Friday, September 28, 2012

Grizzly Bear - Yet Again VIDEO

Grizzly Bear has a brand new video for their dreamy new single 'Yet Again' which is part of the bands new album Shields. The video is produced by The Creators Project in partnership with Warp Records, and the video was directed by Emily Kai Bock and shot in Toronto.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reptar - "Houseboat Babies" Music Video

Below you can check out the newest music video from FPT favorite Reptar, for the song "Houseboat Babies". The song/video is the second single to be released from the album Body Faucet. 

Is it strange? Of course, what else would you expect from Reptar?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Beach House- Live REVIEW- 9/16- Atlanta, GA

As one can ascertain from hearing any release from the Beach House catalogue, the band's live experience is the auditory equivalent of a cinematic dream sequence.  Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally (along with touring percussionist, Daniel Franz) achieve an almost Lynchian-level of cerebral daze while sacrificing none of the warmth and tranquility that has become their trademark.

You will see fewer shows as steady and chill as a Beach House concert- September 16th at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse was no exception.  Like most acts, Beach House can live and die by sound quality and venue acoustics- and the band overcame some early technical issues to deliver a performance both memorable and surprisingly exciting.  Finishing up with an eighteen-song setlist that included a three-song encore, including tunes from all three albums, the show remained hypnotic from start to finish- even through the early tech problems- due to the magnetic presence of Victoria LeGrand. Gently controlling the ebb and flow of the audience's awe and excitement, there was never a moment where LeGrand didn't own the stage in an almost evangelical manner.

1. Wild
2. Walk in the Park
3. Norway
4. Other People
5. Lazuli
6. Gila
7. Used to Be
8. Silver Soul
9. The Hours
10. Real Love
11. New Year
12. Zebra
13. Wishes
14. Take Care
15. Myth

16. Turtle Island
17. 10 Mile Stereo
18. Irene

You can check out my review of Bloom here and my interview with Victoria LeGrand here.

- Fr. Jones

Crystal Castles- LIVE Preview- 9/27, Charlotte, NC- The Fillmore

The only time I've ever considered the possibility of random chaotic death during a musical event was after my first Crystal Castles show in Washington D.C.'s 9:30 Club.

Notice I said "after"- because this was a "check your survivalist instincts at the door" type of shindig.

Darkness, screams, throbbing bass, distant sounds of breaking glass, and the immense pressure of a crowd moving relentlessly forward while jumping in unison- desperate to become the experience itself.

It's one of the best shows I've ever seen and a surefire reminder of your own pulse.  With a new album due in November, be sure to catch them as they make their rounds.  And if you're in the area, come find me this Thursday in Charlotte, NC as I prepare to experience Crystal Castles decimating the Fillmore.

Sept. 27 – Charlotte, N.C., Fillmore Charlotte   
Sept. 28 – Fairburn, Ga., CounterPoint Music & Arts Festival  
Sept. 29 – Washington, D.C., 9:30 Club   
Oct. 2 – Philadelphia, Pa., Electric Factory   
Oct. 3 – New York, N.Y., Roseland Ballroom   
Oct. 6 – Boston, Mass., House Of Blues Boston
Oct. 7 – Montreal, Quebec, Metropolis   
Oct. 9 – Royal Oak, Mich., Royal Oak Music Theatre   
Oct. 10 – Columbus, Ohio, Newport Music Hall   
Oct. 11 – Nashville, Tenn., Marathon Music Works   
Oct. 14 – Austin, Texas, Zilker Park, Austin City Limits Music Festival
Oct. 16 – Kansas City, Mo., Uptown Theater   
Oct. 17 – Denver, Colo., Ogden Theatre   
Oct. 18 – Salt Lake City, Utah, In The Venue   
Oct. 20 – Hollywood, Calif., Hollywood Palladium   
Oct. 21 – San Diego, Calif., SOMA San Diego   
Oct. 22 – Oakland, Calif., Fox Theater   
Oct. 24 – Portland, Ore., Roseland Theater   
Oct. 25 – Seattle, Wash., Showbox SoDo   
Oct. 26 – Vancouver, British Columbia, Commodore Ballroom   
Oct. 28 – Calgary, Alberta, MacEwan Conference And Event Centre   
Oct. 29 – Edmonton, Alberta, Edmonton Event Centre   
Oct. 31 – Winnipeg, Manitoba, Burton Cummings Theatre   
Nov. 1 – Minneapolis, Minn., First Avenue   
Nov. 2 – Chicago, Ill., Congress Theater   
Nov. 4 – Toronto, Ontario, Kool Haus

