The Pitchfork Music Festival is strange. It’s strange because unlike so many other festivals around the United States, the organization behind the festival has its own ideas and its own opinions – opinions that are widely known. Indeed, Pitchfork could be considered the MTV of the 21st century blogosphere, a tastemaker and a major influence on the popularity of bands in the indie scene and, increasingly so, in the hip-hop scene. Whereas a Lollapalooza or a Coachella will book a group based on the number of fans it can attract, Pitchfork looks to not only attract visitors, but also showcase their taste. It comes as no surprise that a vast majority of the artists playing at Pitchfork have received the publication’s coveted “Best New Music” tag, either on an album, track, or reissue. So when multiple acts thanked Pitchfork for their “generous support” or “continued enthusiasm” or what have you, the gesture seemed a bit stranger, and it seemed that the artists had a more intimate relationship with the publication that they might have with Bonnaroo’s organizers.
Pitchfork’s opinions have not gone without criticism and controversy. Anti-domestic violence demonstrators picketed outside of Chicago’s cozy Union Park, where the festival is held, to protest the appearance of rap group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. (In response, Odd Future gave them cupcakes before their show). Pitchforkreviewsreviews.com, a website cryptically run by a guy named David, used to review the reviews that Pitchfork posted everyday. Now, David has taken to analyzing…
That was an interesting night for Tallest Man on Earth fans. They filled Shepherd’s Bush grand venue top to bottom, a venue one might find more fitting for a veteran indie band like Wilco, but not so much for a newbie of folk with two albums and the peak of his career still arguably ahead. It felt closer to waiting for an arena rock sell-out than for the guy who eventually swaggered on a few minutes late. But boy, did Kristian Mattson make the night his: the crowd were surely acting like this was arena rock, and Mattson, so unexpectedly for a man known for such understated folk songs, was happy to entertain that little fantasy. No waiting around or opening with a little song, as many of us expected (“The Wild Hunt” was absent from the night as a whole), Mattson instead opened with the immediate presence of “I Won’t Be Found” and moved through two songs of Shallow Grave like they were anthems for sharing.
And that’s how it was for a good hour of the night. The crowd were more excited to be a part of songs from The Wild Hunt and Shallow Grave than they were to hear them, and that’s the way of this man live. He seemed very much happy for the participation that came with “The Gardener”-…
One of the hardest things to do at Coachella is wake up in time to get to the festival early to catch the first few bands. Usually this isn’t too big of a problem – rarely has a band I’ve loved been set too early. Sunday was an exception, as Phosphorescent took the Mojave tent stage at 12:15. Missing out on the extra sleep was a great decision – Matt Houck and his band played their whiskey-strained alt-country with a steel guitar riffing and piano-pounding passion that enervated the sleepy residents of the tent and woke me up for the day better than any energy drink.
The only thing worse for a band’s Coachella audience than an early start time is extreme heat, and as Sunday afternoon stretched on and temperatures reached the highest they’d been all weekend, it wasn’t all that surprising to see Menomena’s set at the Outdoor stage less than packed as concertgoers scrambled for the tents. Menomena, after all, aren’t the same band as they used to be – with founding member Brent Knopf leaving the band this past January, songs on which he sang lead vocals were nowhere to be found. But what they did play, sticking mostly to songs from 2007’s Friend and Foeand last year’s Mines, was up to the rabid fans’ standards who braved the 100 degree heat. Closer “TAOS” was the obvious favorite.
A rough night meant I didn’t make it to the festival grounds until close to 3, but that was never really a problem: the first act I wanted to see happened to be Sputnik favorite The Tallest Man on Earth at 3 pm in the Gobi tent. Throughout the weekend the Gobi seemed to be getting the least love, but this afternoon it was unusually packed, everyone there just to see one tiny Swedish dude and his guitar. He didn’t disappoint – any fears I had of his occasionally grating voice transferring to a live setting were quickly dispelled: he actually sounded better live! Everything came together on “King of Spain,” the audience lifting Kristian Matsson’s voice to new heights and his acoustic guitar ringing out over the tent grounds quite effectively.
