Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Volcano Choir - "Island, IS"

Pitchfork got a hold of the first track from the newest project from Wisconsin's own Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Collections of Colonies of Bees. Take a listen:

MP3: "Island, IS"

I like it, it's a lot more driving and pulsing than any Bon Iver stuff. Definitely something different.

The track is featured on the upcoming debut album from Volcano Choir, Unmap, which comes out September 22 on Jagjaguwar.

Lolla Day Three: "Now that was a fucking concert"

Overheard by a festival goer after the explosion of energy that was Dan Deacon's set, the above quotation sums up Lollapalooza 2009 for me perfectly. The final day was a little slower for me, but it ended things on a high note and left me smiling and satisfied, as Jim Halpert would say.

The big headliner of Sunday was the weather, as temperatures soared into the upper 90s around midday. I arrived around 2, intending on catching the second half of Bat For Lashes, but quickly retreated into the shade of the Citi Stage to watch Cage the Elephant, who I had never really heard of before. The Kentucky group put on a raucous rock show, but didn't leave too much of an impression on me. The crowd surrounding the stage was packed, but I suspect this had a lot to do with the previously mentioned shade that the set offered. Also, jean shorts sighting #2 as the lead singer sported the jorts with pride. I'm picking up on a trend at this point.

After CtE I braved the sunlight to catch an old favorite, Dan Deacon. Deacon is renowned for his frenetic live shows that include many crowd participation stunts. I wasn't sure if he would attempt these activities with the huge festival crowd, but as Deacon himself said "This is gonna be fucking impossible, but we're going to try it." And it paid off.

But first there were numerous sound issues with the monitor mix, as Deacon ran back and forth across the stage, having intense conversations with crew members and performers, trying to fix whatever ailments the mix was suffering from. After taking a 5-minute 'break' to fix the sound levels, Deacon said "I know I seem like a total dickhead right now, but that's OK." The crowd seemed to be alright with this, as Deacon may have earned their respect by displaying the kind of perseverance and attention to detail that makes his music so enjoyable. After struggling even further, Deacon appeared more and more agitated, at one point saying "Jesus fucking Christ" into the mic before yelling "I can't hear shit" to one of his drummers.

But the show went on, and eventually the sound seemed to meet Deacon's satisfaction, as it picked up from there. The set involved Deacon's 15-piece ensemble, and towards the end he brought on even more people, adding a marching band that brought the stage numbers closer to 30 people playing instruments at once. And he pulled off his famous crowd stunts, including forming a huge human tunnel around his end of the park, and an interpretive dance involving the band's bus driver. Through all of these stunts, the music didn't suffer as the band pulled off a brilliant rendering of Deacon's songs.

Next I made my way over to Passion Pit, who were slotted on the smaller Citi stage, which proved to be a mistake as the crowd was crushingly huge for this much-hyped group, and the show would have been much more comfortable at one of the bigger stages. I've always had my qualms about the live performances of this group, and I wasn't proved wrong again as the lead singer's vocals strained to reach the high notes that he so deftly supplied on the album, and the band just seemed a little thin in general. But for Lollapalooza, this didn't matter too much as the majority of the crowd loved every second of it. When the opening riff to "Little Secrets" hit, the crowd exploded with pure glee, and the dance party ensued.

Photo by phototypical

My last band of the day was Deerhunter, my first time seeing them. Bradford Cox is even stranger-looking in person, and as he was under the influence of a B-12 shot because of, according to him, the H1N1 virus, his between-song ramblings ranged from dreamy philosophy to quickly aborted covers of the Velvet Underground and Neil Young. It was a strange show, as the band brought power and drive to quite fascinating songs, and then between songs they seemed a completely different group, as Cox joked and jeered with the crowd. But it was very enjoyable, I would definitely recommend checking these guys out.

That's all I got for Lolla '09. More posts will be coming soon, I've been slacking on this blog lately, but hopefully I'll remember to keep posting things.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lolla Day Two: Animal Collective caps off a solid day

Day Two brought sunnier skies and dryer grounds, and the crowds were ready to rock. Up first was Miike Snow, the awkwardly named group that displays a electronic style of pop that wavers between Animal Collective-ish textures and more straightforward dance grooves. Overall I was entertained, but not really blown away. It just seemed like a solid electronic band, with shimmery vocals and pulsing rhythms. Also, all of the band members were wearing black-only outfits in +90 degree weather, which was either courageous or idiotic.

