Friday, June 27, 2008

Feed the Animals

An artists progress is always one of my favorite things to watch over a period of time. Does the sublime and innovative first album lead to a monotonous and drab sophomore album (the dreaded sophomore slump) or does the artist take their new found success and use it as premium to explore further sounds and try out new creative junctures (mostly using new technology not available during the recording of their debut). Most bands take distinct moves down one path or the other and you can quickly see whether bands are in for the long run or they are going to promptly fade away. The weird part is when you can tell they are going down the right path, yet you are disappointed.

Girl Talk pulled a Radiohead(pay your price)/Racountours(surprise release) with his release a few weeks back of his newest album Feed the Animals. (Greg Gillis has release multiple records under the Girl Talk moniker, but for argument sakes we will say Night Ripper was his first major release). Feed the Animals is the same genre as Night Ripper (wild party mashups), but it is a whole different beast after that initial distinction.


Before Night Ripper, my experience with mashups had always been that they were cool but always seemed amateur. While it was cool to hear Outkast rapping over a Rage Against the Machine song, it seemed like it lacked talent and creativity. I always thought to myself that I could do that with a little more computer know-how and the right software. The last step of this process was Dangermouse making the magnum opus of this sub-genre, his seminal Grey Album. That album really made me take notice, but it was a ripple in the water compared to the tsunami that was Night Ripper.

I specifically remember the moment when I heard the song "Smash your head " from Night Ripper. It was the first time I heard a mash up and thought, "Holy shit, that is really cool and I bet it took a lot of talent to make." I got chills when it got to the part of Biggie rapping about how people didn't think hip hop would get this far over "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John. The whole CD was amazing and it rarely left my stereo for almost a whole year and was on every single time we drank/went out (which was almost every night, which might explain why I liked the CD so much...it is hard to not like Girl Talk inebriated). Seeing Gillis live was also an eye opening experience. Although the first time was much better than the second (thanks to a asshole filled crowd, not really his fault), you could tell that he had improved greatly from the time he made Night Ripper. The songs were more detailed and the transitions were seamless, promoting me to be very excited for his new CD.

The CD was everything I had hoped for. The songs were great (I loved hearing "Here comes the hotstepper") and the record could not have been smoother. If you played it at a party, you would get that non-stop party mix you get when seeing him live. Even more than the last album, it was a piece of art, not just songs layered on top of each other on different tracks. There were many times when I listened to it where I had to look to see if the song was over, and it was three tracks later, which shows how smooth the transitions were. So why is it a let down to me?

I think it may be the lack of surprise. The first album was such a revelation to me that I will never be able to repeat that experience of hearing these amazing mash ups with fresh ears again. Maybe I am just getting too old and boring for this, I don't know. Maybe I just need to drink every night again like I did in college, who knows? I really want to like this album, but it just makes me want to go back in time to when Night Ripper blew my mind. I would still say that I highly recommend this album to pretty much anyone and it has about as high of fun ratio as you can get, but I can't help but feel a little bit let down. Maybe I need to mix a stronger drink and listen again...who knows.

Gonzo

I got the opportunity to see the new Hunter S Thompson documentray, Gonzo:the life and work of Dr. Hunter S Thompson. Being a HUGE Hunter S Thompson fan, I was very excited to see it when I saw the preview, but also a little nervous that it would be a flake out like US vs. John Lennon (that movie was the worst movie ever as far as the preview making the movie look amazing and the movie being a dud.)

