COLUMBIA, Maryland — This was definitely the first time Paramore played a show for the Super Mario Brothers. Or a zombie skateboarder and his wife. Or a yeti.
Of course, they made mention of this fact during their crackling headlining set at Friday night’s (October 23) Ulalume Music Festival — it’s named after a particulary gloomy Edgar Allan Poe poem — an evening of big-ticket performances and creative costumery held at the very spooky (for this night, at least) Merriweather Post Pavillion deep in the woods of suburban Maryland.
It was a concert held in honor of Halloween (it’s set to be broadcast October 30 on mtvU), which explained the kids dressed up in all manner of ghoulish finery (and more than a few Baltimore Ravens jerseys), and was certainly why the grounds of MPP were covered in stringy cobwebs and flooded with ominous fog.
There was a fake cemetery on site, and a haunted house (OK, it was called the “Clown Asylum”) too. Not to mention haystacks, lots and lots of haystacks (haunted ones!). Throw in a bill loaded with rock mainstays (Paramore, AFI, Chester Bennington’s Dead By Sunrise side project) and hotly tipped hip-hop acts (Kid Cudi and Asher Roth, though Ash pulled out at the last minute due to complications from dental surgery), and you had the makings of a pretty raucous party, the kind every zombie would die (again) to attend.
Cudi got the festivities started with a delightfully ambling set that showcased songs from his recent Man on the Moon and his strengths as a stony, self-effacing showman.
Dressed like a well-connected lumberjack (red-and-white flannel, Billionaire Boys Club custom T-shirt), he bobbed and weaved through hits like the Lady Gaga sampling “Make Her Say,” his breakout “Day ’N’ Nite” and next single, the thick-as-molasses “Pursuit of Happiness.” The costumed crowd ate it up and Cudi egged them on, pacing the stage and striking decidedly rock-star poses before exiting with a humble, “Goodbye. Thank you.”
Bennington’s Dead By Sunrise followed, peppering the night with rock that was equal parts pummel and pastoral. Their set’s highest point, “Crawl Back In” — the first single off the band’s just-released Out Of Ashes album — was a little bit of both, mixing grungy chords and Bennington’s near-patented yowl with some seriously precise drums and an ethereal backbeat.
There was a costume contest next (big ups to Eddie the Yeti, who took home the $2,500 first prize!), then it was time for AFI to take the audience on a ride, a task they were more than up for.
Energized by their new Crash Love album, they flailed and wailed with a fury that belied the fact that they’ve been at it for some 18 years now, with frontman Davey Havok flying around the stage, guitarist Jade Puget pulling outrageous solos out of his axe and bassist Hunter Bergan spinning and strutting like he owned the joint.
Songs like “Death of Seasons” and “Beautiful Thieves” were swelled to massive proportions, the former ending with Havok — dressed in skintight black T-shirt and silver pants, hair swept back in dramatic pompadour — collapsed atop a row of speakers, the latter wrapping with him striding out into the audience, held aloft by their outstreched arms. New single “Medicate” featured snarling riffs and one those epic, fret-melting Puget solos. And the set-closing combo of “Miss Murder” and “Silver and Cold” was a masterclass in loud/soft tecnhique, getting quiet with piano lines and electric chirps before roaring back with ferocious guitars and huge, crowd-approved choruses.
And, like we said, Paramore closed things out, with a fiery set that served notice that they’ve (not-so-) quietly become of the best live acts in the country.
New songs like “Ignorance,” “Careful” and “Looking Up” bounced and bristled with energy, driven by the lock-step rhythm section of Zac Farro and Jeremy Davis, the spiky interplay of guitarists Josh Farro and Taylor York, and frontwoman Hayley Williams’ vocal acrobatics. They breathed new life into older stuff, too, intro-ing “Misery Business” with a soft-jazz instrumental and muscular guitar lines, and conducting the crowd with frantic arm waves on “That’s What You Get.”
“Decode” was a roller-coaster ride (Williams sang the heck out of it), “Where the Lines Overlap” was bouyed by Josh and Williams’ two-part harmonies and set-closer (and next single) “Brick By Boring Brick” had the ghosts and gals singing along loudly. It was all pretty spooky. Spooky good.
And then it was over, and the costumed kids emptied out of the Pavillion. To most, it didn’t matter that the temperature had dropped and a steady rain had begun to fall — bouyed by an evening of excellent music, they simply partied on in their ponchos. Ghouls just wanna have fun, after all.
For more from the “New Moon” cast and to see an exclusive clip from the film, check out MTV’s “Ulalume: Howling at New Moon” on Friday, October 30 at 9 p.m. ET — and check MTV.com at 10 p.m. to see the clip exclusively online!