This past Saturday I went to the Sweetlife Music Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. It’s a one day music festival sponsored by Sweetgreen, so in addition to the music there are a lot of higher quality food choices than you normally find at music festivals because they bring in lots of food trucks and renowned restaurants to provide food in addition to the stuff that is always at Merriweather. The music was good, but I think I am too old for this festival. I often feel like I’m one of the oldest people around at many of the concerts I go to because I like new music. It comes with the territory, but I’ve never been bothered by the crowd like I was at this festival. I went to part of Firefly last year and while I was still older than 90% of the people there things didn’t feel as young and stupid as they did at Sweetlife. I think partly it’s a space issue because I didn’t feel claustrophobic about all the people at Firefly until the end of the night when we were watching Tom Petty, who was the headliner for the night. At that point none of the other stages have music playing so everyone was crammed at one stage. At Sweetlife there are only 2 stages and the set times didn’t overlap by much so people were crammed around one stage most of the day and there is a finite amount of space on the Merriweather lawn. I went to the Virgin FreeFest at Merriweather a couple years ago and didn’t feel this way either, but I suspect again that it was party a space issue because they had more of the surrounding woods opened up and more stages going on so everyone wasn’t trying to be at the same place at the same time. Also my friend and I only went for 3 acts in the middle of the day for that one, so maybe I would have felt differently had I been there longer and as more people showed up for the headliners I didn’t care about seeing.
The other big issue I see was the actual age difference. Unlike Firefly where the people younger than me mostly college age or in their early 20s there were a lot of high schoolers at Sweetlife and they really are obnoxious because they’re young and living in their own little world trying to impress their friends and doing the things high schoolers do. And sorry parents of teenage kids I hate to break it to you, but if your kids were at this festival they were drunk and/or high. I mean of course except your kids because your kids would never do that. Granted I’m sure there were some goody two shoe teenagers like me who did go and did stay sober, but they were definitely few and far between. Also I was such a good two shoes as a teenager that I probably would never have gone to something like this because I would have been too scared to go. Anyway, I have never been to another concert or festival where I felt surrounded by the amount of stupid wasted people as I did at this concert and I suspect it’s because it was a lot of really young people doing it. I am going to a Willie Nelson concert at Merriweather later this summer where I suspect there will be a lot of people smoking pot, but they’ll all be ancient compared to these kids so they’ll be chill about it. I was quickly over the kids so wasted they couldn’t stand up or who were so wasted I was afraid I might get puked on any time someone came near me. I suspect this will be my first and last time at the Sweetlife Festival unless there is someone I just can’t imagine not going to see, but at this point I don’t know who that would be.
At least the music was good as I said, so it wasn’t all bad. Additionally despite the forecast for rain showers and thunderstorms all day we fared pretty well on that front. We did get some spotty rain towards the beginning of the day, but we were well prepared with rain gear so it wasn’t too bad and it really didn’t last that long. Then we had a nice long break of dry weather until the end of the night, which I will get to later. This was a nice surprise since I usually have the opposite problem whereby the one tiny rain cloud in an otherwise spotless sky decides to stop over whatever outdoor event I’m at.
We started off the day with the last 10 minutes or so of GEMS set. It was the same way at Firefly, so I guess this is a thing at a lot of music festivals, but I really don’t get the concept of them not opening the gates until the same time that the first band goes on. That means that the poor band is playing to essentially no one at the beginning of their set. It makes no sense to me. At any rate by the time we got in, we had missed most of their set. We didn’t care much about the next bands up on either stage so we used that time to go get our lunches and then make it to the main stage in time to see Bombay Bicycle Club. I didn’t know too much by them going in to the festival. I had heard “Shuffle” before and then listened to them once or twice on Spotify in preparation for the festival, but for the most part they were an unknown entity to me. I enjoyed them and will probably give them more of a listen in the future.
Next up we saw Hozier. I really like his music a lot, but would like to see him play in a much smaller venue. I don’t think he was really able to command the stage for that large of a venue at least at this point. I think even if he had been on the side stage and not the main stage it would have been better. I also don’t know if he’s just a really quiet talker or the sound wasn’t set up quite right because I could hear the songs fine, but whenever he stopped between songs to talk to the audience I couldn’t hear a thing he was saying. I really do think he could be great somewhere smaller though, so I do hope I get to see him again in a different place in the future. As much as I love the song “Take Me to Church” it’s starting to get overplayed, so I’m going to point you towards “From Eden” instead.
