Day Two Photos:
After a painfully slow start to our day, which involved a catch-up brunch with one of my lady’s college friends, which unexpectedly turned into a pitch for some kind of pyramid scheme. They tried to make it less, I don’t know, shitty by saying it was “more of a trapezoid than a pyramid. Because we don’t collect a buy-in.” What a shitty thing to do an old friend. It was like being stuck in that godforsaken portapotty all over again.
We returned to our (real) friend’s apartment for a few much-needed after brunch whiskey shots while we got everything together and washed the skeezy funk off our psyches.
Instead of taking an Uber, we drove to the park and ride lot and took a school bus shuttle the rest of the way. We arrived some amount of time into Tanlines’ main stage set. I’d have headed straight there, but I decided I needed a couple more ounces of hard alcohol in me. The only place to get that was backstage in the media tent, or in VIP. I opted for the former, as it was all comped. It seemed everybody else was giving their psyches an alcohol flush, because there was a couple pretty serious lines at the bar.
I think I edited 35 pictures on my phone by the time I got to the front, and as soon as I saw the post-apocalypse state of the bar, I understood completely. The bartender was turning in slow circles with a stunned expression on his face, like a deer in headlights who forgot to put his contacts in. The day before, there at been rows of soda, juice, and Red Bull in neat lines laid out before him, and a similarly organized selection of alcohol behind him. Today, however, the front table looked like any surface at a house party at 4am. Behind him, he had 1/4 bottle of whiskey, a half bottle of gin, and a tipped over bottle of a mystery alcohol with no cap on it.
Before I could get a word out, he quickly interjected, “No vodka, sorry! He’s on his way with it…” he trailed off, then looked around for “he” who was presumably delivering the vodka, then checked his watch, and came back, “…I don’t know. He’s on his way, I guess.” This man was defeated, and it was clear he’d been suffering the backlash of a deluge of grumpy media and artists for some time. A regular-sized, not just a bar towel, but a full bathroom towel hung from his shoulder, completely soaked. He also appeared to be as wet as the towel, and his tip jar was pitifully low. If there was an award for worst day at Mamby, I think this guy would have run away with it. I’d say the person who ruined the portapotty may have been worse, but I’m convinced he or she never made it in the gates.
Tanlines provided the soundtrack for my long wait and painful exchange at the bar in the media lounge, and were long gone by the time I got to the front of the main stage.
I popped over to the Space Tent a couple minutes into Route 94‘s set. If you think you don’t know Route 94, chances are you’re wrong. You likely know him from his collaboration with Jess Glynne on the gorgeous, insta-house-classic, “My Love.” He has a decent catalog of work, and plenty of great songs, but that’s been the only one to really catch on commercially.
Route 94’s name in “real life” is Rowan Tyler Jones, who got his start as a dubstep producer under the name Dream, signed to Skrillex’s OWSLA label. At some point, he decided his heart was in deep house, and decided to go that direction instead. I’m happy he did, because he had one of the more engaging and fluid sets of Sunday.
I was up front snapping photos when somebody tugged on my shirt sleeve. A girl in the front row yelled something I couldn’t understand, so I leaned in close. She yelled right into my ear, “IS THIS ROUTE 94?” Ah, I couldn’t understand what the hell she was saying because she had an Australian accent. I turned around and his logo was on the screen behind him. Maybe she thought it was a typo. I nodded yes, and she asked, “ARE YOU SURE?” I pulled away a bit, my brow furled in confusion, and I answered while nodding the affirmative, “Y-E-S.”
I found my way back to my crew, who were up against the rail on the right side of the stage and I relayed my story of the Aussie nonbeliever, and my lady said she just had a similar interaction with somebody, though her exchange was a little more honest. “Is this Route 94?” Lady said it was, and the girl said, “Has he already played ‘My Love?’ No? When is he going to play it?” Lady just shrugged her shoulders. Random girl was not impressed. I went to point out who’d asked me, and she was pretty easy to find, as she was asking somebody else who was on stage. He nodded yes, too.
Rowan’s hour-long set came and went quickly, and without so much as a verse or a beat from “My Love.” I wasn’t bothered, but there was a collective sigh of disappointment from the crowd. Random girl turned on her heel as soon as the music cut out and stomped off, I assume to file a complaint. The Aussie was nowhere to be seen, presumably headed in the same direction.
Cut Copy as a band creates a pleasant sort of electro indie pop kind of sound, but as a DJ duo, it’s more of a James Murphy-esque house party selection. Which, I will reiterate, is perfect for a beach party. The two band members traded off every song or two, coolly surveying the crowd and making adjustments accordingly. The graphics behind them seemed to be of a beach theme circa the 1960’s, along the lines of “Beach Blanket Bingo.”
I stepped out to catch a couple minutes of Cherub. Yup, they’re still the same party-loving, self-deprecating duo that I remembered from the other ten times I’ve seen them play. It’s good to check in, though, just to see if you missed any big developments or personnel changes. None found, so I made my way back to Cut Copy’s beach party in the Space Tent.
