Thursday, September 11, 2014

CONCERT PREVIEW: Spoon w/ EMA at Riverside Theater, Milwaukee 9/17



It's concert season in the Milwaukee. No more festivals. We now get to huddle around each other in the warmth of the best theaters in the Midwest. Fall brings in tons of fantastic shows, and Wednesday, September 17th starts the beginning of a fantastic month and a half of shows, as Milwaukee brings in indie rock group Spoon with special guest EMA.

Erika M Anderson, or EMA as she's known in the music world, is a singer-songwriter from South Dakota (yes... South Dakota), who got her start in drone rock outfit Gowns. She's been heavily talked about since her debut solo album, "Past Life Martyred Saints" was released in 2011, gaining notoriety with tracks like "California" and rave reviews from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and the like.

Her follow up "The Future's Void" is straddling the fine line between electronic and organic rock music, with heavy amounts of noise and even more heavy lyrics that provide dark, startling imagery, focusing on technology while not succumbing to stereotypical uses of electronics in music. EMA feeds off of improvisation, and that will typically give way to a fantastic live show. For a taste of the live goods, check out her recent network television debut, performing "Neuromancer" on Late Show w/ David Letterman.



EMA will provide a fine opening set for indie rockers Spoon, who dabble in experimentation on stage themselves.

Recently releasing their eighth studio album, They Want My Soul, Spoon is back on the road, trying to showcase new tricks, after releasing two of the best albums of the last ten years with Gimme Fiction in 2005, and following up with Ga Ga Ga Ga in 2007. Their following, self-produced album Transference, fell a little short but nevertheless still provided enough solid music to keep Spoon in listeners hearts. And, let's be honest, it was going to be difficult to follow up two of the most popular rock albums of the times.

They Want My Soul picks up where Transference left off, with plenty of electronic drum beats, keys, guitar riffs, and Britt Daniel's raspy, growling voice. I was pleasantly surprised by their latest album, going in to my first listen not expecting too much. But tracks like "Do You", "Rent I Pay" and "Inside Out" will fit right in to a Spoon live set next Wednesday.

Check out their full performance from KEXP below, and purchase your tickets for the show here.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

FESTIVAL COVERAGE: Hideout Block Party & The Onion A.V. Fest Preview | Chicago - Sept. 5-6

Ah yes, the Summer festival season is coming to an end here in the Midwest. Chicago plays host to a seemingly unending list of music festivals, from Lollapalooza to Pitchfork, Spring Awakening to Taste of Randolph, the festivals and events range from annoyingly large to ideally undersized.

Smack dab between North Coast and Riot Fest lies one of Chicago's hidden gems: The Hideout Block Party/ The Onion A.V. Fest, put on by local venue & bar, The Hideout and The Onion's entertainment partner A.V. Club.

Last year's Hideout/AV Fest featured Neko Case, The Walkmen, Young the Giant, The Hold Steady and other notable acts as the festival continues to grow, and this year shows the festival's growth even more clearly.

What makes this year so special? Well on the surface, headlining acts like Death Cab for Cutie and The War on Drugs are big enough to draw a sizable crowd, and undercards like Hamilton Leithauser (of The Walkmen), Mac DeMarco, Sylvan Esso and The Dismemberment Plan and others will provide entertainment throughout the two-day festival.

First, the big draw is Friday's headliner, and there's an extra, bittersweet bonus in play. Death Cab for Cutie has been one of my favorite bands since high school, (pre-Seth Cohen/The O.C. influence) and although their albums have decreased in overall quality over the years, that doesn't change my desire to hear their songs live, new and old.

The bittersweet lies within the band's guitarist/keyboards/production-extraordinaire Chris Walla, who announced last month that he would be leaving the band after the group's September shows. This means that Friday night will mark the last Chicago appearance for Walla as a member of DCFC. I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff, and will probably become a little emotional as one of my favorite musicians in one of my all-time favorite bands steps away. It's like Derek Jeter retiring from The New York Yankees: the Yankees will still be there, but Jeter's iconic #2 won't be; Death Cab will still make music, but their most talented musician won't be with them.

