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Festival Review: Hopscotch Festival 2013, Day 2 – Raleigh, NC

By Staff; September 16, 2013 at 7:42 PM 

Hopscotch 2013

Read our Day 1 coverage here.


Gross Ghost


All photos by Evan Kaloudis unless otherwise stated

The City Plaza stage on Friday began with a double dash of local artists, both of whom are slowly on the rise. Carrboro’s Gross Ghost took the main stage, probably their largest gig yet, with extreme confidence. The band is set to release their second album to follow up last year’s Brer Rabbit, and many of the newer songs made their way to the downtown stage. They blended seamlessly with the band’s older material, and singer Mike Dillon’s voice sounded better than ever. I’m more than sure they won over a few fans that day. Next up was Future Islands, a band originally from North Carolina, but now finding themselves living in Baltimore. Regardless, the Triangle continues to call them one of our own, and their triumphant set on the main stage proved this. The crowd ate up singer Sam Herring’s every movement, as he proved himself to be one of the more underrated frontmen in the game. The band has garnered a widespread praise for their live show, which they themselves claim is their strong suit. But if their new songs were any indication, we may be in for a treat. –Ryan Nichols


Future Islands


Future Islands photos by Ryan Nichols


Thurston Moore x Merzbow: THURZBOW

Leaving the big theatrics of the City Plaza stage, we made our way to the close confines of Kings’ Barcade, where we were aware a very, very special set was about to happen. Announced softly by the festival as “Merzbow with Super Secret Special Friends,” many people made their way to Kings right around 7:30. The secret was out the minute that Thurston Moore walked up the main stairway at Kings, rather than the side employee one (he had to know what he was doing), immediately silencing everyone waiting for the doors to open at 8. At approximately 7:58, crashing drums and extremely loud washes of guitar began to flood from behind the door at the top of the stairs. Within moments, the doors opened and extreme noise burst out, and as we were let in, we were able to see Merzbow, Thurston Moore, and John Moloney freely jamming cohesively as a three piece. Despite any expectations, the piece was much different than we expected (lots of drone), instead, the three created a driving, rocking piece of music that likely shattered any eardrums not protected. Moore flailed across the stage in his trademark style, busting out his old feedback and file-on-guitar tricks, and Merzbow somehow just created noise with his table of instruments. Moloney held it down, throwing in fills and beats that fit no matter what the other two were playing. A really special, and solid piece of Hopscotch magic. –Nichols

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Festival Review: Hopscotch Festival 2013, Day 1 – Raleigh, NC

By Staff; September 9, 2013 at 6:44 PM 

Hopscotch 2013


Nathan Bowles


All photos by Evan Kaloudis

As the crowds streamed into the wonderfully intimate Fletcher Opera Theatre, the seats quickly began to fill up and many were left standing. The wonder of Hopscotch was welcomed early, as Blacksburg, VA’s Nathan Bowles took the theatre and turned it into his living room, keeping us on our toes during his beautiful set, showcasing his absolute prowess of the banjo. He told jokes, commented on his prominent spot kicking off the festival, and in all, just made all of us feel welcome in town, Raleigh locals or those who came from afar. –Ryan Nichols


The Kingsbury Manx

We briefly broke in for Kingsbury Manx’s set in Hopscotch’s biggest room, the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, just to poke around and feel out the band’s sound on the big stage. They took full advantage, bringing their elegant songs to the heights of the chandeliers in the room. When people ask me what “North Carolina music” sounds like, I’ll typically point them in the direction of the Manx or the Rosebuds (who played the same stage later that evening, but we unfortunately missed). The group’s sounds fit the rolling hills of the Piedmont more than they do the coast or the mountains, but were a wonderful fit right in between the mountains (Nathan Bowles) and the (admittedly dark) coast of Grouper. –Nichols


Angel Olsen

We returned back to the more relaxed atmosphere of the Fletcher Opera Theatre for the elegant folk styling of singer-songwriter Angel Olsen. The St. Louis raised, Chicago-based guitarist has quite a unique voice that can be quite ghostly at times but is simultaneously warm and inviting — resonating from her throat and accentuating the emotional content of her songs. Despite the deep content of her songs she broke the tension with the audience to ask where she should eat while she was in the south and eventually had us laughing at the notion of finding a good burrito. Later in the set after a song about a failed relationship Olsen stopped to try and reassure us of her emotion state stating that the last tune was “just a song” but after a little hesitation she diffidently stated, “It didn’t use to be just a song.” For Olsen, the knife may be out of her back but the scars remain. –Evan Kaloudis


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Festival Review and Photos: Newport Folk Festival, July 26-28, 2013

By Brian Hodge; August 8, 2013 at 10:00 AM 

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The Newport Folk Festival is many things. Now in its 54th year, it is at once backward-looking but always forward-leaning. It is often charmingly intimate and occasionally overwhelming. But in taking a seagull’s eye-view of the affair, it is assuredly interesting and endlessly enjoyable – a true treasure of an American music festival.

For the first time in its illustrious history, the festival ballooned into three full days of music (previous iterations simply had Friday night ‘kick off’), with both Saturday and Sunday selling out in short order. Held at a decommissioned military fort with expansive views of Newport Harbor and the postcard-perfect Pell Bridge, and buoyed by an eclectic lineup of acts and an energetic – if not exactly diverse – audience, the Newport Folk Festival once again replicated its recipe for memory-making magic in 2013.

Friday July 26th

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Behind the beaming smile of Brooklyn-based, Alabama-born Matthew Houck is more than a bit of road-weariness. Or as he puts it, “I am happy but I write terribly sad songs.” Thankfully in Newport, he didn’t bear his burden alone. Armed with a bassist, a pianist, an organ player, a drummer and a percussionist, Houck’s lonesome trials were fleshed out to full-on cathartic chorales. Houck’s delivery and vocal inflections were perfectly punctuated by his reluctant hero delivery and his talented surrounding cast. The entire set was fantastic, but the highlight belongs to the one-two combo of “Song for Zula” and “Ride On / Right On,” which brought the Quad Stage crowd to its feet.

John McCauley

John McCauley began Deer Tick as a one-man act, so his solo acoustic performance was more than a stripped-down operation, it was a veritable return to roots. And given the fact he grew up 45 minutes north, and now boasts a residency on the festival’s board of directors (“It basically involved Jay Sweet calling me now and then and asking me some weird question, and me giving him an even weirder answer. It seems to running pretty smoothly.”) the performance was more of a homecoming celebration.

McCauley dipped into his catalog, digging out gems from both 2007’s War Elephant (“Art Isn’t Real (City of Sin),” “Ashamed”) and the burgeoning Deer Tick discography. Once a guitar string broke, things took a turn into the unexpected, but culminated in a cameo from his mother for a spirited “Margaritaville.” It was a touching moment that harkened back to the festival’s familial roots (and even overshadowed an appearance from Vanessa Carlton), but with McCauley on the mic the surprising becomes sublime.

Saturday July 27th

Langhorne Slim

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The genre of folk has never been more blurred at the edges than it is currently, and bleeding that edge into more dastardly territory is Langhorne Slim. Armed with an acoustic guitar and bearing an anchor tattoo, Slim looked right at home ripping up the main stage on Saturday morning. Equally irrepressible and irascible, his visceral voice played well with his backing band The Law, particularly on both the back-and-forth bits of “Cinderella” and on slower numbers like a cover of “You Are My Sunshine.” They certainly kept the early morning crowd engaged.

Father John Misty

The chances of this set surfacing on NPR’s customarily-comprehensive recap of the Festival seem slim. Shame, too, as it was one of the weekend’s highlights. J. Tillman’s Lauren Canyon-on-LSD shaman-ship was in full glory as he plucked pearls from his debut album under the Father John Misty moniker, Fear Fun. Sporting a shirt featuring various birds, Tillman appeared to be flying on a different plane during his between-song banter (“Is this festival a camping thing? Or do you all just return to your yachts?”; and a searing but somewhat tongue-in-cheek takedown of the other artists on the bill), but beneath the veneer was honest craftsmanship and honest-to-goodness jams. Google a live version of the gonzo, out-there atmosphere of “Writing A Novel” for a small sampling of Tillman’s enigmatic energy and wish you were there.

Jim James

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In a festival setting that sometimes lends itself to ramshackle spontaneity, Jim James took the main stage with a polished set, featuring tracks from Regions of Light and Sound of God. Resplendent in a plush purple suit that seems to have become his signature, the My Morning Jacket frontman (and longtime festival proponent) was cool, smooth and soulful. He shred a Gibson Flying V, swooped up a saxophone for a solo, and otherwise twisted and tango-ed his way to a memorable performance. The consummate showman, James delivered a gut-wrenching version of “A New Life,” which featured a pause of about 30 seconds before the song’s final climax.

