High Life in the Pines Indie Music Festival: Featuring Lit

Tony Ballz

The following occurred at the Pepsi Amphitheater at Fort Tuthill, Flagstaff Aug. 26-27, 2011. The names have been changed to protect the irrelevant. Lit were awesome! What a great show! Alright, I’m lying. I didn’t see them at all but that’s OK because I don’t care for their music and I was at the venue for less than two hours and I only saw 1 1/2 bands and I got in for free.

In fact, I could probably name 62,784 things off the top of my head that I would rather do than see Lit in concert, such as: clean the oven, cut the dead skin off my toes, talk to myself, watch the paint peel, have a root canal without Novocain, or go to bed at 7:30.

I had a friend who lived in Flagstaff about 10 years ago who, although he was a pretty close bro, I have to admit had certain personality quirks which were a bit … well … douchey. Like listening to Lit.

He’s the kind of man who would put his pinky and index finger together, lick the tips, place them on his forehead, and splay them apart, thus grooming both his left and right eyebrow at the same time.

He’s the kind of man who listened to a radio station like the Q and watched the WB channel every night before going downtown so he could talk to college girls about subjects they were into. I don’t think all this was just to get laid; I think he actually enjoyed this stuff. He did get hella laid though, probably because he was young and thin and outgoing and good looking and worked at a bar.

One time we were at The Joint (he was serving me drinks and I was drinking them) when Lit’s current hit single “My Own Worst Enemy” came on the jukebox. He broke into a wide smile.

“Ah, here’s my song!”

“Really?”

“Yeah dude, this song is totally me.”

“Really?”

“‘Can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk’ … hell yeah, that’s me all over.”

It sort of bummed me out. I loved this guy. One night he and I stayed up till 5 AM getting ripped on tequila and looking up every disgusting sexual practice we could think of on Wikipedia and reading the entries aloud. He was that kind of brah.

I resigned myself to saying a silent prayer that on judgment day, the gods of quality music would have mercy on his soul.

So yeah, Lit. I found it humorous that their biggest hits were on RCA and they were appearing at the Greedy Corporate Bastards Amphitheater headlining an indie music festival.

How in the hell did they stretch this into a two day event? I’d never heard any of the other out-of-town bands on the bill, but then again I don’t listen to the Q. The local bands were fairly solid and I suppose this was good exposure for them. Deepa are nice peepa and I hear Dave McGraw and Crow Wing are pretty swell as well.

Anywhoo, the reason I was there was because Frankie C’s band got called up at the last minute to play on Saturday afternoon and I had the day off and they put me on the guest list and I figured what the hell, this should be an interesting sociological experiment.

Frankie’s combo plays hopped-up Who/Kinks inspired rawk and rowl just the way I like it: with lots of Keith Moony drum fills and reverb guitar and fuzz bass and songs about how good chicks look. Drummer Stewart is an actual British person who rides an actual Vespa and that accent of his is so damn charming that I almost want to take him to bed every time I hear it. Guitarist Rocky is a cop and he scares the living hell out of me.

Just kidding, Rocky’s a great guy. We do have to hide all the cocaine when he comes over, though.

I arrived at Fort Tuthill ready to rock the lawn with two lovely ladies in tow. OK, one was Frankie’s wife. And the other was Stewart’s. I’m a real happenin’ dude.

This was my first visit to the former Pine Mountain Ampitheater (still can’t seem to use the new name) and it was pretty sweet, just the kind of large but intimate venue perfect for Ween or Willie or Weird Al. Too bad there were only about 30 people there.

The lads were onstage setting up, so Mrs. C and I went for refreshments (Fat Tire for me, Blue Moon for her) and I noticed two very bored-looking girls sitting at the Fight The Quiet merch table, right next to the guy frying burgers.

We returned to the grassy knoll. The MC introducing the band made some smarmy comment about the sharp dressed men onstage (their uniform is: black tie, white shirt, blue jeans. Pretty snazzy really, guess they weren’t wearing enough black for him) and then it was rockin’ time. The ladies and I debated moving up closer, but decided watching them from the lawn would be a more pleasantly bizarre experience.

