The Lumineers at Edgefest 2013

Have you ever been to an outdoor festival that should have been rained out? Have you ever stood in a field with thousands of other sopping wet party-goers waiting for the last band of the day, thinking to yourself, ‘I’ve got this far. I can make it another hour’?
Last night Edgefest was nearly obliterated by the rain. Rivers of rain and cried tears pooled in the park’s crevices, wet teenagers who couldn’t feel anything anymore anyway huddled under tarp that they ripped down from the fencing, and I actually picked up empty garbage bags from the ground and wrapped them around my shoulders to try to shield myself from the monsoon. Covered in a massive sheet of plastic, I crouched down and tried not to think about how cold and tired I was, how much I was looking forward to a warm bath and as many fuzzy layers as I could get my hands on. Water came off of me in streams. It got to the point where I was weighing how much The Lumineers actually meant to me – what I was willing to put myself through in order to hear them live…

When the filler music died down, and the crowd began to rush the stage, I stood and wandered closer; shaking the plastic wrap and feeling the falling water soak my feet. Pink flood lights beamed out over us, illuminating the rain in the darkened sky. The band picked up their instruments and as soon as the first few notes were strummed I knew what they playing; CCR’s ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain.’ I closed my eyes and let the music wash over me. At no other time in my life has that song meant so much. Isn’t that the exact reason why we chase live music? To feel that perfect moment of calm amidst the chaos? To feel like the universe has purpose? How else could such a moment be designed?

Never in my life have I experienced such a concert moment; a song so perfectly chosen, one so soothing and so nostalgic, one that delivered such a sense of interconnectedness with not only the band, but the sky, and the day, and every decision that led up to the first words being sung. The Lumineers played that song for us, as a thank you for weathering the storm, and I looked onto them with new appreciation. Not only are they musicians with some great songs, they are a band who understands the magic of music.

NXNE Day 3: July Talk at The Mod Club

Light floods out into the crowd in thick beams. I immediately notice the bed on stage. I had the pleasure of walking to the gig with a girl whose friend had set the stage up. She said to look out for it, that all the stage hands had been wondering what it was going to be used for….

The energy swells and the band makes their way into the flooding lights. This is my first time hearing July Talk, they are the only band that has been recommended to me more than twice; they have amazing word of mouth. The club is packed. In come the musicians. If you haven’t heard any of their music, now would be a good time to look some up. You will be as surprised as I was at the intensity of the male lead’s voice. Peter Dreimanis sounds like Tom Waits in a huge way. Then comes the trilling voice of Leah Fay who exudes the kitten ‘90’s punk lady that we all fell in love with while wearing flower dresses and Doc Martens. Juxtaposed to Dreimanis, the dynamic is intoxicating. She moves towards the bed…but doesn’t get on it yet…

Every member seems to have their own style of rocking out. The lead male moves like James Dean calmly impersonating Elvis, his knees gently sway. Leah lives to do backbends while holding onto the mix stand. She’s adorable. She has a joyous air about her; like a children’s TV show host. “Who feels like dancing?” She screams. When she finally makes her way to bed she lies languidly across and yells, “Let’s hear you SCREAM Toronto!!” The whole crowd goes nuts.

So, showmanship. Yes. The band has definitely figured the half-way theatrics that fill out what’s happening on stage. Besides our attention being drawn to the bed, and the metaphors that it incites, their sound is extremely well rounded. The electric elements are amazing, but the country infused anthems are the best in my opinion. It lets Peter’s Tom Waits voice shine and allows Leah’s to transform from 90’s punk to pigtailed dolly, and because of that her sinister cackle in the middle of the songs work so well.

