Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road 2013: Troy Stopover

The essential guide to a Gentlemen of the Road Stopover comes in the form of nicely bound passport. A true gentleman or lady of the road holds onto this in the same manner a world traveler holds onto their government issued passport while abroad. The back page summarizes the general ethos of a GOTR Stopover in seven simple guidelines.


“To enhance your enjoyment we suggest:

1. Arrive early, stay late

2. Hear as many bands as you can

3. Take the party from the stage to the town

4. Eat the local food, drink the local drink

5. Say a friendly hello to new faces

6. Stamp your passport

7. Have a grand time

See you around town!”


If you leave the Stopover with a well worn passport and closely follows these guidelines it’s almost certain you’ll leave happy.


Mumford & Sons ascended to their status as festival headlining Grammy winners incredibly fast even by today’s overnight sensation standards. They wasted no time in channeling their success towards creating something much more than their emotionally charged folk rock with their summer Gentlemen of the Road series.

Beginning last year, the Stopovers pop up in small towns with character that are handpicked by Mumford & Sons themselves as are the artists on the bill. After attending last year’s Stopover in Dixon, Illinois with a fellow gentleman there was no question if we would return for a stop on the 2013 Series. This year our city to absorb was Troy, Ohio the first of three American Stopovers. The charm of this Eastern Ohio town was soon apparent with its stunning courthouse, many (almost too) lifelike sculptures, a scenic promenade along the Miami River, and a very well-preserved downtown. Also obvious upon arrival was the length that organizers go to in order to fully integrate a Stopover with its host town. Around the downtown square buildings were covered in banjos and various other instruments, massive banners specific to Troy hung three stories long, and top hats and mustaches representing the official Stopover logo were ubiquitous. Along the shores of the Miami the the throngs of people had invaded with their smattering of living quarters (i.e. tents). The air was thick with excitement and it was clear that this much action hadn’t hit Troy in much time if ever.


The main stage plopped down on Troy High School’s football field and by the time we arrived both the field and the bleachers were packed. Friday night’s music festivities were headlined by the always entertaining Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Nine members onstage was not enough for the exuberant frontman as he worked to make friends and fans alike part of the set. He was quick to ask for the audience’s input for the setlist and they were eager to hear cuts from the group’s recently released self-titled album. Later on, the boys from Mumford & Sons joined the fun to perform a song the bands had written together while touring via train the previous summer, aboard the The Big Easy Express. Ebert and Jade Castrino’s call and response hit “Home” was a fitting way to end the night’s proceedings as thousands had found a new temporary home in Troy.

Once the main stage had wrapped up on Friday it was time to follow rule three and take the party from the stage to the town. This rule had been followed to a T as the streets of Troy were brimming with enthusiasm. The local watering holes were full of characters ready to pass out shots and pose absurd questions. A younger sect of the crowd gathered around speakers blasting Bassnectar and the like. The real party went down at the local Elks lodge which played host to a Late Night Bluegrass jam each night. Friday featured Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band and his group The Here and Now. For those that crammed in, the strumming and foot stomping went late into the night.


Before hitting the shows on Saturday we decided to learn a little more about the history of Troy. Our passports directed us to the Overfield Tavern & Museum, Troy’s oldest structure built in 1808. Here we were transported back in time 200 years while our insightful guide Terry toured us from room to room. The tavern was once the main hub of the area where residents and travelers would gather for spirits, backroom deals, and to get a feel for the current happenings (we decided to call it that era’s Facebook). We learned of counterfeit currency, lady spittoons, and the county’s first court proceedings held in the small room upstairs. We could have spent hours exploring the past within the walls of the Overfield and we almost did until we checked the time and realized we had a prior engagement at Troy Memorial Stadium to hurry off to.

Luckily we emerged from our time travels to the 19th century in time to storm the field for the funky dance styling of Brooklyn crew Rubblebucket. The colorful eight person band lets nothing stand in the way of putting on one of the most fun shows around. Not even cancer. Hardly a month out of surgery for ovarian cancer, lead vocalist and saxophonist Kalmia Traver took the stage with her usual poise and enthusiasm as they jammed their way through new track “Save Charlie” and got silly for older favorite “Silly Fathers”. Traver sends plenty of positivity into the universe and the it appears to have been returned in kind with an encouraging post-op diagnosis. Mumford & Sons’ trumpeter Nick Etwell, a new friend to the band, joined the party onstage to assist with their biggest hit “Came Out of a Lady”. Never a band easily confined to a stage the horn section hopped the railing for one final freak out from atop fans’ shoulders.

