DeLuna Fest 2011 Day Three reviews

NICO VEGA:
   
I have been remiss in my duties as a music lover and a native Los Angeleno. Nico Vega was a name I’d always heard tossed around with positive reinforcement, but for some reason had slipped through my curiosity meter.
   
I repent!
   
Dressed as members of the chorus from Jesus Christ Superstar, the band took the stage in the afternoon sun and spread the good word. They make a lot of noise for having only three people on stage, and they infuse the air around with a curiously spiritual musical energy.
   
Whether banging on toms, busting a tambourine or striking a various number of iconic poses, Aja Volkman held command of the stage. And if it makes you feel any better, their whole dusty space age get up is not an onstage persona, but something they carried with them throughout the festival, whether chatting on cell phones or smoking weed out of a can in the pit for MUTEMATH’S performance. Trust me.
   
If you’ve been like me and neglected to check out Nice Vega, remedy this as soon as possible. And if you’re all, Duh man I’ve been listening to them forEVER, then why on Earth didn’t you tell me?!

ASOBI SEKSU:
   
Life can’t be easy for the opening festival acts. Hardly anyone is ready to trudge out to the stages by noon, so audiences are limited, worsening an already un-ideal situation for musicians, a breed not accustomed to operating at full until well past sunset. However, if Asobi Seksu was fatigued they didn’t show it (although lead singer and keyboardist Yuki Chikudate did mention it).
   
They graced the blazing festival sun with loud, eerie rock that shook lazy day three festers out of the midday slump. A wake up call in many respects, Asobi Seksu held one of the most unexpectedly successful shows the weekend.
   
It was clear that much of their audience was accidental, comprised of cries new arrivals wondering what that magical sound could be emanating from the other side of the Hampton Inn. What began as a smattering of curious onlookers quadrupled into a crowd of fans, which is exactly the kind of exposure you expect and hope for at a festival.
   
Most likely they were all wondering how somebody no bigger than a cat can contain such power and presence, leading the band with the ease of a long time heavy hitter like Patti Smith.
   
Perhaps, like a cat, Chikudate has been doing this for many lifetimes.

COWBOY MOUTH:
   
“Give me rhythm!” and “Are you with me?!” are the Southern rock mantras of Cowboy Mouth’s live show. Billed as the festival’s biggest local draw, the New Orleans based quartet seriously, yet amicably rose the the challenge of acquiring dozens legions more unlocal fans.
    Lead singer and drummer Fred LeBlanc, (most NOLA sounding name ever!) sat at the kit in gym shorts, which gave him the appearance of going pants-less. It also enhanced his heartily devil-may-care demeanor. All four rock solidly on their respective instruments and seem to relish in the whole rock starriness of their happy Southern lives. Something about their loud, proud good times had me craving giant belt buckles and hush puppies.
   
They perform without pretense, just diving into the crowd, pulling people closer to the stage and shouting about having a great time. If Burl Ives’ Big Daddy of Tennessee Williams’ imagination decided to form a touring Southern rock band, it would turn out to be Cowboy Mouth, and it would sound great. Which they do.

COLOUR REVOLT:
   
De Luna Fest was full of bands stemming from a local heritage, pleased as a peach pie to be laing for a hometown crowd. Colour Revolt was of this ilk, so pleased in fact, that they opened by introducing themselves as “fellow South Easterners.”
    Perhaps these guys practiced extra hard to impress the hometown crowd, but my guess is they make a point to play this well every time. You just don’t achieve this level of clickiness by cramming for the test. Barely looking at one another, the band executed tricky rhythms, sudden changes in tone and wildly oscillating noise levels from whisper to explosion.
    
All pieces of their indie rock puzzle solidly in place at this set, the stand out element lurked in Sean Kirkpatrick’s backing vocals. He offered a delicately nuanced layer to otherwise good, but typical, scenester music.

Mikal Cronin – Mikal Cronin review

Mikal Cronin sounds like a really cool guy. They say you’re not supposed to judge the character of an artist by his artistic out put, but I can’t help it. Saxophone, flute and melodica are all employed judiciously on this album, as well as whistles and Brian Wilson-esque harmonies complete with chunky bass and gravelly guitars. And anyone with that caliber of finely tuned decision making skills has got to be a stand up dude in other respects.

It’s dangerously campy territory, dabbling in silly, unorthodox instrumentation and playing in a variety of musical styles. It can come off sounding a tad gimmicky, the pitfall of Beirut and otherwise nice bands. Instead Cronin’s shifty musical stylings sound more like the urgency of Neutral Milk Hotel, as though he was tearing around his warehouse of half broken, dusty music things and blowing into or banging on the ones he thought would give him the best interpretation of the noises he heard in his head in the most immediate time frame. It’s endearing without stepping over into its shudder-inducing counterpart – cute.