 - Fr. Jones

Friday, September 21, 2012

French Films - Shoreline Dreams (B-Side)

French Films just released their 7" single 'When People Like You Filled The Heavens' and on it there is a nice B-side 'Shoreline Dreams'. I am no stranger in French Films music catalog, and in fact any chance I can get at hearing a new tune from the Finns I will gladly take. The B-side track was recorded awhile back, when the band was working on Imaginary Future.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Band of Horses - "Mirage Rock" Review

It is a common topic of discussion amongst many people that not only write critically about music, but even those who think critically about music: "Is it better for an artist to stick with what works, or throw nothing but curveballs" with each coming release. Even the biggest fan of a particular group can grow disinterested very quickly if their favorite band sways too heavily one way or another. Personally speaking, I can remember instances when many of my good friends lost track of bands like Brand New or Wavves after they revamped their sound.

But the argument can go both ways; I can get lost in Belle & Sebastian albums because they've never really changed their style of music since they became popular. But Belle & Sebastian remain one of my favorite artists, ever. Even earlier this year, bands like Beach House and The xx have put out albums that are strikingly similar to their previous efforts, and some people hate that, others (like me) don't really mind it.

Enter Band of Horses, a Seattle-based band that has focused most of their efforts into playing crossover songs from country, to rock, to pop. They hit it big with songs like "The Funeral" and "No One's Gonna Love You" each track off of a separate album (Everything All The Time and Cease To Begin), and the band garnished a lot of attention as another Fleet Foxes/My Morning Jacket, and gained popularity to boot.

Their first two albums were near perfection in my eyes, gloriously mixing in elements of pop and country into their "indie-alt" sound, stretching boundaries and making it okay to like country music again, because, well, it wasn't really country music.

In the midst of the somewhat nerd-rock country music they were creating, were sparkling lyrics that could make you laugh at times, and cry at others. "Weed Party" from Everything All The Time is a song about exactly what you'd think it would be, and yet the band still managed to put out touching tracks like "Our Swords," a night-time favorite of mine, "The General Specific," a pure American song about a road trip, and "Marry Song," a song written for a specific wedding.

Then with their third major release, Infinite Arms, the band lost their luster, by trying to be too lustrous. The album was over-produced, and while some say that was the "next step" in their progression after Cease To Begin (which featured some tracks that were heavily produced with electronics and/or "switches" as I like to call them). But it was just a step too large, in my opinion; biting off more than they could chew with the album. And not only that, but lyrically the album just flopped: "Factory" is almost as laughable as it gets, as lead singer Ben Bridwell sings "Now and later I was thinking it over by the snack machine/ I thought about you and a candy bar/ The Now & Laters I've got stuck between my teeth/ I fell asleep to the greatest movie of the year"

But that song remains one of the band's most popular, and Infinite Arms was nominated for a Grammy. So it shows what I know.

And now, we have the band's fourth major release, Mirage Rock, released on Tuesday via Columbia Records. Opening with the single "Knock Knock," the backing vocals enter with a "whooo-whoooo" that give it the feel of a train entering a ghost town.

The album continues along on a steady pace, with the group getting back to what they did best, country-laced-rock songs that are riddled with fantastic lyrics. And as much as I hate that the record industry has turned in to a "Who Produced YOUR Record?!" scene, it's worth noting that Glyn Johns produced this album. I'm not going to lie, kids, this guy is a legend: English-born producer who has worked with the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Traffic, The Rolling Stones and Joe Cocker.