After Hozier we moved over to the side stage for St. Lucia who was one of my favorite acts of the day. Like Bombay Bicycle Club I really didn’t know much about St. Lucia before this festival, but I liked what I had heard on Spotify before I went. I literally just learned from Wikipedia that St. Lucia is the stage name for South African singer John-Philip Grobler and not the actual band name like I had assumed. He did have a band with him so I just assumed it was a band and not a singer with a backing band. Guess I was wrong on that count. I am curious about how in the world they all started playing together though because when he introduced everyone he said where they are from and in addition to his South Africa the rest of the band is from Texas, California, and Germany. Thy were a lot of fun though and I would definitely pay to see them again.
We headed back to the main stage after that for Bastille. I missed a good portion of their set though. We missed the beginning because it overlapped with St. Lucia, and then I decided of all the upcoming bands Bastille was my least favorite so it was the best opportunity I was going to have to go to the bathroom at any point in the near future, so I spent a good chunk of their set in the bathroom line. I did get to see them play “Pompeii” and “Things We Lost in the Fire” though, which is mostly what I cared about. It’s not that I don’t like them, but there were other bands I was more interested in, so they lost out on my presence. I’m sure they cared.
We went back over to the side stage for Capital Cities. After having watched their set from Coachella live stream over YouTube, I was super excited to see them in person because they looked like so much fun. They were and I wish that I had been able to see their whole set, but it overlapped with Fitz and the Tantrums so we left early. I will definitely seek out trying to see them live again though because they definitely do all the things I love from a band when they perform live.
I was excited for Fitz and the Tantrums because I’ve been kicking myself ever since they played at Rams Head Live last year and I didn’t go. They did not disappoint. They had the crowd into their set and they have tons of energy. They ended their set with “The Walker”, which I love. That is my current go to song when I want something bouncy and happy to listen to.
The internet would have me believe that everyone hates Lana Del Rey, but the internet would be wrong because she was the act who the crowd was definitely the most excited to see. They cheered for her the loudest when she came on stage, people started shoving to get closer to see her more than they did any other act, and I saw more people singing along with her songs than anyone else. So I would say aside from the girl standing behind me who was trying to convince her friends to leave and go see 2 Chainz on the other stage because Lana Del Rey “was harshing [her] mellow” most people there in fact love Lana Del Rey. I know that is her stage name and she’s created someone of a persona for herself, but at some point I figure it’s mostly her anyway. She was quite honestly the oddest performer I think I’ve ever seen. She seemed kind of whatever about the entire performance at times just walking to the back of the stage and chatting with her band members, while at other times seeming really into interacting with her fans though not in a way I really support in this environment. She got off stage twice to go to the front of the audience and let fans take selfies with her and autograph things. It was fine at the very end of the set, but watching her do that for 5 minutes in the middle of the set while perhaps very exciting for the people who are personally experiencing it is not so much for the thousands of other people there. I knew it was a super long shot, and she did not in fact play it, but I was really hoping she would sing the version of “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty that is going to be in the upcoming Maleficent film. I was happy with the rest of the songs she played though.
The headliner for the night was Foster the People. I like them, but had tired of every single they had off their first album because they were so overplayed. I do like their new single “Coming of Age” and enjoyed the sophomore album in its entirety when I listened to it on Spotify. I guess I didn’t listen to it enough though since I didn’t recognize any of the first 5 or so songs that they played. We had already decided we were going to leave before the end of their set so as to get out of Merriweather’s parking lot before we had to spend an hour jockeying our way out of it with a bunch of under the influence drivers, but we left a littler sooner than I had already even planned when it started pouring rain in buckets right after they started playing “Coming of Age”. I said let’s stay for this song and then get out of here. Despite our ponchos we were still fairly wet by the time we got to my car and the rain was coming down so hard I drove most of the way home going significantly under the speed limit so that I could see.
For the most part it was a fun day, but I think I’ll leave this festival to the young’uns in the future.