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Sunday July 28th

The Lumineers

One of the best additions to the festival’s programming has been opening up the underutilized museum space at Fort Adams. Last year saw capacity crowds queue up to hear Rodriguez and this year the programming in this space was among the weekend’s most popular. On Sunday, Decemberists bass player Chris Funk led a series of workshops and invited several of the acts to participate. Shirking the afternoon sun, and an uncommon lull of inactivity between acts, I popped into the workshop space just as The Lumineers were being introduced. In such an intimate setting, not unlike the small, sweaty clubs the band cut their teeth, songs like “Stubborn Love” and “Slow It Down” spun to life. Of course, just a few hours later, the group took to the festival’s main stage and delivered an energetic performance to the enthusiastic masses, but this stripped down performance remains a highlight.

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Michael Kiwanuka

In a welcome change of pace, soul singer Michael Kiwanuka plugged in and turned the main stage crowd on with gems of jams like “Tell Me A Tale” and other tracks from his debut, Home Again. With a voice built for smoky clubs, there was some question as to how the crooner’s sepia-tinged songs would translate to an outdoor venue, but buoyed by a funky backing band, Kiwanuka was a perfect palate cleanser on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

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Andrew Bird

It is always interesting to see how artists reinvent their repeat appearances at the Newport Folk Festival. Making his second appearance in Newport, Bird stripped down the bells and loops – but thankfully kept the whistles. Flanked a guitarist and an upright bassist, and frequently accompanied by the ebullient Tift Merritt, Bird’s performance was simple but cerebral, folksy but fun. Bird cherry-picked some chestnuts from Hands of Glory, which translated superbly well to the quad stage setting.

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Bombino

With each passing folk festival, producer Jay Sweet seems to pick at least one artist that makes you question the connection. This year, he did the trick a few times, but the off-center pick that struck the best chord was Bombino. Born in Niger, addressing the crowd in French and his native tongue of Tamashek, Bombino blessed the small harbor stage with groovy, almost hypnotic riffs and unassailable energy.

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Superlatives

Most Popular: Dawes, who was serving as a back-up band practically all weekend long.
Best Dressed: Freak-folk legend Michael Hurley
Most Valuable Player: Chris Funk, who spearheaded the aforementioned “Folk With Funk” workshops, played bass on Decemberists side-project Black Prairie, and backed bits of Colin Meloy’s solo set.
Best Sign: #NewportLovesLamb, dedicated to the lead singer of Brown Bird who recently underwent treatment for leukemia. Fans and artists took pictures with the sign as part of a get well soon art project.
Most refreshing (tie): Berklee Gospel & Roots Choir on Sunday morning, and free Del’s Lemonade in media tent.

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Berklee Gospel & Roots Choir

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Avett Brothers

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Ramblin’ Jack Elliott

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Recap: Pitchfork Festival day 3 – Sunday July 21st

By Amanda Bartels; July 23, 2013 at 1:07 PM 

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All photos by Christopher Alvarez

Arriving at the fest on time for the last day of this year’s Pitchfork Festival seemed to be a problem for a lot of people. It seemed like everyone was running a little behind including the over crowded buses straining to get everyone to Union Park. Between that, and the increased security checks on the day, many attendees barely made it in the gates to see the first act of the day.

The honor went to Chicago’s own Tree, bringing his “Soul-Trap” to the Green Stage. A small, but highly interested crowd jammed as he explained that he’d come from a very bad place to this particularly good one and thanked Pitchfork for the opportunity. With live drumming and group of back up vocalists, his set was very well rounded. A few songs in he announced it was time to “Take ya’ll to church” or “Chuch” as it’s titled. Heavy beats and thickly spoken lyrics create a clear picture of where he is coming from. “Y’all happy to be alive?” he asked, before launching into an a capella intro to “Die” and had the crowd chanting along. A hot and hyped set, well worth turning up to Union Park early to see.

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Over on the Blue Stage for Autre Ne Veut, four men dressed like Aaron Bros. employees and holding up artless frames, stood on stage, mimicking the cover for the newest album Anxiety. As the opening synths and and clicks from a drum machine came to life, the crowd cheered in anticipation. Emoting through the mic, front man Arthur Ashin, belted out one of his catchiest singles, “Play by Play.” It was clear from the onset that the female vocalist on stage and in charge of everything but Ashin’s vocals, proved a perfect counterpart grounding his higher pitch with her own similarly intense tone. On “Ego Free Sex Free,” growling into the mic over minimal clicks building to a bigger beat there was more than a fleeting resemblence to 80’s era George Michael. By this time in the set the air was thick with all kinds of smoke. Sunday definitely had a different crowd energy than the previous two days, owing most likely to the fact that it was the only day to sell out. Those in the center of the crowd danced and swayed as Ashin was nearly crying out the lyrics of the emotional “Promises,” gave it everything he had, singing with his whole body. The vibe seemed however to somehow not reach to the outer banks of the stage area, where people still talked and planned their day. Overall the set was a strong collection of sultry electro dance songs, yet the material had potential that was not totally realized in this setting.

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Back on the Green Stage, rapper Killer Mike, who seemed to have the demeanor of a teddy bear, started his set with the raw and in your face rhymes of “Big Beast.” As streams of people rushed over he let everyone know what he was all about. “I don’t make dance music this is R.A.P., opposite of the sucker shit they play on T.V.”. After a few sweaty tracks Mike took a moment to make the stage a pulpit to preach his “Ghetto gospel,” expressing his distrust and disgust for the government, and encouraging Chicago to take care of each other. Then he brought out his perhaps hardest hitting and well known track, dedicating it to its namesake, “Reagan.” The crowd stood in awe with fists of solidarity in the air. Receiving rapturous roars from the crowd, Mike let everyone know that he had been a bit nervous before the set, not knowing how he’d be received. His voice began to crack as he spoke about activism and working as a community organizer. He acknowledged that there are a lot of people out there working hard to change the world, and challenged the crowd to “have sympathy and empathy for other people.” The mixture of the blazing rap tracks and sincere artist emotion created a great experience for a crowd that stayed throughout, despite the heat.

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Dev Hynes’ newest project, Blood Orange, had soothing and sexy vocals, which were the centerpiece over a vibey guitar and a slow yet dancey beat. The crowd was fully dancing and singing along to many songs, including his short cover of fellow Pitchfork artist Sky Ferreira’s “Everything is Embarrassing” saying she was awesome and should not be missed. While Sky was already on my list for later in the day, I must be honest and say I really like the quality of Dev’s voice on the track and wish he’d continue on. Though I didn’t get to see the full set, what I did see was very impressive to be sure.

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New York’s El-P on the Red Stage had drawn a decent sized crowd , but by no means the largest of the day. He introduced his second song by saying that there was a lot of talk about how sensitive this song was, even calling it his “most sensitive song ever,” and garnering a great albeit uncomfortable laugh from the ground as he began “The Full Retard.” Despite the questionable title, the track is definitely one of his most solid jams turning the crowd into a dirty, sweaty, party. A few songs in he paused momentarily saying that he felt like something was missing and that he wanted to start over by bringing out a friend. As “Bad to the Bone” played over the speakers, El-P reemerged with his rap cohort Killer Mike to exuberant cheers from the crowd who obviously knew what was in store. Calling it his “Fucking rap fantasy” while running through a handful of rowdy tracks from their brand new collaboration album, Run The Jewels. The two rap raconteurs played off of each other’s energy making for a highly memorable set.

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In need of shade and some rest, I headed back over to the Blue Stage to catch the slower Waxahatchee. Unfortunately by this point in a mostly muggy day, even the shade of the trees offered little relief. As Katie Crutchfield, in her calico quilt dress, played through her stable of songs, I couldn’t help but zone out a bit. The fuzzy humming guitars and steady bass made for a somewhat one note sound to a lot of the songs. A few of the up tempo numbers stood out a bit more, but it was hard to spot a real highlight. Not to say that the set was not competent and worthwhile, but it was a bit of a let down from what seemed to be expected.

