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Judah & The Lion at KAABOO 2016, September 17th. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

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RECAPJudah & the Lion were the first band to take the Trestles Stage on Saturday. This was a serious responsibility. Trestles Stage is quietly the jewel in the crown of KAABOO. Technically it’s the third biggest venue behind the main “Sunset Cliffs” stage and the sprawling “Grandview” stage, but it’s wedged strategically in between ornately landscaped gardens and the towering Spanish colonial facade of the Turf Club whose balconies lend the courtyard surrounding the stage the tiered ambience of a neauveau outdoor opera house. By far and away it’s the most intimate and comfortable venue at the festival and the enclosure of the surrounding buildings makes the acoustics superb.

Out of the gates, Judah & the Lion presented with some skinny bearded dudes going face to face with dueling banjos. There was also a guy getting loose with a rock accordion and at least four guys pitching in for solid harmony. Together they looked kinda like the crusty kids in flannels that invade the sidewalks every summer – ambiguously vagrant but always with a good looking dog and late model iPhone. The also looked like me and my brosephs in Venice as we sip our $6 lattes. Such is the moment of our lives.

Overall the music was solid. A very solid representation of the Nashville/Austin Americana situation. And at 1:00pm on a hot day, it would have been plenty. Arcade Fire style choruses that the whole crowd could chant to. Everyone getting fired up. But opening a festival stage is both a privilege and burden. And the kids recognized and embraced both.

“We know you gotta pace yourselves but we got 30 minutes to show you what we got people.”

And thereupon they broke into a cover of Jefferson Starship’s “We Built this City” with every bearded trucker capped homie on stage doing some funky “Hey Macarena” choreography. Super hammy. Super cheesy. Super perfect. Perhaps even genius. A swift slap in the nuts to let us know they were gonna color outside the lines. A caution not to pigeonhole these lumbersexual bronies.

Shortly thereafter, one of the banjo players grabbed the mic for a 311 style punk pop, rap break. As he spit lyrics, he drifted to the side stage and started to climb the scaffolding. It was a dope display of gratuitous apeness. The crowd freaked out. Everyone was stoked. He might’ve broken both ankles when he jumped back to the stage from way too high but he didn’t flinch. These guys might look old timey Americana, but they are 100% rock party animals. Maybe 90%. But that’s still a lot.

And now we’re just stadium rocking. A very Blink 182 / 311 feel to the thematic and style of their lyrics. Doesn’t matter how cheesy they might get at times, they manage to crystalize that odd tension you feel in your mid 20s through … well for some of us, through our mid 40s … and beyond … where you’re balls deep in the fiesta but know there’s a ceiling to the fulfillment you can squeeze from a purely epicurean life. Or the reality that at some point you will be driven from the halcyon garden of youth. A sort of “fuck it, embrace the moment” wanton debauchery tempered with a tacit acknowledgement of consequences or at least of the moments to follow. An almost preemptive nostalgia for a present that hasn’t fully passed. But with a distinctly defiant disdain for the shackles of adulthood.

As they scream “We’re just a bunch of kids and we don’t need YOUR money!” it’s not clear if they’re saying, “Yo, be rich in what you have. Don’t let the proverbial man lord his power over you with the almighty dollar”. A distinctly anti-capitalist spin. Or if they’re saying, “dude, we’re young and we are awesome and we’re making fistfuls of our OWN money, so you can’t control us”. A distinctly capitalist spin. I’m sure anyone who actually knows the lyrics could answer that question but either way, it’s a fun and catchy fuck you to the institutions of industry. My take? Roll with it. Be rich in what you got. Measure your wealth by the sweat on your chonies after a Judah & the Lion show. You’ll be a wealthy man.

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