Author: jakobross424 (page 1 of 3)

Primavera Sound Festival 2013: Day 3

Primavera Sound Festival, Day 3, May 25, 2013

Words by Jakob Ross, Pictures/Videos by Scott Ross

PRIMA STAGE

Back to Spain we go for the final day of the Primavera Sound Festival. Today we will conclude with me recapping the five acts I saw for that day, and then we’ll open up the floor for a Q&A session.

The sea breeze turned into some pretty harsh winds that blew garbage and hats throughout the festival grounds, but that didn’t stop the festival goers, including myself, from having a good time. Five bands to talk about, let’s get this show on the road.

Bands seen so far: 16

Hours of sleep since festival started: 12

Mount Eerie

MOUNT EERIE

Phil Elverum has had a fairly long career in the world of indie rock, all starting when he started to release music under the name The Microphones when he was 18. The Microphones hit its peak in 2001 with the release of “The Glow Pt. 2,” and only continued for a few years after that before Phil changed the name of his project from the Microphones to Mount Eerie, which is also the name of the final album The Microphones released. Mount Eerie has released several lo-fi indie folk recordings that have garnered Phil similar critical praise that some of the Microphones’ best albums have given him, and the music he makes under this moniker is haunting, beautiful, and even loud at times, as evidenced by their loud-but-not-quite-loud-enough set at Primavera’s ATP Stage.

The strangest thing about Mount Eerie is their current live setup, which consisted of Phil Elverum on lead vocals and 12-string electric guitar, a young-looking lady on vocals and a drum pad machine, and two female bass players that also sang. The band played beautifully, although I imagine there was quite a bit of frustration with the adjacent stage.

The ATP Stage is located about 100 yards away from the Heineken Stage, so when two bands play these stages at the same time, there can be a sound clash. At the same time that Mount Eerie were playing, former Moldy Peaches singer Adam Green was playing the main stage with Binki Shapiro, and they were playing a lot louder than Mount Eerie was playing, most of the time. The drummer was having trouble starting the songs because she couldn’t concentrate on the beat, but they were able to persevere. It was obvious that the band members were at least a bit frustrated. At one point in between songs, Phil tried to sneak a peek at the noisy stage, pointed at it with his thumb, and said “Well that kinda sucks.”

Fortunately, the band handled their misfortune with grace, much like Savages did during their own difficulty. This made the audience love and respect the band even more, and the music Mount Eerie made sounded even more beautiful as they tried to create enough noise to drown out the sound of Adam Green and Binki Shapiro.

Mac DeMarco

MAC DEMARCO

There was a long break in between the end of Mount Eerie’s set and the beginning of Mac Demarco’s set at Pitchfork’s stage, so I’ll tell you a little about Mac DeMarco first. Just to fill the gap. I mean I could tell you abou the disappointing kebab and messy crepe I ate, but Mac DeMarco is a little more interesting.

Mac DeMarco (not sure if that’s his real name) is a 23-year old Canadian musician and singer/songwriter who’s second album “2” garnered a decent amount of critical praise. His music has been described as “slacker rock,” and that title certainly reflects his style well, but only in the most positive way. Mac uses an extremely cheap guitar and he uses a string as a guitar strap, but that doesn’t make the music any less incredible. A little bit punk, a little bit pop, a little bit lo-fi, a little bit garage rock. All these styles combine for a very fun sounding blend that makes me think of bands like Pavement or Pinkerton-era Weezer. On his album, Mac sings about romance, nostalgia, and relaxation, and he’s able to actually capture the emotions associated with these topics very well. “2” is the perfect summer album, and Mac DeMarco is the perfect musician to hear at the end of May in Barcelona while standing right on the Mediterranean Sea as the sun sets.

Although the songs have a more relaxed and sometimes acoustic feel on the album, Mac really brings them to life with a full band on stage. The entire band play with 100% energy that gives these songs a new life.

Mac DeMarco and the band played a ton of songs from “2,” including the strangely dark “Cooking Up Something Good,” the cigarette ballad “Ode to Viceroy,” and the set-closing love song (which he dedicated to his girlfriend who was in the crowd) “Still Together.” But not only did they play their own incredible songs, they also did some strange covers (which Mac is known for doing). At one point the band went from Bachmann-Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business” right into The Beatles “Blackbird.” I’m not a huge fan of either song, but the band had a ton of fun playing them. They ended the set with the aforementioned “Still Together,” during which Mac DeMarco sang the chorus in falsetto pitch and then crowd-surfed. Overall, a very fun set that made me wish summer was closer than it really was. If you’re looking for a good summer album that was released in the fall, I highly recommend Mac’s “2,” and then go see him live.

Wu-Tang Clan

WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG

It’s rare for any musical act to be able to maintain a certain amount of fame for 20 years, but, believe it or not, New York’s Wu-Tang Clan have done just that. It’s been 20 years since Wu-Tang released their influential debut album “Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers,” and that album has aged very well. It is now, along with “Illmatic” and “Ready to Die,” considered one of the best New York hip hop albums of all time, and often cited as one of the reasons the west coast didn’t completely take over the rap game in the 90s.

Although Wu-Tang currently have 8 members (RZA, GZA, Raekwon, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Masta Killa), Method Man and Raekwon were unable to attend the festival for reasons unbeknownst to the audience, and even RZA, who, according to several websites, admitted that he wasn’t sure why Meth and Rae weren’t there.

Nevertheless, Wu-Tang Clan put on an insanely energetic and almost completely audience driven show. Members of the group directed us to “hold our W’s in the air,” wave our hands from left to right, sing the “DOLLA DOLLA BILL, Y’ALL” part of “C.R.E.A.M.,” and repeat whatever strange thing RZA wanted us to repeat. “Hi-de-hi-de-hiiiii,” “Ho-de-oh-de-ohhhhh,” etc. And every time RZA said “Barcelonia,” it just got more and more funny. That doesn’t really fit here, but that’s just something you have to know. The RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan said “Barcelonia.” That sounds like a planet in Star Wars.

Before we left the Primavera Stage to go to the Heineken stage, we were able to hear some of Wu-Tang’s classic songs, including the set-opening “Bring da Ruckus,” “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit,” and a delightfully strange and somewhat out-of-place semi-cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” Maybe the members of the Wu-Tang Clan are insane, but I do know that after 20 years of classic albums and not-so-classic albums, deaths, legal battles, and feuds, they’re still able to put on a wild show, even if the majority of the people they’re playing for don’t speak English.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

One of indie rock’s most disturbingly heartfelt and poetic frontmen is Australia’s own Nick Cave, who’s been writing angry post-punk and soft ballads for 35 years. In 1978, Cave formed the band The Birthday Party, whose combination of post-punk and gothic rock turned them into legends, before forming The Bad Seeds with multi-instrumentalist and The Birthday Party co-member Mick Harvey. The Bad Seeds have gone through tons of phases that have produced some brilliant albums, some even more brilliant songs, and a raucously fun side project called Grinderman.

A few years ago, Mick Harvey left the band, resulting in a far more minimal and dark album, “Push The Sky Away,” which came out in February. The album was well received, and for good reason. Some of the best lyrics I’ve ever heard come out of Nick Cave’s mouth seem to come from this album, and hearing a lot of these intense works live really made me enjoy the man a lot more.

The band came on, Cave wearing all black, playing “We No Who U R,” a fairly soft yet slightly creepy song from the new album, followed by “Jubilee Street,” another new song. The band then jumped back nearly 30 years to the eponymous song from the band’s 1984 debut album “From Her to Eternity.” This loud rock song in 5/4 was played with the explosive energy of a punk band, and Cave danced all across the stage. If there’s any rock frontman who could challenge Mick Jagger to a “dance around onstage the most” contest, it’d certainly be Cave.

They then played the sorta-ballad “Red Right Hand,” from 1994’s “Let Love In” album. “The Weeping Song,” “Jack the Ripper,” and “Tupelo” (the latter of which was dedicated to Elvis Presley) all followed. The Seeds played another song from the new album called “We Real Cool” before jumping back to 1988 with “The Mercy Seat.” It’s amazing that they can play such a career-spanning set and still sound so consistent.

The Bad Seeds then played “Stagger Lee,” which is a huge fan favorite. The intense and swear-filled story involves a man named Stagger Lee who pretty much kills anyone who crosses his path, be it a grouchy bartender or the Devil himself. This song reflects Nick Cave’s own demeanor pretty well, considering it’s rare that I ever see a frontman look so terrifying onstage (apart from Michael Gira during the Swans set), and Cave’s dance moves pretty much certified his position as “World’s Sexiest Ugly Man.”

They ended the show with the album-closing “Push The Sky Away,” before thanking us and stating that they can’t wait to come back to Spain.

My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine would play the same stage as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, except they were to go on about an hour and a half after The Bad Seeds’ show ended. So my dad and I had some waiting to do. So we did what it is people do when they’re waiting. Sit down, eat some snacks, try our best to stay awake, watch a guy who was quite obviously tripping on some sort of hallucinogen dance around to whatever music was playing from the speakers.

It was pretty fun to watch the road crew set up for MBV though. They rolled out amps after amps after amps for guitar player Kevin Shields, as well as quite a few for lead singer and guitar player Bilinda Butcher. We also got a sneak preview of some of the crazy projections that would be showed while they played.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity of trying to stay awake, MBV came on stage and played “I Only Said,” the midpoint song on their 1991 classic album “Loveless,” followed by the dreamy “When You Sleep.” They then played the first of only two new songs that night, “New You.” You’d think a band that are just coming off the release of a new album (especially when it’s the first one in 22 years) would play a little more new music, but the music itself still sounded great.

Another slight complaint: MBV were the victims of some pretty bad mixing on the festival’s part. I know that the vocals are not the most important part of the show, but I’d at least KINDA like to hear them a bit.

MBV moved through a ton of songs from their classic album “Loveless,” as well as a couple from their debut “Isn’t Anything” and some tracks from some of their early EPs. The loud (and I mean LOUD) guitars combined with the hypnotic drums and woozy projections made this feel kind of like a late 80s/early 90s acid rock/rave show in Manchester. For some reason I was reminded of bands like Primal Scream and Happy Mondays.

At around half past 3, Kevin Shields took the mic and said “We’d like to play a new song, but we only have 5 minutes left.” So with that, they burst into their infamous show-closer “You Made Me Realise,” which is not only one of their faster songs, but it is also the loudest. This song is known for featuring a very long wall of noise and feedback that is sometimes referred to as “the Holocaust section.” They stretched a 3 and a half minute song into a 10-plus minute show stopper that left every ear ringing. This Holocaust section is often seen as something of a concert “rite of passage,” kinda like hearing “Ignition (Remix)” live or getting covered in GWAR blood.

MBV left the stage with the feedback still ringing through the amplifiers. We left, completely satisfied with the festival and life itself, and headed back to the hotel to try and get as much sleep as possible. By the time we woke up in the morning, I’d seen 21 bands and gotten 15 hours of sleep, which leaves my total ratio of bands seen to hours of sleep gotten at 7:5. Not bad for Spain.

Sure, the festival had its faults. The lineup was a little bit too good to be true, in the literal sense. Confirmed acts such as elusive singer/songwriter Fiona Apple, indie folk act Band of Horses, skate punks FIDLAR, psych rockers Foxygen, and shoegaze/dream pop band DIIV had to cancel their appearances for one reason or another. Some of the sound was kinda muddled and not mixed entirely well. Such is the way of the music festival. But overall, I had an amazing time, and it was worth every hour of sleep I didn’t get.

Author’s note: My dad saw both the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine in the late 80s (different shows), making this the first time in nearly 25 years that he’s seen either band. 

Primavera Sound Festival 2013: Day 2

Primavera Sound Festival, Day 2, May 24, 2013

Words by Jakob Ross, Pictures/Videos by Scott Ross

PRIMAVERA WHEEL

I woke up at noon. I ate breakfast. I showered. I brushed my teeth. I was dressed. My morning routine was not necessarily in that order, but who cares? You just want to hear about all the cool bands I saw on Day 2 of Spain’s preeminent music festival.

Bands I’d seen so far: 8

Hours of sleep since festival started: 6

Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get this show on the road.

Kurt Vile and the Violators

KURT VILE

At this point in his career, Kurt Vile is pretty much a festival staple. He’s been playing Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza, etc. for the past few years, so it’s natural that he’d play Primavera, especially since it’s been a month since the release of his critically adored new album “Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze.”

I first fell in love with the music of the long-haired singer/songwriter when he released “Smoke Ring For My Halo” in 2011, and although I didn’t LOVE love his brand new album, I knew that he’d play a relaxing, hazy set that was perfect for a sunny Friday afternoon.

Kurt Vile’s dreamy set would be the first one I catch at Primavera’s main stage, the Heineken Stage, and he opened up his show with the 9-minute psychedelic behemoth “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day.” He played some brand new songs like “KV Crimes,” “Was All Talk,” and “Shame Chamber.” He also played some tracks from the aforementioned “Smoke Ring For My Halo” like “Jesus Fever,” “Peeping Tomboy,” and “Ghost Town.” He ended the set with two deeper cuts “Hunchback” and “Freak Train.”

Kurt Vile’s care free attitude and singing style reminded me of a really really cool mix of Lou Reed, J Mascis, and Bob Dylan. In fact, if Kurt dyed his hair grey and put on some glasses he could easily pass for J Mascis. Although he wasn’t my favorite show and he’s not my favorite singer of all time, his set was fun to watch, and unexpectedly loud at times. I mean, when you rub violently on the strings with your own distortion pedal, the resulting sound is bound to be loud.

Daniel Johnston

If you’ve never listened to or heard of Daniel Johnston, then I highly recommend you watch the documentary “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” before forming your opinion. It really gives some insight into the mind of one of independent music’s most fascinating and skilled outsiders. But, for those who don’t care to watch, here’s the tl;dr version:

Daniel Johnston is a singer/songwriter from West Virginia. He suffers from bipolar disorder which has transformed into demonic self-obsession and perhaps even schizophrenia. Throughout the 80s he recorded lo-fi cassettes and passed them around, hoping to one day become as famous as The Beatles. His cassettes received very high praise from the few journalists who bothered to listen to them, and soon enough Daniel was building quite the following in the mid-to-late 80s, despite having not much actual skill when it comes to singing or playing the guitar. What attracted people to Dan was his childlike voice, honest and sometimes very dark lyrics, and life story. He spent the 90s in and out of mental hospitals, in between hanging out with Sonic Youth and Half Japanese, as well as being famously co-signed by Kurt Cobain. He still writes music and performs to this day, and he’s known for his odd demeanor and brilliant live shows.

Daniel would be performing at the one inside venue in the entire festival, which requires a ticket to get into (the tickets each cost 2 euro). And although the extremely long line would prevent me from catching the first half of his set, I did see what I wanted to see and hear what I wanted to hear of indie rock’s most polarizing singer.

I was able to hear some of Daniel Johnston’s most well known songs, which he performed with a backing band that seemed less than half his age. With his lyrics in front of him on a music stand and complete control over his band, Daniel performed songs like “Speeding Motorcycle,” “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” “Devil Town,” and the show closing fan favorite “True Love Will Find You In The End.” One of the coolest things about his show was not only the massive audience gathered to watch him, but also the complete silence of the audience while he was singing. If there’s one thing people at the festival liked to do, it was talk, especially when there’s a musician on stage. But for Daniel Johnston, all eyes and ears were on him. There wasn’t a peep until the explosive rounds of applause that followed each song. It’s easy to see why his live shows are so highly regarded; he performs with the same childlike innocence and emotion that he’s performed with for the past 30 years. Soon enough, his set was over and Daniel walked off the stage with his lyric notebook in hand. We were thanked and we left the crowded auditorium to make our way back to the ATP Stage.

Om

Al Cisneros has a long history in the genre of heavy metal, specifically the doom metal genre, specifically the stoner doom metal genre. In the 90s he was in a band called Sleep with guitar player Matt Pike and drummer Chris Hakius, and they helped to pioneer this specific subgenre of heavy metal with the release of “Sleep’s Holy Mountain” in 1992, and the hour long song “Dopesmoker” a few years later. Well Sleep broke up, as bands usually do. Al and Chris took the “stoner doom” out of stoner doom metal to play spiritually inspired slow songs that usually stretch past the 10-minute mark under the name Om, while Matt took the “metal” out of stoner doom metal to play loudly and quickly in the band High on Fire. Om has become a festival favorite in recent years, and just last year they turned from powerful duo (Al Cisneros on bass and vocals with current drummer Emil Amos) into a power trio, adding singer/guitarist/synthesizer player Robert Lowe to the mix. And Robert’s cathartic vocals fit perfectly with Om’s sound.

I didn’t get to see all of Om’s set, but I did get to witness Al’s powerful and repetitive bass playing that I bet was perfect for meditation. Om took their name from the Hindu concept that the sound “Ommmmmmm” represents the natural vibration of the universe, as well as the true name of God. It sounds weird and certainly is, but there’s no one out there like Om. They’re the slow-burning Tibetan monks of heavy metal music. The bass notes rise like smoke from an incense stick, and the drums groove on the ride cymbal like the rhythmic bare feet of monks on cut lotus flowers. I didn’t notice any particular universal vibration, and God didn’t come down from heaven to praise Al’s bass playing, but I imagine that seeing Om in a more intimate venue allows for the full experience. Especially when you see the entire show, which I didn’t.

Shellac

Yet another legend. For those of you who have no idea who Steve Albini is: first of all stop lying. He produced Nirvana’s best album. Second of all, go listen to Big Black. Let me remind you that this music was written and performed in the late 80s.

