Landmark Festival was attended by AudioHammock contributors Dylan Brown and Ethan Sapir. You can listen to Dylan recant these stories in greater detail on AudioHammock Podcast #46.
Dylan: Streaming one way with feathers, bare midriffs and generally festival-ready people while Mennonites in full length denim and fanny-packing tourists flowing in the other toward the Lincoln Memorial, I passed inside chain link fence enclosing West Potomac Park thinking: ain't America grand? Dedicated to preserving the National Mall just spitting distance away, the Landmark Music Festival packed 25,000 people into a corner of America's front yard for a good cause. What it lacked (and lacked considerably) in amenities, it made up for on five banging stages.
Ethan: To start the weekend off, I decided to see Ex Hex. They put on a super-fun, high-energy show that was perfect to start the day. It was also nice to see a smaller band beloved in the DIY community play this giant stage that Drake would later dominate. Even though the crowd couldn’t care less about them, Ex Hex put on a killer show that entertained the few that love music.
Ethan: After a lunch of BBQ, I headed over to see Twin Shadow. He started with his big hit "Five Seconds", placing a high bar for the rest of the set. He managed to continue the energy of first song throughout, playing a mix of his older and newer albums. I was a bit scared that he would focus on his more EDM-influenced recent work, but he played plenty of fantastic synth-rock jams that satisfied the whole crowd.
Dylan: Having pulled our weight in D.C.'s bid to consume the most mimosas per capita -- bitches be brunching hard -- the girlfriend and I wandered our way to the outskirts of Twin Shadow just in time for "Five Seconds." Instead of his usual leather jacket that compliments the deliciously dark 80s synth-pop, Twin Shadow and his whole crew were outfitted head to toe in fluorescent dirt biking kits. A downtempo set in front of a mellow, mid-afternoon crowd hit all the silky notes that give Twin Shadow his staying power.
Ethan: I jogged over to the nearest stage to see Albert Hammond Jr. after the great set from Twin Shadow. I had never been a huge fan of Albert’s solo music, but I was interested enough to see him for an hour. While it wasn’t the festival’s best, he put on a fun and tight show that was definitely worth seeing. Watching Albert’s band cut him off mid-banter again and again was a comedic highlight for the festival.
Dylan: Walking from the main stage and Twin Shadow to the penultimate stage and Ben Howard, I made my first fateful trip of the festival to both the bar and bathroom, which cost me all but echoes of Howard's hour. The first half was spent waiting for my "choice" of beer: Miller Lite, Coors Light and Blue Moon, otherwise it was cider or soda. An important caveat, we found free beers at the end of the 30-minute line. Cheers Landmark, but can a degenerate hipster get the vague hint of flavor next year? Thanks. Next, what had looked like an ample number of port-a-potties during the early shows were quickly overwhelmed and verging on overflowing by mid-day. Festival restrooms are dodgy by definition, but many of us ready to wet themselves after half an hour would have taken a urine-soaked cardboard box. However, what little I heard of Howard's set impressed. For some reason, I'd always thought he was for teenage girls who "like indie", but his folk was raw and genuine. No Kings of Leon cheese.
Ethan: I sprinted across the festival to go see Band of Horses. I was a bit scared for the quality of the show because the band’s lineup was so drastically different then it was in the Everything All The Time days, but after a couple songs, the band proved that it was still a force to be reckoned with. Despite mid-show sound difficulties, the band managed to put on a rousing set with an amazing rendition of "The Funeral" to cap it off.
Dylan: Bladder empty and beer full (Coors Light joke here), we found our way over to the ever-lively Band of Horses, who played a generous mix of standards and the obscure. Sure, an overcast afternoon is a less than prime time for "The Funeral," but it had to have been sunset somewhere.
Dylan: Back across the festival, I was lured in by the food tent's glorious smorgasbord of D.C. staples -- omnipresent Ben's Chili Bowl, super chef Jose Andres' Oyamel and Duke's Grocery, the nation's capitol's best burger. In a bid to see Miguel, I foolishly hopped into the shortest line: Beefsteak. If I could read, I would have known it was completely unrelated to cows and in fact, vegetarian revenge in the form of a certain tomato variety. With one hell of a beefsteak tomato sandwich in hand, I got a little "Coffee" in the morning from sex machine Miguel. At his best with some slick soul, he was the perfect change-up before the War on Drugs.
Dylan: A biased pick for show of the weekend as it was my first experience with a band that defined last year for me. They stuck to Lost In The Dream with a light rain and a cold wind rushing over the crowd and past Adam Granofsky, a humble man who chased the storm back whence it came, from the National Mall all the way back to Americana's heart with only a guitar. You're welcome Drake.