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Sky Ferreira brought a bit more energy onto the Blue Stage. Opening with the electro pop beats of “Lost in My Bedroom,” she had her angst affectations of full display. With her red lips and short schoolgirl skirt she looked every bit the rebellious teenager which seemed somewhat incongruous to her sound. The crowd was excited and on their feet with a chunk of dedicated devotees down in front, and the rest were clamoring for a spot with a good enough view. “24 Hours” was up tempo and catchy, showcasing her strong throaty vocals. The amount of love she was getting from the audience down in front caused a pout to come to her face and a rush of tears to her eyes. For someone who says she never talks between songs, it seemed as though she couldn’t help but talk today even if it was to apologize for a vocal being weakened by her emotions. During the moody ballad “Ghost,” still wiping tears from her eyes, she began singing directly to a young fan with bleach blonde hair matching her own and singing back every lyric she sang to him. Picking the pace back up with “On Top,” backed up by a bunch of boys in black, she crouched down and hunched over and did her best to fend off feedback issues… “Mics do that!” Blood Orange vocalist Dev Hynes who had given her a shout out during his set earlier came out to duet on “Everything is Embarrassing.” The catchy and ever so angst dance jam was worth waiting for as the two sang face to face keeping the crowd going throughout. As they finished, Sky thanked the crowd once again and kicked everyone out to go see Lil’ B since she wasn’t able to do so herself.

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Lil’ B, already sweaty and shirtless only a few songs into his set, was in full control of the crowd, whipping them up into a frenzy. He encouraged everyone to make new friends and refrain from fighting, saying this was beautiful time to bring everyone together, “We alive, America!” he yelled. After a bit of cloud cover and rain earlier in the day in seem Lil’ B brought the sun back and kept everyone blazing through the set finishing up with “Bitch I own swag,” prefacing those by saying that he respects everyone despite the curse words he might use. For Lil’ B I guess we can be ok with that!

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Bringing the chilled out electro soul to a packed Green Stage, in shorts and trendy tortise shell glasses, Toro Y Moi was up next. Starting off with “Rose Quartz,” the audience seemed ready to dance. He then thanked Lil’ B, while he introduced his bandmates as R and Kelly, however that was about all he said throughout the set. A solid and straight through jam session varied from airy synths to more funky disco jams. Closing out with “Say That,” the somewhat looser vibe of the day took effect, with everyone around the Green Stage making the most of their last time to dance.

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The next set however seemed to have absolutely everyone’s attention as the Red Stage and the field itself was a full as it could be all weekend, for the fierce and fun M.I.A.. Chanting her name before she even took the stage, the audience was ready. Dancing on stage in a gold tunic and bare feet, she joined a team of dancers. Despite some pretty bad feedback issues of the first few songs she was definitely able to bring the noise and energy with “XR2” & “Bucky Dun Gun.” It was all an immense cacophony of sonic intensity. Bells, whistles, horns, simulated gunshots, dancers, and lights all served to simultaneously amaze and overwhelm. Many in the massive crowd were inspired to dance in a more organic way to her pseudo tribal and multi-cultural rhythms. Large light installations that looked like ornate paper snowflakes early on, but more like a carnival show later on once it had been fully lit up, provided for a pleasant viewing experience despite more technical issues throughout the set.

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As much as it pained me to pull away from everything happening during M.I.A, my disco heart was calling me over to the Blue Stage to check out a little bit of Glass Candy. They do however have the amazing ability to pull you right in to their synthy dance jams, creating a different kind of dance party. They definitely had a much smaller crowd than they deserved to have, but I was somehow glad to be able to run right up and get myself in the mix. Those of us that made it a point to show up for this one danced along to Ida No’s ecstatic screams and cooing vocals on “The Beat is Alive,” “Feeling Without Touching” and “Beatific Visions”. While the whole set would have been amazing, I was happy to have gotten at least a small sampling.

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By the time I walked back over to place myself at the Green Stage for the main event, M.I.A. was still going strong finishing her epic set with mega hits “Galang,” “Paper Planes” and “Bad Girls.” “This is our fucking sound!” she declared before leaving the stage and leaving everyone spent.

Looking above to the sky, a noticeable clump of clouds coming from either side of the park seemed to collide over head, raising concerns of rain once again. A few soul classics started to play on the PA and as everyone in the fest took their spots we were notified that the show would start in R minus 2 minutes. A little lightning kicked off as the crowd counted down from ten in unison to herald the arrival of hometown favorite, R. Kelly. A full choir lined the stage and lasers shot out and blanketed the trees on the opposite end of Union Park with a plethora of colors. As everyone clapped, R. Kelly finally emerged to huge roars. Launching into “Ignition (Remix)” the party in the park began instantly with bodies bouncing all over the place and absolutely everyone singing along. While everyone was busy dropping it, a few rain drops made their way down from the clouds. Powering through “Fiesta,” R’s voice was deep and raw, and never once seemed out of tune. Dropping a little sample of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” everyone cheered and watched in awe as the light show intensified and an extra, but unexpected element came into play as now heavier rain drops sparkled in the beams of light, like magical multi colored crystals. The set continued throughout the night with selections from his entire catalog, stopping occasionally to freestyle about sweat towels and how the producers of the show asked him to refrain from doing anything “naughty” on stage. He did not comply, prompting one listener to state that he was just a little too raunchy as he sang the pretty literally sexual “Sex in the Kitchen.” As he rounded out the set with “Feeling on Yo Booty,” the crowd seemed to have thinned a little, but those who stayed were treated to a few chapters of “Trapped in the Closet” and the religious finale number, “I Believe I Can Fly” complete with the release of doves, albeit the fake balloon kind. It was a fun and interesting way to end a fest that is quintessentially Chicago and as you exited the venue it seemed half of the city was outside listening. For those who argued R Kelly might not have been the best of booking choices for the fest, after this performance, many would beg to differ.

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Recap: Pitchfork Festival day 2 – Saturday July 20th

By Amanda Bartels; July 22, 2013 at 6:28 AM 

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All photos by Christopher Alvarez

Saturday at The Pitchfork Festival had near perfect weather, but started off with a little shopping at the Chirp Record Fair and arts & crafts booths that fill the marketplace.

After grabbing a delicious and savory Bacon Ranch Macaroni and Cheese Puff from the appropriately named Puffs of Doom, it was time to head over to the Blue Stage for Julia Holter. A bit of sound checking blurred into the beginning of her set, so much that people were surprised to discover the performance had actually begun and they leaped from their shady resting spots to catch a better view. This somewhat slow start was made even worse still by the very noticeable and distracting sound bleed from Pissed Jeans over on the Red Stage and the myriad of normal festival noises drowning out her elegant quietness. During the first few songs it seemed as if her music might just be too delicate for this particular environment. As the set progressed however she gained ground, drawing in the curious with her opulent orchestral sounds. Though the set meandered a bit and wasn’t too interactive with the crowd, the gorgeous combination of the violin, upright bass, and saxophone with other worldly voice managed to enchant all who stayed through to the end.

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The already in progress Phosphorescent on the Green Stage with the bright sunshine gleaming off the lenses of his sunglasses, singer songwriter Matthew Houck, lead his full stage of musicians (6 in total), through a strong and sunny early afternoon set. Theirs was a cohesive full rock sound buoyed by a soulful urgency. “Song for Zula” was a little on the synthier side from the rest of what had been played, but proved to be an emotional confession to the crowd, and a highlight of the show. Alt-country jam “Nothing was Stolen” brought the tempo back up. A catchy clap along anthem complete with dueling keyboard and organ solos that got the entire crowd into the act. Sweltering in the sun Matthew quipped, “Thanks for bringing the heat for us” in a confident drawl and then proceeded to cool things back down with the moody and meaningful “A New Anhedonia,” then finishing off with the crowd pleaser, “Los Angeles.”

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There seemed to be a bit of a traffic jam heading over to the Blue Stage for Parquet Courts. The influx of people in attendance throughout the day was felt much more in every area of the festival. Their frenetic energy always seemed on the edge, but was always pulled back by a steady or as they described it a “leathery” rhythm section keeping their train right on track. The packed crowd followed every twist and turn with pumping fists and banging heads. Songs like “Disney P.T.” and “Stoned and Starving” brought about much excited head bobbing and even a few cloudy puffs of dirt from within the audience. The fierce feedback and jamming vibe of the transitions blended one song quickly into the next and before you knew it Andrew Savage was spitting out the spitfire lyrics of “Light Up Gold II” as multiple crowd surfers emerged during an intensely satisfying climax.

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Also jamming in the trees of the Blue Stage today were Merchandise. The lead singer’s leopard print swagger and loud wailing guitars spoke to a sense of Rock n’ Roll, even giving a shout out to any and all bands that make “actual rock n’ roll.” The Tampa based band proficiently rocked through their set, although became a little annoyed with the lack of interaction from the crowd at times. “Let’s see if you people can fucking dance!” shouted lead singer Carson Cox, succeeding in getting a hearty handful to comply.

