All photos by Jackson Fleming
For the fifth year running, Audiotree hosted it’s annual music festival in the charming downtown area of Kalamazoo, Michigan. This year’s lineup seemed to be pulling out all the stops with heavy-hitters like Father John Misty, Local Natives, Real Estate, and Khraungbin (just to name a few). The whole lineup was a dream, but here are the five sets that we’ll keep talking about.
Bringing back 70’s stoner rock that calls to mind Pink Floyd, Post Animal are a dynamic five-piece hailing from the rad music scene of Chicago. Certainly fitting the aesthetic that would make the psychedelic rock gods proud, their set seemed to draw a large crowd early on during the second day of the festivities. Considering Chicago is only a two hour drive from Kalamazoo, it was not surprising that so many fans made the pilgrimage. Definitely sounding more heavy and hard-nosed live, Post Animal made the most of their time on stage. Favorite track definitely was when they played “Gelatin Mode” from their sophomore LP When I Think Of You In A Castle. This band is definitely on the rise and should be on everyone’s radar in the coming months.
These indie pop darlings showed some of the best chemistry and stage presence between band mates with their set on Saturday afternoon. Hailing from New Paltz, NY, Diet Cig consists of Alex Luciano (lead vocals/guitar) and Noah Bowman (drums) and creates an infectious blend of fast-paced indie rock. With relatable lyrics that speak heavily on loss, young love, and life in general, Diet Cig’s genuine sound resonates with all-ages. As the two took the stage to a sizable crowd in the festival’s center, I noticed that Luciano came out with a knee brace on. Having apparently torn her ACL a couple weeks before, Luciano did not let this hold her back as she danced and twirled around stage. Diet Cig’s message of acceptance and “safe spaces” is something they promote throughout their music and I definitely felt this when listening to their catchy tunes. A relatively young band that has exploded on the scene, Diet Cig does not seem to be showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon and for good reason.
Local Natives: the kind of indie rock band that’s impossible not to dig. Saturday’s headliners drew a massive crowd to the main stage and were the perfect way to end the first day of Audiotree. Their discography is teeming with warm and atmospheric tracks that perfectly blend dreamlike melodies with harmonizing vocals. Opening with “Past Lives” from their 2016 release Sunlit Youth, Local Natives had the masses dancing with smiles all around. A quintet based in their hometown of Los Angeles, Local Natives’s sound truly feels like one is enjoying the warm summer nights in LA.
A band name derived from the Thai word for “airplane”, Khruangbin put one of the most technically impressive displays of music I think I have ever witnessed. Creating a soulful, funky jam session that seemed to entrance almost everyone in the vicinity, the trio of extremely talented musicians were absolutely marvelous. Comprising of Mark Speer on lead guitar, Laura Lee on bass, and DJ Johnson on drums, Khruangbin is consistently regarded as being one the tightest live bands in the industry and their performance at Audiotree definitely proved that. Whether it be Speer shredding on his guitar, Lee laying down a wild bass line, or Johnson staying so smooth in the pocket of the snare, you owe it yourself to witness this act at least once in your lifetime.
Father John Misty
American singer/songwriter J.Tillman, aka Father John Misty, was the perfect way to close out the last day of Audiotree. The self-proclaimed king of “social commentaries”, FJM’s music paints a dark-comedesque tone with his intelligent lyrics. Opening with “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”, FJM’s heavy guitar rifts reverberated out to the audience of over a thousand strong. This live rendition of the classic hit was definitely the perfect way to open FJM’s set. As FJM strutted around as smoke and red light bathed him in obscurity, it seemed that he had the audience’s full attention the minute he came into view. His overall aesthetic and sound has always been the definition of cool and his set definitely cemented this point through and through.