Oh, it was hot all right…
Thousands of music fans flocked to the Kansas Speedway this past weekend to partake in one of the weirdest named festivals ever: Kanrocksas.
When I first arrived I noticed the main stage was packed out with half naked twenty-somethings pumping their fists in the air.
Who was playing?
It sounded like a DJ, spinning tunes at the Granada or something. Nope, it was none other than Bassnectar, spinning records for probably the biggest crowd of the festival.
What happened to live musicians?
They’ve been rendered obsolete.
Or so I thought until the sun went down and I wandered to the second stage…
Around 9:30 on Friday, festival veterans The Flaming Lips took the second biggest stage, called Stegosaurus Rex for some reason.
Frontman Wayne Coyne entered the stage by way of his favorite conveyance, a giant inflated hamster ball, and proceeded to roll it out into the crowd, raising his arms and pumping his fists every so often. Anyone that’s been to a handful of festivals over the years surely has seen this spectacle before – it seems the Lips have been pulling the same stunts for a decade or more now.
Maybe it’s time to get some new toys?
I mean, their light show is always pretty cool, with the images of naked women dancing and eyeballs flickering, and shark mouths. And, of course, there were the 30 or so girls on either side of the stage, dressed in short skirts and dancing throughout.
But that’s pretty much the same thing they had going on in 2002 when I saw the Lips at the first Bonnaroo.
Once the band started playing, they almost immediately launched into their biggest commercial hit, "She Don’t Use Jelly," probably to keep the interest of the somewhat un-festival like crowd. Unfortunately, it was a really slow, quiet, meandering kind of version, with Coyne pausing early and often to urge the crowd to sing along.
"Come on guys, come on!" Coyne said, probably 50 times during the set.
By the time the band really started hitting their stride, Coyne informed the crowd that they only had two songs left. Most bands at Kanrocksas played just 50 minute sets, making it tough to really get in a groove. I mean, by the time you play three or four songs, it’s halfway over. At least the headliners Muse and Eminem played for an hour and a half.
On the nose.
Predictably, the Lips pulled out their closer to end the performance, the beautiful "Do You Realize?" As I listened to a song I’ve heard live probably ten or twelve times, it still hit me pretty hard. That is such a good song, it almost made up for the Reader’s Digest set.
I would probably pay money to see them play just that one song live.
As the final chord struck, Coyne bid everyone a good night and revealed his excitement for the upcoming Eminem set at the other end of the infield.
"We’ve never played with Eminem before, so we’re going to hustle over there to catch his show!"
A few moments later, right on schedule at 11:00, the main stage video board lit up with an Eminem advertisement.
Kinda weird, I’d never seen that sort of thing before at a festival. It was a Lipton BRISK ice tea commercial, with a cartoon version of the rapper. This was followed immediately by graphics with subtitles explaining the genesis of Eminem’s newest album, "Recovery," as the man himself stormed onto the stage.
He started the night off with "Won’t Back Down," and soon touched on some favorites like "Kill You" (complete with graphics of an assault rifle firing into the crowd, skulls, and blood dripping everywhere), "The Way I Am," and "Stan."
I say "touched on" because Slim Shady only played two songs all the way through, the encores "Lose yourself," and "Not Afraid."
Overall, Eminem’s set was adequate. He definitely brought energy to the stage, and his crowd was one of the biggest of the festival no doubt.
But I’d be lying if I said it was a memorable show. Other than the Lipton commercial, that is.
And for the main headliner of the weekend it was surprisingly easy to get up close to the stage, much more so than other festivals I’ve been to, so I’m guessing the attendance wasn’t quite what the promoters were expecting.