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One of the day’s biggest attractions was the much lauded UK foursome, Savages on the Green Stage. This being only their third show in Chicago, the others having been far more intimate and dark, one wondered how they would handle the midday set. A noticeably large crowd packed in to hear what the hype was all about. Dressed in all black despite the blazing sun and the heaviest of the afternoon heat, each band member brought their own brilliance to their performance, yet seamlessly combining to create one fearsome sound. On “I Am Here” they had the guitars turned up to 11 as vocalist Jehnny Beth squinted into the sun letting out piercing screams that melted into the screaming guitars, bringing the mostly male mosh pit to the brink of madness. Pointing and gesturing throughout, Jehnny Beth introduced a new song called “Fuckers” that served to whip the crowd even further into a frenzied state. While some of the extended crowd couldn’t take the heat and went in search of shade, Savages did not let up on those left behind. They launched into the wonderfully reckless one, two, three punch of “No Face,” “She Will” and “Hit Me.” Playing slightly sped up versions of the songs, they received rapturous applause and pumping fists throughout. Closing the epically intense set with the equally intense “Husbands,” it was clear they had made their presence known as it was all anyone could talk about after was that set.

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The raucously loud Metz was next on the Blue Stage‘s agenda. I was surprised to see so many little children in attendance. Even with their parental guardians it seemed non-conducive to their safety. As they played a new song for the crowd, those up front moshed away, crowd surfing their way over the rail, only to be ejected and headed right back into the insanity. Blaring and fast paced, even the crew on the sound board couldn’t help but join in on the head banging as well. The lead singer proposed it was time for some “real heavy shit” and the crowd eagerly followed along, hands vigorously clapping over head, and ready for more.

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Continuing the heavy theme, New York’s Swans took to the Red Stage. They began with a moody atmospheric intro that slowly devolved into a bombastic wall of unrelenting noise. This served to simultaneously attract curious onlookers as well as scare off some not as sonically adventurous listeners right out of the sparse shade they’d claimed for the better part of the day. If the devil was in a band, I’m pretty sure he’d sound a lot like front man Michael Gira. Their abrasiveness was nearly ear piercing, causing many to reach for protective gear. Yet a good sized crowd was drawn to stay and take in their eerie and epic sound.

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For anyone old enough to have lived through the nineties, Last Splash by The Breeders, was undoubtedly in your CD or tape collection. A classic batch of alt-rock songs buoyed by the hit single “Cannonball.” As Kim Deal & co. came onstage they launched straight into the album, speaking to an excited and growing audience, “We Put out an album 20 years ago. Thanks for celebrating it with us!” This somehow seemed to make us all feel our age a bit, while the sloppiness with which they played it seemed to show theirs. As soon as they played their most popular hit “Cannonball” it seemed everyone watching cleared out, this took a lot of the energy away from the rest of the performance. The remainder of the set, save a few clearer moments, was sadly a bit of a let down for someone who grew up with that album on repeat and wanted a bit more from this performance.

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The subheadlining set of the night, Solange, caused a flood of people to stream toward the Red Stage as “Holy Grail” by Jay Z played over the PA. Solange’s backing band started things off with a boom of the drums and a short jam. Strutting her stuff all the way to center stage starting off with the banging beat and sweet soulful lyrics of “Don’t Let Me Down,” followed by an explosion of beach balls and a party vibe on the awesomely titled “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work.” With her flawless voice slow like honey, she worked her mic for the next slow jam, asking the crowd to “Turn this mother fucker into a high school grindfest, I wanna see you grind!” All in attendance obliged. She busted out a few of her own choreographed moves during “Locked in Closets,” all the while flashing an infectious smile to the dancing crowds. For her newest single “Losing You,” she asked everyone to, just for one song, “Put away your cameras and your phones. Forget about your bad days and stresses and just fucking lose it!” It was simultaneously the most fun and relieving emotional release through a moment of music that I have had in a while.

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As fans quickly filed over to the Green Stage for everyone’s favorite Scots, Belle & Sebastian, some noted the grey clouds that had gathered from nowhere. Because of the previous night’s abrupt end due to weather, this was of some cause for concern, but as Belle & Sebastian took the stage those concerns were quickly forgotten. The convivial crowd began to bob along to set opener “I’m a Cuckoo,” which sounded sunnier than the previous hours had been. Remarking on the beautiful night, they launched into a song inspired by a somewhat rare beautiful night in Scotland, “Another Sunny Day.” The eloquent “Stars of Track and Field” started off slowly, yet you could clearly hear sing-alongs over the talkers of the crowd, culminating in brilliant lights and horns. On the next song as they asked for a volunteer with “Intimate knowledge of out third LP,” a few light rain drops began to fall, as many hands arose to be chosen. A lovely if somewhat timid girl by the name of Laura did the duty by singing along off of oversized cue cards to “Dirty Dream #2.” Midway through the set, the inevitable happened and the rains began to softly fall, dampening the crowd’s spirits ever so briefly. As ponchos and make shift raincoats came out, fans continued to bob along happily. During “If You’re Feeling Sinister,” a jovial circle of dancers developed behind the soundboard, lapping up the rain as they went. And throughout the crowd you couldn’t help but see everyone doing the same. Even on stage, as they selected a lucky group to come up and dance during “The Boy with the Arab Strap,” the set was nothing but one big wet dance party, and no one seemed to mind that at all. A joyous end to another great day of music.

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Recap: Pitchfork Festival day 1 – Friday July 19th

By Amanda Bartels; July 20, 2013 at 1:02 PM 

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All photos by Christopher Alvarez

The 2013 edition of The Pitchfork Music Festival opened to a stream of eager Björk fans hurrying through the gates to grab a spot along the rail of the Green Stage for her set and her set only. For those of us who came for everything else we were greeted with wispy white clouds blown by light breezes, that helped to somewhat temper the heat and high humidity of the day.

Frankie Rose started off the festivities with her set on the Blue Stage. Greeting early arriving “Pitchforkers” as she called them, with endearing interactions that continued throughout the set. Her sweetly discordant vocals layered over moody bass and airy synths created an inviting atmosphere in the shady tree covered space. A new song or two in the set sounded right at home with the rest, but “Know Me” with its sing along lyrics and cool energy was a sure highlight of an overall engaging set.

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Daughn Gibson’s dark rhythms, intense drums and deep voice brought listeners out into the sun of the Red stage. “A Young Girl’s World” brought a mysterious energy that was continued all the way through the set closing “All Hell.” A song that normally runs just over 3 minutes was drawn out into a bombastic jam with an epically loud and crashing breakdown of layered instrumentation.

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Back over at the Blue Stage streams of people were heading directly over to catch Trash Talk. The band launched into their first song as a thick cloud of dust began to rise into the air. By the second song the band’s front man Lee Spielman, instigated a full on circle pit, and by the third had jumped into it himself. The frenzied crowd buoyed him above their heads as he sat cross legged, riding over energetically pumping fists. Urging the crowd with a yell of “none of this standing around shit” Spielman continued to lead all that were present into further chaos.

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The Green Stage’s first set of the day saw Montreal’s Mac DeMarco. As he played through songs like “The Stars Keep on Calling my Name” and “Rock N’ Roll Nightclub,” his quirky energy and personality brought the performance a vivacious energy, while his backing band lent a fuller and funkier vibe to the tracks than what the recorded versions would have shown. As he powered through the set playing mouth opened and tongue out he humorously quipped that this was a “Big sexy party in the park!” Indeed it was full of bobbing heads all around in the hot afternoon sun and many an air guitar riff to be seen throughout the crowd. The fairly lengthy set culminated in the raucous and random covers of Bachman Turner Overdrive’s 80’s classic “Taking Care of Business” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” pleasing a wide range of fans.

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Angel Olsen’s late day performance brought loud cheers of glee from the audience right from the beginning. Starting off with “Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow” her modern waltzes with an ever so slight country twang brought forward through a yodeling voice reminiscent of Emmylou Harris. A slower set allowed onlookers to relax and take in the day as her angelic voice rose about the trees while the moody plodding bass floated by as slowly as the clouds above. The summer cicadas seemed to sing along to her plaintive sorrowful tone. She stopped briefly to put up her hair and check in on the crowd, “Did ya eat?, Did ya drink some water?” Everyone’s response was a resounding “Yes.”

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Mikal Cronin kept the fresh buzzy energy of the Blue Stage going with a whispered intro into a clash of noise on “Is It Alright.” The crowd began to push into the center as he alternated between fuzzy and frantic guitar riffs. “Situation” brought about a fair amount of thrashing from those up front, while “Apathy” had them fully singing along. Though a few of the early arrivers left after only a handful of songs, presumably to see Wire, plenty more came to take their spots. By this time the core of the crowd had devolved into full on moshing and water bottle explosions, yet somehow despite the thrashing it somehow seemed just as appropriate to casually watch from the sides. The apparent dichotomy of his catchy and engaging lyrics combined with the raging guitars made this one of the most electric sets of the day.