And I wouldn't bring this up if the album didn't feel important. Yes, Mirage Rock is good. The band grows up from the foolishness of "Weed Party" and "Our Swords" without making me feel alienated for liking them-- they still sound like the same band as they were before, but have left their mistakes behind them. The album features great tracks that sound like they could have been spectacular B-Sides to their previous albums.

"Long Vows" sounds like a follow-up to "Marry Song" (it isn't), "A Little Biblical" and "How To Live" sound like they're removed from the best parts of Infinite Arms, each on their own, toe-tapping pop songs, while "Everything's Gonna Be Undone" and "Slow Cruel Hands of Time" are the laid back country-infused down-tempo tracks that listeners have come to love and expect from Band of Horses. And each song's lyrics are at least not distractingly bad, so it appears that Band of Horses hit a stride while writing the album (pun semi-intended).

There are two polarizing moments in the album, however, and lie in the songs "Dumpster World" and "Heartbreak on the 101." The former might just be one of the worst songs I've heard all year, especially from a band that has such high expectations. The layering of the vocals and distortion within the instrumentals make it sound like an Incubus song or Foo Fighters' worst track ever. Meanwhile, "Heartbreak on the 101" is an early favorite of mine, with Bridwell's voice reaching low notes that I don't ever recall hearing him hit before; almost Tom Wait-esque with a little less of a growl. However, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this track gets absolutely panned by fans and critics alike.

Band of Horses can now be placed upon the elite bands whose career has spanned long enough to apply the ever-famous-yet-ever-cliche phrase "Is it better to burn out or fade away?" Indie-Alternative/Rock bands of their peer group have fallen victim to both since 2004, when Band of Horses debuted Everything All The Time. And although it's easy to say that Band of Horses has already peaked, with their previous works being so spectacular, Mirage Rock can at least spark the debate that the band has a little bit of greatness left in their tank, and maybe--just maybe, the band is still on the climb.

Rating: 3.7/5

Earlimart - 10 Years

Earlimart have been off the grid for a few years now, and with 6 previous albums on their resume they have come storming back with a new album titled System Preferences.  The album will be released on the bands own label and is now available digitally and will be available on CD/LP on October 16th.  Take a listen to two of the songs from the album '10 Years' and '97 Heart Attack' below.  10 Years sounds great to me and is an instant indie gem.

System Preferences Tracklisting:
1. U&Me
2. Shame
3. 10 Years
4. A Goodbye
5. 97 Heart Attack
6. Lovely Mary Ann
7. Crestline, CA.
8. I'm A Safe Inside
9. Get Used To The Sound
10. Sweater Weather
11. Internet Summer
12. Over Andover

The Kills - Wild Charms VIDEO

The Kills have a new video 'Wild Charms' that has graced YouTube. The video is short and sweet and too the point and it was directed by Kenneth Cappello.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Titus Andronicus - In A Big City

Take a listen to the new Titus Andronicus song 'In A Big City' below. The song is the first single from their newest effort Local Business which is scheduled for an October 22nd release via XL Recordings.  Frontman, Patrick Stickles has this to say about the new tune...

"In which the pressures of urban life are addressed, as our narrator wonders if he can remain an individual whilst being a component piece of an entity much greater than himself."

The xx- Coexist REVIEW

Whereas 2009’s debut album from The xx occasionally achieved a pristine level of echoed, cavernous intimacy- Coexist quickly recedes so far into itself, that subtlety is replaced by boredom.  All the pieces are in place for the London trio to further define their signature whisper-pop(?).  But with a frustrating tendency to ignore a basic pace in favor of showcasing redundant lyrical schmaltz (with banter that only knows two modes- coyness and a sense of thought-provocation about on the same level as a Keanu meme), most of these tracks wind up as puzzling dead ends.  It all adds up to an oddly premature “jump the shark” moment.

