The second year of Napa Valley’s BottleRock festival got off to a slow start yesterday, as a modest crowd milled around through some of the festival’s lesser known acts. By the time TV On The Radio started off the evening, however, a more sizable group of fans had gathered to see one of the Brooklyn band’s first shows in nine months. TV On The Radio has been a bit off the radar as of late, aside from releasing two new songs last year — the first of which, “Mercy,” was included in the set — and the show served the dual purpose of reminding us why this band is so great, and whetting appetites for the forthcoming new album Kyp Malone told Stereogum should be out this fall.
The last time I saw TV On The Radio, I was unimpressed; the performance was shambling in a bad way, not at all suited to the more subdued tone of the then-new Nine Types Of Light. Their set at BottleRock was an entirely different animal. They opened with the one-two punch of “Halfway Home” (an old favorite of mine which made me realize that it’s long past due that I revisit 2008’s excellent Dear Science) and “Blues From Down Here.” There were plenty of old favorites sprinkled throughout, from “Province” (during which I watched a stereotypically Californian-looking blonde girl in a miniskirt and halter top grind on her boyfriend on the deck above the stage — who knew this was the romantic TV On The Radio song! — to the towering, scorching version of “Young Liars” they’ve developed over the years, which takes the studio version’s fuzzed out meditation and thrashes it through a series of cathartic rise-and-falls. While it was great to hear this stuff or the infectious “Second Song,” the special quality of the set came from the band premiering three songs. The first was a mellow number not unlike the Nine Types Of Light material; the second had a slow-burn fakeout of an intro (missing from the fan video below) before charging into an uptempo four minutes with some of the band’s poppiest melodies. After the undefeatable force-of-nature mainstay that is “Wolf Like Me,” they slid one more new one in as the set’s closer, another rocker. They had to stop it and start over again, but it was a perfect moment, lining up one of their best songs with a promise of “There’s still more where that came from.” Watch all three new songs below.
The big headliner of the night was the Cure, who had a sprawling two and a half hour set time allotted for them. I hate to be that guy, but their show was best when it stuck to the classics. For every “Fascination Street” or “Just Like Heaven” (which was dropped surprisingly early in the night) there’d be some more non-descript newer material. Fans hung around patiently through these, but every time a beloved riff chimed out over the field, it was like the audience was going through one huge collective sugar spike. I guess they’re well into this phase of their career now, but it’s still a bit odd to see the Cure play and have the experience basically boil down to a crowd full of grey-haired fans with wine tumblers in their hands passionately singing along to “Lovesong” and hanging around chatting through the rest. Overall, there was some great stuff in there. At the end, the band tried to play “Why Can’t I Be You?” and had the plug pulled on them, which is disappointing to be sure, but also: you had two and a half hours, dudes, plan better. Check out that moment below.
Anyway, the reason I left was that I figured I should for some reason venture forth into the alternate reality that is a set by Sublime With Rome (of Linkin Narc fame). I caught the end of “What I Got” and the beginning of “Santeria.” The resulting trauma took years off my life, so I decided to get the hell out of there.
[Photos by Wilson Lee.]