Sunday, September 30, 2007

ACL: Part II


After a late wake-up call, ma lady and I grabbed some b-fast at “Austin Java,” which had some pretty solid gringo breakfast tacos (I think, with some planning and minimal effort, one could eat breakfast tacos in Austin for every meal for at least a week and never repeat restaurants). Then it was out for some sweat and sun on the walk to Zilker Park to catch:

Augustana (2:30-3:30): Augustana was surprisingly solid. I didn’t think that I knew anything by them, until I recognized at least five of their songs from the radio; and I never listen to the radio, so they must be on a lot. Anyway, those radio hits are good songs; I like them. And, the band was pretty sweet. And, they played a track off their new album that was very roots-rockish, departing a bit from their pretty piano pop tunes. Good start to the day before heading over to…

Cold War Kids (3:30-4:30): (Author’s Note: Caught the end of the Paulo Nutini set on the walk over to CWK…I have no respect for that asshole...although I do own his I don't know what to think) I’m sure after I sang their praises following Lollapalooza, you all ran off and bought the record (Robbers and Cowards); but for those who didn’t, I would like to reiterate that this band is awesome. Every track on the album is fantastic, and every track is even better live. Live, the distorted, echoed guitars are struck without restraint, Nathan Willet’s vocals reach a level that surpasses the sound on the album, and the thumping back-beat that exists throughout the album is that much louder (I also find it neat that whenever a band member is not playing another instrument, they go and dig some sort of percussion instrument to hit on stage). Anyway, they were awesome (RT’s (myspace): Hospital Beds, Hang Me Up To Dry).

After CWK, we stayed put, basking (read: struggling) in the Austin sun. I would like to point out at this time, that several of my friends went off to watch Stephen Marley. Am I the only one who doesn’t make it a priority to see the Marley boys at a music festival? And for the record, yes, they are at every music festival you will ever attend. Why? Because they are a good Bob Marley cover band…and Bob Marley music is ideal for festivals. Still, it's not Bob Marley playing, so why the fuss? Also, why do people like Robert Randolph? And Phish? Anyway, during this time I scurried about to grab some foodstuffs, Sweat Leaf Tea, and of course a couple of brews, in preparation for one of my own most anticipated shows of the festival…

Andrew Bird
(5:30-6:30): There’s only three guys on stage during an Andrew Bird show!!! Three!!! You should hear the sound!!! You’d think there was a g-darned orchestra on stage. This is basically how it goes. Andrew Bird walks out on stage wearing a woman’s shirt (pretty sure) and looking very gaunt, as an artist should. Then, he plays some beautiful tune on his violin, steps on a looping pedal, picks a little ditty on said violin, steps on a looping pedal, whistles an unbelievable whistle, and then plays a track from his spectacular catalogue. If you ever have the opportunity, just go. Even if you’ve never heard him, or don’t care for him; it’s something to be seen. He’s running around the stage, grabbing new instruments, looping a guitar part, quickly shedding it for a violin and bow, improving, almost completely changing certain songs from their album version. Phenomenal. (RT's (myspace): Scythian Empires, Cataracts, Measuring Cups, Fake Palindromes, Sovay).

It is here that we may have made our only mistake of the festival. We decided to stick around the Arcade Fire (8:30) stage to get good seats. However, we missed Damien Rice...who I heard was really good...and I like Damien Rice a lot...our bad. Instead, we caught the Arctic Monkeys, who everyone raves about, and they sounded okay, but I'll need to hear more before making a final judgment. Also, I think the lead singer was 12. After the Arctic Monkeys, everyone pushed forward for seats, and in the stage behind us we heard the entire Clap Your Hands Say Yeah show as we were waiting for Arcade Fire to come on. I think I like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah...however, I know I don't like them live. They seem to have a sloppy sound by design, but I don't think it translates well to outdoor festivals. And Alec Ounsworth's yelping high-pitched vocals end up sounding like a raccoon that's fallen into a window well (long-story). Anyway, after CYHSY, we were ready for...