While admittedly I never quite drank the Kool-aid three years ago surrounding The xx, I did admire many components of their first album.  The intimate vocals between Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim, the wirey and laconic guitar arrangements, the overall ethereal production, etc- these all added up to a delicate and entrancing debut experience found memorable by many.  Ironically enough, these exact same elements return for Coexist (albeit slightly more introverted).  Here The xx remain faithful to themselves, but to a fault.  And instead of "delicate", the experience feels largely muted as if the band is struggling to recapture the magic while simultaneously contracting their sound.  Occasionally, faint hints of a south London dubstep influence a’la Burial can be heard- most notably in tracks “Chained”, “Try”, and “Sunset” (Jamie Smith did mention earlier this year that the current record would be more club inspired).  But percussion remains largely a suggestion here instead of the necessary spine to support the album’s more amorphous tendencies.  The end result often leans dangerously close to self-parody most evident in Madley-Croft and Sims’ lyrical rapport- now front and center more than ever.  Once endearingly gentle and honest, these duets now seem hollow and self-aware (“Missing” in particular features a painful bridge).  That said, I readily acknowledge that Coexist is not a bad album (look no further than "Angels")- in fact, there is going to be a large contingent of people head over heels for this thing and that makes perfect sense.  But I will argue that Coexist is an album that insists on denying it’s own pulse- and this unfortunate trait renders it a misguided sophomore release from The xx.

 - Fr. Jones

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Frank Ocean Performs on Saturday Night Live

Just in case you missed it, below you will find the two performances from last night's Saturday Night Live featuring Frank Ocean as musical guest. Pretty crazy for a guy who just made his TV debut less than 4 months ago.

"Thinkin' 'Bout You"

"Pyramids (with John Mayer)"

Kind of disappointing "Pyramids" was trimmed from its original 9-minute-plus original runtime, but what can you expect from network television?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Big Black Delta @ The Great Saltair, SLC 8/28/2012 - LIVE REVIEW

I have to admit that I was originally skeptical about what to expect with this concert. I am a fan of Jonathan Bates’ other band, Mellowdrone, but have always been turned off by electronic based music in general based purely on my own personal tastes. When I finally did listen to the Big Black Delta album, I was really impressed with the emotional impact it created without the driving force of guitar, bass, and drums defining the sound. My skepticism was pushed aside as I listened to what could be accomplished by a skilled singer-songwriter with a computer.

So yes, I am a fan of the album, but was still unsure of what to expect with a live show. Bates had stated in an interview here with Fake Plastic Tunes that, “It’s just me, two amazing drummers, lights and an Ableton rig that I can manipulate my songs and voice real time. It’s like I’m producing in front of everyone, whilst jiggling around.” This intrigued me and I anxiously looked forward to seeing the actual “jiggling” around. 

Tuesday night, on August 28th at The Great Saltair, the crowd was witness to an experience that blew me and everyone else away.

I was thoroughly impressed with what two drummers and a jiggler could accomplish on a stage.
When the main lights went out and the glow of the lights mentioned by Bates lit up, the two drummers beat their sets in a perfect synchronicity that wonderfully complemented Bates’ singing and moving across the stage. These two drummers sat at each end of the stage and drove the beat of the show while Jonathan showed us all where the music could go.

Jonathan placed himself front and center as he danced, sang, and moved around. He guided the audience through an electronic journey they might not have expected. I assume that most of the crowd was there for Jane’s Addiction and were pleasantly surprised by the energetic offering that complimented the excited vibe. 

The crowd was genuinely into the music. Most of the people around me may not have listened to Big Black Delta before that evening, but I have no doubt that many of them went home after the show and looked them up. After witnessing the crowd reaction, I strongly believe that most left as Big Black Delta fans.

The setlist was as solid as I could have imagined for the show with Gun On the Floor setting the mood right off with its intense lyrics and entrancing beat. Huggin and Kissin was also another welcome listen as it was followed by Capsize, which left me satisfied for the entire evening after only three songs. 

The ultimate crescendo of the evening (and I mean of the entire evening encompassing both bands) was the final song of the set, IFUCKINGLOVEYOU, which was so mind blowingly fucking awesome that I wished that the show could have gone on for another set of nine songs. Jonathan Bates screamed into that microphone with words and emotion that evoked audio-orgasms from everyone in attendance.

