"This is a song I wrote about Miles Davis," explains Greg Dulli, frontman for '90s alt rock gods the Afghan Whigs, before launching into a grizzly-yet-soulful rendition of the tune "Milez Iz Dead," one that cemented his band, and its 1992 album Congregation, as something far more than a forgettable product of the grunge era. "Don't forget the alcohol/Ooh baby, ooh baby," belted Dulli in his signature raspy croon as the band, dressed in black, sweated and shredded in front of an impressive tower of white amps.
The sex appeal that oozed from Dulli's pores 20 years ago is, well, more of a drip these days—years of drug abuse will do that, I suppose. But the mysterious core is still there—largely a product of Dulli's obsession with the criminal mind and its paranoia toward the late '90s—and these guys somehow managed to permeate the blazing festival grounds with their icy themes, soaring through a set that drifted between seminal albums Congregation, Gentleman and Black Love. This was largely an adults-only crowd, there to roll a joint, discuss their favorite songs and (shock!) pay attention and sing along to the music. There was very minimal extraneous chatter and iPhoning—something I can't say about the other sets I've witnessed. Particularly compelling was the run Dulli took behind the piano, gently fluttering his fingers across its keys while whispering "If I ever face reality/That will be the death of me," from the band's moody cover of soul classic "See and Don't See." Even the 45+-year-old guy next to me—whose white tube socks and black sweatpants (sweatpants!) were a pretty clear indication that he does not give a fuck—was impressed.