As it all draws to a close, I am sad that it is over. July Talk exists in wonderful world where the darkness of thought and lyric exists on a stage where their female lead yells things like ‘Pillow fight!’ Their music is jaunty, electric, folky, dark, thoughtful, vintage, and brand spanking new at the same time. Picture a wooden house leaning into corn field, dark skies behind, in the brightly lit kitchen a blonde with a pixie cut jumps around on the black and white checkered tiles; four men sit on the porch with their instruments, singing against her and with her, making beautiful music that is only made truer by the landscape surrounding it. ‘Blow us kisses goodbye!” She screams, and after three massive canons on the balcony bomb the audience with feathers, it’s all over.

NXNE Day 2: Dan Deacon at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, June 13th

Layers and layers of sound. Never have you heard so much sound at the same time and wanted more.

Deacon’s show is extremely interactive, he plays from the floor, engaging the audience to hold props. Usually light reflecting gear of some sort. Is it a rubber chicken he’s fist pumping with? Who cares!? I’m drinking pint glasses of his Kool-Aid.

I chase music. I can boast more notches than on the average belt, but I have never seen a show like this. The closest I have ever come was the Flaming Lips finale. That’s what the Deacon show was; the most condensed tiny little Flaming Lips bubble with all the teletubbies and the glitter jammed into a 4×4 space with ten times as much sound and excitement.

It’s hard to figure what it is exactly what seven hundred of my new best friends and I are celebrating. It could be an explosion of nerdom that we find ourselves immersed in, each of us saluting each others’ freak flag, each of us feeling our dissipating ‘cool factor’, none of giving a sh*t cause Dan Deacon doesn’t care, so why should we? He ordered half of the room to dance like Game of Thrones didn’t suck this season, and even the industry representatives cloaked in suits in the back screamed their faces off. Who wants to be street cool when they could party with Dan Deacon and let it all hand out instead? (No one puts Dan Deacon in a corner.)

In fact, I can prove this. About midway through his set he orders ten people to make a tunnel with their hands. “This is going to be stressful and difficult but it will be so worth it. Chug your drinks, we’re taking this all the way outside!” (Small amounts of disbelief come from the audience like puffs of smoke that lasts only ten seconds.) Soon everyone is lining up to touch a stranger and get involved. I have not seen this much audience participation since Raffi came to my elementary school. “Just to reintegrate,” he says, “as soon as you come through the tunnel you become part of the tunnel!” The music swells and everyone just starts touching each other. “Don’t be a pervert.”

Zero to sixty does not do this group justice. When I walked into the bar the crowd was sedated; spent from the punk band that had played the slot before. Drawing energy is an art form in Deacons world, an art form that he is both master of, and I’m sure on some level unconscious. What you feel most when you watch him perform is the fluidity of his character, the reckless abandon with which he plays with music; and his giant beaming heart that makes you want to hug a perfect stranger and admit to them that you have Star Wars action figure collection and that the new Daft Punk changed your life.

Viva the strobe light. Viva Dungeons and Dragons. Viva all things music. Viva life.

And in the immortal words of Dan Deacon, “The tunnel must live on.”

He’s playing SECRET SHOW at the Drake Hotel June 14th, 11pm.

NXNE Day 1: The Damn Truth at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, June 13th

Up tempo, happy, raging, guttural, thick, moving, waves, thrash, guitar, who is that chick? Symbol, shudder, hum, Janis, symbol again, pause, bass, more bass, Black Sabbath, she sings, pen down, pay attention, drum kit, close your eyes, I’m freaking out (Ode to Jimi Hendrix.)

It was the simple repetitious base line that got to me first, reminiscent of the Technicolor age of folk; but that broke out into millennial guitar which said innovation, not revival…until the drums broke through the background and met the thunderous vocals at the front of the stage. Full. Mind. Explosion.

Never have I uttered the compliment “This chick sounds like Janis,” for two reasons. Firstly, I never wanted to liken anyone to Janis for fear of tainting the perfect image of her I have in my mind. Secondly, no one has ever deserved it. Lee-La, the singer, has earned such a credit. Her voice is unbelievable, and not just in its strength, but in that way she uses it to convey the meanings of the songs. Her melodies look structured on paper, I’m sure, but when she uses her voice she does so in a way that tells me she’s teaching, not just singing. I met with her the next day and saw in her eyes the appreciation of such a comment, but also the desire to be seen outside of who she reminds us of. She has earned this above all. Janis casts a long shadow, but The Damn Truth will cast their own, mark my words.

