Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just Checking In.

So it has been one week since I posted and I don't want to get in a bad habit where I stop posting for my (1 maybe) readers. I was thinking about posting some jokes on here since I got bumped from Squire tonight, but they wouldn't be as funny reading them and, as Mo Welsch put it so eloquently tonight, someone can steal my bits. Bits meaning material not private parts. However, my genital is probably funnier. So here is a joke that I thought of while talking to my dad tonight. A Jewish man in his late 20's calls up his mom one night and says, "Ma, how have you been?" "Oh Seth, I have been terrible. I haven't had anything to eat in 3 weeks." "THREE WEEKS! Ma, why haven't you ate in three weeks?" he responds. "Well Seth, I didn't want my mouth full in case you called."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Foals at Monolith

Below are my three reviews from Monolith. Please read them all if you get a chance, they are all relatively short. I'm working a radio story as well that will be up by friday, hopefully

There are some things that are better done in the dark. Having sex with an ugly person, robbing a house, and watching Foals live. On Saturday afternoon at Monolith, Foals was the second band to take the main stage at 2 o’clock. When the UK hipsters came out for their set (three of them with matching bushy black hair and patchy beards) they didn’t seem comfortable on stage. The crowd wasn’t huge or imposing, in fact the size of the audience was dwarfed by vastness of the venue. After the first song Red Rocks looked more like the Themeland Amusement Park in Spinal Tap when they were billed below the puppet show and did a jazz odyssey after Nigel left the band following their Air Force base performance.

After an interlude that felt too long the band went into “Tron.” During the song the groups performance picked up but the band didn’t seem to be completely comfortable on stage. After this song front man Yannis Philippakis said they were having “a visibility problem on stage” as he stumbled about looking like a bat in daylight with the sun blinding down on the main stage.

By the time they played “Balloons” Foals had adjusted to their unfamiliar surroundings and put together a decent performance. Their stage set up was unique and appealing, with their mics all facing the side of the stage instead of the audience and members standing behind one another it looked liked they took their practice space set up and applied it to the live stage. They followed this by “Heavy Water” who’s heavy bass riffs benefited from the natural acoustics of Red Rocks that with each strum the audience’s circulatory system had to be shaking.

During “Two Steps Twice” drummer Jack Bevan stepped out from the kit and got the crowd to clap along with the beat of the bridge. This was followed by the beautifully crafted “Red Socks Pugie” that highlighted Bevans percussion ability beyond mere handclaps and guitarist Jimmy Smith, who had been playing a great supporting role to front Philippakis, finally stole the show with his passionate plucking.

Before the group started into their last song “Electric Boom” Philippakis had a tom tom drum placed by his mic and took the opportunity to display his percussion prowess as the chilling post-punk guitar riff started the song. As the apex of the song hit and the band broke into noise rock, Philippakis began using his mic as a drumstick. Foals closed their set on a high note, but it’s hard not to image how much better the ending, and the entire set for that matter, would have been if it was at night at the Bluebird. Some bands can easily perform during the day at a music festival and pull off a good set with relatively little effort (eg. Tokyo Police Club), while others need the ambience and are attracted to the night just like the cat burglar and the low standards lover.

Tilly and the Wall at Monolith

For sometime ago I coined a sub-genre of music to classify indie-pop bands that have large full band sing-a-longs with hand claps and often use large cardboard cut outs that appear to have been draw by children as stage decorations. These bands invoke images of childlike happiness and glee. This sub-genre is called kitsch-pop. Tilly and the Wall are the proverbial James Brown’s of kitsch-pop. For years I have watched this band throw confetti, parade out on stage like a frat from Stomp the Yard, and play along with the audience. But over time it felt like they had reached a plateau. How can a band that solicits carefree immaturity progress and grow?

On Sunday at Monolith, Tilly and the Wall reached new heights and gave a performance that felt completely fresh, kitsch included.

On this year’s o, Tilly and the Wall incorporated more of a traditional percussion sound with a full drum kit and less emphasis on the signature tap dancer Jamie Pressnall. At first this would seem to take away from what makes Tilly and the Wall the James Brown’s they are. However, when they took the stage Pressnall stepped up onto a large tap platform and became the focal point of the show. Tilly and the Wall have gone even further over the top with their live show. Vocalist Kianna Alaird looked like a character from Zoobilee Zoo, Neely Jenkins donned platinum blonde hair and a dress that was straight out of Strawberry Shortcake, and guitarist Derek Pressnall could have easily been mistake for a member of Oingo Boingo. Overall, the band’s stage set up appeared to have been inspired by the 80’s cartoon Jem and decorated exclusively from Oriental Trading Company.

