John Vanderslice has announced fall tour dates, including a Septemeber 20 show at The EARL in Atlanta. He will be touring to support his new release, Emerald City, due July 24. It is now available for pre-order from Barsuk Records. Here's the southern leg:
9/17 The Social, Orlando, FL 9/18 Cafe Eleven, St. Augustine, FL 9/19 Club Downunder, Tallahassee, FL 9/20 The EARL, Atlanta, GA 9/21 Duke Coffeehouse, Chapel Hill, NC
While I'm at it, here is a radio appearance by Vanderslice that I taped several months before C&T was up and running. He co-hosted the All Request Show on WRAS 88.5, the terrific radio station of Georgia State University. I included only the part of the show in which JV was interviewed and a played a few acoustic songs.
John Vanderslice August 5, 2005 - WRAS 88.5, Atlanta, GA
I've been looking forward to the new Jason Anderson album, Tonight, due August 21. The samples I've heard from it have been spirited pop-rock numbers of the boogie-inducing variety, and I'm eager to check out the full record.
Jason has been kind enough to release a live version of the title track:
It's a bit uncanny to listen to a song recorded more than forty years ago and feel it's fresh and relevant. This is particularly so when it's a cover of a classic Delta blues song by Skip James. However, that's the case with this track.
The Rising Sons would have been a folk/blues/rock supergroup if they had formed a decade or two later, but instead their place in history is secured by being the first recorded effort of both Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal. The band only stayed together from 1964 to 1966, and their lone album for Columbia Records never saw a proper release. One single was issued in 1966, and that was it. Luckily, the fruits of that session were finally released in 1992. This year a gussied up vinyl release of their dozen best tracks was released by Sundazed Music.
Listening to their lone album reveals the precursor of bands like Moby Grape, The Grateful Dead, and The Byrds. The recordings are a bit unpolished and I can see why it might have proved challenging to the brass at Columbia. It is, however, interesting both as a document of its participants early careers and for its content. This track may not be all that representative, but it's the one that I keep playing.
The song may be familiar not only to blues aficionados, but to fans of Ghost World. It's the rare record that Seymour shows to Enid. I'd like to point out that whatever brain cells house that information could surely be put to better use.
Thanks to Alex, I was able to attend a screening of Transformers tonight. I've been both worried and excited about this film for some time. While the idea of a Transformers movie sounded great, I was just sure that allowing director/executive producer Michael Bay anywhere near the project was a recipe for disaster. I'll give the guy credit for The Rock, but otherwise his filmography reads like an abridged list of the loudest, stupidest, most craptacular movies of the last decade. Now I may not be cheering loudly for it at Oscar time, but I was quite satisfied with the final product.
Transformers is a classic popcorn movie. It's loaded with action and humor, and has a pretty flimsy romantic story thrown in for good measure. The robot factions battle to recover the powerful Allspark, and along the way wreak serious havoc on humans and each other. The lineup of Autobots and Decepticons includes many of the classic characters from the G1 series. Several of them are revamped significantly from their original forms. The film does preserve many aspects of the characters' personalities, although the Decepticons don't get nearly as much attention as their Autobot counterparts. Optimus Prime gets a paint job, Bumblebee is reborn as a Chevy Camaro, Starscream is upgraded from an F-15 to an F-22, Devastator (now a tank) and Bonecrusher are now separate entities... and so on. Still, the rehashed alien robots come to life through fine special effects and voice acting (although a key member of the Autobots is actually mute much of the film).
Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox are the hero and his love interest/partner, and I was fairly surprised not to hate either of them. The humans supporting the 'bots are generally more tolerable than I expected, although Bay does play up the camp factor. Bernie Mac is a fast-talking car dealer, random twenty-something hackers/analysts aid the Pentagon, and the military seems to have added courses in one-liners and stoic speeches to basic training. The product placement is a bit out of control too, particularly with regard to branding the alien robots. However, many of the jokes do work, and the filmmakers don't allow the humans to save the world too easily.
It's not a perfect flick, but it's fun and bound to kick serious box office ass this summer. I certainly enjoyed it more than either Spider-Man 3 or the most recent adventure of Captain Jack Sparrow, which are its most obvious competitors. Odds are it won't be last film in the franchise, as the ending isn't altogether conclusive and a peek at IMDB reveals a sequel may already be in the works. Overall, a very satisfying take on a cartoon from my childhood.
No, it's not the song from Grease. Yes, it is a bouncy pop song about the joys of summer. Pretty appropriate for a beautiful day on which my Cubs won their sixth straight game. Yay!
The Positions are a brass-loving, sweet-sounding indie pop band from D.C. fronted by vocalist Nicole Stoops. Their most recent release is 2005's Bliss, on which this track appears. They're pretty much the sort of band you'd swear was from Sweden if you didn't know better. They must at least hang out near the Swedish embassy. That might explain it.
