August 29, 2008

Radiohead @ The Hollywood Bowl [LA; 08/25/08]

Over 2 hours, 26 songs, and 2 encores of the highest attainable level of human consciousness

You could say ‘everything was in its right place’ on Monday. Just listing off the elements is overwhelming: the greatest band on the planet, under the Hollywood bowl moonlight, shared with the greatest group of friends a guy can ask for.

The only real variable going in (besides traffic) was the setlist. Now there’s not a song by these gents I wouldn’t love to hear, but they pieced together a superb, un-debatable collection. Los Angeles locals, crazed fans, and typical celebrities alike heard a generous balance of favorites from all periods of Radiohead. We also got the entire In Rainbows record along with some nice surprises (yes, “No Surprises” was one of them).

To keep this raving review from getting out of hand, here are the highest highlights:

The crowd erupted at the first chords of Talk Show Host, but hushed just before Thom Yorke’s first line “I want to. I want to be someone else or I’ll explode.” The 1996 b-side evoked that guitar-driven rock band that many fans first fell in love with. A damn good song. The first 10 songs climaxed right there.

So the 11th track settled down with an acoustic break. Alone on stage, Yorke and Jonny Greenwood delivered the beautiful, “Faust Arp.” But what happened next is what has all the bloggers are talking about today; the two covered the shit out of Neil Young’s “Tell Me Why.” Stadiums and Shrines show buddy, Tony, belted every word (as it’s a song that means a lot to him).

Then we all danced past security guards to the front.

I suffocated Kati during “House of Cards.”

Ending the first encore was “Everything in It’s Right Place.” Since 2001, its live version has favored a dance-ier pace. The same was true here, but they added a gentle, spooky intro that reworks the lyrics of “True Love Waits” (perhaps the most popular unreleased Radiohead song). You could feel the beat about to drop (shown in the anticipation-clapping during the video below, try to ignore the talking).

"Idioteque" closed the evening like it should have (complete with dancing Yorke). At least I’d like to think (during my seizure), that they treated us to a little extra apocalyptic electronica than they usually do.

Sooooo epic. My favorite Idioteque ever.” - Text message from Office Intern Nate
Amazing. Love you people. Kati... we owe you bananas.” - Gmail from Mike
Radiohead is like crack for Dave.” - Gmail from Kati

Monday 8/25 Set:
01. Reckoner
02. Optimistic
03. There There
04. 15 Step
05. All I Need
06. Pyramid Song
07. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
08. The Gloaming
09. Videotape
10. Talk Show Host
11. Faust Arp
12. Tell Me Why (Neil Young Cover)
13. No Surprises
14. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
15. The Bends
16. The National Anthem
17. Nude
18. Bodysnatchers
(Encore 1)
19. House of Cards
20. Planet Telex
21. Go Slowly
22. Fake Plastic Trees
23. True Love Waits Intro/Everything In Its Right Place
(Encore 2)
24. Cymbal Rush
25. Karma Police
26. Idioteque

Last night was the Obama speech with a side of a Radiohead, webcasted lived from Santa Barbara (their last US date on the tour). What a country we live in!

Video | "Idioteque" | from the webcast

August 25, 2008

Of Montreal’s Skeletal Lamping Penetrates All Fantasies

"...Planning midnight raids on the Swedish plum trees
That summer, It was too cold to swim so
we climbed up on the rocky shore and freaked out on
the mountain goats but they were not impressed or scared of us.
do you remember, our last summer as independents?"

Skeletal Lamping is the ninth studio album from Of Montreal and the follow-up to last year’s masterpiece, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?. It picks up right back in that splendid mess from before. If you've spent anytime with Hissing Fauna, you know that Kevin Barnes spent the better half of it battling his campy alter ego, Georgie Fruit. You also know this stuff is crazy. So now that Georgie has taken over; the grooves are funkier, the pace is faster, the layers are busier, and the lyrics are… sexier. Barnes further establishes himself as a premier poet here, wrapping words around soundscapes that seem to change color with every 30-second segment.

Georgie Fruit’s world is all rhymes and no reason. This Ziggy Stardust-like persona is a brilliant device, giving Barnes free reign in this lawless land.

“I want to paint your nails, I want to make you scream, I want to braid your hair, I want to kiss your friends.”

Barnes on Fruit in a recent Pitchfork interview: "The character's name is Georgie Fruit, and he's in his late forties, a black man who has been through multiple sex changes. He's been a man and a woman, and then back to a man. He's been to prison a couple of times. In the 70s he was in a band called Arousal, a funk rock band sort of like the Ohio Players. Then he went through a few different phases."

