March, 8, 2008
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Better Than:Realizing that your $50 bag of mushrooms failed to induce any hallucinations
This morning we read an effusive article about REM’s performance at Langerado. The writer, Leslie Gray Streeter, described the show as “energetic,” and declared that their performance was “the lovely, light-hearted, serious-minded end to a night of uplift.” Um, Lesley – were we at the same concert? ‘Cause the REM we saw was slow, draggy, and caused disappointed hippies to leave in droves. Yes, Michael Stipe was engaged and engaging, yes he made between-song quips that were amusing and charming. But the music was so not meant for the venue. Opening up with the jangly “What’s the Frequency Kenneth,” the audience seemed hopeful at first. Dancing ensued amongst the patchwork n’ tie-dye clad set. By the third song -- the painfully slow “Drive” from Automatic For the People -- the hippies started to beeline for the campgrounds. “Dude, fuck this. Let’s go get stoned at the tent,” one declared as he stumbled past.
REM’s set droned on unopposed – we assume as festival headliners, it was part of the agreement that their set didn’t clash with anyone else’s. Because of that, the nature of their music (which ranges from ploddingly morbid to toe-tapping despair as typified by “Bad Day,” which they performed), and the miserable cold front that left body-painted topless chicks scrambling for sweaters, the REM set cast a shadow over the festival. “This reminds me of Bonnaroo when the Police played,” remembered hippie-fest veteran Casey, who drove to Langerado from Alabama. “Everyone went to go see the Flaming Lips instead.” Perhaps if another, more danceably appropriate band was performing at the time (hey Langerado peeps! Can we get Beck sometime soon?), the audience wouldn’t have left the fest grounds in vast crowds during the headlining set. But as it was on Saturday night, the closing strains of “Man on the Moon” was met by a collective “meh” by an audience that was far more jazzed to see Bassnectar, Sound Tribe Sector 9, and Phil Lesh than ol’ Michael Stipe.
--Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik