With most of Arizona at the height of its seasonal peak, the valley has begun to experience a new influx of early Spring Festivals. Hopefully this is a tradition we can see continuing to grow over the foreseeable future. McDowell Mountain Music Festival has been the longest festival of its kind in the valley bringing with it some of Arizona’s largest collection of national/international powerhouses, now Stateside Presents, and Luckyman Productions have set their sights on trying to edge in on the action.
It’s been a well known tradition in these parts, that The Marquee, and Luckyman by connection have had a bit of a hold on the St. Patty’s Day festivities in the Valley, and this year is no different. With the induction of the Pot of Gold Music Festival, featuring four days of eclectic mixes, and some heavy-handed days of talent. Starting this past Friday (March 13th,) and going until Tomorrow night (March 17th,) Pot of Gold is welcoming big trending artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Bastille, AWOLNation, Echosmith, and more. Thousands flocked to the Tempe Bach Park in hopes of singing along to the current tracks dominating the airwaves.
There's always a great feeling of anticipation going to a new festival you've never been too before... on the flipside there seems to be a bit of trepidation going to a festival that has newly been formed. Hell even FYF this past year was plagued with their numerous headaches after changing locations in Los Angeles, and they're an established fest having a long history of putting on some stellar weekends. Alas who in their right mind, would pass up seeing Future Island, Followed by Girl Talk and Chromeo on the same stage?!? That's right it should come as no shock that the real reason I went to Pot of Gold was to get my quarterly fix of Future Islands, and yearly dose of Chromeo.
The day started off on a strong note with Rochester New York's Joywave. Joywave have been currently touring with Bleachers, who were also playing Pot of Gold later in the day. Traditionally opening bands teeter between the polar ends of being amazing new comers, or tired fish out of water. Fortunately in this case it was most certainly the former. Joywave managed to get the audience that had braved the afternoon sun early enough to catch their set. As great openers tend to do, they did a fantastic job at plugging Bleachers every chance they got, even plugging #bleacherscreatures, a tag they’ve tried to get some momentum behind; but why not let us know about their own #coffeewithjoywave I'll never know.
As Joywave came to a close, the boys from North Carolina, Future Islands, took to the stage. One of the first things Sam Herring acknowledged was that this was the biggest stage they have played in Arizona, which personally I felt was a classy act by these southern gents, tossing out a kudos to Luckyman for bringing them out, and at the same time it just makes me want to see them on the biggest stage Arizona has, because then maybe Sam would have enough room to move how he should. At this point it's become irrelevant to count how many times I've been fortunate enough to see Future Islands, but no matter how many times I have the pleasure to watch them perform, I'm always left in a perpetual state of awe at the energy and raw emotional response they leave on stage. How artists like Sam Herring or even The National's Matt Berringer are able to step out onto the stage night after night, and still relate the vast spectrum of emotions they do, will always escape my understanding. There are no words. It simply is one of the most raw and honest forms of expression, and it alone is constantly worth the price of admission.
Choosing to forgo Bleachers in lieu of reserving space for Girl Talk, I was pleasantly surprised by the awesome and simple addition of screens on the edges of both stages telecasting the festival so that no matter which stage you stood at you could still watch and hear the artists. It's always a baffling concept to see the millions of dollars being spent at these fests, but there still seems to be a general inability of including dedicated feeds from stage to stage. Needless to say I was surprised to experience this at a festival the size of Pot of Gold and not one of the large national fests I’ve frequented.
As the Girl Talk stage began to be set up it had dawned on me how long it has been since I was able to truly experience a Girl Talk show. Once this thought began to flood my consciousness I began to get a sense of excitement that had been unparalleled at that point, and I was already really really excited! Then again it makes complete sense, especially if you've been to Girl Talk workout, uhm, I mean a girl Talk show, but in reality that’s exactly what it is, at least if you're doing it right. When it's all said and done, presumably thousands rolls of toilet paper, hundreds of water balloons, and millions of pounds were shed that night, and through every minute of it Girl Talk himself, Mr. Greg Gillis, was along every step, bouncing at every beat, and making sure you know how much he was working for it. There is no party like a Girl Talk party that much is certain.
Unfortunately AWOLnation wasn't a huge draw for myself personally, and after the workout that I had just received from Girl Talk I needed to refuel, thus it turned into the perfect time to see what type of food was available. There was a pretty vast selection especially for the size of the crowds and area. Something for everyone, even the gluten-free vegans had an awesome option with the fruit smoothies and juices!
After the hunger had been satisfied, it was time to get funky with Chromeo. As a dedicated "funkateer," Chromeo, like Future Islands, has become another band where keeping a track of how many shows I’ve gotten funky at, has become irrelevant. Having been a hardcore fan for the better part of ten years, there hasn't been one opportunity to see them that has slipped through my fingers. Since the beginning of their tour last year, Dave, and P-Thugg, have surely hit a stride in their performances. Their sets are methodical and precise, while still retaining a sense of warmth and connectedness. After the whirlwind of a year they’ve just had I suppose you’re forced to find a agreeable rhythm.
After watching Chromeo it was hard to imagine Bastille topping the energy and showmanship. After hanging around for thirty minutes to see Bastille attempt to match the levels of Chromeo and Girl Talk before them it became pretty apparent that they were closing the festival that night not due to talent or strength of performance, but rather the amount of Spotify plays they have. Granted they’re not amateurs, and they’re not new to large performances, but I was left wanting, trying to figure out the true draw. Bastille is just one of the few bands that has done literally nothing for my enjoyment live or recorded, and that’s a hard thing to admit, because even in the worst shows I’ve seen there’s still something I can take away. Instead this experience taught me that it’s ok to leave before the headliner’s done sometimes.
All in all I was pleasantly surprised by the production value, and overall organization of Pot of Gold. After the conundrum that was Summer’s End in September one could tell that organizers worked extra hard to avoid repeating any of the same mistakes, and at least for the first day that attention to detail paid off. If Pot of Gold sticks around hopefully they can capitalize off a solid first year into a stronger follow-up.