After great sets from Justin Townes Earle, Brit rockers The Vaccines, and old time folk stars Old Crow Medicine Show, it was time for the main event. The crowd has been sizable throughout the weekend but by this point people were packed in to the point that the Troy football field looked as if it might burst. The masses were chomping at the bit when the band took to the stage in complete darkness to open with “Lover’s Eyes” before turning the bright lights on for “Little Lion Man”. The mood only escalated as the band ripped through a set of emotionally wrought songs spanning both of their albums. The band and crowd reflexively played off each other as seemingly everyone fervently sang along while the Mumfords poured their energy into every note. The band had hopped on stage earlier for Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel” and the favor was returned for a group rendition of “Awake My Soul”.

After a quick break the UK troubadours reappeared around a single microphone for a relatively quiet take on Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire”. The magic of the Stopover was apparent as people from near and far gathered to sing along with the hosts of the event, especially during the encore. People had converged on Troy, Ohio from with a singular purpose of coming together and they did just that as Mumford & Sons played the Beatles classic “Come Together” with a little help from The Vaccines and Rubblebucket. Once the finishing blows of “Babel” and “The Cave” were struck the crowd was stunned, but that’s not to say there some people out there didn’t want more.

After the closing set a small group of people were lucky enough to stumble upon the Old Crow Medicine Show boys having a jam session in the parking lot behind the field. Simply playing for themselves and sheer enjoyment, the crowd grew as more people caught wind. Eventually they took a break, but not before playing pied pipers and leading the way to the nearby water park that appeared much like an oasis in the desert. They continued to pluck away and even sang a lucky birthday gal a tune at midnight, but soon the attention was drawn to the pool party to end all pool parties. Rubblebucket showed up to ride the slides and Marcus Mumford himself was challenging any takers to chicken fights. An unaware lifeguard tried to shut this down but it was quickly explained to her just who she was ordering around. Old Crow gave way to a DJ and the Troy Stopover faded into the night as looks on people’s faces ranged from bewilderment to pure joy.

With their hands on approach to everything from location, to the art themes, to the musicians involved, and even the rules at the pool party, Mumford & Sons have created one of the most genuine and exciting events within the current festival boom. They may headline Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, but the Stopovers are where Mumford & Sons truly shine because it is about more than just their time on stage. Cities around the world will always draw crowds, music festivals or not. Instead, the Stopovers draw people to towns like Troy that still have the spirit of simpler times. These towns are sadly fading away from the landscape, but the Stopovers spark the adventurous side of people. They hit the road to take in everything they can from not only their surroundings but from their fellow ladies and gentlemen of the road and if they do it right they leave with a sense of wonderment.

7 Misconceptions Proven Wrong at Pitchfork Music Festival 2013

For whatever reason you go into a live show with some preconceptions if you know anything about the act beforehand.  I had listened to the following seven acts enough that I thought I knew what I was in for.  Time after time I turned out to be wrong.  Here’s how my preconceptions turned out to be misconceptions.

That Majical Cloudz would be a laid back pre-show.  Although it did turn out to be a crowd standing mostly still it was because they were staring in awe at the emotive vocal delivery of Devon Welsh (this even included his keyboardist Matthew Otto at times).  He scored extra points by pulling up a crazed fan to dance onstage and later climbing atop the amps for extra emphasis.

That Swans would be all drone and no rock. The day’s heat peaked at the same time as the day’s onstage intensity thanks to Swans.  I honestly thought there was a chance that Michael Gira would spontaneously combust at one point during “The Seer”.

That The Breeders would bore me once they had played “Cannonball”.  The set actually got better from that point on.  The ladies chose to joke their way through the heat with stage banter.  More importantly, the live performance of alternative classic Last Smash, played in full, came across with more energy than the album recorded 20 years ago.

That Solange was my second favorite Knowles sister.  I had a suspicion that I in fact preferred Solange’s indie R&B vibes over her megastar sister and this confirmed it.   Everything about this show was great.  Solange’s vocals, outfit, dance moves, and backing band were all on point.  No wonder so many obliged when she said it was time to “just go fucking crazy!”.

That Autre Ne Veut would not be able to live up to the hype live. Anxiety is one of my favorite albums of the year, but I wasn’t sure if it could be pulled off live.  Although Arthur Ashin’s vocals were more raw they were no less passionate.  Special shoutout to the guys whose job it was to hold empty frames the entire show.  I could not help but wonder how much they were getting paid.

