If Rothbury is set to be the next Bonnaroo, then the first annual Pemberton Festival will gladly take the title of next Glastonbury. Similarly isolated, sprawling and boasting acts as far flung as Tom Petty and Jay-Z, Pemberton’s organizers clearly had its British brethren in mind when concocting this fest. After some typical first-day mayhem involving 3-hour traffic lines and the realization that 40,000 people wandering a former farm field kicks up a lot of dust, Pemberton got kicked off proper with some music.
Against a mountainous backdrop, Interpol emerged, business-like, in black button up suits (save Carlos D, who chose a white alternative). Playing towards the setting sun, the band at first resisted and then reveled in the contrast between their slick, cloak-of-night songs and the sunny, hippie-filled crowd. This loosening effect was most evident in Paul Banks, whose typically stone face melted to a near-tickled smile as his band backed him on tracks largely taken from last year’s Our Love to Admire (“Pioneer to the Falls,” the Pixies-like “Rest My Chemistry”). He even undid a few buttons on his shirt for good measure during “Heinrich Maneuver.” For his part, Carlos D stayed buttoned, didn’t smile and double-fisted Red Bull and white wine. “There are lots of beautiful people here today,” Banks said, eyeing a gaggle of hot girls on shoulders down front before ending on Turn on the Bright Lights‘ “Roland.” “Thank you, Pemberton!”
As day one officially became night one, Nine Inch Nails arrived, unveiling their heavily-hyped light show to a dusty, burnt out mass of people. Leave it to Trent Reznor, however, to reanimate the living dead using good old-fashioned theatrics. Reznor and his band mates are a tight unit, intent on alternately hypnotizing the crowd and rallying it. Like Interpol, NIN was black clad, but that’s where the comparison ends. Classics like “March of the Pigs,” “Closer” and “Head Like a Hole” had the desired effect (that is, total devotion), especially when paired visually with a line of band members in dramatic backlit silhouette. But Reznor was careful to balance these songs with newer or less known tracks like the eerie “God Given” (from last year’s Year Zero), set against the image of a cross becoming the barrel of a gun. “What a great way to start a very long tour,” Reznor cooed to his devotees, and the conversion was complete.
For complete coverage of the Pemberton Festival, check out rocknrolldiary.com.