All good? Okay. Well, after the breakup of Big Black as well as the short-lived Rapeman, Steve Albini formed Shellac, a post-hardcore/math rock group that he performed with when he wasn’t busy producing some incredible albums by the likes of Pixies, The Jesus Lizard, Slint, The Breeders, Superchunk, Helmet, PJ Harvey, Don Caballero, Jawbreaker, Man or Astro-man?, Bush, Nirvana, Dirty Three, Neurosis, Flogging Molly, Owls, Mogwai, mclusky; the list goes on. Basically, Steve has had a huge impact on post-rock, heavy metal, punk, noise rock, post-hardcore, emo, math rock, alternative rock, grunge, you name it. But his longest running musical venture has been with his musical trio Shellac, which includes Steve on vocals and guitar, Bob Weston on bass, and Todd Trainer on drums. Together they play mean spirited and very cynical post-hardcore in unorthodox tunings and time signatures.

Although Shellac haven’t released an album in 6 years (they supposedly have one on the way), they’re a festival staple as well, and the fact that they’re playing the ATP Stage makes a ton of sense considering they’ve helped curate numerous All Tomorrow’s Parties lineups in the past.

Shellac sped through a fun and at times humorous set of complex riffs and the loud screams of Steve Albini. But one of the best things about any Shellac show is Steve’s banter and little bits of comedy. At one point he decided that the most offensive hand gesture is pulling your middle finger out of your mouth, producing a popping sound, and showing it off to whoever would look. He also complimented Spain on having the most attractive population of human beings. Shellac ended their show with their usual gag of taking apart Todd Trainer’s drum set piece by piece as he attempts to solo on whatever drums remain in front of him. Another bucket list act finally crossed off the list, and who knows, maybe Steve will reunite Big Black for a full on tour and then I can cross them off my list.

The Jesus and Mary Chain

If you happen to trace noise pop and shoegaze back to their roots, you’ll likely find them at Scottish band The Jesus and Mary Chain’s debut album “Psychocandy.” The Jesus and Mary Chain were one of the first bands to combine noisy feedback with pop songs, and they’d go on to inspire a legion of musicians to turn up the volume and use as many effects as possible.

Although they’d turn down the volume considerably with the release of their second album “Darklands,” J&MC would still always be the pop band with the really loud guitars. And although not all their albums featured this loud guitar, they certainly made sure it was heard on stage. The Scots hit the stage at around 10:45 with a giant illuminated cross on the stage, and launched right into “Snakedriver” from one of their lesser known 90s releases before playing “Head On,” off their 3rd LP “Automatic.” Pixies are also known for performing an incredible cover of this song.

The Jesus and Mary Chain played for a little over an hour (although it felt longer considering the fact that they played 17 songs), filling their setlist with mostly songs from their first four albums. But the most talked about moment of the night was when they invited Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine to sing the female part of “Just Like Honey.” They played for a little longer afterward, eventually ending their setlist with “Never Understand,” another song from their excellent debut album.

The Jesus and Mary Chain certainly are not my favorite band of the 80s, or of all time, but they put on a fairly fun show and I got to hear some of my favorite songs by them.

James Blake

JAMES BLAKE

British singer/songwriter/post-dubstep producing wunderkind is as talented as it gets. He’s got one of the best singing voices I’ve ever heard in my life, he’s very knowledgeable when it comes to electronic equipment, and he knows how to take his complicated songs and successfully turn them into live songs with a full band. Although his new album “Overgrown” hasn’t been reviewed as highly as his self titled debut was in 2011, I think that both albums are incredibly well written and well performed.

I made my way through the massive crowd (James said it was probably the biggest group of people he’d ever played for) just as he and his two bandmates started right into the track “Air & Lack Thereof.” I was unfamiliar with the song so I assumed it was on one of his earlier EPs. They then played “I Never Learnt to Share,” a track off his debut album that goes from multi-layered vocal loops and 5 part harmonies to what is as close to a bass drop as you’ll find in a James Blake song. Suddenly the entire crowd was a dance party. I did not at all expect James Blake’s show to be so full of dance worthy moments, but I couldn’t help myself. They then went into the sample-heavy track “CMYK,” and then a few songs from “Overgrown,” including “I Am Sold,” “Our Love Comes Back,” and the Brian Eno-produced “Digital Lion.” James then led his group into the confusingly off-beat “Unluck,” which went into his famous Feist cover “Limit To Your Love.”

James would later end his set with the triple threat of recent material that was “Overgrown,” “Voyeur,” and “Retrograde,” but by the time James was humming the opening to “Retrograde,” my dad had left to go catch Blur, and I’d left to go catch Swans. James Blake’s live show is one that should not be missed, whether you like Skrillex or Fiona Apple or anything in between.

Blur

I didn’t see Blur, but my dad did. He said they were alright. He didn’t stick around for the full show.

Swans

There are two types of people in this world: those who have seen Swans live, and those who haven’t. And after hearing their magnificent 2012 album “The Seer” and hearing all the amazing things people have to say about their live shows, I decided to join the minority.

Swans formed in the early 80s as a musical project that defied specific genre terms. They were part of the “No Wave” scene in New York, but they incorporated post-punk, industrial metal, and noise music into their sound, creating an ugly blend slow burning powerful anger that was only uglier and angrier when performed live. According to firsthand accounts, numerous early Swans shows resulted in bleeding ears, vomiting concertgoers, and police shutting down multiple concerts. Soon, bandleader Michael Gira added Louisiana artist Jarboe to the mix, which softened their sound significantly. Swans headed almost into alternative country and neo-folk territory, before amping up the creepiness for their mid-90s magnum opus “Soundtracks for the Blind.” They broke up after releasing that album, but reunited in 2010 (sans Jarboe) to release “My Father Will Guide Up A Rope To The Sky,” which generated widespread acclaim among critics, but it wasn’t until last year’s release of “The Seer” and reviews of Swans’ new live shows started pouring in that I truly fell in love with this band. And as soon as I saw them on this year’s Primavera lineup, I knew I’d have to see them live. I was only a little bit scared.

Although Swans were originally supposed to go on at around 8:00 PM, their set was moved to 1:30 AM. The goth looking crowd started to pile in at around that time, and the 6-piece band (including Michael Gira on vocals and guitar, a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, a percussionist named Thor, and a lapsteel player) made their way on stage and let their instruments produce drone and feedback before heading into the loud, heavy territory of their catalogue.

For a band who’ve just come off the release of a new album less than a year ago, they did not play much material from that album. See, Swans have always been about the brand new. I imagine that most of the stuff that they’re playing on tour now is stuff that they’re thinking of putting on whatever album they put out next. They’re trying to craft long, ugly pieces of noisy slowcore and doing a very good job at it.

Out of the 7 songs they played, only two of them are actually on known albums by Swans. “Coward” is from one of their first albums “Holy Money,” and “The Seer” is the eponymous track from their most recent album. Otherwise, everything on the setlist was either a rarity or a work in progress.

Swans played loudly, let me get that out of the way. Very loudly. Like, if I saw them in an inside venue I’d want to wear earplugs. And Michael Gira only wanted it to get louder. As they slowly moved from song to song, Michael Gira directed pretty much everyone. He was the composer as well as the lyricist, lead singer, and guitar player. He even told camera men where to go. He would decide how long a note would go on for, how loud it would get, and when the next note would happen. It’s the best example of cult-like behavior that I’ve ever seen at a concert in my life. And I loved every second of it.

As the show got louder and more and more insane, I felt my jaw drop as my brain tried to comprehend everything. Explaining a Swans show is a difficult task, and there’s no way I could use words to explain what was so great about it, why I was so moved, or what exactly happened during it. I left right before they played the final song of the night “Toussant Louverture Song” so I could join my dad in the already sizable crowd that was gathered at the Primavera Stage to see The Knife.

The Knife

THE KNIFE

You might not like The Knife. Whatever, it’s cool. We’re all entitled to our own opinion. But seriously though, The Knife are incredible.

After pretty much dropping off the face of the earth for a few years (they briefly came back in 2010 for a collaborative album with some similar artists), they’ve resurfaced for their first album in seven years, “Shaking the Habitual.” And with this 96-minute monster of a record (which is also the best album of the year so far) comes The Knife’s second ever tour, and for this tour they promised to do a show unlike any other live event in the history of concerts, and I can safely say that what I saw The Knife do has not yet been attempted by any other act, and probably couldn’t be pulled off by any other act either. The Knife are currently touring with at least 8 people on stage, with a good portion of them stepping up to the mic to sing. So if you have no idea what the members of The Knife (Karin Dreijer Andersson and her brother Olof Dreijer) look like, then you’re probably out of luck here.

One main criticism of The Knife’s 2006 tour in support of the album “Silent Shout” is that they didn’t really actually play the music live. Well I feel like all those critics would lose their minds with anger if they found out what The Knife were doing for this tour. The show would consist of some very well done lip syncing by members of the group that were not the actual lead singer, as well as the use of fake instruments that look like they were designed by Dr. Seuss during an acid trip. So, no, The Knife didn’t ACTUALLY perform any of the music live. And that may have angered a few in the crowd, but the majority were impressed by the insane difficulty of some of these dance moves, and one can only imagine how tough it was to choreograph.

The Knife “played” mostly songs from their new album, but did do songs such as “One Hit” and “Silent Shout” from their 3rd album “Silent Shout.” The music was a ton of fun to dance to, and the dances that the members were doing on stage were disturbing at times, and The Knife were able to pull off one of the most ambitious live shows ever attempted, without ever actually playing a real instrument or singing into a microphone.

Despite the slight backlash from a few crowd members, the reaction was almost unanimously positive, and The Knife received a standing ovation that lasted at least 5 minutes. The man who I believe was Olof took the mic and thanked us. Smiles adorned all 8 faces on the stage, and we left, feeling very satisfied with the day. Again the subway didn’t open till 5 in the morning, so we had to wait a bit. But overall, Day 2 was a success and a ton of fun for everyone.

Primavera Sound Festival 2013: Day 1

Primavera Sound Festival, Day 1, May 23, 2013

Words by Jakob Ross, Pictures/Videos by Scott Ross

PRIMAVERA SOUND ENTRANCE

“The day has finally come,” I thought upon waking up in my hotel room on Thursday, May 23. Washed up, grabbed breakfast, got dressed, etc., etc. You know how it is.

Next thing I knew, my father and I were riding a very dirty feeling subway train from our hotel to Parc del Fòrum—that’s Forum Park for those non-Portuguese speakers out there—where I’d take part in three straight days of late nights, loud bands, and the painfully bitter smell of Heineken and urine pervading my nasal cavity.

Before I get started on recapping my first day at Barcelona’s best independent music festival, let me start by saying: Hi. I’m Jakob Ross. I’m 16 years old, and last year I moved to Germany. You’ve already heard about the time I saw Sigur Rós in Munich, and you’ve probably read about all of my exploits in Atlanta and Seattle and Bonnaroo. But you’re about to read about my experience at Spain’s most well-known and most notoriously well stacked festival, Primavera Sound. Lineups for this festival over the past 10 years of its existence have included the likes of Aphex Twin, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, LCD Soundsystem, Mogwai, Television, Sonic Youth, Jay Reatard, El-P, Black Lips, Jesu, Sunn O))), Yo La Tengo, Low, Japandroids, Pavement, Sunny Day Real Estate, Pixies, The xx, Wire, Battles, Das Racist, Grinderman, Yuck, Sufjan Stevens, Suicide, Public Image Ltd., PJ Harvey, Mercury Rev; the list goes on and on and on into eternity. And this year’s lineup was as impressive (if not more impressive) than every major American festival combined, and comes with a guaranteed “Those ‘Big in Europe’ Bands Will Draw Big Crowds” that Coachella couldn’t deliver.

So, of course, upon seeing 2013’s expansive and “spend money to fly to Spain”-worthy lineup, I felt like I had to go. And with a wave of a magic wand, it seemed, I was there. I had my wristband after visiting the venue the day before and was preparing myself for an exciting weekend.

Author’s Note: As much fun as attending Bonnaroo last year was, it was really nice to have an air conditioned hotel room with a bed to come back to after a long day’s rocking.

L’Hereu Escampa

L'Hereu Escampa

The first band I expected to see at the festival was British post-punkers Savages, although I decided to watch the band before them just out of curiosity. My dad and I were among the first people to make it to the Pitchfork Stage (curated by the infamous website), and we got there about a half hour before Portuguese garage rock duo L’Hereu Escampa took the stage to deliver a short set of raucous, energetic songs that reminded me somewhat of mid-to-late 90s post-hardcore and emo. Think The Dismemberment Plan meets La Dispute meets Japandroids meets the Portuguese language. Obviously I knew literally nothing about the band and couldn’t tell you what songs they played or what lyrics they sang, but I can tell you they impressed me. Being in a largely Portuguese-speaking part of Spain, there were many people in the audience who knew most of the words and had prior knowledge of this band’s existence. But by the time their set ended I’d noticed a significant increase in crowd size. Perhaps a lot of people wanted to get their early for Savages, but it’s good to see bands like this get attention from an audience who’d otherwise never know they exist.

Also, quick shout out to the guy wearing the Snowing t-shirt underneath the Have A Nice Life zip-up hoodie.

Savages

SAVAGES

So, you might not know about a band called Savages. You should probably change that. Savages are a British all-female post-punk group who just put out their debut album “Silence Yourself” earlier this month, and it’s one of the best releases of the year. They’re currently coming off some hype that’s built around them ever since the release of their debut EP, as well as some very well received performances at SXSW.

Considering the fact that their album was very well reviewed on Pitchfork’s website, it should be no surprise that they’d be playing this particular stage. The crowd slowly increased in size in anticipation for Savages’ first performance at the festival. They sound-checked and prepared their equipment, and soon enough they came on stage and opened up their very intense and fun set with “Shut Up,” which is even more “punk” live than it is on record.

Savages, in my opinion, sound like what would happen if Joy Division replaced Ian Curtis’ dead body with Patti Smith. Thankfully that never happened, otherwise Savages would sound like a cheap knockoff, and not the fresh take on dark punk that they currently are.

The band is fronted by insanely charismatic frontwoman Jehnny Beth, who is apparently from France and not England like her colleagues. She sang with the same ferocity and passion that she sings with on the album, and plus she does these really cool downward fist-pumps that look like she’s about to roll dice, but she never actually does roll any dice.

If there was anything especially wrong with the set, it’s that guitarist Gemma Thompson’s guitar stopped working about halfway through the set. The rhythm section repeated the same phrase for a good 10 minutes or so while Gemma and the sound crew tried to figure out the problem. Although the band members were obviously a little frustrated with the situation (thankfully they did finally solve it and continue with the now abridged setlist), their ability to soldier through the technical difficulty and leave no band member behind was truly admirable, and probably won them many fans that night.

Their set eventually finished with the almost dance-worthy track “Husbands” as the friendly looking mosh pit near me grew in size. They thanked us and were treated to a long standing ovation, which was probably half praise for their incredible music and half praise for their ability to work through a technical difficulty with grace.

Metz

METZ

I don’t know what it is about Metz’s set that compelled me actually join a mosh pit, but something about the Canadian noise punk trio’s 2-minute bursts of feedback-driven sugar rush essence made me decide that moshing would be a good idea. And you know what? It really was. It also helped that the mosh pits in Europe were exceptionally friendly and not nearly as rough as they are in the States.

So Metz took the stage at 8:45 PM on the Pitchfork stage (which also makes sense considering the fact that Pitchfork reviewed their debut album very highly last year) and the crowd immediately went insane. Metz were playing loudly and energetically, and for a moment it felt almost as if I was in a punk club in downtown Whateversville, and not right next to the Mediterranean Sea.

Oh, did I mention that Parc del Fòrum is located right on the Mediterranean Sea? Because it is.

Metz sped through the rest of their 40-minute set with great ease, maneuvering in and out of different time signatures and even taking the time for some two-part vocal harmonies.

To be completely honest, not much more can be said about the set that I haven’t already said. Loud, check; noisy, check; mosh, check; trio, check; Canadian, check. All that I can say is that if you enjoy acts like Big Black, The Jesus Lizard, or even Nirvana, then I highly recommend you listen to their music.

Dinosaur Jr.

Come on. Don’t pretend like you’re reading this website and you don’t know who Dinosaur Jr. are. Okay, well, Dinosaur Jr. are a North American alternative rock trio most famously consisting of lead singer and guitar god J Mascis, bass player Lou Barlow, and drummer Murph. Dinosaur Jr. would spend their career merging noise rock, punk, alternative rock, grunge, and even a touch of shoegaze into an impressive discography of well-received releases that would certify the band’s place in rock and roll history. The slowly-falling-apart band broke up in 1997 (with J being the only remaining original member) but reunited in 2005 with the three original members. I would finally get the opportunity to see one of my favorite touring acts live, although they’d have to play the show without Murph, since he couldn’t make it that day.

Dinosaur Jr. gloomily (are they capable of expressing any other mood?) played their career-spanning set that included classics (“Budge,” “Freak Scene,” “Sludgefeast,” “Feel the Pain”), covers (The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” J and Lou’s first band Deep Wound’s “Training Ground,” a song by Last Rights performed with Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham), and songs from their excellent new-ish album “I Bet On Sky.”

J and Lou stood on opposite sides of the stage and rarely interacted, which I guess is usual, but aroused a bit of suspicion from me. Either way, Dinosaur Jr. delivered an amazing set that would both impress the longtime fans and give newcomers something to talk about.

