Jul 29, 2005

np: "the skin of my yellow country teeth" - clap your hands say yeah

because one David Byrne wasn't enough. but seriously, this album is pretty fun and i'm excited to see them later this fall. anyway, i'm thinking about temporarily changing the name of this blog to via//miami or some shit, because my ass got rocked like a hurricane by Starlike Collision and Logic of Elliott last night at the Empty Bottle. the bands played as part of a benefit for Estrojam 2005 and both were in fine form, bringing Western Avenue a much needed Thursday night dose of rock action. LoE bassist Ella's channeling of Bon Scott on a devil-horn raising cover of "Highway to Hell" was a definite standout. seriously, go see one of these bands.

DangerDoom's The Mouse and the Mask has leaked and its pretty solid. the [Adult Swim] cameos are not as intrusive/out of place as i feared they would be, in fact they blend in pretty damn well with Doom's cartoony style and Dangermouse's beats. it's far from classic, and the novelty will probably wear out quickly, but for now i'm enjoying it much more than MM Food. the cameos from Ghostface and Talib Kweli are pretty hot, i can't wait for the Doom/Ghostface album. shit will be red-hot.

a few other random things i'm enjoying lately:
"John Wayne Gacy Jr." - Sufjan Stevens (harrowing track, this proves why the man is worthy of all the hype)
Howl - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (unexpected direction for the band, great results)
Sour Patch Kids (best movie snack ever)
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair (makes your job seem not quite so bad)
Rocket From the Crypt (i wish i'd discovered these guys sooner)
sleep (never goes out of style)

and yeah, the Lolla and Intonation pics will be coming soon. promise.

Jul 26, 2005

Lollapalooza 2005 Wrap-Up
alright, i won't draw this one out to a three-parter like i did with Intonation. this will be one nice and concise wrap-up of my second two-day festival of the summer. i'll just get this out of the way first - it was fucking hot out there, over 100 degrees on Sunday. so that dampened my enthusiasm just a little, but i was still able to hear some damn fine music. here's some thoughts on the bands i saw...

Day 1 - Saturday:
M83: great way to kick the weekend off, sitting in the grass and drifting away with the music. they sounded fantastic and the songs translated very well to the huge stage.

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead: very intense set for an outdoor festival, full of gratuitous instrument destruction and frequent use of the f-bomb. the two drummers added another level on intensity to the set, more enjoyable than i had expected even if the destruction was a little overdone.

Brian Jonestown Massacre: i've been wanting to check BJM out for a long time now, even before Dig! - but especially since having seen that movie. Anton lived up to his reputation, both as a musical genius and as a wacked-out frontman. when the band was actually playing music, it was sublime - timeless psych-influenced rock that at times actually makes you want to believe he can kickstart his much beloved "revolution". but the set was dragged down by huge breaks between songs, which found Anton alternating between insulting Dashboard Confessional (whose loud set was nearly overpowering BJM at times) and fiddling with the knobs on his amp and keyboard. i'd love to see them play a longer, more consistent set sometime.

Cake: didn't really pay a lot of attention to this set, just kinda say down and soaked it in. they played "Frank Sinatra" and "Rock and Roll Lifestyle", which was good enough for me.

Billy Idol: i was doubting this one, but my girlfriend was excited to check this out and away we went. i'm not sure how much Billy has spent on trainers and plastic surgery, but he looks pretty damn good for his age. even more importantly, however, is that he sounded great and seemed to really be enjoying himself. he whipped out all the old classics and a couple of not as bad as expected new tracks, all of which combined for an entertaining set.

The Black Keys: didn't get as close to the stage as i would have liked for this set, but they sounded pretty fantastic from where we sat. the festival setting seemed to be a really good setting for the boys and the crowd seemed pretty receptive.

The Pixies: the set wasn't very different from the show i saw at the Aragon last fall, but it was very enjoyable nonetheless. the crowd was really into it and the band seemed to be having loads of fun, especially Kim.

Weezer: i've always managed to miss out on Rivers and the crew in the past, so this was my first time seeing the band. which made it very exciting for me, as i've been a fan for over a decade now. they didn't disappoint, as most of the set consisted of stuff off the first two albums. "El Scorcho" was a definite highlight, as was the encore closing "Surf Wax America". any of the new tracks off Make Believe could have been traded for "The Good Life" though, i was really hoping to hear that one. the crowd was excellent for this set, and it was awesome to hear them singing along with every "ooooh-ooh" as "Undone (The Sweater Song)" faded out.

