Yeah Yeah Yeahs return in triumphant form to bring the rock to the 215 Block Party

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

This past weekend, Chicago brewery Goose Island hosted their traveling Block Party at the Electric Factory. The event included reasonably priced food trucks, $3 Goose Island beers (from the 4.5% ABV variety all the way to their fancier fare upwards to 13% ABV) and oh yeah, music! The lineup was a mix of Philly, Chicago, and the return of New York’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The weather in Philly up until this weekend had been like walking around in a warm bath. While it is nice that the humid icky weather finally broke on Friday, having the 215 Block Party outside on an overcast drizzly evening put a slight damper on what was intended to be an end of summer party.  

Mannequin Pussy | photo by Maureen Walsh for WXPN

This did not bother Mannequin Pussy’s Marisa Dabice in the least. She came on stage in a bikini and joined the rest of her band in tearing into selections from their 2016 short but sweet full-length Romantic, plus some newer songs.  Dabice has lately been alternating between playing guitar with the band and taking the mic solo, and she can still drop to her knees and howl on a dime.  The band ended their set with a heartfelt thank you for being included in the lineup and a funny story involving Dabice not getting to the previous Yeah Yeah Yeahs gig in Philly.

Joey Purp | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

While Joey Purp’s music was much different than Mannequin Pussy’s punk asthetic, the energy he and his DJ brought to the stage was equally palpable.  While it must be difficult for the lone hip-hop artist on an all rock line-up to bring the heat and have the crowd engaged, Purp’s catchy songs and engaging presence even had a guy I spotted with a Cure shirt bouncing around.   Purp played mostly from his brand new album Quarterthing with the highlights being “Godbody,” and “Elastic.”

Twin Peaks | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

I had not heard Twin Peaks before the festival and assumed that they were trippy and enigmatic, much like the TV show of the same name.  Actually, they sound like Stephen Malkmus if someone had lent him a copy of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. They also reminded me a bit of Supergrass.  Like Malkmus and Supergrass, Twin Peaks play serious rock and are good at it, but they have a bit of playfulness that is entertaining but can sometimes get in the way of the music.  This led to a strange tonal shift when, after goofing around a bit, the band played a song dedicated to friends gone too soon.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Around 10, Yeah Yeah Yeahs took to the stage in triumphant form. The set was crowd-pleaser after crowd-pleaser; Karen O ran through her signature poses with her microphone and had the crowd in a frenzy during the opener “Rich,” and it just went up from there.  The tunes from the band’s first full-length, Fever to Tell continued as we went through the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ history from bluesy punk to the pop polish of It’s Blitz.  The latter portion of the set had Karen donning her classic It’s Blitz-era leather jacket and during “Zero,” as two giant inflatable eyeballs traveled through the crowd.  The proper set ended with a storm of confetti for “Heads will Roll.” All of it fit together in a cohesive celebration of the last decade and a half in “indie” music that has inspired everyone from, well, Mannequin Pussy to Paramore.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

The set had a few surprises, too, namely “Down Boy,” from the underrated EP Is Is and the inclusion of their early blogosphere hit, “Art Star,” from their 2001 self-titled debut EP.  Karen O reminisced about how Philly was the first big city the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played aside from New York City; it was an all-ages show at the First Unitarian Church and they were relieved to find that they had fans in the city.  Judging by the ecstatic crowd and the who’s who of Philly musicians rocking out at side stage during the last song “Date with the Night,” I think the band is still on our good side.

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