My teenage daughter and I took our place in the long line waiting to enter the Cabooze Plaza on Friday night before 5pm. We were darn glad the actual high of 86 degrees fell short of the original forecasted 90s for this outdoor event. It was shaping up to be a perfect summer evening (finally!) for Go 96.3 Go Fest ’19. Certainly better than the all-day rain we endured at 101WKQX’s PIQNIQ in Chicago on June 15th.
THE USUAL THINGS
Unfortunately with doors opening at 5pm we didn’t stand a chance of see local contest winner, The Usual Things, play from 5:15 to 5:30. They sounded pretty good from outside the fence but it would have been nice if more of us were allowed in before they started.
Singer Allan Rayman was up next. Some call him the most mysterious man in music and he is definitely an interesting character. He sang to his own pre-recorded music, sweating heavily in a t-shirt and Levi’s, in the still strong evening sun. The teen girls said stuff like “I love his hair” and “his voice so beautiful.” Maybe not beautiful, but his raspy, yet varying voice, makes his performance captivating. He played several songs from his most recent album, Harry Hard-On, including the infectious “Crush.” While some wondered how many times he would sing, “Her crush starts to show,” the riff in this one is quite contagious. Rayman told us before he left, “Everywhere I go, I’m my only fan.”
“Are you ready to dance?” Is how the Go 96.3 crew introduced Wild Belle. Singer, Natalie Bergman, instantly got the crowd’s attention when she took the stage in burgundy velvet pants, bedazzled with stars and rhinestones, and a matching hat. Girls next to me where shocked to learn Natalie was in the band after seeing her walking in and telling her how fun they thought her outfit was. Her brother Elliot perked up our ears when he picked up his giant baritone saxophone and joined in. This introduced us to their distinctive sound built around a reggae rhythm, Natalie’s voice, and the sweet sounds of Elliot’s bari sax. From a guy who played the baritone saxophone in high school, thank you Elliot for making it cool! I’m pretty sure it wasn’t when I played it. Fans loved it and hooted and hollered to his solos. Joining the Bergman siblings was Erik Hall, looking like Spencer from Criminal Minds, playing keyboard and guitar on the other side of Natalie. There was no bass player or drummer.
“This is the first time we’ve tried this three-person configuration,” said Natalie. While it appeared she didn’t even break a sweat, she then admitted, “It’s hot out and I’m up here in f…ing velvet pants. Our third album is out, called Everybody One Of A Kind. We are thankful to be here and to Go 96.3 for playing our song “Mockingbird”. Maybe, you’ve heard it. Maybe not, but we are going to play it.” This is my favorite Wild Belle song and really features that baritone sax.
Natalie told us that they stayed last night with their grandparents who have lived in the same house in the Twin Cities for over 60 years. While the festival provided them a hotel, they preferred to spend the time with their grandparents that they hadn’t seen for about a year. There aren’t many folks left like them, that are so old school. We chuckled when she told us how her grandma was just getting her first cell phone and that the place she thought was an arcade at the mall was really the Apple store. Elliot told us that they just had time for one more song but that they would be touring with Beck and Cage the Elephant this summer. Their closing song was one that’s had radio time, “Keep You”, from their first album Isles. They were fun.
The Go 96.3 members cooled off the growing crowd with some blasts from a water gun when introducing X Ambassadors. Sam Harris walked out his blind brother Casey to his keyboards in time for some crucial whistling and launched into “HEY CHILD”, the popular single from their new album ORION that got the crowd singing along instantly. The third official member Sam wore an interesting choice of outfits, black pajamas, a white A-shirt, and sockless penny loafers. He picked up a guitar for “Jungle” next and demanded that the crowd participate. He later grabbed a “regular size” alto saxophone for the end of the song and got the crowd clapping along.
They didn’t wait any longer to play their new hit, “BOOM” which is popular on so many fronts and the bouncing, dancing crowd backed that up. The bass part is catchy, the lyrics too, but that guitar hook takes the cake. Sam told us how proud they are of their new album ORION that they just released on June 14th. They also played “QUICKSAND” and “CONFIDENCE” from the new album. The latter song features K. Flay on the album and their touring female multi-instrumentalist covered her vocals in concert. Sam told us that “HOLD YOU DOWN” from ORION was written about his relationship with his brother Casey and with Sam’s upcoming marriage in September, he’s been thinking more about relationships and what drives you to be willing to give up everything for someone. This catchy, emotional song is sure to be another hit from the album and Casey totally jammed on his keyboards and the crowd quickly learned the words. X Ambassadors closed with their biggest hits and sing-a-longs, “Unsteady” and then “Renegades”. Before “Renegades”, Sam took time to explain that the song is about being proud about who you are and not being afraid to be different. About individuality and how we all need to help fight bigotry. He further vowed, “An X Ambassadors show will always be a safe space for everyone, no matter what.”
CATFISH AND THE BOTTLEMEN
Being a huge fan of Catfish and the Bottlemen, my daughter wanted to get as close to Van and the boys as possible so we planted ourselves early on in the evening in the 2nd row. With their rabid following, it appeared every other teenage girl had the same thing in mind, as the front-stage area got more and more condensed. We had just seen these guys in Chicago, in the large Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park. While we had decent seats there, we really looked forward to seeing them in this smaller setting and getting up front with their diehard fans. The guys took the stage at 9pm with no backdrop except a lighted Toucan outline. It made the natural dusk backdrop one for the ages.
Just like in Chicago, they led off with the hit “Longshot”, from their third album, The Balance. To the disappointment of my daughter, they would only play two more songs from the new album, “Conversation” and “2all”, during the short fifty-minute set they were allotted. Van McCann didn’t waste any of this precious time with chit-chat, not that he ever does. To his right was guitarist Johnny Bond wearing a drivers cap and to his left bassist Benji Blakeway with his fluffy curls. Drummer Bob Hall’s kit centered a row of eight toucan-logoed loudspeakers. It was full-out arena-style light show tonight.
Continuing with “Kathleen” from 2014’s The Ride, it was clear that all near the stage were diehard fans, as we all sang every word. “Soundcheck” from 2016’s The Balcony is the song that introduced me to the band. I loved this song that frequented the active rock radio stations I listen to. When telling my daughter I wanted to go see them in concert I learned she had been a fan much longer than me. Kind of cool when your musical tastes crossover with one of your kids.
Of course Catfish and the Bottlemen had to play “Twice”, “7”, and “Cocoon” or there would have been a riot. But they had to scratch regular songs like “Pacifier”, “Business”, and “Fluctuate” from this abbreviated show. “Tyrants” is the bands normal closing song so when they played this long, mostly instrumental song, it signaled the end of the show. After the band exited the stage, fans held out hope with a boisterous encore chant but the show had reached its mandated 9:50 end time. If it was up to me, I would scratch the lengthy “Tyrants” and slip in a few other songs instead. How about playing new song, “Encore” for an encore? It was short but sweet. So much better seeing them up front with the serious fans in this smaller setting. Nice job Go 96.3! What a fun night with my daughter.