By Michel Dussack
The Jagermeister Music Tour is traditionally comprised of hard rock and metal acts, though the Spring 2012 lineup threw everyone off when it was announced that Portugal. The Man would be headlining. Even more surprising was the size of the venues they were playing – the New York stop took place at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, a venue six times smaller than when I saw the band at Terminal 5 exactly six months prior.
First up on the bill were Brooklyn’s own Beast Make Bomb who wowed the fans who showed up early with a 30 minute set filled with what they call “fuzzed out pop melodies with the distorted punk attitude of late 1970s New York”. When vocalist Ceci G took the stage in a flowered dress, it seemed they would be another bland indie pop group, but appearances were deceiving as she quickly went into frantic guitar riffs and the rest of the band followed suit. The highlights of their set were a new song entitled ‘Virgin Snow’ and another track ‘Zombie Song’. A fair number of the crowd sung along with the easy to remember hook, and it seems big things are in store for this band.
Next up was The Lonely Forest, hailing from Washington (the state not the district), who happened to be a big part of the reason I was so eager to cover this show. Their sets at CMJ this past year impressed crowds and garners lots of buzz, so to see them on such a big tour is certainly not shocking. By the time they went on, most of sold out venue was packed and the band had a core segment of fans that were largely familiar with them. It’s clichéd to pick a bands single as a standout track, but ‘Turn Off This Song and Go Outside’ is such a phenomenal song that it’s hard not to mention it. The quartet has crafted a seemingly perfect summer song, one that will grow harder to ignore the more exposure they get. Vocalist John Van Deusen was a man of few words throughout their set, but before they ended their set he thanked the crowd and Jagermeister for bringing them on tour and promised the band would return soon.
Finally, a bit before 11pm, Portugal. The Man took the stage to a giant cloud of fog (about only half of which was from fog machines – the crowd willingly provided their own pungent form of smoke) and giant illuminated orbs that decorated the stage and stretched all the way into the side balconies of the venue. It’s been widely reported on that Ryan Neighbors recently left the band to pursue a solo career and the band’s drummer has recently been fired in the middle of a set in New Orleans, and while they are personally missed, this current lineup didn’t miss a beat. Their two hour set stretched into the morning hours and encompassed all of the bands albums, impressive given that they’ve put out six in the past six years. Anyone only familiar with the bands biggest hit – ‘So American’ would probably be shocked to know that the crowd was particularly rowdy during the show with moshing and a couple fans climbing on the stage to stage dive.
As the band have done lately, after they played ‘Devil’ they attached a raucous cover of ‘Helter Skelter’ to its end. At the end of their set, they paid even more homage to The Beatles by playing the “na na na” segment of ‘Hey Jude’ after their song ‘Sleep Forever’. Nearly every song was a loud sing along throughout the night, and at times it seemed that vocalist John Gourley didn’t even need to be singing. The always insane ‘Chicago’ was particularly energetic, in part due to how dynamic of a band Portugal. The Man is. Never content with just playing their songs to a crowd, the band frequently add improve and jam segments to the end and even the middle of songs, stretching and morphing them into entirelydifferent beasts.
While the band didn’t banter much (unless you count bassist Zachary Carothers fist bumping several drunken fans standing behind me screaming his name for half the set), they made sure to tell us just how much they love New York. “We’ve been playing here since we started touring,” John remarked before closing their set with the aforementioned ‘Sleep Forever’, “and it always seems that you guys have the best crowds, and we play our best shows here.” When the band returned, it wasn’t for their normal lengthy encore, but rather a single song – ‘And I’. It served as a fitting end for the show, with John singing about rebirth and taking to the streets along with a chorus of “ooo’s” that the entire crowd could sing along with. As the doors to the street opened and the crowd filed out (with that smoke finally making its way out of the room), it’s hard to imagine anyone not impressed by Portugal. The Man’s set. In fact, I’d consider this tour as a stronger contender for Tour of the Year.
All photos courtesy of Michel Dussack
BEAST MAKE BOMB
THE LONELY FOREST
PORTUGAL. THE MAN