Spoon - Spoon starts thing off in the sunshine in front of a good crowd, but one that is continuing to grow. They begin low-key with just acoustic guitar and voice and a touch of keyboards. Eventually the full band emerges although it varies from a four-piece to a five-piece (extra percussion) to a band with a backing horn section. It sounded quite "Decemberists" to me especially early on. There was also a nice clanging guitar that reminded me of XTC and even a strong pop song that rocked in a Wire sort of way. The songs were catchy and most had this nice edge of which I speak. The sound was a bit lost up where I was sitting (Row W, off to the side), but you have to expect a bit of that outdoors. Was that guy walking by wearing earplugs? Unless someone next to him was planning to whistle loudly, he is hardly going to need protection here. Spoon's set went an hour and they kept the crowd involved and happy. They are a good band and deliver some solid rock songs that easily work their way into your brain.
Arcade Fire - This Montreal band has been on fire pretty much since their debut. I wish I had caught them earlier before they could easily pack out a venue this size. To be honest, I wanted to see them this tour but I also wanted to check out this venue to see if this was somewhere I may want to go more often. By the time they began, the place was quite full with only a few scattered seats empty and the uncovered lawn quite full as well. The night was surprisingly cool for a summer in DC, which was a big break. This place is huge. I was expecting it to be similar to Red Rocks in Colorado, but has over twice that capacity at 19,316. The sound was only just good enough to get a feel of the band, but the ambiance just does not do it for me. No fault of Arcade Fire, however, as they came out rocking from the outset. I really only know their first album well and they played at least three songs including Tunnels. They had eight members playing the usual rock instruments along with two violins at times and an accordion. I felt more of a Buzzcocks feel live with the very accessible, yet strong songs and Win Butler's voice. They completely blew one song as they started looking at each other and slowly stopped playing before coming to a full halt. Butler explained it was a new one and they tried to use drum machines, but they didn't get them to work right. This is the second big show I have seen outdoors in the last couple years, and just like REM, tonight's headliner brutally blew a song. No big deal, just interesting. But my question is that in a band with two drummers, why are using drum machines? Frankly, I did not miss the rest of that song and there was plenty of rhythm everywhere else. The band quickly got back on track and delivered the goods to an appreciative crowd. They have done well in living up to their hype and deserve crowds like this. As to future large shows for me, they will continue to be few and far between as the connection is a lot tougher than in a club or a venue under 5,000. But never say never, so we shall see.
PS--I don't have a set list. It is not like they have 500 songs they know anyway.
Quote of the Night: "Yeah!!!" plus applause as a couple finally sat down during the Spoon set after being asked a couple of times since they were blocking people's views. Now this is a rock concert, so I was sympathetic to the people standing. But they were the only ones out of at least a 1,000 people in our section and they could have moved almost anywhere else if they wanted to dance which they were not doing. Four songs later, they sat down just to prove they were doing it when they wanted to, I suppose. Fascinating group and individual interplay here, well maybe not, but my mind wanders. Oh, and there was no question when Arcade Fire hit the stage and everybody jumped out of their seat.