Thoughts on Bonnaroo

After many miles and many hours on the road, we arrived. We were in the outer most circle of the campsites, basically after entering the site we parked and set up. This dramatically altered our game plan for Bonnaroo but didn’t drastically alter our level of anticipation.

THURSDAY!

Coming off of BOMB Fest in Hartford, Connecticut, I wasn’t particularly pumped for the Thursday line up, which happened to be very similar. I caught some of the Freelance Whales and both performances were excellent. These guys are really catchy and inventive. They use the banjo is a really percussive way and minimizes the twangy down south cliche that the banjo can sometimes fall into.

We then went over to see some of Best Coast. I was skeptical and not looking forward to this show. I had seen them 2 weeks prior in Hartford and I have to say, their demeanor there on stage was souring. However, their show at Bonnaroo was full of enthusiasm. I was really impressed by the sound they proud and how excellently they bring the lo-fi sound to the stage.

After that, we wandered the grounds. Getting familar with the stage lay outs and the cool new attractions until it was time for The Walkmen and Sleigh Bells. The grounds were packed and there was plenty to see and explore.

Sleigh Bells was one of my most anticipated bands of the weekend and I’m guessing it was on many short lists as well. We arrived at the stage in the middle of their opening number and the crowd was unbelievable. We could barely hear and definitely not see. It was kind of distressing. Exhausted we decided to head back to the camp site and pack it in for the night. As we exited, we noticed that the sound was way better outside the grounds. We idled by some campers and listened for a few songs. It felt detached but the music was good and you could hear the crowd loving very second of it.

FRIDAY

We woke up sweaty and sore but ready to take on Bonnaroo. We had a long day ahead of us so we tried to pace ourselves. I compromised and we missed the Ben Sollee show. (I am a cellist and I love his album and his concept.) We headed in to see Matt and Kim! They were … I want to say “adorable” but the amount of times Kim said  the word “titties” kind of rules out “adorable.” The show was a mix of their hits with late 80’s and early 90’s familar rnb hooks. The crowd was charged and it was a really fun show.

The 5:30 to 6:30 slot was an outrageous hour. The Decemberists, Ray Lamontagne, Florence and the Machine and NOFX. CRAZY HOUR! The Decemberists are awesome and I love their shows but Ray Lamontagne breaks my heart and I had to indulge. Florence and the Machine was packed and hard to hear but her voice was on fire and she sounded awesome. NOFX was a throw back to my high school years and I caught a little of their set for nostaglia’s sake. The guys were punchy.  However,  insulting Jesus and Christians may not go over well at Bonnaroo.. General judge-y-ness is frown upon at this festival for both fans and performers.

My Morning Jacket was one of my favorites of the weekend. Jim James and honestly, the whole band, are powerhouses. There were jazz bands and marching bands and Ben Sollee?! Really, really great. I would love to see them in a smaller venue.

Arcade Fire was great. Truly a very cool set but I didn’t get the same energy from these guys as I did from My Morning Jacket. Their set was an brilliant mix of old with new and it was refreshing to see these guys on a major stage.

SATURDAY

Low Anthem was really cool. Very nice use of the Peter, Paul and Mary mic set up.  Ben Sollee sat in again and that was really cool. Their harmonies were excellent and they sounded beautiful.

Deer Tick was plugging a new album and treated us to some new material. I’m definitely looking forward to that.  We walked past Portugal. The Man and they sounded great. The lead singer’s voiced seemed to carry really well.

Allison Krauss and Union Station was another great highlight for me. Seeing them live, made me realize I had neglected their back catalog recently. Her older albums are full of such great music and I am revisiting those.

Mumford and Sons – holy crowds. I think Bonnaroo mis-staged these guys. It was a great show and the crowd was unbelievable. The sing along factor really stepped it up a notch and their new material was really exciting.

I had to see Loretta Lynn and it was worth it. She was really great, possibly alittle out of sorts. She repeated a song twice in her set and she had to cut on short because she forgot the rest. That being said, she was endearing, beautiful, funny and she was a delight.