Day 2 - Sunday:
The Ponys: this local Chicago band sounded great on the big stage, tearing their way through songs off of both albums - but it was the ones from Laced with Romance that sounded best.

Kasabian: i know there's not a lot of love for this band with the hipsters out there, but i've been diggin' them since my girlfriend brought back word of them from Europe last year. the band seemed to be thrilled to play to such a large and appreciative audience, who danced and sang along to "L.S.F." and "Club Foot" despite the 100 degree heat. but for a band with such solid beats, the lead singer has some of the most un-funky dance moves ever. points for politeness and enthusiasm though.

Dinosaur Jr.: i was really impressed with the reunited J, Lou, and Murph. i had missed this original line-up the first time around, but had always heard stories of how great a live band they were. this was clearly evident on Sunday, as they tore through classics like their cover of "Just Like Heaven" and "Freak Scene". J plays guitar with twice the passion of guys half his age, you should make sure to check them out on this reunion tour.

Drive-By Truckers: these Southern boys (and girl) were about the perfect choice for Lollapalooza this year, as their tales of hard living and tough loving translated really well to the summer stage. it was evident that there were already many DBT faithful in attendance, but the awesome set surely converted quite a few more. this really made me want to check out the live DVD they recently put out.

The Arcade Fire: simply put, this was by far the best performance of the entire weekend. i'm even tempted to include this in the Top 20 live performances i've ever seen in my life, that's just how damn good it was. the band took to the stage in full funeral gear, black dresses and suits all around, never letting up from the get go. they fired through nearly every song on last year's Funeral, including the amazing "No Cars Go" from the debut EP and a couple new tunes. there was a buzz of energy and excitement from the moment they took the stage until the last note faded away. any band that can move a crowd of that size, in that oppressive heat, deserves many accolades. but for a band to do it with that much natural flair and talent is nearly unheard of, believe every bit of hype you have heard - this is a live band that is not to be missed.

Spoon: any band that i saw after that amazing Arcade Fire set was bound to be a slight disappointment, so we took this opportunity to cool down with some shaved ice and just listened to the music from a spot in the shade. Spoon sounded great, especially on the Gimme Fiction material and "The Way We Get By" got even the most uninterested head nodding along.

The Killers: this set was... really good, but by no means great. the hits sounded good and were played with lots of energy which the crowd returned in spades. but it was very clear that the band desperately needs to work on some sort of stage presence. good looks and solid hooks are not enough to carry an hour-long performance, no matter how willing a band is to admit its own shortcomings. but it was a lot of fun to see and hear "Mr. Brightside" and "Somebody Told Me" with an enthusiastic crowd.

Death Cab for Cutie: after all of the heat and excitement of the second day, it was a real treat to wind down with this relatively mellow set played out using the beautiful Chicago skyline as a backdrop. the set was heavily weighted towards the Seth Cohen approved Transatlanticism album, but they occasionally dipped into the back catalog to pull out a gem or two. the two new songs sounded really great, leaving me excited for the new album (due out on my birthday, very awesome). a great end to a terrific weekend.

some final thoughts:
- it was a surprisingly well executed festival given its size, lines were never too long and things seemed to run very smoothly.
- with a few exceptions, the feared bleeding of music from one stage to another never got very bad. as long as you didn't sit in the middle of the park you were able to concentrate on only the band you wanted to hear.
- this was a beautiful location for a show that the city needs to take advantage of more often. there's no reason things like this should be shoved into the awful Tweeter Center over an hour away from the city proper. Grant Park and the skyline are beautiful, we should take full advantage more often.
- many thanks to Katherine for not only the ticket, but for being willing to go and dealing with my stage-hopping to see all the bands i wanted to see. you are wonderful.

alright, now that the recaps are out of the way, look for some pictures of both Intonation and Lollapalooza soon.

Jul 20, 2005

Intonation Festival 2005 Wrap-Up Part 3
alright, i promise this is the end of the Intonation coverage, as i'm sure anyone who cares is already getting burnt out on all the coverage this week from places like Chicagoist, the Village Voice, and Pitchfork itself. this last look is going to sum up what i found to be good and bad about the festival, and my dream line-up for Intonation 2006.