That MIA was ever not one of the most commanding females in music.  After overcoming initial sound difficulties the Sri Lankan songstress proceeded to blow Union Park away. The set tapped on career highlights, including “Galang”, “Boys”, “Born Free”, and the closing one-two punch of “Paper Planes” and new jam “Bad Girls”. Backed by an impressive MATANGI embossed light rig and amped up dancers MIA connected with the crowd any way possible.  This included writing on large beach balls, screaming from side stage amps, and standing on the railing to deliver most of the final songs of the set.

That R. Kelly would be hilarious or awesome, but not both.  It was both.  The show opened with a gospel choir onstage. People in the audience were all of the sudden reminded just how many hits they actually knew by R. Kelly.  His mic was studded with enough diamonds to make around 300 engagement rings.  There was was an improvised song revolving around the line “I need a towel. Cause I’m sweaty as a mother fucker”.  And what better way to end the weekend than releasing hundreds of floating white doves into the sky during “I Believe I Can Fly”?

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2013 Preview

The 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival is set for its ninth year in Chicago’s Union Park July 19-21. Much like its parent website, the festival has gained worldwide acclaim for showcasing emerging and established artists from the independent music world. This year features headliners R. Kelly, Bjork, and Belle & Sebastian, as well as Swans, Solange, Joanna Newsom, Low, Tory y Moi, Metz, and more. With a park as tightly confined as Union Park you have no excuse not to catch it all. Here is a list of artists and attractions to look forward to.

Julia Holter

The ideal setting for Julia Holter is around 1AM in a dark basement. The LA songstress calmly helms the keyboards with a voice that is at times haunting, at other times poppy, and sometimes both. Holter’s tracks are full of strange time signatures, winding piano parts, and builds that lead nowhere. Let’s hope these elements are as engaging in the afternoon sun as a late night dungeon. With a new album due out next month we are bound to hear new sounds. Maybe the next great summer picnic song will be in there.

Ryan Hemsworth

As DJ pseudonyms get more and more ridiculous by the day the fact that Ryan Hemsworth goes by his birth name feels appropriate. The Canadian export has no specific sound and needs no gimmicks to prove his skills. His latest EP Still Awake has received a very positive response to its more ambient and soundtrack inspired songs. Despite this success do not expect this to be a lay on the ground and stare at the clouds type set though. Hemsworth shines live when he is free to get the crowd moving to a blend of his album originals, remixes of everyone from Grimes to the Backstreet Boys, and even random mash-ups like A$AP Rocky on top of Japanese pop music.


Oddly enough, the two closers for Saturday night both hail from Glasgow, Scotland. If Belle & Sebastian is from before your time or their brand of indie pop is simply not your cup of tea, then go check out their fellow Scot, Rustie. His single “After Light” caught some ears in 2011 and his BBC Essential Mix was hailed as one of the best mixes of 2012. Even so, Rustie is still not very widely known in the states. This should change and it will for those present on Saturday night for his fusion of instrumental hip-hop and grime.

Autre Ne Veut

Arthur Ashin, aka Autre Ne Veut, has been garnering well-deserved buzz all year behind the release of his album Anxiety. The title comes from Ashin’s struggles with his own anxiety and deals with the complexities in his personal relationships. His unique music is no less intricate than the subject matter. Ashin passionately belts out his soulful R&B vocals on top of heavily layered synths that make sitting still a challenge. At times it sounds like too much for one man to pull off live, but based on the outcome of Anxiety this guy knows what he is doing.


Everyone seemed to get a little down on MIA after her 2010 album MAYA. Although she became conflicted with her stardom over the years I’m guessing that Miss Arulpagasam cares what the world thinks about her more than she would like to let on. As a result, expect a big comeback when she hits the stage Sunday at Pitchfork for her first large scale show in almost two years. If the video backing the wild “Bring the Noize”, from her new album Matangi, is any indication then MIA is fired up. Let’s hope she brings the noise and the flare that made all of our jaws drop in the first place.


CHIRP Record Fair

The Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP) has become one of the most active organizations in supporting independent music in Chicago. Stop by to learn more about CHIRP and support them and local record stores and labels by picking up some new vinyl. Already have more vinyl than you know what to do with? They will be taking donations as well.


Hosted by the American Poster Institute, Flatstock will be packed with eye candy. If a quality poster is your preferred method to commemorate your love of live music, then be sure to stop by the Flatstock poster show. You will be able to meet artists and pick out top-notch posters highlighting your favorite acts.


