Local Bay Area alternative radio station Live 105 brought its annual summer music festival … BFD … to Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheatre to celebrate its twentieth year. And despite the occasional mumbling about the line-up (which no-doubt had been impacted by the 3-day Bottle Rock festival just up the road in Napa), the show was sold out and the weather couldn’t have been better for a long day of music in the sun.
If you’ve never been to BFD, here’s the quick rundown … the festival and local band stages run in parallel from the time doors open up until the main stage opens. The main stage features the bigger acts and runs from 5 pm until curfew. All the while, the Subsonic Tent never stops thumping out EDM and always manages to be packed to the rafters with kids jumping around with their hands in the air.
This year the crew and bands did an astonishing job of keeping the 25-35 minute sets alternating like clockwork between the two Festival stages. With relatively short set times, it seems like all of the bands stuck to the same script to make their time memorable; pull out your best 4-5 songs, throw in a random cover (Tom Petty, Ramones … whatever works) and end with “that song” … you know, the one that everyone that doesn’t have your record still knows from the radio.
If you dedicated your attention to the Festival stages, it would be easy to get lost in the monotony but it was not without its moments …
- Semi Precious Weapons held the unenviable position of taking the stage literally minutes after the doors opened in front of an empty parking lot but held back nothing as they ripped through their set full of swish and swagger and frontman Justin Tranter exclaimed, “I don’t care if we’re playing to twelve people or twelve thousand!” These guys are pretty much guaranteed an elevated spot in future Live 105 events.
- Local boys Finish Ticket from Alameda kicked the fest into high-gear after an apathetic performance by Skaters (maybe the 11:40 am set time was just too early?) thanks to what appeared to be a lot of friends in the crowd who were stoked to see the band’s efforts paying off.
- MS MR lived up to every ounce of hype that’s been thrown at them, delivering a fantastic performance. Suffice it to say that Lizzy Plapinger didn’t need that shock of pink hair to demand the crowd’s attention.
- Wrapping up the Festival Stage was Walk The Moon, a band that’s already beloved in the Bay Area and headlines here frequently. WTM brought their syrupy pop in all its glory and the crowd swallowed every last drop. Oh, and they wrapped their set with what else … radio favorite Anna Sun.
At 5 pm things kicked off on the main stage with New Politics. Now the thing about the Shoreline is that there’s no general admission section up front, only seats. What that means for an opening band is that there could be thousands of fans cheering from the back but hundreds of empty seats up front. Confronted with those circumstances, New Politics frontman David Boyd took the logical approach, he hiked up to the 200 section to perform for the people that really gave a hoot.
Up next was Phantogram whose set was at that special time of the day at the Shoreline when the sun dips below the tent but hasn’t dropped below the lawn, resulting in the stage getting blasted with direct sunlight. This didn’t slow the ‘gram but it was hard not to enjoy the set without a certain amount of pity as Sarah Barthel tried to look cool as she squinted into the blinding sun.
Fitz & the Tantrums, who had graduated from last year’s festival stage to the main stage, brought tons of energy, their radio hits as well as a cover of Sweet Dreams … putting to rest any speculation that they weren’t up to the task of the big stage.
By the time M.I.A. took the stage with her DJ’s and dancers, the sun had finally set behind the lawn and the crowd could now see what was being projected on a massive LED screen at the back of the stage. M.I.A worked the edge of the stage before quickly following in David Boyd’s footsteps for a run around the 100 section. Of all the sets, this one felt the most out of place … one bass-heavy song bleeding into the next without a pause or change of beat quickly became monotonous for many. Even when she threw in a bit of Lorde’s Royals into Paper Planes, the elation in the crowd was quickly followed by confused looks as the tease was only brief. All that didn’t stop the hardcore fans from availing themselves of the offer of an on-stage dance party but the beer, food and bathroom lines all looked particularly long during this period.
Foster the People wrapped up the night with their headlining set at just past 9 pm. The first band of the day to bring any production to the stage beyond the LED screen, Foster lined the back of the stage with large crystal-like structures jutting out of a stage platform lined with lights but it was the performance that kept the crowd on their feet throughout the set and ending a long day in the cool night.
Click the thumbnails below for a photo gallery of each band.
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