Monday, July 27, 2009

A Bizarre Evening With Jamie Lidell

Sometimes a band or artist has to be seen live to really appreciate the scope of their talent or how great their music really is. I never understood why Jamie Lidell didn't have a bigger following or wasn't well known, even by my music friends, until Tankboy told me exactly that--Lidell is the kind of artist you have to see live to appreciate because his recorded music just isn't as compelling.

Come Saturday night. Jamie Lidell was booked to play at Congress Theater. I thought this odd, especially since he played Metro last year and didn't even sell that out. The promoters were giving away tickets in the tens online in the week before--never a good sign. I showed up and the place was near empty. Sad for such an amazing artist and what was such a great performance (sans band I should add--Lidell at his best). I think a run through my tweets from the evening will say it best (and capture just how bizarre the night was, starting with a Michael Jackson Thriller zombie walk in Wicker Park):

Breaking in my new red shoes tonight! And now going to Michael Jackson zombie walk with @lisawhite!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Interview with The Octopus Project

The Octopus Project is a kick-ass experimental pop band from Austin,Texas that I've talked about before, but I recently got the chance to interview band member Josh Lambert for Transmission. They are playing tomorrow night at Bottom Lounge, but unfortunately I won't be able to attend because I'm already committed to the Jamie Lidell show at Congress. But here is a little preview of their new EP, Golden Beds.

The Octopus Project are self-described "collectors of sounds" and their new EP, Golden Beds, is a collection of five songs, each experimenting in different genres. With a couple of tracks coming from their debut album and a subscription-only 7" from last year, Golden Beds begins with the shoegaze tune, "Wet Gold" and immediately switches into rockin guitar and drums on "Moon Boil." The EP conludes with "Half a Nice Day," a lo-fi twee instrumental with cutsey keyboards, but the most compelling song is "Rorol," a streamy avant-garde play with a Siren's call. They utilize the fascinating theremin (an electronic instrument played by without contact from the player, just moving the hands near its two antennas) to create the eerie sound. You can stream the entire EP at Peek-A-Boo Records' website.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another Great Pitchfork for the Books

Yes, I know it's Tuesday, but some of us are just getting moving after the weekend that was Pitchfork. The one thing I did do yesterday was write my wrap-up for Transmission:
(We also have tons of great pics from George Aye on Flickr)

Pitchfork 2009, in Hindsight

Many of you are probably nursing a hangover from the excess of music that was Pitchfork Music Festival this weekend. Another successful year under our belts, this was the most crowded I've ever seen the festival. It was an unprecedented 70 degrees all weekend--people were donning jackets and scarves instead of sunscreen all weekend, and finding refuge from the rain at times on Saturday.

Walking in on Saturday, I arrived just in time for the beginning of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. While I wouldn't call them shoegaze, they had a pleasant mix of rolling teenesque pop; a nice soundtrack for relaxing under the trees.

Final Fantasy-7006527
Final Fantasy (Photo by George Aye)

Next, while I wanted to see Ponytail, I decided to stick around the A stage for Final Fantasy. I heard that he had opened for Arcade Fire before and was amazing. Owen Pallet takes the stage solo and starts recording and looping, creating his own background for the songs. Think if Andrew Bird took on the stylings of Jamie Lidell. While his music isn't as compelling as Bird, he has a much heavier classical influence. I would love to see him in a smaller venue.

Wavves were delayed for about 20 minutes while crews were beefing up the barrier in front of the stage that came apart during Ponytail. Anticipation for this group was huge after Nathan Williams' freakout in Barcelona at the Primavera Sound Festival where he basically od-ed mixing too many drugs and alcohol, barely able to function and was booed off the stage. Then, last week he broke his hand, so I was interested to see what would transpire, or if Williams would take the stage at all. Well, they didn't live up to the hype. I spent most of my time thinking how good Yeasayer sounded on the opposite stage.

The B stage was running behind for the rest of the day after the initial delay, and Lindstrom took the stage 15 minutes late. Donning a yellow cowboy hat and working the laptop, out came some serious techno groove. There really wasn't anything groundbreaking to be heard, but it was good lounging music.

Matt and Kim-7007055
Matt and Kim (Photo by George Aye)

You can't help but smile when you're watching Matt & Kim--their high-energy stage show and happy pop music is infectious. I find most of their songs, and especially Matt's vocals kind of annoying, but I was really enjoying their set, the crowd energy was undeniable. They closed with their most popular song, "Daylight," right after playing "Final Countdown."