Do not fret if the festival ends and you still have not whetted your appetite for live music. After leaving the grounds you will be able to explore the city’s great live venues with official aftershows, unofficial aftershows, and even a few arena rock shows.

Thursday, July 18

…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, UME – Double Door

Caitlin Rose – Schubas Courtney Love, Starred – House of Blues

Jeff Parker, Rob Mazurek – Constellation

Sally Timms, Janet Bean – The Hideout

Sarah Neufeld, Olafur Arnalds – Millennium Park

Savages, Parquet Courts – Lincoln Hall

Majical Cloudz, Pitchfork DJs- Lincoln Hall

Friday, July 19

Foxygen, Gauntlet Hair, Gambles – Schubas

Julia Holter, Jessica Pratt – Constellation

Merchandise, Daughn Gibson, Connections, Steve Gunn – Bottom Lounge

Savages, Sky Ferreira- Lincoln Hall

Phish- FirstMerit Bank at Northerly Island

Pearl Jam- Wrigley Field

Saturday, July 20

Mac DeMarco, Ex-Cult, OBN IIIs – Empty Bottle

Richard Colburn of Belle and Sebastian (DJ set) – Debonair Social Club

Trash Talk, White Lung, Ratking – Bottom Lounge

Waxahatchee, Carbonleak, Modern Hut – Schubas

Wolf Eyes, Pharmakon, Marshstepper – Bottom Lounge

Phish- FirstMerit Bank at Northerly Island

Ray-Ban x Boiler Room Afterparty feat. Nicolas Jaar, Ryan Hemsworth, Todd Edwards, and more- Constellation

Sunday, July 21

Parquet Courts – Bottom Lounge

Phish- FirstMerit Bank at Northerly Island


Chris Watkins – Winter Birds album review

Chris Watkins is a man with an acoustic guitar and much to say. Watkins has returned with Winter Birds, follow up to his 2011 debut Lazy Mountain Moon. Hailing from the northern land of Anchorage, Alaska, the singer/songwriter pens winding acoustic tracks to tell his stories. Watkins’ lyrics are delivered with a melancholy voice that comes across as more spoken word than singing at times. Those lyrics are combined with a layered acoustic guitar sound to create the sprawling 21-song Winter Birds.

Describing this as a long album is an understatement. Its a very long album with long songs. The five-minute and four-minute songs almost come across as short interludes between the tracks twice their length. Opener “The Shock And Drop” clocks in at 8 plus minutes with its tale of working out the frustrations of life through a drunken night. “Dirty Little Town” comes in just under 11 minutes as Watkins sings of an already desolate town losing its last good person. The songs often end up rambling repeatedly about the same themes over the same, so it is easy to see how they are so long.

Watkins’ strong point on the long winding path of Winter Birds is the vivid imagery he provides along the way. He manages to intermix images of “lipstick stains on window panes” alongside historical references to G. Gordon Liddy. All throughout he sprinkles in absurdist images along the lines of “supermarket swag”.

Watkins displays his adequate ability to string along acoustic tales, but they often feel like a friend who lacks the ability to get to the point. Telling a more concise story would benefit his next set of songs greatly. You do have to keep in mind that Hawkins hails from The Last Frontier of Alaska. Maybe the drawn out chronicles sound better with more space and time to fill.


Summer Camp Music Festival 2013 Review

Every year upon leaving Summer Camp there is a strange sense of accomplishment for simply having survived the weekend at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, IL.  Last year it was a matter of avoiding dehydration and dust bowl conditions as temperatures neared triple digits.  This year the temperature swung 60 degrees downward, hitting 39 on Thursday night.  By the end of the weekend the chilly Thursday night was a distant memory, overshadowed by the heavy rain that fell Saturday followed by the near monsoon that caused cancellations Sunday night.

