The first weekend of the fall season meant that the Hollywood Bowlâ€™s summer concert series was coming to a close. Fortunately, the L.A. Philharmonic made sure they capped off their series by spotlighting five indie acts to play in a not-so-indie venue. At first glance, the festival-esque lineup of Smith Westerns, Warpaint, Panda Bear, and co-headliners Arctic Monkeys and TV on the Radio would all seem to be â€œtoo smallâ€ to play a venue that plays host to symphonies and orchestras. Armed with Trader Joes bags filled with snacks and wine, the tens-of-thousands of attendees proved that their favorite bands are never too small for any venue.
By the time I got to my seat, Smith Westerns were done playing and Warpaint had just begun their set. The night was a homecoming for the all-female quartet, as they have been touring Europe for most of the year. Having only 25 minutes to play in front of their hometown crowd, they made sure no time was wasted as they opened with the eponymous track, â€œWarpaint.â€ The guitar duo of Theresa Wayman and Emily Kokal brought their 80s-style riffs that resonated nicely throughout the venue. On â€œBeesâ€ and â€œUndertow,â€ their harmonized vocals seemed to be a bit muddled, but it gave their singing a dream-like quality to them. On set closer â€œElephants,â€ the guitarists again showed off their skillful musicianship, backed by the tight rhythm section of bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg and drummer Stella Mozgawa. Itâ€™s easily their best song live, as they even extended the song into a psychedelic jam session. I only wished that they played a longer set and when the sun was down because their ethereal, spacey sound wouldâ€™ve been better experienced under an evening sky.
As Warpaint was finishing their set, the stage rotated 180 degrees to reveal Panda Bear (a.k.a. Noah Lennox) of Animal Collective fame. But he wasnâ€™t alone, as he was accompanied by Space Boom (moniker of former Spacemen 3 member, Peter Kembler). Opener â€œYou Can Count on Me,â€ from the latest effort Tomboy, pretty much outlined the rest of his set. Lennoxâ€™ Beach Boys-esque melodies seemed to work well with the layers-upon-layers of synth swirls, electronic glitches, and soundscapes. Aided by visual projections, Lennox and Kembler concocted a mean, hypnotizing cocktail of ambience and dream-pop that gave off a psychedelic effect. However, there was a big flaw to their set: Panda Bear just seemed lost in the Bowl. With a minimal setup and relying on visual projections, Panda Bear is better experienced in an intimate setting. In an amphitheater, itâ€™s tough to feel the full effect of that particular style of music.
With Hot Chocolateâ€™s â€œYou Sexy Thingâ€ blaring over the sound system, Arctic Monkeys took the stage and looked to create the same impact like they have across the pond. Donned in his usual leather jacket and pompadour haircut, frontman Alex Turner led the rest of his Sheffield mates to deliver the most electrifying set of the night. Like their abrasively-titled latest album, Suck It and See, the quartet opened with â€œSheâ€™s Thunderstorms.â€ By the time they played the appropriately-titled â€œDonâ€™t Sit Down â€˜Cause I Moved Your Chair,â€ the crowd was on their feet.
Since their hour-long set consisted of 17 songs, there wasnâ€™t that much time for banter. However, the few times that Turner quipped, he showed off his charisma like pointing out drummer Matt Heldersâ€™ stars and stripes shorts or asking how the crowd was doing in his best 50s rockabilly voice. Speaking of Helders, he was an absolute ape behind the kit without missing a beat such as on songs â€œBrianstorm,â€ â€œPretty Visitors,â€ â€œTeddy Picker,â€ and â€œThe View from the Afternoon.â€ The most impressive thing about the Arctic Monkeys is their ability to play various styles of rock â€“ from the blues-inspired garage number â€œAll My Own Stuntsâ€ to the rock-n-roll â€œBrick by Brick,â€ to the 60s-influenced â€œThe Hellcat Spangled Shalalala.â€ Personal favorite â€œCrying Lightningâ€ featured thick, low-tuned bass lines from Nick Oâ€™Malley that was paired with Turnerâ€™s wailing of the lyrics, which gave the song a dark, creepy feeling to it. â€œI Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floorâ€ remains the bandâ€™s biggest hit that caused the crowd to roar.
Arctic Monkeys went from 0-60 in mere seconds as soon as their set started and never looked back. When I saw them for the first time at Outside Lands in San Francisco, they put on one of the better performances during the festival. But after seeing them for the second time at the Bowl, itâ€™s not hard to come to the conclusion that they are one of the best bands to see live.
In a night that already featured four musically diverse acts, New Yorkâ€™s TV on the Radio continued the trend to cap the night off. Their music wasnâ€™t as intense and frenetic as the band before them, but it definitely was more emotional and captivating as they opened with â€œYoung Liars.â€ You can sense the focus and intensity immediately as vocalist Tunde Adebimpe, guitarists Dave Sitek and Kyp Malone, bassist Jaleel Bunton, drummer Jahphet Landis, and trombone player Dave Smith were all on sync, building tension before reaching the climax of the song. That kind of chemistry was seen throughout their entire set, making it hard to look away.
They played a well-balanced set, consisting of 12 songs from each of their four full-lengths. â€œDancing Chooseâ€ didnâ€™t get the crowd to dance necessarily, but it kept them on their feet while an old classic like â€œStaring at the Sunâ€ came off more dynamic in a live setting. There was a stark difference in mood between the older songs and songs from their latest album, Nine Types of Light. â€œWill Doâ€ is the perfect example of this as the soft melodies and Adebimpeâ€™s smooth crooning gave the song a touch of romance.
A touching and endearing moment came during â€œForgotten,â€ where the soulful Adebimpe, in a preacher-like manner, asked the crowd if they have ever experienced darkness. He then led the crowd to a chant of â€œ1-2-3 light!â€ in order to push all the darkness away. You canâ€™t help but think that this was a very fitting tribute to their former bassist, Gerard Smith, who died of cancer earlier this year.
Being their most popular song, it was only appropriate (and a bit predictable) that â€œWolf Like Meâ€ was saved for last. By this time, most of the wine-induced crowd was on their paws, howling away word-for-word. Rather than playing a layered, mid-tempo, art-rock version (like on the album), it was more of a faster, guitar-driven, â€œpunkâ€ rendition. And if that wasnâ€™t enough, they came back for only a single song encore with another classic in â€œSatellite,â€ which was a fast-paced number that showcased the mesmerizing back-and-forth vocal melodies between Malone and Adebimpe.
Unfortunately, once TV on the Radio exited the stage for good and the venue lights came back on, everyoneâ€™s summer was officially over. But least they didnâ€™t leave with an empty stomach. With five acts that catered to various musical taste buds, thousands of people walked backed to their cars satisfyingly stuffed.