There is a connection to elemental nature of rock n roll when you watch them. You can see the importance of the instruments, the vocals, the love of music. I should be able to explain this better, it is my job after all, but there was just something beyond magical about the way the pieces came together; it was like walking through a building made of sound. I could see the beams, and floors, skylight; all the things that make a building stand except it wasn’t a building at all, it was music made of gold and I was just simply in it.

So…Rock revival coming out of Montreal? I would wager that this is going to be the next big wave in Canada’s musical tide pool. Do I want to call The Damn Truth a revival band? Yes and no. Yes, because I feel nostalgic when I listen to them and they have, truthfully, revived a part of me that believed that the golden age of rock was not behind us. But I won’t because they deserve better than that from me. I will say simply this: they breathed fresh life into me. They are the real f*cking deal; THAT’S The Damn Truth.

They’re playing The Sound of Music Festival in Burlington on June 15th. Go see them.

NXNE Day 1: This Hisses at Hard Luck Bar, June 12th

The Hard Luck Bar on Dundas St. W, Toronto is everything you would expect from a venue with a long history of disseminating punk and metal out into gentile streets of Toronto. Many a hard noted band has played here. Audiences have called out for the black musical vapor to pour onto them, contracted hepatitis and gotten pregnant here; this is the place to witness to magical underbelly of today’s burgeoning post-punk scene.

This Hisses is such a band. Though I’m sure they would prefer not to be labeled, as no band actually likes that; they are so called because of the incredibly hard notes that back up the languid and beautifully dark lyrical content of their catalogue. Patrick, their guitar maverick, is quite demure in real life, but as I knew from their album ‘Anhedonia,’ that I was going to witness massive shredding.

Julia doesn’t look like your typical disenfranchised punk singer. She is operatic, and dresses with an air of femme fatale. Red dress, smokey eyes, and a come-hither-so-I-can-scream-in-your-face expression; she is the epitome of vocal talent and stage persona.

It’s possible that JP is one of the most dynamic drummers I have ever seen. He creates a huge space as he uses his kit, standing sometimes for emphasis, moving all the way around the symbols so as to hit the skins like a Taiko drummer; all accented by his artisanal facial hair.

I am blown away by the assuredness they project while on stage. Their songs feel like small pockets of dispelled knowledge; truth that one needs to learn the hard way. I’m sitting with my back against the sound booth, my feet vibrate on the wooden bench when the bass hits. Everything in the bar that is nailed down oscillates. I am in a weird space where physically I feel massaged, and emotionally I feel messaged. For forty minutes they are the last band on earth, and we are the last listeners. Ahhh, punk.

Look out for MVRemix’s upcoming interview with This Hisses.

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”.

Diplo

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.

SAVOY

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.

 

Laura Stevenson – Wheels album review

Here are some words Stevenson uses to describe herself on her website:

“My mom would find me in my room, looking out the window, out at the street, singing by myself, sometimes crying,” she laughs, “I was a weird kid.”

“An unfunny Woody Allen.”

“…she spent her afternoons singing in four different choral groups, exploring a growing love for acapella. “Big time nerd stuff,” as she recalls, lamenting that there wasn’t a show like Glee around to validate her when she was in the thick of it.”

I like her already. Stevenson keeps the songs tight. They typically feature two electric guitars (although one is usually hidden in the background quite nicely) and subtle moments of vocal harmony. Her voice has an interesting tambour that takes a minute to get used to, like a punk rocker, but one who actually has incredibly good control over her voice. If you get a chance, check out her live performances of The Move. It was shocking to me that someone with this kind of guitar talent started out life as a classical pianist, but then again it isn’t really all that surprising because of course she’s incredibly multi-talented.