One Athens band that I haven't yet had the pleasure of seeing is Nana Grizol. As best I can tell the band is fronted by Theo Hilton, who collaborates with many other musicians from that city. Those contributing include Madeline Adams and Laura Carter, who get plenty of C&T love, along with a number of others on various instruments.
Nana Grizol's engaging lyrics and simple song structures recall artists like Kimya Dawson or Phosphorescent. Notably, of the three songs I have only one tops two minutes in length. Short and sweet, as they say.
Judging from their Myspace, it looks like they're currently putting together a tour that takes them up and down the east coast. No evidence of merchandise for sale yet, but their fun and upbeat "Circles 'Round the Moon" does appear on the Athfest 2007 compilation.
Portland's Pseudosix are set to release their second LP on August 28 (on Sonic Boom Recordings), and they've just released its first single. "Under the Waves" starts gently but escalates into a melodic and menacing pop tune. Perhaps not surprising for a band that draws comparisons to Neil Young and the Beach Boys.
With Live Free or Die Hard opening this weekend, it seems appropriate to feature the hilarious (and frighteningly comprehensive) homage to those films by Guyz Nite. It's been floating around for a while, but just in case...
Funny how I don't remember much about the sequels but Die Hard is #157 in IMDB's top 250. Go figure.
While Dark Meat and The Selmanaires are from the local area, The Ettes will be visitors to these parts. They're a garage trio from Los Angeles, but I believe they've been up in North Carolina recording lately. That sure would explain the Asheville-Carrboro-Atlanta run they're doing before jetting overseas.
I've already sung the praises of a couple artists who appear on the Grass Roots Recording Co. Family Album, but I have to give some notice to Lee Bob Watson. His "Let the Hate In (I Won't)" is one of my favorite tracks on that release, and probably the one that gets played most often. It's led me to explore his older releases a bit, which has yielded some nice finds.
Lee Bob's music is just the sort of stuff I imagine coming from a quiet California town, with understated songs about escape, love, and longing. I imagine he'll be appealing to fans of folk-pop and introspective singer-songwriters alike. His lyrics are clever too -- including perhaps the first song ever about wanting to run away with your sweety in an aluminum trailer. That's gotta make the ladies swoon.
It's a rare event when I walk into a show and get blown away by a relatively unknown quantity. Beat the Devil did just that to me last night.
Beat the Devil is a trio from Brooklyn with a sound rooted in blues, or perhaps urban folk. Not to slight their bass player and drummer, but the act's 'wow' factor comes from vocalist Shilpa Ray. Her voice is almost otherworldly, a passioned growl you can hardly believe is coming from the petite femme on stage. She plays harmonium rather than the traditional guitar, which also sets this band apart from scores of its contemporaries.
...half the fun in seeing this volatile NYC jazz-folk-blues-punk outfit lies in watching the unfamiliar react the first time lead singer Shilpa Ray opens her mouth. Typical reaction: shock and awe. She looks tiny and jovial (especially surrounded by her menacing, dudely bandmates), but goddamn can she ever shriek, alternating jazzy, evocative moans (she's inspired Billie Holiday comparisons, and for once they don't sound totally ridiculous) with a nuclear-grade, paint-evaporating, continent-shifting howl loaded with more volume, rage, and pathos than the entire Ozzfest lineup combined.
I'm with them. Shilpa informed me that they'll be recording their debut full-length this summer and hitting the road again in the fall. I'll be looking forward to it.
Creative Loafing is taking ballots for the best stuff in Atlanta for their annual (and appropriately named) 'Best of Atlanta' issue. The 'After Dark' heading will probably be of particular interest to C&T readers, covering bands, clubs, and music-related goodies.
I'll also direct your attention toward the 'Georgia-based music blog' category, for which C&T won the readers' vote last year (yay!). There's a new category for 'Georgia-based band MySpace page' too, which scares me a little. At least Russian Spy Camera's has a picture of singer/guitarist Ryan White with Wayne Coyne. That's cool.
As previously mentioned, I wound up in Athens last night for a bit of Athfest. I was short on time, which meant some major cherry-picking from the loaded schedule. Although the event schedule limited each band to just over a half-hour, Murder Beach, King of Prussia and Madeline made for a nice evening of entertainment.
I hadn't seen Murder Beach since February of last year, and I believe they hadn't played a local show since before Thanksgiving. In short, it'd been a while since they'd played out or I'd seen 'em. After Friday's set at Caledonia Lounge, I hope they get the itch to gig more often.
The band seemed surprisingly loose and comfortable given the long hiatus from playing live, and the performance was quite upbeat and enjoyable. Kristin, Julie, and the boys zipped through a bunch of their trademark two-minute twee ditties and rocked out a bit too. Fun, fun, fun.
Murder Beach was followed on the Caledonia stage by King of Prussia, an Athens band that gives a modern spin to the classic mod style of The Kinks and their ilk. It was my first time seeing them live after several months of enjoying their debut release, Save the Scene.
