Hideout Block Party 2012 | Photos and review | Iron and Wine, Cave, The War on Drugs, Glen Hansard
Once again calling hip folkies city-wide to the tucked-away corner of Wabansia and Ada Streets, The Hideout Block Party returned Friday for its 16th year—the first to be combined with The Onion’s A.V. Fest. With Chicago titans Wilco left to close out the festival Saturday night, Friday’s bill brought a wealth of Chicago mainstays and scene vets to the stage (with ever-enthusiastic Hideout co-owner and festival emcee Tim Tuten careful to point out each Chicago connection before each set). Aided by bike valets, a kids’ area, food trucks from Big Star and Goose Island, and plenty of beer from the soon-to-be-local Lagunitas Brewing Company (their specially crafted Block Party Ale is already a hit this weekend), festivalgoers had plenty to keep them distracted between sets—or at least heavily buzzed.
The War on Drugs
One of the few acts present on Friday’s bill without an immediate connection to Chicago, Philly ramblers The War On Drugs continued the driving momentum of CAVE’s set earlier in the afternoon, playing through the majority of last fall’s excellent Slave Ambient as the sun set opposite the stage. Front-dude Adam Granduciel had plenty of shred-tastic licks between the stoner drawl of his verses in nearly every song, often looping over himself to towering effect. Often it seemed like there had to be more than four guys up there generating so much noise. But, nope, there they were: the perpetually denim-clad Granduciel, a touring keyboardist “who kinda looks like Jack Nitzsche” (according to Granduciel), staid but solid bassist Dave Hartley and drummer Mike Zanghi mixing analog fills with triggered drum loops. The Drugs turned in a striking set, turning heads with what was easily the most straight-ahead rock performance of the day, as well as the loudest.
Proving he’s just fine, thank you, with setting out sans Once counterpart Markéta Irglová, Hansard took to the stage surrounded by as many as twelve musicians at any one time, including a three-piece horn section, a three-piece string section, and additional harmonies that sound “just like being in church without the religion of the church,” the Irish busking vet quipped. With a worn-right-through hole so big you can see its inner bracing from 20 yards away, Hansard’s guitar seemed to be giving him trouble during a daring cover of “Astral Weeks” (which approached, no kidding, some of the same emotional highs of Van Morrison’s legendary recording) despite his insistence that “this one never lets me down.” And for the rest of the show—which included a Delta-grooving take on “Don’t Do It,” the Holland-Dozier-Holland-penned Band classic—it didn’t. Ever the showman, Hansard engaged the crowd with stories and jokes, at one point even pulling off a political plea to vote come November, saying “If there’s any Democrat in you at all, now’s the fuckin’ time.” By that point, he probably knew he was preaching to the choir.
Iron & Wine
After the spectacle of the Redmoon Theater’s performance immediately following Glen Hansard’s set (probably best described as a sort of steampunk Chinese dragon with drumming), Sam Beam began his set with a stunning a capella version of “Radio War.” Apart from a few compliments for the earlier bands (The War on Drugs “sound like they’re winning,” etc.), Beam mostly kept mum, turning in a decidedly low-energy set of his unique brand of millennial Southern Gothic folk tunes despite help from a handful of Chicago musicians. Maybe sensing that the void left by Hansard’s swelling horns and strings might be too large, Beam brought out his own horn section toward the end of his set for a rousing take of Kiss Each Other Clean’s “Mary Anne.” Consummate showman he is not, but he suffered little for it—you could hear a pin drop even in the typically noisier outskirts of the crowd during his one-song encore of “The Trapeze Swinger.” Altogether a far more hushed and nuanced—though no less on point — performance than the earlier acts, Beam closed out the first night to a sleepier (and drunker) crowd no doubt tamed by the last few hours of soft-rocking jams and a full day of Block Partying.
Check back here at the Audiofile blog tomorrow for photos and reviews of Saturday’s lineup.