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A.V. Fest/Hideout Block Party Day 1 Recap: Neko, Mavis And Everyone Else

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 7, 2013 7:00PM

Mavis Staples asks the crowd if they can get to that—they could. (Photo credit: Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist)

Friday night's festivities at the A.V. Fest/Hideout Block Party played out exactly as we expected: huge crowds rapt in attention for Mavis Staples and Neko Case, while Trampled by Turtles and Nude Beach had the tough job of warming up the crowd. More accurately, though, they served as placeholders for the evening's marquee acts.

The 74-year-old Mavis Staples took the stage steadied by a man and a walking cane and bounded into a rousing cover of Funkadelic's "Can I Get to That" off her latest album One True Vine.

Staples, who recently underwent knee replacement surgery, regaled the audience with memories of her 2011 A.V. Fest/Block Party performance and said she was naming her new knee "The Hideout."

Staples' knee wasn't the only part of her body giving her trouble Friday night. Her voice, normally raspy with authority, sounded more haggard during her 45-minute set. Like most seasoned singers, though, she adapted, and sang with power from her mid-range. This pivot gave a rocking rendition of "Freedom Train" greater depth and Staples's cover of "The Weight," a song she already can call her own, deeper poignancy.

Staples played to the crowd in front of the stage throughout, her arms outstretched, leaning back as far as her knee would allow and beating her chest in time with her rhythm section.

Staples' current stage band, including her sister Yvonne on backing vocals, is tailored to evoke the streamlines efficiency of the Staples singers. The background singers clap in syncopation and guitarist Rick Holmstrom admirably fills in for the late Roebuck "Pops" Staples. —Chuck Sudo

Neko Case (Photo credit: Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist)

Neko Case hit the stage with a chunky rendition on "This Tornado Loves You" from Middle Cyclone, setting the stage for a lean, muscular set full of musical interplay. Guitarist Eric Bachmann and multi-instrumentalist Jon Rauhouse swooped and circled each other with piercing chords and melodic runs while Case and Kelly Hogan (Americana's version of Thelma and Louise) did their by-now telepathic vocals. Case soared with naked emotion during "Hold On, Hold On" and "people Got A Lotta Nerve" while Hogan held Case aloft with understated singing.

Case's lyrics have become more obtuse with each new album—although she hasn't fully succumbed to Indie Rock Poet disease, aka "Andrew Bird-itis"™—but the highlight of the night was an a-cappella reading of "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu" from her new album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. With Hogan backing, Case sang about a child abused by her mother, moving deftly from shock and anger to sympathy, as though her singing was intended to protect the child. —Chuck Sudo

Trampled by Turtles would be a perfect fit for, say, a Tuesday night on Hideout's stage. Unfortunately they were hampered by a non-responsive crowd, their position on the lineup between the popular Staples and the energetic Nude Beach, and a lackluster set that made Mumford & Sons seem progressive. It wasn't that they didn't perform well; it's that the group never seemed to kick things into a higher gear. —Chuck Sudo

Nude Beach took the stage in front of a largely empty lot to open the fest, but halfway through their first song a couple hundred people had filled the space in front of the stage. It was obvious most were drawn in by the band's energy, though it was equally obvious 99 percent of the crowd had no idea who they were.

This fact was acknowledged by singer Ryan Naideau halfway through their set as he nodded towards the fact that much of the material was new, and they were about to go in the recording studio, but that didn't matter since their music was probably new to everyone in the crowd. The band has eschewed some of their more ragged punk edges in favor of good-time boogie rock licks, but the Brooklyn trio was still 100 percent a party band. —Jim Kopeny