Their performances were generally true to the songs' recorded versions with the end result being a solid, brief set. Favorites "Terrarium" and "Misadventures of the Campaign Kids" roused the crowd, and a new song I believe was called "Answers" did the same. It was a nice taste of a band I've been hoping to see in person, and I'll look forward to a longer show in the future.
I closed the night with Madeline, an artist I've really come to admire in the past year. She took the stage at the 40 Watt accompanied by a drummer, bassist and keyboardist, and was occasionally joined by another member on a battered and beaten tuba (if memory serves). Her set included tracks from her current release, The Slow Bang, as well as several newer, unreleased songs. Noticeably absent were the many older gems in her catalog, but that certainly didn't make the set less enjoyable. And, oh, that voice...
The Madeline setlist, according to the copy from the stage:
Uncle's Sweetheart Pt. 2, You Can't Break My Heart, Shame, White Flag, Belly of the Beast, Shotgun Wedding, Travelin', To Hell and Back, Lit Elephants, Rain Fire & Brimstone
A couple more songs were listed, but I believe that's where they stopped as time ran out. I'll have to consult the tape to be sure. "You Can't Break My Heart" and "Shotgun Wedding" were among my personal highlights, but new tune (to me, at least) "Rain Fire & Brimstone" was a winner as well.
Indie bigshots The Rosebuds are supporting their current album Night of the Furieson Merge Records. Accompanying them is the much-hyped Land of Talk from Montreal, with New York's Beat the Devil kicking things off.
It was an unusually poignant and reverent Sunday (June 17) at Bonnaroo this year. As debaucherous and overwhelming as a festival weekend can be, the candor of a few of the day's acts recalled the simpler, earlier time where festival culture was born. In a celebration of respect for the past, recognition of the present, and lunging towards the future, Sunday was a time for today's classics to shine.
A little overdone, but not bad. I'm mostly with her.
With the addition of guitar virtuoso Jimmy Herring, Panic's roster was stronger than ever...
I'm no Panic fan, but that's pretty insensitive. I know there was a guy between, but Herring is "replacing" a dude (Michael Houser) who was loved by fans and died of pancreatic cancer at age 40. Bad form. No reflection on Herring, who by all accounts is a first-class gent.
R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" blared from the stage speakers as the crowd trickled out of Centeroo and all we were left with was the unexplainable and irreplaceable experiences of another year in musical utopia where it's hot in the sun and hot onstage as well. With the performers of today perpetuating the culture of the past, Sunday night was the end of our Bonnaroo world and we knew it -- but it sure was fine.
Bestest show ever!!1!11! OMG!
Here's hoping they tone it down next year and send some correspondents with actual critical prowess. Either that or just syndicate the Kellie Pickler tour message board, because I'm pretty sure the content would match up about eighty percent of the time.
I'm done with this. Thanks for humoring me. Hopefully I'll see some of you at the Black Keys and Dinosaur Jr. show tonight at Tabernacle.
Well, this is cool news. The Meat Puppets are coming to The EARL in Atlanta on September 12, with both Kirkwood brothers on board. They're touring to support the band's first new record since 2000, and the first since 1995 to feature both Curt and Cris Kirkwood. I hadn't heard that yet, and it's great news. They don't make 'em like these guys anymore.
I imagine the rest of the Cubbie faithful have already caught wind of this, but today the Cubs traded catcher Michael Barrett to the San Diego Padres. Yes, the same Michael Barrett who slugged one of the White Sox and got slugged by the ace of his own pitching staff.
With Athfest starting today, it's only appropriate that the list of bands has just been released for the upcoming Athens Popfest in August.
Mike from HHBTM has once again done a wonderful job of assembling talent for Popfest. Here's the final list of bands as he sent it along:
Daniel Johnston (Danny & the Nightmares), Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Circulatory System, Tullycraft, Casper & the Cookies, Bunnygrunt, the Instruments, the Postmarks, Elekibass, Dark Meat, We Versus the Shark, Red Pony Clock, the Marbles, thee American Revolution, High Water Marks, Ideal Free Distribution, Cinemechanica, How I Became the Bomb, Kite Flying Society, Cars Can Be Blue, Fishboy, Baby Calendar, Darren Hanlon, Velcro Stars, M Coast, Ryan Anderson, Venice is Sinking, New Sound of Numbers, Patience Please, Turncoats, Ninety Nine, Ryan Anderson, the Smittens, Birds of Avalon, Black Kids, Pipes You See Pipes You Don’t, Poison Control Center, Jerk Alert, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Laminated Cat, Quiet Hooves, Oh Sanders, Violet Vector & the Lovely Lovelies, Christopher’s Liver, Titans of Filth, Hat Company, Mouser, Russian Spy Camera, Paper Tanks, Yellow Fever, Chainestereo, Gemini Cricket, Fabulous Bird, Smokedog, and Folklore.