Killer Mike

KILLER MIKE

And back to the Pitchfork Stage I went to catch Atlanta rapper Killer Mike promote his excellent 2012 album “R.A.P. Music” and build up hype for his upcoming El-P collaboration “Run the Jewels,” which will be released for free. Mike and El-P have worked a lot together over the past year, and although El-P wasn’t able to actually appear at the festival with Killer Mike, he was there in spirit, as Killer Mike dedicated song after song to his newfound brother in arms.

At 11:20, 5 minutes before Killer Mike was to take the stage, the crowd was looking rather thin, and I was somewhat worried that the few of us in the crowd would need to be as loud and energetic as humanly possible to keep Mike’s spirits up. Fortunately though, the crowd had thickened and grown considerably by the time he took the stage. Killer Mike smiled and launched into “Big Beast,” proving that he had an incredible amount of energy and live capabilities despite being a somewhat overweight gentleman.

Killer Mike continued into a nonstop flow of energy that I did not at all expect from him, whether it was his bombastic song “Untitled” or his political masterpiece “Reagan,” the latter of which had the entire crowd, including yours truly, chanting “I’M GLAD REAGAN’S DEAD.”

The set continued through what were mostly songs from “R.A.P. Music” and Killer Mike never lost an iota of energy. He sweat like crazy but continued to deliver his lyrics with perfection and clarity, even coming down to the crowd to preach an uplifting pseudo-Christian sermon. He also had his wife sit on the side (she was even mouthing some of the words), and Mike introduced us and has us all say hello. He was easily one of the most surprisingly great shows of the entire three days, and I left his show feeling incredibly happy.

Hot Snakes

Rick Froberg and John Reis have had one of the most important partnerships in punk rock history. Froberg and Reis first collaborated in 1986, when they formed the band Pitchfork, one of the first post-hardcore bands in existence. Pitchfork broke up in 1990 just after the release of their debut album, and right around the time that John Reis formed his long-lasting garage rock/punk group Rocket From the Crypt, and John and Rick joined forces for yet another band, Drive Like Jehu. Drive Like Jehu stuck around for about 5 years, releasing two incredible albums that blended math rock and post-hardcore, being one of the first bands to do so. John and Rick took a bit of a break from each other while Rocket From the Crypt continued to release music, but during a period of inactivity in the late 90s, Reis and Froberg decided to form yet another band, Hot Snakes. Hot Snakes would incorporate all the musical styles that John Reis and Rick Froberg had worked with in all their previous bands, including post-hardcore, garage rock, and math rock. Hot Snakes and Rocket From the Crypt both broke up at around the same time, the mid-2000s, but Hot Snakes eventually reunited in 2011 and continue to perform festivals and small tours to this day. And that brings us all up to speed on John Reis and Rick Froberg.

Now due to a scheduling conflict with Killer Mike and Hot Snakes, I had to decide who I’d want to see more of. A few songs into Killer Mike’s energetic set, my dad and I both decided to watch Mike’s entire setlist and catch the last few songs of Hot Snakes’ set. So after Killer Mike was done, we headed all the way over to the other side of the festival ground to the All Tomorrow’s Parties Stage (which I assume was curated or at least sponsored by the famous festival) to watch punk legends perform some intricately strange tunes in the form of Hot Snakes.

To be honest, I’m not completely well versed on the music of Hot Snakes, so I’m not entirely sure what songs they played and didn’t play. But I do know that they played loudly and proudly, and John Reis and Rick Froberg both looked excited to be performing together again. Their partnership has been going strong, then nonexistent, then strong, then nonexistent, then strong again for over 25 years, and it really shows in seeing how in sync these guys are. The few songs of their show that I caught were a lot of fun to watch, and I’m glad I got the chance to see some legendary punks in a live setting.

Death Grips

DEATH GRIPS

So… Do you guys like Death Grips? Chances are that, if you’ve heard them, you either love them with a dedicated fan’s passion, or you have a strong dislike for their loud blend of punk, hip-hop, electronica, and noise. Whatever your opinion of Death Grips is, if you’ve actually listened to them, they’re an elusive group with a very dedicated fanbase and one of the most intense and cathartic live shows in the world of music.

Death Grips consists of mysterious lyricist and vocalist Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett, producer Andy “Flatlander ” Morin, and drummer Zach Hill, but Zach Hill would be sitting out of this current tour to focus on writing the screenplay for a film as well as working on some new Death Grips music.

At around 1:15 AM, on the same stage as Hot Snakes, MC Ride and Flatlander graced the stage with their rather disturbing presence. Ride looked as if he was possessed by some sort of demon (which he could be for all I know) and Flatlander prepared to unleash electronically produced hell on the gathering of people who came to watch. They opened up their set with “Lost Boys,” before diving right into fan-favorite “Guillotine.” One thing I noticed was that Flatlander was actually playing the beats using samples he’d collected and imported onto the keys of a keyboard. He was actually composing and playing the beats, not just letting them play on a laptop.

The crowd was extremely energetic, as I anticipated, and I shouted the lyrics until I had no voice left. My head thumped with a dull headache but I ignored it, because I was seeing Death Grips, one of my favorite bands. MC Ride danced on stage and shouted the lyrics at near perfection. It’s crazy that this guy gets on stage almost every night and shouts for an hour and can still have enough energy to do the same thing the next night.

MC Ride looks something like an anorexic Rick Ross, and he sounds like one too, but in a really good way. I just wanted to point that out but didn’t really have anywhere to put it.

Death Grips went from song to song with great ease, not taking the time to speak to or thank the audience (as if anyone actually expected that). Although I’m not sure of the order, they played songs like “Takyon (Death Yon)”, “Get Got,” “The Fever (Aye Aye),” “I’ve Seen Footage,” “System Blower,” “Hacker,” “Come Up And Get Me,” “Lil Boy,” “No Love,” and the set-closing “Lock Your Doors.” Death Grips were very loud, very intense, and at times somewhat frightening to watch. MC Ride has the looks of a homeless man and the skillful grace of a ballerina on DMT; and while Zach Hill’s presence was missed, it was still awesome to see one of my favorite bands live. And that’s all there is to it. Stay noided.

Animal Collective

ANCO

The last band I saw that night was Animal Collective, a.k.a. Exactly The Kind of Hipster BS That People Under The Age of 25 Pretend To Enjoy Ironically. I’m kidding, Animal Collective rules.

I got to the Primavera Stage an hour early and saw all four members sound checking their rather complex equipment, as well as setting up the stage, which would include a ton of balloons that formed the shape of a mouth. An hour later, at a little bit past 3 in the morning (yeah, these shows ran very late), Panda Bear, Geologist, Avey Tare, and Deakin all took their respective spots on the stage to perform their psychedelic brand of synthesizer based indie rock and folk.

AnCo opened up the set with “I Think I Can” which comes off their “Fall Be Kind EP,” before going into “Today’s Supernatural,” “Wide Eyed,” and “Applesauce,” three songs from their most recent effort “Centipede Hz.” Although “Centipede” didn’t exactly get the same amount of critical or commercial praise that 2009’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion” got, I still think that a lot of the better songs from this album translate extremely well in a live format, especially the song “Monkey Riches” which would be the second-to-last song.

Some might complain that this set leaned a little too heavy on the fan favorites—including “What Would I Want? Sky” and “My Girls”—but I feel like Animal Collective jammed from one song into another with great skill and ease, and what specific songs they play doesn’t matter. Their live setup is so intricate and huge (excluding Panda Bear’s minimalistic drumset) that watching them actually navigate this complex equipment is a sight to see, whether you’re a mild fan, a fanatic, or you’ve never heard them before.

They ended the set with “The Purple Bottle,” a song from 2005’s excellent “Feels” album, which was pretty much their last guitar-driven indie folk record, and left the stage at a bit past 4 in the morning, making this an hour long set that would give us just enough time to sit outside in the cold for a half hour waiting for the subways to open (which it does at 5 am).

Overall, the first day was a success that left me with ringing ears, stinging eyes, and a pounding head. The subway ride that night would be extremely crowded and definitely suck, but the resulting sleep would bring me absolute tranquility. I slept from 6 am until noon and prepared myself for Day 2.

Sigur Rós Induces Munich Into a State of Euphoria

Sigur Rós Live at Zenith in Munich, Germany

February 23, 2013

Words by Jakob Ross

Sigur Rós Induces Munich Into a State of Euphoria

Sigur Rós - 02/23/13

On June 7, 2012, I received the news that at the end of the summer I would be moving from Anus Pimple, Georgia to an army base in Germany. I immediately felt feelings of fear, excitement, nervousness, and anxiety, mostly because I had no idea what to expect. And although this move has come with a lot of stress and quite a bit of culture shock, everything has gone better than expected, for the most part. However, out of all the fear and anxiety, one of the thoughts that hit me the hardest was that I won’t be able to attend concerts as frequently as I would like. While the nearest big city is Nuremberg (about 1 hour away from my house) the nearest city with a regular concert schedule is Munich, which is 2 hours away without traffic. I was eventually able to come to terms with the things I would not be able to do, but being unable to go to a dozen or so shows a year still hurts a bit. However, that does make it easier to appreciate the concerts I do have the opportunity to go to, and to choose them wisely, which is exactly what I did when I found out that Jónsi and his band of merry Icelanders would roll around to my future neck of the woods way back when the tour was announced in September.

For those of you that don’t know, Sigur Rós is an Icelandic post-rock/ambient band that has received almost unanimous acclaim for taking post-rock to astounding new heights, around the same time as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky. What set Sigur Rós apart from these other groups however was their enigmatic frontman, who goes by Jónsi, and his crystal clear singing voice. Ever since the release of their 1999 sophomore album “Ágætis byrjun” (their debut release went virtually unnoticed in the States) the group has gotten very good reviews for their albums and their audience has grown larger and larger worldwide with each new release. They’ve conquered the worlds of ambient music, indie music, and the all-encompassing world of post-rock, and they rarely even write lyrics that are in a real language. Their concerts are often called some of the greatest concert experiences of all time, and after finally getting the chance to see them live, I now know why.

Upon arriving at the venue, Zenith, I immediately realized something about this crowd: they all look exactly like the average American’s idea of a hipster. This includes, but is not limited to, a beard, thick-rimmed black glasses, plaid long-sleeve shirt, scarf, et. al. While Sigur Rós aren’t exactly an obscure indie act (they’ve headlined and co-headlined festivals worldwide and have over 1 million Facebook likes) this is certainly the kind of crowd I’d expect to see in an American venue.

Another thing about the crowd: Throughout the entire show, I didn’t smell one cigarette. Nor did I smell any pot. A large portion of Germany’s citizens smoke cigarettes, so going through an entire concert without smelling smoke was a very pleasant surprise. America, take note.

The doors opened at around 7:00 PM, and just shy of 8:00 PM was when the supporting act hit the stage, behind the screen that Sigur Rós were to play their first few songs behind. For this winter/spring tour the band opted to have ambient acts with a certain amount of indie buzz to open for them, as opposed to a band with a similar style. When they hit the States, Sigur Rós are going to have Tim Hecker open for a couple shows and Oneohtrix Point Never open for a couple shows (both musicians are relatively well-known acts known for their odd brand of ambient music). For the European leg, however, the opening act was Blanck Mass, a.k.a. Benjamin John Power. Benjamin went through a 30-minute set that was a fairly interesting progression of sorts. It started out as a bright, shiny, warm ambient piece with a summer-like quality to it (as it’s snowing outside the venue) and eventually developed about halfway through into a noisier, more abrasive set of songs with a nice beat to it. Although it was obvious that most of the crowd wasn’t into it, I enjoyed the way the music sounded. Although I wouldn’t pay to see Benjamin play a set longer than that, I can at least know what to look forward to if I decide to see his wonderfully named duo at Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, Spain.

Sigur Rós - 02/23/13

At around 8:30 or so he ended his piece and gave the audience a polite wave as he left the stage. There was a quick sound check on the mics, drums, and guitars to prepare the audience for what they came to see. At 9:00 PM on the dot, the lights went out again and I was filled with an instant feeling of glee. “This is it,” my mind told my body. “Finally seeing a concert again. You ready?” I was ready.

They came on and launched right into a new song called “Yfirborð,” a song so new that it wasn’t even on their most recent album which came out less than a year ago (a few weeks ago the band announced that they’d be playing brand new songs). Jónsi went up to the mic and I felt chills down my spine. If I had any doubt before that he is one of the greatest vocalists of all time, then that doubt washed away with each song the band played. After “Yfirborð” came “Í Gær,” a song from the 2007 “Hvarf/Heim” compilation album. That song was the first one to actually blow me away, almost literally. It starts off with a relatively quiet xylophone/keyboard sort of riff, but then, without warning, kicks into an ear-shattering explosion of distortion that would make the average doom metal band cower in fear. I couldn’t help but smile and say “wow.” While all of this was going on, the screen that the band were playing behind (think Nine Inch Nails’ famous “Lights in the Sky” tour) was projecting odd images and interestingly disturbing short films. 

Next came “Ný Batterí” from the aforementioned “Ágætis byrjun” album, which was followed by “Brennisteinn,” another brand new track. One thing I was beginning to notice was that the band were playing music that was far heavier than I ever remember them being, and I absolutely love it. Jónsi was playing his bowed guitar with the raw passion with which James Marshall Hendrix played his guitar in the 1960s. He was producing feedback that seemed to rain from the ceiling and annihilate everything in its path. He seemed to take at least a little bit of inspiration from the infamous feedback solos that end every My Bloody Valentine concert.

After “Brennisteinn” came “Sæglópur,” which was on their 2005 album “Takk…”, which also happens to be their loudest album. The band did not at all seem afraid to play loudly and heavily, once again proving that they are the masters of their own genre. They have found a perfect balance between beauty and volume. Next came what I believe was the final song to take place behind the screen, “Olsen Olsen.” The screen came down and the audience could finally see the band members clearly. They broke into “Vaka,” which is the commonly accepted title of “Untitled #1” from their third album “( )”. This piece, as well as all the songs on the album, are sung in a made-up language called “Hopelandic.”

Speaking of “( ),” the next song they played was the 6th track from that album, which is generally referred to as “E-bow,” although it, like all the songs on the album, is untitled. After “E-bow” came “Varúð,” which is actually the only song from their most recent album, 2012’s “Valtari,” that the band played that night.

Let me stop right here real quick to just reiterate something: Jónsi’s voice is the vocal equivalent of a rainbow appearing at sunrise. I just can’t get over how amazing his singing voice is, and he never seems even remotely tired. He sings with tons of emotion and intensity almost every night and hits falsetto like no man in the world can, yet he never hits a sour note and his voice never cracks. That is talent.

Continuing on, the next song the band played was one of their most well-known singles, “Hoppípolla.” If you were to ask me to name the 5 most beautiful songs ever written, this would without a doubt be on that list. It has been featured in countless trailers, movies, and commercials and for good reason too. Seeing it performed live is like experiencing falling in love all over again. If there is a Heaven, I imagine this is the song that plays when you enter.

After this came another song from “Takk…”, called “Með blóðnasir” which loosely translates to “I Have a Nosebleed.” Afterwards they played yet another song from “Takk…” called “Glósóli,” which is another one of their most popular songs. Finally they ended their main set with another new song, the loud, feedback-saturated “Kveikur” before leaving the stage to an extended note of feedback from Jónsi’s bowed guitar.

After a couple minutes the band returned to the stage to play the song that introduced many many people to the band, “Svefn-g-englar” or “Sleeping Angel.” This 10-minute masterpiece is the first track (excluding the minute long intro) from “Ágætis byrjun” and it sounds just as amazing live as it does on the album. And when it kicks into the bridge at the halfway point, I think even the most avid Sigur Rós fans in the audience were taken by surprise. My dad said this was one of his favorite songs of the entire show.

After “Svefn-g-englar” was yet another new track (the fourth, for those that aren’t keeping count) titled “Hrafntinna,” which, according to Google Translate, means “Obsidian.” After playing through that track they closed the show with the song that closes “( )”: “Untitled #8,” commonly known as “Popplagið.” This 12-minute behemoth had one of the most astounding buildups of any of the songs they played that night, and was the perfect way to end the show.

There are words in English, and then there are words that can be used to accurately describe what I witnessed. I think if there are any words at all in any language to describe what Sigur Rós is like live, then they’re probably all in Icelandic or Hopelandic. I hope I’ve been able to convince you that this band is absolutely worth seeing, because they should be on your bucket list if they’re not already. While they’re less interactive than say The Flaming Lips and less gimmicky (no offense to the Flaming Lips – their ATL concert last year was my favorite of 2012), they are still capable of capturing emotion without saying words that make sense to the average human. Because it’s not and never has been about the words, as the band has proven by releasing several tracks in made-up languages. The guitars and the trumpets and violins and xylophones and drums and bass all come together in the most beautiful of ways to induce nothing short of euphoria on all who listen in. I think if there’s any group of musicians who come closest to capturing what several European composers captured during the 18th and 19th centuries, it is this group of musicians. And thank goodness for that.

www.setlist.fm

2012: A Music Odyssey, or the Best Live Acts I Saw this Year (Part 1: #20-11)

Written by Jakob Ross

2012: A Rock Odyssey, or the Best Live Acts I Saw this Year

Introduction:

It’s been over two months since I’ve contributed anything to the site. Don’t worry all, I haven’t abandoned you. But I have moved from northeastern Georgia to southern Germany; a huge move for me. So, I haven’t had much time to write anything up, let alone make any trips for concerts. Well, so far.

