BFD 2014, the annual Live 105 music festival in Mountain View, started off the summer on a light note, showcasing a selection of bands on the festival circuit this year. The highlights included a perfect performance by Foster the People for a beautiful California summer night.
BFD always brings some great bands to the Bay Area and this year was no exception. New York-based duo MS MR gave a near-perfect performance, as always. It can be fun when a band jazzes up its songs for a live performance, but sometimes fans just want to hear the songs they know and love, as they were recorded. Lizzy Plapinger hit all the right notes with her vocals right on point and a stage presence that seemed to radiate with excitement.
Another quartet, Kongos, had the most surprising breakout performance, full of genuine passion and energy. Their somewhat aggressive, thumping, folk-inspired recordings translated beautifully to live performance and got the crowd stomping along with barefoot lead vocalist, Dylan Kongos. Their distinctive sound is a hypnotic blend of influences as disparate as Joni Mitchell, Burundian drummers and Qawwali musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan from Pakistan. The sound alternates, hypnotically, between aggressive, thumping drumbeats and high, soaring vocals.
M.I.A.’s performance felt misplaced among the other bands at the festival, and she doesn’t even have a recent release that would make her relevant to this year’s festival. While on the radio and in videos M.I.A. has a rebellious, fun quality, her music didn’t translate well this time around. The stage set was minimal, with a psychedelic video on the back monitor. Three other dancers— who seemed more like a pump-up dance crew at a Bar Mitzvah than professional dancers with a real purpose on stage— joined M.I.A. Music that energizes on the radio can come across live as an offensive cacophony of bass on bass on bass, though to be fair, this may have been in part due to the poor sound system quality.
Fitz and the Tantrums were as soulful and dance inducing live as one would expect with a perfect retro brand of indie pop. Lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick never failed to keep the energy up, even incorporating the audience with some group dance moves.
The stripped down, minimalist stage set ups for most of the bands were made up for in spades when headliners Foster the People took the stage to an opulent, beautiful light show, including large light-up crystal structures. Lead Vocalist Mark Foster’s presence on stage was like that of a conductor directing the perfect execution of his vision. He didn’t talk too much during the performance, but the careful few words he did speak gave the impression that although many of Foster the People’s songs have a joyful feel to them, the lyrics are thoughtful and, at times, take on serious subjects.
Foster cautioned the crowd that our generation’s challenge might be isolation imposed by the very technologies meant to bring us closer together. He left the crowd with the poetic words, “isolation is our enemy and apathy is its friend.” Being at a Foster the People show always makes you wonder how many people in the crowd process the lyrics to which they so readily sing along. Whether about drug addiction or a school shooter (“Pumped Up Kicks”), lyrics can stand in stark contrast to the reactions of fans.
Contact Gabriella Groth at gngroth “at” stanford.edu.