I love those moments in a show where you get a sense that the musicians truly love the music and the experience of performing it live. I strongly believe that everyone in that crowd was mesmerized by the passion exhibited that night. I also believe that while Jane’s Addiction put on an amazing show, it didn’t have that special something that Big Black Delta shared with us.

I really liked Jane’s Addiction’s performance that evening, but I thoroughly loved Big Black Delta and can’t wait to see them again. 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Holograms - Fever VIDEO

Swedish rockers, Holograms debut album is out now on Captured Tracks and now they have a fun new video for the single 'Fever' that goes along nicely with it.


Nude Beach - Radio VIDEO

Just watch this video for the first time and you will totally understand that Nude Beach are a Brooklyn band. The video is very homemade and raw and just something that an everyday Joe would put together with their skater friends. The video for 'Radio' was shot entirely by the band on a VHS camera throughout a recent tour. A band you may want to keep a close eye on.

Album Tracklisting:
1. Radio
2. Walkin' Down My Street
3. Some Kinda Love
4. You Make It So Easy
5. Keep It Cool
6. Love Can't Wait
7. Cathedral Echoes
8. Don't Have To Try
9. The Endless Night
10. Loser in the Game

Teen Daze - Union

Teen Daze are set to release their second album The Inner Mansions on November 6th via Lefse Records. The album is a collection of songs that were written between the months of May and June 2012, and they are his most introspective and moving to date. This is an album of spiritual and musical journey, and features some of Teen Daze's most captivating songs. Hear the track 'Union' from the album below which features Frankie Rose.

The Inner Mansions Tracklisting:
1. New Life
2. Divided Loyalties
3. Garden 1
4. Discipleship
5. By Love
6. Union
7. Garden 2
8. Spirit
9. The Heart of God
10. Always Returning (Brian Eno) (Bonus)

California Wives - Purple

California Wives are another new music act that have recently signed on with Slumberland Records and have been gaining steam ever since. Their debut album Art History is out now and is a pleasant surprise to the world of indie music. 'Purple' is the first single from the album and now comes with a fun new video. The band is all set up to tour with Stars in the next couple of months which will only increase their sound and fanbase.

TOY - Lose My Way VIDEO

TOY are another band I have had my eye on for awhile and are set to finally release their self-titled debut album. When listening to TOY I am reminded of The Horrors and the dark fuzzy type of music that can be created in a way that hypnotizes you.


Taken By Trees - Large

Taken By Trees are set to release their new album Other Worlds on October 2nd via Secretly Canadian. Here the new single 'Large' below and get a jumpstart on the new album.  A very nice sounding song that singer Victoria Bergsman repeats the lyrics... "Are you with me or not?"


Dog Is Dead - Talk Through The Night VIDEO

'Talk Through The Night' is the new single which is taken from Dog Is Dead's debut album All Our Favourite Stories.  The album is set to be release October 8th overseas and I am assuming the following day here in North America. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Raveonettes - The Enemy VIDEO

The Raveonettes have always been a band that I have admired over the years, and the fact that they have somehow kept themselves on the down low is even more appealing to me. The new video for 'The Enemy' can be seen below and it is taken from the bands new album release Observator.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mumford & Sons - I Will Wait VIDEO

Here is the new video by Mumford & Sons for their lead single "I Will Wait" which is taken from their newest album Babel. Babel will see the light of day on September 25th, capping off a major month of new music releases.

The video shows the band playing in front of a massive Red Rocks crowd in Colorado, and gives you a glimpse of what to expect if you ever have the chance to catch the guys live.