I was stoked to be get to see Phantogram a second time in two weeks. I’d just caught them at Electric Forest at the end of June, where they put on a standout performance. One half of the heart and soul of the group, Josh Carter, was still away taking care of some kind of family issues, but Sarah Barthel and Nicholas Shelestak did fine job of picking up the slack.
They had a much more mellow start at Mamby than their sort of crash landing into the Forest, and kept a more even and measured up and down in tempo and intensity. Sarah is an incredible performer, with her intensity, her smile, and her amazing rock and roll hair. It was the thought about her hair that I realized I’d just joined the unofficial crush on Sarah Barthel club. When I looked around, I saw I was not alone in this. Everybody seemed to be doe-eyed and grinning like an idiot, save for one guy up against the rail, pleading with outstretched arms to everybody around him, to “Look at her, just look at her, she’s so perfect, hey you’re perfect! You’re perfect and I love you!” He was less than thrilled that I decided to document his pleading, but that’s the game you play when you pour your heart out in front of thousands of people and also the photo pit.
I found my lady-friend about halfway back through the crowd, still not too far from the stage. She pointed out a guy whose love for Sarah Barthel gave him the strength to hoist almost every person around him up onto his shoulders so they too could behold and bask in her glory. Girl, guy, large, small, it didn’t seem to matter. He’d offered to get Lady up on his shoulders, but she was able to diffuse him by telling him she saw her up close at Electric Forest. Apparently that was enough, and he grabbed a guy by the shoulders to convince him to get up.
Later, Lady explained I was a photographer, and showed him a photo I’d snapped of Sarah with my phone. He thought it was amazing and asked if he could get a copy. He handed me his card, shook my hand, and disappeared into the crowd.
After spending a little time sitting in the sand, and appreciating the fact that we were on a beach, we dipped back into the Space Tent one more time for Art Department. I’m not going to lie, I don’t remember a whole lot from their show, and I hadn’t heard much of their music prior to the festival. I watched their Boiler Room set and was impressed, but this was nothing like that. Nothing stood out, nothing was remarkable. It was just a series of songs that I didn’t feel any pull to get into.
We left a couple songs in and ran smack into Lindsey and Smiles, who were ecstatic to see us again, and advised we go check out Zebo + Edie at the Beach House stage, the festival’s smallest stage set away from the beach in the grass. We heeded their advice, since we didn’t have any better ideas, and they were in a great mood. I trusted Lindsey’s advice based solely on the music he was playing the night before. The male/female duo kicked out a steady supply of house classics, and were thoughtful enough to call out the titles as they played them.
We split to get back to the Main Stage one last time for Passion Pit. I’ve seen them play amazing shows (Electric Forest 2013) and terrible shows (Coachella the same year), so I approached the stage cautiously. I was also in a bit of a funk with the festival coming to a close, and calendar alerts popping up for work the next day, on top of a lack of sleep and hangover I’d had for the past hour.
Cold, hard reality was crashing down on me, Michael Angelakos and the rest of Passion Pit were doing their damndest to lift me back up. Thankfully, it worked, mentally and physically pulling me in. We started about halfway up the left side, and by the time they played their final song, complete with a fireworks show, and a singalong, and lots of hugs. Life can drive you to be pretty cynical at times, and it’s comforting when music can have that intended effect of pulling that cynicism out, and helping to open you up to experience life in a more sincere and honest way.
Instead of braving the bus lines on our way out, we opted to walk the mile and change up the Lakefront Trail to the park and ride lot. Just as we’d gotten out of sight of the festival grounds, who do we find but Lindsey and Smiles, bluetooth pumping more great music. “Heeeey! Where are you guys headed?” They asked.
“Where the hell did you guys come from?” We answered. Where did they come from? The festival they were just at was in the opposite direction. Then we let them know we were headed back to the car, then driving home. Once again, they got a little dejected, but told us to have fun and then bopped down the path towards Mamby.
All in all, I felt it was a good first festival. The lineup was good, the stages were well done, although they could use a little tweaking with sound levels. On anything but loud, loud songs, you could hear the music bleeding in from the other stages. Attendance was pretty light, which was great for getting around, and it was wonderful to have that much room to dance, but it seemed awfully light. So much so that my confidence isn’t high that we will see Mamby 2016. I hope so. With a few minor improvements, and by adding a more streamlined transportation process, React Presents could have a summer event highlight in an already packed Chicago summer schedule.
Officially, our walk was more like a mile and a half. I’d lost one of my flip flops, so I opted to go at it barefoot. Not my best decision, but I did it, anyway. We crossed a couple streets and a bridge to get to the lot entrance, and who do we find walking out of the lot, but Lindsey and Smiles, party in hand. They were even more excited this time, and insisted on farewell hugs. They were riding the shuttles north and walking south to keep the party going for everybody. They weren’t mascots so much as emotional cheerleaders. That’s what will elevate Mamby to the next level. Hire Lindsey and Smiles to get your message out, one busload at a time.
I work, live and play in Minneapolis.
I try to tell the story of the people that create music and experiences through pictures as well as through words.