That sense of accomplishment is accompanied by an amazement about the amount of fun that can be had despite any downfalls throughout the holiday weekend.  The grounds went from a mud pit to barely manageable Saturday to Sunday, Trey Anastasio’s second set and moe.’s closing set, along with others, were cancelled Sunday night, and for the strangest twist Big Boi blew out his knee shortly into his time leaving the weekend devoid of its hip-hop highlight.  Even so, there is plenty to look back on fondly.  People came out of the gates hot and pre-partied hard on Thursday.  Future Rock and Quixotic welcomed the pre-partiers with incredible sets in the barn.  On Friday the Soulshine tent was home to yoga in the morning and to the Soul Rebels’ hip-hop set by night. Umphrey’s McGee’s Ryan Stasik hosted (and won) the most entertaining kickball game I have ever witnessed at sunrise on Saturday.  Groups started their days at campsites fighting hangovers and retelling the craziness of the night prior.   The campfire somehow never went out and featured a pretty good group jam on Radiohead’s “Creep” at one point. The forest trail was entertaining as always, complete with hooligans hopping on a “SCampoline”.  If I saw anyone without a smile on their face during The Avett Brothers on Sunday it was probably just because their face was covered in mud.  You can’t control the weather, but the attendees of Summer Camp certainly did not let Mother Nature win.

Five of the weekend’s best sets:

Spirit Family Reunion

 “I thought this was supposed to be a big festival,” snickered SFR guitarist/vocalist Nick Panken to the early arriving crowd shortly into band’s time at Thursday’s pre-party.  The folk group is truly a collaborative effort as they alternate lead vocals and spends most of the time huddled around a 360 degree microphone singing with one another.  Along with their instrumental breakdowns the group stomp and jig as hard as any act I’ve come across.  The band continued to complain that Summer Camp only gave them water and not beer.  Luckily, an especially friendly fan up front provided them with Busch Lights, which they promptly shotgunned.  It must have helped because they seemed to be in much better spirits as they stomped through “100 Greenback Dollar Bills” and “No Separation”.


Saturday afternoon the rain had once again picked up but it didn’t seem to matter to the thousands of SCampers that gathered at the Moonshine stage to dance like wild animals to whatever Diplo threw at them.  There’s plenty of electronic music at SCamp but Diplo showed why he’s one of the best in the game with this mix.  Fresh off playing mostly Major Lazer shows for months his time was light on the ML material, with only the Free The Universe highlight “Jah No Partial” popping up.  No one even  seemed to care much when he had a rock star moment and called the festival Summerfest.   The set was heavy on hip-hop (“Dirt Off Your Shoulder”) with plenty of curveballs (Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness”) thrown in.  A week after having to defend his respect for Daft Punk on social media he busted out three tracks from the robots with “Aerodynamic”, “Get Lucky” and the euphoric moment when he transitioned from “Bass Head” to “Doin’ It Right”.  By the end he was dropping Kanye’s “Clique” shouting “ain’t nobody messing with my Summer Camp clique” and per the usual inviting several ladies on stage to express themselves.


Shortly before 8PM on Saturday Umphrey’s brought the rain with them, or so it seemed when at the moment their set started heavy rain once again returned.  It was seriously impressive that the show was able to go on as a series of tarps were brought out to guard keyboardist Joel Cummins’ moogs from the downpour.  After rocking to this spectacle for 20 minutes we were in need of some warming lasers and got our wish as we arrived just as SAVOY dropped their banger “I’m In Need”.  Despite dealing with their own technical difficulties and Gray Smith having to pull double duty as his usual co-DJ Ben Eberdt was absent for the night the duo version of the group brought the energy when the crowd needed it. The rain seemed to have led to a much too small crowd but those who had braved the elements went hard nonetheless as the group smashed through tracks from their three EPs released in the last year, including the two day old Three Against Nature.  The highlight came near the end with their bouncy remix of the classic “California Dreamin’”.  As cold rain continued to fall images of a sunny California gave at least a moment of imagined warmth.

Big Grizmatik

Halfway through Big Grizmatik’s special set in the Red Barn I realized I was experiencing something that is normally not hard to come by at SCamp.  A good sweat!  After feeling chilly for most of the weekend the Red Barn had been turned into a sweatbox thanks to every person in the building getting down to the grooves of Big Grizmatik’s first ever scheduled set.  After holding down the stages for their own sets Big Gigantic, Griz, and Gramatik joined forces for a funky live electronic show that did not disappoint.  They took turns expanding each other’s songs by adding their own personal touches to the originals.  The best examples of this came with Dom throwing in a sax riff on Gramatik’s “Fist Up” while Gramatik returned the favor with a typically funky guitar riff on top of Big G’s “Fantastic”.   The supergroup set grew even beyond expected proportions when Break Science’s Adam Deitch tagged in on drums for a track.  By the end the only thing curiously missing was a sax duel between Dom and Griz, the latter never even picked his up.  I guess there has to be something to look forward to the next time these guys collaborate to get people sweating.