The Arcade Fire
(8:30-9:30): This band is one of my favorite bands of all time. There, I said it, and no, I haven't been drinking. Every song they played was amazing, because every song in their catalogue is fantastic. Their songs are beautiful, well-written, and performed with emotion, both on the album, and even more so live. They are awesome live. They have, like, 20 people on stage. They bring out these instruments that look like their from the 1820's, and they sound awesome. There are times when there are upwards of 5 people singing. Whenever someone isn't playing an instrument, they pound on a drum, or jump up and down, or sing, sometimes in a mic, sometimes not. Highlights of the show were: Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), just because it's an incredible song, and it's even more incredible when the whole crowd joins in on the "ooo, ooo, ooo, ooo, ooos" at the end of the song, and their encore of "Wake Up." Everyone knew it was coming, but it was still fantastic. Anyway, I hope you love this band as much as I do. (RTs (Myspace): Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), Intervention, Ocean of Noise, Well and the Lighthouse, Wake Up, Every Song They Have)

So Saturday was pretty sweet. After the show we ate at Chuy's Tex-Mex (worth 20 points) which offers a Burrito the size of your face and complimentary chips and salsa. And then it was on to...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ryan Adams tweaks out at Minneapolis show

I thought he was done with this type of stuff? I've always blamed his legendary live meltdowns on substance abuse but if he really is clean and sober, this isn't a good sign...

And I've never heard the story about him ripping on Paul Westerberg - that lands him in major hot water with this disappointed Minnesotan.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

ACL: Part I

So I'm going to do a report on this years Austin City Limits Festival in three parts, each part covering a separate day of the festival. There is no guarantee that these installations will occur in three consecutive days, or even in three consecutive months, but they should all be out by 2009. With that said, I'd like to now say that Austin City Limits is the greatest music festival out there, and I will be tallying up points for ACL throughout the post to show you.


My lady friend (Maggie) and I began the day with some breakfast tacos at Juanitas (Breakfast tacos: 1 point ACL). If you ever find yourself in Austin, make the journey down fifth street to this charming joint that operates out of a trailer. From there we booked it over to Zilker Park (which features a spring to take a dip in: 2 points ACL) to begin this years festival. We were late for Sahara Smith, an Austin local that I wanted to catch, getting there a little after 12:30 to catch…

Jesse Malin (12:30-1:30): I hate to say it, but I wasn’t impressed. I do like a few of his songs (Brooklyn, for instance) but the others just seem to blend together. I thought I really was going to like him, after hearing how Bruce guested on the album, and how he has an “Americana” vibe, which I dig, but to me, Malin ended up sounding like a bunch of other artists out there; nothing that really separated him from the pack. Plus he went on this ill-advised rant about our technology driven culture in which he kept repeating “I’ve gotta have my myspace, I’ve gotta have my youtube,” and he ended up making no sense. However, it was a gorgeous day and I was feeling good. Except of course for the fact that I was drenched with sweat 10 minutes in, and would remain drenched for the duration of the festival (readers note: I am legendary for my ability to sweat; so it’s awkward that I live in Texas). So after Jesse, we headed to…

Joseph Arthur
(1:30-2:30): Joseph Arthur’s new album is a more rockin affair than his past efforts of ballads that make their way onto many a movie soundtrack. However, because he was playing tunes off this new “rockin” album, he ended up sounding exactly like Jesse Malin. I swear I thought Malin had just switched stages. And so it was that I started my day with a collection of mediocre 4-chord rock songs. So then, for a change of pace, we went to…

Pete Yorn (2:30-3:30): Who played more four-chord rock songs. Only his were good. Nothing really of note to report, other than Pete wearing a t-shirt that said “Clancy’s” and Maggie yelling, “We have a drug store named Clancy’s,” thinking that the drug store made t-shirts and Pete was a fan of said drug store. Also, just as he did at Lollalapalooza, Pete covered Peter, Bjorn, and John’s hit “Young Folks.” Which is kind of weird because next we went to…

Peter Bjorn and John (3:30-4:30): Now I thought it odd, and bad etiquette, that Yorn would play a song from a band who was at the same festival, not to mention following his show 200 yards away. So, I thought that maybe the bands knew each other, were friends, and it was cool. Apparently it wasn’t. PB and J spent a cool 2 minutes on stage kind of ripping on Yorn in their own Swedish way, seeming a little miffed that he played their song…you know, when they were about to play it 15 minutes later. All in all, the show was good ("Paris 2004" was a highpoint), but not that good. It seemed like they couldn’t really produce the wall of sound they had on their album in a live outdoor show. One notable part of the show was when they brought out Mel Draisey of The Clientele to sing “Young Folks,” and she was a very pretty lady with a great voice. Besides that, nothing of note besides a discussion about how they definitely ordered their names so it went in the order PBJ, rather than naming the band Bjorn John and Peter.