Tilly and the Wall came out to their signature stomp and clap parade yelling, “Monolith let’s fuck it up!” followed by “Cacophony.” After the first song the crowd of roughly a thousand people were in a frenzied party atmosphere in front of the New Belgium stage. Next up was “Beat Control,” which made us of preprogrammed drum beats, a live drummer, and of course tap dancing. The middle of the song featured a tap/drum off that showed how tap dancing can hold it’s own against the convention of a drum kit.

During “Night of the Living Dead” the band proved how valuable it was to add a drummer when they went into the refrain, “I wanna fuck it up” the high hat and kick drum gave the song a bigger and fuller sound. On the other hand, during “Pot Kettle Black” it was Jamie Pressnall who was carrying the beat.

The rest of the band’s set featured choreography from the female members of the group, beach balls, and a fat black man with a Mohawk and a black, lime green, hot pink, and yellow leotard with wings dancing to “The Freest Man.” Many aspects of their performance were over the top, but at no point did it feel cliché and ultimately that’s what makes them kitschy.

Atmosphere at Monolith

According to the title to Atmosphere latest record “When Life Hands You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold.” On Saturday night life handed Atmosphere crappy whether. Needless to say, it was a good thing he brought a can of gold spray.

After Del Tha Funky Homosapien’s set was cut one song short due to high (no pun intended) winds, many wondered if Atmosphere would even be able to take the stage. Luckily the winds calmed, but the temperature continued to drop and when Atmosphere came out there was a different cloud over the crowd. It wasn’t a certain herbal plant that may carry medicinal purposes, it was the people’s breath.

The aura was far different for Atmosphere than Del’s, despite being two hugely popular independent hip-hop acts. During Del there was a fun party atmosphere with sing-a-longs and chants with hype men. Atmosphere, on the other hand, focused on their songs. Slug dug deep and bleed the rhymes he spoke. At one point early on Slug even mocked the party hip-hop culture when he said, “Repeat after me, Make Dinner Dinner Make Dinner Dinner Dinner!” When the crowd obliged he told them to stop, he was only joking. Even when it came to band introduction Slug referred to himself as Sean in a humbled manner, a far cry from Del Tha Funky Homosapien.

The second song into the set, “Always Coming Back Home To You,” Slug raised his finger pointed to the crowd and said, “Colorado this is a stick up, put your hands up.” But he didn’t need to rob them to get their affection and praise, he already had their head bobs and the intense looks in the audiences eyes.

The cold, rain, and wind made Atmosphere’s performance dark and cerebral. This wasn’t more evident than “Your Glass House,” a dark and chilling song about depression and drinking too much with a perfectly crafted beat by DJ/producer Ant that haunts throughout the verses. This segued into “Shrapnel,” a fast paced but equally dark song that features the lyric, “My posse's full of women, computer nerds, and thugs,” apparently so is his audience. The crowd was diverse and the population of white frat boys with their girl-next-door girlfriends had severely dwindle after Del.

After “Shrapnel” they went into “Guarantees” a soulful track off their latest album that only had bluesy guitar accompanying Slug’s rap. Atmosphere’s set wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. After the crowd surged during “Trying to Find a Balance,” Slug told the crowd that he liked them and that wanted to battle everyone in guitar hero. This was followed by an appearance by LA rapper Abstract Rude who joined Slug in some freestyling set to “Smart Went Crazy.” This was a rad and fun way to end the show, but the crowd hadn’t had enough. Slug told them he would do one more and then he was going to go catch Devotchka, the night’s headliners.

As most of the audience was yelling for “You,” their big single that has been played nonstop on Channel 93.3, Slug told the crowd, “I’m going to do a song I want, stop
yelling like it’s karaoke night!” He then bucked what would have pleased the masses for what pleased himself and those with a broader perspective and closed with “Not Another Day,” off their newest EP Sad Clown Bad Spring 12. This was the perfect way to close the show as the winds howled and the mist trickled down showing that party hip-hop can be a blast but truly saying something is more visceral. On Saturday night Atmosphere gave the audience a gem, and there’s no reason to paint it gold.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hot Water Music at the Gothic

I'm working away on 3 reviews and a radio story after this year's Monolith. My calves are so sore that I can only sit and write. They will up soon. Until then here is my review of Hot Water Music last week.

