Friday, August 15, 2008

One more Youtube

OK, so I'm moving to Argentina tomorrow. And I'm nowhere near ready. Some of my thoughts on the matter can be found here. That last Lolla review will be up here eventually as well as a few more exciting features (one of them has the initials SS, but that's all I'm sayin' for now). In other words, I'm really freaking busy. So for the moment, you'll just have to enjoy the latest cutting-edge political youtube streaming through the interwebs:

See you in Buenos Aires!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Unyielding Commissioning Bursting With Bunly Goodness

The Ace Unswayed - Slash film has the trailer for an upcoming documentary on Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister. It is long overdue and looks pretty damn sweet if you ask me. It's basically just a ton of people saying how badass Lemmy is. I'm certain to be satisfied. Don't think they'll show this, though:

Sorry Lemmy. That was mean. Check this badboy out instead.

I Pity The Fools - In the UK, Mr. T's most recent "Snickuhs" commercial has been banned because gay rights activists have called the ad homophobic. The ad in question:

Seeing that, I have to question just who is the homophobe here? There is nothing about that ad that has anything to do with gay people as far as I can tell. Are gay men more likely to go on speed-walking jaunts around town? That is news to me. T denied the claims of sexism, and he's absolutely right. After the anti-gay people had such a problem with this one, it appears that the good folks in England have lost not only their sense of humor, but their sense of reality. I suppose nobody is allowed to have fun anymore. That's it. I'm not eating Snickuhs anymore.

Bang Your Camaro - We mentioned seeing the band Bang Camaro at Lollapalooza. They put on quite a show. If you've become a fan, or even if you haven't, now's your chance to join them as lead singer (well, one of 'em anyway). In their upcoming tour, they are looking for fans to join them onstage. I have no idea how long you get to be a part of it, but all the details are here. In Chicago, Bang Camaro will be playing September 25th at Double Door. Their Lolla show was a ton of fun, and I can only imagine being behind a microphone for it would be even better. How on earth they're going to fit 20 folks on the Double Door's tiny stage is an issue for another day. Go audition!

You Fools! - Mental Floss gives us 5 Famous Actors and the Roles They Turned Down. For a long time, I assumed McQueen was still alive and just not working anymore. He, uh, died 28 years ago. My bad.

Thanks, Bushy - Andrew over at Live Music Blog has an excellent posting on how high gas prices are affecting bands' ability to tour. The Sound Opinions folks touched on this in a recent podcast as well. One salient point:

If a Chicago based band tours the west coast taking the northernly route out to Seattle and down to LA then drives back to Chicago the group is looking at a 5,000 mile trip. That could be upwards of $2000 in gas costs alone. If the group plays a dozen dates and makes $200 a show on average, there is less than $500 for all other expenses -- making fast food a luxury good.
The bottom line is, just because you live in a city and ride your bike to work doesn't mean that the gas prices don't affect you. Concert tickets will have to become more costly so bands can afford to tour at all.

Rockwell Would Be Proud - Check out Tony's Top Ten Voyeuristic Films. No, Sliver didn't make the cut. Neither did The Girl Next Door. But The 'Burbs did!

Enriched Hitch - Also from Mental Floss, Four facts for Hitchcock's birthday. Nothing astounding, and two of the four items are generally well-known, but celebrate the man anyway!

Missing Mac - As you've no doubt heard, Bernie Mac passed away at age 50 the other day. 50! What a shame. Mac was a truly unique comic who always brought something to the table in every endeavor, even cameo appearances in movies like Booty Call. I never really paid much attention to him until I heard the standup clip below. From that point on, I was a fan. Bernie, you were one of the good ones and you're gone far too soon. RIP.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lollapalooza Saturday

Friday night ended with my being exhausted, but not in that wonderfully elated way you often get after a full day of rock and/or roll. Instead, it was packed crowds and a neck sick of straining to see over the tops of all the beanpoles around that led to a certain crankiness. Saturday night, I would end up totally wiped out all over again, but this time it was a gleeful exhaustion.