But 2012 has been an amazing year in concerts, even though I didn’t expect it to be. I went to my first camping festival, saw Phish—TWICE!—and met up with our own BeezNutz. So, for the end of the year I figured I’d let everyone know what I consider to be the best bands I saw this year. Now last year I wrote about the best concerts I attended, but since this year it’d be almost unfair to do that (Bonnaroo would count as one concert and would trump all competition) I figured I’d just tell you who the best live bands I saw this year were, from 20 all the way to number 1. So, without further ado, here we go!

20. AWOLNATION

When indie pop group Under the Influence of Giants went on hiatus in 2008, lead singer Aaron Bruno decided to start his own strange little side project that used the same principles of dance, electronica, and rock music, which he called AWOLNATION. Their growth in popularity has been pretty rapid thanks in part to FM rock radio, but mostly to the internet.

In May, Aaron and co. rocked a Saturday afternoon set in Atlanta; and when I say rocked, I mean ROCKED. Bruno’s scratchy vocal is great for clean music and loud crazy music, both of which were represented well. They played some radio friendly hits like “Not Your Fault” and “Guilty Filthy Soul,” some louder and stranger songs like “Sail” and “Burn It Down,” and they even threw in a cover of the buildup section of Rage Against the Machine’s debut album closer “Freedom.” All in all, a fantastically energetic show by a very underrated band. Nothing about them is too challenging and maybe not that original, but the music is fun and the shows are great.

19. Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the biggest alternative rock bands of the past 25 years. They may not release albums on a regular basis, but they still have millions of fans and are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as of this year. So who cares if their music isn’t THAT great? They’re the Red Hot Chili Peppers!

Red Hot Chili Peppers headlined the What Stage of Bonnaroo on Saturday Night to an 80,000 member crowd. And something that surprised me about their performance is how they’ve transformed into a jam band. New guitarist Josh Klinghoffer fits in well with the Peppers and fills the hole that John Frusciante left when he left the group for the second time a couple years ago. The Chili Peppers zoomed through some of their hits and a few of their lesser known songs, and were very energetic. Especially Flea. No bassist on the planet earth has more energy than that guy. But they seemed to have trouble connecting with the audience. Maybe it was because I was far back, or maybe because it was such a huge audience, but it seems like Red Hot Chili Peppers didn’t perform at their best that night. But Flea did leave us with an important message about supporting live music. And that’s always nice.

18. Fitz and the Tantrums

If you ask anyone who’s seen Fitz and the Tantrums before—anyone who isn’t Justin, that is—you’ll probably hear some good reviews. This neo-soul group always put on very energetic performances. And although they were a last minute addition to my Bonnaroo List of Bands to See, I don’t regret the decision for a second.

Throwing in a few new songs, and a couple covers (The Raconteurs’ “Steady As She Goes” and Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams”), Fitz/Tantrums caused many a foot to tap on the sandy ground of one of Bonnaroo’s tents. All of this leading up to the magnificent crescendo that is “MoneyGrabber.” Seriously, if you’re looking for a fun show and your name isn’t Justin Watt, I highly recommend seeing Fitz and the Tantrums at your nearest venue.

17. Ben Folds Five

In 2000, the world lost one of the most humorously clever bands that the face of alternative rock has ever seen: Ben Folds Five. Don’t be fooled, reader, for Ben Folds Five are, in fact, a trio. They released three critically acclaimed albums in the 90s before amicably splitting up. Three years after a one-off reunion in 2008, BF5 reunited for good, announcing a few dates and a new studio album in the works. Everything was looking good.

Fortunately for me, I got the chance to see the newly reunited Ben Folds Five perform their classics on the Which Stage at Bonnaroo. There were smiles all around and all three members seemed to enjoy themselves as they sang songs like “Song for the Dumped”, “Underground”, and “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces,” omitting any new material they might have had. They’re a fun live band and Ben Folds is seriously one of the greatest pianists and happiest guys to ever exist. Ben Folds frowning is about as unlikely as Michael Stipe smiling.

16. Major Lazer

Although producer Diplo may be best known for producing songs by M.I.A., No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Das Racist, and Die Antwoord, he is also half of Jamaican reggae dubstep dance duo Major Lazer. On record, they’re strange and nothing about them really makes sense. But in a live setting, it’s like a rave with marijuana instead of ecstasy. They’re not the greatest thing to ever happen to electronic music, but if Skrillex is too much for you then Major Lazer is definitely a fun electro show worth seeing. I caught them about halfway through their set and the crowd was going nuts. Their hype man may be annoying, but Major Lazer’s show is as over-the-top as it gets. Air horns, dancing ladies, constant countdowns to craziness; it’s all there. So maybe that’s just all part of the fun.

15. Gary Clark Jr.

Blues guitar virtuoso Gary Clark Jr. has played more festivals in the past year than anyone, and for good reason too. He’s amazingly good and has been racking up hype and rave reviews for the past year even though his breakthrough album was just released a couple weeks ago. On the closing day of Bonnaroo, Mr. Clark Jr played an early afternoon set at Bonnaroo’s main stage. The weather was stormy, the wind was blowing, and Gary had the entire crowd eating out of the palm of his guitar playing hands. His set was loud and full of droning psychedelic distortion tones that nodded to Jimi Hendrix and Roky Erickson.

He played the blues with some elements of 60s garage, soul, R&B, and psychedelia thrown in there. All in all, a mind-warping show that caused one to be fully immersed in the music.

14. Fishbone

The red-hot ska punk band has been active for over 30 years, and they’ve not lost an iota of energy since the release of their debut EP. Lead singer Angelo Moore is still totally cool with singing songs like “Let Them Ho’s Fight,” “Party at Ground Zero,” and the classic “Lyin’ Ass Bitch.” Bassist Norwood Fisher is still as impressive as ever with the slap bass, and each musician is equally impressive at their respective instruments. With ex-Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George in tow, Fishbone certainly rocked the Hell Stage at Atlanta’s Masquerade with a fire-hot intensity that is rarely matched by other “older” punk bands. If you’re looking for a fun show, then I highly recommend catching Fishbone, since they’ll probably be touring for another 30 years.

13. Ghost

Scandinavia is the perfect place for a heavy metal band to start. It’s cold, almost cut off from the rest of the world, depressing, and chock full of mystery. But never has a band as mysterious as Ghost existed since Mayhem released their debut album in the midst of a suicide and a murder among the band. Ghost’s sound is by no means frightening. It’s got an ear-catching, almost radio-friendly quality to it, and if it weren’t for the blatant satanism in the lyrics then Ghost would probably be very popular.

Lead singer Papa Emeritus (who dresses up in a manner that can only be described as “Devil’s Pope”) fronts a band of Nameless Ghouls (who wear black masks and hoods) and sings about their glorious master, Lucifer.

For the first time since Slipknot, no one is entirely sure who is behind the masks, and I doubt Ghost plan on revealing the members’ identities any time soon. But what matters is the frightening 6-song set they put on during their opening slot on the Heritage Hunter tour, where they opened for Opeth and Mastodon. Ghost managed to catch the ear of many audience members who had never heard them, as they continue to spread their philosophy, or whatever it is they’re trying to spread. They even managed to make Phil Anselmo a fan!

12. Skrillex

I know, I know. Dubstep is lame, Skrillex is untalented, I’m an idiot for liking it, bla bla bla.

Okay, have you vented your blind hatred yet? Good! Now let’s get through this with an open mind.

Skrillex, as you probably know by now, is an insanely popular and widely hated EDM artist, who many associate with the abrasive subgenre of dubstep, or “bro-step” for douchebags who don’t want Skrillex tainting the good name of dubstep. Skrillex’s early morning show (1:30 AM-3:30 AM) got going quickly and never got boring. The show was a nonstop wave of bass, energy, and volume. Some people need drugs to enjoy that kind of thing, others don’t. All I know is, I had a fantastic time there. He played through his hits such as “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” and “First of the Year (Equinox)” and even remixed songs by Bassnectar, Flux Pavilion, Doctor P, and Benny Benassi.

11. Bad Brains

In 1982, Washington D.C.’s own Bad Brains threw a curveball at the rest of the world with their self-titled debut album. It combined elements of reggae with that of hardcore punk, the likes of which had never been seen. Plus, it was (probably) the first time black people had involved themselves with the punk movement, and Bad Brains certainly put their own spin on it. Lead singer HR’s instantly recognizable howl led the band through some awesome times and horrible times. Sometimes screaming, sometimes singing, and other times using a fake Jamaican patois, Bad Brains were a whirlwind of genres and music that never seemed to stop.

Fortunately, I got the opportunity to see them live, and it was one of the strangest things I’ve seen yet. The music was loud and energetic and played almost without error, but I am beginning to think that HR is mentally unstable. Not quite sure. Either way, seeing living legends perform their classic songs is something not many people get to do, and I’m very happy that I was able to see Bad Brains’ early afternoon set. Keep sailin’ on!

Click here for Part 2: #10-1.

2012: A Music Odyssey, or the Best Live Acts I Saw This Year (Part 2: #10-1)

2012: A Music Odyssey Part 2

Words by Jakob Ross

10. Opeth

When the Heritage Hunter tour was announced, I knew I had to go. Opeth was the band on the tour that I was the least familiar with, and upon fully immersing myself in their challenging brand of progressive metal, I knew I’d be in for a fantastic show. Combining light, almost beautiful song structures with the louder, heavier sounds of common heavy metal (and a touch of dry, awkward humor from frontman Mikael Akerfeldt in between songs) the Swedes managed to put on a show that was set right in front of an amazing Atlanta sunset.

9. Umphrey’s McGee

With great jamming comes some great responsibility. Umphrey’s McGee are a jam band known for ridiculous song covers, odd stage presence, great lights, and insane guitar playing. Keep in mind, all this comes from six dudes who look like they could be working at a Best Buy or Target, and call themselves “Umphrey’s McGee.” They’re a cult act, no doubt, and this 2 AM – 6 AM concert at Bonnaroo showed that their fans will go where they go. I only stuck around for the first half of the show (I left right around the time Big Gigantic played their guest spot) but I got what I wanted. I got a “Bulls on Parade” tease, a “Stranglehold” tease, and some of the most intense jamming I’ve heard from any band. It was a rock and roll set, without a doubt, and it was one of the best rock and roll sets I’m sure Bonnaroo has ever seen.

Umphrey's McGee

8. Mastodon

The headlining act of the aforementioned Heritage Hunter tour is a force to be reckoned with. Mastodon is a band that is exactly what the name implies: A big hairy beast that could crush a thousand men with the stomp of its foot. They played mostly new material from their stellar 2011 album “The Hunter” during the hometown gig and barely addressed the audience, but the concert was full of the sheer force that the Atlanta boys are known for. The facial hair on these guys alone should be enough to make the average man cower in fear. I would’ve liked to hear more from “Crack the Skye,” but it’s hard to complain when you’re witnessing one of the most brutal sludge/doom/weird metal bands of the past decade play songs in front of you.

7. Dispatch

Dispatch make catchy summer music and Bonnaroo is a festival built for specifically that. After nearly a decade long break from touring and releasing new material, the jam/roots rock band with a massive cult following has returned to rock the faces off frat boys who graduated from Dave Matthews Band University. The trio are phenomenal instrumentalists and write a great catchy tune. Although I couldn’t see the whole show, I saw enough to know that Dispatch’s music translates very very well to a live setting, especially when you’ve got a bigger crowd then one would expect from a band with literally no mainstream help.

6. Flogging Molly

Celtic punk isn’t for the critics, and neither is Flogging Molly. Nothing about Flogging Molly is very original, but it is a lot of fun. The sand that lined the floor was in the air and in my lungs by the time these guys finished their high-energy set. This set included their most well-known song “Seven Deadly Sins” as well as a Bob Dylan cover. Flogging Molly didn’t show up to promote any new music, but they did have a blast, as did I and the many other people who witnessed them perform.

5. St. Vincent

Anyone who knows me knows about my year-long crush on Annie Clark, the brains behind St. Vincent. And when I finally got to witness her perform music live in front of my eyes, I was not at all disappointed. Everything about this performance was everything I could’ve wanted from a St. Vincent show and more. She played mostly songs from her amazing 3rd album Strange Mercy, but threw in a couple songs from her first two albums. The set was full of energy, as well as beauty and intensity. And the way she plays that guitar… I could go on forever about how great of a musician this woman is. Bottom line is, you need to see her live if you want a great show.

4. Childish Gambino

Anyone who knows me knows about my man crush on Donald Glover, a standup comedian, writer, actor on the greatest comedy on television “Community,” and rapper. The rapper part of this complicated equation, Childish Gambino, put on a monster of a set at Bonnaroo. He walked on stage with what I can only refer to as “swagger,” wearing a black tanktop that was purposely a bit too big. He led the audience through energetic versions of “Bonfire,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “Heartbeat,” “You See Me,” and plenty more that just turned into sing-a-longs, for lack of a better word. It’s the only real hip hop show I’ve ever been to, and it was a fantastic experience. Gambino isn’t the world’s greatest rapper, but he certainly knows how to handle himself on stage.

3. Radiohead

Radiohead release some of the most beloved music of the past 15 years. Almost every other album they put out is hailed as a classic: OK Computer, Kid A, In Rainbows, etc.; and if they aren’t hailed as a classic they’re almost always lauded by critics and fans alike. The reception for their most recent release, 2011’s The King of Limbs, wasn’t as positive as it was for some of their other albums, but it still gets better with each listen. Radiohead’s 2006 Bonnaroo performance is often hailed as one of their best, and they without a doubt topped that performance with their 2012 Bonnaroo performance. Although half the set was songs from In Rainbows and The King of Limbs, the 25-song set was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. They ended the first encore with Everything In Its Right Place and the second encore with Paranoid Android, two of their most incredible and ambitious works. And not only did they play with energy and emotion, but the lights and the screen display was one of the best of all time. Up there with Phish and Pink Floyd. Speaking of Phish…

radiohead bonnaroo small

2. Phish

I saw Phish twice this year. And from the very first song at Bonnaroo (Down With Disease) I knew that I was witnessing what might be the best touring band in America. The jamming is top-notch and the lights display is astonishing, especially since a good portion of the show is improvised. At Bonnaroo they brought out country music legend Kenny Rogers and performed his hit “The Gambler” with him, which proved to me that Phish can do a great cover. I also got to hear them perform their cover of TV On the Radio’s “Golden Age” the first time (I heard it again in Atlanta). Also in Atlanta I heard their cover of Ween’s “Roses Are Free” which was perhaps a tribute to the newly split group and they encored with a cover of The Beatles’ “A Day In the Life,” which would have made John Lennon proud. They’re not a band you’d expect to put on a great live performance since they hardly move from their spots while they play, but somehow they are able to reach these incredible crescendos that create this cloud of energy. Both shows I saw were amazing, and they’re a band you must see live at some point.

Phish 08/15/12: Long Beach Arena - Long Beach, CA

1. Flaming Lips

Has anyone ever seen Flaming Lips and been disappointed? Even if you’re not a big fan of their music the way they perform and the amount of effort they put into making the live experience perfect should earn them some respect. Lights, balloons, streamers, strings, explosions; all of this and more were a part of Flaming Lips’ Saturday night performance in Atlanta. They played some of their stranger songs like “See the Leaves” and “Pompeii am Götterdämmerung” as well as their more accessible hits like “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1” and “the Yeah Yeah Yeah Song.” They ended their beautiful and powerful live show with the all-out emotion-fest that is “Do You Realize??” which is probably their best song. It’s full of thought-provoking lyrics and is so powerful when performed live that it almost brought happy tears to my eyes. If you’ve lived this long without seeing Flaming Lips live, then I feel a bit of pity for you. But Flaming Lips tour very very often when they’re not busy paying tribute to King Crimson or Pink Floyd on record. So go out and see them. I did, and I have no complaints whatsoever. They’re the best band I saw this year, and probably the best band I’ve ever seen.

RIP Das Racist: The Weirdos of Hip Hop

RIP Das Racist: The Weirdos of Hip Hop

A Tribute by Jakob Ross

In 2008, one of the most fascinating hip hop songs to ever go viral was released on YouTube. It was titled “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” and it was released by then-unknown Brooklyn trio Das Racist. This song got immediate attention from blogs and created buzz all around the internet. Who were these weird sounding dudes singing about a fast food restaurant? And why is it so interesting?

When Das Racist released their debut mixtape, “Shut Up, Dude”, in 2010, there were high expectations. They had to prove to the world that they were more than just a silly one-hit wonder, so to speak. And that they did. With incredible well-written and hilarious songs such as “Who’s That? Brooown!”, “You Oughta Know”, and “Fake Patois” (as well as the aforementioned “Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”), rappers Heems and Kool A.D. (with hype-man Dapwell) proved that they were a force to be reckoned with.

Later that year they released their second and equally impressive mixtape “Sit Down, Man,” which featured guest verses from Roc Marciano, El-P, and Despot, as well as samples of songs by The Doors, Kraftwerk, and The Very Best. This wasn’t your average hip hop album and this wasn’t your average hip hop band. They began touring quite often and playing lots of festivals, like Bumbershoot and Sasquatch, as hype built up for their 2011 full length album, titled “Relax,” whose title is almost a sarcastic joke in the wake of their very recent breakup.