The album opens with the aforementioned Brian Wilson harmonies, a little flatter and dirtier than the semi-psychotic perfectionist would have allowed, but all the more fitting the one man garage band style. It’s a fantastic opener really, because if you didn’t know what to expect, as I didn’t, it can pretty much go any direction from there. It’s deliciously inventive yet genre-neutral territory. The track ends by diving into a Jethro Tull sounding flute solo, so you can use your imagination or your $9.99 to figure out how the hell he gets from point A to point B – and that’s just the first song.

Mikal Cronin winds down perfectly, with a classic guitar riff that sounds almost like Tom Petty opening up “Again and Again” and dissolving into a band from 20 years earlier with the following tune, “Hold on Me.” “Hold on Me” is very Sha Na Na nostalgic, reminiscent of bands like The Association, and I think this is what Ducky was talking about in Sam’s car when he couldn’t find one song that didn’t make him seriously ill. “They just don’t write love songs like they used to!” he cried. But they do now, Ducky. This guy does.

DeLuna Fest reviews – Day Two

BIG BOI:

Every festival that lays on the indie music this thick, that has the stages crawling with sought after DJ’s after 10 pm, that caters to the people who like to bop and jump around has to give us something so we can also bump and grind. Thank you, De Luna Fest, for bringing us Big Boi. It seems that on Saturday you were either most excited about seeing Jane’s Addiction or Big Boi, if I may be so bold as to split the world into two distinct camps. And he killed it.

His entire band was on point, from DJ to back up singer to drummer, “Wildman.” He was pulling stunts on the kit during “Bombs Over Baghdad” that I couldn’t air drum half as fast. And I tried really hard.

I expected big things from Big Boi, as he has a well-deserved reputation of awesomeness, and Southerners in the South tend to do well. I did not, however, expect him to be so terribly entertaining. I went in expecting great music, and I got a great show. He loves to move, and loves to make other people move which is a laudable pursuit in any musical venture. Get people moving.

The crowd hung on his every word, waving hands, shouting lyrics and attempting to get crunk as the occasion called for it. My only regret is I wasn’t one of the girls pulled on stage to shake my booty. My god, I would have delivered.

NEW PORNOGRAPHERS:

The New Pornographers have the delightfully striking balance of apple pie a la mode. There are warm things and cold things in my mouth at the same time what the hell! Oh, but it’s…lovely. A little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, like Donnie and Marie but not at all lame.

They have the advantage of being remarkably proficient at what they do as well. They’re just a tidy band of musical elves executing their musical stylings with precision and enthusiasm. That’s an impressive feat, to be as on top of it as they are, with smiles on their faces.

The New Pornographers will make you feel all warm and fuzzy, and remind you that they’re still on your iPod from college and you should still be listening to them.

MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA:

You know those genre-defying bands that are so marvelous that it doesn’t matter what type of music they’re making as long as they keep making it forever and ever? Outkast is like that. So are Radiohead. And so is, I swear to Jesus, Manchester Orchestra. Their live performance is something from a totally different time, possibly the future. They are just insatiable, rabid, out of control musical beasts.

Their popularity surprised me, as they were one of the bands that crowds flocked to and waited for, filling up the ocean front main stage sand dunes with hungry fans. Their set began at the perfect time, the sun having just gone down, giving them a blank slate of dark sky to play their starkly emotional, feverishly hectic brand of rock.

Sweat sprayed, teeth were bared, Andy Hull roared with his bandmates growling in cultish support, and the entire thing just came off as quite primal. This viscerally engaging experience is a welcome break in the trend of the slick and polished popular rock that rapes our radio waves. It’s not hard core either, a style that tends to take itself to seriously, that relies far too heavily on the very style it’s cultivated. It’s just Manchester Orchestra, shaken and shot out of an aerosol spray can.

Sometimes I wonder if I think about music so much, write about it so often, and force myself to develop an appreciation of it that strips away the magic. Many enthusiasts suffer from this plague. Maybe we like music so much we’ve forgotten how to love it. Manchester Orchestra reminds me that I love music. A whole, big, god-awful lot.

THE SHINS:

Often hailed as the greatest thing to come out of Albuquerque, The Shins are an American indie rock staple. Their steady following grows every year as they have yet to put out a disappointing record, an almost unheard of feat not accomplished since, like, The Beach Boys. And they’re great live. So everybody wins.