Thievery Corporation

After a disappointing Sunday night with heavy rain and cancellations threatened to end the festival on a down note the welcomed news came that the final Red Barn show would be taking place.  Thievery Corporation had already delivered one of the weekend’s best sets the day prior.  Their eclectic mix of styles hit the spot once again in the warm confines of the Red Barn.  Although Eric Hilton, half of the base DJ duo, was absent from the shows it didn’t seem to matter much.  Rob Garza acted as a conductor and also joined in on guitar as his skilled band became the center of attention.  The group has the uncanny ability to bounce from one sound to another at a moment’s notice whether it be the hip-hop sound of “Culture of Fear” or the soothing sitar and vocals courtesy of Pam Bricker on the classic “Lebanese Blonde”.  The set was a reminder that whatever hassles were endured throughout the wet and wild weekend were worth it.



Late Nite Reading – Walls EP review

Is pop-punk poised for a revival in 2013?  Both Paramore and Fall Out Boy have released comeback albums this year with generally positive results.  Even though two stars from the genre’s mid-2000s heyday have returned it is highly unlikely we will see pop-punk return to its former status. It has faded, but pop-punk is certainly not dead.  There are entire clothing lines dedicated to the genre and new bands that grew up listening to FOB and All Time Low.

From this new class of pop-punkers comes Late Nite Reading.  The young crew hails from Carmel, IN with an average age of under 20.  The four piece consists of Dalton Wixom leading the charge on vocals, synth, and rhythm guitar, Brady Szuhaj on bass and vocals, Drew Cottrell on drums, and Clayton Collins on Lead Guitar.  In addition to well-received cover of Foster the People’s hit “Pumped Up Kicks” the band has released Cycles and Sounds and Dedicated to Deadlines, both EPs.  The boys are obviously fans of extended plays, as they have now released their third with the Walls EP.  The five-song effort is full of sugary pop hooks, heartfelt lyrics, and plenty of gang vocals.

Sometimes the lyrics may come across as a tad immature, but this is music by young people for young people (at least at heart).   “Rumor” is an anthem extolling the joy of being young, free, and living through late nights.  “Just How I Do It” tells of dealing with life’s trials through self-empowerment, which can be a detriment as much as it can be powerful for a young person.  Some touches work better than other.  The group “whoa-ohs” add to almost every track while the slightly spliced vocals on closer “Get Over It” are distracting. 

The EP definitely does not break any new ground or shatter expectations by any means. Everything on Walls has been done before and will be done again. That being said, Late Nite Reading executes the songs on this album with heart and with precision, two vital aspects of quality pop-punk.


Cafeine – New Love album review

On New Love’s title track Cafeine’s songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Xavier Cafeine offers guidance with the line “spread your feathers and get some height”.   The song is an upbeat anthem on finding new love that inspires you to break the monotony that life can develop.  Based on the aforementioned line, the track and album as a whole can be seen as the French-Canadian Cafeine’s desire to reach ears far outside of Quebec.

From the start it is clear that this album is a project that has consumed Cafeine’s efforts in more ways than one.  New Love, the follow up to 2009’s Bushido, features overtly personal lyrics.  Additionally, Xavier played all the instruments found on the record to create a series of songs that range from new wave to alternative.

Cafeine explores several variations of love within New Love.  With over half of the album’s tracks containing “love” in the title the constant theme becomes trite more often than it hits the mark.  The poppy French-spoken “Lettres d’amour” is one of the album’s highlights, guided by its repetitive guitar riff and call and response chorus.  Next, the bouncy “I Love You” feels like a watered down Bloc Party song with its high-pitched synth and reverb vocals.  The endearing title is completely ruined when crassly preceded by, “Hey bitch I got a message for you.”

Fortunately, Cafeine realizes his shortcomings as a lyricist and directly acknowledges this on “Fucking Time”.  “Wish my songs were a little more clever, at least they fucking rhyme” he sings along with a series of lamentations on how there is no fucking time.  This acceptance of his often simplistic songwriting helps make the song one of the album’s most enjoyable tracks, eschewing complexity for a fun song that is easy to relate to.  The dark tones and brooding vocals fit the downtrodden tale of a city without love on “No Love”.  The loveless city is described with Halloween type imagery of ghosts and vampire.  “Black Swans”, the whistle infused album closer is another somber track but Cafeine finds joy in knowing there are others that share his outlook.