Although it will not live in the patheon of my favorite movies, or even my favorite documentaries (Dig! and American Movie will always be tough to top), it was a very good movie. I imagine that it would be easy to make a documentary, especially about someone as influential and monsterous as HST, that simply flatters the subject and ignores the downsides. I didn't feel like this movie did that. For every person saying how great his writing was, there was a good portion of the movie that focused on fame and his multiple demons (guns, drugs, having to be the character that he created) that haunted Thompson and his family over the course of his life.
Although there was no new information to my eyes in this movie, there were a lot of really cool old videos/audio clips of Hunter that make the books and the legend come alive. I would highly reccomend this movie to even the most casual Hunter S Thompson fan (and even non fans...he was a fasinating man). There was that weird situation where I felt that the movie was a little long (around 2 hours), yet it skipped over many parts of his life that I was interested in. I suppose that shows the challenges that the producers faced when covering such a towering literary giant. Kudos to producer Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest guys in the room) on making such a great film on such a deserving subject.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rock the Garden

Rock the Garden at the Walker Art Center ended up being the one of the biggest hit and miss events I have been to in a long time. Here are my thoughts:

Hits:

The Bands- Although I agree with the guy from the Star Trib that said it was a little too generic, the bands all played great. It may have been a little too geared towards middle class, white, 89.3 listening quasi hipsters, but each band showed that they deserved to be on the stage.

Bon Iver sounded his usual hauntingly good, even thought I missed seeing him (look towards the misses section for that one)

Cloud Cult may have stolen the show from the headliners. Their stirring anthems sounded great outdoors and they had lots of energy and really got the crowd going.

The New Pornographers were bright and poppy and had the crowds eating out of their hands. AC Newman more than made up for the lack of Neko Case and Dan Bejar with his commanding presence and crack band making perfect music for a beautiful afternoon. Their extremely fun cover of "Don't Bring me Down" by ELO seemed to be the crowd favorite for the day.

Andrew Bird was simply amazing. Although I would not have minded to be sitting down, his set was both compelling and stirring. His looping is a sight to be seen and Martin Dosh is a magician on stage. I think some people were a little underwhelmed with his slower music after the New Pornogrpahers (I can't say the sun/standing didn't take something out of me too), but I think that the people who could see him on stage got a real treat.


The Poster(Photo is above): Man, I love screen printed concert posters. I never skip buying one at shows I am at, and I have found that I get a lot more satisfaction out of having walls covered with unique posters than having concert T-Shirts getting dusty in my closet. Although it is not my favorite one (a little too much going on), I was still happy to see one I could buy.


The Weather: Although I am about as white as humanly possible without being albino, it does feel good to be outside on a beautiful day. With enough sunscreen and some sunglasses, you really can't ask for more than good music outdoors on a nice day


Misses:

The Layout: First off, don't call it Rock the Garden if it is not in the fucking garden. I get the need for preservation, but it was on the street next to the Walker. That is just blatant misadvertising. Also, if your location is a long and narrow with the main entrance at one end, don't cram all of the beer/food lines at that end. I would bet a majority of the people there did not know about the 40 or so port-a-potties in the back that were barely used. They should lay it out so there is more of a flow to the whole process and it is not a cluster fuck in main areas.


Doors at 4, music at 4:30: I'm not sure who had the genius idea that 7,000 + people could give their tickets, get their bags searched and get through a line in 30 minutes. I know there were quite a few unhappy people standing on Hennepin at 4:30 listening to Bon Iver and wishing their $35 ticket would allow them to see him.


The Crowd: Seriously, do people really pay close to $40 for tickets to an event just to hang out? Besides the first 30 or so "rows" it seemed like well over half the people there were only at the event to drink and socialize. Can't you shut the fuck up when the bands are playing? There were a bunch of people around us who were facing AWAY FROM THE STAGE during the bands! If they didn't want to see the music, the least they could have done was go up on the hill or in the back. It is really frustrating having music you really like be drowned out by drunken whores and frat guys who are more enamored with $5 beers and showing off their lame tattoos (tribal armbands/Chinese symbols for the guys....tramp stamps for the ladies) than hearing the show. Really, it's cool, we get it....you are a rebel who has tattoos and drinks beer....I bet you are the only one here who fits that category, so way to go.