Wow. Just... wow.
The schedule is a work in progress, but is being pieced together.
By the way, if any Athens locals have a vinyl copy of Pylon's Gyrate that looks a bit worn out then the band would like to borrow it for an album cover and compensate you with goodies. Write me and I'll pass along their contact info.
According to the writers at Spin, it seems every performance at Bonnaroo was the bestest thing ever. Are they incapable of objectivity or decent music criticism? I know I'm only an amateur at such things, and claim nothing more. I'm a social scientist who maintains this goofy blog on the side. I realize that I can fall into fanboy mode when discussing some bands, an affliction that is admittedly far too common among we music bloggers. But really, shouldn't professional music writers be capable of leveling criticism at some band at a four-day festival? I didn't follow their Coachella or SXSW reporting, so I have no idea if this has been a persistent issue. Did they just assign writers to cover artists whose posters are tacked to the ceiling above their beds? I suppose not, or the fact-checking would have been better.
You can read a selection of Spin's reporting from Bonnaroo on their site.
On The Police: ...the fact the Police, a group of three strong-headed individuals who vowed never to regroup after their 1986 breakup, was on stage, in the middle of farmland Tennessee, was simply enough. Hands down my favorite gig at Bonnaroo. Say what you will about reunions. This one ruled.
A band showing up is not enough. And although it was good, I can't imagine saying that set "ruled." They played a nice set with some pretty hit-or-miss improvisation and production values well below those of the other headliners. I'd put it in the top one-third of shows I saw at Bonnaroo, but that's about it.
On Tool: ...shrieking album-worthy recreations of classic tunes such as "Ænema" and "Stinkfist" as well as new tunes[emphasis added - Rich] like "Lateralus," "Schism," and a handful from the band's latest record, 2006's 10,000 Days.
Um, "Lateralus" and "Schism" were released in May 2001. You know how I know that? I've had that CD since its release, and I just spent five seconds on Google. "New"? No.
On Wilco: The band, taking the main stage amidst a ravenous, packed audience...
Patently false. One of the more sedate crowds I saw at the festival, and definitely the smallest at the main stage. Not sure what the author saw from his "backstage perch" but that wasn't it. On Sam Roberts Band: Perhaps best of all, it was clear that the band was having just as much, if not more, fun than anyone. As the set closed with the ten minute epic "Mind Flood, " it was apparent that we had all just witnessed an indisputably Bonnaroo worthy performance.
Unbelievable. Least original or interesting band I saw all weekend. I'd agree the band was having more fun than I was, absolutely. The "indisputable" claim is absolute hogwash. I teach my students not to use such absolutes in their writing; you'd think professional scribes would know better.
I know it's easy to pick on Spin and their ilk, so I won't dwell on this any further. But really, what a horrid excuse for music journalism. By the way, starting an article by bragging about your level of access and love for your subject doesn't really add much.
This set closed my festival, and now it'll be the first Bonnaroo audio to show up on C&T. Here is the White Stripes set from the festival in all it's rockin' glory.
You can download a few sample tracks here and/or grab the full show from Sendspace in a .zip file (109mb).
The White Stripes June 17, 2007 Bonnaroo, Manchester, TN
01. intro 02. Dead Leaves 03. When I Hear My Name 04. Icky Thump 05. Hotel Yorba 06. Jolene 07. Slowly Turning Into You 08. I think I Smell A Rat 09. Death Letter > Motherless Children 10. Do 11. In The Cold Cold Night 12. Cannon>Little Room 13. Ball & Biscuit - Encore - 14. Black Math 15. Rag & Bone 16. Blue Orchid > Party Of Special Things To Do 17. I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself 18. We're Going To Be Friends 19. I'm a Martyr for My Love for You 20. Seven Nation Army
FYI, this is the same recording that was available via Largehearted Boy today, but I added tags for iTunes and uploaded it again.
You can also download a lossless (.flac) version of this show at bt.etree.org.
Bonnaroo's Sunday schedule was the source of both delight and some frustration. Because Feist conflicted with both The Decemberists and Wilco, two of my absolute favorite bands, I had to miss the Canadian songstress. Sigh. The comedy offerings too were in time slots that made them difficult for me to see. After getting shut out of Demetri Martin and Flight of the Conchords (dammit!) in the afternoon we wandered a bit and then waited for Wolfmother to end in order to claim prime real estate for The Decemberists. This was a good decision.
The Decemberists played one of the most entertaining sets of my festival, right up there with Gogol Bordello with regard to antics and the sheer joy of the performers. Their set was largely made up of their more recent prog-rock material, including several of the longest compositions in their repertoire.
Most exciting to me was when after opening with "Mariner's Revenge Song" they hit the opening notes of "The Tain." Love it, and hadn't seen them play it live in a couple years. That may actually have been my favorite twenty or so minutes of music all weekend.
