BottleRock 2014 Sunday: Thee Oh Sees And Deerhunter Deliver Strong Sets For Small Crowds
It’s not uncommon for a festival’s last day to be something of a comedown. It’s Sunday, and everyone’s sunburnt and hungover and staring down the barrel of a work week — the return to reality matched with the physical fatigue of having stood out in a field for three days. It takes a powerful and carefully planned lineup to make a festival feel as if it goes out on its highest note. In this regard, BottleRock didn’t excel, and Sunday dragged on as the memories of the party that was Saturday began to flicker out.
The day started off strong, though. Thee Oh Sees took the main stage (in the slot before Spin Doctors!) for an early afternoon set under the most belligerent sun the weekend offered. Of course, this is the new Oh Sees, pared down to a power trio, and it was easily one of my favorite sets at BottleRock. Their frayed brand of garage-psychedelia thrived in the heat, each insistent rhythm and berserk guitar line working towards a feverish, lose-yourself-in-the-grit vibe that was particularly fitting for that last day fatigue.
Moments like this, unfortunately, were fewer on Sunday than on other days. The waits between worthwhile acts yawned wider. Later in the day, as the heat peaked, the Black Angels played over on the second biggest stage to a tiny crowd. They offered up their own kind of broken down, foreboding psychedelia that worked as a logical companion to Thee Oh Sees’ performance from several hours prior. Even with being a fan of the band, I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag. The beginning of the set was great, but their swampy grooves eventually bled together through the hour set, before that indelible riff to “Young Men Dead” (#TrueDetectiveSeason1) kicked off the final stretch right. There was just a general air of listlessness to the festival at this point. While the Black Angels’ druggy haze sprawled out, a group of people within a white picket fence enclosure to my left were silently raving, all decked out with colorful headphones. They ran the spectrum of half-hearted to delusional, going at it as if they’d be able to invoke another day of festival-going and one last gasp of the weekend. Two people dressed as bananas walked past me, and the sluggish deliriousness of it all had me convinced that the dehydration had finally gotten to my head.
The crowd for Sunday was pretty sparse compared to the preceding two days, and that held true for the headliners of the night. While passing by the Fray, I noticed a surprisingly decent-sized crowd of people who apparently missed all that early ’00s weepy piano-rock. When I arrived at the Miner Family Winery Stage for Deerhunter, I was one of less than a hundred who had gathered to see the band, which was something of a shock considering their decently high billing here and at other festivals. Maybe Napa just isn’t their market. At any rate, the part of their set I stayed for was strong, starting with what was either a sixteen minute song or two stitched together so seamlessly that I didn’t notice. Like Thee Oh Sees and the Black Angels, there was something appealing in the hypnotic nature of it, all charging rhythms slowly boiling over into a wall of noise and interlocking guitar lines.
Eric Church was the main headliner of the night, and he drew the smallest crowd of any of the festival’s biggest acts, which didn’t line up with the fact that the dude rolled in with three flashy trailers backstage and started off his set with fireworks. While the rest of the Stereogum crew are fans, I was unmoved. Church was enthusiastic, but he was singing about drinking too many beers on a Friday as the festival had reached its lowest ebb. It became evident that it was time to leave. Seeking out the best of what the western reaches of America have to offer, I ended my night at In-N-Out.