I began the day a bit late because frankly the morning left a lot to be desired. I could have raced down to catch Does It Offend You, Yeah? who I heard put on a solid set, but I instead waited until 2:00 to catch Foals on the Citi stage. Their Battles-esque math rock occasionally bended toward some New Wave rhythms, but then immediately bounced back to some high-energy math-rock with real power. They played tight, with their guitarists oscillating wildly all the while. The crowd ate it up, and I can't wait to see them again. Basically, they were what Bloc Party would have been doing if they had the chops.
It's hard to discuss The Gutter Twins without mentioning Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli's previous efforts with The Screaming Trees and The Afghan Whigs, respectively. But that's mainly because they were popular acts and not because their previous musical lives relate to what they're doing now. The quality of their set varied from song to song. Some fit the afternoon expanse while others were clearly designed for an evening set at a medium-sized club. The music does sound a bit nostalgically dated, but it's from an era I happen to adore, so it wasn't a problem for me. The highlight for me was a cover of Jose Gonzales' "Down The Line," which they did in wholly their own style. It had me questioning who actually wrote it. Anyone have more info on this?

I took in half a set from MGMT from afar, but after most acts being overly bass-heavy, from across the field, they sounded bright in a tinny sort of way. There was a gigantic crowd amassed to hear them, but unfortunately they didn't do much for me. A location move on my part only served to lessen the experience as they were getting blown away by Booka Shade on the Citi stage. From where I sat, they sounded like Pink Floyd on a bad day, but any review from that far away is probably unfair.

After seeing Explosions in the sky in smaller venues twice in the last year and a half, I was worried if the festival crowd would react correctly. Would they be appropriately rapt with attention in the way that is required to fully appreciate this band? Aside from a draked dickhead behind me, the audience impressively gave the music the proper reverence. Not only that, the band impressed by taking advantage of the more powerful soundsystem and put on a dazzling performance. Early on, "Have You Passed Through This Night?" was particularly raucous, but the set hit its apex near the end of "Memorial." I don't think it's possible for anyone to have watched this without coming away at least a little moved. Of course, their closer, "The Only Moment We Were Alone" was also impressive and and the perfect cap to one of the best shows of the weekend. This was probably the best I've seen them play.
Okkervil River's set began a little bass-heavy, but that sorted itself out as they went along. While they were playing well, there wasn't much traction with the audience initially. However, once they got to the Sloop John B portion of "John Allyn Smith Sails," they had fans young and old eating out of their hands. From there, they went straight into "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe" followed by "For Real." At their best, they were compellingly catchy, giving people the chance to sing along and bop back and forth on the cement awning in front of the Petrillo Music Shell.
After amazing everyone who saw them perform a 45 minute set in 2006, Broken Social Scene had perhaps given themselves too high of a bar. From the outset, it was clear they were not going to match their previous Lolla efforts, unfair as it may have been to expect such a thing. Still, they didn't exactly come out blazin'. Doing mostly new songs with a couple old favorites interspersed, the first half of their set had a "going through the motions" feel to it. They sounded extremely clean, particularly Kevin Drew's vocals. But in general, there wasn't much fire in this set. That is, until they closed with "It's All Gonna Break." Probably their best song, it had the energy that the rest of the set was lacking. Perhpas it was because they were missing certain members, but the bulk of the set felt very flat despite the pristine sound and rampant musicianship.

I know this picture's blurry, but all the clear ones were just people standing around. Deal.

I don't have much to say about the Toadies. They were loud enough. The vocals were a bit crappy. They didn't sound really very worthwhile at all. Everyone who caught any of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings had glowing things to say. I would've liked to check them out, but instead we set up to have a decent spot for the last band of the night.

A few minutes later than scheduled, Rage Against the Machine entered the stage to sirens blaring and another packed field in front of them. Kicking off with that killer opening riff from "Testify" got a frenzy going everywhere. I couldn't help but be a part of it. I was jumping up and down on my new knee and screaming every lyric. For some reason, the volume had been lowered. I immediately removed my earplugs, and throughout the set, the audience broke into chants of "Turn it up!" to no avail. I had to wonder if the Lolla folks were either afraid of causing a riot or having Wilco being blown off the Bud Light stage a mile to the north. Unfortunately, the band had to stop three times because the scene up front had become dangerous. On the second two breaks, they urged the crowd to take ten steps back, and, surprisingly, people accommodated the request. It was clear they couldn't continue playing until some measure of safety was restored. Just in front of us, a pit broke open. I had every urge to join in, but between thoughts of my orthopedist's scorn and the sight of two black eyes and a split lip reminding me that this is amateur night I remained in my spot, jumping and screaming (and surely irritating those around me). I was surprised to discover that I knew every lyric to every song. They played no new tunes. This was a nostalgia show, which I normally scorn as a concept, but it was especially fun for me. Rage hit the scene right as I entered college. They ended with "Killing In the Name," kind of the anthem from my freshman year for those who were not into Dave Matthews. With intensity from Zach de la Rocha and crazy riffing from Tom Morello buoyed by the pounding on drums and bass of Brad Wilk and Tim Bob, it was a sonic onslaught and the best performance of the entire festival. Joyful anger ruled the day. In my excitement, I didn't take any photos, nor did I bother with a setlist. Instead, TheWindyCitizen put this up on youtube. Enjoy:
See, not loud enough. But awesome anyway.