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The lovely Joanna Newsom came on to close out the Red Stage behind the encroaching clouds and relaxing everyone into the evening. “Bridges and Balloons” came first and was no less than melodic brilliance. She stopped to let the audience know that she wasn’t quite sure what to play next as she had a lot of new material on hand, but opted instead for the moving “In California.” When she did get to the new songs it was definitely worth the wait. Three new songs all in sequence, brimmed with promise and her usual wistful lyrics. Seamlessly plucking harp strings, her childlike vocals fluttered along with the leaves in the wind. An army of adoring fans were enraptured and watched in awe as she went from harp to piano and back again. The evening grew darker, as more clouds seemed to appear as if she was them conjuring up with each strum of the harp. But no one seemed concerned as she began to play “Cosmia” she was greeted with happy gasps from the crowd and an extended applause at its end. A flawless performance that led into the evening’s headliner.

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With the moon rising over the Green Stage, everyone gathered for the almost guaranteed brilliance that is Björk. The crowd burst into rapturous cheers as an all female choir clad in metallic blue costumes emerged on the stage followed by Björk herself, dressed in gold with an amazing headdress that made her somewhat resemble a shimmering intergalactic sea urchin. With spotlights on her constantly, she was a radiant ball of reflective light, growling and prancing from side to side, with her choir in almost complete unison. The intensity kept building and enthralling the audience as a whole, however the lightning in the sky began to match that of the giant Tesla coil suspended above the stage during “Army of Me.” By the conclusion of “Mutual Core,” a hugely disappointed crowd was given the news by Björk herself that she was being made to stop the show per the “weather authority’s” concerns over an impending storm. A sea of boos erupted, but as the winds and lightning kicked up within minutes of the announcement, everyone quickly scattered to the streets bringing day one to an abrupt end.

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Festival Review: Discorporate 2013 – Starworld

By Stephen Henderson; July 8, 2013 at 11:22 PM 

Discorporate Festival, June 7&8 2013

Being at Discorporate

The word discoporate literally means, as those familiar with Zappa’s We’re Only in it for the Money will know, ‘to leave one’s body’. However, to the unfamiliar audience, the word, the base of which is ‘corporate’, has a totally different meaning. The ‘dis-‘ acts as a negation à la ‘disinterested’ or ‘disemboweled’, and thus one associates the word with the antithesis of the almost mechanistic music world. With great pleasure I can say that the wonderful pun pans out in the world of which language is merely an approximation. The Discorporate Festival was a fully sublimative experience, probably somewhat akin to being a Buddha protesting on Wall Street while on copious amounts of drugs. My goal with this review is not to make any true attempts at describing the sounds, but only to hopefully pique some interest. More so than almost anything I have ever encountered, Discorporate Festival was not something worth an attempt at description. It was far beyond the sum of its parts, and oozed a warmth of static embracing energy.

The totality of Discorporate Fest was mind warping. The entire building had been given the perfect DIY makeover, with grass roots art coating the walls, the perfect lighting, and a general ambience that one has given up expecting from venues. There was not an inch of space that was not in one way or another entertaining. The lawn in front had a free-for-all picnic atmosphere, and one entered the actual playing space (which was fitted with various papier-mâché deep sea animals) to what is close to the perfect crowd atmosphere: ready to dance, ready to talk, ready to enjoy in any way possible. Everyone there was ready for a huge spectrum of music, which the festival delivered all on one stage. Everything from comedy-pop of Freeze Puppy, the disco of Ptterns, the brutal tech-noise of Staer, to the indescribable sounds of ZA! SchnAAk and Guardian Alien. Each band had a distinctive set up, which the crew was able to get functional well before one would expect, which was almost downright astonishing.

I would be completely satisfied saying that every band kicked ass in their own right, and that the environment was more than one would have expected, even given the incredible combination. The three bands of whom I have interviews were, biased or not, my favorites, and I will give a quick synopsis of what it was like to see them. I find the interviews themselves more interesting than anything I could say about the experience, which simply must be experienced.

Stage and decoration

The first of the three to play was Guardian Alien, who dredged forth from the pits of technicolor chaos the usual unreproducible bath of sound. The recent loss of one of their musicians had changed their sound, but definitely not for the worse. The new texture relied more on the thick web of loops coming out of the pedal board, which immersed the listener in a high-octane audible soup. Greg, as usual, played out of his skin, with his usual look of meditative concentration. Alex’s vocals cut through the Technicolor din with shimmering clarity of thought and sound. The chaos was perfectly balanced, overwhelming, and beautiful. In fact, it would seem that the recent loss drove the band to summon forth a greater degree of intensity.

Previously when I have seen Guardian Alien, there is almost a sense of a Zen, as the river of sound contracts and expands in on itself, weaving unidentifiable layers over itself, a chord of ether in constant flux held together loosely, more than by anything else ,by the sheer conception of a band. Here, there was more of aggression in their attack on the instruments, a clear and deliberate compensation for new space, and I believe the pressure to fill the space brought forth a carnal sense (simply take a look at those faces). For a crowd that was looking to dance, they were not so well received as more approachable acts, but definitively found their home amongst other acts, and naturally as a unfathomably individual act, intended for the headier appreciation. That is not to say there wasn’t the same energy in the crowd that thundered from the stage (the law of diffusion, thankfully, held true), but simply that the various Euro-style club meisters (yes, there were a couple present) were not quite sure what to do with themselves. We of the enlightened convulsed with the torrent and were so freed.

SchnAAk is almost untouchable in terms of showmanship. Between the perfect execution of their material, which is in itself beyond commendable (just listen to it), they have established the perfect balance between nonchalance, humour, and self-laudation. High energy ferocity characterized everything they played, and the interpretive dance that interposed a couple of the songs (which was not so animalistic as elegant, but in a Groucho Marx style). Mathias’ guitar tone gut pummeled right into my gut, and I would speak about the awe of watching Josen play the drums, but I don’t think I was ever able to focus for a long enough time to digest it (not that anyone could). SchnAAk has recently incorporated the perfect arsenal of tone color and texture, and these sounds become both rawer and more refined when heard live. They are bouquet of living breathing mechanical cosmic god flowers, glowing hot aurora borealis in perfectly orchestrated insanity. My only complaint about SchnAAk was volume. I wished to exist as nothing other than a being engulfed in SchnAAk, which would have required some sort of mystical crossing brought on by split ear drums and a distended bowels (yes, I have heard sound vibrations can achieve this result), but I suppose it is good I continued on in existence to hear them again.

SchnAAk

What is key to SchnAAk, particularly live, is an understanding of the masterpiece of pure artistry combined with a distinct sense of accessibility. Where Guardian Alien did not cater to the understanding of dance that the crowd came with, SchnAAk may as well have bestowed it upon them. However, the music is, self evidently, highly technical, ripe with fruits for the most devoted music geek. However, taking I believe a leaf from the mainstream metal acts following in the wake of Meshuggah, the underlying groove never is completely lost. To a listener with some familiarity, seeing SchnAAk, hearing them perfectly execute the sounds you had assumed to be the work of a production wizard, is nothing short of Sublimation. For new listeners (an opinion I had to get by talking to others), SchnAAk quickly asserted itself as a monster, the aural grip of which is inescapable.

It is possible that ZA! Has more fun on stage than any group I, at least, have encountered. The best analogy for understanding ZA! is in physics. When particles are bonded, they are at their lowest energy state. When they are separated, their kinetic energy sky rockets. So, there are many points in ZA!’s music when there is space between sound (they are only two people and there is only so much tasteful looping can do) but these seems to make them more intense, and more interesting. Everything from ZA! was lighthearted and engrossing, incredible danceable despite its unpredictable changes, and with more fire at its ass than any band I’ve seen.

Pau and Edu lose, from what I could tell, a sense of ego upon entering the stage. They become conductors of circuit, a circuit that is not fully connected. That is to say, perhaps 1000 volts are moving through a wire, but one part of the wire is broken, yet the electrons simply jump over the gap to reach back into themselves. ZA! has a sense of spontaneity, a sense of the impossible. The music should really not being able to come forth, it feels like they are so unaware of themselves they would be no way for them to connect. Yet they do, and it sparks. They ooze machismo, but in almost a self mocking way. They are playing music to have fun, to try new things for themselves and for others. They are the ultimate party in and of themselves. Even knowing consciously that the notes I was hearing were correct, there still remained a feeling of seeing something that had not yet occurred on earth, but maybe was cascading through a rip in some plane of existence, from a place where cross faded electrodes of flourescent rainbows collide in ecstacy to the rhythms of mumbo and schizophrenic merengue.

ZA!

