the earliest Edgefest bills, such as the 1993 fest when 808 State also came across the pond with their shimmering keyboards.
Bastille: There has to be a language spoken on this earth where "Bastille" translates into "languishing in an extended state of boredom, brought on by listening to benign, flavorless and forgettable fluff that will likely fail to be remotely relevant in the very near future." If there isn't, then it's time to crack open the Urban Dictionary and get to work. Led by the majestically bland Brit Dan Smith, Bastille represents all that is bad about these types of radio station-sponsored affairs. There wasn't a performance offering less life than Bastille's all day. The group's middle-of-the-road approach has won them tons of fans and accolades thanks to the toothless hit song "Pompeii." The kids love it, and commercial stations such as 102.1 love spinning it a dozen times per hour as seemingly every other television commercial and movie trailer showcases snippets from the song. The song, and the group, has benefitted from the same psychology that keeps middling, safe shows such as "Two and a Half Men" on the air for so long. Bastille plays music that moms don't mind playing in their minivans while the kids figure it's better than nothing.
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Cage the Elephant: A badass, no bullshit band who represents exactly the opposite of what Bastille does, the Kentucky-born Cage the Elephant, and lead-singer Matthew Schultz specifically, brought the rock -- loudly and splendidly. The band, formed in 2006, busted out hit songs that will be enjoyed for years to comw. Proof of as much was in the reaction given to their first hit, "Aint No Rest for the Wicked." That tune is now six years old, which is a lengthy time with the alt-pop-rock-whatever radio music of today. More than any other band on the bill Saturday, CTE could've headlined if it weren't for a single-named rock innovator being present. Perhaps after another great album in the next year or two, Cage the Elephant will headline festivals such as this. The size of the crowd for Schultz and crew's second stage-closing set rivaled the size of both the Avett Brothers and Beck's main stage slots, which bookended CTE's too-short slot. But even lengthy sets for bands this engaging sail by quickly. Nary could a false note was detected as the band took time in the middle of their set to chill a bit with some of their more melodically psychedelic offerings from last year's Melophobia, including the crowd-enrapturing "Come a Little Closer." By the time the group closed with 2010's "Shake Me Down," a shirtless Schultz proved to be so magnetic that the space in front of the main stage across the stadium was near empty, though Beck was due to start within minutes.
Beck: Any notions of this Edgefest being a quieter, gentler one went out the window for real shortly after Beck, who also headlined Edgefest in 1997, began. Saturday night, it was Beck the Icon on hand, not Beck the Laurel Canyon folkie, bringing the funk, the noise and the thick-ass grooves. Opening with the transcendent one-two combo of "The Devil's Haircut" and "Loser," the anthem that launched Mr. Hansen's career two decades ago, the crowd of all ages was scooped up into Beck's dancing palms. Other tunes such as "Girl" and "E-Pro" from 2005's Guero were given a stripped-down garage rock treatment which pumped life into the songs that didn't need the new pulse, but certainly benefitted from the slight live-show modifications. Even the slowest songs performed, "Blue Moon" from the new album, and the best "slow song" of Beck's entire catalog, "Lost Cause," from 2002's seminal Sea Change, bellowed a robust moodiness that prevented a lull from taking over in the middle of Beck's late night slot. The best surprise of the night wasn't the freshness of even his oldest tunes, but the way in which he and his tight band turned almost every number into a legitimately psychedelic experience with a great emphasis on swimming organ keys and a freaky, galloping bass guitar that oozed a not-of-this-world groove.