Muzzle of Bees review
Brooklyn Vegan photo review, also here and here
Derogatis review, also here and here
Live Music Blog review
HearYa Indie Music Blog review
Stereogum Photo review
Greg Kot review

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lollapalooza Friday

At the time I thought my entrance to the festival was taking forever, but it turned out that I actually had it good compared to most people. The median delay for entry was around 45 minutes. Yeesh. I guess this happens when there's a sellout. Unfortunately, the delay meant I couldn't check out K'NAAN and I zoomed straight to Hutchinson field to catch the last three songs from Bang Camaro. The extra hustle was well worth it. They were, in a word, bitchin'. With something like 16 "lead vocalists", they had no trouble getting the small crowd on their side. I would never buy an album, but live, everyone was all smiles. Just a fist-pumpin', head-bangin' good time.Someone later asked if they were taking themselves seriously. there's no way to tell for certain, but looking at this picture, I'm inclined to say yes.
Even at an early hour, the grounds were pretty busy. Lots of dudes were taking their shirts off. It was clear that things were going to get weird - and sunburned.

Holy Fuck featured a great sound mix, really using the major capacity for volume to their advantage. Even with earplugs in and near the other end of the field, you could hear them loud and clear. Unfortunately, they're not much to look at, and they really should have been playing later in the day (or, ideally nearing nighttime on one of the smaller stages). But a great set by them - really tight and full of pep.
Manchester Orchestra
The band plays fine - decent noise rawk. But the vocals are pretty lousy, which makes the band pretty lousy.
The first half of Rogue Wave's set really suffered from the sound bleed coming from Manchester Orchestra. Frontman Zach Rogue even made mention of it, saying "Yeah, we got some competition from other stages, but together we will persevere." Well, once the other band stopped, things picked up, particularly on the song "California," which showed off their nuanced, pretty delicacy. It's not really the best setting for this band, but when they were playing alone, they sounded great.
Yeasayer came out charging. My notes say: "Damn!" Frontman Chris Keating was wearing a jacket despite the heat, and he and Anand Wilder just ripped into their tunes. The sound mix was a bit bass-heavy, but it didn't matter as each note was precisely punctuated and powerful. Drummer Luke Fasano ably plays heavy, but with agility at the same time, while Keating really, really means it on the vocals. Halfway through the set, "2080" was a major high point, with Keating losing his voice a bit near the end. With downbeats popping, they closed the set with "Wintertime" and left me screaming for more. This band nearly played Pitchfork and I couldn't help thinking how much better their set would have fit there. But I can see why Lolla chose to outbid them. My favorite set of the day.
Between his black, three-piece suit and his long hair, Louis XIV lead singer Jason Hill had to be the roastiest person in Chicago. Their set was good, but nothing special, and of course a major portion of the audience bolted after they played "Finding Out True Love Is Blind." That's a bit funny because their rockers were playing much better anyway.

The Kills really did nothing special for me as we watched from afar. Their set ended early because Alison Mosshart was having trouble with the heat. That caused a minor clusterfuck as Louis XIV ended at the same time.

To be sure, the venue was far too big for Gogol Bordello. Still, they were fun as hell. It would have been better to work my way up front for these guys. This has to be the only band with a violin player who dons a beret and a Slayer t-shirt who is over 50. Eugene Hütz was constantly in motion throughout the set, and they even had two female backing vocalists who behaved more like cheerleaders. The beginning half of the set was a bit listless (for them), but things really picked up when they performed "American Wedding" and went right into "Start Wearing Purple." The set ended with a Hütz putting a metal pail on the microphone and beating it with a drumstick. They'd given the crowd all they could handle in one of the top performances of the day.
Mates of State sounded great, even on a big stage from far away. They have a ton of really solid songs and they played all the hits.

