Rothbury 2008: Day 3
Following an Ice-Cream-Man-provided breakfast on Saturday morning, we reached the Ranch Arena, where Dead Confederate took the stage for an early-bird batch of haunted, shoegazing southern rock tunes. “Thanks for coming,” mumbled frontman Hardy Morris to the scattered audience. “We’re Vampire Weekend.”Few people managed to stumble out of their tents for Dead Confederate, but Rothbury was back in full swing by the time State Radio appeared one hour later. Mixing white-boy reggae with college rock, the group sounded grittier than expected, with songs like “Guantanamo” veering strangely close to punk. When Citizen Cope ambled onstage afterwards, however, his laidback performance seemed like a downer in comparison, and we set off in search of more rock.
Enter the Black Keys, whose cranked-to-hell blues took on a primitive, manic energy during the duo’s afternoon set. Who cares if guitarist Dan Auerbach looked like he was on the verge of passing out, with waxen skin and sleep-deprived eyes? He still played guitar like a champ, while bandmate Patrick Carney attacked his drumset with deliberate, heavy-handed snare hits. I don’t remember what they played, nor do I recall them saying anything to the audience. All I know is that they rocked.
While Spearhead and Derek Trucks played early evening sets on opposite stages, the Dave Matthews Band readied itself for Rothbury’s biggest show. The Virginia-based bandmates haven’t released a studio album since 2005, but they have kept a near-constant presence on the road, especially during the summer months. All that touring has whittled the band down to a fine-tuned live machine, and DMB’s three-hour set was perhaps the best performance of the weekend. Tim Reynolds contributed guitar licks to the entire show, while a pair of horn players filled in for the absent LeRoi Moore. From tight pop/rock songs to free-form acid jazz jams (including a multi-minute scat solo by Matthews himself, who inserted the words “I’m not taking myself seriously” into his string of nonsense syllables), the Dave Matthews Band established themselves as Rothbury kings. They also do a pretty stellar version of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” Who knew?
Thoroughly sunburnt, exhausted and slightly ashamed for making fun of Dave Matthews in years past, we stumbled into Sherwood Forest after the show, where the innocent plan to rest our legs turned into a three-hour nap in the middle of the woods. Oops.