April 29, 2009

Coachella 2009 | Day Three

Sunday has to work the hardest in this “show” business. We’re a little slower out of the gate. Stand at an underwhelming act for too long and your ass is (on the) grass. It’s a good thing “get weird” is a function of muscle memory. And more importantly, some of the weekend’s best were yet to come:

Friendly Fires
Word of Friendly Fires had clearly spread fast. The Gobi tent was at capacity and the only thing higher than the temperature (105) was the buzz. So much for hangovers. Let's get raw.

As claimed by numerous parties: Friendly Fires was this year’s Hot Chip (almost), just an all out blast.

Okkervil River

With more than a few good records, Okkervil River has earned the big stage (even if it was under-populated – that sun is brutal). There were some moments. “Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe” among them.

Lykke Li

With the help of handclaps, kazoos, cymbals, bells, tambourines, megaphones, Swedish accents, and rain dances, Lykke Li caused quite a cute stir at the Outdoor Theatre. Ever wondered what Lykke Li covering of a Lil Wayne or Kings of Leon song would sound like? Me neither. Answer: like Penelope Cruz at a karaoke bar, only awesome.

Antony and The Johnsons

Hey Okkervil River, maybe, maybe it is. At least there are times when our lives seem cinematic; when a moment is so beautiful we watch from outside ourselves.

Shading all of Antony Hegarty’s previous work is an orchestral grayscale, often described as 'moving'. Would it feel at home in the desert? Perhaps the thought had crossed his mind:

"We're going to try something a little different today…something spicier for a sunny day," and with that, Antony brushed strokes of gold and sky blue over his best-known songs.

These were complete reworkings courtesy of electronic artist Matthew Herbert; miles beyond your standard insert-beat remix. The vulnerable debut encountered a few glitches, all taken in serene stride. The slow-rising heart rate of “Another World” had me paralyzed - easily a personal high on the weekend. I pray these versions will surface on an album one day. For now, there's this and this:

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

"OK, let's meet up at Yeah Yeah Yeahs" - I bet this was the most common phrase uttered/text sent on Sunday.

We role-called for this. The YYYs, more or less a headliner and with all sorts or record release momentum, received a monster turnout in the 6-oclock slot. Quite deserving if you ask me. The songs were big enough (and Karen O was sparkly enough) to engage just about everyone. As predicted, the It’s Blitz tracks hit hard. “Heads Will Roll” is the jam. "Zero" complaints.

Late Of The Pier

Earlier that day during breakfast, housemates Josh and Gabe were so convincing with their Late of the Pier pitch, that I crossed the pysch-folk-jesus himself, Devendra Banhart, off my list to give the UK newbies a shot. This was a killer show (to be fair, I heard Banhart’s was too). Dancing hard to songs you’ve never heard– always a good sign. I’m listening to the album as I type – discovery, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Extremely hard band to label (spacy synths via disco sequins glam) and none of them look older than 18.

My Bloody Valentine

Like Paul McCartney on Friday, I never thought I’d be able to see this band live (that’s where the comparison ends). I guarantee everyone on the grounds that night heard My Bloody Valentine. From a beer garden, it sounded like a wall of feedback. From up close it sounded like a sweet velvet wall of feedback. MBV have a style all their own, and 20 years after Isn't Anything, that hasn't changed. Some called their closing number a finale. Others called it the loudest 15 minutes Indio has ever experienced.

From there we bounced around, catching Public Enemy bring the noise, getting our fill of The Kills, a quick move to Groove Armada, a glance at Throbbing Gristle, and then back to the field.

The Cure

We acted like a bunch of Jimmy Buffet fans here (singing, drinking, hugging). They played FOREVER. Seriously, we went to the Etienne De Crecy set (French DJ, plays in a cube, below) for what we figured would be the festival closer, and returned to find Robert Smith pushing it well past curfew.

What else can I say? It’s almost May and I’m still trying to wrangle this thing. Truly one for the books. A special thanks to anyone who is down with the “transponder”, let’s do it again next year.

April 27, 2009

Coachella 2009 | Day Two

Historically, Coachella Saturdays live in the most carefree of worlds. Gone are the pressures of getting to Indio and yet to arrive are the realities of leaving it. There's a fleeting harmony you wish could run at half-speed. Alas, you have but one option: start early, stay late, grip it, and rip it.