My indie rock embarrassment of riches began shortly afterwards with Americana group Delta Spirit at the Outdoor stage. They may not be the most original band, but as a live performance they put on quite the show. Singer Matthew Vasquez’s long dark locks made him look like Dave Grohl’s lost twin, but he sounded more Walkmen than Foo Fighters, his gravelly voice propelling the band’s dust-and-blood barroom tales further than they could have hoped. For a band with a minimal following at the festival, Delta Spirit, like Titus Andronicus the day before, really delivered it for their fans.
For all the hype surrounding Coachella 2011 – the six day sellout, the mounting confusion and problems regarding the festival’s new wristband ticket method, the fear of scalpers selling fake tickets and wristbands not shipping out in time, once the festival was under way it was still the same old Coachella. Friendly people slapping hands and exchanging “happy Coachellas!;” temperatures routinely soaring above 100; enough drugs to make Noriega and Kesey blush; and music. Music that was at times brilliant, enthralling, obtusely weird, fist pumping, merely okay and atypically shocking and everything in between, but still the lifeblood of the festival no matter who came . . . and there were a lot. From shirtless fraternity boys to forty-year-old scene veterans, from stoned, bleary-eyed hipsters to day-glo-adorned rave kids, Coachella stuck them all in a boiling polo field of a pot and, for one weekend at least, helped them appreciate everything and everyone else. Coachella may be becoming more of a place to be seen than appreciated nowadays (over the course of the festival I saw Katy Perry, Tara Reid, Paul McCartney and even David Hasselhoff, all almost exclusively in the VIP lounges enjoying the drinks rather than the music), but few festivals can match its uniting experience. And it remains unforgettable.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Friday was going to be the coolest day of the weekend – a “pleasant” 93 degrees, blinding sun…
Hosted by Drake, who in spite of his show-leading six nominations left empty handed, this past weekend’s Juno awards were somehow pretty entertaining. Sure they made Canada’s music scene seem like little more than a conglomeration of ageing hippies and filthy hipsters, but…actually, that’s pretty much what the Canadian music scene is.
One of the biggest surprises of the night, other than Neil Young’s inexplicable victory for Artist of the Year and Shania Twain’s reference to her “Canadian Bush” was Drake’s job as a host. From his before-show Skype skit with news anchor Lloyd Robertson and Justin Bieber to his Chilly Gonzales accompanied rendition of Snow’s “Informer”, Drake was a surprisingly personable and entertaining host, but perhaps no part of Drake’s hosting turn was as goofy and peculiar as the skit you’re about to see. In it, Drake plays on the “Young Money” label by, well…harassing a bunch of senior citizens. Cuuuuuute?
This is the second of two posts. Read the first one here
Things got a lot heavier on Friday, both musically and alcoholically. Let’s just say that Saturday morning and I didn’t see eye to eye, but boy was it worth it.
Friday was an early-starter, since I was off to Sonic Boom Records to catch an early in store set by the dudes in Pkew Pkew Pkew (Gunshots), who, if you haven’t heard—and I’m betting you haven’t—are a shit-ton of fun. If you couldn’t figure it out based on their name, they take themselves less than seriously, and their sets are shout-y, hand-clapped and tambourine dominated riots. They’re what happens when indie rockers grow up on Rancid, and even though the crowd at Sonic Boom was real young and inexplicably sitting cross-legged, they were as fun as ever. From the hooks of “Asshole Pandemic” (asshole pandemic/why’s that fucking dick gotta be such a cock?) to the stomp of “Friends Don’t Let Friends Move In With Girlfriends”, their short set was a barrage of gang-vocals, synths and guitar(s) turned to eleven. The best part? I liked when Jordan (guitar) and Brodie (Vocals) high-fived with their tambourines. Yay, friendship!
Pkew Pkew Pkew (gunshots) – Asshole Pandemic
This is the first of two posts. Look out for another coming soon, featuring reviews of Bombay Bicycle Club, J Mascis (of Dinosaur JR), Protest the Hero and more…
Canadian Music Week, or Canadian Music Fest—honestly, at this point I’m not sure which is which—is a blur for media and musicians alike. For five days, starting last Wednesday and ending tonight, Toronto is taken over. Bars, concert halls and even the prestigious Royal York Fairmont Hotel are held captive by dudes with beards, girls with bad haircuts and eager but demanding publicist types.
This year I decided to take it easier than I have in years past, and rather than blindly stumbling from bar to bar, I decided to pick and choose my spots. For me, Canadian Music Fest started on Thursday with the Wilderness of Manitoba who were, for lack of a better term, fucking awesome.