Overall, I have to say that the hits beat out the misses and I had a really good time. Now, it was not a good enough time to guarantee I would go back no matter what if they had it next year, but if the lineup was as appealing to me as this years was, I would make it a point to not miss this event in the coming years.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gospel Gossip/Ouija Radio

Friday night I was able to finally check out my neighborhood hipster hangout, Stasius Place(with their famous urinals (above)..."did you hear Al Capone used them?!"), where there were three bands playing that I really like. We ended up getting a late start for various reasons, so we missed Hojas Rojos. I have liked what I heard from them with their angular rock, so I will have to try to check them out another time.

We ended up getting their partway through Gospel Gossips set. Like other times I have seen them, they played shimmering dream pop. The songs can stand alone, but their My Bloody Valentine esqe jam outs are very cool live. Lead singer Sarah Nienaber is great with her blistering guitar and her shiny pop singing. The band is very solid and put on a great show like usual. The set heavily of songs from their excellent debut album Sing Into My Mouth, with a few new songs filling in the gaps.

The headliners of the evening were Ouija Radio. Lead singer Christy Hunt takes a little different approach to her female lead rock band than Sarah Nienaber and her crew do. In place of shoegaze pop is balls to the wall rock and roll. The kind of rock and roll where they did a cover of "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin and it did not seem one bit out of place. The three piece rocked in the White Stripes/Wolfmother vein of bringing a past generation back from the dead. They were really fun (especially after a night of heavy drinking) and I would highly suggest them (and Gospel Gossip) to anyone looking for some good local music.

I'm Getting Old

The Evening Rig are a band that I have been very interested in since picking up their latest album, Never Been'er. They have the classic Minnesota rustled alt rock/country vibe that I really like. Like other alt rock bands with country leaning done right (Drive by Truckers, Lucero, Replacements), the Evening Rig are both rough and melodic, adding a little twang to their great songwriting.

The Evening Rig played his last Thursday at the Hexagon bar, so I figured I would check them out. Upon arriving a little after 9:30, I found that there would be 4 bands playing. Now this is generally a good thing for me, but not after working 11 hours, so after the first band I decided to call it a night and head home. The next morning while I was surfing the Internet, I found out that the Evening Rig had decided to play second. So if I had stayed around for 10 more minutes and been a little less of a old man/pussy, I would have been able to see them. Let this be a lesson to you.....sleep is your enemy. Luckily for me (and you) The Evening Rig have a couple shows coming up in the near future, and I can still spin their great disc anytime I want.

Check them out at their Myspace page.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Half Way There...

Since I am part of the sick and twisted group that loves making/reading best of lists, I had been thinking of doing a mid-year list for the last couple of weeks. I wasn’t sure when was too soon, but then I saw Gorilla Vs Bear’s list, and I figured that served as a figurative starting pistol, so here we go, lets see what I can remember from the last 6 months. If you are so inclined, leave your list at the bottom.

My top albums of 2008 (so far)

1)Dr. Dog- Fate

Who would have thought their bright and sunny west coast pop gems would sound so good when they got dragged into the darkness. Their new album is more somber, musically and lyrically, but suffers no great ills and is a wonderful followup to the equally amazing We All Belong.



2)Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes

Mesmerising beautiful folk music that is neither too timed nor too rough. It has a nice edge to it that helps separate them from lesser bands that fall into the traps of "freak folk."



3) Dodo’s- The Visitor

The most consistently enjoyable record of the year for me. It is filled with jangly/rustic folk rock songs from this talented duo. They are part Animal Collective esqe weirdness played on acoustic instruments with weird pop melodies. An added bonus is that a couple of songs sound like they could be outtakes from The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs, which is a great feat for someone like me who loves that record very, very much.



4) Wolf Parade- At Mount Zoomer

I have already seen some backlash, but these guys are for real. I have come out as a Dan guy, but Spencer brings it enough to make this a strikingly good album. Both men have enough talent on their own, but together they seem to be virtually unstoppable. They also did well for themselves on the combined effort on the finale "Kissing the Beehive." If you ever wondered what an epic 11 minutes Wolf Parade jam written and sung on by both singers would sound like, you finally have your answer. (The correct answer is awesome)



5)Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Dig, Lazarus, Dig

Nick Cave continues his sinister ways with his second bone rattling release in as many years. For a man who is in his fifties, he is having little trouble writing insanely catchy/original songs and having his more than competent backing bands (whether Grinderman or The Bad Seeds) fill out his wonderful songs



6) Beach House- Devotion

This record falls into the "pretty" and "beautiful" category more than any other record on the list. The he and she duo create lush soundscapes that she delicately croons over. I was a little disappointed live, but I have not once been let down by this wonderfully warm record.