Day Two is also notorious for competing set times. I’ve been known to act like a dad on vacation around this point:
“Beer Garden?! We have 2 minutes here.” (Chewing cliff bar, downing water, holding crumpled flyer with highlighted strategy)
I’m working on it. And luckily this year’s big day was rather linear, meaning less fannypack dad, and more skipping-child-of-the-sun-gods. And we're off:

Making this background music was a small price to pay to finally meet up with the crazy amount of friends who showed for Saturday. Liars isn’t quite the central party-crowd band to start the day on. But my periphery got a good show and picked up on some
Drum’s Not Dead jams.

Dr. Dog

Now the Mojave Tent was the appropriate place for a mass such as ours to get on track. Dr. Dog showed up to play loud, significantly louder than their sweet and sunny studio stuff. There was an adjustment period, but ultimately, solid.

Henry Rollins (spoken word)

Where do I begin with Rollins? He’s a clear-headed visionary. In his own mad way, he’s brilliant. There aren’t many acts that could sustain a festival crowd for 50 minutes without lifting an instrument. I figured he’d be ranting about something (if you haven’t heard Think Tank, that’s what he’s good at), but he managed to box his anecdotes into an overall message of sorts: we are a generation empowered by opportunity, we can do anything, we should be traveling and learning and respecting other cultures and questioning “the man” and so on. He was magnetic:

"I want to go over to Israel and Palestine and bomb both countries… with Ramones albums. Why are they so angry? Because they haven't heard The Ramones.

"The world is waiting for you with open arms. This is your time. This is your country. I'm only growing old in it."

He left us all carpe-diem-ed out.

TV on the Radio

It was a tough call, but we bypassed this main stage attraction for Fleet Foxes, front and center at (you guessed it) the Outdoor Theatre. Just going on previous show experience with both bands, those bearded Seattleites got the edge over the bearded Brooklynites. Seeing “Golden Age” as I backed away was like passing on hamburgers that just came off a grill because you really want the steak that won’t be done for another ten minutes, and you’re so freaking hungry, but you know that you can’t eat the steak if you grab the burgers since: one, you won’t enjoy it as much (a full show, up close, is better than two half-sets from the back) and two, you can’t be the guy at the cookout that eats everything…

Fleet Foxes

Robin Pecknold had no choice but to smile and wave during sound check, as the mere sight of him plugging in a chord sent everyone cheering. He looked up, puzzled, as if unaware or simply uncomfortable with the level of popularity his band has reached since last year. His unassuming presence really hasn’t changed that much (apart from a few more one-liners). They all seem like really nice people (my special love for J. Tillman is well-documented).

“Sun Giant” accompanied by a setting sun and a captive audience – the scenario couldn’t have been scripted any better. I have heard them mixed better though, and no question, they have too. Their delicate sound might evoke the great outdoors but it's indeed better suited for the great indoors. But for real, it didn’t matter. In fact, they tweaked their arrangements to emit more (and perhaps compete with Thievery Corporation’s pulses from the main stage). A faster tempo here, and organ jazz-up there, it made for a livelier feel and made up for whatever might have been lost to those standing further away. It wasn’t perfect (and it's been perfect), but it was powerful, and sharing it with some great friends will serve a lasting memory.

Here's "Your Protector" brought to you by my nearly broken, Sony Cybershot (note: I am not the "woo!"-er guy. I'm more of a strong "yeah!" guy, for the record):

Band of Horses

On paper, this back-to-back scheduling warned of rustic overload. Also on paper (or according to lazy journalists) Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses play the same ‘kind’ of music. Finally, for the benefit of both bands really, this comparison could be put to rest. Instead of dissecting how unalike they are, let’s talk about the Band of Horses set, which was quite impressive. My expectations shouldn’t have been low to begin with; these guys did blow me away in Boston years ago. I guess my belief in them wavered a bit after Cease To Begin. It turns out their move towards country-rock on that album decidedly made these guys rock stars.

From his first boot stomp on “The Great Salt Lake”, Ben Bridwell pledged to snap us into the night, one southern anthem at a time. The revelry did take some breaks for the reflective, like “The Funeral” – too soon to call it timeless?

OK, I’ve renewed my membership as a Band of Horses fan. Now let’s hear that new record.


We caught the last few minutes of this hot mess, just in time for her “everyone get up on stage with me” routine. I’ve never heard such a wide spectrum of accounts on one show: some disgust, some gushing, all emotional (see what she's getting at?) I won’t bash it, having been both inside the wild and outside, scratching my head. Either way, her persona cannot be denied. The verdict is: it really depends on: a) how close in proximity you are to the performance (level of involvement) and b) what you like about live music (entertainment, music vs. other), not mention c) if you like anything besides "Paper Planes."