They performed a tasteful selection from each record, from Chutes Too Narrow, to James Mercer’s collaboration with DJ Danger Mouse, Broken Bells. Their set also included a Pink Floyd cover, but did not include my favorite song. Why Weezer and The Shins decided to conspire against me like this, I don’t know but they’re breaking my me–as-a-15-year-old’s heart.

Mercer’s vocals are just as crisp and chilling live as you’d expect, with just as indiscernible lyrics. You’d have to have their albums in your headphones on repeat for years to be able to sing along. Fortunately, we have. And sing along we did.

THE SOUNDS:

Easily the hottest band alive today, The Sounds give a live show worth seeing. Suspending reality for a minute and pretending there’s anybody who doesn’t like their music, or that you’re deaf, they are still a prize to look at. Seriously, with a band that’s a promo shot for Ford Models, how good looking to you have to be to get backstage? They probably looked Beyonce up and down and were like, No your eyes are too close together, maybe next time. Tonight, we’ll just make out with each other.

Ok, I know I’m here for music reviews but Maja’s legs and the vast number of flawless bangs on stage are a big part of seeing The Sounds live. The other big part is how much fun they are! Felix’s power stance is unbeatable, and the way Maja struts around yelling pop punky things into the microphone riling up the crowd, has to be seen to be believed. If only to see how she does it in sky high stilettos.

I’m not sure if Sweden puts radioactive matter in their water or if these guys made a deal with the devil, but you shouldn’t be allowed to be this good looking, this cool, and this good at something all at the same time. But I’d pay to see it again.

DeLuna Fest reviews – Day One

DINOSAUR FEATHERS:

Dinosaur Feathers are a big surprise. As a dino-phile, I expect to certain things from fans, such as complete and accurate Jurassic Park references at their disposal, comparable tattoos, and a childlike reverence for the vast unknown. What I didn’t expect were heavy drums, screechy vocals, fabulous attitudes and insatiable energy. It may have been my first day, but Dinosaur Feathers could easily go home as my favorite festival stumble upon since Anathallo at Coachella 2008.

What is it about bands from Brooklyn that make everything about life bigger, noisier and more fun? I’d like to imagine Dinosaur Feathers, Matt & Kim, and Fang Island all hopping around a Wonka music factory, boinging off sheer walls of sound, giggling and crashing into one another on a glorious noise binge, on their quest to find the funnest job in the world. This secret music factory exists, I know it! Maybe in Greenpoint. It’s the only explanation for the un-ironic joy, unapologetic pop, and unparalleled energy that the Brooklyn scene in privy to these days. Let’s welcome Dinosaur Feathers with open arms OK? On the count of 3… 1! 2! 3! GO!

TROMBONE SHORTY:

Trombone Shorty was a band I’d been beholden to seeing by a close friend and New Orleans resident since I announced my covering of the festival. And that’s fine. I love me some brass, and trombone is my favorite – the cello of the horn section, I always say. Plus anyone who can make the oft-overlooked “brump” machine the centerpiece of his musical direction is worth a look-see.

Turns out, there are not enough good things to be said about these dudes. They are cool. The coolest cats, the heaviest cats, the dopest, gnarliest, wildest cats in the big bad jungle. The bari sax growled and shrieked, and the tenor tap danced on top. The drummer was indefatigable while the percussionist clearly had at least thirteen hands. The bass was loud and dirty, and the guitarist was almost too good. Like, one more note and he would have literally just been too good.

And Trombone Shorty himself is first of all, fine. So be prepared for that going in – this band is lead by a flawless looking man who’s good at everything and really seems to love music.

He can make a trombone dance (and this is a regular slide he’s working with, no tricky valves) and I mean get up on its feet, kick up its heels and cut a rug. That’s a delight for an instrument notoriously laborious to play. He lays the smackdown on the trumpet as well, holding notes for longer than I can hold my breath underwater, and he can sing. He’s a great singer too, but it pales next to his beefy command of the horns and his admirable band leadership skills. Become a fan now, and you will never stop dancing.

MATT AND KIM:

Matt & Kim make me sad. They’re so much fun that all I can think is, Why aren’t we friends yet? We would get along famously, the three of us, and I’m an excellent third wheel. I’m the perfect addition when you want me, and gone like a fox when you don’t. The thing is I am clearly not the only one who feels this way. Matt & Kim shows are crawling with their friends. It’s like this huge pool of BFF’s they’ve never met.