7)Plants and Animals- Parc Avenue

Maybe my favorite find for me this year has been Plants and Animals. Their songs are fairly standard indie numbers, but they find a way to make them very interesting. Many of the songs wind up being 7 or 8 minutes long, but they are so well written and played with Arcade Fire like emotion, that they all work out very well.



8) Sigur Ros-Með suð i eyrum við spilum endalaust

Like the Black Keys (below), Sigur Ros was a band that I had at one point fallen for very hard, only to find that their later work only let me down. Like the Black Keys, their new album has renewed my interest and shown that although they don;t always bat 1.000, they are still capable of making wonderful music. This album returns to the old Sigur Ros of strikingly beautiful atmospheric music that you can easily lose yourself inside of.



9) Black Keys- Attack and release

Another band whom I loved many years ago came back with a vengeance. Was it Danger Mouse producing, or did they simply re-find the magic themselves? Either way, this is a stirring album that finds that elusive mix combining both the rock and the roll to make a unique album that bears repeat visits.



10) Vampire Hands- Me and you Cherry Red

My only local release on the list belongs to a band that I have slowly found to be one of my favorites. Vampire Hands create moody, Velvet Underground/Can type driving rock and roll with soaring melodies adding to the mix. The record is a great mix of the best aspects of indie rock. It is equally challenging and abstract while being poppy and easy on the ears. The pulsing rhythms also translate well live and only add to the stature of this great Minneapolis band.

Best of the Rest
Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend; El Guincho- Alegranza; Cut Copy- In Ghost Colours; Sun Kil Moon- April; Hold Steady- Stay Positive; Deerhunter- Microcastle; Clinic- Do it!; Crescent Moon is in Big Trouble- Crescent Moon is in Big Trouble; Lykke Li- Youth Novels; Fuck buttons- Street Horrrsing; Air France - No Way Down; Shearwater- Rook; Frightened Rabbit-The Midnight Organ Fight...probably many. many more that I am neglecting.

SONGS
(If the bands album was mentioned, they don't get a song because all of the albums mentioned warrant complete attention to all of the songs)
Why- The Hollows
Hold Steady- Stay Positive
Grizzly Bear- While you wait for others
Spiritualized- Soul on Fire
Dosh- If you want to, you have to
Santagold- L.E.S Artistes
No Age- Eraser

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lil' Wayne- The Carter III

So whatever you think of him, Lil' Wayne is proving to be both a commercial and critical juggernaut. He seems to have found himself at juncture of the best of both worlds. He can do no wrong in the eyes of the influential bloggers who have latched on to the trendy "coke-rap" genre (Clipse, Ghostface Killah) as the form of rap that the indie world infatuates over(goodbye emo....sorry Atmosphere fans). Unlike those two other artists riding high on critical acclaim, he is also selling a TON of records and climbing up the charts with the support of the club kids. Why is that? This is a question that I have been asking myself lately and I think has been on more than a few other peoples minds. Kyle “El GuanteMyhre(a pretty great rapper himself) of the local blog Culture Bully seems to have answered this question. His article is both interesting and very thought provoking for anyone who follows the indie music scene that can sometimes baffle people with the artists that it props up. Check it out.

