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Secret Machines, Dresden Dolls Inject Rothbury With a Bit of Darkness

July 5, 2008 11:45 PM ET

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."

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Song Stories

“Love Is the Answer”

Utopia | 1977

The message of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" proved to be a universal and long-lasting one, which Utopia revisited 10 years later on this ballad. "From a lyrical standpoint, it's part of a whole class of songs that I write, which are about filial love," Todd Rundgren explained. "I'm not a Christian, but it's called Christian love, the love that people are supposed to naturally feel because we are all of the same species. That may be mythical, but it's still a subject." Though "Love Is the Answer" wasn't a hit, a cover version two years later by England Dan & John Ford Coley peaked at Number Ten on the Billboard singles chart.

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