The Good:
- the amazing line-up. maybe not perfect, but very solid and a better variety than i expected.
- the two-stage alternating set-up. made it possible to have virtually no dead-time between bands and allowed the fans not to have to choose between two bands, you could see them all baby.
- the price. $22 for a two day ticket, over 20 bands? a no-brainer. but the prices for concessions, while not dirt cheap, were nowhere near as high as they are likely to be at this weekend's Lollapalooza.
- the variety. in addition to the awesome music you could have spent your time checking out local vendor's, working on craft projects with your kids, shopping for sweet clothes and homemade crafts, or even gone digging for vinyl at the WLUW sponsored record fair (which is where i scored Japanese Whispers on vinyl).
- the short beer lines. it was way too hot to drink lots of dehydrating beer, but when you felt like grabbing a cold one there was viturally no wait at all. very unexpected.
- the great crowd. for the most part the crowd was really great - there to enjoy the music and not act like drunken idiots. again, something that will probably not be the same at Lollapalooza.

The Bad:
- the "press pit" for certain bands. when The Hold Steady took the stage, it seemed as if everyone who'd ever met the band suddenly was let into the pit area directly in front of the stage. i'm perfectly happy to see writers and camerapeople in that area, but this was a little crazy. there ended up being 20-30 people in there, many of whom were obviously just there to drink beer and rock out. not a huge complaint, but it somehow seemed to cheapen the hard-earned spot i saved in front of the stage. maybe next time there can be a limit to the number of people allowed in that area at one time.
- the weather. definitely not something that could have been controlled, but damn was it hot - especially on Sunday. thankfully the organizers made sure free water was available and allowed us to bring in sealed water containers (nice move).
- the long ATM line. to be fair, i'm sure no one expected the ATM to be such a big hit over the weekend - but waiting 30-45 minutes for your turn was a bit of a drag.

anyway, that's all the complaints i have. i had an amazing time and i'm already anxiously awaiting Intonation 2006. and while we're on the topic, who would you want to see perform next year? drop me a comment and let me know your dream line-up. meanwhile, i'll leave you with how i would book Intonation 2006.

Day 1 - Saturday:
The Reputation
Okkervil River
The Ponys
David Pajo
M. Ward
Mission of Burma
The Shins

DJ Tent:
Matt Sweeney
Nick Catchdubs

Day 2 - Sunday:
Comets on Fire
The Juan Maclean
Iron & Wine
MF Doom
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Boards of Canada
Neutral Milk Hotel
Stephen Malkmus
Belle & Sebastian

DJ Tent:
Thurston Moore
James Murphy
np: "gamera" - tortoise
yeah, i'm still on that Intonation buzz. the promised part 3 of my wrap-up will come later tonight, but for now i wanted to pass along some information on the 2005 Mercury Prize. yesterday the shortlist was announced for this prestigious UK prize, which has most recently been awarded to Franz Ferdinand and Dizzee Rascal. the final winner will be announced September 6, so until then let the speculating begin...

2005 Mercury Prize nominees:
Antony and the Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now
Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
Coldplay - X&Y
The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike
Hard-Fi - Stars of CCTV
Kaiser Chiefs - Employment
Seth Lakeman - Kitty Jay
The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers
M.I.A. - Arular
Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger
Polar Bear - Held on the Tips of Fingers
KT Tunstall - Eye to the Telescope

British gambling houses have made the Kaiser Chiefs early favorites, but i wouldn't discount M.I.A. just yet. i'd be very happy to see either her or Bloc Party win this one.

Jul 19, 2005

Intonation Festival 2005 Wrap-Up Part 2
and now let's take a look at the bands from the second day of Intonation...

Day 2 - Sunday:
Thunderbirds Are Now!: to be honest, i didn't catch much of this set as i was late arriving to the park and was getting settled in. but what i was able to hear left me feeling the same way as i did when i heard Justamustache, very uninspired.

Dungen: this was one of the biggest surprises for me over the course of the two days, as the boys from Sweden put on one hell of a set. they really seemed to be enjoying themselves and it really came across in the performance. Ta Det Lugnt is an astonishing album full of brilliant psych influenced rock so i was expecting a good show, i just wasn't expecting to be blown away all over again. i got a little nervous when the lead singer pulled out a flute, but all of my worst Jethro Tull fears were quickly laid to rest.

Xiu Xiu: i was a little nervous about this set, being not at all sure how Jamie Stewart's manic performances would translate to an outdoor stage in the sunshine. not to worry, as Jamie left the more hushed moments behind and spent his time making a more frantic noise. "Pox" was an especially inspired song, as Jamie wrenched and wrestled with the cacophony behind him. you'd never expect so much noise to come from just two people on a stage.