If you want to judge this Lil' Wayne character yourself, check out his Myspace page and hear the man behind the legend. My two cents is that he is uber interesting and different, but I don't buy the hype. I get that some people like crazy weird stuff, which is cool, but the mass infatuation simply confounds me. He sounds like a stoner growling rhymes over club beats....which is interesting and all, but not world changing, IMHO. One thing that I will say is that The Carter III has set the bar pretty high for mind bogglingly awesome album covers.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dosh

Dosh is one of those artists who I thoroughly enjoy and never tire of, but don't feel like I give enough credit to. Sure, he makes epic/beautiful loop heavy CD after CD. Sure, he has helped solidify and improve Andrew Birds overall sound. Sure, his music has the chameleon quality of finding a way to sound perfect for any situation (happy, sad, upbeat, late night). He takes the reflective atmospheric nature of sample based music like DJ Shadow, the Avalanches or Boards of Canada and ups the ante by creating all of the music like a plugged in one man band. His newest CD came out a recently and is title Wolves and Wishes and continues of the winning ways that Dosh has developed. Below is a MP3 one of my favorite songs from the new album called "If you want to, you have to". Also below is a link for a MUST SEE video of the song "Capture the Flag" from the new release. It was created in his basement (where he makes his music) and shows his unreal genius. I cannot recommend this video high enough. Even if you don't like the music, you have to respect his skill at his craft. Check out his new CD or any of his similarly great older releases.

Dosh will be headlining a hometown show on June 27th at First Avenue. Opening will be two adventurous and innovative local hip hop groups, Kill the Vultures and P.O.S. It should be a great show. Tickets are $12.


MP3: Dosh- If you want to, you have to (from Wolves and Wishes)
Video: Dosh- Capture the Flag (Video from his basement)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dan Boeckner

Isn't it interesting when something sneaks up on you and then you realize it has been there all along? Dan Boeckner has been writing/recording/performing consistently brilliant material for the last couple of years, and I have only in the last couple of months come to realize he is one of the strongest singer/songwriters of this waning decade. His work with his original band, Atlas Strategic, while not being his strongest, showed his massive potential many years ago. They put out 1 full length, Rapture, Ye Minions!, and one tour EP, That's Familiar!. Both are very strong records and I would recommend them to any fans of Dan's later work.

I began my Wolf Parade fandom by being a Spencer guy, but I have now switched my alliance (I suppose you don't need to choose one or the other, but it is more fun that way.) Looking back, I liked the whole Apologies to the Queen Mary CD so much that I really couldn't really separate my allegiance. (When you love every song, who gives a shit who wrote each one, right?) I think my confusion began when Spencer (with Sunset Rubdown) put out the wonderful Shut up I am Dreaming, which included the unbelievable song Stadiums and Shine II, which had me tripping over myself every time I heard it. This tipped the scales temporarily to Spencer, but Dan did not sit out quietly.

Last year both singers released new albums with their side projects. Spencer released the mildly underwhelming Random Spirit Lover, while Dan joined his wife to be to form the Handsome Furs. Their debut, Plague Park, was a brooding work that showed Dan's unreal songwriting ability. The songs had the same dark atmosphere of his Wolf Parade songs, but were more driven by a singer-songwriter creed. It was like the Boss had taken a left turn and decided to write dark songs about suffocating cities with bare bones song structures and a drum machine. It was brilliant. Now comes the new Wolf Parade record.

Titled At Mount Zoomer, the record is showing the growing schism between the two songwriters. While Spencer has some good songs (especially "Call it a ritual"), it is Dan who shines throughout the disc. Each of his songs is a unabashed highlight and show Dan's strength in writing catchy yet moody indie rock songs. Hopefully this is only the start for Dan and his various projects.

Dan Boeckner will be back with Wolf Parade at First Ave on July 22nd and with Handsome Furs at the 7th street entry August 15th. Check out both of these shows and all of the CD's that have been mentioned.


Fleet Foxes

If you have not yet picket up your copy of Fleet Foxes eponymous debut CD, you should head down to the nearest (local) record store and get it. It is a perfect supplement to the gorgeous Sun Giant EP that they released earlier this year and a great disc to put on when the summer sun finally arrives. Both albums are warm folk records with soaring harmonies that sound both classic and fresh at the same time. The mellow baroque pop songs are a perfect mix of breezy summer jams and exuberant Neil Young esqe stompers. The CD is in the running for my year end top ten and I highly recommend it.

