By Chuck Cox
Before I tell you about my experience at this past weekend’s Suburbia Festival, I feel like I need to point out I was only there for a few hours of the two-day festival. Hence, my sample size is pretty small.
However, I thought Plano’s first swing at hosting a large-scale music festival went extremely well. The festival, which was held at Oak Point Park and Nature Reserve and backed by Live Nation, was very well-organized and seemed to draw a pretty good crowd. The festival also got a little love from Rolling Stone on its “Must-See Festivals” list, which I’m sure didn’t hurt.
I made my way up there early Saturday evening to camp out at the Meadow Stage for Needtobreathe, Third Eye Blind, Violent Femmes and headliners Alabama Shakes. One of my least favorite things about festivals is acts I want to see going up against each other at the same time, but things worked out very nicely with that foursome playing the same stage.
Although I was somewhat familiar with a little bit of Needtobeathe’s music going in, I honestly didn’t know a whole lot about the Christian rock trio from South Carolina. And I really don’t know anybody who listens to the band on a regular basis. Still, I really thought Needtobreathe really did a tremendous job.
Fresh off the release of its latest album, Rivers in the Wasteland, Needtobreathe had little trouble winning over the crowd during a part of the day when the temperatures were still in the 90s. The new material sounded great. I was impressed, and I would definitely go see the band again.
Next up was 1990s hit-makers Third Eye Blind. It was pretty apparent lead singer Stephan Jenkins is pretty impressed with himself. He was pretty much the cockiest singer approaching 50 I’ve ever seen.
Still, the band put on a solid show with some big songs like “Narcolepsy,” “Never Let You Go,” “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Graduate” and set-closer “Jumper.” The band also played a couple of new songs (both of which were pretty ho-hum) from an album it is working on. It will be Third Eye Blind’s first release since 2009.
One interesting choice by the San Francisco quintet was to include a drum solo in its very brief set. Third Eye Blind also opted to not play “How’s It Going to Be,” another huge song, which surprised me a little bit.
Next up was the Violent Femmes. And I could not believe I was watching some of my 1980’s heroes play after so many years of loving so much of their music. The band played all of its eponymous debut album from start to finish, along with some B-sides and a couple more tunes, which meant Milwaukee’s best started off with “Blister in the Sun.” Nice.
It was really cool to see a band that doesn’t come around these parts too often. Lead singer Gordon Gano joked with the crowd that for the first time he can say he is Gordon Gano in Plano. Violent Femmes also included a drum solo, but that seemed to fit in its set a lot better than it did in Third Eye Blind’s.
Finally, it was time for the incredible Alabama Shakes. This was the only band of the four I had seen live before Saturday. And just like the 2013 show at the Palladium, front woman Brittany Howard and the band rocked.
Howard is absolutely amazing. I firmly believe she is one of the all-time greatest lead singers I have ever seen live. She had charisma, passion, energy and a killer set of pipes all rolled into one. It’s honestly hard to do her justice with words. Alabama Shakes also tried out a new song, which was spectacular.
The best part of the night was getting to see those four diverse bands play one after the other. And that was really the whole vibe of Suburbia. It was a good, eclectic lineup that had something for everybody. And if you were willing to hang out and give an act you weren’t familiar with a listen, you probably became a fan.
The rest of the lineup included David Guetta, J. Cole, Tegan and Sara, Reverend Horton Heat, Big Gigantic, the Dandy Warhols, Slightly Stoopid, Hayes Carll, Blue October and Twenty-One Pilots. I was a little too pooped to head out there again — and pay $20 to park again — on Sunday.
Still, I believe this year was a great start to a festival that very well could be around for decades to come and get bigger and bigger every year. Let’s hope so.