After surging through each movement of that epic, they kept up the pace with "Crane Wife 3," each section of "The Island" saga and "Crane Wife 1" before playing a few of their more conventional folk-rock songs.
A special moment came near the end of the set, as soul legend Mavis Staples joined the band for a performance of "The Weight" along with Bobby Bare Jr. Staples shared lead vocals with Meloy, and Bobby Bare Jr. contributed harmonies on that song's famous chorus.
After Staples and Bare left the stage the band got a bit goofy, which I found totally endearing. In the middle of "Chimbley Sweep" Meloy and guitarist/etc. Chris Funk proclaimed that they would take part in a jam unlike Bonnaroo had ever seen. This entailed playing each other's instruments, laying on the stage, and balancing things on their heads. They're probably right about it being unique.
The full setlist from The Decemberists at Bonnaroo as I scribbled it down:
Mariner's Revenge Song, The Tain (all), Crane Wife 3, The Island (Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll Not Feel The Drowning), Crane Wife 1, July July!, O Valencia!, The Perfect Crime, The Weight [The Band cover; with Mavis Staples and Bobby Bare Jr.], Chimbley Sweep > jam/goofing > Chimbley Sweep, Ask [The Smiths cover]
After The Decemberists wrapped up, we wandered over to the Wilco show already in progress. We missed the first half-hour, but still got to see a very solid if unspectular set. Of the several times I've seen Wilco, this show seemed to have the lowest level of energy. The two-thirds of the set that I saw was made up exclusively of material since Summerteeth, including several songs from current release Sky Blue Sky.
The band picked it up toward the end of the set, however, with a run of songs that included "Walken," "I'm the Man Who Loves You," "Hummingbird," and "Spiders." Perhaps it was my own bias for the more experimental side of Wilco, but they didn't get me too excited with this set. I'll look forward to the next theater show.
The partial Wilco setlist, minus the first half-hour I missed...
...Shot in the Arm, Via Chicago, Impossible Germany, Sky Blue Sky, Shake It Off, War on War, Jesus Etc., Walken, I'm the Man Who Loves You, Hummingbird, Spiders (Kidsmoke)
If there was an encore, I missed it.
Post-Wilco we headed for the Which Stage to catch The White Stripes. Jack and Meg would be my last act of Bonnaroo 2007.
After opening with a scorching version of "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" they plowed through about ninety minutes of material. As one would expect of White Stripes they were raucous, loud, and generally kicked ass. That said, a couple of my favorite moments came when they toned things down. Meg came to the front and sang "In the Cold Cold Night," and I always enjoy hearing "We're Gonna Be Friends" as it was played in the encore. Their cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" was also fantastic, as were booming versions of "Icky Thump" and "Seven Nation Army." A very nice way to conclude my Bonnaroo.
I'm not quite sure where to begin with regard to Saturday evening at the 'Roo. It featured three acts I was thrilled to be seeing at the festival, and none of them disappointed. Spoon, The Police, and Flaming Lips all played entertaining sets, though I'd have to say the latter in particular gets a gold star.
Spoon kicked off my night with a very solid set that drew from throughout their catalog, including a number of selections from the excellent forthcoming Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. While it lacked the intimacy of their recent Park Tavern show, Spoon is a damn good band and it was apparent.
Britt Daniel and company appeared to enjoy themselves, and their energy was returned in kind by the audience. Spoon was the first band of the festival for whom I actually bothered keeping track of the setlist. Here's what they played, with one song omitted where I couldn't figure out my own notes (I'm awesome):
Don't You Evah, My Mathematical Mind, Stay Don't Go, Someone Something, [not sure], Delicate Place, Rhythm and Soul, Beast and Dragon Adored, Anything You Want, Small Stakes, Paper Tiger, Monsieur Valentine, I Turn My Camera On, Don't Make Me a Target, Everything Hits at Once, Jonathan Fisk, Black Like Me, The Fitted Shirt, The Way We Get By, The Never Got You, I Summon You, Quincy Punk Episode [I think], Eddie's Ragga
I liked hearing the stuff from the new record, and tracks like "I Turn My Camera On" and "Beast and Dragon Adored" remain highlights even after years of listening.
After Spoon was the biggest act of perhaps the entire festival. The Police took over the main stage on Saturday and the remainder of the schedule was largely cleared. Drummer Stewart Copeland had promised a set full of alternative arrangements and an exploration of the band's jazz side, which had the potential to be amazing if they could pull it together. When all was said and done I left interested and impressed, but hardly overwhelmed.