I spent most of yesterday skating around town, giving this thing a proper, repeated listen. At points I laughed out loud, dumbfounded that someone’s brain could construct this. Like Fauna, this will be the most fun I’ll have with music this year. Critically, I see this album splitting many depending on why they liked Hissing Fauna and how cool they are with lines like “We can do it softcore, if you want, but you should know I take it both ways.” It’s not likely to get the same universal praise; it’s far too extreme for that. But plenty will love it.

To quote my Internet friend Brett: “I admit it--shorts are comfortable, and Of Montreal is awesome.”

Standout tracks: "An Eluardian Instance", "Gallery Piece", and "Beware our Nubile Miscreants." The album leaked yesterday, but is scheduled for official release on October 7th with a bunch of nice giveaways. Contact me for a file transfer, or check my page in a few for some streaming action.

August 5, 2008

LA's Hurting Download Festival Rescued by Caribou [LA; 07/20/08]

We made it back out the day after Wolf Parade for a one-day festival called Download at the Gibson Amphitheater in Universal Park. From the get-go, this show had a bevy of obstacles. For one it was scheduled on a Sunday. Two, it fell on the same weekend as the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, which might not have directly affected attendance but more so press and the actual performers available to play. Three, Download’s LA demographic had stayed up all night at Santa Monica’s Glow beach/art/rave thing. Four, it turns out the Gibson Amphitheater is a rather weird venue choice, being indoors with assigned stadium seating, all inside the tourist zone of Universal Studios. Five, the lineup was as randomly varied as it was strong. Six, the headliners were legends, but really dated legends. And seven: this whole thing was packed with enough sponsored product placement to make any fan or band feel weird.

Nonetheless, there were a few acts that I had been dying to see live, and a last minute promotional push online to sell tickets got me in the door for $10 (plus hidden fees).

4:00 M83 topped the list of “dying to see live" and we arrived just in time for them. The French brainchild of Anthony Gonzalez did their best to fill the empty room with shoegaze landscapes. The older material mixed right in with 80’s wave stuff on this year’s Saturdays = Youth record. It all looked pretty cool from where we were (hundreds of empty but reserved seats in between us and the band).

5:00 The nifty rotating stage flipped around to present a fully set-up, Yeasayer. They sounded great, but it kind of felt like an early, uninspired round of Star Search. This band has sold out every hip venue in 2008, and understandably looked fairly bemused by the seated audience. Compared to their show at the Echo in January, this was a dialed-in performance. It wasn’t their fault really. The crowd simply observed rather than feeling that spiritual vibe that Yeasayer has going on.

5:40 Perhaps the most unfortunate casualty of this whole thing was the outdoor Blitzen Trapper set. Download had a second stage outside to either house “lesser known” bands or to anticipate an overflow (that never showed up). There is no doubt in my mind that Blitzen Trapper hasn’t played for such a dismal turnout in years. We literally had about 20 people either lying on the grass or checking out cell phones at the nearby vendor tent. Tipping this over the edge was the occasional flames that shot over trees by the stage from a pirate ride at Universal.

My heart went out to Blitzen Trapper.

6:00 Thankfully some guys with a sense of humor came out to the Gibson main stage. Ghostland Observatory did their thing with an identical energy to any other time I've ever seen them. Ghostland could have fun playing a nursing home. The exaggerated “Midnight Voyage” got people grooving atop their seats. It was almost normal.

7:00 Mutemath = the dude from Maroon 5 backed by a progressive alt rock band. Moving on.

If the crowd came to see one band, it had to be Brand New. No complaints there.

Just nothing to write about.

Fast forward through 9:00: those old legends, Gang of Four and The Jesus and Mary Chain both deserved a better reception. Embarrassing. So we, like many others had already done, left the theater early.

On that tiny outdoor stage stood the last possible hope for what was otherwise a colossal flop, Caribou.

Wind struck the stale, empty Gibson grass. The Download Festival brought to you by Seagate, VW, Spin,, 5 Gum,, Live Nation, and Epiphone Instruments, sat there on the ground, a bleeding failure. And then, from the Canadian mountaintops galloped a majestic Caribou. In one furious stride, he picked up Download, and carried it to safety.

Instantly, I was hit with a sensation that all was not lost. Dan Snaith (Caribou) and his touring band ripped into a monster set focusing on what they do best: percussion. Snaith and Brad Weber sat face to face; drum kit to drum kit, syncing together a stunning exhibition of drumming. Snaith has a Ph.D. in mathematics and once wrote a thesis, titled Overconvergent Siegel Modular Symbols. He plays with a mathematic accuracy, while the overall sound of Caribou favors the aesthetic. You can check last year’s best of list, to see where Andorra landed. Pick the record up. Carry it to safety.

I took a video of the encore. It’s a tad dark, but stay with it, you won’t see a better striking of objects with sticks this year (unless you catch Travis Barker and DJ AM like I did last week, blog coming soon).