I’d only been exposed to them through a few videos posted over on the forums, but I liked what I heard. I liked it even more live.
Playing a relatively short 35 minute set, it’s pretty surprising how many sound shifts they went through. They started with cello accompaniment, and brought a lot more ambient sounds than you’ll typically hear in the Toronto folk scene. The drums were pretty overpowering—they were thunderous and crashing, again not something you’ll usually hear in folk. Not just in their first few songs but throughout their set there was a real sense of texture to their music,…
So there I was about to write yet another blog about yet another event that I had attended, when I thought to myself “Davey, you can’t write a full blog about the SoundWave Festival. It would turn out like ‘War & Peace’ and the entire SputnikMusic Blog machine would blow up. Plus, you need to stop talking about YOUR experiences (that’s what lists are for) and give the Sputnik-ites out there what THEY want”.
So last week I ran a poll (you probably missed it) as to what you all want & three main answers stood out: (1) Jonny Craig to give you the MacBook you paid for, (2) Sex & (3) Chan to review the new Aiden album about to be released. Those points seemed irrelevant to my blog, so I took the next three best responses and decided to roll them into this one all-encompassing blog. Ladies & gentlemen, I give you (1) Metal, (2) Huge headlining acts, & (3) A tour around Australia!
Prior to our tour beginning however, a disclaimer must first be aired for legal purposes: SputnikMusic shall take no responsibility for any motion sickness caused by unsteady hand-held cameras used in the making of the following videos. The same goes for deafness caused by varying volume levels, seizures caused by blinking lights, and blindness caused by the brightness of security vests.
Our tour today – just like the SoundWave Festival – starts in the north-eastern city of Brisbane, where it is sunny one…
Apart from the day itself being one almighty rock, punk & metal-fest that never fails to please, another great aspect of Australia’s SoundWave Festival are the related sideshows which take place. These shows (which have come to be known as Sidewaves) often see 3-4 bands from the festival placed together on the one bill. As you can imagine, they are exceptional value for money, as well as being an effective way to solve clashes on the day. Examples of Sidewaves this year were (a) Social Distortion, Gaslight Anthem & Feeder, (b) Rob Zombie, Murderdolls, Monster Magnet & Dommin, (c) Sum 41, The Blackout, There For Tomorrow & Veara, (d) Pennywise, Millencolin & The Mad Caddies, and (e) Stone Sour, Coheed and Cambria, Sevendust & 36 Crazyfists. The Sidewave I chose to stroll along to however was the “can’t miss” trio of Anberlin, The Starting Line & Bayside.
Having previously seen them live a couple of times, I already knew that NYC’s Bayside were one of the best live bands going around. It only hit me on this night however, that they are also one of the few bands who sound great right from the get-go. They either sound-check all day or are just that damn good. Kicking off with energetic new track ‘Already Gone’, the ‘Killing Time’ opener felt like it had been on their live set for the past decade, with the way in which the audience were singing along even if they had barely heard the song before.…
I think it goes without saying that when it comes to the indie music universe, there was no more celebrated reunion in recent memory than that of seminal Canadian post-rock ennead Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The announcement that they were going to be curating the 2010 All Tomorrow’s Parties Christmas event in Minehead, England created such a wave of excitement that when Godspeed You! Black Emperor expanded their comeback to include a series of tours in Europe and North America tickets sold out almost as soon as they went on sale. On February 22nd, 2011 their reunion tour made its way to Pomona, California, the first of two stops in Southern California (the other being at the Music Box in Hollywood a day later).
Joining Godspeed You! Black Emperor for the night was the stoner-drone band Om. Om took the stage right before nine o’clock. Consisting of bassist and vocalist Al Cisneros (the name should be familiar to anyone who has listened to the pioneering sludge band Sleep), Emil Amos on drums (who also plays in Grails), and multi-instrumentalist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Om’s spiritual bass grooves entranced the crowd at the Fox Theater for a solid forty minutes. Playing a set consisting mainly of tracks from their God Is Good album, Cisneros’ rolling bass grooves and zen like vocals had the audience hypnotized, but this was the calm before the storm, as when it became time towards the latter half of their set, things became more ferocious,…
It’s fair to state that most of my previous gig attending experiences have been relatively limited to the rock / pop-punk / post-hardcore spectrum. I’ve never really considered going to too many indie gigs (how UnSputnik of me), despite liking my fair share of bands that could loosely be categorized as such. Most indie music seems best enjoyed via headphones when in a certain mood, rather than in a live setting… So I’ve always imagined if I did attend such a concert, I’d just be one of Win Butler’s friends standing there with my arms crossed, drinking one beer per song. I’d need something extra to be entertained; a strings or horn section, a crazy front-man or a stage invasion! English band Foals seemed the perfect (pardon the pun) antidote for my situation; a group whose debut LP was filled with catchy & energetic math-rock, and whose follow-up was simply too f*cken fantastic to ignore.