Also with an O.C. tie-in, Hamilton Leithauser will take the stage before DCFC on Friday, and alright, fine The O.C. thing is a bit of a stretch (The Walkmen played the series' staple-venue The Bait Shop in its opening season). Although I've come on record as saying Hamilton's solo material is second-tier to former Walkmen member, Peter Matthew Bauer's Liberation!, his album Black Hours is very good and I look forward to watching the crooner's new material live. I just pray no one yells, "THE RAT!"



Saturday brings in one of my new favorite acts, Sylvan Esso. With some hometown (Milwaukee) ties, Sylvan Esso features former Decibully/Megafaun member Nick Sanborn, and singer Amelia Meath performing some sneaky-good electropop. Comparable to groups like the xx, Feist, The Blow, and CHVRCHES, Sylvan Esso is likely to overcome many of these comparisons in 2014 and move forward into the new year. Ambient structures paired with abrupt, heavy synths and bass, all while Meath's sparkling vocals win over any listeners in earshot.





Also on Saturday is one of indie rock's most spirited live acts, Mac DeMarco. I was blown away at Mac's performance last year at Pitchfork Music Festival, playing feel-good summery songs like "Cookin' Up Somethin' Good" and "Ode to Viceroy". But it's DeMarco's voice that can really turn heads, ranging between a deep growl to a stonery, laid-back smoker's buzz.

Saturday's weather is supposed to be ideal in Chicago, and there couldn't be a better soundtrack than Mac DeMarco. Keep your eyes and ears open for a surprise cover or two from Mac, and make sure to watch him shred his makeshift guitar.

Saturday night will belong to The War on Drugs. Their latest album, Lost in the Dream is a heavy contender for 2014 Album of the Year, and for good reason. Its sound is epic, and true to the times its released in, yet is undeniably timeless. To further prove that 2014 belongs to The War on Drugs, the group performed a buzzworthy rendition of single "Red Eyes" for The Late Show With David Letterman (second only in buzz to the indescribable Future Islands). Check out that performance below, and get your asses to Chicago to catch one of the most mind-blowing live rock acts of our time.



Hideout Fest promises to be one of the best festival experiences of the summer. Is it packed with hundreds of acts, from 10am-10pm for three days? No. But along with that come many benefits: less neon attire (your retinas will thank you), less drugged-out frat/sorority parties, no VIP access passes for $1000+, accessible lines to food and drink, and the best thing of all - elbow room.

Single Day and Two-Day Tickets are available here: http://ticketf.ly/1qA8ACu //
// Check out my Instagram Feed for up-to-the-minute photo updates here // 
// Photo Uploads will be available at Stage Right Photo //

Friday, August 15, 2014

WATCH: Ty Segall Performs "Feel" Live on Conan

Indie Garage-rock staple Ty Segall is well on his way to making his name known throughout the country as one of the genre's best. With performances like last night's take on "Feel" from Conan O'Brien, it's not going to take very long.

Segall comes out dressed like some sort of sci-fi warlock, but mid-way through the song, the magic is shown in Ty's guitar play. Alongside longtime collaborator, Mikal Cronin, Ty Segall gives a performance that needs to be seen to be believed.

Be on the lookout for Ty Segall's seventh (yes SEVENTH) studio album, Manipulator, due out later this month.

Friday, July 25, 2014

FESTIVAL RECAP - Best of Pitchfork Festival 2014 - Twin Peaks


Cadien Lake James of Twin Peaks

Gonna switch gears here... the first day was great, sure, but over the course of the next two days of the festival, I was blown away by the amazingness lined up before me.

Saturday's lineup began with Twin Peaks at 1pm, a Chicago-native band I've been tracking silently for the last few months. I made sure to bring my group of friends to check out their set on Saturday, hoping they wouldn't disappoint, as I'd never seen them perform live before, not to mention the group doesn't even have a full-length album under their belts (the group released an EP, Sunken, last year).

Clay Frankel of Twin Peaks
And they did everything but disappoint. The guys were incredibly entertaining, and made the most of the exciting opportunity that was placed before them, even noting the fact that they could see themselves on the giant screens throughout the park.

Three of the four members do a fair amount of singing, with each member bringing an undeniable amount of character to their parts of each song. The track "Making Breakfast" perfectly highlighted the group's strongpoints, with frontman Cadien Lake James (seen in the picture at the top of this article, who was wheelchair-bound until the last song of their set, which he played his last chords from his knees) howling with a gritty and caustic vocal tone in between shaking his head back and forth or sticking his tongue out.