The Killers

Here’s where you grip it, folks. Let go of your music snobbery. Forget that Brandon Flowers is a bizarre human being. Remember how good Hot Fuss was. Accept that you are about to see one of the biggest bands on the planet. Commit. Rip it.

Flowers took the stage like a Roman dictator. He questioned whether we were human or we were dancer. And we were nonsense. We were Hunter S. Thompson’s dancers.

As unsurpassable as Hot Fuss proves to be, the Killers would never have been able to deliver something in the league of this performance, in 2004. This was a coming of (day &) age. But I'll be damned if Flowers hadn't been planning his world domination from the start.

They’re arguably a “radio single band”, but when you have that many hits under your belt, they’re also going to be a "fun live band." It was a clear and steady assault. Great sound. Props to Flowers’ militant showmanship.

Gang Gang Dance

Our crew’s energy level was dropping fast, but I recruited 2008 veteran, Kati, to close this thing out with a simple text message:

“gang gang, tribal dance, drums…”

Us and about 50 other people celebrated our common intentions.

April 24, 2009

Coachella 2009 | Day One

In this almighty game of life-highs and life-lows, only once a year can you find your body moving about a tented field, exuding superhuman, 72 hour-ed stamina to some French DJ’s closing number on a Monday at 1:00am, and then have it back sitting behind a desk at an ear-ringing, Monday, 8:00am. One can surely find other teenage wastelands to more frequently get their rave on. But there’s only one 100-degree party in Indio, California that presents 127 bands to 160,000 people over 3 days. And this body is thankful that it's just an annual event.

Our Coachella 2009 featured some new friends (shout-out to you Saturday one day pass-ers!), new sleeping quarters (nice house, Gabe!), a new lineup (well mostly new, I’m looking at you, M.I.A), and the same beat-up digital camera I always bring (anything vintage looking, like the one above, came from Victoria's dirty Diana camera).

Friday’s roster was heavy on nostalgia. I was curious to see how the likes of Leonard Cohen, Morrissey, and Paul McCartney would translate over this rather progressive festival. Answer: Very well (besides that Morrisey vegetarian situation).

We left the coast around 1:30pm and despite a minor cluster-rush getting into our house, arrived in time for phase one of the mission:

M. Ward

This would be the start of a beautiful friendship we’d share with the Outdoor Theatre, which is a cross between the intimacy of a tent and the enormity of the main stage. Backed by a top-notch band, a shy Ward chose to jam rather than serenade, even offering an ace cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven." And hearing a sentimental favorite, “Chinese Translation” put me at ease knowing the morning’s runaround to get here was worth it.

The Black Keys

These two guys did their best to fill the main stage with good ole’ blues-rock. I would have liked to see them absolutely destroy a tent instead. Nonetheless, they ripped the afternoon apart. "Strange Times" were here.

Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band

Country-tinged and all grown-up, Conor stuck to his recent (post-Bright Eyes) style. His hat was notable. We stayed for a bit, but felt the urge to jump in a tent and get weird.

Crystal Castles

I’m not going to lie; this show didn’t go anywhere it should have. They started 20 minutes late (pretty rude at a festival) and then sacrificed their sound for the sake of spectacle (still looking at you, M.I.A.). I know, I get it, Alice Glass is controversial and screams and jumps in crowds and climbs scaffolding. What she didn’t do was perform anything close to the danceable tracks on their album. In fact, the Kyp Malone cardboard cutout mask on the guy in front of us really stole the show:


We swung by the Mojave Tent, where some serious space-shit rap was taking place.

Leonard Cohen

Of the many reasons a novice Cohen fan like myself should make time for his performance, respect was a good one. Everyone seemed very much in awe of the smoothest 74 year old on the planet. I’ve never seen Empire Polo Field at such a hush. And he sang "Hallelujah" - quality footage.


I remember reading a few years back that Zach Condon was searching for a bunch of musicians to join him on tour (since he can’t play all the gypsy instruments at once). I wondered how that process worked, and what, aside from skill, Condon looked for. And now in support of his latest EP, he’s cut that group down to a less novel, 6-piece. Whatever the criteria was, the right guys were kept. From the looks of it, Beirut is no longer one guy surrounded by 15 trumpets, but rather a real band, and even more than that, a tight ensemble. What a wonderful set. Each song was met with an immense amount of crowd love. The girls were swooning. Songs like “Postcards from Italy” and “Nantes” seemed to actualize right in front of us.