On an extremely humid Thursday night when floods were ruining cities to the north & bushfires were ravaging cities to the west (seriously, our climate is screwed), Mr & Mrs. Boy wandered on over to The Palace Theatre in downtown Melbourne in order to witness the aforementioned Brits. First up however were Brisbane indie-poppers Last Dinosaurs, a quartet who initially did not seem like a good match for such a gig. Having heard all of 4 tracks from the band prior to this night, I had pegged them as more of the Vampire Weekend style…
The art district in downtown Pomona, CA, was an odd mishmash of people on November 27th. At the Glasshouse kids were packed outside to see Darkest Hour, Periphery, and Veil of Maya. A few buildings over at the Fox Theater the crowd was a little bit more extreme as they funneled into the rebuilt art-deco theater to see Dimmu Borgir and Enslaved. And smack dab in the middle of all of this, in a parking lot across the street from the Glasshouse, there was a small crafts fair and low-rider show set with their own band playing 70’s funk hits. This is what I had to make my way through on my way to Darkest Hour’s tour bus to interview their drummer Ryan Parrish. Among other things, we discussed Darkest Hour’s upcoming album The Human Romance, their 15th anniversary as a band, and what the future holds for the long running metal act.
Adam Thomas: With The Eternal Return you fulfilled your contract with Victory Records and now you’ve signed to E1 which used to be Koch…
Ryan Parrish: Yes.
AT: How does it feel to have a new home after spending almost a decade on the same label?
RP: Amazing. It’s an incredible change for us. We’ve been looking forward to the end of the Victory contract for a while so getting on a new label is the like best thing we could do. They’re really great to us.
As recently as a year ago, this gig would not have been possible – at least in the order in which the acts took to the stage on Saturday night.
Local act Adebisi Shank’s career trajectory has been well-documented in these pages (though whispers of a US release in the offing may well be new), but the rise of Chicago’s Maps & Atlases has been steeper still, from a college band mixing Tera Melos-inspired math rock with freak folk to cracking the Billboard charts with their debut LP, Perch Patchwork, earlier this year. Saturday’s stop in Whelan’s was the final stop on their first European headlining tour – an event drummer Chris Hainey’s parents marked by flying over from the States (and boy did they stick out, as American tourists are legally obliged to do).
It turns out Maps & Atlases weren’t the only ones saying goodbye, though Adebisi Shank will surely be more relieved than sorry to see the back of this country: the Wexford/Dublin trio are to take on Japan for the jillionth time in support of the recently-released This is the Second Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank. Taking to the stage around the 8.30 mark (an early start for a two-act gig), the Shank pushed all the right buttons, sounding markedly tighter than they did even a month ago when they headlined the State vs. Nialler9 gig in Dublin’s Mercantile Bar.
With the onset of daylight saving time a mere thirty hours away and a couple of relatively warmer days just gone, the mood of the punters entering Mebourne’s Festival Hall (not so affectionately known as Festering Hall) on this particular Friday night seemed just a little more jovial than usual. Those who arrived early would have been treated to Perth act The Chemist… For this attendee however, it was to be dinner and drinks that would win out, before arriving for the surprisingly well-known international supporting act; Los Angeles alternative rock quartet Silversun Pickups.
It says something about the progression of the Australian music industry when a local band – and not exactly one which the average Joe on the street would even know – can attract such an acclaimed international support. And while there could easily have been a case for this to be a true co-headline show, Silversun Pickups fans would be treated to their own headline slot (albeit at a smaller venue) three nights earlier. On an early trip to the men’s room for yours truly, urinal talk suggested the crowd were rather evenly split as to who they were there for. And even when one already inebriated man was at a loss as to who these “Pickups” were, all was ok when he was told they had a “chick” in the band.