A pair of concerts on successive weekends on the Farm could not have been any more different. While Blackfest 2011 ended literally with a bang, the first Laker Music Festival went out with barely a whimper on Saturday night, as headliner The Juan MacLean performed for a group of students that could be counted on two hands.
The event that was supposed to serve as a curtain call on a successful year for Stanford Concert Network (SCN) had so much promise. With a host of student artists complementing the main acts, which included MacLean, Blackbird Blackbird and Lemaitre, Laker seemed primed for the success on the level of the Steve Aoki and Broken Social Scene performances at Stanford earlier in the year.
It was not to be.
It is a wonder how SCN, the student group that provides most of the financial power and know-how to bring musical acts to campus, could produce such divergent results on back-to-back weekends. Saturday’s difficulties must be attributed to the event’s lack of publicity, closed nature and secluded venue. Perhaps most problematic, however, were the fickle crowds with members unwilling to negotiate the festival’s “No Alcohol” policy.
Still, Saturday started brightly for the event and its organizers, which also included several lake houses and “The Stanford Apprentice.”
Laker Music Festival started early at 2 p.m., warmed by the lazy afternoon sunshine and a number of university-based acts. The Days Between did their best Jerry Garcia and co. impressions as they channeled The Grateful Dead, while Stanford favorites Finding Jupiter and The Sea People entertained the masses sprawled out on the lawn between the Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Kappa Alpha.
Following the first of the headliners, San Francisco’s Blackbird Blackbird cushioned the setting sun with their characteristic dream pop. But as darkness came, the crowds at Laker started to dwindle. By Lemaitre, who came late into the night, audience numbers fell into double digits.
Luckily, the pair from Oslo did not seem to care, assaulting the ears of those who cared to listen with laptop offerings that evoked early Justice and Ratatat. Smoking cigarettes and standing on speakers, Lemaitre did its best to keep the crowds from seeking warmer climes and, save for a few lackluster transitions, did just that.
The chilly blasts from across the lakebed, however, drove the remnants of the day’s festival-goers away from Laker, providing a bare-bones collection of students for The Juan MacLean. The headliner, bearded and unenthused, maintained a sense of professionalism, despite the meager group who had stayed to watch the DJ set. MacLean went unappreciated as his pure, vinyl-based spinning and mixing did little to inspire, especially when the crowd was hoping for more of the same pulsating synths and ground-pounding bass of the previous act.
The Juan MacLean offered neither, looping voice samples and funk-inspired jams to little effect. A quarter of the way through the set, MacLean spun Daft Punk’s “Around the World,” to attract more students in a last ditch attempt. It went unnoticed. No one could save this crowd, not even Daft Punk.