Out Hud: i've never really been able to get into Out Hud as much as i have !!!, so i wasn't as intent on pushing my way to the front for this set. from where i ended up, it sounded like i should have put forth more effort. i was bouncing my head and tapping my toes from across the part, part of me really wanting to ignore the nearly 100 degree temperatures and start dancing my ass off. luckily i remember just in time that i can't dance and saved myself (and probably many others) the embarassment.

The Hold Steady: just... wow. without a doubt this was one of my two favorite performances of the weekend. i've been slowly falling more and more in love with this band over the past several months, but seeing Craig Finn and company live made one thing very clear - this is my new favorite band. the band kicked things off with "Hornets! Hornets!" and tore thier way through songs off both albums, "Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night" and "Most People Are DJs" being two of my personal favorites. do yourself a favor and check this band out live, you will not be disappointed. you could always check them out on Conan tonight or Carson Daly tomorrow night, but i don't think it'll be quite the same.

Andrew Bird: so this was one of the biggest draws of the weekend apparently, as the buzz for this guy was positively enormous. i'm not sure just how the hype surrounding Andrew has gotten quite so big, but he sure drew the crowds. personally, i'm just not feeling him that much. he's a terrific musician and a wonderful composer, but something about him just leaves me a little flat. kinda reminds me of a more talented, less annoying Jack Johnson.

Deerhoof: this is another one of those bands that i just don't get the hype for, seems like the type of things that many other bands have done earlier and better. they didn't sound awful, but i wasn't really impressed by the set either.

The Wrens: after the last two lackluster sets, i was looking forward to something to get me excited again - and The Wrens delivered plus some. i'd only listened to The Meadowlands a handful of times so i'm wasn't a huge fan of the band going in to the festival, but i certainly walked away from that performance a believer. "She Sends Kisses" was a personal highlight, but pretty much the entire set was phenomenal.

Les Savy Fav: remember when i said the Hold Steady gave one of my two favorite performances of the weekend? i hope so, since it was like three paragraphs ago. anyway, i didn't think that one could possibly be topped by any of the remaining bands on the bill. Les Savy Fav proved me wrong, very dead-fucking-wrong. Tim Harrington was on fire from the get-go - tossing sponges into the crowd, stripping to his black skivvies, enticing the crowd to sit down on the grass, donning an aluminum foil crown, and even dousing his genitalia with a 312 (Chicago brewed "urban" ale, good stuff from Goose Island). oh yeah, and the music kicked major ass as well. "The Sweat Descends" and "We'll Make A Lover Out of You" being just two of the especially tasty jams. forget about everything you've been hearing about The Go! Team's performance, this was the true memorable gem of the Festival.

The Decemberists: much like Andrew Bird, i hadn't realized that this band was pulling in such a huge amount of fans. it makes complete sense, but i wasn't aware that they had been able to penetrate the mainstream as much as they apparently have. this was a solid choice to end the weekend with, sending the fans out on a lighter tone after the frenetic energy of Les Savy Fav. Petra Haden has been an excellent addition to the band's live show, adding another very talented layer to the sound. it wasn't a particularly amazing set, but enjoyable enough to send everyone home happy.

again, many thanks to everyone who helped put this Festival together, and here's looking forward to Intonation 2006. tomorrow i'll finish up with the promised general thoughts and my dream line-up for next year's festival.

Jul 17, 2005

Intonation Festival 2005 Wrap-Up
just got back a few short hours ago from the Intonation Festival, the little music thingie that Pitchfork has been hyping for a minute or two. before i get any more detailed, i just want to give a huge 'thank you' to everyone involved in this event. without a doubt, this was the best two days of music i've been through in, oh, ever. from cheap ticket prices to an awesome lineup to things being run pretty damn smoothly, i have to say it was quite a wonderful experience. i'll probably try and write a little more on my general thoughts in a couple of days, but while everything is fresh in my mind i wanted to run down what i thought of each band.

Day 1 - Saturday:
Head of Femur: i was in line outside the gate for most of this set, but i have to say i was a little disappointed in what i heard. the latest album, Hysterical Stars, is a lush pop nugget that i've been enjoying quite a bit as of late; but i'm thinking something was just lost in the translation to a large, outdoor venue. but it's a tough job to open a festival with such huge expectations, so props to them for a solid, if not top-notch, performance.

Pelican: this was another slight disappointment for me, but again i think this was due to the translation to an outdoor venue. i expected something a little more mammoth and head-crushing, but things seemed to run-off into the post-rock noodling territory. there were some pretty awesome moments though, i'd love to see these guys in a smaller club sometime.

