The so-called Dutchess of Pop herself, Fergie, closed out the most successful Tempe Music Festival in its six year existence Saturday with a set consisting of a Black Eyed Peas medley, tunes from her 2006 solo disc, “The Dutchess,” and a host of surprising covers during her hour and fifteen minute set.
Mixing hip-hop with pop, Fergie — who went through three costume changes during her set (from all white to, eventually, all black) — whipped through such solo tunes as “Glamorous,” “Voodoo Doll,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Pedestal,” and her 2006 No. 1 smash, “London Bridge,” when not offering a medley of songs by Black Eyed Peas (her ensemble gig), including “My Humps,” “Hey Mama” and “Where’s the Love.” She also covered Heart’s “Barracuda” and a “Live and Let Die/Black Dog” Paul McCartney/Led Zeppelin mash-up.
The Dutchess proved to be a fully capable festival headlining act on her own without BEP, and her final tune, the catchy pop smash “Fergalicious,” had the crowd bobbing their heads in unison as the singer and her many back-up dancers hip-hopped and breakdanced about the stage.
Before the hip/hop pop onslaught from Fergie, two of the greatest ever Valley bands, Gin Blossoms and Meat Puppets, took turns on the mainstage.
The Gin Blossoms — who honed their patented “Tempe Sound” (the jangle of The Byrds mixed with the energy of The Replacements) just down the road from Tempe Beach Park at the now-defunct club Long Wong's — played a tight set of their best known tunes, including the hits “Hey Jealousy,” “Found Out About You” and “Allison Road” from their breakthrough 1992 disc, “New Miserable Experience,” Also on the set: "Follow You Down," from 1996’s “Congratulations, I’m Sorry” and “Learning the Hard Way,” from 2006’s “Major Lodge Victory.”
The Meat Puppets, the band that put the Valley on the alt-rock map in the ‘80s, performed a mind-blowing career retrospective that included tunes from the band’s 1984 masterpiece (“Plateau”), the title cut from 1985’s sun-drenched, psychedelia-infused “Up on the Sun,” as well as tunes such as “Touchdown King,” “Sam” and the band’s breakthrough 1994 alt-rock single, “Backwater.”
The Meat Puppets have endured plenty of adversity (with bassist Cris Kirkwood’s decade-long drug addiction that effectively put the Pups on hiatus), but the band, unquestionably the most creative, imaginative group ever to spring from the Valley, is back and better than ever.
Other bands who performed on the mainstage during the fest's 12-hour Saturday were L.A.-based singer/songwriter Matthew Moon (known heretofore for filling in for no-show Scott Weiland during Velvet Revolver’s set at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year), whose gorgeous, melodic pop/rock invigorated the early arriving crowd. (Moon himself also wandered among the crowd after his set, personally passing out free copies of his stellar disc “I Thought U Should Know.”) New Orleans’ Cowboy Mouth, who just may be the best live act going these days (drummer/frontman Fred LeBlanc can work a crowd like an evangelical preacher passing the rock ‘n’ roll offering plate) played an invigorating set prior to one from recently reunited trio Eve 6, whose biggest hit, the instantly recognizable “Inside Out,” got the crowd on its feet.
The Emerging Artists Stage, Saturday, featured some of the Valley’s best local acts, including alt-rockers Jed’s A Millionaire, the brilliant folk/pop/rock/jam band what laura says thinks and feels and The Loveblisters, whose achingly gorgeous orchestral pop songs recall the best of The Zombies and “Pet Sounds”-era Beach Boys.
After six years of hit and miss events (due to rain and some lackluster past headliners), the Tempe Music Festival has arrived, growing into one of Arizona’s biggest musical events. An estimated 25,000 fans packed Tempe Beach Park this year, making 2008 the best year of the fest to date.