Fleet Foxes also put on one hell of a show. They will be back on July 20th at the 7th Street Entry for a bargain basement price of $10. This show comes with my highest reccomendations.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Apples in Stereo w/ Poison Control Center

Very cool local music blog switchblade comb has some information on the upcoming Apples in Stereo tour of our fair nation. If the legendary Elephant 6 groups sunny 60's psychedelic pop isn't enough for you (what, do you hate happiness and joy?) then you should go to support WHG favorites Poison Control Center. Hopefully this will be their chance to show the unsuspecting crowds how amazing they are and they will finally be able to not have to play shows with absolute shit openers.
The tour will hit the Turf Club on July 22nd, so your only excuse for missing would be that you are at the Hold Steady at First Ave. Otherwise, I expect everyone to be there.

Spiritualized CD/Show

The new Spiritualized record, Songs in A&E, is a departure from their former spacy drug soundscapes, but it works wonderfully. The record, written shortly before lead singer Jason Pierce's near death experience with double pneumonia 3 years ago and recorded after he came to, is a dark and haunted record (the title does not refer to musical notes, but the name of the unit he was housed in during his experience called Accident & Emergency) The songs are based in acoustic folk structures with the usual Spiritualized additions of choirs and soothing layers of sound. The record relies more heavily on the somber songwriting skills of Peirce, and his splendidly dark yet hopeful songs stand up next to the best work the band has ever done.

The band has just announced they will be headlining at First Avenue on September 10th with tickets going on sale this Friday. This should be a great show.

June/July @ 1st Ave/7th Street

(poster by Michael Birawer)

1st Ave and the 7th Street Entry keep up their winning ways in the next couple of months. Here are some shows that will almost universally be awesome. Check them out if sweltering summer heat is not your thing.

1st Ave
6/11/08 Iron and Wine 7:30PM $22
Probably the most mellow show on the list. Don't expect guitar heroics, but if haunting folk gems are your thing, don't miss this show.

6/27/08 Dosh/P.O.S/Killthe Vultures 8PM $12
A great representation of the diverse music in Minneapolis. Dosh brings his indie electronic genius while P.O.S and KTV both show how hip hop can be done in a non-generic way.

6/20/08 RZA as Bobby Digital 8PM $18
A rap godfather. Haven't heard the new cd, so I can't fully endorse this, but it still should be cool.

7/2/08 Drive By Truckers 7:30PM $20
By all accounts one of the best live bands out there. They constantly put out solid CD's and keep their tour machine moving.

7/9/08 Wolf Parade 8PM $15
One of my favorite bands of the last couple years is coming back supporting their great new CD At Mount Zoomer.

7/21/08 3rd World Tour (feat. Immortal Technique) 8PM $14
If forced to choose, I would pick Immortal Technique as my favorite rapper. His social/political rap is the perfect mix of smarty, funky and angry. This tour will almost certainly contain other rappers from this same genre.

7/22/08 Hold Steady 8PM $25
One of the best (live) bands in the world coming back home and playing in a bar where they belong (sorry Theatres).

7/30 CSS/the GO! Team 8PM $20
A lighthearted show that should be more fun than profound.



7th Street Entry
6/14/08 Lightspeed Champion 8PM $12
Former Test Icicles singer who after their breakup decided weirdo folk was his thing.

6/16/08 Constantines 8PM $12
Quirky indie rockers will bring their exciting live show to the 7th street entry.

6/21/08 Mark Mallman Early/Late $8
If you have never seen Mark Mallman live, do yourself a favor and see him. If not on this night of early and late shows, than sometime. He is one of the best performers in the cities.

6/25 Shearwater 8PM $8
Dramatic pop artists Shearwter come back to the 7th Street entry with a chance to headline and really strech out the songs from their excellent new disc Rook.

7/12/08 First Communion Afterparty 8PM $6
Minneapolis own answer to the Brian Jonestown Massacre with celebrate finally releasing their debut album.