“Relax” was above and beyond anything they’d released before. The members (especially Heems) embraced their heritage and relied on mostly Indian and Middle Eastern sounding beats and samples for their album. It was a bit more challenging than 2010’s mixtapes, but proved itself to be worth the hype, and it became one of the most highly reviewed hip hop albums of 2011, even landing itself on the year-end lists of Rolling Stone and Spin.

In the wake of all that success came the June/July news that Das Racist were working on a new album AND had signed to Sony/Megaforce. But, just last night in Munich, Heems announced onstage during a solo gig that Das Racist had broken up, with Kool A.D. leaving the group two months ago. Both Heems and Kool released two mixtapes this year, so perhaps this was predictable, but an up-and-coming and critically lauded group breaking up after a mere four years of existence brings to mind the breakup of Girls earlier this year (lead singer Christopher Owens releases his solo debut in January).

This leaves many questions (What about the new album? And what about the record deal?) as well as a gaping hole in the world of alternative hip-hop, that can only be filled by the likes of Death Grips and Danny Brown.

We at Concert Confessions wish Himanshu, Victor, and Ashok the best of luck, and really hope Coachella gets them back together in a few years after paying them more money than they’ve ever seen before.

Phish Drop Bombs and Blow Minds in Atlanta

Phish  – Aaron’s Amphitheatre, Atlanta, GA – 8/25/12

Words/Photos by Jakob Ross

Phish Drop Bombs and Blow Minds in Atlanta

The last time I was truly blown away by a band was when I saw Phish for the first time at Bonnaroo. They played what Reverend Justito refers to as a “greatest hits set”, playing songs like Down With Disease, Sample In a Jar, Cavern, and Tweezer. While that set was great for a beginner such as myself, some hardcore phans probably wouldn’t give it such high praise. Keeping that in mind, I stepped into Aaron’s Amphitheatre for the third time this year expecting something awesome. Two sets full of some popular tunes, some rarities, some covers, and something hopefully better than the Bonnaroo set. And that is exactly what I got.

According to the Aaron’s Amphitheatre Facebook page, the 1st set was scheduled to kick off at 7, giving us something like two 95-100 minute sets, with enough time for a 30-minute set break and a 10-minute encore. Well, apparently that changed because the 1st set didn’t start until 7:45, giving us two 75-minute sets instead.

We left our house a few minutes before 3:00, with an expected arrival time of about 5:00 or so (the gates opened at 6:00). Finding a spot to park was a nightmare; one parking lot was already full of cars and vans and tents, so we had to head into a lot on the other side of the amphitheatre, which was right adjacent to a different entrance than the one we’ve used in the past. Despite all that, we still managed to be the first people in line at the gate and found the perfect spot on the lawn that was both close and free from any obstructions of view.

After an unexpected 45 minute wait and with the sun setting to my left, the mighty phoursome graced the stage and welcomed the 20,000-strong sold out Atlanta crowd with a neat instrumental tune called Cars Trucks Buses from their 1996 album Billy Breathes. After a round of applause they dove headfirst right into Wolfman’s Brother, a song I’d hoped to hear at Bonnaroo but didn’t. It’s one of my favorites from Hoist so I’m very glad I got to hear it. Afterwards they played Runaway Jim, which I’m pretty sure is just about a dog that ran away, ran-away ran-away.

After Jim, they played Ya Mar, which is a song by Cyril Ferguson, for only the third time this year. Early on, I could tell this set would focus more on Trey and Page’s skills, as both were playing some amazing solos, while Mike and Fishman’s spotlight would wait until Set 2. After Ya Mar, I got my first repeat ever, Alaska. While this was played towards the end of Set 2 at Bonnaroo, it appeared halfway through Set 1 here, where I feel it worked better. The jam for Alaska was absolutely brilliant, probably the first of many amazing jams of the whole show. After Alaska came another cover, My Soul, originally by Clifton Chenier. This was one I’d never heard before, but it sounded great. So far everything was sounding amazing. All the songs felt like they belonged in this set, which was certainly more of a straight rock and roll set. There were plenty of great jams, but one song didn’t jam into another. And that’s fine with me, I was having an amazing time.

After My Soul, the sun had gone almost all the way down. Darkness poured down on the lawn dwellers of Aaron’s Amphitheatre and marijuana smoke pervaded the air all around me. And then what would be one of my favorite parts of Set 1 happened, Trey hit the first couple notes of the ever so famous Wilson riff and every person shouted “WIIIIIILSOOOON” up to the stars. Another Bonnaroo repeat, but I don’t think I will ever tire of hearing this one live. The dudes played with the intensity and the ferocity of rock and roll gods as they sang about Wilson, the King of Prussia.

After Wilson came Maze, a song from one of the jammiest studio albums ever composed: Rift. Maze is full of great lyrics, I’ve discovered and I love the chorus. Sometimes it’s not just the jams and solos that make Phish great; they can also be great songwriters, even when the lyrics don’t make sense. After Maze, came the final cover of Set 1, a song I’ve wanted to hear live for a long time: Roses Are Free by Ween (RIP). The brothers Ween may have stopped making music together, but their best music lives on vicariously through bands like Phish, who, thankfully, brought out this cover of one of Ween’s best songs during the set. This show was already better than Bonnaroo, and the first set wasn’t even over yet. Next I got two more Bonnaroo repeats, Backwards Down the Number Line and Character Zero. Backwards is a pretty good song, but I could’ve done without it, and Character Zero was a great way to end a set. At 9:00 PM exactly, the boys left the stage for the 30-minute set break.

During the break, I learned that going to the bathroom after Phish have gone on stage is a bad bad idea, so I kept my liquid intake to a minimum, only taking a few sips of Coke when I got really really thirsty.

At 9:30 as I was making my way back to our spot, the lights went down and Phish came back on for Kill Devil Falls, another Joy cut I could have done without, yet not a horrible way to kick off the set. Kill Devil Falls flowed smoothly and directly into Golden Age, another one of their better cover songs. It was during Golden Age that Mike’s bass playing really sounded amazing, as it did for the duration of the second set. Golden Age  in turn flowed directly into Free and for the whole second set it didn’t feel like the band stopped at all. Just one continuous 75-minute medley of songs interspersed with slow, psychedelic jams that climaxed into exploding energy all accompanied by beautiful lights. Phish have once again proved themselves as one of the best live bands ever, and the show wasn’t even over yet.

After Free came Light,—kinda funny to hear the words “and the light is growing brighter now” as it was getting darker and darker outside—which led into Wading in the Velvet Sea which felt like it could’ve been a power-ballad from the 70s, even though it is a Phish original. After Velvet Sea came the opening riff to Chalkdust Torture, another favorite I never tire of hearing. Although I initially felt like it would’ve done better in the first set, for some reason, it just felt right exactly where it was. Chalk Dust Torture was another example of a jam where it was quiet and chill but eventually built up into an awesome crescendo, but then went right back to being quiet, almost as if Phish were dropping bombs of music on our heads and we were more than happy with the mushroom-shaped cloud that resulted. Chalkdust jammed, unfinished, right on into What’s The Use, a rarity from The Siket Disc that they haven’t played since June 8, 2011. What’s The Use jammed relaxedly into Joy, a great, albeit overplayed, ballad from their most recent studio effort.

Joy jammed for a little while until there were only 5 minutes left in Set 2 (I figured since the set started at 9:30 then it would conclude at 10:45; I was right), so Phish threw an amazingly heavy, energetic, and explosive rendition of Run Like An Antelope to finish up a whirlpool of amazingness that was almost overwhelming. Set 2 was a vicious cycle of emotion, energy, and relaxation that boded well for this writer. Phish left the stage again for the encore break, and came back a couple minutes later, where keyboardist/pianist Page McConnell thanked us and told us how much they love playing Aaron’s Amphitheatre. The show may have been close to over, but they still had enough time to drop one more bomb on our heads, and this one was an atomic bomb: A fantastic cover of The Beatles’ A Day in the Life. Page sang John Lennon’s part (“I read the news today, oh boy”) and Trey sang Paul McCartney’s part (“Woke up, got outta bed”). Hearing one of my favorite live bands perform one of my favorite Beatles songs was an amazing experience and a great way to end the show.

A Day in the Life ended without any cool extended jams, but the show itself was all kinds of amazing. I had an amazing time, and there is no better way to kick off our last week of American residency than with an amazing live show. Thank you Phish, thank you Atlanta, and thank you America.

Hardcore Heroes Converge Announce North American Tour Dates

Hardcore Heroes Converge Announce North American Tour Dates

The first time I came across the music of Converge, I had absolutely no idea what to make of it. It was loud, insane, and all kinds of amazing. It combined heavy metal with hardcore punk and mathcore and noise rock all into a dozen or so short bursts. Converge have been together for over 20 years and have remained just as loud and crazy as they’ve always been. Unfortunately, I’ll be in Germany when they hit the American road this fall, but that doesn’t mean you guys can’t have a crazy good time in a hot sweaty room.

Below are the dates for the tour, which kicks off October 12 in New Britain, Connecticut, and concludes November 12 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Joining them will be the new kings of sludge metal Torche, Norwegian Viking lords Kvelertak, and on select dates you can catch Nails and Whips/Chains.

TOUR DATES:

10/12: New Britain, CT @ Club INT
10/13: Rochester, NY @ Water Street Music Hall
10/14: Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar Bar
10/15: Columbus, OH @ Skully’s
10/16: Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theatre
10/18: Chicago, IL @ Metro
10/19: Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
10/20: Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theatre
10/21: Denver, CO @ Marquis Theatre
10/22: Salt Lake City, UT @ Club Sound
10/24: Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
10/25: Portland, OR @ Branx
10/26: San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s
10/27: Pomona, CA @ Glasshouse
10/28: Los Angeles, CA @ EchoPlex
10/30: Mesa, AZ @ The Nile
11/01: Dallas, TX @ Sons of Herman Hall
11/02: Austin, TX @ Fun Fun Fun Festival
11/03: Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
11/04: Little Rock, AR @ Downtown Music
11/05: Birmingham, AL @ Zydece
11/06: Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
11/07: Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
11/08: Durham, NC @ Motoroco Music Hall
11/09: Philly, PA @ Union Transfer
11/10: Asbury Park, NJ @ Stone Pony
11/11: New York City, NY @ Highline Ballroom
11/12: Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair

You can also catch Converge at Los Angeles’ FYF Fest in a couple weeks.

Jason Mraz Invites Atlanta to Keep Calm and Wear Fedoras

Jason Mraz – 8/18/12 – Aaron’s Amphitheatre, Atlanta

Words by Jakob Ross

“Tour Is a Four Letter Word”

Jason Mraz Invites Atlanta to Keep Calm and Wear Fedoras

Pop music comes and goes. Some songs stand the test of time, others go away after a few months or, in some cases, after a few weeks. That’s just the way it goes in the crazy business of music. One of the most popular songs of the past decade or so is 2008’s “I’m Yours,” which you can still hear on the radio and in your local Starbucks today. This song skyrocketed Jason Mraz to mega-fame, and, as I observed last night while viewing the 15,000-member audience, that fame has yet to subside. Even after the release of this year’s less-than-amazing album “Love Is a Four Letter Word.”  A couple weeks ago, Mraz began his North American “Tour Is a Four Letter Word” with fellow singer/songwriter Christina Perri, who you may know was the girl who sings that song that makes you want to punch puppies every time you hear it.

Anyway, after multiple setlist checks, my mom (the biggest Jason Mraz fan in the family) decided what songs she wanted to hear, which ones she didn’t care about, and ultimately we decided we’d leave after the aforementioned “I’m Yours,” which is the last song before the encore break. This show would also serve as way for me and my dad to check out the lawn and get a feel for where we would try and be when we see Phish this Saturday.

We got to our spot and laid down a blanket to relax on about halfway through Christina Perri’s set. Don’t get me wrong, the girl can sing very well, but her music does absolutely nothing for me. All the songs sounded the same, but I only had to sit through about 25 minutes of it.

At about 8:45, his scheduled appearance time, he hit the stage and shifted from an ominous instrumental intro into “Remedy,” a song that I had heard before, but had absolutely no idea was a Jason Mraz song. From our spot on the lawn, we could see everything. The view was spectacular and we didn’t have to actually stand up until the end of the set.

After “Remedy,” he played “Living In the Moment,” a new song. As mediocre as his new album is, a lot of the songs translated really well in a live setting, and made them seem a lot better than they really are. Then he played “a song I wrote while on a plane”: the aptly titled “Plane.” That song had some pretty—I hate using this word—epic moments that really demonstrated Mraz’s vocal skills. Next he played “Be Honest,” a duet that featured the violinist of his band sharing vocal duties with Mraz.

He then played a couple tracks from his most popular album “We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.”: “Only Human” and “Lucky,” the latter of which also featured his violinist on vocals, singing the parts that Colbie Caillat sings on the album. He played a few more new songs afterwards, but the highlight of the show was definitely the last four songs of the set. The 13th song of the set was a bonus track from the new album entitled “You Fckn Did It,” a song he performs with his female hispanic percussionist whose name ISN’T Sheila E. Knowing his audience well, he warns the audience beforehand that the song they were about to play featured “a certain short word” that some parents wouldn’t like their kids hearing. “If you don’t want your children to hear this certain word, then I heard a rumor that the Fresh Beat Band are playing in the lobby,” Mraz joked. After him and his percussionist (“The Duo Decimal System,” they called themselves) performed the song, he invited the rest of his band back up to sing another bonus track, entitled “I’m Coming Over,” in which the whole band including Mraz stood as a group in one area of the stage and sang the mellow track.

Afterwards, everyone took their respective spots at their instruments and performed the most energetic song of the night “Butterfly,” which flowed nicely into a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” If you know anything about that song, then you know that the chorus is “Signed, sealed, delivered/I’m yours,” which is either a coincidence or a subtle way of letting his audience know what the next song would be. As soon as the all-too-familiar hammer-on guitar riff hit the ears of the thousands of audience members, we all knew what was coming. Everyone in the lawn stood up and prepared for a massive sing-a-long, because, let’s face it, everyone knows the words to the song.

After the song ended, Mraz left the stage for the encore break, and we left the venue to head home. I heard all I needed to hear, as did my parents and sister. Let’s face it, Jason Mraz has some pretty bad songs, but hearing them performed live actually made some of them listenable and even enjoyable. Overall, not a terrible concert experience. He puts on a good performance and sounds very good live. The sound this time was way better than it was last time I went to Aaron’s Amphitheatre, so not too many complaints from this writer. If you like relaxing music and fedoras, then you might enjoy yourself a Jason Mraz concert (yes, he did wear a fedora). But now I have to spend the next week preparing myself for my second round of Phish, which you’ll hear all about next week.

311 Bring Unity to Atlanta With a Little Help From Their Friends

311 Bring Unity to Atlanta With a Little Help From Their Friends

One band that I’ve been interested in seeing for a couple years now is 311. And I finally got that chance when I purchased tickets to this show with my own money. I’m fairly positive that this is the sixth installment of 311’s Unity Tour, although I could be wrong. I know that last year’s Unity Tour featured Sublime w/ Rome And Lambert which I missed because we were out of town for that one. But last night I was able to catch not only 311, but also Slightly Stoopid and the supremely underrated LA group The Aggrolites, whom I saw open for Social Distortion last year.

This show took place on July 21st 2012 at Aaron’s Amphitheater in Atlanta, which is a venue I’d never been to before. Located right next to a high school (not even kidding) the entrance to the venue appears without much warning and the venue itself is just sort of…. there. But parking was free and easy, it wasn’t too crowded; so far a great concert experience compared to some I’ve been to.

The doors opened at 5:30 which, conveniently enough, is the exact time we got there. We walked in and got barely frisked by the guards and procured our pit bracelets. The Aggrolites were set to play from 6:30 to 7 and we had a little bit of time to kill, during which we bought our merch and made our way to the pit to check everything out.

The pit area was small and really the whole amphitheater itself was pretty small compared to some that I’ve been to in Washington. The lawn towards the back was huge, but there were maybe a couple hundred seats and maybe a 100-200 capacity pit at the most. Fortunately, the weather was nice—although Atlanta in July isn’t exactly cold weather—for some good vibes and other reggae-based cliches.

As expected, The Aggrolites graced the stage at 6:30 sharp and opened up their set with “Free Time.” They had great energy for an opening band. Their sound isn’t exactly built for an amphitheater setting, but they certainly made it work, encouraging sing-a-longs the likes of which I’ve never seen from an opening band. They finished off their 30 minute set with a great cover of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” during which they invited everyone to sing along to the chorus, which they did. The band sounded great, as always, and were a great warmup act for the bands we all wanted to see.

About 20 minutes after The Aggrolites’ set ended, Slightly Stoopid and all its 8 members hit the stage for an instrumental intro followed by “Till It Gets Wet.” Singers Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald traded instruments a couple times throughout the set, one usually taking bass while the other sings and plays guitar, depending on the song. They played a few of their hits like “Anywhere I Go” and “Closer To the Sun,” as well as a few songs from their upcoming album Top Of The World. They even threw in their cover of “Leaving On a Jet Plane” as well as a cover of “Express Yourself” (the Charles Wright song, not the NWA song) to end the set. I also noted how during one of the horn solos I could hear a tease of the “riff” from “Yeah” by Ludacris, which you have to play if you’re in Atlanta.

Slightly Stoopid played a very impressive set. It was about an hour long and ridiculously chill. After a 30 minute wait, the lights went down (it was pitch black in the pit) and the men of 311 hit the stage. Nick started playing what I could only assume was the intro to “Down,” because that was the first song of the set, but no sound was coming out of his guitar, nor was any coming out of Tim’s guitar. SA began rapping his verse of the song and not much sound was coming out of his mic either. Really the only elements of the show that sounded good were Nick’s mic, the bass, and the drums. Everything else was not nearly loud enough. And that didn’t really improve at all during the rest of the show.

