By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
Alejandro Escovedo opened his set with "Always a Friend" — a Springsteen-caliber bar-rock tune from 2008's Real Animal — and followed it up with a howling, gang-vocal-strewn new song, "This Bed Is Getting Crowded." Escovedo's honky-tonk, roadhouse blues, Spanish and twang-rock influences are well known, but he's also held on fiercely to his punk roots. At LouFest, he often came across like Iggy Pop — if the latter had cut his teeth in Texas instead of Michigan. The new song "Tender Heart" in particular screamed Stooges — from the flailing riffs down to the scabrous exhortation, "Do you want to be in my dream?" (AZ)
Unsurprisingly, Jeff Tweedy's solo appearance was what many LouFesters came to see. Wilco's frontman obliged fans with an 85-minute acoustic set featuring both obscurities and familiar songs. The night's first tune, "Sunken Treasure," conjured chills — from its wavering harmonica and understated acoustic riffs to its jarringly lonely lyrics ("I am so out of tune with you") and whispered secrets ("Music is our savior").
The crowd was quiet and respectful during "Treasure." (It was just as shocking that the reverent tone continued throughout the set.) As a result, the vulnerability of the songs performed cut to the quick. Wilco's "One Wing" sounded like an Elliott Smith song, all fragile and fluttery. "Via Chicago" was delicate and aching; as always, so was "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," whose sentiments sound so raw and exposed without the studio bells and whistles. (AZ)
A tip of the hat goes to the LouFest organizers for choosing She & Him to close out the two-day festival. It's almost as if they knew the sun would descend and bring in the perfect summer breeze to complement M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel's timeless, breezy pop standards. The pair's wholesome, soothing sound provided the perfect backdrop to a particularly gorgeous night.
Backed by an ever-so-sturdy rhythm section, an extra guitar player and a couple backup singers, Deschanel led the band through twenty-plus songs of pure pop bliss and hit every note with ease. But even as her voice barreled through Forest Park with the confidence and poise of a veteran indie-pop songstress, you had the sense that she's still getting used to the "lead lady" role. Deschanel let Ward do most of the between-song talking and seemed a bit anchored down early in the set. In all fairness though, she had her hands full: If she wasn't strumming away on her mandolin, she was laying down durable piano chords or layering the sound with fervent tambourine tapping. (MD)