What it was like: The little ride with no line at the amusement park you want to stay on forever.
The fresh-faced Generationals have your OJ right here, your welcome-to-Monolith warbles and bleats. The cozy crowd wiggled appreciatively while the New Orleans quartet played pure pop candy. They've got the blonde dude with the high voice and the dark-haired guy in a dark sweater singing low. The drummer, she bopped along and wore an up-do and the keyboardist shook a little in her yellow dress.
Verdict: Yes, please. -- Kiernan MaletskyThe Depreciation Guild, 12:30 p.m.
What it was like: Jesus and Mary Chain on a forgiving day
I could hear the "Be My Baby" drums from across Monolith and the huge vocal floating up the mountain. The three wiry scenesters of Depreciation Guild seemed genuinely thankful to be here. And why not? They cracked open the biggest stage in the West with some big, awesome, ominous music on a day to match. I'd have liked the feedback to cut a little more, but that might just have been the mix. Either way, the electronic track was jaw-chattering, and the pair of guitars swirled and scraped. Add some arena drums and that fluid vocal and the band achieved a sound I'd describe as pretty if that didn't make them sound like wussies. They're not.
Verdict: It's been done before, but what hasn't? This band is awesome. -- KMAutovaughn, 1 p.m. Roadside Graves, 1 p.m.
What it was like: A hootenanny in the rain.
I arrived a bit late for the Roadside Graves' set at the humbly sized Madeloud Stage, but as the septet rolled out their final selection of songs under a light sprinkle of rain, it was clear I hadn't missed any of their energy.
The New Jersey-based ensemble made the most of the small stage and the limited space, offering heartfelt vocals, expansive piano lines and insistent, driving acoustic guitar chords. Even in the cramped setting at the top of the first set of stairs coming into the amphitheater, the group made the performance seem expansive and the sound come off as grandiose.
Summoning cues from American roots and folk music, the group successfully complemented their musical act with a knack for getting the crowd engaged. For the final number, the band members descended from the stage and mingled with the audience, encouraging sing-alongs and exhorting participation.
Even with the chilly weather, and even with the early hour, the band managed to envoke American folk traditions to make their act engaging and compelling.
Verdict: The Roadside Graves' camp-meeting appeal made for an energetic and enthusiastic start to the festival. -- A.H. GoldsteinStars of Track and Field
What it was like: What would happen if a bunch of kids who never struggled to find sex as teenagers started an emo band.
I bet these guys' favorite band ever - the best band, I bet they'd tell you - is Stars of Track and Field. The guitarist might as well have been flexing over there, wearing an ironic shirt with a penis reference on it. And I thought the drummer might start crying, right there in the middle of the song. As for the singer, he was wearing a tool's uniform (scarf, t-shirt, the sunglasses from True Romance and white jeans) and struck me as someone without anything interesting to say.
They bled U2 chords and held every vowel like they were doing it for a cause. No one felt like picking up a bass, apparently, so they kept a track farting out low notes to round out their training-wheels arena sound.
Verdict: Self-important, bombastic in the worst way. And boring. -- KM