They then broke into “Large In the Margin” from their Soundsystem album. And then, as the sun set, they played the very appropriate “Sunset In July” from last year’s stellar Universal Pulse album. 311’s setlist is ever-changing, with a revolving door of at least 40 songs that they choose from for each show of the Unity Tour. During one of their songs (I wanna say it was “From Chaos”, but that’s just a guess) drummer Chad Sexton went into an awesome drum solo, during which a few mini drum kits, two gongs, and a bass drum were rolled onto the stage for the rest of the band members to jam on. After Chad’s solo ended, all 5 members went into a drumline-esque performance, eventually going back into the chorus of the song they were playing.

311 played pretty equally from all their albums, even throwing in a cover of “Leaving Babylon” by Bad Brains. After they performed “Amber,” P-Nut broke into his highly anticipated bass solo. P-Nut is an astounding bass player and did a really cool slapping thing, but compared to greats like Les Claypool and Flea, he’s not the greatest.

They ended their set with “Beautiful Disaster,” which actually was the best sounding song of the night in terms of sound coming out of the instruments. They came out for an encore of “Outside,” “Hydroponic,” and “Creatures (For a While)” before leaving the stage and barely making their 10:30 end time. 311 played an impressively great show that was way better than I was expecting. It was a great concert experience too, with no moshing that I could see and no crowd-surfing whatsoever. That might be a general rule for the venue, but perhaps people decided to not suck for once.

After the show, I came to the conclusion that 311 are just like Phish. 311 have had more mainstream success, but probably not enough to keep them an amphitheater band for so many years. They have a huge cult following and don’t need praise from critics to keep them a happy and fully functional unit. And I saw a guy with a shirt after the show that said “311 Is My Religion.” I think that’s all you need to know to really understand how big this band is, regardless of lyrical quality or poor sound mixing. And that’s all that matters.

SETLIST: Down, Large In The Margin, Sunset In July, Purpose, You Wouldn’t Believe, Freeze Time, Lose, Who’s Got The Herb?, From Chaos, Applied Science, Flowing, Rock On, India Ink, Amber, Bass Solo, Nutsymtom, Rub A Dub, Crack The Code, Leaving Babylon, Jackpot, Beautiful Disaster ENCORE: Outside, Hydroponic, Creatures (For A While)

Cage The Elephant’s Starry Nights Music Festival Lineup Announced

Cage The Elephant’s Starry Nights Music Festival Lineup Announced

Alternative rock group Cage The Elephant have been quickly gaining fame the past four years. They’ve released two critically acclaimed studio albums, toured relentlessly, and played massive festivals to massive audiences. But one of their greater accomplishments is kickstarting the music scene of Bowling Green, Kentucky, their hometown. Ever since getting their break, bands such as Sleeper Agent, Schools, and Morning Teleportation have been formed and sponsored by Cage The Elephant, proving that they haven’t forgotten their roots. Well now, they’ve formed their own 2-day festival in Bowling Green, and invited a bunch of the buddies to play with them. Lead singer Matt Schultz has stated in interviews that he is trying to recreate some experiences he had as a rowdy teenager growing up in Bowling Green and the pretty brilliant lineup for the 2012 edition proves that. You can check it out down below.

Cage The Elephant, Portugal. The Man, Manchester Orchestra, MiMosa, Justin Townes Earle, The Whigs, Sleeper Agent, Moon Taxi, JEFF The Brotherhood, Margot And the Nuclear So And So’s, Morning Teleportation, Wild Belle, Space Capone, PUJOL, The Kingston Springs, Five Knives, and Bad Cop.

The festival will be held September 28th and 29th in Bowling Green Kentucky. Tickets will be on sale soon. A regular pass will cost you $45 while a collectible pass will set you back $50. For tickets and further information on this exciting festival, check out the official site by clicking here.

Cloud Nothings Bring “Stay Useless” To Jimmy Fallon

Cloud Nothings Bring “Stay Useless” To Jimmy Fallon

If you’ve never heard this band before, then pause the new Killers song for just 3 minutes to check out just how incredible Cloud Nothings are. Not only is their debut album “Attack On Memory” already generating buzz from critics, but it’s already being called one of the best albums of the year. Lead singer/guitarist/mastermind Dylan Baldi is the man behind the lyrics, that inspire the feeling of being too much of a slacker to be rebellious; to suburban to be able to complain about family life. “Memory” came out in January, so it’s a surprise that this is their first TV performance, but better late than never. Without further ado, and courtesy of The Audio Perv, is Cloud Nothings’ television debut performing their indie hit “Stay Useless.”

Mike Patton Unleashes His Inner Yeezy

Mike Patton Unleashes His Inner Yeezy

Below, I’ve placed a video you really have to see to believe. Over the past year, one of the most popular songs (that’s even been covered by the likes of Ms. Katy Perry) is Jay-Z and Kanye West’s track “N*ggas In Paris” from the 2011 collaborative album Watch The Throne. And just when you thought the popularity of the song was finally wearing off, alt-metal weirdos Faith No More went ahead and threw in their own cover of the song a couple nights ago in London. They only performed a snippet of the song, which came in about halfway through the set-closing track “Why Do You Bother?” The video is below, and it’s something definitely worth watching.

Thanks to setlist.fm for info on the set!

Alabama Shakes Announce Fall Tour Dates

Alabama Shakes Announce Fall Tour Dates

I have a few music predictions for 2012: Baroness’ stellar new album will be overlooked my most critics, Bon Iver will release a song through Third Man Records, and Alabama Shakes will be the best breakthrough act of the year.

The Athens, Alabama-based blues quartet have hit most of the major festivals in America, toured with Jack White, and they’re debut album Boys And Girls has been at the top of many “Top Albums Of The Year So Far” lists. They’re beloved by critics, audiences, fans, musicians; Alabama Shakes are unstoppable this year. They’re currently on tour (check out the upcoming dates on their website) but they’ve just announced some more for the East Coast and Central Time Zone area. So check ’em out if you can! I missed them at Bonnaroo, but that doesn’t mean you have to!

DATES:
09/27 – Nashville, TN – Live On the Green (Free show)
09/28 – Memphis, TN – New Daisy Theater
09/29 – Atlanta, GA – Masquerade Music Park
10/01 – Philadelphia, PA – Electric Factory
10/02 – Toronto, Canada – The Kool Haus
10/04 – New York, NY – Terminal 5
10/05 – Boston, MA – House of Blues
10/08 – Louisville, KY – Brown Theater
10/09 – St. Louis, MO – The Pageant

Epicenter Returns to Irvine, Announces 2012 Lineup

Epicenter Returns to Irvine, Announces 2012 Lineup

Epicenter has returned for a fourth year to sunny Southern California. For the second year it will be held in Irvine California at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Past lineups include Tool, Linkin Park, Alice in Chains in 2009 (You can read our review here); Kiss, Eminem, Blink-182 in 2010; and the greatly disappointing Limp Bizkit, Staind, Papa Roach triple “threat” in 2011.

This year’s lineup appears to be a major improvement from 2011, with some of the most massively overlooked bands of the 90’s topping the bill: Stone Temple Pilots who are coming off a triumphant reunion, Deftones (who are going on tour with System Of a Down next month), and Bush, who are currently on tour with Nickelback (we’re just as disturbed as you are.)

Also on the bill are the System of a Down side project Scars On Brodway, formally party rap but now more leaning towards emo kids Hollywood Undead (who rocked the first Epicenter back in 2009), and fresh off of Warped Tour 2012 Dead Sara. Rounding out the lineup are Chevelle, Escape The Fate, Crash Kings, Hyro Da Hero and Beware of Darkness. No doubt additional artists will be added at a later date.

This all goes down September 22nd 2012. Tickets go on sale July 14th at 10 am PST. You can watch the official trailer for the festival down below.

Peter Murphy Announces Summer Tour Dates

Peter Murphy Announces Summer Tour Dates

To be totally honest, I don’t know very much about Peter Murphy. I do know that he was the lead singer for the very influential band Bauhaus, who I actually have listened to. I remember my dad saw them open for Nine Inch Nails in 2008 when Bauhaus did their reunion. That is the extent of my knowledge on all things Peter Murphy, but if you know more about him than I do, check him out on tour this summer. He’s playing mostly west coast dates, with a Brooklyn show thrown in for good measure. Here are the dates, and thanks to Consequence of Sound for the report!

08/09 – Portland, OR – Star Theater Portland
08/10 – Seattle, WA – El Corazon
08/11 – Eugene, OR – The WOW Hall
08/12 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory
08/13 – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
08/15 – Las Vegas, NV – Las Vegas Country Saloon
08/16 – West Hollywood, CA – The Roxy Theatre
08/17 – Sacramento, CA – Harlows Restaurant & Night Club
08/18 – Oakland, CA – The New Parish
08/19 – Bakersfield, CA – On the Rocks Bar & Grill
08/26 – Brooklyn, NY – The Well

RIP Girls: A Tribute To The Best Band You’ve Never Heard

RIP Girls: A Tribute To The Best Band You’ve Never Heard

One of my favorite discoveries of 2011 is a San Francisco based two-piece band simply titled Girls. Their music can be sort of described as garage rock/indie pop with some San Franciscan psychedelia thrown in for good measure. They’ve received high praise for their two albums, 2009’s Album and 2011’s Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Now, according to a recent string of tweets by lead singer/songwriter Christopher Owens, he’s left the band. Meaning, of course, that the band is no more. This would be like if Dan Auerbach left The Black Keys, or something.

Although I’ve never gotten the chance to see this great band perform live, the Reverend Justito has. So here is one review from last year, and here is another, from Coachella.

Christopher Owens says that he will continue making music, possibly as a solo artist. But one must really wonder why the Girls’ 5-year career ended so abruptly. Is it because Lena Dunham from the television show Girls wants Owens to change the band name? Is Owens rejoining the Children Of God? Either way, this is very sad news. Perhaps they’ll build up a cult following and play a one-off Coachella gig in 10 years for a small payment of $500,000.

Well, here are a few songs by this great band who left us too quickly:

The Cult Add More North American Tour Dates

The Cult Add More North American Tour Dates

Legendary rock band The Cult rose to fame in the 80s for their post-punk style, as well as Ian Astbury’s massive voice. And now, after a new album and a successful North American tour with the now female fronted Against Me!, The Cult are mapping out some more dates in North America (mostly Canada) that they didn’t hit before, after they finish touring Europe. Below are the North American dates for The Cult. No word on whether Against Me! will be opening for them.

08/19 – Concord, CA – Sleep Train Pavilion at Concord (w/ ZZ Top)
08/20 – Portland, OR – Roseland
08/21 – Seattle, WA – Neptune Theater
08/22 – Vancouver, CAN – Commodore Ballroom
08/24 – Edmonton, CAN – EEC
08/25 – Medicine Hat, CAN – Esplande Theater
08/26 – Calgary, CAN – Cowboys
08/28 – Regina, CAN – Event Plex at Evraz Place
08/31 – Toronto, CAN – Phoenix
09/01 – Montreal, CAN – Metropolis
09/02 – Quebec City, CAN – Grand Theater

The Jesus And Mary Chain Add More US Dates

The Jesus And Mary Chain Add More US Dates

The Jesus and Mary Chain are one of those 80s bands that everyone with an appreciation for music should at least know about. They’ve had influence on the shoe-gaze genre, the synth pop genre, the noise pop genre, the indie rock genre, the alternative rock genre; point is, they’re an important band. And they have tacked on a bunch more tour dates to their reunion, which began back in 2007. While they played mostly the west coast this year, now they have a bunch of east coast dates so the people over on this side of the United States can get their fix of Jesus, Mary, and the Chain between them. I think.

Anyway, here’s the tour dates! Thanks to Slicing Up Eyeballs for the announcement!

Aug. 2: Thursday at the Harbor, Buffalo, NY
Aug. 3: Phoenix Theatre, Toronto, ON
Aug. 4: Osheaga Music Festival, Montreal, QC
Sept. 5: House of Blues, New Orleans, LA
Sept. 6: Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA
Sept. 7: Hopscotch Music Festival, Raleigh, N.C.
Sept. 8: Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA
Sept. 9: 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C. *
Sept. 11: Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA
Sept. 12: Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA
Sept. 13: Irving Plaza, New York, NY
Sept. 14: Irving Plaza, New York, NY
Sept. 15: Saint Andrew’s Hall, Detroit, MI
Sept. 14-16: Riot Fest 2012, Humboldt Park and Congress Theatre, Chicago, IL
Sept. 19: Majestic Theatre, Madison, WI, USA
Sept. 20: Vogue Theatre, Indianapolis, IN
Sept. 21: House of Blues, Cleveland, OH
Sept. 22: Orbit Room, Grand Rapids, MI

* Announced on JAMC website, then removed

Japandroids Announce European Tour Dates

Japandroids Announce European Tour Dates

The title of this post may strike you as odd. I know most of our readers probably live in the continental US, and there are may be a sad, sorry few of you who’ve never heard Japandroids, but bear with me.

I’m not sure I’ve broken the news via CC-post yet, but in August I am moving to Vilseck, Germany, about an hour away from Nuremburg and two and a half hours from Prague. This means I get to see all the cool German shows (if they are close to me, which they won’t be) and the world-famous Rock Im Park festival. So with that, I leave you the European tour dates of one of my favorite bands of 2012, Japandroids. And if you haven’t heard them, I’ll leave a video down below for you to check out.

08-14 Ponte Do Lima, Portugal – Parades De Coura Festival
08-16 Dublin, Ireland – Workmans Club
08-17 Belfast, Northern Ireland – Mandela Hall
08-18 Skipton, England – Funkirk Estate Beacons Festival
08-19 Leicester, England – Summer Sundae Festival
08-22 Reykjavik, Iceland – Gamli Gaukurinn
08-24 Hannover, Germany – Bootboohook Festival
08-25 Dornstadt, Germany – Obstwiesen Festival
08-27 Frankfurt, Germany – Zoom
08-28 Dresden, Germany – Beatpol
08-29 Berlin, Germany – Magnet
08-31 Poznan, Poland – Minoga
09-01 Warsaw, Poland – Hydrozagadka
09-03 Budapest, Hungary – Akvarium
09-04 Vienna, Austria – Chelsea
09-06 Ljubljana, Slovenia – Kino Siska
09-07 Graz, Austria – Postgarage
09-08 Zagreb, Croatia – NKC Park
09-10 Prague, Czech Republic – Lucerna Music Bar
09-11 Munich, Germany – Feierwerk
09-12 Luzern, Switzerland – Treibhaus Luzern
09-14 Brussels, Belgium – La Chocolaterie
09-15 Leffinge, Belgium – Leffingeleuren Festival
09-16 Tilburg, Netherlands – Incubate Festival
09-18 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso
09-19 Rotterdam, Netherlands – Rotown
09-21 Hamburg, Germany – Reeperbahn Festival
09-22 Munster, Germany – Gleis 22
09-23 Cologne, Germany – Luxor
09-25 Copenhagen, Denmark – Pumpehuset
09-26 Aarhus, Denmark – Voxhall
09-28 Gothenburg, Sweden – Pustervik
09-29 Stockholm, Sweden – Strand
09-30 Oslo, Norway – John Dee
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFZSoAAEqYs

Radiohead’s Stage Collapses in Toronto

Radiohead’s Stage Collapses in Toronto

As you may remember, last year there was sort of an epidemic with collapsing stages. Festivals such as Pukkelpop and the Indiana State Fair felt the gloom over their shoulders, as quite a few lives were taken due to these tragedies.

Well, it looks like the unfortunate epidemic continues into this year. The stage at Downsview Park in Toronto, Canada has collapsed, killing one person and injuring three others. Radiohead were set to play there later tonight, but they’ve since cancelled the gig, citing “unforeseen circumstances.” This was the last show of Radiohead’s current trek of North America.

More on this story as it unfolds. Thanks to Consequence of Sound for the photo and story.

UPDATE (6:46 P.M. EST): The collapse occurred while the stage was being erected. Weather was not a factor.

As of June 18th, CNN reports that Radiohead’s drum tech was killed in the stage collapse. A statement from Radiohead goes on to say “He was a lovely man, always positive, supportive and funny; a highly skilled and valued member of our great road crew. We will miss him very much”

Bonnaroo Part III: Return of the Jedi

Bonnaroo Part III: Return of the Jedi

Chapter 1: Sunday Morning

On the morning of my final day at Bonnaroo, I was prepared for what would certainly be our most relaxing day. With only four acts to check out (and the first one not going on until 1:00), I was ready to chill and maybe have a beer with BeeZnutz.

 

It had rained the whole night and well into the morning, but by the time we left our tent at about 9 or so, the rain had died down to a light drizzle as the clouds above threatened similar weather in our near future. Which of course is a whole lot better than heat and sun. Reminds me of Washington. *sniff*

After a big breakfast that consisted of pop tarts, eggs, and bacon (seriously, THANK YOU Tony) we hung out a little more and talked about Phish with our neighbors, asking questions such as “If you see Phish two nights in a row at the same place, does that count as seeing them twice?” The answer, obviously, is yes.

Eventually, it was that time of morning where we would have to walk on the wet grass over to the What Stage to catch bluesy newcomer Gary Clark Jr.

