The Drums: Jonathan Pierce struts like a diva. That basically informs all of the Drums’ live performances, which consist of the band playing post-punky riffs while Pierce impersonates a stuttering peacock. This plays well, however, as an animated frontman is always a plus—particularly when he has such strong songs to sing, like “Best Friend,” which he introduced with “This song is about my dead best friend.” Predictably, the strongest applause came for the strongest song, “Let’s Go Surfing”; during the breakdown, the entire crowd immediately started clapping with the rhythm, to which Pierce responded by strutting even more.
Sleigh Bells: Sleigh Bells came onto a gradually escalating series of fight songs: “We Will Rock You,” some metal song and then “Iron Man.” The said trio of anthemic ’80 metal basically defines Sleigh Bells’ sound; the duo is, essentially, what would happen if Queen only wrote songs like “We Will Rock You.” Four massive Marshall stacks filled the packed tent with lovely distortion, providing an avenue for ex-hardcore guitarist Derek Miller to deliver riffs over huge blast beats. Leading the proceedings on the mic was frontwoman/cheerleader Alexis Krauss, dressed in her trademark “Bells” jersey and shiny tights, alternately barking and singing wispily, sending the crowd into a frenzy. The audience quickly turned into a full-on mosh pit during indie hits like “Infinity Guitars” and “A/B Machines,” with elbows flying and the fallen helped to their feet, lest they be trampled. The only respite at all was the wavy “Rill Rill,” which provided a break everyone was grateful for. I began the show wondering how Sleigh Bells was going to fill an hour-long set with 35 minutes of material; actually, it’s good that they didn’t play any longer. When every song is “We Will Rock You” there’s only so much you can physically take before you fall on the floor.
Childish Gambino: Donald Glover’s side-project-turned-real-project has turned the actor-comedian into an actor-comedian-rapper-singer-producer who can command a crowd of thousands in a tent, with hundreds more necks craning to see from the sides. Instead of his half-comedy-half-rapping shtick that sold out twice in New York last month, Glover stuck entirely to his raps. With a full band behind him, Glover was a dynamo, jumping on every flat surface and running through most of his raps. While known for Derrick Comedy and his ensemble role on the critically acclaimed sitcom Community, Glover is also a really, really talented rapper. This makes sense, as the overlap between witty rap lyrics and comedy writing is pretty significant. It is a good trend when rappers mention Scott Pilgrim. And can I say that “everything I’m saying, I’m super-sayin’ like Goku” is the line of the year? Glover closed to massive applause with “Lights Turned On,” the beat-heavy standout from his last EP, showing that sometimes, you really can cross over.