Personal story: My brother has a lot of fanboy crushes on Korean pop-stars. I’m pretty sure he likes them for their hip-flicking music videos more than the actual music, and there’s nothing really wrong with that if that’s what you’re into. I on the other hand, am a different story. Ms. Stevenson introduces The Move by saying something to the effect of “this is a song about being crazy and ruining someone’s life because of it.” This may say more about me than anything, but I have a huge crush on this girl. She is a fantastically talented musician and adorably self-aware. I would even recommend the music to children, so long as they don’t listen to the lyric content at every second. The acoustic songs are probably more to the general public’s liking, but I very much enjoy the electric guitar songs. If her career is a long one, (fingers crossed) then I don’t think the light punk aesthetic will stick, but hats off to Ms. Stevenson for displaying her versatility instead of sticking to her wheel house. No pun intended.

There are moments where it does feel like something is being held back. I suspect there is still some dark shadow of mad genius in Laura that hasn’t quite found a comfortable space to express itself.

Call me?

Sasquatch 2013 Day One: Poppin’ Collars and Droppin’… Bridges?

Temperature, precipitation, personal hygiene: these things mean little to the seasoned festival goer. Walking in through the gates of Sasquatch this year, I simultaneously felt nostalgia and excitement (with a hint of nausea as a particularly ripe gentleman blew past me screaming Bloody Mary) knowing that the world of large scale festivals in an enigma, shrouded in furry animal suits, just waiting to shock the feint of heart.

The drive down from Vancouver to The Gorge Amphitheatre is one that, although prepared for by the onslaught of news stories the previous night, nearly took the wind out of our sails. Crawling through the streets of Mount Vernon, WA at a snail’s pace while staring, jaws agape, at a clean break; a fully MISSING section of the Skagit River bridge, well, let’s just say we were in no rush to cross the next bridge the I-5 offered up to us. The extra few hours in traffic meant that we unfortunately missed the opening act on the main stage. All the stages, for the uninitiated, are cleverly named to keep company with Ole’ Sasquatch (the main stage): Bigfoot, Yeti, El Chupacabra, and Cthullu (yes, the Lovecraftian reference causes an involuntary tilt of my head as well being lumped in this group… has anyone ever claimed to see the great god-creature from another dimension?). From 4:00 on Friday afternoon until the final act at 11:00 on Monday night, there’s music and comedy to satisfy the pickiest of festival snobs with recognizable names on EVERY stage; a feat not easily accomplished and yet not surprising considering the track record of this incredible venue.

ZZ Ward, although I didn’t catch the act personally, clearly wow’d fans and newcomers to her music alike as it seemed to be the name no one was likely to forget, or even stop talking about regardless of the act they were catching at the time. The first act caught in person was actually a surprise when, rounding a corner headed towards the Sasquatch stage, who do I find playing an intimate little set in the Acoustic Tent but Vampire Weekend! Subdued, restrained, and light-hearted, I wasn’t aware yet that this was how I wanted to see the group. Not, unfortunately, onstage, barely able to hold on to the quickly dwindling crowd they amassed later on that evening.


**Built To Spill

Built to Spill, the Boise based boys, are a band that’s been around the festival circuit a few times now. No scathing commentary on their age here though, as they still sounded youthful and energetic despite the gray in their beards (I had to… just one…). Watching hipsters with hats made of Duck Tape, next-gen flower children with closed eyes and open arms, and a mass of side-boob showing, fur-coat wearing (this is likely headliner Macklemore’s influence), impossible to categorize characters dancing to their music, I wonder if the guys from Built to Spill think that any of this is any more out of the ordinary than decades past? With a sound akin to The Tragically Hip (or is that just the Canadian in me linking the two), their indie-guitar rock sounds parted the rain clouds (literally… it really did stop raining at this point) and a rainbow appeared that, to my thirsty eyes, ended at the beer tent. All would be right with this weekend. Of that, I was now assured.


