LouFest | 09.07-08.13

LouFest 75While the instantly recognized names on the lineup played their parts perfect and had stellar sets, the underdogs held their own in a diverse festival program.


LouFest 500

It may be easy enough for some to pass off LouFest as just another Midwestern music festival, but this past weekend, LouFest proved its worth on the music festival scene. This year saw LouFest grow in strides, including the quantity and quality of artists featured, taking up additional space in Forest Park’s Central Fields, and a slew of food options. The festival doubled in size from last year and new LouFest producers, C3 Presents, added a stage to not only add to the diverse lineup and to serve the increased audience but also to compete against the likes of other large, Midwestern festivals like Bonnaroo. C3 Presents are certainly no strangers to festivals – they produce perennial favorites Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. 31,000 people battled through the St. Louis heat/humidity concoction to see up and coming acts and were treated to massive acts including Alabama Shakes, The National, Wilco and The Killers.

Searching for LouFest reviews is sure to garner articles all espousing the same idea: Matt Berninger of The National sang amazingly and their horn section was astounding, Belleville darlings Wilco wowed the record breaking crowd and The Killers provided chaotic energy by opening the closing set with “Mr. Brightside.” That’s not to say that any of those sets were worth skipping, they weren’t. What I am saying, though, is that I’d like to show those smaller groups the same kind of love and adoration that was saved for later set times and what has been the gem of many of the LouFest reviews. With such a diverse lineup this year, it’s important that these newer artists are recognized for amping everyone up for those later sets, keeping everyone entertained, and even making a few new fans along the way.

Local bluegrass-tinged, punk band Kentucky Knife Fight came bursting out of the gates to open the festival on Saturday and were the first to grace the newly added BMI stage. The raucous quintet added some horns and strings to their regular arrangements to add to an already high energy level.

If there’s a band that succinctly defines the sound of current Nashville rock, Modoc is it. The four-some were nothing short of entertaining, straightforward rock with an edge of bravado teetering on the edge of cocky and cool. The soulful group out of Music City wasn’t breaking any mega-musical barriers but was musically tight and captivating to watch.

One of the most compelling, early acts of the festival, Robert DeLong, brought out the freaks who had been hiding at Forest Park’s fringes since The Flaming Lips closed out the fest last year. Boys and girls of all ages danced their way through DeLong’s set with face paint, psychedelic faux-tribal symbols on arms, legs and tummies. The indie-electro pop singer/songwriter had the crowd captivated with his beeps and bloops and instrumental proficiency, as well as his stage presence that included running back and forth, hyping up the crowd and jumping up and down. After DeLong laid down pulsating, gritty, energetic dance tracks, Trampled by Turtles picked up those chaotic remnants of energy and turned up the twang factor. The audience went as buck wild as the fiddle and banjo induced music on stage. Each song somewhat tumbled and did a sort of hoedown into the next but was played with even more ferocity than the last. Despite not being “new,” Ra Ra Riot was one of Saturday’s smaller bands to go on pre-marquee acts. Ra Ra Riot are so musically tight that the act seems to drag a bit, but that was no problem for much of the crowd, especially the guy right next to me who was drenched in Bud Light singing along to every song.

Sunday got off to a wet start, reminiscent of last year’s LouFest, but promised to be just as thrilling as the day before. San Francisco’s eight-piece act The Mowgli’s provided some sunshine on an otherwise rainy open to day two. The band’s sprightly inclination could be found beyond their cheerful pop music as they invited the audience to “do something nice for someone today.” (Note: Something very nice provided by LouFest? The return of the free water filling station. That thing was a life saver yet again.) Later in the afternoon, Court Yard Hounds, two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks, took the Bud Light Stage to some surprise. For whatever reason, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison didn’t think people knew who they were and even quipped “Who walked over here because they were curious?” Court Yard Hounds played their expertly crafted folksy tunes to a sizeable crowd seemingly eager to hear more at the end of their nearly hour long set.

While the instantly recognized names on the lineup played their parts perfect and had stellar sets, the underdogs held their own in a diverse festival program. LouFest has never had a shortage of passionate fans nor memorable music moments. While this year’s fest had a bit of a boot-stompin’ twang edge to it, the festival beckoned to a much larger audience and it paid off tremendously. | Jenn Metzler


Photos: Teresa Montgomery

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