Ethan: Because of awful food lines and hard-to-round-up drunk friends, I made it to Drake’s set very late and wasn’t able to get a very good view. The crowd by this point was incredibly huge and drunk, but I still managed to have a great time during Drake’s set. He seemed genuinely excited to perform for the crowd and when he said it felt at home, it seemed authentic. He constantly name dropped D.C., probably to show that he was actually performing live, which increased the unity of the crowd through their common location. Drake’s show was the perfect way to cap off the night for everyone to the casual festival-goer to the hardcore ones.
Dylan: Ditto to what Ethan said. While obviously jammed with people interested solely in him, Drake was the consummate performer. His energy and shout-outs to the locals that don't get enough love (Taxation without representation) seemed genuine.
Ethan: After a good night’s sleep, I headed back to the festival to go see Avers. I hadn’t heard of Avers until seeing them on the festival line-up, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of their debut album, so I definitely wanted to see them. Even though the crowd couldn’t care less about seeing this basically unknown band, they played a great show. Their neo-psychedelic vibes were unlike anything else at the festival, which made for a great start to the day.
Dylan: Arriving having ingested substantially fewer mimosas than the previous day, we caught a couple tracks from Houndmouth before sneaking away to beer lines shortened by the effects of Day 1 hangovers. More folk, Houndmouth made sure to supply their hit "Sedona" and a worthy compilation male-female tandem anthems. Lord Huron did the same, except with a James Dean impersonator out front and a tad more rockabilly. A few too many triumphant indie choruses for one afternoon, the shine of their polished western hipster motif wore off quickly, but a feel-good band nonetheless.
Ethan: TV on the Radio was probably the band I was most excited to see on the lineup (Yes, even more than the Strokes), so I braved part of Manchester Orchestra’s awful set to get a good view of the band. The band did not disappoint, they played a wide variety of hits and deep cuts from all their albums with a liveliness that is surprising from a band that is touring as much as they do. Tunde Adebimpe’s vocals are even more impressive live and his hand-dancing game is top notch.
Dylan: Maybe I was in the wrong section, but D.C. let its boring side show through. Even classic hits and new darlings like "Happy Idiot" couldn't stir the socially-conscious kids with their collars pulled too tight. It translated a bit to the stage. It felt like listening to a rendition of an album on a grey day. Then again, with all the gusto crammed into their albums, a slightly underwhelming set from TV on the Radio beats the hell out of a lot of things.
Ethan: While my friend stayed behind to safeguard a spot at The Strokes, I ran over to go catch Dan Deacon’s set. I had heard magical rumors about his set and knew I couldn’t miss it. Through dance battles, group dances, and lots of jumping, Dan Deacon managed to put on one of the most fun shows I have ever seen. One of the most powerful moments came when he asked the crowd to hold hands, think of someone you miss, think of someone you love, and then think of a person of color who was killed by police. If you want to experience a range of emotions that you didn’t think you could experience in the course of an hour, Dan Deacon’s stage show cannot be missed.
Dylan: The master of his domain with only a neon soundboard and short shorts, Dan Deacon was a revelation and joy to behold. Waves of his signature electronica and a full brass band were complimented by banter and crowd interactions that, unlike for so many acts, didn't suck.
Ethan: I managed to get back to my friend after seeing Dan Deacon, so I was right up front for the show. The band went on 15 minutes late, but the excitement was palpable when they came on. They played a fantastic set, with a heavy focus on Is This It. The only expected song they skipped over was "Under Cover Of Darkness", which was slightly disappointing, but it was fine. The band was full of energy, so it makes sense perfect sense that they are back in the studio recording new material.
Dylan: A throwback with everything from their smash-and-dash rock to Julian Casablancas's Ramones shades, the Strokes have this funny way of making me feel 17 again -- 17-years-old drink your milk and listen to this band. After they closed out my weekend by unapologetically playing the hits, I won't mind at all if their rumored new material cashes in on their old formula. More of the same is just fine by me.
Ethan: If you ignore everything but the music, the inaugural Landmark Festival on the National Mall was a resounding success. Every band I wanted to see put on a fantastic show. The stages were pretty close together and it was easy to get a good view (except for Drake), even though people were unusually protective over space. If you don’t ignore everything but the music, many cracks in the festival start to appear. The crowds were annoying; people were incredibly uninterested in lesser known bands while they waited for their favorite artist to start (I watched a Drake fan do her math homework during Twin Shadow’s amazing show). The food and drink lines were ridiculously long; I ended up having to skip dinner before seeing the Strokes to get a better view. I had a three-hour break between artists I wanted to see at one point, but the non-musical festival activities were boring and incredibly corporate. All in all, it was a great musical weekend, but Landmark has many things it needs to fix before it can become an annual Washington event.