After an energetic and hyper Day 1, particularly after the frenetic and lively sets by closers Carly Rae Jepsen and Maggie Rogers, my feet were a little tired coming into Day 2 of All Things Go 2023 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Luckily, this day was filled with performers best known for songwriting and experimental instrumentals, lending the crowd to sway rather than jump up and down and expend energy. Singer-songwriters and talented vocalists performed on another sunny day in Columbia, Maryland, closing out a massively successful festival weekend.
Samia took the Chrysalis stage early in the day to sing her tracks about devastation, lust, yearning, and romance, enforcing her credibility as one of the most wrenching songwriters performing today. Opening with her anxious track ‘Pool’, she sang (relatably) about the terrors of everyday life: “How long do I have left with my dog ‘til I start forgetting shit?”, then transitioned into the satirical ‘Fit N Full’. I had seen Samia once before, and her energy and joy on stage remained the same while performing upbeat hits from her debut album The Baby. Some more tracks from her excellent Honey, released earlier this year, would have been great too, but the crowd singing along to the emotional lyrics from ‘Kill Her Freak Out’ (“I hope you marry the girl from your hometown, and I’ll fucking kill her, and I’ll fucking freakout”) and feel-good drunk anthem ‘Honey’ was more than enough to satisfy the Samia fans in the crowd.
I have a bone to pick with whomever did the scheduling for early Sunday afternoon, as Ethel Cain’s set started abruptly in the middle of Samia’s, the opening notes of ‘A House In Nebraska’ ringing out across the festival grounds like an ominous siren call. People legitimately ran to the main stage in order to hear her stomping hit ‘American Teenager’ and remained to hear more of the Floridian’s songs from her breakout album Preacher’s Daughter. Between the two, I had seen both before, and Samia is a more dynamic performer (only because of the genre of music she performs), so I stayed to hear her set play out. I caught the last half of Ethel Cain’s, which began with the powerful slowburn ‘Thoroughfare’, transitioned to the warm, gospel-like ‘Sun Bleached Flies’, and ended with the powerful and upbeat ‘Crush’.
I had never listened to anything by Alex G before his setlist, so I was surprised, mesmerized, and allured by the indie rocker’s bizarre runtime. Playing 17 tracks, most of which from his 2022 record God Save the Animals, the musician used soundboards and a guitar to broadcast his experimental ideas. This was definitely filed under “Not sure what’s going on, but I like it!”
Electrifying and liberating queer trio MUNA closed out the Chrysalis stage Sunday night, and as lead singer Katie Gavin put it, she thought of it as opening for Lana Del Rey, clearly an exciting notion. After adorning the festival as “Lesbo-palooza,” they performed a great mix of well-written and clever electropop, during which I was lucky enough to be right near the barricade. Other band members Jo Maskin and Naomi McPherson had the time of their lives performing songs from their three albums, mostly from their excellent self-titled 2022 record. Highlights included the pleasure-seeking ‘What I Want’, triumphant and caring “I Know A Place’, and new single ‘One That Got Away’. Before their feel-good country anthem ‘Kind of Girl’, they dedicated the number to all the trans people in the audience, a nod to the anti-queer legislation taking place in the country at the moment. Just performing as three queer people with an audience of mostly queer fans is a statement in and of itself. They closed the show with fan-favorite ‘Silk Chiffon’, bringing Arlo Parks onto the stage, who performed earlier in the evening, and it was hard to leave the set feeling incredible and like you belonged.
Lana Del Rey
With everyone gathering at the main stage at 9:30, the hills adorned with blankets and standing fans, it was hard to feel like something extraordinarily momentous wasn’t about to happen. A few minutes after her scheduled time, Lana Del Rey graced the stage in a gorgeous black gown, singing the title track from her best album, Norman Fucking Rockwell!. She performed a shortened version of it, along with ‘Arcadia’, ‘A&W’, and ‘The Grants’, owing to time, though her omission of the latter’s heavenly outro was a little disappointing. However, it can’t be said enough how incredible Lana sounded live, as she sang slower cuts like ‘Bartender’ and ‘Chemtrails Over the Country Club’ in the middle of graceful dancers. Though she kept thanking Baltimore for our presence (we were in Columbia), referencing the full moon we were under (it wasn’t), her actual set was mesmerizing, including well-known songs cut from each of her albums, save Honeymoon. At the halfway point, she brought out frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff to sing the lovely ode to his wife ‘Margaret’, then a shortened version of ‘Venice Bitch’, one of Lana’s best songs.
Afterwards, nervous that Merriweather would cut her off because she started early (they allegedly have a very strict curfew policy), she switched up the tracklist so that she’d be able to perform what she’d been saving for last. “Wanna sing ‘Video Games’ with me?” she asked the crowd, to an emphatic yes, and swinging on a flower-laden swing, she performed her song that started it all. ‘Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’ came next, with an angelic outro that made the song a gratifying one to hear live. After a quick audience poll as to what they wanted to hear next, Lana performed the intense ‘Ultraviolence’ and ‘Born to Die’, before closing with the graceful ‘hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it’ the outro during which she was dragged off-stage in a white hospital gown, feigning psychiatric evaluation (making sense with the Sylvia Plath and “sociopath” lyricism in the song). Odd art performance piece or not, Lana closed out the weekend the only way she knew how, and earlier in the night, she thanked the crowd for allowing her and her band to do so. “I hope you do too,” she urged the crowd, during her moving and legendary set, “as crazy as you wanna be.”