Girl Talk

The beauty of a festival was on display here: in under an hour you can go from something so folksy organic to something so pop-tronically packaged. I’d been waiting nearly 3 years to see Gregg Gillis lay it down, and all day to actually dance (looking at you, Crystal Castles). Clearly others felt the same way, as the max-ed out tent bled out all sides. I vaguely remember our buddy, Chris, carrying a small kid like a shield to charge up near the front (nice form). We got “Tiny Dancer” put up against “Juicy”, and other show-stopping samples like the “Ruff Ryders Anthem” and "Since You've Been Gone" (could have gone without Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” though). He fell off the boat. Sweaty.

Paul McCartney

First we’ll let the setlist do the talking:

Main set: Jet | Drive My Car | Only Mama Knows | Flaming Pie |Got to Get You Into My Life | Let Me Roll It (with a coda of Purple Haze) | Honey Hush | Highway | The Long and Winding Road | My Love | Blackbird | Here Today | Dance Tonight | Calico Skies | Mrs. Vanderbilt | Eleanor Rigby | Sing the Changes | Band on the Run | Back in the U.S.S.R. | Something | I’ve Got a Feeling | Paperback Writer | A Day in the Life - Give Peace a Chance | Let It Be | Live and Let Die | Hey Jude

First encore: Birthday | Can’t Buy Me Love | Lady Madonna

Second encore: Yesterday | Helter Skelter | Get Back | Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) - The End

Take your pick of youtube videos.

Seeing a living Beatle is special enough. Paul didn’t have to be so generous, giving us 35 songs in 3 hours, until you consider what Friday meant to him. Just before “My Love”, he explained that it was 11 years ago on the day since his wife Linda passed away. He added,

“She loved the desert, she loved music, she loved rock ’n’ roll….it’s an emotional night –- but that’s good. That’s OK.”

He sang to John too, with “Here Today”, and “A Day in the Life”, which unfolded into “Give Peace a Chance.” And not to be forgotten, George’s tribute came in the form of “Something."

The idea of seeing this in my lifetime had never really occurred to me, a possibility. Surreal. An older gentleman actually feinted into my arms at one point – I wouldn’t make that up. Old guy, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re okay, and you were able to see the remainder of the show from the first aid area.

Sir Paul's banter flirted with goofy to say the least, but he can do and say (and facially express) anything he pleases.

In a perfect world I'd already have Saturday and Sunday posts up. But hey, stadiums and shrines has never tried to be a news source. I'm excited to cover the rest of the weekend, so hang with me, they're on the way.

April 16, 2009

Flood On The Headphones

Put your raincoats on and get comfortable. April has been showering good music and this might take a while.

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca (2009)

Easily one of the coolest albums I've heard this year. That's right, cool. Talking Heads cool.

If Dave Longstreth and his roster paved a niche for themselves years ago, then Bitte Orca is a bulldozer. No, actually it's too beautiful to be destroying anything; let's call it some sort of philanthropic landscaper.

Seriously, this album can do no wrong. Nine songs seems light until you dive in and realize not one is stationary or at all skippable. Better yet, each track has the kind of inventive shifting you could spend hours with. "Useful Chamber" alone, already built three villages somewhere.

St. Vincent - Actor (2009)

I could go on about how Annie Clark's personal brand is seemingly customized for me to fall in love with (like naming her first album after an Arrested Development reference or that she shreds guitars for a living...). Now then, this record is more a crank-up than a follow-up. Everything is trickier, fuzzier, and dare I say, heavier.

Her classical compositions still take center stage on Actor. Yet she's filled the room with all these dramatic textures which really shouldn't work, but that's why she's the one getting the good review, and I'm the guy writing it.

Download | St. Vincent | The Strangers

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz (2009)

Don't be fooled by the big fat smiles and synths, there's enough raw YYYs here to please most fans. Even Karen O's best Blondie hooks still have Nick Zinner's best Bowie riffs to deal with. This album is built for live shows. So let's talk after Sunday's Coachella set.

Bat For Lashes - Two Suns (2009)

Seems this year has been a definitive response to my self-proclaimed "I can't get into female singers" attitude.

Just as Bat For Lashes is not Lilly Allen, Two Suns is much better than its album cover would have you think (I prefer the karate kid art on her new single, "Daniel")

Themes of duality and split personalities are running rampant here, yet you don't necessarily have to read into any of it to be swayed by the mystic mood/80s electropop hybrid. She might borrow as much from Fleetwood Mac (or even Tori Amos) as she does from The Knife.