**Father John Misty

Father John Misty, real name Joshua Tillman, formerly of the folk group Fleet Foxes was the first act I caught on the second largest stage, The Bigfoot. Girls actually swooned, the backs of their hands subconsciously finding their foreheads (I didn’t know women still did that to be honest) the moment Father John took the stage. Meandering from one side of the stage to the other, one hand in his jeans pocket, one hand delicately holding onto the mic, flamboyance and confidence came together in this bearded poet who slings his verse with dreamlike chords backing him up. The only payment this man seems to crave; the applause and energy of his adoring fans. As the show continues, notching off just about every song off of his 2012 release, Fear Fun, I can’t get over the demeanor and presence of what could’ve been a terribly convincing cult leader in another life. He shakes his hips and points his guitar like a young, folk-rock Elvis Presley, his bravado keeping the mood light and the crowd smiling. His music isn’t anything to wag a finger at either. Alternating between hands-free, outlandish gestures while singing and an acoustic guitar that he lets sing in its own right, Father John, whom I now refuse to refer to by his given and rather unfitting name, Joshua, is a man made for the spotlight. All his eccentricities and the infectious music he brings to the stage will only help his star rise to dizzying heights.

Taking the energy level up about five notches (initially, at least), Arctic Monkeys took to the main stage only moments after Father John blew a kiss goodbye to all the ladies at Bigfoot Stage. Continuing the throwback-frontman trend, in my eyes at least, vocalist Alex Turner channeled Buddy Holly save only the glasses. Pulling a black comb out of his back pocket to slick his hair back in place these (still) young Brits came out blasting tracks off their freshman album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, to get the crowd going frantic. “Fake Tales of San Francisco” brought me back to memories of Roskilde Festival outside of Copenhagen, Denmark back in ’06: the first time I saw these guys live as they toured the globe promoting their first and only album at the time. A much more well-rounded show than seven years ago, the boys properly chilled the crowd out before picking them right back up with lead-ins of, “This next song’s called ‘Pretty Visitors’ and you’re gonna fuckin’ love it!” The backbone and fast-beating heart of the operation, drummer Matt Helders relentlessly punishes his kit as Turner takes the centre walkway shaking babies and kissing hands. The Brit Award winning, Grammy nominated group know what their strengths are and showcase them with songs like “Brick by Brick”, Helders kicks it into overdrive and for the first time, I notice he’s wearing a mouthguard. Clearly seeing his job as a high energy, high octane endurance event that it is. Although everyone was waiting for, and loving, the college anthems Arctic Monkeys are so good at pumping out, their newer efforts really brought the crowd in to an intimate space that the band has carefully crafted for their fans.


**Vampire Weekend

As mentioned earlier, the New York based band Vampire Weekend took the headlining spot on the Bigfoot Stage and, after opening with “Cousins” off their first album, the crowd’s energy and the sheer number of them had me wondering if these boys could really be referred to as a “secondary-stage-act”? “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” followed and not long after, “Horchata” off their sophomore album came next, then the first of their new hits of their week old album Modern Vampires of the City, “Diane Young” had everyone screaming their heads off. Unfortunately for the band, the techs at the Bigfoot Stage just weren’t ready for this sort of noise and the sound cut out and back more than a few times throwing a major wrench in the mood. Lead vocalist Ezra Koenig took all this in stride and reverted to (or possibly simply went on with their show as planned) a much quieter second half of the set playing mostly off their newest album. Although songs like “Unbelievers” and “Don’t Lie” are wonderfully crafted songs with many layers, the general vibe around the crowd was not a subtle one. Yells of, “TURN IT UP”, and “LET’S GO… GET LOUDER” were as much calls to the band as to the sound technicians. Less than ¾ through their set and more than half the crowd had left to see what all the noise Macklemore was making on the Sasquatch Stage was all about. I was one of those that left feeling, not that I saw a sub-par group perform, but that I just happen to catch a performance meant for a hip club in Brooklyn, not a balls-out festival show.