There is something particularly futile about trying to talk about this festival. A lot of shows come and go, but very few become something bigger. Discorporate, and the bands that played, created an experience, a community, and interaction, a reality, that just didn’t exist in any quantifiable or describable way. There will be one next year, if there is any sort of order and goodness in the universe. Tickets to Germany aren’t that expensive. Enter the Starworld, where people are still excited to be alive, and unafraid to engage with it. Discoporate is, for me, characterized be the dedication to the music, with intense thought to the experience. The final hours of the festival consisted of a jam session including all the musicians who felt like the should get involved (thus, involving two drumkits). Discorporate Festival takes itself seriously, but as an alternative. This ends up entailing a different idea of what serious is, and I personally comfortable believing that some of the most interesting, progressive, familial music is happening.

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Festival Review and Photos: Sasquatch Music Festival 2013, May 24-27 – George, Washington

By Brendan Frank; June 21, 2013 at 1:14 AM 

Grimes

Photography by Jake MacDonald

Grimes photo (above) by Kara Kostis

Music festivals are heavyweights in the struggle between order and chaos. Being somewhat new to the festival circuit, this slipped my mind as I was packing for a 6-day trip to the Gorge in Washington. A ten percent chance of rain means it will most definitely rain, you will either lose or misplace much of what you brought, your phone will not get service, you will not cook even a fraction of the $200 worth of food you purchased, you will get separated from your friends, and you will miss shows you wanted to see. You will also have an amazing time if you embrace the fact that some things will go wrong.

People come to festivals for different reasons, but the diversity of the crowd means you can probably find what you’re looking for, be it music, a good time with friends, Molly, or just the shock of the new. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Gorge Amphitheatre near Quincy, Washington, Sasquatch provided a unique and gorgeous setting for a four day marathon. Uncooperative weather was responsible for most of the hiccups, the grounds and campsites were easy to navigate, and there were myriad food options for the provisionally challenged.

As we rolled in late Thursday night to pouring rain, it became painfully obvious to me how inadequately prepared I was for bad weather. The rain refused to let up as we set up our tent and soaked in the collective anticipation with the Gorge’s other 25,000 guests. The rain continued on into Friday morning, the daylight revealing some of the most hilariously poor attempts at pitching a tent that I’ve ever seen. The clouds finally parted around noon to cheers from the slums, and then it was off to the races.

Sea Wolf

Sea Wolf

First up was Sea Wolf who played for forty minutes at the second largest venue in the grounds, Bigfoot Stage. Their songs were nimble but heavy on rhythm, with drummer Joey Ficken and bassist Eliot Lorango often doubling down on percussion duties. The band encountered slight issues with feedback after a few songs, but decided to proceed before the problem had been corrected. After a great start, their set sagged in the middle as they moved into slower, looser and mopier songs. After half an hour of their set we sprinted to the Sasquatch stage to see the tail end of ZZ Ward, who is as polished and soulful live as she is in the studio. She has the personality to match too. We watched her from the concrete terrace as she playfully engaged with the audience, pounding out her final three songs of funk, blues and soul, flanked by a trio of excellent musicians.

ZZ Ward

ZZ Ward

One of the best things about music festivals is that they expose you to music that you wouldn’t be likely to seek out otherwise. Portland metal act Red Fang was one such band for me, playing a late afternoon set to a curiously diverse audience. Soldiering on beneath the intense sun, the quartet freaked out with sludgy riffs, collectively growled choruses and sudden shifts in speed and tempo. Metal isn’t my thing, but you have to respect musicians who’ve clearly mastered their craft. Singer Aaron Beam addressed the audience in a comically polite tone between throat tearing screams.
As things began to cool off and the threat of rain became real yet again, Vancouverite duo Japandroids took a rather unorthodox approach to their set, coming out fifteen minutes early to do a sound check for a keen audience. Singer Brian King darted from the stage right as they were supposed to start, leaving drummer David Prowse stranded on stage, only to come back two minutes later soaking wet. They worked out bugs in their sound as they went, and even started a few over because we “deserved better than that shit.” They switched up the melodies on songs like “Wet Hair” and “The House That Heaven Built,” which was easily the highlight of their set, with the crowd eagerly jumping in to sing along. It was an exhausting 50 minutes.

Japandroids
Japandroids

Red Fang
Red Fang

I sat down with Japandroids during the weekend. We discussed their start in Vancouver, their progression as songwriters, and learning the solo from “Stairway to Heaven.”

The rain made good on its threat as we made our way over a performance by the Boisean Built to Spill, who played an extended set thanks to a no-show by Schoolboy Q. I’m only really familiar with Built to Spill’s first four albums, so thankfully the majority of their set was dedicated to that era. The indie vets burned through classics like “Else” and “Big Dipper” with the proficiency of pros that have been playing together for a very long time. Set against the gorgeous setting of the Gorge with the sunset and rain, there was a strange sense of serenity about the whole thing. The mix was guitar-heavy to the point where Doug Martsch’s lyrics weren’t quite decipherable, but his voice has weathered magnificently. Beneath the band’s thick, winding riffs, it added a whole new dimension to subdued songs like “Carry the Zero.”

Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys

After watching Built to Spill from the comfort of the hill, we headed down to the front of the stage in anticipation of Arctic Monkeys, a personal favourite. Having seen the band before in 2009 and 2011, I had certain expectations for their show. They didn’t fulfill any of them, but instead gave me something I didn’t even realize I wanted. This is the first time I’ve seen Arctic Monkeys look like genuine fucking rock stars. Without saying a word, the band opened with a song I’ve never heard, titled “Do I Wanna Know.” From there, they gave a fair shake to all of their albums, including “Brick by Brick,” a thoroughly underrated cut from Suck It And See that has some real snarl when played live. It seems like they’re splitting the difference between Humbug and “R U Mine?” this time around; pensive and moody, but with deep pop roots.

Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend

Right after the Monkeys was the first of multiple sprints from one show to the next. I’d always thought that Vampire Weekend was a band whose success could mostly be chalked up to being in the right place at the right time. Even though they smacked the zeitgeist in the forehead in 2008, their first two albums never really resonated with me. Then I listened to the recently released Modern Vampires and everything suddenly clicked. In a live setting, the details in their music positively bloom. As the delicate, spoke-wheel guitars of “White Sky” rang out from Bigfoot Stage, it became apparent that Ezra Koenig & co. are seriously competent musicians. The nearly perfect string on songs from Modern Vampires, “Unbelievers,” “Step,” and “Diane Young,” were thrilling, while classics like “A-Punk” were practically thrown at the audience. On our way to Macklemore we stopped by El Chupacabra to catch a few of Matthew Dear’s heavy, hypnotic rhythms. I’m not overly familiar with the band’s material, but the visual show was magnificent, and the audience knew almost all of the words. We then made our way over to the main stage for Friday’s grand finale.

Matthew Dear
Matthew Dear

After stepping on 20 minutes late, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis bounded onto the stage, accompanied by horn players, and an army of backup singers and dancers. This was balls-out entertainment, and as much fun as I was expecting it to be. They pulled out every stop imaginable, bringing in numerous guests from his album The Heist, including Wanz and Mary Lambert, and using several of the props from their music videos. As the show progressed, it became obvious that Macklemore’s performance was his gift back to his home state, like a thank you for allowing him to become the success he is: “I have been working my entire life to step on to this stage, and there is no place more beautiful.” Outfitted in a jersey from the defunct Seattle Supersonics, he proceeded to reminisce about growing up in Washington and his own Sasquatch experiences, and spoke candidly about his struggles with addiction. He poured his heart into this show, from opener “Ten Thousand Hours” to mega-hit “Thrift Shop” to politically charged “Same Love,” coming out for several encores and going well beyond his allotted time.

Macklemore
Macklemore

[Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Accolades + Gallery]

Festival Review and Photos: Primavera Sound Festival 2013, May 23-25 – Barcelona, Spain

By Gabriel Szatan; June 3, 2013 at 8:19 AM 

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Photos by Dani Canto, Kyu Han, Eric Pamies, Toni Rosado, Xarlene & author’s own

Barcelona has to be the best city in the world, right? And that’s not just during festival season either – it’s just a really lovely place to be in general, full of warm people with warm smiles free to bask in warm weather due to the warm levels of 57% youth unemployment and hey, it’s just great. That tangible sense of geniality found across Barca was of course omnipresent at Primavera Sound, almost to a disarming extent: I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a friendlier crowd at any major event, on the continent or otherwise. Although not my first international foray, this did mark my introduction to European festivals, and it really couldn’t have been better. The seafront site was logistically sound, managing to keep volume levels super powerful while minimising inter-bleed to an impressive extent, perhaps excepting no mans land in between the ATP and Heineken stages where there was a fair amount of spill; the punters were convivial and considerate enough without losing an iota of energy or zeal; and augmented by the bolstering of local bookings and extensive records and art fayre by the entrance gates, there was a general sense of camaraderie and community that has all but evaporated from UK events of a relatable scale. In a similar vein to getting stuck in at Worthy Farm, stepping on site at the Parc del Forum is akin to entering a alternat(iv)e universe, however whereas the sheen of Glastonbury’s fabled all-inclusiveness has been dulled somewhat by the influx of Grazia-toting V Festival refugees in cutoff hotpants, Primavera was spot on across the board; “just such a good spirit,” as Ed Droste succinctly put it.