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)

It's Never Been Like That was 3 years ago. Oh how my bouncing knee has missed Phoenix.

Prerequisite for getting into this: a pulse.

It's fun. It's American indie pop, done better by French guys.

Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free (2009)

Uh oh, looks like someone invited a psychedelic marching band to the campfire.

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains (2009)

Sonically, this wouldn't feel out of place in Modest Mouse's early catalog.

Album opener, "And The Hazy Sea" (download) hits you like... a bucket of water.

Black Them Boots - Fancy (2009)

Truth be told, leads that come in the form of 'you should check out my friend's band' don't have the most promise (unless you're friends with Isaac Brock or something).

Mark this one as a rare win. Black Them Boots has an endearing simplicity about them. Fancy is a modern Californian take on a rather retro punk-rock delivery (see: Pixies, Gang of Four).

they threw in a kick-ass, feel-good version of Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You In The End."

Circlesquare - Songs about Dancing and Drugs (2009)

There's a certain lingering level of deprevation and dehydration that follows the activities Jeremy Shaw is singing about. He's captured exactly what 4am feels like.

That might not sound appealing, but get this anyway.

Harlem Shakes - Technicolor Health (2009)

A cleaner Born Ruffians.
Vampire Weekend sans Paul Simon.
Islands on a meaningless summer vacation.

A pretty good debut.


Grand Salvo - Death (2008)

Australian folk, as scenic as it gets.

Death, is an ‘animal’ concept album that focuses on a “bird, a rabbit, a rat, a bear and a man all telling their own tale, coming together to weave a fairytale.”

Soweto - The Indestructible Beat of Soweto - Volume One (1985)

Graceland sans Paul Simon (Get it?)

"There is no hyperbole in calling The Indestructible Beat of Soweto the most influential collection of South African pop ever assembled; if there's any in saying it may very well be the single best album on eMusic, we can live with it." - Michaelangelo Matos, emusic.com review

OK, now Coachella is happening.

April 10, 2009

Friday Send-Off | Tomorrow Never Knows

A few excerpts from Ian MacDonald's Revolution in the Head:


If for any reason your collection is missing Revolver at the moment, here you go:

Download | The Beatles | Revolver

Have a wonderful weekend.

April 9, 2009

Song of the Day | Dirty Projectors | "Stillness Is The Move"

No prior experience with the multi-voiced Dirty Projectors required (warming up to 2005's The Getty Address would be a good move though). For today, let's just marvel in this suddenly-R&B-kissed showcase of Amber Coffman's pipes.

I almost shared the funk a few weeks back when a version from their SxSW set surfaced. But a free studio-quality MP3 is worth the wait, and also worth entering your email address at their label's site to own.

I'm wired off that riff. Just go get it.

April 8, 2009

Pictureplane @ Show Cave Gallery [LA; 4/3/09]

The 4th dimension does not photograph well. Or maybe it does, depending on how you like your pictures (and your universes).

At any rate, the Show Cave Gallery in Echo Park was the right place for this all to happen. Denver's Travis Egedy, aka Pictureplane, was on the final stop of a tour that saw him both open for HEALTH and play South by Southwest. The only act on Friday's bill, Travis set up with a beer in hand (and sequinze kittens embroidered on
his shirt) while the gallery casually filled. With every neon chord plugged in, he cut the lights, leaving a single red and blue strobe to take over every edge of the room.

Each song worked with a great understanding of rave mentality, triggering that communal desire to get blissful (Harness in the good energy, block out the bad. Harness. Energy. Block. Bad. It's like a carousel. You put the quarter in, you get on the horse, it goes up and down, and around. Circular, circle. Feel it. Go with the flow…. sorry I digress). Trying to describe a Pictureplane song is like attempting to pinpoint which kitten sequinze is reflecting what beam of light bouncing off of which wall. So let’s just say the small-but-bumping crowd was literally left chanting for more, until Travis ran out of ones to supply (prompting someone to yell for him to just replay a previous jam).

The show evolved to an after party, centered mostly on a television playing the 1973 animated French film, Fantastic Planet, and on discussions pertaining to David Bowie. This was actually awesome.

It was ironic on Monday to find the major blogs gushing over a brand new HEALTH song (very nice guys by the way) and a remix of that song by...Pictureplane. Upon listening, I’m pretty much gushing over both versions too. Listen here.

Pictureplane’s Trance Doll/New Mind 7” vinyl is out now.