Sweetlife Returns, in the Rain (Photos)

Rain and cold didn’t put a damper on Saturday’s sold-out music-and-food smorgasbord.

By: Tanya Pai

Frosty temperatures and drizzling rain didn't put a damper on the festivities at Saturday's sold-out Sweetlife Festival, which kicked off at noon at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The festival was bigger than ever, with performances on two stages, activities including face-painting and a "free compliment" booth, and possibly the best music-fest food options we've ever experienced (head over to Best Bites for photos of the grub). 

Fun. Photograph by Tanya Pai.

The mainstage kicked off, oddly enough, with New York indie pop band Fun--they of Chevy Super Bowl ad fame. While the area in front of the stage was packed with excited teenagers and the band performed an energetic set, their early timeslot meant there were lots of empty seats. The band members showed impressive range--at one point guitarist Jack Antonoff pitched in on percussion with the drummer and keyboardist Andrew Dost pulled out a trumpet--and lead singer Nate Ruess smartly sidestepped some of the popular songs' Auto-Tuned passages, avoiding any painfully off-key moments. A$AP Rocky earned even louder cheers, and one member of his entourage kicked things off by jumping into the audience for a little crowd-surfing.

The Knocks. Photograph by Tanya Pai.
Fitz & the Tantrums. Photograph by Tanya Pai.

The Treehouse stage, by the Food Forest, at first attracted sparse crowds nodding their heads to the music in between bites of food. But by the time chick rockers Haim hit the stage, we were nearly knocked over by a pair of exuberantly dancing teens. Fitz and the Tantrums pumped up the mainstage crowd with their doo-wop, sax-tinged rock, performing an eargasmic, crowd-involving cover of "Sweet Dreams." (We were slightly surprised by lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick's yacht-club-chic ensemble of red pants, striped shirt, and blue blazer, which seemed oddly hipster for the band's sound, though he made it work.)

The Shins, on the mainstage, drew the largest crowd of the day to that point; the pavilion area was filled to capacity (though that could also have had something to do with the rain, which had started falling in steady, chilling drips by then). Über-prepared concertgoers spread tarps on the lawn and huddled under blankets and umbrellas, soaking in James Mercer's crystalline voice along with the raindrops. Surprisingly popular also was the "9:32 nightclub." The small wooden room to the side of the mainstage held a rotating cast of deejays and a couple of bands throughout the day; thanks to a bar inside, the never-ending beats, and shelter from the rain, the "club" got packed early on and attracted a huge line by late afternoon.

So despite the weather (and the extremely high number of severely underdressed people), we're going to declare Sweetlife 2012 a sweet success.

Got a favorite moment from the Sweetlife Festival? Let us know in the comments!