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To avoid turning this into a total Cytherean gush-fest, I should probably talk about the music. My party tried our hand at the Wednesday night John Talabot / Parquet Courts double-header – augmented by a secret Breeders slot – but the queue outside the Sala Apolo was 30000000 deep (approx), so we took the consolation prize of watching a gang of cavalier Gaslight Anthem fans sink bodyshots off one another to Crowded House in a nearby bar, which wasn’t bad. Despite the allure of a special Thursday matinee Animal Collective press conference – “uh, yeah, can you try not to make Centipede Hz again, please?” – the fact that all pre-festival nerves about alleged hailstorms were allayed by blissful conditions meant it seemed only right to kick things off with Wild Nothing. Jack Tatum’s gang played a primarily Nocture-based set, a record I admittedly should have spent a little bit more time with, but their brand of dainty throwbacks was pleasant as ever, although unpowered and a tad unconvincing on such a big stage. The vocals were too high in the mix and the rhythm guitar practically non-existant but the sturdy basswork carried the set, and they served their role as a decent mid-afternoon lead-in capably, improving in confidence as they progressed. While sarcastically referred to as “the hit” by a mate, when “Summer Holiday” was dropped in, it did feel like a true gem of recent years, harking back to the glorious summer of ’10 when this kind of hazy dream pop was a little less passé, and proved the clear standout.

But perhaps I’m being overly harsh on them – after all, next up on my colour-coded Clashfinder (yup) was Savages, a band no stranger to accusations of revivalism. In a marked contrast to Wild Nothing’s languid drift, Jehnny Beth jogged on the spot, hands half-clenched, as the outfit tore into the fierce squall of “Shut Up” to a bristling crowd down at the waterfront Pitchfork Stage. That area maintained arguably the perfect sound throughout the whole weekend, managing to faithfully reproduce whatever was being channelled through its speakers in a way that was neither slightly too loud (ATP / Ray Ban), slightly too quiet (Primavera, on occassion) or subject to slightly muddy mixing (Heineken). This obviously suited Savages, whose white-hot bursts of barbed-wire ferocity translated really well for the first 15 minutes, despite a slot in the still blazing 7pm sunshine not exactly tailored to their tailoring. Annoyingly, major technical woes curtailed the momentum fairly drastically, leaving a prolonged lull that, while filled cleverly by an elongated bass groove and Beth’s intermittent band shout-outs, left the band accidentally having Silenced Themselves (boo, you suck, get off the stage etc).

An inauspicious beginning, then, and for the start of Tame Impala‘s set it seemed as if they might befall a similar fate in front of the 25,000 people that had gathered at the main Heineken stage to witness the coronation proper of one of this decade’s brightest hopes. Having only been in the public domain for about eight months, Lonerism‘s status as an minor classic is already cemented, and while the band seemed imbued with more confidence than when I saw them tepidly try to fill an overly-generous 50m outdoor slot two years back – which is commendable considering this was their first ever performance without former bassist and paradoxical featherweight anchor Nick Allbrook – they weren’t entirely convincing during the opening one-two punch of “Solitude Is Bliss” and “Apocalypse Dreams.” An interesting aspect of Tame Impala’s live performance is that the groundswell of goodwill behind the band creates an atmosphere of expectancy that the group, through no fault of their own, can’t quite match. There’s a constant tingle of anticipation that every killer drum fill will lead to a thrilling moment of acceleration, but the tempo never fully deviates from a steady canter, creating tiny voids where the crowd remains tantalisingly on the cusp of a full breakdown, waiting for an opportunity to expend their energy (case in point: the beginning of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”). But following an impassioned “Keep On Lying” five songs deep the band found their groove – probably spurned on by the “pretty perfect” sight of the full moon emerging as the sun began to dip – and really stepped up a gear to charge through the remaining sophomore material before absolutely knocking “Alter Ego,” “It Is Not Meant To Be,” and “Half Full Glass Of Wine” out the Parc. The sound was rich and robust and Kevin Parker put in a memorable performance, relishing the rockstar roll by shimmying around in front of their surprisingly effective visualiser backdrop, wielding his guitar like a weapon and lapping up the adulation of the assembled throng. I was all set for an evening of \m/ alt.rocking out \m/ with Dinosaur Jr and Deerhunter but being the typically useless British tourist that I am, a surprise visit from the sunstroke fairy put paid to that.

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I restarted on Grizzly Bear, a band I would definitely have traded for the aforementioned pair, and whose grand entrance proved comically anticlimactic thanks to Ed Droste delivering what I’m sure was a very heartfelt little speech about how wonderful it is to be back and how beautiful the crowd looked and whatever into a bust mic. Lined-up in their usual egalitarian fashion, their choice of wearing what looked like silk pyjamas actually suited their enchanting lullabies pretty well. The power in Droste’s voice was magnified in the flesh, and the group’s layered harmonising was captivating to watch in front of the best lamp-based stage show this side of Fever Ray (more on her later). “Cheerleader” was predictably sublime and “Yet Again”‘s big reveal struck me as fairly reminiscent of the manner in which Radiohead’s “There There” crests live. The low-end on the Primavera stage was crushing, adding a potency usually absent on record, and it was a shame to leave what had transpired to be a super enjoyable set. However, the depleted opportunities to see post-fatherhood Fucked Up forced my hand – and sure enough, Damian’s first words as he stepped out on stage were about his two kids. But for a man grappling with the twin responsibilities of leading a punk band and raising a family, he showed no signs of deviating from his usual course of action, snaking a path through the crowd multiple times and seeming at times genuinely overawed at the love shown. Really, what can I say that hasn’t been already? They are a total blast live. If you’ve yet to experience the wonderful spectacle of Pink Eyes wrapping mic cords around his face, pulling his basketball shorts up past his nipples, eulogising Spain’s punk history and calling everyone who hi-fives him “sir”, rough luck. Not to detract from the sextet as a whole, mind – they are almost ridiculously well-oiled, smashing through “Queen of Hearts” clean off the bat and emanating a raw power that was a joy to behold. For the several hundred right in the thick of the action fist-pumping through “The Other Shoe”‘s “dying on the inside” refrain, it felt not too far off a headline set. The new material sounded really great too, a perfect encapsulation of the band firing on all cylinders: intelligently structured jams delivered at blistering speed that leave you with a stupid grin smeared all over your face. Bonza.

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But as great as they were, they came second-best in a battle of the Fucks. With Phoenix yelping through their star-speckled diminishing returns on the adjacent stage, my energy levels were flagging and I needed something hefty to convince me not to sack the night off. Irrespective of how big I wanted it, Fuck Buttons gave me little choice; they were chuffin’ colossal. Kicking off with a new track from imminent third record Soft Focus, their set-up was deceptively stripped-back: two tech nerds huddled over a modest amount of gear on a table with a microphone that Andrew Hung intermittently jammed in his mouth, with a disco ball in the back and a screen hosting body-rendering projections. But Christ were they loud, and Christ were they good. I had to actually move to the back of the sound booth for fear I was going to pass out. “Space Mountain” was absolutely punishing, sounding not too dissimilar to what I imagine two aerodromes scraping against one another in an earthquake might, whereas Benjamin Power’s tom thwacks on “Colours Move” were cavernous and gave the set an industrial feel throughout, something echoed on the new record, of which three or four cuts were debuted. I mean, *cliche alert* but I can’t think of an act that I’ve seen more accurately live up to the overused ‘widescreen’ tag than Fuck Buttons, who managed to somehow wrest euphoria out of the crushing din. The dazzling rainbow lights that accompanied Official British Government Approved London 2012™ anthem “Olympians” had the audience throwing their arms aloft; similarly, when a particularly militant techno reworking of “Surf Solar” dropped in, people began losing their shit, pummelled into a senseless, jelly-legged groove; once that in turn had screechgued into newie “Brainfreeze”, large swaths of the crowds had completely given up any resistance and were flinging themselves around with total abandon. It was a testament to Primavera’s sense of parallel reality that this ATP-signed noise duo pushed themselves into a realm that you imagine only the likes of dyed-in-the-wool big league dance headliners such as the Chemical Brothers and Orbital ever really touch in front of a crowd of thousands at 4am on a Thursday night.