7/20/08 Fleet Foxes 8PM $10
Fleet Foxes return to the 7th street entry, where a few months ago they gave one of the best shows I have seen all year opening for Blitzen Trapper. Their amazing new CD makes this show a can't miss.

Monday, June 9, 2008

He who wears the crown.....

Well, Pitchfork pulled no punches on their 4.7 review of the new My Morning Jacket album Evil Urges. A Dave Matthews Band AND a Phish reference. Ouch. Luckily MMJ does not need the omnipotent hipster cred that Pitchfork seems to posses. I personally really liked the album at first but found it to lose much of its luster after a couple of listens, although it never has hit a 4.7 level for me. Oh well. I am pretty confident that their blistering live show will keep fans of all levels happy for many years to come (including when they grace our fair city in August at the Orpehum -Thanks Erik-) and that one bad review is not really going to dent their armor. On a lighter note, the evil monster Pitchfork (just kidding) posted some new Radiohead material today, so it was not all villainy spewing from their corner of the Internet. One is a video of a new song ("Super Collider") and the other is an acoustic Portishead cover of "The Rip" from their latest record. Check them out HERE.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Islands @ First Ave

After winning tickets from morecowbell.net (one of the very best local music blogs, in my humble opinion) I was on my way to First Avenue to see a band that has been making some of my favorite CD's in the last couple of years, the Islands. Being a big fan of both of their CD's and of frontman Nick Diamonds previous band, the Unicorns, I was very excited to see their blend of indie pop and world music live for the first time. Unfortunately, it was one of those nights where it seemed that the stars would simply not align to conjure up that magical, unexplainable aura that makes shows great.

It is never a good sign when you get there halfway through the second band (of three) and there are no more than 150 people in the mainroom. It leads to a generally awkward experience. I am one of the people who hates crowds, but I still would pick a packed house over the weirdly quiet room that was at First Ave last night. The opener was a rapper (I missed his name) who at one point after a song had to tell the crowd "you are supposed to clap when I get done with a song." He did his best, but it just was not happening.
At 9pm the 6 members of the Islands strolled onstage in their matching all black outfits to begin their set. Unfortunately, the lack of energy from the crowd continued and seemed to help dictate what turned out to be a lackluster show. Over the course of their 70 minute set, they played many of the highlights from their new album Arm's Way and from their more upbeat previous record Return to the Sea. They had a great mixture of guitars, strings, synths and rolling bass lines to bring their interesting mixes alive. There were many highlights to the night, especially "Creeper" from the new album and pretty much all the songs from Return to the Sea (I must admit Arm's Way has not grabbed me as much as RTTS did, but I will give it time). Even with the meager crowd, there was one point where a heckler riled Diamonds and made him mad enough to put down his guitar and tell the crowd he was waiting for the guy to come down to fight him before playing another song. This was awkward. First, heckling is stupid. Why pay money to be a jackass and scream annoying shit; can't you do that for free somewhere else? Secondly, to Nick, these people who paid to get in are your customers, so saying you are going to punch them in the face may not be the best PR skills.

Overall, the show was quite a letdown for me, but it was still enjoyable. Maybe I set the bar too high, or maybe it was a bad night for them. I feel like a bigger, more energetic crowd would have helped propel them to the next level, but the crowd simply fizzled. They did come on strong at the end, but it was not enough to redeem the slow and less enjoyable first 2/3 of the show. I still think they are a wildly entertaing studio band and would like to see them again, hopefully in a more energetic setting.

R.E.M??

Heard a rumor through the grapevine that REM will be playing later tonight at the 400 Bar. True? Who knows, but I thought I would put it out there and not be greedy with the tip I got. Again, if they end up not playing (a la Hold Steady a couple months ago) I take no responsibility, but it would be pretty cool.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Wow! That is all I can say about last Friday night. After eating a nice greasy meal at the Triple Rock, Robyn and I went down to the Nomad World Pub to see Poison Control Center. Knowing that they were not the top of the bill, we were confident that they would be playing early in the night and that we could see them and leave. We were painfully wrong. I have no intention of using this measly blog to break anyone down and tell people how awful they are, but I also cannot in my right conscious not be honest about what I see, even if it means telling people they are worthless and should never leave their homes again.