New Love is a compilation of songs that allows its writer to voice his feelings on love.  The songs, much like his feelings on love, are varied.  At some points this draws the listener in, while at others it drives them away.  It is not a great album, but there is enough substance to draw in new listeners and “get some height” as we know Cafeine strives for.


Super Wild Horses – Crosswords album review

Melbourne garage rock duo Super Wild Horses have made great strides from their decidedly humble beginnings.  After first meeting while attending an all girls Catholic school together Amy Franz and Hayley McKee formed the band without any experience playing instruments but with a passion for loudly singing along with one another in the car.   The pair picked up the craft quickly with each sharing duties on vocals, guitar, keyboard, and drums. Eventually, the efforts led to their 2010 debut Fifteen.  The album sounded more like the work of skilled veterans than neophytes with catchy fuzz-filled tunes from start to finish.  Now after three years the band has returned with their sophomore album Crosswords, released on Dot Dash/Remote Control Records.  Across 13 tracks the album retains the original sound that brought them praise from far outside of Australia.  At the same time the pop hooks often hidden on Fifteen have emerged from the haze via a varied selection of song styles. The twosome has taken great strides forward with Crosswords, just as they leaped from the front seat of their car to widespread acclaim with their debut.

Crosswords kicks off with the bass-driven single “Alligator”, a melancholy track directed at a now distant lover.   The scathing tone backs lyrics lamenting “You’ve got me jumping through hoops, just for a little piece of you”.  Romantic frustration is a common theme that continues throughout the album.  On “Don’t Gamble” the dual vocals on top of a bouncy guitar rhythm chastise someone foolish enough to gamble away their mother’s wedding ring.  As the lyrics grow angrier with the subject whose luck has run out the guitar and vocals match by sounding increasingly harsh.  Franz and McKee up the ante with their take on Smokey Robinson’s oft covered “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”.  They manage to turn out a version that fits well with the album’s other tracks focused on frustrated lovers, adding their own “I want to quit now, you don’t do shit now” line.

The highlights of Crosswords come on the latter half when the songs break away from their usual format. “West Coast” features a guest male vocalist to trade off lyrics of longing for one another with.  A wide array of noises make up the oddly titled “Ono In a Space Bubble”, including guitar reverb, high-pitched squeals, and wailing vocals, and whispered chants of the title.  “You Have Two Feet (So Run)” revolves around halting guitar akin to the riffs of the band’s musical forerunner Sleater Kinney/Wild Flag’s Carrie Brownstein.  The album’s most playful track “Wakiki Romance” fits its title with a sunny surf rock feel before the proceedings fade out with the short ballad “Setting Sun”.  Evolving throughout, Crosswords fittingly mirrors Super Wild Horses short career trajectory.


Summer Camp Music Festival 2013 Preview

Summer camp is all about seeing old friends and making new ones, taking part in activities you will find nowhere else, and reveling in a place that feels completely separate from the rest of the world.   The aptly named Summer Camp Music Festival has reinvented this experience for an older crowd with top musical acts providing the soundtrack.  Getting lost in the forest, huddling around the campfire, and staying up until sunrise are all common occurrences at SCamp.  This year the festival includes field day competitions, camp counselors to document the festivities, a treasure hunt, workshops led by artists, and much more.

Now in its 13th year, Summer Camp takes place over Memorial Day weekend in Three Sisters Park just outside of Chillicothe, Illinois.  What began as a small jam-centric gathering in 2001 has ballooned to become one of the top camping festivals in the Midwest.  This year’s lineup features over 100 acts performing on six stages.  With artists ranging from rock to electronic, funk to bluegrass, and everywhere in between there’s bound to be something for everyone.  This year’s lineup is led by mainstays moe. and Umphrey’s Mcgee, each playing three days, as well as renowned artists including STS9, The Avett Brothers, Big Boi, Trey Anastasio, Thievery Corporation, and Diplo.  Here is just a handful of the entertainment in store at Summer Camp 2013…

Spirit Family Reunion: Thursday, 7:30 Campfire Stage and Friday 6:00 Camping Stage

Summer Camp is always stacked with great bluegrass, folk, and acoustic artists.  This year is no different with one of the top to see being Spirit Family Reunion.  The Brooklyn-based act first gained attention playing in NYC subways before moving on to share the stage with Trampled By Turtles last year. In their own words they play “homegrown American music to stomp, clap, shake and holler with.”

Medeski, Martin, and Wood: Friday 4:00, Moonshine Stage

MMW is keyboardist John Medeski, bassist Chris Wood, and drummer Billy Martin.  With over 20 years of experience under their belts they have been a constant force in the jazz world while gaining a reputation for their live performances.  Expect this to be the first set that really gets people moving at the Moonshine stage on Friday.