The sound was fairly loud and clear, but they had that problem where all of the drums and cymbals are individually miked and the sound guy doesn’t know how to make the whole kit blend together. For example, the rack tom was mixed about 3 notches higher than the snare and floor tom, so every time Stewart did one of his Keith Moon snare/rack/floor fills it sounded like this: dudududu DADADADA dudududu. The cymbals were pretty much nonexistent. Other than that, it was OK.

At one point, Stewart said something clever and British into the mic and I told Mrs. S about the time Stewart told a joke onstage at the Monte V that involved a cookie jar, only instead of saying cookie jar he said biscuit barrel, and she and I giggled like schoolgirls over that.

Biscuit barrel. See what I mean? That’s just sexy.

Some MENSA reject in the audience actually yelled “Free Bird!” at the band (I was yelling for “Substitute” and “Pinball Wizard”) and the boys were on top of it. Frankie responded: “Why don’t we leave the stage and YOU come up here and play ‘Free Bird’?”, and Stewart chimed in with: “Sorry, I’m British. I don’t even know what that song is.” I might just steal that last one.

They played a pretty quick set (“My Little Red Book” sounded great from the lawn) and it was over. While they packed up the gear, I grabbed another Fat Tire and Mrs. C bought a pretzel but we had to wait almost five minutes for the guy to change the cheese bag and when she finally got it the cheese was all cold and glutenous. The FTQ girls hadn’t moved.

We hobnobbed with the band on the side of the stage while the next act was setting up. I noticed the singer had one of those flat bodied acoustic guitars like Dave Matthews plays and I thought “Uh-oh”. We told Rocky he should wear his policeman’s uniform at the next show just like the guy in 400 Blows but for real and he said he’d think about it. Frankie informed me there was free food and beer backstage and he went and got me a complimentary brewski.

I don’t remember the name of the next group, but it was just as I feared: 20-something white guys playing limp hippie jazz/funk/rap/whatever. The singer enthused about how great it was to be back in Flag; they had all gone to school here and now lived in the valley. Super. They tried to muster up a little enthusiasm in the face of the poor turnout.

During one tune, the singer told the bass player to “get funky”; he responded with a slap bass solo worthy of the guy from Seinfeld. Right about the time they encouraged us to count how many beer references were in the next song, I started wondering why my formerly-good Fat Tire buzz was turning ugly and I realized the freebie I was drinking was Miller Hi-Life. I poured the remainder into Frankie’s cup (“But it’s FREE, dude!” So is botulism bro, and I don’t want that either). As I threw my cup away, the singer was rapping: “I took out my Steel Reserve and Nut Browned all over her face” and it made me physically wince.

Mrs. C and I were itching to get in the van and leave and Frankie was itching for more free beer, so we went backstage in order to be closer to both. Right before we did it dawned on me that the guy with the porkpie hat onstage was the band’s BEATBOXER and I wondered how one goes about landing a gig like that. Probably pretty easy in Phoenix.

Backstage, the percentage of really skinny white guys all in black with jet-black dyed spiky hair and that “I’m in a band” attitude went through the roof. I had never seen so many of them all together in one place before, it was like a big douchebag convention. At first I figured these were all the Phoenix bands, but then remembered how many of these dorks I’d seen around town and decided the look is pretty universal.

I was eyeing the free food tent when an official-looking meathead came up and semi-apologetically told us: “Steve says everyone backstage has to have red wristbands” and I almost responded: “Well, tell ol’ Steve to bust ‘em out then, let’s go!” I mean, what did he think we were going to do back there? “Ooh, there’s Fight The Quiet! Get their autographs, I’m too nervous.”

Almost on cue, it started raining. The douchebags were looking pretty bummed (all that runny hair gel) and we gladly jumped in the van and bailed. As we drove away, I reflected on my High Life In The Pines Indie Music Festival experience and came to the following conclusions:

a) Never start with Fat Tire and end with Miller Low-Life. It’s like going to bed with Salma Hayek and waking up with Elmer Fudd.

b) “Douchebag Convention” is a fantastic name for a band. Maybe they’ll be headlining next year’s festival.

At home, I felt so shitty that I was asleep by 7:30.

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