Man Man was on of the bands I was looking forward to seeing. However, I could barely see the stage and a lot of the band’s appeal for me is visual. I enjoy their music but what puts them over the edge for me is their on stage antics and that was lost to a lot of the crowd.

Black Keys were fun to watch but I was kind of hoping for alittle more from those guys. They were blues and gritty but I was hoping for a little more pizzazz from a headliner. However, they did what the Black Key’s do best.

We saw Buffaloo Springfield and a little Eminen and then called it a great night.

SUNDAY!

While our camp mates were packing up to make the drive back north, we packed up our back pack and headed in. Definitely tired, sun burned (a touch home sick… which really means I miss my dog) we headed in to try to catch some of the Sunday shows before heading back to reality. We caught The Head and the Heart and Mavis Staples before the thoughts of 18 hours in a car overwhelmed us.

On a whole Bonnaroo was excellent. It was in fact crowded, dirty, crazy, hot, dusty but it is also a weekend in which nothing really matters but enduring music and fun.

[Next Year I’ll have pictures for you.]

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interviews

Heirlooms Interview

Heirlooms was one of the featured performers at the BOMB Festival in Hartford, CT this weekend. I sat down with them after their set to learn a little more about this up and coming Connecticut band. This six piece new americana band has a lot to offer and I expect to see and hear great things out of them. Their current line up is as follows and during the interview I refer to each member by their initials.

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music videos

BOMB Fest Day 2

Day two of BOMB fest had some let downs and some

*** photographs by Chloe Donaldson

Swung in to catch a little of River City Extension which was great. It was nice to see a cello on stage instead of a violin.  In a couple of way, these guys are almost like an acoustic version of another New Jersey band that played on Saturday, Titus Andronicus. I’m looking forward to see these guys at Bonnaroo.

Dum Dum Girls were supposed to play next but unfortunately, they were unable to attend the BOMB Fest due to a death in the family.  So we caught some of Urban Sun. This eight piece funk rock band was tight but I’m not sure the crowd was totally in to. The lead singer was all over the stage and was throwing some stripped moves around. When the lead singer half removed his shirt, we called it quits and headed to the main stage to see Portugal. The Man.

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interviews reviews

Bomb Fest – Day One Review #bombfest

It was a cloudy humid day in Hartford.  The BOMB Festival is a relatively new event and it has be consistently gaining prestige. The focus is on mixing local music with nationally recognized acts.

*** photographs by Chloe Donaldson

BOMB FEST – Pre Show Jitters

The BOMB Festival starts tomorrow morning in Hartford CT and there’s a lot to look forward too.  The line up is packed with really interesting and diverse artists. Here are a couple of artists I’m looking forward to seeing tomorrow.

Saturday

David Wax Museum – There’s been alot of  well deserved press around this band recently. Their inventive mix of new folk/americana and mexican folk rhythms adds a new twist to time tested pop melodies. Their music is catchy and infectious.

Heirlooms – One of the local Connecticut band with some really great potential.  Their mix consists of indie, folk and modern musical themes. I’m also  really looking forward to hearing music cast as “new americana” that is born in Connecticut.

Dan Deacon – This guy is wildly interesting. He is an electronic musician who’s live shows are supposed to be epic. I have not had the pleasure of seeing Dan Deacon but I am really excited to see what he brings to Hartford!

Lobster Quadrille – I’ve seen these guys perform a number of times while I was living in Rochester.  They are kind of  high drama and kitch-y but they are usually a really fun show.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – I am so pumped for these guys. They are a big ensemble, with lots of interesting instrumentation. Their live shows are high energy and full of harmony.

Weezer – I’m half heartedly looking forward to Weezer. My nostalgic desire to relive the glory of the Blue album and the epic Pinkerton, has been trumped by my distain for their more recent albums. However, as snobby and pretensious as my feelings about their recent records are, I do recognize the fact that Weezer consistently puts on a good show and that the band  is aware of me and my fellow haters.