With all the hype surrounding this tour, the fact that The Police were giving the Bonnaroo gig special attention was an indication that they meant business. After taking the stage (with Stewart in particular grinning widely) they opened with crowd pleaser "Message in a Bottle" before continuing with a few other relatively well-known songs. Here's the opener for your viewing pleasure:
The promised efforts to explore beyond the songs' structures seemed to bear fruit beginning with "Driven to Tears" when Sting, Andy, and Stewart worked extended segments into a few consecutive tunes. Their efforts were at times interesting, and at times off the mark -- Sting's insistence on repetitive vocal "jams" weren't too impressive, but when the band just played it was much better.
The extent to which they deviated from their songs' original arrangements varied during the set. A personal favorite, "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," was performed much as I've come to know it. Shockingly, the band did manage to make "Roxanne" interesting, something which I didn't think would happen again in my lifetime. "Walking in Your Footsteps" was excellent and featured Stewart having way too much fun with his toys; "King of Pain" was played well too and I think it included a section of "Regatta de Blanc" in the middle that Sting tried to use for a call-and-response bit with the audience. "Tried" is the operative word, as it seemed the largely young crowd was sometimes either apathetic about participation or just simply didn't know the words Sting expected them to sing.
Although I enjoyed the set, I remain puzzled about how it concluded. After a song (maybe "King of Pain") Sting abruptly left the stage without explanation, and was followed by the band. There was little applause in response as it wasn't clear the set was over, and many people couldn't see the band on stage anyway. The band returned very quickly to continue their set (or so it seemed). They repeated this process two songs later and returned for another song and a bow. Perhaps it was clear to others that they were done, etc., but judging from the lack of crowd response each time they left the stage I'm not so sure. Anyhow, it was (for me, anyway) a somewhat confusing ending to a nice if imperfect performance.
The full setlist for The Police at Bonnaroo, for those of you keeping score:
Message in a Bottle, Synchronicity II, Walking on the Moon, Driven to Tears, Voices Inside My Head/Best of What's Still Around, Truth Hits Everybody, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Wrapped Around Your Finger, The Bed's Too Big Without You, De Do Do Do De Da Da Da, Walking in Your Footsteps, Can't Stand Losing You, Roxanne, King of Pain, So Lonely, Every Breath You Take, Next to You [courtesy Police Tour 2007 blog]
The midnight show I attended on Saturday night was that of the Flaming Lips. They're always great live, and they had been hyping their Bonnaroo set for months. The band promised a UFO landing in their promo materials, and I'm not quite sure how I could have passed that up.
We got to the stage an hour early, in time to see the Lips soundcheck by playing "War Pigs" (Black Sabbath!) in front of thousands of fans. They then took an hour break before their official start time.
With regard to the theatrics, they delivered as promised. Just about midnight, a countdown began and their spaceship began to descend from the rafters. It was, simply put, awesome. Once it found its way to the stage from above, a ladder was dropped and the band members other than Wayne Coyne (vocalist) came out and took their places. Wayne them appeared at the top of the spaceship inside the giant hamster ball he's been entering shows with for the past couple(?) years. He walked down the side of the spaceship inside the ball and the set was ready to begin. I've never seen anything like it, and I doubt I will any time soon.
Beyond their spaceship, the band supplied its usual great stage show. Liberal use of video, lasers, bullhorns, balloons, confetti, streamers and the like made the show outrageous and fun. Female dancers dressed as Santa Claus and extraterrestrials lined the stage as well, dancing enthusiastically.
Musically, the show was impressive although perhaps not as tight or well-paced as some of their prior shows I'd attended. It was pretty amazing nonetheless. Such nit-picking seems somewhat beside the point given how much Coyne chose to chat up the Bonnaroo crowd and enjoy the moment. The setlist was mostly comprised on material from their three most recent albums (since Soft Bulletin), although other treats were included. Coyne introduced the rocking "Mountain Side" by saying they hadn't played the song live since 1996. "Race for the Prize" was a treat, and the "Yoshimi" combo and "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" were particularly fun for me.
There's a possibly incomplete setlist for the show posted on the Flaming Lips message board, but after glancing at the thing it looks pretty accurate. The fact that I'd seen the band play a show of similar scale at Centennial Park last summer kept me from being totally blown away, but it was a great production.
It seemed the audience appreciated the extra effort by the band and their obvious admiration for the Bonnaroo crowd, and the band appreciated the crowd's enthusiasm to along for the ride. Coyne and company parted the stage in their spaceship after the encores, but I imagine they'll emerge again.
Comments on Sunday to come in the near future. It's time for some recuperative sleep...
Saturday afternoon at Bonnaroo: A day at the cabaret
Coming to Bonnaroo, it was always obvious that Saturday would be the longest day of the festival. That proved to the case. In the afternoon I caught Gogol Bordello for the first time, as well as seeing nearly all of Damien Rice's set. In the evening I saw Spoon, The Police, and Flaming Lips in that order.