Playing on the same stage an hour after Gogol Bordello, Bloc Party had a crowd ready for fire, but also a high bar to reach. They failed to achieve either. Perhaps this is a band that just got way too big, way too soon, but they are totally unable to perform in a venue like this. On a stage that had produced loud sets all day, theirs sounded tinny and weak. They couldn't even drown out the cackling sorority sisters congregating near us. Drummer Matt Tong is clearly the strongest musician in the group, but even he can't replicate the beats he laid on their debut album. Their regular bassist was not present which meant that many of the backing vocals were simply not sung. All in all, an incredibly weak set that ended early with the band bowing together at the front of the stage. I think I'm done with these guys, not matter how much I like their first album.Bloc Party Setlist
Hunting for Witches
Waiting For the 7:18
Song for Clay (Disappear Here)
So Here We Are
The Prayer
"The Mercury's In Retrograde"
This Modern love
The Reckoning
Positive Tension
Like Eating Glass

For Radiohead, Hutchinson Field was crazy packed. The crowded sea of people stretched all the way across the field.That meant some people had tall folks in front of them.With overwhelming anticipation, the band was greeted with a great ovation, but minimal fanfare. They sounded great and despite the discomfort everyone in the audience must have been feeling, they were rapt with attention. Perhaps to keep cameramen off the stage, the videoscreens were utilized in a more artistic manner, which is cool and all, but made it pretty hard to see what was going on. I was just tall enough and just close enough that I could see the stage pretty well, even if the band members looked like Smurfs (just three apples high). The set was dominated by songs from the new record, which the audience seemed to enjoy, but I don't feel like they were as connected to them as, say "No Surprises." I've always liked Radiohead - always appreciated their music and what they've been able to accomplish, but I've never really been a huge fan of theirs. I missed the 2001 performance here that drew such raves. I was hoping that this one would compel me to become a Radioheadhead (for lack of a better term). That did not occur. Perhaps because of the crowd, or perhaps because they failed to give us Karma Police or Just (two of my favorite Radiohead tunes - there's a reason these were such big hits), I'm no more a fan of Radiohead than I was yesterday. They played a great set, and it sounded as good as an outdoor concert can sound. But everything was still a bit distant for me. Perhaps that's the best you can ask for when there are 75,000 people in attendance.Radiohead Setlist
15 Step
There There
All I Need
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
The Gloaming
The National Anthem
Faust Arp
No Surprises
Jigsaw Falling Into Place
The Bends
Everything In Its Right Place
Fake Plastic Trees
Paranoid Android
Dollars and Cent
House of Cards

On the whole, a somewhat mediocre first day, with Saturday showing little promise early. I do have high hopes for Broken Social Scene and Rage Against the Machine. let's see how it goes!

Jim DeRogatis Review
, and here
Muzzle of Bees Review, and here
Stereogum photo review
HearYa Indie Music Blog review

Friday, August 1, 2008

Heard These Guys Yet? - July 08 Edition

Well, we're late again, and we skipped June. What can I say, we're all busy during the summer. But we have another slew of bands that you may or may not know about and we're happy to share our enthusiasm with you. So dig on in.

Recommender: Biz
Band: Bottomless Pit (and Silkworm)
Blurb: Unfortunately, it took a terrible and tragic event for me to discover one of Chicago's greatest rock bands. I think many people that would have dug them are still not aware of Silkworm, but they maintained a pretty low profile despite their enthusiastic and loyal indie following. Silkworm is a band that improves better you know them, with every listen. There are subtleties and complexities to their songs that bring you back. And there is a lot to come back to: they have ten albums and all are great. Starting in 1987 in Seattle, they served as an influence to many talented followers. Bottomless Pit, a band that shouldn't have to exist, is the current incarnation of Silkworm without their drummer. Michael Dahlquist died in 2005 along with 2 other local musicians, John Glick and Doug Meis, in a horrible car crash. Even worse, it was not an accident since the person intentionally hit them in a suicide attempt. If you want to know more, a good place to start at is this tribute site. The Bottomless Pit released Hammer of the Gods last year, easily the best rock album released in 2007. It is in many ways in memory of Michael, not just in the lyrics, but even the concept of the album and band itself. I think the name, Bottomless Pit, obviously represents an irreplaceable loss. And although the the band has nothing to do with Led Zeppelin, I think the Hammer of the Gods reference is used here because Zeppelin was another great band that could not go on after the loss of their drummer who was crucial to their sound. Bottomless Pit still sounds a lot like Silkworm, but it's like the sense of loss on this album puts them into more of a "post-rock" realm. All the tracks on this album are quite strong, except for a song at the end, which uses "sampled" drums. But again, this is to show a deliberate absence. There is some optimism and a sense of moving on as well, particularly on "Human out of me". They have a new record, Congress, coming out on July 11. They play on July 17th at Schuba's.** A documentary is currently being made about Silkworm and you can watch the preview here. **Biz got his recommendation in on time - blame Reed for the delay!**
Reminds me of: Pavement or Sebadoh with more noticeable musicianship
File Under: How Could I Leave This Behind?
But don't take my word for it: Bottomless Pit at Myspace

