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Flaming Lips, Lyrics Born, and GZA Open Echo Project

ATLANTA: Cat Power, Son Volt, and more also kickstart the weekend-long eco-friendly music fest.

As the frigid campgrounds of Echo Project thawed under the hotAtlanta sun on Friday (Oct. 12), eager music fans at the 350-acreBouckaert Farm filed into the stage compound, unsure what to expectfrom the first-year festival. Those lucky enough to arrive before noonwere treated to an early start, as the Flaming Lips rolledthrough a sound check that included “Free Radicals” and a word from thealways-inspiring Wayne Coyne. “This is the first year this has everbeen put on, so if this thing goes on to become one of those greatfestivals that we’re all coming to in twenty years, the Flaming Lipswill be the first band that ever played here.” Let’s hope that’s thecase.

Bymid afternoon, the masses had come to life, and a modest crowd gatheredat the Solar Stage for the funk driven styles of California MC Lyrics Born.Energetic and uplifting, the six-piece brought the draggy crowd –still nursing hangovers — to their feet for an all out dance partythat would go unrivaled till nightfall. “We’ve gotta set the tone forthe rest of the evening,” Lyrics Born prompted the crowd. “I need ya’llto make more noise than you’ve ever made in your whole life!”

Fueledby pounding bass and jazzy keys, the ever-growing crowd continued torave on, and as Lyrics Born worked the stage, hoola hoopers appearednear the sound booth, seemingly oblivious to the world. Clearly feelinga sense of responsibility as one of the first acts to perform at theEcho festival, Lyrics Born repeatedly addressed the crowd, incitingroaring applause and a series of call and response “Heeeey’s.”With some choreographed dancing and a handful of crowd shout-outs –Lyrics Born owned the crowd, setting the tone for the night to come.All and all, an encouraging start to a rookie festival already cominginto its own.

Friday also found free spirits floating stage to stage along Atlanta’s Chattahoochee River, but Wu Tang Clan’s GZA (the Genius), Slick Rick,and up-and-coming collective the Fyre Department as backing band,supplying the spirit, soul, and gold standard at the Echo Stage.Whether fans were throwing hands up in “W” formation or throwing itdown onthe grassy dance floor below, the message was clear: GZA’s stillgot it. Continuing to evolve creatively, the message man’s summoning ofSlick Rick and the Fyre Department set his tracks ablaze and energy wasemergent everywhere. Somehow GZA’s street-smart sayings meshed with theoften salacious songs of Slick Rick and overall, the set was a successand standout. This was clearly as close to a Wu-Tang performance asmany would get, thanks to the Genius spitting classic tracks of hisgame-changing collective like “Bring the Ruckus” and ” C.R.E.A.M.”

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Day two (Oct. 13) staggered to a slow start, thecrowd weary from a gluttonous night of booze and music that saw setsfrom Cypress Hill, Les Claypool, and Secret Machines. But musicprevailed and early crowds gathered throughout the grounds, mostnotably at the Solar Stage where local psychedelic rockers DeadConfederate revived the spirit of rock’n’roll with a hazy set ofguitar-driven stoner rock.

Across the grounds, Son Voltsilently appeared on the main stage to a surprisingly sparse afternooncollective. Casual and seemingly apathetic, the band opened with atoned down version of “Satellite,” from this year’s The Search, and continued to give the crowd — which had already doubled — the silent treatment as they eased into “Who.”

Scatteredabout the dusty field — still littered with yellow confetti, courtesyof the Flaming Lips — drowsy fans nursed cold beers and squeezed intothe few shady spots to be found on the grounds. Though an uneventfulperformance, Son Volt’s laid-back, country-tinged roots rock was arelaxing break from the often hectic pace of the weekend musicfestival, and the scene could not have been more appropriate against abackdrop of blue southern skies and autumn-colored trees. Finallyaddressing the crowd, though briefly, Farrar thanked the fans andplayed on, delving into heavier material including “Jet Pilot” and”Medication” during the latter half of the set. A steady flow of fansfiled in and out while slide guitar and harmonica filled the coolautumn air, and it was time to get a move on.

Cruising throughthe spacious field that flanked the stages, fans carefully dodgedFrisbees and soccer balls without missing a step, working their waybetween sets for a packed afternoon that hosted the Avett Brothers,Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Brazilian Girls, and Thievery Corporation. Bynightfall, Cat Power was poised to take the Lunar Stage, andagain, a surprisingly light crowd appeared early, eager for a glimpseof the notoriously shy songstress.

Openingwith a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” Marshall appearedcomfortable in the spotlight, backed by members of the Dirty Three, theJon Spencer Blues Explosion, the Delta 72’s and Lizard Music, allassembled as the Dirty Delta Blues Band. Throughout the performance,Marshall gracefully shimmied beneath the cool blue lighting, treatingthe attentive crowd to reworked versions of originals like “Could We,””Metal Heart,” “Lived In Bars” and “The Greatest” — many almostunrecognizable to the casual listener — while mixing things up with aneclectic mix of covers that included the Rolling Stone’s”Satisfaction,” Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears,” TheHighwaymen’s “Silver Stallion” and “Dark End of the Street,”popularized by Aretha Franklin. Throughout the remainder of theirdownbeat, mellow set, Cat Power and the Dirty Delta Blues Bandcontinued to offer one of the most interesting performances of theweekend, transforming Marshall’s songs and keeping the fans — many whohad seen the same songs performed at last year’s Bonnaroo or Austin City Limits — guessing what might come next.

Thanksto the unusually cold nights, many Echo rockers got a late start onSaturday morning, but come high noon, San Francisco’s Scissors for Leftywas already chopping through the clutter on the sun-soaked Solar Stage.This particular setting might have been solely powered by the sunshine,but the dapper quartet’s sizzling synth and neo-disco-doused chorusesadded another alternative source to amplify their aptitude for indieinnovation. As the band is set to start another tour, the show feltlike an intimate invitation to a rehearsal for their forthcoming foray.Scissors for Lefty’s set may have been small, poppy, and powerful, butfrom this perspective, it was funny and also fulfilling forfestivalgoers to see how the Bay Area home of hippie chic has evolvedinto a haven for Brit-inspired retro-rock with a forward flare.

Twelve hours from the day’s debut and a ton of decadent discoveries later, MSTRKRFTkept the people moving with an entourage in tow. Toronto DJ Al-P andDeath From Above 1979’s Jesse F. Keeler lit up the night from theconfines of the Eclipse Tent and hundreds of haggard hippies found ahome elsewhere across the festival grounds. With a set was book-endedby Justice’s ” D.A.N.C.E.” then filled with the likes of Daft Punk andoriginal electro-opuses in between, the duo’s remixes were regal andthe crowd was out of control. Dancers dabbled onstage to the fringes ofthe tent, likening the environment to a European dance club among manyforeign to the hype of house music. Halloween came early with manycarousing in costumes, dancing carelessly to keep away the cold. Fortwo and a half hours, MSTRKRFT turned it out, until someone literallypulled the plug mid-finale. Clearly, it was time for everyone to returnto their tents, but little could mess with the magic staged under thestars Saturday night as MSTRKRFT made it their own.