Gogol Bordello's afternoon set was a stunner. The band had been recommended to me a few times, and my goodness am I glad I take such suggestions seriously. I imagine this will hardly be news to many folks, but their "gypsy punk" amounts to an energetic and almost outrageous set. Frontman Eugene Hutz is something like a crazed ringmaster, running all over the stage in colorful attire. The band's seven members include accordion and violin along with the traditional rock setup, as well as two women who sing and play percussion and a rapper/hype man who comes and goes from the stage.
Gogol Bordello had little trouble whipping the early afternoon crowd into a frenzy, and when they played "Start Wearing Purple" a number of audience members whipped purple shirts and cloth in the air. The wild crowd also managed to stir up dust to fill the air under the tent -- an inconvenience, but tolerable.
One great moment came when percussionist Pamela Racine put her drum out in the crowd and Hutz proceeded to find his way on top of it, where he knelt then stood during part of the encore. So, so good. It now blows my mind that these guys last played Atlanta at The EARL.
After Gogol Bordello we wandered over to Damien Rice. I don't have much to say about this other than he pretty quickly lost my interest and I was somewhat irritated with all the couples embracing and making out to this sappy singer-songwriter. How effing cliché is that? I hung in there for a while and took advantage of the opportunity to relax a bit before Saturday's big acts on the agenda.
Spoon, The Police, and Flaming Lips rounded out the night. Headed back to the grounds, so more on that later...
12:45 PM - Old Crow Medicine Show 01:45 PM - Spearhead 02:15 PM - Regina Spektor 03:30 PM - The Black Keys 04:15 PM - Damien Rice 05:45 PM - Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals 07:45 PM - The Hold Steady 08:15 PM - Mago: Billy Martin & John Medeski 09:45 PM - TBA 10:15 PM - String Cheese Incident
Sunday, June 17
12:30 PM - Robert Glasper Trio 01:00 PM - John Butler Trio 02:00 PM - The Flaming Lips 03:00 PM - Bob Weir & Ratdog 04:30 PM - Wolfmother 05:30 PM - Wilco 07:15 PM - The White Stripes 08:45 PM - Widespread Panic
It says new bands are being added, so keep an eye on the site if you're interested in something else. Cool, huh?
Friday at Bonnaroo: Cross my heart and hope to rock
Thank goodness it was Friday. After a smaller set of options on Thursday at Bonnaroo, today had a full lineup. The options that caught my eye were a couple of blues-tinged rock bands, some big-time comics, and the headlining set from an alternative act I've been seeing since high school.
The first band on my Friday agenda was Cold War Kids. I've seen this indie outfit from Long Beach a few times, with the most recent at Vinyl back in March. Each previous show was damn good, and I expected nothing less from their afternoon slot.
Although I enjoyed their performance, I didn't dig it as much as their Atlanta shows I'd seen. It may be that I missed the intimacy of the club shows, or it may simply have been that from my spot in front of the right stack I was pretty much bombarded with sound. The boys were very, very loud to the point that folks near the front were covering their ears and I spotted band members doing the same. There were also tech and monitor problems, just as their had been for The National on the same stage the night before.
The set itself stuck primarily to songs from Robbers and Cowards, although they did included Tom Waits cover "Dirt in the Ground" that segued into "Hospital Beds," as well as Marvin Gaye's "A Change Is Gonna Come." They also played a new song called "Dreams Old Men Dream" that I had not heard. It didn't grab me on first listen but I'll reserve judgment until I can listen to it absent temporary deafness. Overall, a solid set from Cold War Kids that seemed to be well-received by the largely virgin audience.
The late afternoon was spent with Lewis Black and supporting comedians including Finesse Mitchell, John Bowman, and Lynne Koplitz. The quartet was fine, but not quite as entertaining as I had hoped. I think I'm a bit tired of lame jokes about sex, drugs, and hippies from comedians at Bonnaroo. Aim higher, gang. It was a bit ironic given a bit that Black did at the start of the performance about anticipation being better than any actual payoff. In this instance, I think he hit the nail on the head.
My evening was spent with The Black Keys and Tool. I only caught part of the set by the former at That Tent, but it whet my appetite for the June 21 gig at Tabernacle in Atlanta. Tool played the main stage as the big act of the night, with most of the schedule cleared while they performed. I hadn't seen them in about five years, and it reminded me of what a great show they put on.
While the logistics of the situation hindered my ability to watch the band itself, which is always a treat, the giant video screens and laser effects the band used made their set a very cool visual and auditory experience. They concentrated on material from Lateralus and 10,000 Days, a good bit of which I'd never seen performed live. A major treat came at the end of "Lateralus" when Tom Morello (The Nightwatchman, Rage Against the Machine) joined Tool on stage for an extended bit of guitar work. Singer Maynard James Keenan also had fun with the crowd, taunting them a bit and declaring David Cross a "deputy sheriff."