If anyone out there hasn’t heard the name Macklemore yet, or at least found yourself uncontrollably jumping around to the uber-catchy “Thrift Store”, well, then you would have been severely outnumbered at The Gorge. Ben Haggerty, a.k.a. Macklemore, and his producer, beat-maker extraordinaire Ryan Lewis headlined the main stage on the opening night of Sasquatch and you couldn’t find a more pleased crowd anywhere in the Pacific Northwest! The Seattle based rapper and musician at one point openly stated that he was almost at a loss for words looking out into the crowd because he’d been, “…working [his] whole life to be on this stage, right here, at the Gorge.” Sporting a Seattle SuperSonics jersey, Macklemore lit the stage up, dancing just as hard, if not harder than most of his fans. From the kilt-wearing trumpet player bunny-slippers and all, to the pimped-out fur coats and pinstriped suits onstage, this performance was aimed to please! Once his smash single “Thrift Store” happened, all bets were off as Macklemore cruised out of the sidelines on a scooter with a full wolf-head and fur coat on. And yet, as many are apt to comment, this isn’t a one-trick pony. Not two songs later, Ben Haggerty, alone in the spotlight, spoke candidly about his battle with drugs and alcohol and followed up with the entire second verse, acapella, off “Otherside” just to drive home the reality of the lyrics. Knowing he had this crowd in the palm of his hand, he held on to this intimate moment (shared with 20,000 people) and got the music started for his conversation-starting single, “Same Love”. Listening intently to the lyrics, the entire Gorge shivered simultaneously as the climax of the second verse, and the crux of the argument for gay marriage hits, and Macklemore screams out, “I might not be the same, but that’s not important. No freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it!”

A great first day with three full days of discovery and nostalgia to come; yes, this Memorial Day weekend is going to be a memorable one indeed.

Check out Chelsea Chernobyl’s photos of Sasquatch 2013 Day One

Kate Nash Album & Tour Wrap Party

To celebrate the end of the North American leg of her tour, Kate Nash held a joint album & tour wrap party at Norwood Arts Club in New York. As a Nash fan, I had quite high hopes for the event but was left a bit disappointed, though not necessarily through any fault of Nash’s.

The night began with a smaller group gathered for two screenings. First up was a clip from “Girl Rising,” a documentary that’s segmented into chapters, each focusing on one girl and her quest for education and empowerment. We viewed the “Egypt” chapter, the story of Yasmin that utilized animated footage to protect her identity. The clip was both visually and emotionally stunning, prompting many to use the Q&A time to inquire more about the girls and the film. While I did enjoy the excerpt and Nash using her visibility to bring attention to this campaign, it was also kind of weird because 1. She’s not directly involved with this project so it felt overly tangential, and 2. If the aim were to spread the word as much as possible, it would seem more efficient to open this event to all the people invited to the after party.

The second video was clips of Nash on a trip to Ghana with Plan, an organization with similar values as “Girl Rising” and that works with the documentary’s producers, 10×10. The video of Nash in Africa was, again, quite emotional and entertaining. I did like that they didn’t drag out either of the screenings, which made it feel like they wanted to show them for personal pleasure and informative purposes, not just to try to get money out of those in the room.

The Q&A portion followed the screenings, though the abruptness of it was unexpected and most questions stayed within the realm of the videos we had just watched. Most interestingly, Nash revealed that she began to get involved with UK schools because she noticed there are more male composers than female, that she realizes that ideological thinking doesn’t change overnight so she hopes to realistically help change the next generation, and that she believes one of the most important things that needs to be taught in school is self-esteem. Along with trying to close the gender gap in current composers, Nash was also inspired to help empower girls in other countries because “just because [she’s] not being exposed to that, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

Following the short Q&A session, all guests were invited to head to the bar and “hang out with Kate Nash.” We did as told, though Nash remained in the screening room talking with various people for about 45 minutes. For some reason I had gotten the thought into my head that Nash would be performing at the event, though after speaking with a couple of other people I realized I was the only one who thought that. After waiting for Nash to come mingle and then finding my chance to meet her and say hi, I couldn’t justify another $15 cocktail and left the party a little early.