I Break Horses - Wired (@ Room 205)

I always love the quality that the folks over at Incase (Room 205) put out.  They do it again here with a nice visual performance of the Swedish group I Break Horses song 'Wired'.  'Wired' is taken from the bands 2011 solid debut album Hearts which flew a little under the radar.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Atoms For Peace - Default

The Atoms For Peace album release has been a mystery for years now and finally we are starting to see some of the pieces fall into place.  Yesterday the band dropped their first official song "Default" via iTunes, it will also be released on the XL Recordings label as a proper single on September 10th.  The song has a very dark somber feel as Thom Yorke's vocals remind you of his solo work on The Eraser.  As a Thom Yorke fan 'Default' makes me very happy.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Jeremy

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart will release a new 7" single via Slumberland records, which features two covers from their favorite bands, The Magnetic Fields and East River Pipe.  Hear the Magnetic Fields cover of 'Jeremy' over at their site and here is what Peggy has to say on the Magnetic Fields...
“The Magnetic Fields, for me, were part of an immature phase. I know that has negative connotations, but in hindsight, I don’t think I could have fallen harder for any other band at any other time in my life. I had the kind of naive scrawl-their-name-on-my-notebook fixation that any young teenybopper would have had, except back then, I didn’t have the luxury of the internet to find out much about my favorite band, and I didn’t live in a big city where I might hope to catch a glimpse of my teen idols as they rolled through town. There wasn’t even a fan club for me to join. The Magnetic Fields were a band without context."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Festival Coverage: Summer Set Camping & Music Festival 2012 - Somerset, WI

Fake Plastic Tunes traveled north to the small town of Somerset, WI for the first annual Summer Set Camping & Music Festival. Below is an account of the shenanigans that went down the last weekend in August.

The weekend began with the journey to the small town of Somerset, WI - population around 2300. We got in to town at around 4:45 after about a 6-7 hour drive from Milwaukee. The journey was actually kind of enjoyable once we got off of I-90; entirely rural and passing through 25 MPH speed zones on our way to the Summer Set Festival grounds. Upon arrival, we were instantly impressed by the kindness of the festival workers: they helped us get to our campsite, park our cars (a couple of times) and were incredibly chatty and friendly. We set up our tents, grabbed some food, and headed in to the actual festival grounds at around 6 p.m.

Yelawolf was the first act we settled in to actually watch. And I hate to say this but it was a terrible mistake. I really don't want to sound like a condescending ass, but I was immediately blown away at just how mundane he is live. It's nothing but "white boy problems," "marijuana in the suburbs," "Juggalos," and other subjects that made me ashamed to be a white guy that enjoys hip hop music. 

I became infuriated when he started to play Beastie Boys covers. Sure, he paid homage to them, but then immediately retracted any notion of nobility by terrorizing "Fight for Your Right" "Intergalactic" and others that I legitimately got mad about him playing. I was actually of the mindset that he might end up playing "Bawitdaba" next. I was ultimately let down.

But maybe I was just bummed I missed RJD2, either way all hope was not lost.

After about 30 minutes of wait time, Cloud Cult took the main stage. Featuring live art on the sides of the stage, the artist began by spinning the boards, and basically throwing the paint brush at the canvas. By the end of the set, the artwork took full form, developing into tangible objects.

Cloud Cult has been around for a very long time, and as I stated in my preview piece, they've flown under the radar for far too long: like an expansive version of Air, or Explosions In The Sky with lyrics. Regardless, as the sun began to set, I was extremely excited that this was the true start to my weekend.

We were ultimately let down when we tried to catch Zeds Dead at the Hockey Rink side stage (yes, you read that correctly) and the "venue" was at capacity. Just something to remember for later in the weekend: get to these Hockey Rink shows early.

Big Gigantic
Big Gigantic was the headliner for Friday, a band I've done my best to avoid for the duration of their rise. I caught a few songs towards the end of their set, and will admit that, although not for me, they did a great job of crowd control, crescendoing at just the right times, building upon their layers and then releasing. Although, I can't believe the saxophone has found its way into the electronic dance music scene.

The thing about Summer Set, I began to realize, was that a lot of the fun happened off of the actual festival grounds. Friday night we headed to see DJ Chris V across from the actual VIP Campgrounds. It was a bit of a hike for those who were camping outside of VIP camping in the North and South Campgrounds, which could explain the lack of attendance at the beginning. Either way, we had a good time.