The Soul Rebels: 9:00PM Friday, Campfire and 1:00AM Soulshine

The Soul Rebels is a brass band from New Orleans that combines traditional brass band style with modern sounds.  They will surely have the crowd dancing to their horns’ blend of funk, R&B, and hip-hop.  They will also be playing a special late night set as De La Soul Rebels in which they will recreate classic De La Soul tracks.

SAVOY: 8:00 Saturday, Campfire Stage

Colorado-bred, New York based electronic group SAVOY has become one of the most exciting names in the genre.  These guys have skills and they are not confined to one sound.  Whether it’s their earlier hard electro sounds, dubstep tracks such as “I’m In Need”, or slick banger “We Are the Sun”, they know how to make people move.  Scampers will be some of the first to get a live taste of the trio’s freshly released Three Against Nature EP. Their 8 o’clock set time should be just in time to light up the early night with their impressive laser show.

Indigo Sun: 6:00 Sunday, Camping Stage

If you’re in the mood for some saxophone but would like it leading a smooth full band as opposed to being combined with a DJ deck then Indigo Sun is for you.  They have a scheduled set but search the forest for their campsite where they have been known to have impromptu jams through the night.

Big Grizmatik: 2:45AM Saturday (Sunday), Red Barn

After getting together at last year’s Electric Forest for a surprise set Big Gigantic, Gramatik, and Griz are reassembling for a special late night set to close down the Red Barn after STS9 on Saturday night.  Since last year Griz and Gramatik have gotten together for a few incredible sets, but this will be the first time they will have the power their three talents since their initial outing.  Late night shows in the Red Barn require an extra ticket and they once again sold out almost instantly this year.  You can still get in by buying a VIP upgrade or possibly by giving that really thirsty guy next to you at Gramatik’s daytime set a drink of water (you never know…).

Diplo: 4:30 Sunday, Moonshine

Diplo has seemingly been everywhere in the world, but this will be his first stop at Summer Camp.  Recently he’s been touring Europe with his Major Lazer project so let’s hope the change of pace leads to a set that gets people moving while exploring his wide range of styles.

Big Boi: 6:30 Sunday, Moonshine

Every year Summer Camp seems to have at least one hip-hop legend on hand.  De La Soul and Common delivered some of the festival’s best sets in previous years.  In 2013 Big Boi of Outkast will be in charge of educating the crowd with his hip-hop wisdom.  This set is sure to include Outkast hits, tracks from his successful solo work, and cuts from last year’s excellent Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.  Big Boi’s unmistakable flow is sure to teach the crowd a thing or two.

The Soulshine Tent:

The Soulshine Tent is one of the most unique and exciting parts of Summer Camp.  You can stop by early to start your morning right with a group yoga session.  On Friday afternoon any ultimate Umphrey’s fan must stop by for a chance to win a coveted Golden Ticket.  There will be multiple drives to help various causes this year with a Conscious Alliance canned food drive (bring 20 cans and get a SCamp poster!), a cell phone drive, a shoe drive, and for the first time this year a seed drive where you will be able to trade or pick up new seeds to start your summer garden.  And by participating in all things Soulshine you are partaking in the Summer Camp Treasure Hunt.  Check the back of your program to learn more on how to cross off items and get access to a special The Everyone Orchestra (featuring Victor Wooten, Joel Cummins, and more) set Sunday in the Red Barn.

Summer Camp Tips:

– Arrive early for the Thursday Pre-Party. Not only is it an extra day of great music, but also you will be able to snatch the prime camp spots and get acclimated before the full crowd arrives.

– Bring a wagon to transport supplies from your car to your site.  Yes, a Radio Flyer style wagon.

– The festival comes alive at night.  Music runs from 11AM-4AM, so be ready to sacrifice some sleep for music.  Even if you weren’t lucky enough to snag a ticket to the late night sets in the limited capacity Red Barn, you’re still at Summer Camp.  There will be acts playing at the Campfire Stage and Vibe tent into the wee hours of the night.

– Be prepared for varied weather.  It can range from sweltering during the day to chilly at night.  Last year temperatures constantly neared triple digits and it felt like the Grapes of Wrath by Sunday; the year prior there was significant rainfall that turned the grounds into a giant mud pit.

– Meet new people. Try new things.  There’s no better place for it.