Saturday was hot and bright and the Chicago-native band Twin Peaks kicked things off with frantic, feel-good guitar music. Following two seizures and a broken leg, Cadien Lake James took up the left flank on electric guitar seated not-so-firmly in a wheelchair. Clay Frankle smashed his guitar on stage during one particularly flummoxed track, then hurled the severed neck piece into the hands of one extremely happy fan. Circulatory System played later in the hour, a densely arranged ensemble of dreamy chamber pop. During one beautiful and listless clarinet solo, I turn around and witness a young-looking boy in handcuffs being led out of the crowd by security; he looked scared.
The Empress Of set was stalled briefly due to some audio complications with the group’s equipment, but eventually everything sorted itself out. The utter frustration of the stall had frontwoman Lorely Rodriguez visibly worked-up and agitated, but after a few songs she shook the nerves loose and played a determined and rousing set, showcasing a large amount of new, unreleased material that was well-received by the crowd. The Cleveland-based punk band Cloud Nothings were next up, performing a raucous and hopelessly ambivalent set. They played hard and fast, like every song might be their last. tUnE-yArDs performed later in the afternoon, putting on a visual spectacle that closely rivaled the inherent oddness of the music being played. The group sounded big: lots of BANG! BANG!, walloping, yelping, ebullient madness.
The R&B singer-songwriter Kelela sang wispy, wary melodies over low-end, psychotropic future beats, likely performing for her largest and loudest crowd to date. She exercised a cool, contained confidence on the opening number “The High,” but was quick to vocalize how shocked she was to see so many people responding to her music. Danny Brown followed. His vocal timbre was shrill and uncomfortable, but he commanded the attention of a few thousand, presumably fucked-up, individuals with his seedy electronica rap.
St. Vincent was astounding. Her cold, calculated choreography elicited squealing girls to bellow out great audible swoons. The rendition performed of “Digital Witness” was definitively sexual, Annie Clark lingering a few moments longer, releasing a high moan, on the line “I want all of your mind/ Give me all of it.” FKA Twigs performed afterward. The experimental R&B group played for a substantial crowd, most of which was helplessly receptive to frontwoman Taliah Barnett’s smoky falsetto, her graceful and hypnotic movements. Neutral Milk Hotel headlined Saturday. It was a calm, serene closing to the day that resurfaced some long-forgotten adolescent angst.