Saturday began with rain, showers, and naps (much needed after Friday's heat wave). The first act we caught was Solid Gold: one of the undercard acts I was really pumped to see. Hailing from Minnesota, I had never listened to any of their studio recordings, until now; immensely impressed with their live set and I enjoyed the music enough to check out some of their music online. Later in the day, I got a chance to talk to a couple of the members, and they seemed just as pumped to be at the fest as the majority of the crowd, gawking at some of the attractions throughout the grounds (including the organized dance circles/vendor tent area, giant air pillow (a.k.a. US Airbag) that people were jumping into from about 50-60 feet up, as well as the rest of the days' schedule).

Some folks testing out the US Airbag
After Solid Gold, I met up with friends at GRiZ in the Hockey Rink, a young DJ from Michigan. He actually stood out amongst many of the other Rink acts throughout the weekend, by playing a heavy amount of funk-infused bass music, both during this set and at the after party later that night. GRiZ was one of the EDM acts I hadn't heard of before the festival that I will remember for the future.

Nas & DJ Green Lantern (photo credit: DJ Green Lantern)
One of the (multiple) benefits of having VIP camping access was the ability to stand on a separate section from GA, allowing the group to get as close as we wanted off to the side. This paid off for many shows, but the first I was really excited about was Nas. Hearing from colleagues earlier this summer that he puts on a good show, I was overwhelmed by his set.

I bicker about many hip hop acts playing shortened versions of their songs, limiting to the audience to only snippets of their favorite tracks. Nas disregarded this trend by playing a mass of his old hits, most in their entirety and mixing in a few new songs. The old songs brought me back to my introduction to hip hop, and its progression in to mainstream rap, and the new tracks had me intrigued in picking up his latest effort, Life Is Good. This was clearly the biggest daytime attendance draw I had seen yet, and rivaled being the biggest I saw all weekend.

Kim literally dropping it on top of the crowd
Our little nook also helped us get front-and-off-center for Matt & Kim, a booking I found odd for this festival, especially behind Nas in the schedule. The duo was an incredibly high-octane performance and there's no amount of drugs that Matt and/or Kim could have scrounged up from festival-goers to illicit the insane amount of smiling that beamed from the stage. Riddled throughout their set of pseudo-classic feel-good songs (i.e. "Good Ol' Fashioned Nightmare", "Don't Slow Down", "Block After Block", and "Daylight") were pleas from Matt to check out Kim's ass. At one point she literally got on top of crowd members and did her best to "drop it."

But I had one band on my mind all night: MSTRKRFT.


Although I had to see this band alone (my group sold out/bought in to Matt & Kim's electricity), I will admit that this show was one of the best I'd seen all weekend; easily the best DJ/production set. The group treats their set of electronic equipment like guitars, utilizing nothing but the loudest of shredding and shrieking noises to resonate in your chest (literally speaking, actually). It was the loudest I heard the Hockey Rink Stage all weekend. And MSTRKRFT treats its sets like a metal show (and just to prove me right, they closed with a mix of a Slayer song.), making me almost want to mosh amidst a group of people passing an imaginary cube or box or ball between them.

I resisted the urge.

Headlining Saturday night was Umphrey's McGee, a group that I will admit I have seen multiple times in my "I Lived in Madison, Wisconsin" days. I decided to get some rest for the after parties that night, but did catch some of their set. From my brief glimpse into their new sound, I came to a very broad conclusion that it seems like they're playing in to their rivals' hands; switching from their traditional guitar-based "jams" and in to a more electronic, guitar-distortion sound. Don't get me wrong, these guys are all talented musicians, and I have the utmost respect for them, but I was not enjoying their set at all. I popped by to hopefully get a little nostalgia from my "...Madison, WI" days, but instead left bitter.

A View of the Hockey Rink Stage
Sunday had a different feel than any other day of the weekend. It was again, scorching hot, and it seemed like everyone shared a common goal: to get the absolute most out of the final day. Whether it was people trying to get free food from the catering department, head in to the grounds the moment they opened, or even getting as absolutely wax-brained as possible, the crowd was on a mission.