This past year Hot Water Music made a slight ripple when they announced they were coming off what was supposed to be a permanent hiatus. This news officially put on hold the Draft – the group formed by Hot Water Music members after the departure of Chuck Ragan – and Chuck Ragan’s foray into the fad of punk-rocker turned Americana-folkster. Since reuniting in October of 2007, the Gainsville, Fla., group has only managed to release a B-sides compilation and play sporadic reunion dates.

When I arrived at the Gothic Theater on Sunday night, the venue seemed pretty vacant for a “reunion show.” During opener Only Thunder’s set of dated butt-rock that macerated as post-hardcore, the Gothic was as full as a Rockies vs. Padres game. There’s a chance that Hot Water Music’s elder fanbase has the timing of shows down to a science – that or they were all out smoking. By the time the headliners were about to take the stage, the pit had mostly filled in. However, it wasn’t packed. As mariachi music rang and the band took the stage, I began to wonder if it was worth it for Hot Water Music to reunite and put the promise of their other projects on hold, considering the last time I saw the Draft they were drawing similar sized crowds.

When the band went into their first song, “Rooftops,” the small but passionate audience showed that it’s not the size of the crowd that matters, it’s the commitment. The band raced through the first six songs of the set without taking a break, starting strong with “Rooftops” and “Wayfrarer” – two songs that had the crowd screaming along with all the “Whoas!” while throwing their fists in the air. “Paper Thin” kept the chanting sing-along rolling. Hot Water Music only took a brief breath to ask how the crowd was doing before jumping right back into their set, but moments later the band stopped because a fight had broken out in front of the stage. Everyone had to wait for security to escort the rabble-rousers out of the theater before the show could continue. This lead to screams of, “You f**king suck!” and other cat calls. Meanwhile Chuck Ragan held up a half-full plastic cup and said, “The only good thing is I have a little glass of Colorado whiskey.”

After the pause the band went into the aptly appropriate “Jack of All Trades” hollering “Give me a reason not to lash out!” as crowd chanted the refrain of “HEY!” This was followed by one of the most epic drumstick tosses of all time during “Choked and Separated.” Midway through the song, drummer George Rebelo pulled a Henry Rowengartner and launched his stick that made a beeline to the back of the theater near the bar. I thought this was going to be the craziest thing I’d see all night, but I was proven wrong one song later when Mike from Denver band Skyrise to Martus (who were not affiliated with the show in any way) jumped on stage and grabbed the mic and kept singing along despite the efforts of the roadies to restrain him. The band went along with it and Ragan shared his mic after the first one was cut. After the song was over, Ragan said he wanted to buy Mike a beer. Mike made two more appearances on stage throughout the rest of the show, becoming some kind of phantom of the rock show.

The latter half of the show didn’t go without its share of hiccups. At one point Jason Black’s bass amp blew out and drummer Rebelo went into an impromptu breakdown showing off his skills as an accomplished jazz musician behind the kit while Ragan and Chris Wollard spoke about how they were dumbfounded by the “energy and support,” and to be honest, so was I. But as the band wrapped up their set with “Remedy” and “Things on a Dashboard” before the obligatory encore, I realized why Hot Water Music regrouped and ditched the promise of an acoustic solo career or a strong debut that could have taken the Draft to new heights. They love playing together. Plus Ragan and Wollard are probably the only two people, outside of Blake Schwarzenbach, who can harmonize their gravelly vocals. On Sunday night, there was a chemistry between the members that were not there during the Draft’s performances – a chemistry that certainly could not be found when Chuck Ragan was sitting alone on a stool.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Writer's Block