 Chapter 2: The Savior of Blues

If you’ve paid attention to festival lineups lately, then you’ve probably noticed many common names. But one that you’re gonna want to remember is Gary Clark Jr. This 28-year old guitar virtuoso may come off as intimidating at first (I compare him to 1994 Samuel L. Jackson sans afro) he is actually an astoundingly skilled musician and seemingly vulnerable person. For example, when he breaks into falsetto for a song like Please Come Home, your heart immediately melts. Gary has what most guitar players lack (I also noticed this with Annie Clark): EMOTION. He actually feels the notes and chords of the guitar buzzing through his entire body, and lets his emotions affect how he plays and what he plays. It worked with Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King (who I’d compare Gary to without hesitation) and it will work for literally every guitar player with a heart.

Gary played an hour-long set full of songs both rockin’ and beautiful, sometimes both. He uses a fuzzy type of distortion that gives it an old school sound while also giving it a garage-revival sound. Something not exactly unique, but it is definitely put to good use.

And the dude, like I said, plays guitar extremely well. Whether it’s the crazy finger-picking riff on Don’t Owe You a Thang to, well pretty much any guitar solo he played. He played tastefully, not trying to draw the attention away from his fantastic band. That is another important part of being a blues musician. Your name may be the one on the CDs, posters, and t-shirts, but the band onstage is what’s making it happen. It’s easy to see now why they call Gary Clark Jr. the savior of blues.

Chapter 3: the Adult Swim Carnival

If you’re the kind of person that watches Adult Swim, then you’re also probably the kind of person who eats corn flakes at 2 in the morning and makes jokes about unicorns.

But seriously, Adult Swim is one of the strangest channels on television, and when they’re sponsoring a festival known specifically for its weirdness… well, you never know what could happen.

This year, they opened up an Adult Swim sponsored section of Bonnaroo right by the entrance that runs sort of like a carnival, but if the carnival was invented by Syd Barrett and Jim Morrison. There were classic carnival games like Balloonicorn, Smack Up My Uvula, and everyones favorite: Babies vs. Old People!

During Balloonicorn, you had to put on a comically oversized unicorn head with an extra-sharp horn tip and jump up repeatedly to try and pop the balloons that were above. Pop enough of them, you win a prize. Because of the long line and promise of a headache, I decided to skip that one.

During Smack Up My Uvula, you had to climb a horizontal ladder that is VERY unsteady and try to reach the uvula at the end. And then you smack it. And then you win a prize. I tried (and failed) but my dad won!

And during Babies vs. Old People (On Segwags) you stood on a mounted Segway with a sling shot between the two handles and fire small babies at the cardboard old people that are moving across. Again, I lost and so did my dad. Slingshots are hard.

After failed attempts to complete these games (thank goodness it was all free) we headed out towards the Which Stage to catch the second Ben Folds Five performance in over 10 years. Unfortunately to do this, we had to do the unthinkable: sit through Mac Miller.

Chapter 4: The Unthinkable and Ben Folds Five

While we waited in line to get into the pit for Ben Folds Five, we had nothing to do but listen to Mac Miller’s performance. And since I don’t have many kind words to say about Mac Miller, reviewing him wouldn’t exactly be fair. So I’ll just skip to the part where we were in the pit waiting for Ben Folds Five.

Ben Folds Five (who are actually a trio, HOW IRONIC!) parted ways in 2000, leaving Ben Folds with a successful solo career, but nothing that would ever match the greatness that is BF5. They were known for their pleasant nerdiness, jazz influences, and for being all-around happy people.

“This is our first concert as Ben Folds Five in over… seven days,” said lead singer/pianist Ben Folds, referring to the Mountain Jam Festival. “But before that it was over 10 years.” I guess he means as an actual working band, because they performed a one-off concert in 2008. But that doesn’t matter, it worked on a humor level.

The band kicked off the set with the first song off their debut album, Jackson Cannery. And afterwards they just let the hits flow through, not playing any of their new material (if there was any) but did invite us to check it out online. But hey that’s fine with me. Soundgarden did the same thing last year and I had a great time with them.

At one point Ben Folds stopped the show and said “Uh, this is a tradition at a Ben Folds Five show where I take a picture from atop my piano. So, if you could all very kindly flip me off…” and got on his piano. Everyone in the crowd very kindly put their middle fingers up to Ben Folds as he took a picture.

One of the coolest parts of the show was when they broke into Song for the Dumped, one of the most musically insane Ben Folds Five songs. It includes a solo where Ben Folds holds his mic up to the strings of the piano and just rubs on them, while bassist Robert Sledge holds his amp chord up to his hand producing rhythmic feedback with the buzz of the amp. It really is hard to explain, but it’s something to see.

Ben Folds Five are quite impressive to watch, even if you don’t know many of their songs. Their musicianship alone is enough to make you a lifetime fan. And Ben Folds’ smile is as contagious as wook flu at Bonnaroo.

Setlist: Jackson Cannery, Theme From Dr. Pyser, Fair, Selfless Cold and Compose, Uncle Walter, Where’s Summer B?, Battle of Who Could Care Less, Brick, Emaline, Philosophy, Army, Kate, Alice Childress, Song For the Dumped, Narcolepsy, Underground ENCORE: One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces

Chapter 5: The Civil Wars

Of the many power duos to come about in the last few years, the one that has captivated me more than I ever would have imagined is The Civil Wars. With just two voices and a guitar, The Civil Wars churn out very interesting folk songs with haunting melodies.

At 6:25 PM in an over-capacity The Other Tent, singers John Paul White and (a very pregnant) Joy Williams appeared with smiles pervading their faces. Everything about the Civil Wars is just happy! Even the sad songs. And these two very talented vocalists almost make country music interesting, it seems.

I only got to catch the first half of their set due to a scheduling conflict with Phish, but was still mesmerized, and found it difficult to look away. John and Joy have sort of a lovers’ chemistry going through the performance, but they are both married to different people. It could be just what sells their songs. For some reason I think of the scene from Step Brothers where Will Ferrell is singing to his therapist in the woods whenever I see John and Joy interact on stage.

And when they cover songs (I only got to see one) it is a sight to see. Because they don’t cover easy guitar/vocals songs. Before I left I got to see them cover Sour by Portishead, but according to www.setlist.fm, they also threw in covers of I Want You Back by Jackson 5, Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, and Dance Me To The End of Love by Leonard Cohen.

The Civil Wars are a great band to see live. They’re so fun to watch that you almost forget that you’re standing there doing nothing for 90 minutes (or sitting there, depending on the venue.)

But at 7:00, we left and headed to catch the band that I really wanted to see. More than any other band at Bonnaroo. I was ready for one of the greatest live experiences in the history of ever.

Setlist: Tip of My Tongue, Forget Me Not, From This Valley, 20 Years, I’ve Got This Friend, Sour (Portishead cover), Barton Hollow, Falling, Birds of a Feather, I Want You Back (Jackson 5 cover), Oh Henry, My Father’s Father, Poison and Wine ENCORE: Kingdom Come, To Whom It May Concern, Billie Jean (Michael Jackson cover), Dance Me To the End of Love (Leonard Cohen cover)

Chapter 6: A Tasty Phish Philet

One thing Bonnaroo was known for pre-2006 was its impressive lineup of jam bands. They’ve hosted Umphrey’s McGee 7 times, as well as bands like Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule, The String Cheese Incident, and members of the Grateful Dead. But no jam band (that currently tours) is as highly regarded as the legendary and almighty Phish!

If you’ve visited this website at all, then you probably know that the majority of its contributors are huge Phish fans. I mean, just look at how big the word “Phish” is on the tag cloud at the right of this post!

Anyway, I was anxious to finally see Phish. To finally see what Reverend Justito and thenaturalstoner have been talking about all these years. To see what guest they bring out and what covers they do and just… everything! I was prepared. Come at me, Phish!

At around 8:05 or so the lights went down and out from Stage Right appear the mighty phoursome: Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, and Jon Fishman. As Mike started to hit his bass (which was set to phaser) I thought it would be too good to be true: They would kick things off with Down With Disease? Nah! Can’t be! And then Mike slaps the bass riff and I knew from that moment that this would be the greatest thing I see at Bonnaroo. And I was not disappointed.

After Down With Disease they played Funky Bitch, a Son Seals cover, during which Mike Gordon took over singing duties. Afterwards they went right on into The Moma Dance during which Jon handled most of the singing. After a very funky performance of Moma I heard the chord progression to Sample In a Jar and once again had that feeling of “Nah! It can’t be!” But lo and behold, another shining moment from the Hoist album played within the first half of Set 1. And at this moment the rain that was looming over us started pouring a little bit harder and the glowsticks started going up and down at a faster rate. Seriously, I saw more glowsticks being thrown around during Phish than I did during Skrillex.

It really did seem like Phish brought their A-Game, and with two of my favorite songs already making an appearance, what could happen next I could not even begin to imagine. They followed Sample with Axilla I which I don’t think is on any of their studio albums. I know Axilla Part 2 is on Hoist, but I know nothing of a part 1.

Anyway, after Axilla, Trey invited up the special guest that everyone was so anxious to see. “It seems like every time we come here we get to play with people who we really admire, and, um, and we’re going to bring up someone we’re absolutely thrilled to play with right now. Please give a warm welcome to Kenny Rogers.” This was totally unexpected in my opinion. Kenny, who played a set earlier that day, seemed happy to play to a crowd bigger than his usual turnout of 300, while Trey could barely contain his excitement to be performing with the country-music legend. And with that, they broke into The Gambler, the one Kenny Rogers song that I didn’t even know I knew.

As much as I would love to go into each individual song and tell you how much I loved it, I just don’t want to write a review THAT long. But I will leave you with a setlist, and on a note that explains how much fun I had.

Bonnaroo was just nonstop fun. Sure, I only got like 3 hours of sleep each night. Sure I felt disgusting most of the time. And sure it was crowded and hot and expensive and there were long lines for things. Either way, I can’t for the life of me think of a time where I had so much fun at a place ever. If you get the chance, hit your local festival. Coachella, Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, Fire Fly, Wakarusa, Dave Matthews Band Caravan; whatever it is, it’ll be worth going to. Trust me.

Setlist: SET 1 Down with Disease, Funky Bitch (Son Seals c0ver), The Moma Dance, Sample In A Jar, Axilla I, The Gambler (with Kenny Rogers), Possum>Wilson>Tweezer, Free, Backwards Down the Number Line, Cavern SET 2 Golden Age (TV On the Radio cover), 2001 (Richard Strauss cover), Chalkdust Torture, Carini>Shafty>Rock and Roll (Velvet Underground cover), Alaska, Harry Hood>Light, Character Zero, Rocky Top (Lynn Anderson cover) ENCORE Show of Life>Julius>Tweezer Reprise

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGWwqfeYErA&feature=player_embedded

Epilogue

Of all the shows I caught, I’d say the best was Phish. Without a doubt. Childish Gambino and Radiohead get 2nd and 3rd. After that, it’s pretty much up for grabs. I wasn’t disappointed at all by anyone I saw. Bad Brains were a little sloppy and Red Hot Chili Peppers had issues connecting with the audience, but overall everything I saw was nigh perfect. And with that, in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.

Bonnaroo Part II: Electric Boogaloo

Bonnaroo Part II: Electric Boogaloo

Chapter 1: Saturday Morning

After three and a half hours of sleep, we woke up to the lovely sound of people chatting and cars driving on the road adjacent to our tent. Saturday would be definitely be our most exciting and energetic day, and it didn’t even start until 1:45 in the afternoon.

With that, we ate breakfast, hung around, and decided that it probably wouldn’t be a horrible idea to take a $7 shower. We got in line and spoke to the dudes behind us and prepared for the hour-long wait to take the legendary Bonnaroo $7 shower. And after a day spent literally walking around in clouds of dirt and dust, it felt ridiculously good. If you go to Bonnaroo, definitely take a shower. You never know how much dirt is collecting on your skin until you see it all wash off beneath you.

At around noon-ish or so, my dad and I headed into Centeroo to catch legendary punk act Bad Brains perform at That Tent, which would be followed immediately by Celtic-punk band Flogging Molly in the same tent.

Chapter 2: Bad Brains and Flogging Molly

Of the many legendary acts at this year’s Bonnaroo (Beach Boys, Alice Cooper, Danzig, Kenny Rogers) the one that I was excited about the most was Bad Brains. I have been listening to them for quite a while, and to finally be able to catch their brand of punk/reggae/metal is something that I absolutely was excited for.

Bad Brains certainly delivered. Lead singer H.R. isn’t as enthusiastic and energetic as he used to be and it seems as though he’s aged 15 years since 2006, but the crowd enjoyed it nonetheless.

Another impressive thing about Bad Brains is how they got away with shredding guitar solos, something that usually isn’t found in punk music. And guitarist Dr. Know still plays them incredibly well. Needless to say, I was stunned by how tight Bad Brains sound, even though they aren’t as young as they used to be.

Unfortunatley, H.R.’s microphone wasn’t loud enough so I couldn’t hear a word he said when he went to talk to the crowd. And if anyone at Bonnaroo had something interesting to say, it was H.R.

Bad Brains played a set that relied pretty heavily on their seminal 1982 debut Bad Brains, which was released 30 years ago. They played quite a few songs from that record including Sailin On, Attitude, Banned in D.C., and the encore performance of Pay to Cum. I was a bit disappointed that Big Takeover wasn’t a part of the setlist, but I survived.

After Bad Brains, the stage was being set up for Flogging Molly. And when they came on, the crowd went nuts. Flogging Molly played a great set with a combination of songs old and new, and they even through in a juiced up cover of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’ which was a pleasant surprise.

Flogging Molly was a lot of fun. They put on a fantastic show. “Is it too early to start drinking?” asked singer Dave King. According to the inebriated crowd, it wasn’t. He also gave the one-finger salute (as did most of the audience) to the gentleman holding the Scottish flag.

Flogging Molly played an impressive setlist, featuring songs such as The Likes of You Again, Whistles the Wind, Drunken Lullabies, Saints & Sinners, Requiem For a Dying Song, and the set-closing smash hit Seven Deadly Sins.

Chapter 3: OK, It’s Childish Gambino

One of my favorite rappers to make it big within the last few years is definitely Childish Gambino. His rapid-fire delivery of arrogant jokes and insults should make him annoying, but some how he still comes off as an amazingly likable person. If you have any sort of taste in television, then you know him from NBC’s hidden gem Community, which many Gambino fans love. But he’s just as great on record as he is on screen, and I was thrilled to finally be able to catch him live, considering he’s playing literally every major festival this year.

One of the great things about Gambino live is that he plays his songs with a full band behind him. It really does give the songs more of a genuine feeling, like they’re actually being played, not just getting a dude with a laptop to play the backing tracks.

At around 6:15 or so, the opening vocal track of Outside played over the loudspeakers, thus kicking off a phenomenal 80 minutes of nonstop Gambino. Donald Glover graced the stage with his ominous yet cheerful presence and was greeted by thousands of adoring fans, possibly more than he’s ever seen at a festival. Outside was followed by the second song on his debut album Camp, Fire Fly. Then he played two tracks from his Culdesac mixtape: So Fly and Do Ya Like.

So far, I was having a great time. I was ready to see what Gambino would do next. Apparently the technicians were experiencing difficulties with the screen, so Gambino did the only logical thing: jump into a freestyle. Normally, I listen to a freestyle and think “Pff…that was totally planned.” But this time, it felt like he genuinely had nothing to do but freestyle and he came up with it on the spot. And he is pretty good at it. I’ve always had respect for rappers who can freestyle on a whim and with such confidence.

By the time he was done, everything was fixed and worked properly, so he jumped into Rolling in the Deep (remix) which was followed by one of his biggest hits Freaks and Geeks. And the show just got better and better. Childish Gambino is an amazing performer, and he even threw in a couple new tracks from his upcoming mixtape, including Tell Me, during which he invited Heems from Das Racist to perform with him.

If there is any rapper you catch in the future, let it be Childish Gambino. He is just amazing. And I find it crazy that he seems like he is egotistical, but he is still likable. Someone who Kanye wishes he could be. But yes. See Childish Gambino at some point. He slays.

Setlist: Outside, Fire Fly, So Fly, Do Ya Like, Freestyle, Rolling in the Deep (remix), Freaks and Geeks, Difference/I’m On It, I Be On That, All the Shine, L.E.S., Letter Home, Heartbeat, You See Me, Bonfire, Sunrise, Rack City (remix), We Ain’t Them, Make Amends (with Steve G. Lover), Freaks and Geeks (alternate version with Steve G. Lover), Unnecessary (with Steve G. Lover), Tell Me (with Heems), Lights Turned On

Chapter 4: Dispatch

One of my favorite discoveries of the last year is Dispatch. Yeah I know it’s stereotypical white people music, but they are talented musicians and write catchy songs. So shut up.

Dispatch played the same stage that Gambino played, so we didn’t have to do much moving after Gambino ended. Although I was a bit sad that we wouldn’t be able to catch the whole thing. We wanted a good spot for Red Hot Chili Peppers, so we would have to leave Dispatch 30 minutes early. Regardless, they were a great live band.

The three-piece came on at about 8:30 and kicked things off with Time Served which lead right into the one-two punch of Here We Go and Open Up, both of which I’m glad I got to hear.

Dispatch also broke into songs like Bang Bang, Two Coins, and Melon Bend as well as their most recent song (from their upcoming album Circles Around the Sun) Not Messin‘. Overall, they are a very fun band to watch, at the very least to see all their fans sing every word to every song. Seriously. Every word.