Meanwhile, bassist Jack Dolan and guitarist Clay Frankel bounced around stage, smiling, at one point, Frankel stepped off stage towards the crowd onto a piece of the enormous sound system, performed some riffs
there, and later, smashed the guitar in frustration. It shattered into two separate pieces, both of which Frankel hurled into the crowd, something I can't say I've ever seen done before.

Clay ensured everyone was okay after the hilarity, making sure he wasn't going to be sued, as of course he "...ain't got no moneyyyy..."

Overall, their entire set was one of the best of the weekend. Even without knowing many of the songs, it was a spectacular glimpse into their upcoming album, Wild Onion, which is due out on August 5. The band played incredibly well together, all bringing their own undeniable charm and style to the stage, and proved to be one of the best acts we'd see during the festival.

I'll be looking to pick up one of their 'Chicago Bulls Mascot Smoking A J' t-shirts when they come back through the midwest as part of their headlining tour this fall.

UPDATE: The group's forthcoming album, Wild Onion, is available for stream courtesy of Pitchfork Advance here. I highly suggest you check it out.



PREVIEW: Panama at Urban Island Beach Party - 08/01/14

Panama
Photo: Maclean Stephenson

There's seemingly a never ending slew of things to do in Milwaukee in the Summer. There's literally a festival every weekend, outdoor movies accompanied by fish fries, bike marathons, jazz in parks... you get the picture.

Friday, August 1 marks another busy day on the MKE Calendar, with the annual Urban Island Beach Party at Lakeshore State Park glistening near the top of any young adult's to-do list.

The event is hosted by Newaukee, and as nauseating as some of their events can be (this particular party will feature Mayor Tom Barrett and Alderman Bauman smashing PINEAPPLES... yay), the event is free, and open to the public and will feature a lot of decent food trucks, a pig roast and plenty of beverages our city is known so well for. The party will benefit the Friends of Lakeshore Park, a group looking to further the development of the venue hosting the party, a gorgeous isthmus on the coast of Lake Michigan.

There are numerous reasons to check out the party, and if the title of the event alone doesn't draw some form of intrigue, the main act, Australian-natives Panama, should. Their track, "Always" has been lighting up independent radio stations, blogs and online streaming services, with over 2 million plays on the band's Soundcloud.



Frontman and songwriter Jarrah McCleary is a classically trained pianist (since the age of six), and the group has been working alongside some of the indie dance music business' top names; their latest work, Always EP, was produced in Los Angeles by Eric Broucek, who has worked with FPT-favorites Holy Ghost!, Classixx, !!!, and Chet Faker. The EP features three tracks as well as a few remixes (that Classixx remix is amazing), all of which match the title track's exciting, paradise-now, nature.

The three-piece group has been honing in their live sets over the course of 2014, receiving rave reviews at SXSW this year, and continuing to get the US all worked up over their fantastic summery dance tracks.

The group will go on at around 8:30pm, the perfect time for a band such as Panama. Grab some friends and dance the night away, Panama will take you to that amazingly euphoric place, one in which the sun is setting and epically blissful live music can be heard all around you. The night will be one to remember, and an undoubted highlight to your summer.

Stream Panama's Always EP below, courtesy of Future Classic's Soundcloud page.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

FESTIVAL RECAP - Pitchfork Music Festival - Part One

Beck Performs at Pitchfork Festival 2014
Photo by Matt Lief Anderson


What a weekend. Pitchfork Music Festival never disappoints, and 2014's edition of PMF was no different.

We'll begin with day one, and I'll start with the not-so-good before getting to the greatness.

Beck

We'll begin with what turned out to be my biggest letdown of the weekend, Beck's sound issues.

I had very high expectations for Beck's set, one that ended up being stacked with some of my favorite songs over the singer/songwriter's illustrious career, one that has spanned almost my entire life. However, sound issues seemed to plague the almost-20-song list he had stacked up, starting right away with "Devil's Haircut". Even Beck seemed frustrated, and although it did get better, I couldn't help but to come away unimpressed. Maybe it was my own fault, building up such high expectations in anticipation for an artist that molded my musical tastes, or maybe it was the fault of some of the fantastic undercard performers I caught earlier in the day (more on them, later).

