All Points West Day 1, Part 2: Radiohead, Girl Talk, Andrew Bird, CSS
I was pretty excited to see Cansei de Ser Sexy at APW. I'd never seen the Brazilian electro-pop outfit before, and I was hoping their live show would live up to their irreverent albums. I wasn't disappointed, though I was surprised that a group called "tired of being sexy" (the name was allegedly copped from a Beyonce quote) was actually pretty sexy. Lovefoxxx, the band's lead singer, performed the whole show in a sort of frilly spotted rainbow garment (think Bjork) that matched the balloons strung all over the stage. "Meeting Paris Hilton" kicked off a crowd-pleasing set that encouraged dancing, as evidenced by the two girls in neon green leotards that gyrated onstage throughout. Before kicking into a heavy version of "Rat is dead (Rage)", the first single from the group's most recent album, Lovefoxxx explained "This song is about a dry vagina." Work it out for yourself.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Andrew Bird, largely because we went to the same college, but also because he's a talented motherfucker. At APW he started with a solo number, looping violin, guitar, xylophone and his eerie, high-pitched whistling into dense textures that sounded more like jazz than folk-rock. Bird has added a lot of crazy looking gear to his live set since the last time I saw him - including this thing -which has the effect of making him look a little like a loony ringmaster of some ridiculous three-ring act. Bird pushes himself musically in live shows, stretching out fast parts and squeezing extra notes in whenever he can. The APW set was thoughtful and loud, and included fan favorites from both of his most recent albums and new stuff that he is still working on. If you don't already, you should start reading the NYT's Measure for Measure blog about songwriting, which Bird posts to regularly.
Before Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis, played an hour of his questionably legal mashups for an adoring APW crowd, he confessed his love of a nearby city and, um, a recent monster flick. "I love being her in New York, the home of Cloverfield! Fucking Cloverfield took place here! Look at the Statue of Liberty - in Cloverfield her fucking head got knocked off!" I honestly couldn't tell if he was joking or not. Regardless, Gillis proceeded to give the most outrageous show at APW yet. Here's a list of things that were onstage at some point during the hour-long gig: at least 300 crazily dressed festival goers, 50-odd beach balls, four enormous, inflatable plastic tubes, a kid riding a large inflatable goldfish and - I'm quoting from my notes here - "quite a few trannies." Fun was had by all.
The band that needs no ID, photo by Rebecca Smeyne
Finally, it was time for the main act. There's really not much I can say about Radiohead that hasn't already been said. Yes, they're probably the best rock band in the world right now. Thom Yorke is a god among men, as are the rest of the guys. The band's first night headlining APW lived up to the hype. If they require a private compound to play like they played on Friday night, so be it.
Radiohead performed most of the tracks from In Rainbows, their most recent album, out late last year, and also threw in quite a few old gems in their two-hour-plus set. Standout tracks in a standout show included "Just", "Videotape", "Lucky" and "Bodysnatchers". Jonny Greenwood, the band's mind-numbingly talented lead guitarist (and film composer extraordinaire), has become the group's electronics man over the past few years and spent at least half the show hunkered over a laptop and assorted gadgets. A high point was the interplay between Greenwood's piercing guitar work and Yorke's falsetto wail on ballads like "Nude" (which inevitably turned into a massive, tragic anthem). Thom would finish a verse, trailing off on a long vowel, and Jonny, head bowed and hair in his eyes, would pick up on the same note, carrying the line into the chorus or into a towering, chaotic solo. Epic stuff, as expected - and this was only the first night.