I will start with the good. Poison Control Center came on after 2 hours of complete shit and played their hearts out to a crowd of about 20 people. he freaks who came for the opening bands left...which I can't say disappointed me. Maybe it was past their curfew? Poison Control Center are what is good and right about local music. They deserve to make it big, and I honestly and sincerely hope they do. They played their sloppy post-pavement rock with equal amounts of vigor and recklessness. They were all over the stage with wild antics while making sure to never completely lose the groove. They played many of the songs off of their great debut full length album A Collage of Impressions . They are loose and fun but never let that dilute their catchy pop gems. I would highly recommend Poison Control Center to any fans of indie rock (especially Pavement fans). Pick up A Collage of Impressions at any local record shop (or on afternoon records website) and see them live when you get the chance. Just be warned they may jump off the stage and do guitar solos at your feet while doing the splits....no joke.

Poison Control Center Myspace

Now onto the Bad and the Ugly. I never want to be one to tell people they should not try and be artistic. I really believe everyone has some talent that they can share with the world. My problem is our dumb fuck culture of celebrating any no talent jerk offs who will yell the loudest. In our culture of Reality TV and pop singers who actually have no singing talent, we have raised a generation of people who feel that acting the most stupid in a crowd of idiots will garner them attention. People no longer feel they need to work at their skills or have any talent to be in the spotlight. Both of the opening bands encompassed what is wrong with this ideology. Their names were the Nancy Drew Crew and Koo Koo Kangaroo Crew. They were both faux hip hop groups. NDC were a lazy post-feminist Beastie Boy rip offs except they must have missed the whole fact that the Beastie Boys had...what was it....oh yeah, talent. As the bartender behind us said "They are entertaining, but man, they are not good." Now how did we get to the point that people can openly acknowledge that someone has no talent yet they amuse us? It was like watching bad karaoke night at a hipster bar. This was nothing compared to Koo Koo Kangero Crew. They were two bigger guys who were going for the "Maybe they won't notice our crappy music if we dance like jackasses and keep flailing around". Not surprisingly, it worked for the crowd of Hollister wearing future date rapists and drunk underage girls that they had brought with them. (Side note...why the fuck did Nomad let in under age kids? I don't care what band it is, I don't want to hang out with some horny teens who watch the Hills) Their songs were repetitive drivel "sung" over pre-packaged dance and hip hop beats from their ipod. Really, it was like the kids at a high school talent show who try to impress everyone with being the biggest douchbags they could. I had gone to this show to see a band that I think is one of the best in the area, not expecting to see to fat kids trying to get us to laugh with them and not at them. I skipped out on these pathetic displays of attention whoring in high school, I didn't think I would be forced to see them again (let alone pay for it!) After the show, one of the sweaty bores was shamelessly pimping their T-shirts. Too bad he didn't put that much effort into writing good music. Again, I can stand it if someone sincerely tries at creating something good and fails. It is the blatant attempt to bypass the work and skills part that kills me. Where does this slippery slope stop? I just don't want to see the Jackass culture of doing anything possible for attention take over music. You need to do more than be the class clown to deserve attention in the music scene, especially with so many good and deserving bands out there right now. I just wish someone had told that to the Nancy Drew Crew and The Kangaroo crew and stopped them before I had to witness their live train wrecks.

Bo Diddley

RIP Bo Diddley.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog just released a new song from their upcoming album Fate. The song, titled "The Old Days", is a less poppy and psychedelic than a lot of We All Belong, but still sounds great. It is a cool piece of oddball pop with a pulsing piano line and some rolling drums. I hope they don't abandon their Beach Boys meets Beatles retro rock that was full of 4 part harmonies, but I can appreciate this song and I am very excited for their new disc. The record comes out July 22nd.

Dr. Dog Myspace