Me and part of the group were of a different mindset: air conditioning, bloody mary's, and bar food. We travelled to a local Bar & Grille located just a skip away from the festival grounds' entrance. I realize this has little to do with the festival, but I wanted to point out that the folks living in Somerset were absolutely great. Talking to bartenders about the festival (and the type of crowd it brings in), and exchanging stories with the locals who were just popping by to play a game of pool on a Sunday. They were in for a treat as I bombarded their digital jukebox with LCD Soundsystem and Justice songs littered between their Trace Adkin, Plain White T's, and Alan Jackson selections. Ooops.

After a game or two of darts and four $2.50 Bloody Mary's later, we decided to check out this "Lazy River" everyone kept talking about across the street from our campsite. Although we declined the opportunity to tour in intertubes (it was a hefty 4-hour trek), we did take a little dip and got a good laugh at those who were on their way out of the Apple River, trying to find their feet again on dry land.

We got back into the festival to get a taste of Paper Diamond and Bonobo's DJ Set. It was enough of a "taste" to provide me with enough of a reason to check out Paper Diamond when he comes to Milwaukee's Turner Hall in the near future.

A big draw for me was F. Stokes, a formerly Madison-based MC, whom we got a chance to speak with the night before. He absolutely tore up his set of songs, performing at the "Second Stage." Stokes took it upon himself to deliver most of his rhymes from the grass, mingled in with the audience. A highlight of his set was his performance of "Small Town, USA" perched atop the back of a "hefty" onlooker, who could handle his weight for an impressive three-quarters of the song. Definitely a great performer, and an MC on the rise to keep your eye out for.

The ever-elusive Black Star
Stokes joined the crowd at the main stage for a couple of legends performing later that night: Black Star. Comprised of Mos Def (excuse me, Yasiin Bey, as he goes by now) and Talib Kweli, the duo absolutely killed it Sunday night, and was the real closer of the festival, in my eyes. It was the biggest non-EDM crowd I had seen, reaching all the way past the soundstage and almost to the far hill, a feat not many other acts accomplished. Playing hits from the duo's repertoire together, as well as solo hits, the Mos Def/Bey and Kweli proved that they still have onstage chemistry and ability. Neither grasping too much of the spotlight; despite Mos Def's edge in the charisma category, he never tried to outshine Talib Kweli.

The highlight of the set, and probably one of the tops for me all weekend, was their cover of "Children's Story" by Slick Rick. Black Star delivered their (and in this case, others') lyrics perfectly in sync and on cue with one another, very rarely stepping on the other member's toes or mashing their voices together. I truly wish that this group were still together.

Pretty Lights was the actual headliner for the night, but it all just seemed like an After Party for Black Star, to me. He performed well, applying crescendos and drops incredibly well, just as one of the top EDM artists should. I wish I had more knowledge of his material; if I did I'm sure I would have plenty more to say about his set. I will say this, however, he had the best light show I had seen all weekend, and quite possibly ever. Towers of lights stood above his riser built (seemingly) on boxes of more lights. If anyone tripped-out kid out there got lost in the music, I can only imagine the stimuli he received from the intense light show.

{Side note: Check out Weekend Natives' coverage of the after parties for the weekend here. And Here!}

On Sunday, I realized that the festival, still in its first year mind you, was more of a festival based around camping and spending time with friends than it was about JUST music. Compared to fests like Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, and Coachella, which possess the mindset of getting you into the grounds as early as possible, and pumping out a lineup that won't allow you to leave, Summer Set comes up short.  That's not saying that the festival can't become something huge. The grounds are navigable and expansive, and the crew members and staff were both something to be heralded at. Some of the prices throughout the grounds left a little to be desired ($7 for a bag of ice at a kiosk on the Campgrounds), but with growing attendance, these things will all level off, or at least you'd hope they do.

I would expect nothing less than next year's Summer Set drawing even bigger bands and acts to perform, and if that happens, festival-goers will reward the fest with another year of great attendance and exposure.

{Side note #2: Check back for more pictures soon!}

Many thanks to the following: Somerset, Wisconsin; Summer Set Camping & Music Festival; Weekend Natives; React/ React Chicago/ React Milwaukee; Diem and everyone at SimShows