I closed out the evening still on the B stage with The Black Lips, I decision I was kind of regretting after hearing how amazing The National was on the main stage. Still, The Black Lips put on a great show. It was loud, it was punk, it was dance, a super '60s The Kinks vibe.

Sunday I arrived early, just in time to see the tail end of The Mae Shi. The Flaming Lips' lighting rig was already up on the stage, creating a heavy anticipation for the entire day (especially when I was constantly hearing reports of Wayne running around backstage and the crew blowing up balloons prepping for the show). While I didn't see much of The Mae Shi's actual show, I did see that Kid Static had joined them on stage and used the soundboard to ask Pitchfork to review their album. "We sent it to you!" he yelled, "Give us a four! We don't care, just review it!"

Frightened Rabbit-7007325
Frightened Rabbit (Photo by George Aye)

Frightened Rabbit and Blitzen Trapper were next on the main stages. Both groups were comparably mild, good daytime music. Blitzen Trapper brought their alt-country rock, and Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchinson brought a Scottish touch to Snow Patrol's alternative aching romance rock. As much as I want to hate that type of desperate longing, Frightened Rabbit are a really good band with strong songs. Seeing them later at Bottom Lounge for one of Pitchfork's official after-shows just reinforced that opinion even more.

I popped over to the B stage a little early to see Women at 3:35 and caught the end of Killer Whales and found four shirtless skinny white guys. Their performance seemed kind of chaotic, but one thing was for sure, they were enjoying themselves. Women was the band I was most excited to see at this year's fest (besides The Flaming Lips that is) because I love '60' psychedelic rock and their self-titled album has an incredibly heavy Velvet Underground influence. I believe it was overlooked as one of the best albums to come out last year. I was slightly disappointed that they didn't sound as good as on the album; at times vocals were even pitchy. It didn't help that they were up against hip-hop artist Pharoahe Monch on the other stage and even though I was on the far left side of the stage, the sound was bouncing off a building. The highlight of the set though, was their most known song "Black Rice" and the crowd was excited. They ended the song (as they ended most every song) with an exciting drone noise wall.

The Thermals-7007838
The Thermals (Photo by George Aye)

The crowd was starting to thicken as folks got in place for the evening's headliner as I made my way back to the blanket camp we had laid out by the main stages. The Thermals were already on and rocking a high energy set. The crowd went crazy for their hit songs "Pillar of Salt" and "Now We Can See" (which they closed with). Their set was filled with covers from Nirvana, Breeders, Sonic Youth and Green Day. I started to wonder if they had enough material to fill an entire set, but I couldn't deny that the covers were actually really good and fun, and Hutch Harris' unique vocals added a nice touch.

M83, The Walkmen and Grizzly Bear were a little hard to sit through while waiting for the evening's spectacular ending. All three groups are pretty mellow--I actually slept through most of The Walkmen's set. M83 was good, but would be better in an indoor venue. Some of their spacey, dreamy effects felt lost in the open air. They started to jam in about the third song and the sun came out and added a little bit of warmth. The energy really picked up towards the end as super rave swells put the crowd's hands in the air.

I had to take a break before writing The Flaming Lips portion of this review. It was, as it has been every time I have seen them, one of the most incredible sensory overload things I have ever seen, and certainly the most mind-blowing thing I saw all weekend. As I've noted, anticipation was building all day for the band's performance. If the lighting rig wasn't enough of a reminder of what was to come, I heard that Wayne was practicing getting in and out of his bubble backstage, I saw pictures of balloons ready for the stage, orange "construction " crew members were prepping the stage throughout Grizzly Bear's set, one lone balloon was sent out across the crowd and there were a couple confetti test bursts.

The Flaming Lips-7008752
The Flaming Lips (Photo by George Aye)

The opening image on the video screen was no surprise to anyone who has seen Christmas on Mars with the focus on female anatomy. The band entered the stage by coming through the video screen at just that point. Then came Wayne's signature crowd surfing in an inflatable bubble. It's pretty amazing when you know that you will have a big enough draw to pull something like that off and engineer it as a staple in your stage show. With Wayne back on stage, confetti lit up the sky and the band launched into "Race For The Prize."

The group took the "Write the Night" picks as more of a suggestion than a rule, Wayne stating that as much as they love Pitchfork, they play the fan favorites every night. List in hand, many of the songs they played he would just state where they fell: # 7 was "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," #2 was "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" and #1 was the closing song "Do You Realize?" One thing they did take the opportunity to do was play some old favorites that only hardcore fans would know. One song was dedicated to Sun Times music critic Jim DeRogatis, one that Wayne said they hadn't played live since '96 (later corrected that they played it once in '99). They also played "Enthusiasm For Life Defeats Existential Fear" for the fans in the front row that follow them to almost every show.

