After we escaped the scene in the “Dance Forest” we made our way back to the stage where Ludacris was finishing up. Up next was M.I.A, whom most of us had on our list to see. Now I had heard her album Kala a couple of years ago, and like most people know the song “Paper Planes” which was featured in Slumdog Millionaire and Pineapple Express. But I hadn’t given her newest album Maya a listen yet, which apparently a much more of a techno edge to it.
I’ll say this right off the bat. M.I.A.’s performance gets top billing for the most interesting show I witnessed that night. This isn’t exactly a compliment either. First off, she started 30-45 minutes late. Her DJ sidekick was up there spinning some dance beats trying to keep the crowd entertained. Randomly, there were also three “people” up on stage at the microphones, but covered in full body, multi-colored berkas and motionless. I thought they were mannequins for a while. I’ll get back to them in a moment.
Eventually, Maya, the lead singer, came out on stage and began performing. The first few songs I didn’t recognize (actually I didn’t recognize most of the songs in the performance), but they had a good beat to them and most of the crowd was getting into it. Nothing was really out of the ordinary at first.
Then, Maya started to get a little weird. She kept asking for the sound people and the audience to turn up the volume. That itself doesn’t sound that weird, but from the way she kept yelling it, one really started to get the sense that she wasn’t exactly sober. But that was still speculation at this point.
Things started to get really bizarre in the next few songs however. Remember those three motionless berka figures that were just standing there? Yeah, at this point, they whipped out power drills and pretended to start shooting into the audience. You know that face that Jim Halpert on The Office makes?
That was the look on the faces of most of the people around me. Oh and before I forget, it was pretty clear someone on stage kept getting a text message (I’d like to think it was Maya just to keep the weirdness going). And no, the “bleep” noise could not have been part of any of the songs because it happened so randomly. But because the show already took a weird turn, it was probably the least strange thing happening.
So for her “last song”, she actually invited people in the audience on stage with her. Let’s just say I was holding my breath the whole time while a flood of drunk fans rushed to try and get on stage. It could have been bad. Luckily it wasn’t and the group did their best to try and impress the audience with their not-so coordinated dancing skills. Eventually, Maya finished up and walked off stage with her crew. Now this is where people were confused. Was she coming back? Was there an encore? This was the Virgin Freefest, so there probably shouldn’t have been an encore because of the time constraints and her already starting late. But the lights were still down, and the set wasn’t being cleaned up. So we all stood around for the next 15 minutes to see what would happen.
Our patience was rewarded with Maya stumbling back out. And I mean, she literally, kinda stumbled back out…in her pajamas…with a bottle of patron in her hand. Literally her first few words to the audience as she came back out were “I have a bottle of tequila! I’m in my pajamas!”
So needless to say, I’m giddy as hell watching this. C’mon, it’s a free show, so I couldn’t really expect too much. Maya continues to perform, with the bottle in her hand, cell phone going off, and weird berka people still standing behind her. She tries once again to get people on stage, but this time security puts a wall up in the front row that the Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” would be proud of. So Maya went into the crowd instead, and performed for her last song “Paper Planes” while rolling on a group of spectators. Now this is where I can probably say most of the people in my group got disappointed. After waiting around, and watching the shitshow unfold on stage, I think people were really excited to hear “Paper Planes” and she botched it up. It’s hard to be on key when you’re crowd surfing with a dude’s hand grabbing your breast. After she finished singing, the security guard, literally, carried her off stage and her DJ sidekick awkwardly invited the crowd to some bar down the street for the “after party”. I think after that show, we’d all had enough partying. My grading here is going to be a little schitzo. The performance gets a C, but the show from a purely entrainment, “what just happened?” standpoint gets an A.
I don’t even know how to follow up with the fact that we caught the end of the LCD Soundsystem on the way out. I’ll make three quick comments about them. From what I heard, I thought they were pretty good. We caught “Losing my Edge”,but I unfortunately didn’t get to hear “Daft Punk is Playing at my House”.
Once again, the lead singer is nothing like what I pictured. Even more so then the lead singer from Temper Trap, this guy was not the hipster, nerdy white dude I envisioned. The dude was a straight-up lumberjack.
Finally, in hindsight, I wish we had left M.I.A. early to catch more of LCD Soundsystem. From most reports, they had put on the best performance of the entire festival (aside from the random few that loved Pavement. Why were they there again?). From the fragment I saw, LCD gets a B+.
But all in all, I got to see some great acts, hear performances from artists I wouldn’t normally get to see in real life, and witness things I wouldn’t normally witness on a typical Saturday in September. So, I feel like I got my money’s worth. Oh wait a sec, it was free. 🙂