One positive I did take away from the show, was a remembrance of just how great Beck is. Ever the showman, donning that second-most famous hat in music, Beck rattled through some amazing songs, and almost surprised me at just how many of them I knew and loved at some point in my life. I was instantly taken back to a more troublesome and confusing part of my life when "Lost Cause" was played, and then in an instant, I got all alternative again as he transitioned into his breakout song, "Loser".

He closed the set with an encore of "Sexx Laws", fan-favorite "Debra", and finished with "Where It's At" - which spun into an interesting medley (and a brief homage to Chicago and Chicago's-own R. Kelly) before returning to form again. I wanted so hard to be excited as I left the festival grounds on the opening night, but all I could leave saying was an astounding, "meh..."

Giorgio Moroder

An important thing to remember during festivals that feature aging musicians looking to capitalize on recent acknowledgement to their greatness, is never to ask "Why is this happening?" and to sit there and enjoy it.

I will more than likely never get another chance to enjoy a Giorgio Moroder-curated set of disco and dance music. The 70-something-year-old Italian "Father of Disco" played his hour-long set with such passion and joy that you could basically see it beaming from his smile beneath his mustache, glistening from his fingers and hands as he waved them back and forth, begging the crowd to go along with him on a musical journey that stretched back to a time long before many of the patrons had been born.

Much like Beck, Moroder reminded us of how long he's been at it, playing tracks from his soundtrack glory days, like "Take My Breath Away" while scenes from the prolific 1986 film were played on the jumbotrons throughout the Green/Red stage area on the grounds. In fact, half of the glory of watching Giorgio play, after exiting the photo pit, were the visuals on either side of him, images of Donna Summer and

Laughter could be heard throughout the crowd as Giovanni Moroder (who insisted on us calling him Giorgio) played that night. But I never once got the vibe that those watching were laughing at him, rather they were simply laughing with him, enjoying themselves, and living in the spectacle of watching the legend perform.

Sharon Van Etten / Factory Floor / Hundred Waters

The triple header of acts that I caught in the early parts of the day on Friday are truly what makes Pitchfork Music Festival so enjoyable.

Hundred Waters were moved to the Red Stage, and pushed back in a time slot, after Death Grips pulled a Death Grips and broke up a couple weeks prior to the festival. And although a lot of the crowd could be heard/seen expressing their disappointment in the Death Grips fallout, Hundred Waters made the most of the situation.

The group will tour later this year with Interpol, and the festival was a great introduction to a band I had only heard a couple of tracks prior to seeing them take the Red Stage on Friday, I was sincerely impressed at the sound and dynamic they offered. Lead singer Nicole Miglis stated the fact that their Friday set was their first festival appearance, and tracks like "Show Me Love", "Cavity", and "Down From the Rafters" really gave a fantastic glimpse of what's to come from the group, and showcased Miglis' entrancingly beautiful voice, reminding listeners of last year's Friday headliner, Björk.

Switching gears completely, Factory Floor was next on the day's task list, and ended up being one of my top surprises of the festival that weekend. I knew their set would be heavy, but I had no idea it would be that heavy.

The crowd ate it up, as if the group was feeding them their next round of amphetamines, and as I continuously checked the crowd behind me, the nodding heads turned into a mass of bodies jumping up and down, turning into a swarm of accelerated heart rates.

For the first time in my life, I saw body passing at an electronic show. I'm positive it's happened before, but I've never seen so many people get that involved in a set that took place mid-afternoon.

Sharon Van Etten is one of the most underrated folk singers of recent memory. Her beautiful voice is matched by her grace and talent on stage, and she is always so charming and kind as she stares out into a sea of thousands of people. She smiles, waves, and mouths "Hello" to possibly familiar faces in the front row.

Her onstage banter and charisma was perfect, as she says "Hello, from over here now" after playing her first song on guitar, and switching to a keyboard/beat machine on the left side of the stage. Playing songs new and old throughout, but it was the new tracks that really glistened and showcased her dynamic, something that it's hard for me to believe wasn't planned.

Opening with "Afraid of Nothing" and closing with "Every Time The Sun Comes Up" was a carefully crafted move. Both tracks off of her latest album, Are We There, served as perfect bookends to one of Friday's more flawless sets.