Recommender: PMaz
Band: Liam Finn
Blurb:I grew up loving Split Enz, Crowded House, and I still relish anything put out by the Finns. So imagine my excitement when I found out that Neil's son Liam was following in his footsteps. I first saw Liam play on Neil's "7 Worlds Collide" DVD as part of the backup band for Eddie Vedder. It turns out that backup band was actually Liam's legitimate rock band, Betchadupa. I don't know if Betchadupa has officially called it quits, but it's likely that's the case if Liam continues to garner critical attention after releasing his solo album "I'll Be Lightning" earlier this year. There is no doubt Liam's famous father influenced his musical career, as songs like "Remember When" sound like vintage Crowded House. But you can also hear a touch of Vedder in his songs, though solo, Liam sounds a lot less raucous than he does with Betchadupa. The music is more personal, but with plenty of experimentation, distortion and electric guitar to keep things interesting. Liam already sounds like an accomplished singer-songwriter, and at age 25, he has a bright future ahead of him.
Reminds me of: "Figure 8"-era Elliott Smit and solo Neil Finn
File Under: A Chip Off This Old House
But don't take my word for it: Liam Finn at Myspace

Recommender: Jonas
Band: The Helio Sequence
Blurb: The Helio Sequence is one of the many great artists that has sprung from Sub Pop label since they began to diversify their lineup, moving beyond grunge and punk ten or so years ago. This is a fairly straightforward indie-pop band with a subdued lead singer with a light and sharp voice, Brandon Summers. Although this band has had 4 studio albums, I had not had exposure to them until their most recent “Keep Your Eyes Ahead”. Most songs are very heartfelt like the opening track “Lately”, where Summers sings “Lately, I don’t think of you at all, I’m living alone, I don’t need you anymore”. This is an example of the straightforwardness of the lyrics throughout, which I personally appreciate. There are many great head-bobbing guitar filled pop tunes, especially the title track. And they are also masters of adding just the right amount of light electronic elements, like on “Hallelujah” and “Back To This”. A perfect blend, nothing that detracts from the harmonious guitars. With how catchy and well done the up-tempo songs are, I think I’m more impressed with the softer tracks, like “Broken Afternoon” for example. I sounds like Summers and a guitar are alone in a dark echoy room. Really beautiful stuff. This is a solid album from a solid band, and I look forward to working my way back in their catalog.
Reminds me of: A bit of Rogue Wave mixed with the softer sides of Built To Spill.
File Under: Walk A Mile In Our Shoegaze
But don't take my word for it: The Helio Sequence at Myspace

Recommender: Reed
Band: Frightened Rabbit
Blurb: I'll be honest, I had this band all picked out and ready to go before a funny thing happened. I got a bit tired of them. Frightened Rabbit is getting a lot of indie buzz with good reason. They've staked out an upbeat sound with a catchiness that's found in its shimmer. The only way they could sound more Scottish would be if they infused some bagpipes. True to their roots, they remind me of other Scottish acts. Unfortunately, at times they venture a bit too close to the Counting Crows, which I think is where the whole "getting a bit tired" thing came in. Maybe that's just me feeling guilty. Either way, their potential is vast. So I'm recommending them now, but with an eye for the future. I think their next album could be the brilliant one - they've found a great sound and have shown some potential in terms of songwriting. Even still, sometimes a great sound is enough, and I was immediately drawn to this band. Maybe you will be, too.
Reminds me of: Later era Idlewild merged with The Twilight Sad (throw Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sean Connery in there, too - just for good measure).
File Under: If It's Scottish, It Snaps
But don't take my word for it: Frightened Rabbit at Myspace