This is part of the accidental genius of Matt & Kim. I say accidental not to rob hem of any credit, but because their whole “thing,” their vibe, their special something seems too natural to be contrived. Could it be that everybody hearts them so much because they have the bloody courage to be themselves? Can they really achieve that without any sense of irony or after school special-ness?

Matt & Kim’s genuine enthusiasm is wildly infectious, so that any request from Kim (“Blow up these balloons with your mouths and throw them at each other!” “Lift me in the air so I can dance on your hands!” “Take off your shirts!”) was answered in seconds. Seconds. She could have said, “March into the Hilton and punch all the people wearing staff shirts in the face!” and her will be done.

But she would never say that because they haven’t a wicked bone in their collective bodies. And besides, we’re all friends here.

STARS:

Stars are solid. There’s not a lot of stage dressing time in festival land, as it’s kind of a mad rush to get lights and sound running smoothly in the fifteen minutes before you play. But these seasoned cuties go the extra mile and festoon amps, monitors and other available flat surfaces with dozens of roses that they intermittently toss to legions of fans.

That’s the kind of band Stars is: sweet, genuine, cheerfully flawed, like the handwritten thank you card of indie rock. Aside from the flowers, they gifted their audience with a never before heard song (presumably from an upcoming album – yeeee!) that featured Amy Millan’s vocal wail high above her normal Irish mother bedtime coo for which Stars is famous.

GIRL TALK:

If you ever attend a Girl Talk show where the fans aren’t dancing on the stage waving miscellaneous pieces of decoration or trash and giant inflatable props aren’t being tossed around in the pit and everyone isn’t dancing/jumping/freaking out then you’re not at a Girl Talk show.

What happens in their brains that shines the light on the notion that it would be a good idea to mash up Phoenix with Busta Rhymes? As far as I can tell that sort of insight can only come from long term usage of potent South American drugs or plain divine intuition. What makes it OK to have Luda’s “Get Low” morph into “Bohemian Rhapsody?”

Don’t know, don’t care, just gonna wave my toilet paper in the air.

LADYTRON:

Ladytron look really cool. They sound cool too, and their live performance was rather flawless, but their visual impact is striking. In this way, they’re more of a multi-media experience than a traditional band, as so many things are dependent on other elements. Helen Marnie’s status as frontwoman was maintained by her stark white silk bat sleeved blouse and overlarge headdress, and the spookiness of their sound enhanced by the laser show lighting design.

I can’t imagine them every performing when the sun is up, and I imagine they don’t even emerge until the threat of UV rays has long disappeared.

If you like the goth/synth/dance sound then you already love them, and if you don’t, go see them anyway. You still get a laser show with vampires in awesome clothes and by the time they come out at night, you’ll be so high it will all sound fabulous.

WEEZER:

Rivers Cuomo is so weird. And might I say, thank god. I haven’t seen Weezer live in a long time, so I don’t know when the transformation took place, if it was gradual or sudden, natural or designed, but he’s definitely morphed from a weird guy unsure of why you’re looking at him or where to put his hands into a weird guy unsure of why you’re looking at him or where to put his hands – and PROUD OF IT!

Rather than hide behind his guitar, mic, and sweater, he boldly climbed off the stage and into, around and through the crowd to sing “Troublemaker” from…somewhere. I lost him, but I’m sure he made some fans in the back’s day. He then proceeded to steal somebody’s gigantic straw hat, demand a band-aid from a roadie for “the tiny cut on my little pinky that’s bleeding,” and sit on the edge of the stage dangling his New Balances so they straddled the shoulders of a volunteer security guard.

In short, he is a delight.

And Weezer are just as awesome as ever, perhaps even more so. I remember being impressed with their ability to sound exactly like the recording, perfectly polished. Perhaps it was the beach party vibe, or maybe they’re all more comfortable with themselves, but this sounded like a real live show. Some grit, some distorted notes, some cracks, but all in the name of going for it. They even traded song singer duties and instruments, something only very talented friends can do.

Infuriatingly, the band did not play one riff off of Pinkerton. I thought their foray last year had lifted the curse, but I was wrong. However, their stirring renditions of Green Album hits “Island in the Sun” and “Hash Pipe” actually had eating my words. Those tunes are great! “Beverly Hills” still sucks, but these guys are rock heroes – not magicians.

I would also like to take this time to point out that Brian Bell is the most dapper man on the planet, and he can pull off a black watch plaid suit with a fat burgundy polka dot tie while wielding a silver guitar. All men should strive to look this killer. Except you, Rivers. We like you just the way you are, windbreaker and wallet chain and all – not that you’d give a flying fuck what we think anyway.