At a time when music festivals are appearing out of every corner, it’s nice when organizers know the demographic they’re aiming for. The DC-based music blog All Things Go put together an event that emphasized all things synth-pop: bands that love a bit of electronic music to go with their guitars, drums, and vocals. And with the move from Union Market to Yards Park, they ran into issues both predictable and unexpected, but things are looking up after the third iteration of the All Things Go Fall Classic.
The venue itself provided a lot more breathing room for strategic placement of food and bathrooms, but the space didn’t have the unique character of Union Market’s loading dock vantage points and indoor food courts. In fact, more cover would have been nice with the rain that plagued the first half of the festival. Although it never reached a torrential amount, the slow and steady rainfall combined with thousands of feet moving back and forth between the stage, the food court, and the bathrooms caused the grounds to become a massive mud pit. By the end of the day, those in the back of the crowd opted to find comfort in the slivers of asphalt that criss-crossed the park.
Of course, the music still had to go on. In keeping with the tradition of featuring DMV-musicians (such as Young Summer and The Walking Sticks, now known as SHAED), All Things Go enlisted Ace Cosgrove to open up the festival to a resilient, but small crowd at noon. He performed the majority of his set in the middle of the crowd, keeping spirits high despite the weather. He put on a strong effort for having the role of opening the day’s festivities in the rain (and for being the only hip-hop artist on the billing). The three-piece band known as POP ETC left everything they had on the festival stage with their pop-leaning rock music and excitable personalities. Ultimately, though, the performance was fun, but nothing exceptionally memorable. Such is the dilemma of many bands these days, synth-pop or not: figuring out a way to stand out from the pack when there are many other bands vying for our attention.
Sofi Tukker got the crowd going with their unique bossa nova-fueled dance music. With Sophie Hawley-Weld on guitar and Tucker on the decks, they indulged in the rain and performed on the stage’s edge for the majority of their set. They were a strong performer in an underappreciated slot, but they gained many more fans later in the day due to unforeseen consequences. Christine and the Queens cancelled their set due to slippery conditions on stage, disappointing many fans who now had an hour and a half to kill. Thankfully, all negative feelings were washed away when Sofi Tukker stepped in to fill in the time with an impromptu DJ set that drew influences from Brazilian samba and house music (very much like their own music, unsurprisingly). Along with an Ace Cosgrove guest appearance and some crowdsurfing, they completely took control of the festival until it was time for Sylvan Esso to take the stage.
With just one album, the North Carolina duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn have made huge waves with their deft melding of the organic and electronic, so there was no surprise when this time when they impressed once again at the Fall Classic. Meath is an unstoppable dancing machine on stage, and Sanborn manipulates the music with precision and emotion. New tracks like “Radio” and other as-of-yet untitled tracks gained boisterous applause, but the true reveal will come when they perform in DC after their sophomore album is released. Still, for just having one album out, the reception for the duo was huge throughout their set.
As one of the standard bearers of the synth-pop movement in the late 2000s, Passion Pit singer Michael Angelakos had a lot to live up to. Thankfully, he can still easily rile up a crowd. His band played with precision as he did his best Bono impression, constantly pumping up the crowd as he belted out songs from his last three albums. Unfortunately, his trademark falsettos just aren’t what it is on the albums that made him a musical staple. The falsettos were roughly delivered and didn't ring out very well compared to the lower octaves. Still, some can overlook that because the band put on a very strong performance and he put a lot of...passion...into the delivery.
For music fans that have never seen an Empire of the Sun show, they soon learned why they were picked to headline the festival: they put on a show with no comparison in the non-arena music sphere. Although their music is slowly becoming very middle-of-the-road compared to their Australian peers (e.g. Bag Raiders, Miami Horror, and Cut Copy), the songs only tell part of the story. With backup dancers and musicians adorning the stage in out-of-this-world outfits, they are unparalleled in creating not just a concert, but a multi-sensory experience. Although the show runs the risk of becoming very been-there-done-that for returning fans, singing along to “Walking on a Dream” and “Alive” with your friends is still a whole lot of fun, even if the festival grounds were a full-on mud pit by the end of the day.
At this point, new festivals need to know their audience if they are to survive. Just as how Broccoli City caters to up-and-coming hip-hop/R&B, Trillectro caters to fans of hip-hop and electronic music, and Sweetlife caters to 16-year-olds, the All Things Go Fall Classic aims for the 20s-to-30s synth-pop/blog buzz crowd. Although there’s a case to be made for the more intimate feel of the Union Market venue, there is a lot of room for the festival to grow further at Yards Park. Bathroom and food lines were never unbearable (except for Shake Shack, unsurprisingly) and the bands performed their hearts out. In the end, it checked the essential boxes for a music festival. Even in spite of the rain, people came for the music and left very satisfied.