After they finished Melon Bend, we headed out to try and get a good spot for RHCP, a band I’d been listening to for over 10 years.

Chapter 5: They’re Red Hot!

Background info: My dad saw Red Hot Chili Peppers at Lollapalooza 1992, the same year that Pearl Jam, Ice Cube, and Soundgarden played. 20 years later, he takes his son to see Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now back to the story.

Red Hot Chili Peppers are a band that I’ve wanted to see for a long time. And even though they are no longer with John Frusciante, they still sound great and have insane amounts of energy and stage presence.

Chili Peppers kicked things off with a sloppy performance of Monarchy of Roses which didn’t really connect with the audience. I was a little worried that the whole performance would be like this, but they picked it up with Can’t Stop which was followed by their other hits Dani California and Scar Tissue. They went back to their new album I’m With You to play another recent single Look Around. It all sorta went downhilll from their until a little later when it all picked up again.

They went into Throw Away Your Television followed by Charlie, The Adventures of Raindance Maggie, and Right On Time. The energy level wasn’t really high and no one was really familiar with these lesser known songs from their albums. But it all picked up with a surprising performance of If You Have to Ask from their 1991 magnum opus Blood Sugar Sex Magik. After a semi-decent performance of Factory of Faith, they went into a four-song attack of hits: Under the Bridge, Higher Ground, Californication, and the set-closing By the Way.

After a few minutes they came back onstage with a drum/percussion jam that led right into Suck My Kiss followed by Ethiopia and then followed by Give It Away. Afterwards they did a jam that vaguely resembled a song (according to www.setlist.fm it was called Never Is a Long Time) and they left the stage, with a reminder from Flea to support all live music, no matter what genre.

Red Hot Chili Peppers played a pretty great set despite a few setbacks. They’re a fun band to catch and one of those bands where even if you hate them you know all the words to their songs.

Setlist: Monarchy of Roses, Can’t Stop, Dani California, Scar Tissue, Look Around, Throw Away Your Television, Charlie, The Adventures of Raindance Maggie, Right on Time, If You Have to Ask, Factory of Faith, Under the Bridge, Higher Ground, Californication, By the Way ENCORE: Chad & Mauro Jam, Suck My Kiss, Ethiopia, Give It Away, Final Jam (Never Is A Long Time)

Chapter 6: My… Name… Is…. Skrillex

One of the most notorious villains of the dubstep genre is Skrillex. Without a doubt. Everyone either loves him or hates him, and even many fans of dubstep hate him. Why? To be honest, I have no clue whatsoever. Perhaps because he took a genre that was underground and turned it into something popular? I don’t know. But I was ready to end my Saturday night with a late night rager.

We finally made it into the pit (it wasn’t as crowded as I expected) and at about 1:30 AM a 3 minute  countdown appeared on the screen which was right behind the space ship DJ deck that Skrillex had used for the past year or so.

At the end of the countdown, the long-haired big-glasses-wearing vodka-drinker appeared and dropped the bass for the hungry ravers below.

As glowsticks rained from the sky and basses were graciously dropped, the crowd lost their collective minds for the reigning king of brostep. He threw in some of his popular songs like Bangarang, Cinema, First of the Year (Equinox), and the show-closing Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. He even threw in a remix of Sabotage by the Beastie Boys (probably his tribute to MCA) as well as a remix of Bassnectar’s Upside Down and a mashup of Sweet Shop by Doctor P and Bass Cannon by Flux Pavilion. Yeah, I know my stuff.

The crowd was obviously ready for the ruffneck bass, and Skrillex was more than happy to deliver. If you enjoy dubstep and you’re not a snobby douche about it, Skrillex is definitely a show you want to catch.

After Skrillex’s show ended, the sprinkling that washed off the dirty crowd throughout the show turned into pouring rain that lasted well into the morning. All in all, a great show, a great day, and I was ready for a relaxing Sunday to end a perfect weekend.

Click here to read part 1 of Jakob’s Bonnaroo Experience

Bonnaroo 2012 Part I: Fellowship of the Ring

Bonnaroo 2012 Part I: Fellowship of the Ring

 Prologue

‘Twas mid-November 2011. I had finally come to terms with the morbid fact that I, Jakob Ross, would be forced to move to Grovetown, Georgia, which (unless you’ve not read my more recent articles) you probably know by now. Around this time I had made the decision to do the one thing that would make the move worth it. I’m not talking about humidity, rednecks, or seeing more back sweaters than real sweaters. I’m talking about the legendary Bonnaroo festival which takes place annually in Manchester, Tennessee.

At first, it was sort of a joke. Then came the lineup announcement, and both my dad and I knew this would be maybe our only chance to hit a world-famous music festival before I’m off to college and he’s off to his 40s. With Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Phish handling head-lining duties, I knew that missing this festival would be the biggest mistake of my life. Come February, our wristbands were purchased and the official countdown could begin.

Fast-forward to the beginning days of June 2012. My dad made the decision to pick up a carpooler outside of Atlanta and the countdown was in the single digits. Finally, on Thursday June 7 and after my dad got home from work, we were off. We set sail on the mighty Oceanus Interstatus and were starving for delicious servings (17 to be exact) of amazing bands. They were the best of times, they were the worst of times. Or something.

Chapter 1: Thursday Night

We parked at around 9:30 PM started setting up our tents. Unfortunately there was not enough room to fit both our tent and our guest’s tent. And our car didn’t have enough power for us to blow up our air mattress. So, we set up our tent a bit farther away, decided to sleep on a deflated mattress, and pushed on. At about 11 PM we went into Centeroo (where all the stages are) in hopes of catching Alabama Shakes at This Tent. Unfortunately, the crowd was so big that there was no way we could’ve seen anything. Same goes for Big Gigantic at That Tent and MiMosa at The Other Tent.

Downtrodden and after a slice of pizza, we made our way back to camp to get the best night’s sleep we could hope to get at a festival with no curfews and with bands going all night long. I knew I would feel it the enthusiasm the next morning. Just needed some well-deserved and well-needed R&R.

Chapter 2: Friday Morning

Although we had our alarm set for 10 AM, we quickly learned that sleeping in past 8 is nigh impossible. So, with a good three hours or so to kill until our first act of the festival, The Kooks, we hung out. Got to talk to our neighbors and I even got to meet BeezNutz, a member of the St. Louis chapter of the CC Family.

After a major family-related setback that jeopardized our stay at Bonnaroo, we sorted through it and prepared to make another journey into Centeroo. We explored our general area (thankfully we were close to the port-a-potties) and made good use of the free wash area, which was great for teeth-brushing, shaving, hand-washing, etc. At 10:30 AM (our car was still adjusted to Eastern Time so I thought it was 11:30) we made our way second voyage to Centeroo to catch 2nd wave Britpop band The Kooks at Which Stage.

Chapter 3: The Kooks and the Comedy Theatre

After an hour and 45 minutes of waiting (again, blaming the car here) The Kooks graced the stage to bring their contagiously catchy brand of happiness and smiles to the crowd that was gathered to watch. They played what I’m pretty sure were quite a few of their hits: Is It Me?, She Moves Her Own Way, Ooh La, Junk of the Heart (Happy), and Naive. Their set was pretty fun to watch, actually. I’m not the biggest Kooks fan in the world, but they are great when it comes to summertime music, especially a sunny Friday afternoon at Bonnaroo. In terms of Britpop I’d most likely compare them to Pulp more than I would to Oasis or Blur, mostly because of the cheeriness among the band and the feel of the music.

After their set ended and we grabbed some lunch, we headed over to the comedy tent to try and grab some tickets to catch Aziz Ansari. To get into a comedy show you have to grab tickets which they hand out 2 hours in advance. And for some reason I didn’t expect the line to stretch out to 2000 people. After deciding that it’s not worth it, we walked around to see what else was going on (there’s ALWAYS something going on.)

Chapter 4: SOJA

Celebrating a successful Thursday night set, Virginia-based reggae band SOJA, who have some of the nattiest dreads I’ve ever seen on white people, hit the Solar Stage, a solar-powered mini-stage that hosts environmentally conscious bands and artists that play some songs and do a Q&A session.

At about 2:05 the eight-piece came out and put on a very four-song set, interspersed with questions curated by…. some dude. I was sorta hoping it would be an audience participation sort of thing where we could ask the questions. I really wanted to ask Jacob Hemphill how high he was at that moment, on a scale of 1 to Snoop Dogg.

Either way, it was great to see them break into acoustic version of songs such as Strength to Survive and Nothing Ever Changes. Based on the interview they seem like legitimately cool dudes and I’m glad we got to check out their set. And with that we made our way to see a last-minute addition to the Ross Duo’s Official Bonnaroo schedule: Fitz and the Tantrums.

Chapter 5: Fitz and the Tantrums & St. Vincent

Sometimes fate can be great. Fitz and the Tantrums just so happened to be playing That Tent, which would be followed in the same tent by St. Vincent, one of my must-see artists of Bonnaroo.

This was my first time in one of the tents, so discovering that the ground was sand was quite the surprise. This would mean that if the crowd got crazy, a huge sand cloud would form and make its way into the lungs of the hundreds of people gathered to see whichever band. It’s already pretty dusty at the farm, so whoever thought it was a good idea to put sand on the ground was a moron. But that’s just my opinion.

At about 5, neo-soul group Fitz and the Tantrums appeared on stage to many adoring fans. And despite what Reverend Justito might say, they put on a fantastic show. The music is simple enough for most people to get and fun enough for most people to dance to. They even through in their covers of Steady As She Goes and Sweet Dreams Are Made of This, making both songs way cheerier than they actually are.

Singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs have a great chemistry and seem to play characters during their songs which reflect their attitude. Sometimes they’ll get up in each others faces West Side Story style and other times they’ll smile at each other and dance. That is only a part of what makes them so great live. Add in the insane amount of audience participation (my hands were sore from clapping along) and you’ve got a Fitz and the Tantrums show. They ended their set with their career-starting hit MoneyGrabber and even pulled a Slipknot by having the ground crouch to the ground and jump up at the song’s climax.

Setlist: Don’t Gotta Work It Out, Winds of Change, Pickin’ Up The Pieces, Wake Up, Breakin’ the Chains of Love, Rich Girls, The End, Steady As She Goes, Tighter, 6 AM, L.O.V., New Song, Dear Mr. President, News 4 U, Sweet Dreams, MoneyGrabber

After Fitz ended, we grabbed some food and took a quick bathroom break before preparing to have our faces melted off by St. Vincent. I made my way into the crowd because I knew this would be a show I wouldn’t want to miss.

Annie Clark is to women what Dave Grohl is to men. She is an astoundingly talented musician, singer, songwriter, and just all-around cool person. Her 17-song 75-minute no-holds-barred set at Bonnaroo showcased her talents, both on her axe and on her vocal chords. She played mostly songs from her stellar 2011 record Stranger Mercy, but broke out a couple songs from her other records Actor and Marry Me.

One thing you notice about Annie Clark is her guitar playing. The guitar is almost an extra appendage for her; to see her perform without it would be like seeing the drummer of Def Leppard lose his other arm. And she is full of emotion, too. At times she is ominous and borderline scary, kind of like Winona Rider in Beetlejuice; other times she is happy and cute, kind of like Winona Rider in Heathers. (Those will be the only Winona Rider comparisons because those are the only movies with her I’ve seen.) Couple that with the “How did she make her guitar sound like that?” effect that benefited Jimi Hendrix, Kevin Shields, and Tom Morello, and you’ve got a face-melting show from an insanely talented person. Long live Annie Clark.

Setlist: Marrow, Cheerleader, Chloe in the Afternoon, Save Me From What I Want, Actor Out of Work, Dilettante, Black Rainbow, Cruel, Surgeon, Champagne Year, Neutered Fruit, Year of the Tiger, Northern Lights, She Is Beyond Good And Evil, The Party, Your Lips Are Red, Krokodil

Chapter 6: Radiohead and Major Lazer

After St. Vincent’s glorious set, we headed over to the What Stage to catch the first headliner of the festival, Radiohead. Earlier this year, I didn’t care much at all about Radiohead, but I’ve slowly been turned onto them after listening to more of their music and watching their more recent live performances. And what can I say? Radiohead absolutely delivered, and then some.

The set was devoted songs from 2011’s The King of Limbs and 2007’s In Rainbows without any doubt. Almost half the set, actually, was from those two albums. Other bits and pieces from Hail to the Thief, Amnesiac, Kid A, and OK Computer were scattered throughout, as well as the new tracks Identikit and Daily Mail.

The lights display for Radiohead is really what makes their show so fantastic. As the drum-and-bass rhythms reach an epic climax, the screen lights up brighter and brighter. There were even eight or so little screens that moved around above Thom and Co.

Say what you will about their music, especially their more recent music, but Radiohead are a phenomenal live band, and I’m glad I got to see them once.

Setlist: Bloom, 15 Step, Kid A, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Staircase, The Daily Mail, I Might Be Wrong, The Gloaming, Separator, Nude, Morning Mr. Magpie, Identikit, Lotus Flower, There There, Karma Police, Feral, Idioteque ENCORE 1: You and Whose Army?, House of Cards, Supercollider (dedicated to Jack White), Bodysnatchers, Everything In Its Right Place ENCORE 2: Give Up the Ghost, Reckoner (dedicated to Red Hot Chili Peppers), Paranoid Android

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXI32GHRjvg&feature=player_embedded

After the longest Radiohead show of the year ended (this is a fact), we headed over to This Tent to catch dubstep/electronic/reggae duo Major Lazer and then make our way into the crowd for Umphrey’s McGee’s late night set.

Electronica and reggae were two things I never thought would go together, but Major Lazer makes it work so perfectly well. DJs Diplo and Scratch played music for everybody to dance to, from  the fat men to the topless women they were begging to see.

Audience participation is a big part of their show, they even brought a guy on stage and had their dancers give him the Major Lazer treatment, whatever that is. Their set was a lot of fun, but whoever the hype man is, he is wicked obnoxious. Just saying.

Chapter 7: Umphreaks’ Delight

Umphrey’s McGee are a band that, to be honest, I hadn’t heard much of. But per the recommendation of CC family members, we made the decision to stick around until 4 in the morning to catch a super-special late night Umphrey’s McGee set. And you know what, we had a lot of fun!

20 minutes had passed since they were supposed to take the stage, and nothing had happened. The stage was set up and everything was tuned. Then, the lights went down and Umphrey’s came out and blew the roof off This Tent.

Umphrey’s opened up with Gurgle which led right into 40’s Theme, the latter of which featured a tease One Nation Under A Groove by Funkadelic. Then they went into Plunger which led right into The Floor. Afterwards they played Pay the Snucka with a Stranglehold tease, which jammed on into the Triple Wide which eventually led back into Pay the Snucka, this time with a Bulls on Parade tease.

Umphrey’s played like absolute maniacs. The two guitarists are amazing at what they do, and watching them do the overhand finger-tapping was insane. If I passed these people on the street, I would NEVER in a million years think “That guy must be an insane guitar player.”

At around 4, Umphrey’s invited up the special guest that everyone was speculating about: Big Gigantic. The saxophone player did a sax solo as the members of UM left the stage. Big Gigantic did a jam before Umphrey’s came back on and did a second set that lasted til 6 in the morning!

As cool as it would have been to say that I was there, I just couldn’t stay up that long. So we left after Big Gigantic came on got 3 hours of sleep.

Setlist: Gurgle > 40’s Theme*, Plunger – > The Floor, Pay the Snucka** > The Triple Wide > Pay the Snucka$, Puppet String, JaJunk > Breathe$$ (Pink Floyd cover) > Plunger, Ringo^ > All In Time&, Bright Lights Big City, 1348 > Hajimemashite, Miss Tinkle’s Overture > Thunderstruck (AC/DC cover) > Miss Tinkle’s Overture, Booth Love, Wizard Burial Ground ENCORE: In the Kitchen&& > JaJunk

* with One Nation Under a Groove (Funkadelic) tease
** with Stranglehold (Ted Nugent) jam
$ with Bulls On Parade (Rage Against the Machine)
$$ dub
^ full band switch with Big Gigantic
& with Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (Michael Jackson) jam
&& unfinished

Chapter 8: Day Complete

Quite a successful day if I do say so myself. I wasn’t disappointed at all by any band I saw. And I could say that I got 3 hours of sleep at Bonnaroo! Because seriously, you’re not gonna sleep in after 8 in the morning. Trust me.

Mighty Mighty Bosstones Announce Summer Vacation Tour Dates

Mighty Mighty Bosstones Announce Summer Vacation Tour Dates

Third-wave ska-kings The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who you may remember as the band you couldn’t get away from during freshman year of college, are back! Well, technically they were back in 2007 when they reformed after a four year hiatus, but they’re back to tour in support of their December 2011 CD The Magic of Youth.

They are well-known for energetic live performances and good times all around! My dad hung out with them in college in the early 90s before they were even slightly famous. And now you get to hang out with them if you live in the Northeast! And will they have that guy who just dances on stage? Almost definitely!

So if you can, catch these guys live. And here’s hoping that there will be more Summer Vacation dates coming soon (surprisingly, no Boston date.)

Aug 03 Hampton Beach, NH Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
Aug 04 Philadelphia, PA Trocadero
Aug 06 New York, NY Webster Hall
Aug 07 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
Aug 09 Buffalo, NY Thursday at the Harbor FREE SHOW!
Aug 10 Chicago, IL Metro
Aug 11 Minneapolis, MN First Avenue

This post will be updated as more info is released.

Photo credit courtesy of Wikipedia.

 

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