My whole gang revitalised, we scoped out one final act to deliver a slice of valedictory triumph to rubber-stump the day as ‘unfuckwithable’, so it seemed only right to catch Jackmaster in full Tweak-a-Holic mode. I’ve tried my hand before at addressing how best to critically assess a familiar face but really this time round his set posed more questions than it answered:
– Can you hear me calling out your name?
– How will I know if he really loves me?
– Psycho Killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?
– How does it feel to treat me like you do?

…I’m sure you get the gist. He full-on bodied it – even saying as much himself – capping a truly singular day.

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Festival Review: Boston Calling

By Lucien Flores; June 1, 2013 at 10:36 AM 

Boston has an underappreciated music scene. The city might not match the sprawling metropolis of New York City but few places can. Boston is home to my personal favorite venue, the 933-capacity Paradise Rock Club. The more corporate Bank of America Pavilion and House of Blues host larger bands and the smaller Brighton Music Hall, T.T. The Bear’s Place, Middle East, and others host emerging talent. Then there’s the whole hush-hush Allston DIY scene that I can’t even manage.

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Last weekend, Boston finally had a music festival of its own. Boston Calling jumped onto the festival circuit with a formidable line-up that was co-curated by The National’s Aaron Dessner. Despite Saturday’s cold rain and Sunday’s unseasonably cool air, the inaugural festival was a unquestionable hit.

Everything went smoothly as bands traded off sets between the two stages. The organizers did almost everything right: re-entry allowed people to take a much needed break from the elements (I can attest that after hours in the rain, the warmth of a fast-food joint named Cheeseboy trumped seeing Marina & The Diamonds). Furthermore, festival-goers were allowed to bring food into the festival, allowing for prime time snackage when you were too afraid to give up your spot in the crowd.

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The only complaints I had were that it was hard to see the acts on the smaller second stage and that shuffling back and forth between the two stages sometimes seemed impossible. Otherwise, organizers did a great job — some of the nicest staff and security guards I’ve encountered and free rain ponchos all around.

 The Bands:

It’s easy for bands to blend together at a festival when you’re constantly bombarded with music for about eight hours. The review highlights the few bands that really brought it to Boston Calling and the few that were caught on a bad day.

The National – Sunday

The National

It’s ironic: the band known best for their  intricate, reflective, and self-conscious music is actually a kickass live band. Lead singer Matt Berninger was certainly feeling screamy on Sunday, belting lyrics to rockers such as “Squalor Victoria,” “Abel,” and the new show-stopper, “Graceless.”

And for a band known for brooding, end-of-the-night numbers, the set was filled with rockers. Of course, “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” “Apartment Story,” and “Sea of Love” were loud, but even the tamer “Fake Empire” and “Conversation 16” sounded heavier than normal with all of Boston crooning along.

On “Mr. November,” the liquor fueled Berninger found himself in the crowd, singing along with the masses. At the end of the song, the singer seemed trapped in the crowd before the audience and security teamed up and propelled him back to stage.

While the rockers were the highlight, the band’s many delicate numbers still sounded fantastic: “About Today” rose from haunting to cathartic perfection and the Trouble Will Fine Me opener “I Should Live In Salt” was a brilliant choice to kick off the encore.

One of the more badass moments came during the band’s quietest song of the night, “I Need My Girl.” Bryce Dessner holds a second guitar and bangs it on the ground to create a sense of foreboding that felt so right in the night sky. The Dessner brothers traded guitars and switched off on piano duties—they maintained a captivating stage presence throughout the night.

The National

Portugal. The Man – Saturday

Portugal. The Man

Just last year, I was worried that this band might be on the decline. They had been one of my favorites since the release of their brilliant 2008 album Censored Colors but they changed drummers and keyboardists and their live sets seemed to focus less on the jamming and song combinations that always enthralled me. I was wrong to worry.

After a year with the new line-up, the band sounds as good as they’ve ever been. New keyboardist Kyle O’Quin brings a fresh sound (and a half-dozen impressive keyboards) that adds life to new songs, such as “Modern Jesus” and “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.”

Playing the sprawling “Sleep Forever” into “Hey Jude” is genius. Getting thousands to share in the singing of one of McCartney’s most anthemic songs will certainly make people like you. Definitely one of the festival’s high points.

Despite my fondness for their earlier tracks, Portugal is killing it live these days with a setlist that favorites their new material.  Yes, they’re a veteran act—a month away from their seventh album in eight years—but they’re still bound for a breakthrough. They have Danger Mouse, Atlantic Records, and a killer live set to ensure this.

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fun. – Saturday

Honestly, I’m just not into fun. Sure, I can have a good time but “Some Nights” irks me in unexplainable ways. Seriously though, it’s that nauseating intro.

At Boston Calling, the band seemed genuinely excited and touched to be there. Lead singer Nate Ruess claimed it was their largest show ever and that it was his favorite. He never dreamed of playing such a large crowd and it humbled him.

A seemingly-impromptu cover of “Me and Julio Down by The Schoolyard” was highly entertaining and the crowd ate up the cover of The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

More than the music, it was Ruess and the band’s excitement that made it hard to dislike them. Yes, I still can’t stand “Some Nights” and won’t likely reach for any of their LPs but, for a night, I realized just how catchy “We Are Young” is.

fun. was also the only band I saw that made any reference to the Marathon Bombings that devastated the city just over a month ago. Ruess applauded how quickly the hub recovered and could put on a festival as great as this. His support of the city’s recovery efforts obviously produced a loud cheer.

Of Monsters and Men – Sunday

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Of Monsters and Men played an enjoyable and festival friendly set. Their perfectly placed “heys!” got the audience singing along and throwing beach balls around—the biggest of the beach balls made me feel as if I were in danger whenever it landed nearby.

The Icelandic band’s indie-pop drew the youngest audience of the night. Most festival-goers that rushed to the front of the crowd weren’t even in high school yet—and dashed before before The National took to the stage.

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The Shins – Saturday

The Shins had the misfortune of taking the stage around the most miserable time of day: the temperature was dropping, the rain was restarting and fatigue was settling in. Even so, the eerie vibe of “New Slang” was perfect for the cold night. “Simple Song,” and “Caring Is Creepy” were also fantastic, as was the 60-year-old man rocking out for the entire set.

Dirty Projectors – Sunday

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The closer I got to the stage, the more I dug the dissonant, off-kilter, james of this band. It took some time to warm up to but I was grooving to the piercing guitars and strange harmonies. “Gun Has No Trigger” was spooky and fantastic.

Youth Lagoon – Sunday

Youth Lagoon

Trevor Powers’ keyboard and live instrumentation lead the way in this early-afternoon set. The only weak spot was Powers’ voice which sounded more nasal and grating than on the record where he sounds wonderfully nervous and juvenile. There were a few times when his voice became cringe-worthy, however, the other elements saved the set.

Other Acts:

MS MR

St. Lucia and MS MR are quality electronic pop acts. MS MR was the more memorable of the two bands thanks to charismatic lead singer Lizzy Plapinger whose powerful voice reminded me of Florence Welch. They pulled a fantastic move when they covered LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yourself Clean.” It didn’t hit as hard as the original (their version was more subdued) but it was still a quality dance groove that got audience digging their set.

Bad Rabbits and Caspian were the festival’s local openers, playing on Saturday and Sunday respectively. The former are a high-energy funk band while the latter are a quiet, instrumental, and guitar-heavy group. Both were solid but the audience ate up Bad Rabbits and energetic lead singer Fredua Boakye who kept saying how much he loved the city. On the other hand, Caspian might have been better received under the guise night.

Bad Rabbits

Disappointments:

Cults:

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Cults was off their game. I’ve seen them before at the intimate Paradise Rock Club and was pleasantly surprised but they couldn’t pull it off at much larger Boston Calling. Guitarist Brian Oblivion said it was their first show in six months so I’m willing to give them another chance. The band sounded better towards the end of the set and the more they distanced themselves from simply playing the music as it sounds on the LP, the stronger they sounded.

The Walkmen:

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While the indie-rock veterans delivered a solid set, it was mostly unmemorable when compared to the other acts at Boston Calling. Yes, “The Rat” was great but nothing else really stuck with me.

Best Cameo:

Boston’s ailing mayor Thomas Menino took stage before The Shins set to largd cheers. He briefly talked of his initial skepticism about the festival and how pleases he was with how it turned out. The next day, The National’s Aaron Dessner revealed the second Boston Calling festival to raucous applause.

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Boston Calling returns in September with Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, Kendrick Lamar, and Local Natives headlining.

 

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