The M's: local Chicago boys that i'd never been able to see before, but i was very glad to get an up close look at them during Intonation. very enjoyable set of rock and roll, they deserve just as much praise is being lavished upon The Ponys. Chicago rock is far from dead.

A.C. Newman: due to a much needed food break i wasn't able to get very close for this set, but he sounded pretty excellent from my spot in the shade with my lemonade and cheeseburger. "35 in the Shade", while not at all appropriate given the temperature in Chicago this weekend, was a standout to these ears.

Magnolia Electric Co.: this was definitely the highlight of my day, as Jason Molina and his band put on one hell of a rock show. i wasn't sure whether we were going to get the somber Molina or the rockin' out Molina, but it was much more of the latter. i was surprised at how energized his band was, as they gave the tunes from his last two albums workouts that would have done Neil Young proud.

Four Tet: i was much more impressed with Four Tet than i expected to be, as his albums have never really done much for me. i found myself a nice spot in the grass and sat back, letting the beats and clicks wash over me. i wasn't left awestruck, but it was enough to make me want to relisten to his albums.

Broken Social Scene: if this was my first and only exposure to BSS, i would have been left wondering just what all the fuss was about. it wasn't a bad set by any means, just a solid set that fell far short of awe-inspiring. a couple of the new songs they played leave me excited for the new album though, especially the Malkmus tribute(?) about the girl that dreams of a better tomorrow, dreams of Pavement (i forgot the exact title).

The Go! Team: it was obvious that this crew was a highlight for a big portion of the crowd, but all the fun and happiness on stage just seemed a little forced. Thunder, Lightning, Strike is one hell of an enjoyable album, but the live show left me feeling like i was watching Scary Spice run Out Hud through a set of funk covers. but, as i said, a lot of people there seemed to love the set so maybe i was just missing something. cute move to bring the local kids up on stage to dance though.

Prefuse 73: i wasn't up close for this one either, but it sounded pretty good from where i sat. by the end of his set i was kicking myself for not pushing closer, as the beat was making my head nod all the way across Union Park. i need to see him again.

Death From Above 1979: there had seemed to have been minor sound problems on the Holiday stage off and on all day, and i think DFA1979 really seemed to suffer for it. i think everyone was ready for these two guys to rip shit apart, but all the devil-horns in the world couldn't have kicked this up the two notches it needed. some monster riffs just seemed to bury themselves in the muffled sound, maybe it sounded more brutal right next to the stage.

Tortiose: i started out listening to it from the bleachers all the way across the park and i wasn't all that excited, but halfway through i got up and just wandered aimlessly around the grounds and just let it all wash over me. about 10 minutes later i found myself completely lost in the music, i think this is all i needed to be proven why Tortoise was headlining the night.

that wraps it up for day one, i'll be back tomorrow with coverage of the day two bands and a few more general thoughts.

Jul 12, 2005

np: "brandenburg concerto no. 1" - j.s. bach

no, really. i've been on a big classical kick lately, something i really never thought i would dig into all that much. but after spending some time in the right environment to hear this stuff, i was suitably impressed and decided to delve right in. so, of course, i'm starting basic and cheaply - by picking up two of those bargain priced mega-compilations to kick this thing off. decided on Bach and Mozart to begin my training and appreciation, more as things progress i'm sure.

so last time i promised some words on rock action of some sort or another and i'm never one to disappoint, so here we go. i hit up Schuba's a couple weeks ago to see two of my very favorite Chicago area bands, both of which i know i've mentioned on here many times before. my close personal friends in Star*Like Collision got the call to open a show for The Reputation which right away guarantees a recipe for awesomeness. as usual things were really excellent, with both bands in fine form. bit of a sad note in the air, however, as it was bass player Joel Root's last performance with the band. he's heading off to Oregon to pursue some new directions and we (read: me) here at via//chicago wish him nothing but the best.

this week's big excitement? Intonation. hell yeah. Hold Steady, Les Savy Fav, Xiu Xiu, The Decemberists, Magnolia Electric Co., Four Tet, and Head of Femur among many others all within a couple miles of where i live... who could ask for more? i'm stoked, and with Lolla the weekend after i've got nothing but awesome live music to look forward to.

tomorrow night i'll be at The Note to see the girls in The Logic of Elliott rock my ass again as they compete for a slot at Warped, you should join me.

anyway, that's about enough for tonight - time to go get my classical on.