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reviews

Low – C’mon album review

This is review is a little late to the game but I’ve spent some time researching and absorbing this album. This is my first exposure to Low, and the band has a defined sound but the album felt a little disconnected. However, there are a lot of really excellent aspects about this album. In general, the music is soothing, cathartic, but also poignant and balanced.

Low is a three piece indie rock group from Minnesota. Formed in 1993, this band has had a number of different member but is currently comprised of Alan Sparhawk (guitar, vocals), Mimi Parker (drums, vocals) and Steve Garrington (bass guitar.) C’mon is their ninth studio album and their third album with Sub Pop Records. As a side note, I have to say I feel refreshed by Sub Pop Records. I am excited by all of their current artists and by the trends they are exbiting. (Apologies all around for the short tyrad.)

The highlight of this album is Especially Me. The vocal harmonies are mixed prefectly with a stable rolling guitar line peppered with chimes and strings. Especially Me features a waltzing 6/8 background that hypmotizes and Mimi Parker’s vocals harmonies just washes over you. The lyrics feel simple and epic at the same time. “But as it stands, we all need truth, especially me and probably you. Definitely you.”  The gravity and beauty with which the lyrics are presented makes this album and is one of aspects that I love about this album.

Another excellent aspect of this album is the dueling, dueting vocalists Alan Sparhawk, and Mimi Parker. Alone their voices are nice but their vocal harmonies are spectacular. Sparhawk’s baritone is deep and at times gritty and Parker’s alto is resonant and calm. Vocal harmonies are used as a tool to amb up the drama, so to speak. For example, Done starts slow and initially it seems like this song is alittle aimless but the introduction of Parker’s counter harmonies, and the pedal steel, gives the song new motion and drive. When Parker and Sparhawk sing together is a sense of together but seperate feeling. They are not perfectly blending (in the choral sense) but each voice stands on it’s own to create a new timbre.

This album has it’s hits and misses, but when Low gets it right, they can really break your heart.

Categories
interviews

Olin and The Moon Interview

Olin and the Moon are a five piece folk rock outfit from Sun Valley, Idaho. At the beginning of 2011, the band released their debut album “Footsteps” before heading around North America touring. The band recently made a cameo performance on The CW show “One Tree Hill” performing “Not In Love.”

Marshall Vore, the band’s drummer took some time to chat with me about their new album, the tours and their successes.

Olin and The Moon Interview

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press releases reviews

Panic! at the Disco – Vices and Virtues album review

Panic! at the Disco Vices and Virtues

The new album from the pop punk, emo duo Panic! at the Disco is a splashy show, full of high drama, and emotionally loaded lyrics. This is the third Panic! at the Disco album but the first release since the 2009  announcement that 2 of the 4 members were leaving the group.  The departure of Ryan Ross (guitar) and John Walker (bass) was ambicable and it seems that the remaining members (Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith) have produced an album that returned to their theatical pop punk roots. Vices and Virtues marks a couple of big changes in Panic!’s history and in their career path but it also delivers a pop filled punch of high enegry bubblegum punk songs.

The band’s orchestration is excellent.  The way the band diversifies their songs’ musical settings is one of their strengths. For example,  the single “Ballad of Mona Lisa,” if it were played with just a 4 piece set up (guitar, bass, drums, vocals), the song would be catchy but nothing special. The additions of the strings, xylophone, multiple vocal harmonies, auxiliary guitar lines etc. make the song more than just another catchy pop tune and this is true throughout the album.

“Always” serves as the highlight of this album for me. It shows that although Panic! excells at writing up beat power ballads, they can also tone it down. The track features strings, woodwinds and some percussion, but the song on it’s own does not need these add ons. The song would still be great if it were just vocals and acoustic guitar. The melody is haunting and yet uplifting  and Urie’s delivery is capitivating. It is a more intimate musical expression.