The Bonnaroo setlist for Tool (6/15/2007):
Jambi, Stinkfist, The Pot, 46&2, Schism, Rosetta Stoned, Flood, Wings For Marie, 10,000 Days, Lateralus [with Tom Morello], Vicarious, Aenema (via toolshed.down.net)
Speaking of David Cross, we capped our TGIF with a performance by him along with Aziz Ansari (of Human Giant) and Nick Kroll (of Best Week Ever). These gents proved a great way to end the night. Kroll performed in his flamboyantly gay Fabrice Fabrice [link to Human Giant video] persona and acted as master of ceremonies, and was pretty darn hilarious. He also offered up the most poignant philosophical question of the evening: "What is the difference between Sting and Bono, really, other than really terrible sunglasses?"
Ansari's set was much improved from last year, relying less on simple stories and more on rapid-fire material. Cross, however, won the night. Along with his own takes on stupidity, pets, jingoism, and a host of other topics he also included in his set a "You might be a Deadneck if..." bit incorporating Ansari and Kroll that was pretty darn funny. It might have been more so because I've been in the the South for a few years, but I ate it up. His conversation with God at the end of his set was also gut-bustingly funny, but I'll refrain from spoilers. It was Cross and company's final show (of four) at Bonnaroo, and I'm glad to have seen them.
Now, on to Saturday with The Police and Flaming Lips. Oh, hell yes.
The first day of Bonnaroo is on the books. It was relatively short, but fairly eventful. We didn't hit the exit until nearly 5pm, and it took an additional two hours to go the five or so miles to the parking lot. Joy of joys. After finally allowing The Falconer's trusty Volvo to rest, we noticed a familiar face parking right next to us -- fellow Atlanta concert hound Kenny Crucial. Small world, eh?
After Kenny split for the That Stage, we took off for the comedy tent... only to arrive finding the line for Lewis Black stretching most of the way to Knoxville. Dammit. Rather than wait around to be disappointed, we wandered to survey the grounds and found they were pretty much identical to last year. Ho-hum. Given there didn't appear to be much new to see, we followed Kenny's lead and headed to That Stage. There we'd hear some new sounds and be wowed by a band that hadn't quite piqued our interest several weeks prior.
My first music of the festival was delivered the L.A. indie pop act The Little Ones. I probably only caught about half of their set, but they left me impressed. They were melodic and fun, and their brand of "social pop rock" (per MSNBC's Independent Study) really got the hippies and hipsters alike shakin' on the sand and earth dance floor. I'll be sure to keep an eye on these Golden State popsters in the future.
Following The Little Ones was a band I wasn't terribly familiar with, but opted to see in order to be poised for a choice spot once The National took the stage after their set. The act in question was the Sam Roberts Band.
I would like to offer a comprehensive review of the performance by Sam Roberts Band, but I'm afraid I don't know enough synonyms for either "cliché" or "milquetoast" to do so adequately. Hailing from Canada, the band clearly has a sizable following. Nearly everyone in the crowd around us was Canadian, and several of them waved that nation's flag during the set. Others wore Team Canada gear and threw around large red and white beach balls printed with crimson maple leafs. Unfortunately, I had a hard time understanding their enthusiasm.
The band seemed to me Just Another Generic Rock Band, even if their devoted fans danced and sang along with each tune. They did get my attention when they would stray into jammy territory, but even those moments seemed to retread Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd riffs enough to become distracting. I can easily see them being played over the PA in the Young Men's department at J.C. Penney, but I found them dull and derivative. This clearly is not a band up my alley. Your mileage may vary.
Following Sam Roberts Band and a lengthy delay due to technical difficulties was The National. I was eager to give them another go after the 'meh' set opening for Arcade Fire in May, and was not disappointed.
I managed to work my way to front row center for The National, and they put on a wonderful show. I left my taping gear behind but brought the ol' camera, so claiming a spot on the rail was advantageous indeed. Luckily The National put on one of the more interesting and dynamic shows I've seen recently. It's nice to have the bar for the festival set so high on its first evening.
In its ninety minute set The National performed about a dozen songs, with very little lull in intensity or passion. Vocalist Matt Berninger was clearly a reluctant frontman at times, but delivered the goods regardless. He shuffled about and sidestepped the lip of the stage, giving the audience a show. A time or two it looked as if he'd tumble right on top of the "safety" official stationed in front of him. The rest of the band was a lot of fun to watch as well; the violinist/keyboardist in particular nearly stole the show more than once. To be frank, I'd hardly recognize this as the same band who played at the Atlanta Civic Center six weeks prior.
Among the highlights for me were "Slow Show" and "Fake Empire" from their current release, Boxer, and "Secret Meeting" and "Mr. November" from their excellent 2005 album Alligator. From my vantage point it was difficult to gauge the crowd's general enthusiasm or size, but judging from the volume of cheering and crush of humanity I'd guess I wasn't the only impressed spectator. What a different experience it must have been from their show the previous night at The EARL, but I'm damn glad I didn't miss them on the big stage.