Nash was so nice and charming to meet; she was so appreciative of literally every person who said hello and met every single with a hug. Though the night as a whole was a bit of a mish-mosh, Nash was quite lovely the entire evening.

Let’s Reflect: Tales of a SXSW Virgin

For the weeks leading up to my trip to Austin, when anyone asked me if I was going to SXSW I would simply shrug my shoulders and quietly say “yes” then quickly change the subject of conversation. It’s not that I wasn’t excited to go to Texas for the conference, I just hadn’t had a clue what to expect and for a control freak like me, that doesn’t really fly in my world. So when I began making a list of bands I was interested in seeing a cocktail of excitement, anxiety, and sheer panic washed over me and in that moment I decided to take the festival by the horns and step off the plane without a plan or agenda in mind. Whether it be massive amounts of tacos or enough free vodka to fill a medium to large above ground swimming pool I would not stop until I got the “full festival experience” as all of my Industry-veteran coworkers had began calling it; no matter what it took.

When I arrived in Austin last Wednesday afternoon the feeling of the warm air and sun hitting my face were enough to let me forget about any worries I may have had before leaving Chicago. Being able to take my jacket off while waiting for my ride to the hotel had given me enough joy in itself that I could have been denied my badge at the Austin Convention Center and I would have still been okay because there was a good chance I could still manage to get a tan. However, after the relief of receiving my badge set in, I was finally ready to explore Austin and peruse up and down 6th street and discover everything that I had been reading about for months and all of the things my friends and coworkers had been telling me I would be stupid to miss.

I honestly couldn’t tell you the name of the first bar I walked into or the name of the first band I saw but what I can tell you is that I quickly learned that none of that mattered at SXSW. As long as a band was good and people weren’t drunk enough to fall over each other quite yet, a crowd with enough energy could create the feeling that you were seeing your favorite band for the first time. Everyone had just been happy to be there and to be listening to good music with people who felt the same no matter what their preferred genre may have been. As the days went on, this continued to happen again and again and although, more than not, bands were putting on phenomenal performances, it became obvious festival go-ers could have cared less if a band was signed to Columbia Records or were playing their first show outside of their small suburban town.

As days turned into nights and nights turned into periods of pure chaos, it was impossible not to reflect on the fact that I was at one of the largest music festivals in the entire World, which almost seemed impossible while watching Weatherbox in a dirty bar with only 15 other people. But reality hit once more when I received the news that I had won the lottery to gain early entrance into Green Day at the Moody Theater and only three hours later I was seeing Fall Out Boy with my best friends in a bar no bigger than the hipster dive my roommate and I will go catch shows at on the weekends. No matter one’s feelings on either of those bands, you can’t look past the fact that things like that may never happen again and the next time these artists come to your town, they’ll be playing in a venue that the night before your city’s major hockey team had just ruined their six game streak. SXSW makes things happen that not many other festivals have said they’ve done. You can’t leave Bonnaroo saying that you were in a 500 capacity room watching Cold War Kids and you may never be able to leave Lollapalooza knowing you were almost face to face with Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer.

The amount of new music I discovered was almost infinite and the connections I made with others in the industry gave me hope as a soon-to-be college graduate that I may actually have a chance at a long career in the music industry. As I was packing my bags Sunday morning, I had already began discussing SXSW plans for 2014 with the few girls I had roomed with, because for someone who had never been to Austin during the insanity that is the conference, I had never felt so at home in my entire life. SXSW became a safe haven in the short amount of time I had been there and I know that it will continuously feel that way until I’m too old and brittle to trek down to Texas. Looking back, all of the anxiety and apprehension was a waste of energy and time because the second you step onto 6th street and the rush of people and sounds of over twenty different bands playing at once hits you, none of your worries matter. You feel at home and maybe for the first time, you feel like you’re exactly where you need to be.