Monday, 10 September 2012 08:39

LouFest 2012: Singing in the Rain

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St. Louis hasn’t often been pegged as a hot spot for national music acts, but as this year’s incarnation of the aptly named LouFest- a two-day music festival in Forest Park’s Central Field- showed, that may well change very soon. This was just the third year of the annual event that has previously hosted amphitheater groups like Broken Social Scene and Cat Power, and it is showing every indication of creeping into the national music-festival spotlight.

The lineup for day one was a somewhat bizarre mix, reflected in the hodgepodge of people that made up the relatively sparse crowd. Groups of 40 something men in cargo pants and worn band T-shirts hung by the stages next to more scantily clad teens and 20 somethings to hear King Tuff, Son Volt, Dinosaur Jr., Wild Nothing, and Phantogram, among others. All seemed to enjoy themselves despite the off-and-on rain. Children were everywhere, my favorite of which wore a full-blown Superman costume and cape. It was a strange mix indeed, but one that worked well with the ‘let’s try to make everyone happy’ attitude that is common of St. Louis events.

Then came day two, which boasted a more buzz worthy lineup- and a much larger crowd. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin was charming as usual, followed by a less exciting but well received set by Wild Nothing. New York based Cults played a particularly appropriate “Go Outside” as more storm clouds crept across the sky. The rain cut Dawes’s set short and delayed Dr. Dog a bit, but it was a minor setback, especially considering hiccups of years past- such as the short notice cancellation of headliner The Roots in 2011. Even the mood as hundreds of damp concert-goers crammed into the big-brand marketing tents was friendly. Once it was clear and the sun had nearly descended to dusk, the spectacle that is a Flaming Lips show began. There are no words to express, so let me just say this: smoke, confetti canons, lasers, giant hands that shot lasers out of them, balloons, dancers, big screens, Wayne Coyne in a giant plastic bubble rolling over the crowd. You know, typical Flaming Lips stuff. The night ended with a cheerful if emotional version of “Do You Realize” that pretty much left everyone in the audience wanting to hug each other.

It seems that LouFest creator and organizer Brian Cohen has struck a balance between selecting a lineup palatable to the St. Louis hipster set, while still holding on to a family-friendly feel. Power to him, I say. LouFest was all in all a good, albeit not groundbreaking, music festival experience. It certainly wasn’t the gridlocked mardi-gras that South by Southwest and Lollapalooza have become; which incidentally is my favorite part. I was overjoyed in the relative ease with which I could park, get a beer, and find a place to stand. If LouFest is, as it appears to be, a stepping-stone for St. Louis on the way to becoming a bona fide “music town”, a role that has lately eluded us, my question is this: is that what we want it to be? Probably, but I for one will miss some of the old perks.