From there we took a little break to grab some food and some Sweat Leaf Sweet Tea (3 points ACL) before catching…

LCD Soundsystem (5:30-6:30): All I heard before the show was how sweet they were in concert, and it was a good show, but I’m not completely sold on their tunes. Their lead singer, James Murphy, seemed like a cool guy, especially when he invited the entire crowd to his wife's birthday party that night. But while their aggressive rock/electronic/dance sound worked brilliantly at times, at other times Murphy sounded like the devil that Will Farrell played in the SNL skit when he tries to teach Garth Brooks a hit song ("I said the guitar was out of tune!"). Apparently I was not the only one who thought so; another person who did was…

James Hunter
(6:30-7:15): Hunter started his show with a friendly jibe at LCD. LCD ended their show with a tune in which lead-man Murphy kept repeating “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” The tune went a little over LCD’s time-limit, causing Hunter to awkwardly mill around stage in his vest and tie before starting his show. So when it was time, Hunter said, “And as one great poet once said, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” Classic middle-aged-man-listening-to-LCD Soundsystem-joke…my dad would have made the same one. Anyway, I really enjoy James Hunter. He sings tunes reminiscent of Sam Cooke in a silky smooth voice and plays a mean blues guitar. And when I say he plays Sam Cooke reminiscent tunes, I mean Sam Cooke could have actually sung these songs; Hunter is very throwback. This was evident in the fact that Maggie and I were BY FAR the youngest folks there. Everyone else was 50 plus and it was clear that all the ladies had a serious crush on Mr. Hunter. Seeing James Hunter was probably our boldest move of the festival, because we missed Spoon to see him. We missed Spoon partly because James Hunter is awesome, and partly because we saw them at Lollapalooza and weren’t that impressed. And from talking to people who went to the ACL show, they weren’t too impressive in their home city either. And while we’re talking about Spoon, I would like to say that I do usually enjoy Spoon and I did enjoy their latest record Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but I definitely don’t respect them. Have you seen the track-list for this album? It includes tracks named “Rhthm and Soul” and “Don’t You Evah.” Are they 7th grade girls trying to be hip? Are they writing text messages? Until I hear valid explanations for the misspellings, I withhold my respect…which I’m sure they care about. However, I do respect…

The Killers
(8:15-9:30): After walking around for a while and catching a bit of the Gotan Project, whose Argentinian/Parisian jams are intriguing if nothing else, we found our way to The Killers show, who were sharing headlining duties with Bjork. We were really far away for The Killers, but it was still a good show. I think they are a great band, built for playing festivals. And I really dig the anthemic rock they threw our way in Sam’s Town, even though it received mixed reviews. Anyway, we took off 15 minutes early to beat the crowds and hit up 6th street (4 points Austin) before heading to bed early for another day of tunes on Saturday…

(Authors Note: I just realized that maybe I didn't think that the bands Friday were all that sweet. But Saturday and Sunday more than made up for it. You'll see when I post about those days in December.)

Post-Script. In case you haven't heard some of the bands mentioned above, here are links to their myspace and some recommended tracks (RT) in case you want to sample on itunes.

Jesse Malin RT: Brooklyn

Pete Yorn RTs: The Man, Murray, Life on a Chain

Peter Bjorn and John RTs: Paris 2004, Young Folks, Against the Wall

James Hunter RTs: People Gonna Talk, Mollena

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Flaming Lips - Live at Myth, Minneapolis 9/9/07

Sure, Jack the Rabbit is an arrogant guy.

But King Kong ain't got shit on me...I can explain my reasoning in one sentence: The Flaming Lips are the best live show in music today. Don't believe me? Then my only guess (and correct one at that) is you've never had the pleasure of seeing them in person.

