Popped! Music Festival got off to a rocky start, before the first peal of reverb ripped through the air. Due to a flood inducing, very rainy forecast, festival organizers made the decision to move the event indoors to the Liacouras Center on Temple University’s Main Campus. That meant no more Food Bazaar and one stage instead of three. And all this rapid fire change took place in what seemed to be an impressive 24-hour time span. The result could’ve been chaotic and disorganized, but such was not the case. It was as if the Liacouras Center had been part of the plan all along.
Dead Confederate opened the festival late Friday afternoon, opting to play Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night front to back. Well, that was the intention until the festival was relocated indoors and their set time was whittled down to 30 minutes. The concept was cool, but I would have liked to hear some original tunes out of them. The band is a septet from Georgia, and although you can hear the southern in their style, they don’t seem too heavily rooted in it. They have a chill, haunting vibe that is very nouveau-grunge. And dare I say I hear hints of Kurt Cobain in the lead singer, Hardy Morris’ voice…?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. were the total package. Neon checkered jackets? Check. Lots and lots of bubbles? Check and check. The bubbles bumped the duo’s feel good vibe up to 11, and their rendition of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” only added to the endearing little bromance they seem to have going.
Company of Thieves may be in their mid-twenties, but they rocked it as good as, if not better than, some of their veteran rock & roll counterparts. Singer Genevieve Schatz packs quite an energy injected wallop for such a tiny person, and I think it’s safe to say that all in attendances’ collective jaw hit the floor that such a tiny person could fill up a stage so much. Everyone was buzzing about their set and were especially buzzing about Schatz as a lead singer, who channelled the likes of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick, and even a little Scott Weiland when she whipped out a megaphone. Schatz is a bonafide powerhouse and she’s joined by a band who rises up to meet her. These guys are the ones to watch, and if you don’t know about Company of Thieves yet, you should.
The Joy Formidable would have been a great follow for the rockin’ energy Schatz & Co. created but alas, they opted out of their performance. Speculation was swirling as to the reason and there were murmurings that it was due to lack of getting a soundcheck but a formal reason was never given. The band did issue the following veiled apology on their Facebook page:
“Oh Popped Festival… we tried so so hard, but circumstances beyond our control forced us to abandon today’s set. We’re gutted, we were so looking forward to playing Philly again. Rest assured, we’re back soon & we’ll make this up to you. This isn’t something we take lightly. Details soon. All our love, RRMx”
Synthesizers, synthesizers, synthesizers. That was the theme of Day #2 at Popped!
Hometown boys Sun Airway were the first band that I saw on Day #2 to debut the 80s music staple, but their sound was firmly rooted in The Bends-era Radiohead. But where Thom Yorke constantly sounds like someone killed his cat, Sun Airway’s sound is mellow and ethereal, but there’s still a sense of hope in the melancholic, sense of longing the tone of their songs takes on. They were very The National meets whatever would come between Joy Division and New Order. Sadly, however, the crowd was still pretty thin by the time of their late afternoon performance on Saturday, as many shuffled in for the early evening performances of Foster the People, Girl Talk and Pretty Lights, the first of which were the highlight of the festival.
By the time Foster the People took the stage, the crowd was ready for them. Kreayshawn, who was performed just prior was a droning, grating, annoying miss, but Foster the People was a major hit. Singer Mark Foster knew how to win over his audience the second he set foot onstage, showing some Philly pride by wearing a snappy, red Phillies vest.
The band had the stage presence and energy that reminded me of Coldplay and a musical style that is refreshingly all their own. Foster’s voice has a pitch this side of Adam Levine’s, and given the love/hate reception Levine seems to be met with, I am on the love side of the line meaning Foster’s following in his footsteps is an absolute good thing. Levine and his moves like Jagger are sex on two feet, even with that falsetto, and something tells me Foster isn’t that far behind.
And he’s already got some groupies, that’s one thing for sure. “Someone lost a bra…who is the owner of this bra?” Foster drawled after someone hurled a black brassiere his way. “I’m keeping it,” he said and hooked it onto his mic stand. This is definitely a band worthy of their buzz. They’re phenomenal – and that’s not a word I throw around, especially when it comes to my music. They blistered through rocker after rocker, barely coming up for air, and by the time they launched into a rock/techno hybrid remix of “Pumped Up Kicks,” the entire arena was going nuts. Foster the People proves there’s hope for music yet.