The Flaming Lips-7008852
The Flaming Lips (Photo by George Aye)

All the typical craziness and interactive-ness was there: this time sheep and frogs took the place of Santas and aliens dancing on stage, the facecam, the big balloons in the crowd (and boy do people get excited when one of those balloons comes near), the air gun blowing confetti and bursting balloons, and, of course, Wayne on the shoulders of a gorilla. Wayne Coyne is one hell of a genuine frontman, but there is humility, and not humble for being humble's sake--he really loves what he does and loves his fans. He wants everyone to have fun, and he has fun doing it.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Well, it's that time of year again: Pitchfork Music Festival officially begins tonight in Union Park. Time to re-connect with friends and immerse myself in music and excess. I'm excited to have a friend coming into town from St. Louis for the fest. She has come up every year for Lollapalooza, but this year decided to skip the ridiculousness that it has become and come in for the smaller fest that remains about the music and community. I think she will be very happy with her decision.

So here we go, on a weekend that will be an unprecedented 70 degrees all weekend. I honestly don't know how to go to a music fest without sweating my ass off the whole time and feeling like I'm going to pass out every 5 minutes (and that's from heat, not booze!). And what to wear!? I usually pull those next-to-nothing items out of the closet for some heat-relief, but this time I think I'm actually going to have to consider a jacket!

Check out our staff-picks on Transmission for which bands you shouldn't miss! I am also covering the fest for the site, so check back throughout the weekend for updates and a wrap-up on Monday!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rachael, Bumpus and Ryszard

Tonight Tankboy and I will be at Logan Square Auditorium to see local artists (former and current) Rachael Yamagata and Bumpus on the same stage for the first time since 2002. And it's for a good cause--all proceeds will benefit the Ryszard Basiura Fund. For details see my post in Transmission. See you there!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Psychotic Reactions and Concert Reading

Transmission's feature this week is a collection of books put together by the staff titled "A Reading List Between Sets: A Guide to the Best Books About Music to Read This Summer." There are some pretty great reccomendations including my own kick-ass (in my opinion) write-up of Psychotic Reactions and Carbureator Dung--a collection of reviews and essays and notes written by Lester Bangs (re-posted below). After being presented the idea and reading through Psychotic Reactions a little again, I've decided I'm actually going to bring the book with me to Pitchfork and Lolla this year for some down-time entertainment (and perhaps creative inspiration). Thanks Anne and Lisa! :)

psychoticreactions_1.jpgTitle and author: Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs

About the Book: Sure you can sit around and read the program a hundred times between acts at Pitchfork and Lollapalooza, but why not read some "rock n roll as literature and literature as rock n roll." That's the tagline on the cover of the book Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dungby legendary rock critic Lester Bangs. Bangs was a writer and editor for the now defunct Creemmagazine from 1971 to 1976.

Why I like it: This was a man who was not shy about sharing his opinion on artists, music, or whatever topic might have come up. His reviews read more like strange, obscure novels that had hardly anything to do with the album, but always seemed to drive home just the point/feeling he was trying to make. His writing could be wandering, sometimes rambling with colorful visual vocabulary. Perfect for whatever state of mind you may find yourself in at Chicago's summer music festivals.

Best music setting to read this book in this summer: You might find this book of particular interest at Lolla this year, since there are several pieces about Lou Reed. Bangs loved Reed, and that's putting it lightly. In fact, he says plainly in "Untitled Notes on Lou Reed, 1980" that he "would suck Lou Reed's cock." Call that what you will, but Bangs admired and idolized Reed for his ground breaking work in The Velvet Underground, his unabashed disregard for what anyone thought of him, and his constantly re-inventing himself. According to Bangs in "Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves," people pretty much kept expecting Reed to die, and by all accounts, maybe the guy should have died, with the way he abused his body. But remember, this was written in 1975, more than thirty years ago, and Lou Reed is stillrocking--taking the stage at Lolla on Sunday. Lester Bangs, on the other hand and unfortunately, is not. He died shortly after writing "Notes" in 1982 of accidental drug overdose while treating the flu.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Discovered Today...

Holiday Shores - Beach-worthy indie-rock.

Sleepy Sun - Slightly psychedelic, gritty feedback, deep bass. The San Francisco sextet plays Chicago September 26 @ Chopin Theater.

Yourself and the Air - Dreamy indie-rock. Oh, and they're from Chicago. See them at Subterranean August 1.

Flatbear - Think Cat Power but deeper. Free show at Double Door next Tuesday, July 14.