As I strolled into the ginormous strip of land that makes up Forest Park in St Louis on September 7, I could feel the familiar aroma of excitement found only at music festivals. I was attending LouFest, an annual two-day music festival in its fifth year, and I could tell it was to be a memorable day.
The festival set up shop on Central Field and spaced out an area made to fit four stages, two strips of food vendors, an abundance of bathrooms and, on Sunday, a record-breaking crowd of 19,000 attendees. The logistics of the setup matched perfectly with the size of the crowd and venue, and fans graciously basked in the friendly festival “good vibes or no vibes” mentality that seems to have made a stop in nearly every state this summer.
Unlike massive festivals such as Chicago’s Lollapalooza and Manchester, Tennessee’s Bonnaroo, LouFest has a much calmer atmosphere with a low level of belligerency or claustrophobia. Its basic elements are unlike most other American music festivals, with overpriced food and drink vendors, beautiful men and women flaunting stylish-while-durable attire and, you know, good music. LouFest has grown so much since its founding that it was able to attract the hottest commodity in this season’s festival circuit: Outkast.
The legendary Southern-style rap duo headlined a jam-packed Sunday that also included British trip-hop crooners Glass Animals, eccentric indie-rockers Portugal. The Man and a boisterously sloppy Matt and Kim. Sunday also included Grouplove, Trombone Shorty, Cherub and more.
To begin the day, my two partners-in-festival-debauchery and I made our way to the Forest Park Stage to be serenaded by the bashfully adorable British synth-lords Glass Animals, who drenched their listeners in a multi-layered, drippy psych-pop. Starting off their U.S. tour that day, the up-and-comers singled out their followers in the crowd with gracious gestures and kept a consistently groovy energy level. The twinkly, bass-heavy “Toes” was surprisingly their strongest, while the undeniably catchy “Pools” received the strongest reception.
Immediately following Glass Animals' set was Portugal. The Man, who offered the most versatile show of the day, opening with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2,” only to transition into their hit single off of “Evil Friends,” “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” From the first minute, the prog-indie rock band was an explosion of bellowing sound, with singer John Gourley demonstrating a remarkable falsetto over the weirdo-pop catchiness his group brought.
Its performance was both high-energy yet soothingly beautiful. Its creative persona leaked into its set list, as the band played covers of beloved “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” song “Dayman” and Ghostface Killa’s “A Kilo,” while still packing in the songs that help make Evil Friends its best album like “Evil Friends” and “Atomic Man.”
By the time Matt and Kim made their appearance, I had admittedly grown a bit exhausted from the general intensity a day of music and sun bring, and was hoping they would have a fantastic show. Despite all the amazing things I had heard about the energy level and performance the band usually brings, Matt and Kim, unfairly plagued with a horrendous sound system, unfortunately leaked much entertainment.
Even though the technical difficulties weren’t their fault, they used most of the little time they actually played to, well, not play at all. They covered rap songs, they twerked and hyped the crowd — but they wouldn’t play!
Once the clock had finally hit 8:15, the reason for even getting a ticket came out. André 3000, dressed in a jumpsuit reading “Can one rest in peace and violence?” as a nod to the extreme hardships neighboring St. Louis suburb Ferguson has endured the past month, strode right into the opening lines of “B.O.B.” while Big Boi coasted onto the stage. That opening drop was so electric the show could have ended there and I’d be fine. They instead chose to span their entire catalogue through an epic 24-song set.
From mega-classics “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Rosa Parks” to fan favorites “Prototype” and “Crumblin’ Erb,” Outkast, joined by an outstanding horn section and background singers, left Forest Park not knowing what hit it. After 20 years, the duo still manages to blow away a crowd with their indisputably élite rap delivery and astounding instrumentation.
All in all, the day proved to be excellent after three incredible performances and an overall phenomenal atmosphere. LouFest upheld the wonderful element only music festivals can contain, and is sure to continue to move toward bigger and better things.