However, as with most of the other tracks the lyrics leaving something to be desired. The lyrics often feel as if the band is trying too hard to be creative. “I’m a fly that’s trapped in a web, but I’m thinking that my spider’s dead.” Most of the tracks feature some lyrics that make me cringe, but the lacking of lyrical profiency is covered up by the fact that the songs just make you want to hop up and down and sing along. This is an album that I would recommend buying for your 13 year old cousin and also as a guilty pleasure for yourself.

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reviews

The Pet Shop Boys take on Ballet

Pet Shop Boys The Most Incredible Things

The Pet Shop Boys’ newest release The Most Incredible Thing is most definitely an interesting thing. The Pet Shop Boy’s, consisting of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowes, collaborated with choreographer Javier De Frutos and the British dance company Sadler’s Wells to produce a ballet based on the Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale “The Most Incredible Thing.” It is hard to write a review of just the music on this release and honestly, it was difficult to listen to the whole thing all the way through without losing interest. The titles of the 21 tracks hint at subject matter but there are almost not vocal lines to help guide the listener along the plot. As a pop music endeavor, this release falls short but as a soundtrack or music setting for a ballet, I could see this being very successful.

While I didn’t find this music engaging from a pop music sensibility, there is a lot to be said about the musical depth of this electro dance group. Through out the entire piece, there is a plethora of good, solid hooks that good DJs all over should sample from. The instrumentation and orchestration is excellent and provides very engaging textures. They mix orchestral arranging with synths, electro bass and trance-ish dance beats.  This mixing of high and low music is engaging but

Mixing low and high art is very interesting and has recently in style. For example, recently composer Mark-Anthony Turnage debuted an opera based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith and the Swedish rock, The Knife, wrote an opera based on Darwin’s Evolution of Species.   As with The Knife’s opera (“Tomorrow, in a year”), the  music provides an excellent foundation on which to produce extremely creative dance and storytelling platform but unlike traditional ballet or opera, the music does not stand on it’s own.

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press releases reviews

Found – factorycraft album review

Found factorycraft

The new album “factorycraft”, from the artists’ collective turned pop garage electonica band Found, is due out on March 14th, 2011.  The band is mainly comprised of art school buddies, Ziggy Campbell (lead vocals, guitar), Tommy Perman (bass guitar, synth) and Kev Sim (electronics, percussion).  This band could have what it takes to be underground darlings, on top of the Irish accents, side swept bangs, and nerdy charm, Found have some compelling music and something to say.

After listening to the first two songs, my initial impression was this was just another noise rock band playing with drum tracks, synths and power chords. And while the first two songs are good, they don’t demonstrate the band’s ability to write an excellent song. However, the third track, “Machine Age Dancing” convinced me that this band was worth a good hard listen. It opens with a folksy duet (“If I listen hard I can hear, If I focus in it becomes clear”) layered on top of a splashy kick drum and tambourine, in the style of early Beach Boys or more recently She and Him. Just when you’re about to get tired of this, everything cuts out and suddenly there’s nothing but the vocal melody and a new electronic drumbeat. It should seem jilting but the transition is so smooth you don’t notice they have moved from The Beach Boys to The Dirty Projectors in 30 seconds. The last ten seconds of the song are absolutely brilliant. Found add an additional vocal harmony that moves in a counter rhythm so it is just slightly off.  This new harmony brings the listener back in and then quickly releases them.

The rest of the album is full of good solid songs and poetic lyrics. Unfortunately, it feels as if the songs have been edited down to their most naked form which serves as an interesting texture to play with, but the band runs the risk of losing people’s interest after a few seconds.

Found’s reliance on power chords and simple rhythm guitar patterns can be tiresome but the percussive nature of these lines, show that Found’s guitars are utilized more for rhythmic rather of harmonic or melodic definition. The band has stripped away many “non-essential” elements, but in doing so they have lost some of the charm inherent in their genre. The foundations of great songs are outlined on this album and this band has some great work ahead of them but they need to fill in their songs and maybe color outside the lines more.