The three members of the Secret Machines, outfitted totally in black, looked as though they might wilt in the midday sun Saturday afternoon at Rothbury. But the trio's droning dirges — best experienced in dingy clubs long after nightfall — proved a nice tonic from the crunchy festival fair. "Alone, Jealous and Stoned" was a swirling, psychedelic monster, driven by drummer/man-beast Josh Garza's earthshaking clatter. "Sad and Lonely," by contrast, slowly emerged from a barbed-wire scrawl of guitar, the group gradually locking into a hypnotic groove.
Over on a neighboring stage the Dresden Dolls didn't shy away from addressing political or social issues during their blistering afternoon set. The pair performed a sneering cover of Fugazi's "Blueprint" because, as drummer-singer Brian Viglione was quick to note, "That band managed to combine political action with beautiful music... and that's what this festival is about." Elsewhere, Amanda Palmer (keyboards-vocals) and Viglione sang about boosting lawn ornaments on the punk cabaret of "Night Reconnaissance" and mimicked a skipping record on the Mattel-meets-Mannequin waltz of "Coin-Operated Boy."