Chronicles of Street Scene 2009
Trekking downtown to the intersection of Park and J wasn’t exactly the smartest way the beat the hellacious heat wave that consumed us all on Friday—but the good tunes waiting at the kickoff of Street Scene 2009 were undeniably worth sweating it out for.
After a couple refreshing “pours” of Stone Pale Ale at the festival’s beer tasting area, I was ready to go. First up on my list was EXTRA GOLDEN on the Casbah Stage, which introduced itself appropriately as hailing from “The United States of Kenya.” Featuring a blend of Swahili vocals and American blues, the energetic foursome set an early standard for Street Scene’s smallest—and most diversely interesting—stage. Drummer Onyago Wuod Omari and Opiyo Bilongo traded off vocal duties while Americans Alex Minoff and Ian Eagleson dueled guitars, fusing together traditional African benga with gritty rock-and-roll.
Next up on the stage was local musician Nathan Williams (a.k.a. WAVVES), sporting both a new haircut and drummer, Philadelphia cult-hero Zach Hill (of Hella and Team Sleep). The dense crowd who showed up to support WAVVES may have been there initially only to catch a glimpse of a rumored trainwreck waiting to happen (one that would never come), but ended up embracing one of the best shows of the weekend. Williams, still wearing a brace on his strumming wrist from a skateboarding accident a few weeks ago, powered through reverb-powered lo-fi gems like “So Bored” and “No Hope Kids,” while Hill went absolutely manic on his drum kit. Much has been said about Williams’ minimalist approach to his music, but with the simple addition of Hill, an incendiary explosion of sound erupts for the duo.
A bit dazed from that spectacle of sound, Ben Bridwell and his BAND OF HORSES provided a welcome breath of fresh air. My first set of the weekend at the large Fulano Stage, the band emerged looking well rested and ready to (gently) rock the crowd as lead singer Bridwell greeted the masses: “Hey there, Freak Scene!” Their set included healthy doses of its LPs, Everything All the Time and Cease to Begin, as well as an absolutely magnificent cover of the Gram Parson’s classic “A Song for You.” Bridwell’s voice has earned many comparisons, but none can quite pinpoint its clarity until you witness the band live. As the sun set, the band launched into “The Funeral,” and, for a moment, the heat subsided and a cool breeze washed over us all. Coincidence? Probably not.