Now I'll clarify my statement by emphasizing the word SHOW. I didn't say they're the best artists, songwriters, or wearers of designer shades and skull caps. However, a live Lips show is like entering a circus for adults and I couldn't have been happier.

One of the cool things about the Lips is that they all help set up their equipment between the opener and their own show. No pretentiousness, no arrogance (so not your typical KTTU band). Wayne Coyne, the lead singer, was the only one to leave the stage before the start of the best opening performance I've ever seen.

While the band set up, a few roadies were handing out laser pointers to the entire audience. Laser wars broke out as people fired beams across the venue at unsuspecting patrons, creating a sense of community that was so important to the show.

Not very long after, Steven - guitarist and keyboardist, Michael - bassist, and Kliph - drummer - started playing...and that's when it happened. Eight girls came running out from stage left wearing green alien masks and futuristic purple dresses, while another eight Santa Clauses emerged stage right. Superman, Captain America, one of the Incredibles, and a Trojan-like character also made appearances as the crowd and stage members danced and cheered wildly. Wayne began to walk out wearing two giant hands a la The Science of Sleep, which he proceeded to use to hug each group of dancers and then the rest of the band individually. As "Race for the Prize" picked up, I started to feel lighter and almost what I would expect an out-of-body experience to feel like (seriously, I don't do drugs, but this would definitely be the show to do it at...). As Wayne got to the mic and started to sing, the night exploded. Laser pointers, erupting confetti cannons, massive yellow balloons, and smoke filled the air as they played. It was the trippiest time I've ever had, and it was amazing.

When I die, I'm sure I'm going to be scared to enter the afterlife, but if I have any say, I want to enter heaven with the Lips playing a show. I was actually a little worried that I was dead about halfway through the first song, because if I could've imagined an orientation/welcome to the Pearly Gates, this would've been it. I can't explain the feeling much more than that, but luckily I was very much alive and enjoying the mayhem around me as I jumped and danced and sang with a couple thousand other people.

The best part of the night was when they turned out the lights on the stage. Immediately everyone shone their laser pointers on Wayne as he finished his guitar part, illuminating him in a red 3-D ball of moving points (remember the old Nintendo system that failed miserably, where you look into the goggles at the red 3-D lines? something like that...). It was a cool moment, especially since the lingering smoke from the smoke machine and cigarettes caused the air above us to turn into a web of red lasers, blanketing the audience in a ceiling of red warmth.

In a related, but less spontaneous moment, Wayne asked everyone to shine their lasers at him just as the lights went out and as he picked up a huge mirror. The reflecting beams were cast back over everyone, creating a tangle of light throughout the club. It was a sweet effect that somehow made everyone seem interconnected at that time and place.

One thing that really stood out for me was how much the band embraced the crowd's craziness. After setting such an example themselves, they really took to whatever happened with the greatest of ease. For me, at some point having laser pointers flashed in my eyes repeatedly all night would get me a little pissed off. Not these guys. They welcomed it more than anything.

The night slid by as they played all the old favorites as well as some new ones from their great album At War with the Mystics. Slightly disappointing, but cool nonetheless, they did a toned down and slower version of "Yoshimi vs. the Pink Robots" that the crowd sang to along with Wayne (I should probably note that Steven only spoke in a high pitched Mickey Mouse voice all night to say "thanks" and other assorted phrases).

Highlights included "Fight Test," "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," "Free Radicals," a rare "Riding to Work in the Year 2025," a brief cover of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," and my favorite, "Do You Realize?" (look for this in an upcoming post). But the real treat came in the final song of the encore when they branched from their normal set list to play a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Moonlight Mile." As the song ended and Wayne walked off the stage, the rest of the band held the tunes until the big, bright moon projected on the screen behind them zoomed out until it was nothing more than a black screen.

A classy way to finish a crazy show and completely satisfying. Check out "Race for the Prize" and let me know what song is playing for you as you head through the big gates in the sky.

The Flaming Lips -
*Race for the Prize (remix).mp3

For more songs, including my all-time favorite "Do You Realize?" check out their myspace page here.

Set List (in picture form):

*big thanks to everyone at the Flaming Lips message boards for the pics!*