A.V. Fest/Hideout Block Party 2014: From Worst to Best

Festival Review


    Call The Hideout Block Party & Onion A.V. Fest the anti-Lollapalooza. Whereas the Chicago festival juggernaut has been criticized for choosing fads over talent in recent years (an accusation that’s not completely true), the Block Party values longevity over buzz. Only that’s not completely true either.

    Sure, this year had a latter-day incarnation of funk legends the Meters, but it also had trendy electropop from Sylvan Esso and the otherworldly Appalachia of Valerie June. Death Cab for Cutie and The Dismemberment Plan gave the weekend some much needed populism, and The War on Drugs are the indie kings of 2014. I’m not sure if the festival promoters considered longevity, buzzworthiness, reviews, or anything else really when curating the lineup, other than just inviting musicians they liked.


    Photo by Amanda Koellner

    And that’s what a Block Party is, right? A shindig where you invite all your friends and see who shows up. It’s crowded (but never too crowded), everyone gets drunk (but never too drunk), things get messy (but never too messy), and maybe Travis Morrison accidentally breaks something. But he feels really bad and apologizes for it. So it’s all good.


    These traits could apply to any of the Block Parties, not just this year’s, and that suits us just fine. Unlike Lolla and even Riot Fest, it’s a Chicago institution that always stays the same size — after all, The Hideout parking lot is only so big. It’s reliably ramshackle. It’s a tension-free festival. Everyone’s welcome, even though there’s no way everyone will come. In other words, it’s a block party.

    Missed it? Here’s the whole weekend, from worst to best.

    –Dan Caffrey
    Senior Staff Writer

    Mac DeMarco


    Photo by Amanda Koellner

    How chill is too chill? If his Saturday set was any indication, the answer is Mac DeMarco. Although his Epic Stage Dive proved worthy for hundreds of Instagram accounts, the surrounding 50 minutes was fully stocked with Jimmy Buffett noodling, tepid stage banter, and half-baked covers that may or may not have been laced with irony — that was the problem. For a guy that has the craziest sense of humor in music today, the afternoon set was a confusing snooze fest. What the hell happened? –Michael Roffman

    Bad Luck Jonathan

    jon langford steven arroyo A.V. Fest/Hideout Block Party 2014: From Worst to Best

    Photo by Steven Arroyo

    Jon Langford is a Welsh-born, Chicago-based musician and longtime friend of the Hideout who has performed there with various bands for several years, but early arrivers (and early-ish arrivers – the fest’s start time was pushed back 50 minutes due to vicious afternoon storms) got to see him perform with a brand-new outfit. Bad Luck Jonathan, whose name is a fittingly shit-eating nod to the president of Nigeria, ground out a few songs of professionally belligerent, lampshade-on-head punk for the fest’s opening, designated Hideout-insiders’ set. “We will only play again when it rains,” Langford signed off, despite having just seen rain shorten and repel people from his set. –Steven Arroyo

    Handsome Family

    handsome family steven arroyo 1 A.V. Fest/Hideout Block Party 2014: From Worst to Best

    Photo by Steven Arroyo

    As storms swept through the Chicagoland area on Friday, a friend remarked that the Handsome Family’s somber, gothic folk might sound excellent against roaring thunder. Sadly, the band’s early evening set felt more soggy than ominous, perhaps due to the lack of stand-up bass, which co-founder Rennie Sparks revealed was a victim of the evening’s frustratingly intermittent downpours. Still, the band finished strong with the beefy “All the Time in Airports” and “Far from Any Road”, as haunting here as it was in the opening credits of True Detective. Blame it on the rain, cuz’. [Gotta blame it on somethin’.] –Randall Colburn

    Hamilton Leithauser

    hamilton leithauser steven arroyo A.V. Fest/Hideout Block Party 2014: From Worst to Best

    Photo by Steven Arroyo

    Every act on Friday night was hampered by the inclement weather, but none as much as Hamilton Leithauser. For starters, the former Walkmen frontman was forced to whittle down his set to less than a half hour, allowing for only a handful of songs off his one and only studio album, this year’s Black Hours. Surprisingly, the record’s quieter, more minimal melodies were best suited to the sound issues and moody clouds above, with a small string section and Leithauser’s gutter-Sinatra vibrato delicately pushing through the gloom on “5 AM“. Like other bands in the evening, though, his more distorted tracks, such as “I Don’t Need Anyone”, sounded muddy due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. We know it’s not your fault, Hambone, and look forward to catching you next time. –Dan Caffrey

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