A common grievance at all the biggest rock fests – you know, the kind that River’s Edge hopes to become – only happened once for me during this weekend’s festival: The Flaming Lips performed on the Chipotle Stage (a.k.a. the second stage) at nearly the exact same time late Sunday afternoon when the Delta Spirit was over on the Lynx Stage (a.k.a. the Raspberry Island stage).
The conflict in this case was especially annoying, since I was stuck watching Awolnation and Puscifer earlier in the day for lack of anything else, two bands that I don’t believe are deserving of a 7th Street Entry gig, much less the River’s Edge Bishop Stage (a.k.a. the main stage). Never mind that Puscifer leader Maynard James Keenan rocked the big stage like no other the night before with Tool. Seriously, hombre, stick with that horse you rode in on.
In the case of the Lips and the Delta Spirit, I opted more for the band that has put out an interesting record within the past five years over the one that’s been executing more or less the same live show for the last five years (winner: Delta Spirit, which has actually put out a stellar album within the last five months). In the end, I was able to catch the beginning and end of the Lips performance, though. Here’s what I saw of each, and some of the other highlights from Sunday at the fest.
THE FLAMING LIPS: Damn that riverfront breeze. It didn’t seem all that strong, but the wind managed to sweep away much of the Okie acid-punks’ show-opening balloon drop and confetti by the end of the opening song, “Race for the Prize.” The next two tunes, “She Don’t Use Jelly” and “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” were marvelous enough to stand up on their own, though, and that’s when Wayne Coyne climbed into his famous inflatable space ball and rolled out atop the crowd’s hands. Point taken: Even the old Lips gimmicks are still irresistible, especially with an audience made up of a lot of Lips newbies. The band’s set ended with the hazy dirge “The Ego’s Last Stand” before an encore of “Do You Realize?”
THE DELTA SPIRIT: No gimmicks here, just an elegant and dramatic two-guitar band from San Diego that sounded magical reverberating off the bluffs and bridges around Raspberry Island. Too bad their lively set was sparsely attended – which was also true when they played last summer’s Soundtown Festival (which also coincidentally featured the Lips; but not at same time). Time for a First Ave show, Delta boys. The latter half of their set was highlighted by the rowdy howler “People C’mon,” the stormy epic “Bushwick Blues” and the downbeat but shimmering new single “California.”
POLICA: The local electro-rock quartet snagged a slot on the least-shaded stage (Chipotle) at the hottest time of the day (3:30 p.m.). Having spent much of its first year in existence on the road, though, the band didn’t melt from being in the uncomfortable position, nor did the members sweat the lack of a soundcheck. The unreleased song that opened their set – one of four played – was a bit rough, but their unique sonic mix was evened out by Song No. 2, “Dark Star.” More than ever, the drummerly opus “Leading to Death” led the pack. Just as Motion City Soundtrack’s Justin Pierre did on the same stage Saturday, Poliça singer Channy Leaneagh also offered up a locals-only reference point to Harriet Island: “I lived over here on the West Side [of St. Pau] for two years,” she said. “I was an AmeriCorp volunteer, and then I thought I was a gangster. It was a very confusing time.”
DUELING DRUMMERS x 2: Funny coincidence that right after Poliça, I trucked over to Raspberry Island for Illinois-bred rapper K. Flay, who looks a bit like a young Kim Deal and sounds more than a bit like a rockier Dessa. Her only backing musician was a drummer -- and Ms. Flay herself also spent much of the set banging on her own standup drum kit. The dueling percussion was just one of the set's many intriguing traits, and the irony wasn't lost on me that of the two rappers at River's Edge, both happened to be women (also: Rye Rye on Saturday). Take note, Soundset organizers.
LATINO ROCK x 2: After Kinky's lively set on Saturday, it was nice to arrive on Sunday to the sounds of another band befitting of the festival's heavily Hispanic West St. Paul backdrop. In this case, it was the Mexican Institute of Sound, masterminded by Mexico City's DJ/producer Camilo Lara. His live trio mashed up techno, Latino rock and hip-hop into one mighty bombastic performance, and the diverse audience responded rabidly, even shouting, "Otra! Otra!" for an encore. Take note, every festival organizer in the Twin Cities.
Look for our final assessment of the inaugural River's Edge Fest in Monday's newspaper or online here.