I was working on my article for tomorrow's Reverb, which of course will also appear on here, when I came across an acute case of writers block. So what better way to work that out then to write whatever comes to mind. What do you all want to talk about? Oh, what's that? I can't hear you because I'm in the past writing this as you are in the future reading it. So future, how did the election work out? Did the rubes of this country fall for the same conservative bullshit of lower taxes, again?! Oh wait, don't tell me that people voted on abortion?! Jesus Christ there has only be one Democratic President in the past 28 years and we still have ABORTION! Or is it that old boondoggle about how the young guy isn't ready to lead? Never mind the fact that McCain picked an even more inexperienced running mate who makes Obama look like Ted Kennedy. Speaking of Kennedy, people said his brother was too inexperienced and look we have a black man as a major candidate. Thanks for the Civil Rights movement (apologies to Bull Connor). And whatever happened to that crusty old white guy that Kennedy beat? Oh yeah, he was the first President to resign in disgrace and was the guy who signed into a effect our current health care system. Remember Lincoln? He had as much experience as Obama, again black man (apologies to Jefferson Davis). I guess that inexperience sure beats more of what Bush has done. Oh wait, I forgot McCain is a MAVERICK! He took a hard stance against Campaign Finance Reform (not in affect this election), Religious Zealots (spoke at Liberty University), torture (voted against Intelligence Authorization Bill), and doesn't cave to the Bush Administration (voted in favor of the President 95% of the time). Well good work future. I guess you see things more clearly than we do back here in archaic ways of fall 2008. We don't know all our history because a lot of it hasn't happened yet. I'm glad you know it all now, because then you won't be doomed to repeat it.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Octopus Project at Hi-Dive

Last week in Denver we had a large gathering of white elitists with expensive, perfectly styled haircuts whose rhetoric was almost as generic as their sense of style. It wasn’t the Democratic National Convention. It was the Octopus Project performing at the Hi-Dive on Aug. 26.

Before the keynote speakers took the stage, there were the usual anonymous openers. Matt Larabee Band played the part of Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle. No one has ever heard of him and nobody really seemed to care.

Next up was Red Orange Yellow, the Mark Warner (former Virginia governor) of the night. Like Warner, many have anticipated Red Orange Yellow’s rise to prominence given their potential (Editor’s note: they’re actually breaking up soon). Also like Warner, many have witnessed Red Orange Yellow stay on the periphery of the scene as newer and more exciting figures positioned themselves in the spotlight.

Red Orange Yellow began their set with a loud imitation of post-rock with a building crescendo that ultimately led nowhere. As the show progressed, their set took on the traits of an aged senator speaking on the floor of Congress — long-winded and going in no discernable direction. Former Photo Atlas drummer, Devon Shirley, was one of the few bright spots as he picked up the intensity midway through the set. For a short period his performance behind the kit made up for the lack of substance in the band’s sound.

By the time the headliners were set to take the stage, the uninspired performances of the opening acts had sucked the life out of the crowd — or they were just too hip to get excited. Either way, the night’s keynote speakers were not greeted like musical Obamas. Undeterred, the Octopus Project jumped into a high-energy set that felt as genuine as Obama’s proclamations of hope and change.

The setup on stage perfectly suited the band’s style. Kitschy cat-like figures (actually curtains with white Christmas lights underneath) were positioned on either side of the stage. A video projection played images that corresponded perfectly with the emotions each song provoked.

There was everything from Daniel Johnstonesque cartoons (which danced across the screen while “Black Blizzard/Red Umbrella” came pulsing out of the speakers) to a somewhat ominous image of hand caressing an unidentifiable goo as the Theramin wailed eerie vintage Sci-Fi sounds. Cheesy images of ’70s music performances on TV and Super 8 footage of men with monkey masks blithely riding bikes also added to the show. These images transformed the Octopus Project’s set from another cool show to a piece of performance art.

Lone female member Yvonne Lambert stood front and center on the keyboards. Throughout the show her hands majestically danced across the keys as her shoulders remained perfectly square. This, along with her Norman Rockwell-era appearance, served as the axis for the band as the three male members (Josh Lambert, Toto Miranda and Ryan Figg), dressed in matching white shirts and ties, switched instruments, ran around and basically exploded like stars with each note they played.

At no point in the show did the set feel typical or mundane; they played everything from the light merriment in “Bees Bein’ Strugglin” to “Adjustor,” a chilling tune that could be used in the next “Bourne” movie.

After 12 songs and an impromptu encore, the crowd finally looked like the hysterical delegates that applaud every word of Obama’s speeches. It was clear that Tuesday night that the Octopus Project holds themselves to a high standard creatively. If Obama were asked if we can expect another great show next time they come to town, the answer would be (with apologies): “Yes We Can!”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin

SIDE NOTE: I believe, perhaps against better judgment, in the old American rallying cry: There is more that unites us than divides us. And for all of those who tuned in to the RNC last night, we are all of us--Dems and Repubs--in agreement about one thing:

Sarah Palin is a FOX!

Those glasses put here in the substitute teacher/secretary category of hot that is characteristic of both taboo tones and illicit/inaproriate horn-dogishness. And you know what? I love it! More to cum, pun intended.