THING Festival 2022
Updated: Jul 2
Edited by Marian Mohamed
Festival attendees wait patiently as Hiatus Kaiyote prepares for an electric performance on Aug. 26, 2022. (Photo/Lily Rodriguez)
Our Friday started on a misty morning as Marian and I trekked across the idyllic Puget Sound to catch day one of Port Townsend’s THING festival.
Delvon Lamarr rolled out in style, all energy, no shoes. I am convinced that the bare-feet-to-organ-pedal dynamic partially amplifies his musical prowess. As soon as Lamarr was positioned behind the organ, the instrument became an extension of himself, producing a sonic cyborg warrior of funk. The band immediately broke out into a cosmic jam, clearly hungry for an expedition into the outer reaches of psych, jazz, and soul. It's always stunning to be left in the wake of a band with transcendent chemistry, but Jimmy James and Delvon Lamarr were locked into each other with a focus that could make you forget about the physical plane.
Guitarist Jimmy James of Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio mesmerizes the crowd with his guitar notes on Aug. 26, 2022. (Photo/Lily Rodriguez)
Speaking the language of jazz, the trio bounced off each other into a conversation, from the exclamation of a shredding guitar riff to a slow and steady bouncing reply from the bass. With the chattering of the drum kit holding it all down, the flow seamlessly morphed into tributes to Cyndi Lauper, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Jimi Hendrix. The set crescendoed with the group's breakout rendition of Move on Up from their 2018 Live on KEXP session, weaving in a taste of the Ghostbusters theme that transformed the solo section into a game of chicken.
With all musicians sonically daring each other to break the groove, they finally came out of the time warp, admitting they had no clue when their set was supposed to end. I believed it didn't have to, but the stage manager had different ideas. Closing out with a few tracks off their 2022 album Cold as Weiss, put out earlier this year on Colemine Records as a nod to their all-star drummer Dan Weiss, the band left the audience eager to hear what this Seattle native has in store for us next.
Next up at the Parades Ground stage was the band known for being "sad music for party people and party music for sad people." Releasing their first-ever single in June of 2021, Wet Leg has erupted into an indie pop whirlwind, lyrically producing melodramatic mantras for angsty youths everywhere. Originating from the Isle of Wright, the group recorded their self-titled breakout studio album with Speedy Wunderground producer, icon, and legend Dan Carey.
Hester Chambers and Rhian Teasdale of Wet Leg perform their songs filled with snarkily provocative lyrics on Aug. 26, 2022. (Photo/Lily Rodriguez)
Since the album's release in April, Wet Leg has initiated the launch of their international tour with their first stop in Port Townsend. The band floated on stage with all the calling cards of aesthetic indie kids: cutoff denim shorts, corduroy pants, flowing hair, and a touch of leopard print. Lead vocalist Rhian Teasdale assumed the position in a puffy dreamscape nightgown, giggling her way through the band's introduction, emanating the humble and silly energy that makes Wet Leg irresistible. Taking off into a post-punk layering of punching bass and motorik drums, Chaise Longue reminded us of the manic high of mischief when Teasdale sang, "Is your mother worried?
Would you like us to assign someone to worry your mother?" Some twirls, snarkily provocative lyrics, and glassy riffs later, the band orchestrated a communal scream session in the break on "Ur Mum," releasing those festering tantrums we all try to suppress. Wet Leg's songwriting taps into the emotional rollercoaster of young adulthood, fueled by the seething anger towards the asshole who broke up with you and the playfulness of trying to put your life back together. Listening to a pretty song about all these problems feels more manageable. In addition to their charismatic bops, you can't help but love a band that, despite going from a remote British isle to an international tour in under a year, refuses to take themselves too seriously.
Mahamadou Souleymane was meant to have a guitar in his hands, so when he needed one, he built it himself. Traveling over to the Littlegreen field, we caught sight of one of the most gripping sets of the day. Mdou Moctar began as the personal project of a budding musician who struggled against his family's conservatism to produce the Assouf psychedelic epics that graced THING festival. Since his first widely released record in 2013, Mdou's prolific guitar work has snowballed into album after album of unstoppable desert rock jams. His 2021 masterpiece Afrique Victime, put out on Matador Records, lyrically exposes the liberatory struggles of people in Niger while channeling the rigor of jam rock.
Since the album's release last year, the band has also produced 2022's "Afrique Refiat", a remix album featuring entirely African artists, building community amidst musical innovation. The guitar work on these albums absolutely shreds, plunging from explorative melodic riffs into distorted finger-picking madness. Both mesmerizing and disruptive, the tight melodic ambiance props up a gorgeous range of vocal intonation to create a masterpiece of modern Tuareg sound.
Mahamadou Souleymane and Mikey Coltun of Mdou Moctar transfix listeners with their set list on Aug. 26, 2022. (Photo/Lily Rodriguez)
Sung in Tamasheq, lyrics advocate for self-reflection, communal strength, and anti-imperialist liberation. The fast pace jams also speak volumes to Mdou's instrumental storytelling, delivering a prolific set where weighted power chords cleared the path for strategic expositional hammer-ons. The band cast a trance over the crowd, mesmerizing audience members with their flow's simultaneous grace and speed. Seeing Mdou Moctar live only further invigorates the band's lure, incorporating the whole audience into the experience of psychedelia.
Nothing short of spiritual, Hiatus Kaiyote always delivers an exploratively soulful yet explosively bumpin' set. With the sun hanging low in the sky behind the stage, the natural ambiance provided a perfect accompaniment to Nai Palm's soft yet striking vocals. Twinkling keys danced rhythmically to melting drum beats and wandering bass lines, creating an enticing sonic snack.
Nai Palm, in their bedazzled outfit, performs Hiatus Kaiyote set list of genre intersectionality of R&B and electro-funk on Aug. 26, 2022. (Photo/Lily Rodriguez).
Charging straight into tracks off the 2021 release Mood Valiant, the band's familiar R&B was accompanied by a hint of electro-funk, driving the crowd into a dance frenzy. The first album released after a six-year, dare I say, hiatus delivers a genre-bending tribute to a cosmic symbiosis. Hiatus Kaiyote's lyrics dive into themes of the natural world, mirroring emotional expression, sung with a vocal range that plunges deep one second, then skyrockets into a pivotal mezzo-soprano the next. Meandering in and out of tempos transports listeners to the stars and back, settling into the warmth of a smooth soul.