Next I made my way to the other end of the park for Los Campesinos!. Before I even got close, I could sense the amount of energy the group was giving off. The band seemed to be having a blast with their infectious blend of violin, guitar, glockenspiel, and yelping vocals, and the energy was transferred to the audience. Also, the lead singer was wearing jean shorts, which to quote from a previous paragraph, was either courageous or idiotic. But I'm leaning towards awesome.

After LC! I made my way over to the smaller Citi stage for Chairlift. Like most people, I really only know these guys because of their song "Bruises" that made its way into an iPod commercial ("I tried to do handstands for you"), but sound troubles seemed to mar this set and I left rather unsatisfied. The crowd seemed equally restless, waiting for the hit and having to sit through a muddy sound mix.

I then went to the smallest stage yet for Blind Pilot. I saw these guys open for the Decemberists and I was very impressed, so I thought I'd go see how they were doing since then. They drew a very impressive crowd to the small stage, going up against Arctic Monkeys across the park. They had the same stage presence as before, very bashful and respectful to the audience, grateful for their attendance, and the songs went down very well. The crowd seemed really into it, staying relatively quiet for this more acoustic group. Also, the preshow music consisted of the Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi" album played straight through, which was pretty delectable.

After Blind Pilot I tried to go catch a bit of the Arctic Monkeys , but the crowd was crushingly huge at the Budweiser stage, and I've never really gotten into the Monkeys anyways, so I headed back to the Citi stage for No Age. I've heard lots of things about these guys, but had never seen them, and I was very impressed. I stayed for the whole set, which was a little low on energy due to guitarist's Randy Randall's dislocated shoulder which forced him to sit on a chair for the whole set, but nonetheless they brought the rock. No Age is a drums-guitar duo, and the drummer handles the lead vocals, and it was an hour of pure rock. The first few rows of the crowd starting moshing early, and by the end it was a pulsating mob of sweaty dancers. One guy even ran up on stage, throwing the drummer a note before being forced offstage. A love note, perhaps? Wouldn't be surprising, the duo really know how to incite an energetic frenzy.

After No Age I headed over to catch the beginning of TV on the Radio. I've never seen these guys live, and they were pretty impressive, with a huge band that included 3 horn players up on stage. They started with a slow burner before landing on a big ball of energy on the second song. Very energetic and very comfortable on the main stage, but I had bigger fish to fry.

I headed over to get a good spot for my #1 show of Day Two: Animal Collective. I'll admit I'm a relatively casual fan of AC, not getting into them until this year's "Merriweather Post Pavilion" album. I came in tentative, and left blown away. The band played a very courageous set, opening with a brand new song "What Would I Want Sky", risky for both a) being a new song and b) being a song in 7/4, which means it's not the easiest to dance to. They waited until the third song to display a "Merriweather" track with "Guys Eyes" and the crowd responded with joyful glee. Crowd surfing was at an all-time high for this one.

The second half of the set featured a mammoth version of "Fireworks" that led into set-closer "Brothersport". One song was noticeably absent from the festival set, and that was "My Girls." The fact that they didn't feel pressed to play this song was very impressive in my mind, and they're probably sick of it by this point. Overall I was blown away by this group, and can't wait to see them in their own show.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lolla Day One: of Montreal blows my brain

I finally saw of Montreal tonight, and it was beautiful. Highlights included: covering Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" with guest Janelle Monae, the inclusion of hits like "A Sentence of Sorts", "Wraith Pinned to the Mist", "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider", all the crazy skits that went on, and just the band's attitude: they seemed to really be having a blast up there, which is fun to watch.

Some pictures:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lollapalooza tomorrow! (OF MONTREAL TOMORROW!!!!)

Alright so I know it's been a while. But I'm going to Lolla tomorrow, and I'll try and post some reviews/thoughts. My planned schedule:

3 pm Bon Iver
4 pm Ben Folds
5 pm Fleet Foxes
(Alright, I'm sorry)

I'll keep you updated. You can also get more up-to-date thoughts on my twitter: twitter.com/chemicalsblog.