Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface Tour 2017

Manchester Orchestra is one of those bands that construct each song in such a way that it hits you right in the feels. Much like the band Brand New, their entire aesthetic is one of a melancholy nature, and at times just plain emo. Considering they’ve toured with them several times – it makes sense.

They’ve understandably evolved from the throttling angst of their two earlier albums, I’m like a Virgin Losing Child (2007) and Mean Everything to Nothing (2009). These two albums rivaled every emo band at that time and rightfully staked out their position in the realm of emotionally driven music. Soaring tempos with heavy drums and guitars danced with the crashing emo lyrics that are still hymned along with heightened adoration to this day.

But, that’s not to take any attention away from their new album – A Black Mile To The Surface. This album is right on track in the band’s musical evolution. Most of the tracks aren’t throwing any punches, but instead creating a steady stream of controlled sound rippling around Andy Hull’s signature vocals and seemingly meaningful lyrics. Even though the album as whole lacks the angst of prior work, it fills in the gaps with a mature vibe and thoughtful lyrics that shine against exceptional instrumentals.

While I do enjoy the new album, it inevitably brought me back to those first albums that once provided such a superb emotional outlet in my life that I decided to buy a ticket to see their upcoming show at The Complex. And the performance was everything I could have wanted.

The earlier stuff was played with vigor, forging a brilliant energy amongst the crowd, which made me wish my favorite songs were more than a nostalgic obligation at this point. However, I am aware that it is not necessarily the best perspective to take when you love different eras of band’s work- It’s all good. And the art meant to evolve to better express different times and challenges of existence that people can relate to as their life progresses.

The concert started out in the dark venue with almost hymn-like chanting in a mellow hypnotic trance; The sound began to rise and everyone cheered just to have the tempo drop, which you knew the rocking-out commenced.  

The ambiance was the perfect contrast of dark shadows painted with burning orange and yellow floor spotlights and not one person in the finely tuned post alternative group missed a beat. The soaring guitars meshed together over escalating drums and keyboard, and the ebb and flow of the tempo had every note effortlessly blended together to create a climatic orchestra of sound.

Hull and the backup vocals managed to croon each lyric in a way that appeared profound and soft to the ears. Pair this with the frequent guitar breaks in the stream of instrumental chaos, and you’ve got an amplified rollercoaster effect eliciting a wide range of emotions being emitted from the lush soundscape. The live performance reinstated their reputation to me as an immensely talented group of musicians and as I’d hoped, even inspired me to grow along with the progression of their music.

Phish Dick’s 2017: Nights Two and Three

In what has become a solid yearly tradition, Phish brought three nights of high-energy improvisatory rock and roll to a sold-out Dick’s Sporting Goods Arena (soccer stadium) in Commerce City, Colorado this past Labor Day weekend. I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the Saturday (Night Two) and Sunday (Night Three) shows. Without any shows scheduled for the rest of the year, Phish closed off a historic summer, riding high on the wave of a solid thirteen-night residency at Madison Square Garden in New York City (Baker’s Dozen Run).

One of the most fun aspects of any Phish show is the fact that the musical performance is only one part (albeit a very large one) of the full “experience”.  Upon arriving at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (lovingly referred to as “Phish Dick’s”), phans are met with a very large and accessible Shakedown Street, the open air market that began at the time of the Grateful Dead. Colorful vendors sell food, drinks, artwork, glass, t-shirts, and other less-than-legal items to pre-show partiers in what may be one of the most fun examples of unregulated capitalism.  I was impressed by the size of Dick’s Shakedown, and a walk through is a key part of the Phish show ritual.

Upon entering Dick’s itself, I was surprised by the size of the venue.  Dick’s is certainly no Meadowlands Stadium, but it is definitely larger than a venue such as Madison Square Garden, for example.  With a sold-out crowd, the venue became a cozy sea of bodies very quickly but never felt too uncomfortably tight.  A quick overview of the stage showed that the amazing Madison Square Garden Baker’s Dozen lighting rig was once again being used, with lighting director Chris Kuroda at the helm. (An aside: It is quite unusual for fans of a group to know the name of the lighting director, however, Kuroda’s lighting rig is such an integral part of the live Phish experience that fans have taken to calling him CK5, with ‘5′ designating him as the group’s fifth member.)

On Saturday night, the band came on slightly after 8 pm, launching into the classic “Simple”.  As an opener, “Simple” received a solid jam treatment, stretching out to fourteen minutes before giving way to a dance-party “Martian Monster”. Other Set One highlights included a very tight “Reba”, a rousing “Sand”, and a jammed-out “Wolfman’s Brother” towards the end of the set.  With the amount of jamming and exploration that occurred in Set One, there was a palpable “How can they possibly follow that up?” feeling throughout the crowd.

Overall, Set Two was a pure Saturday-night rock and roll dance party.  While jaded Phish veterans may have been slightly underwhelmed by the lack of deep exploratory jamming, the solid third quarter Fuego, Steam, and Chalkdust Torture section provided the band with a chance to go into full singalong rock-star mode. A fourth quarter “Mike’s Groove” included a beautiful “Winterqueen>What’s the Use?” segue within, before giving way to a blissful “Slave to the Traffic Light” to end the set.  Encores included a fun “The Lizards” and a chaotic “Run Like an Antelope.”

As phans filled the stadium for Sunday night, many gave predictions for what the night would hold. Popular predictions were for a huge “Tweezer” or “Down With Disease” to open Set Two, but what Set One would hold was anyone’s guess.  Set One opened with a novelty “Buffalo Bill” before giving way to a funky-but-brief “Moma Dance”. For me, the real highlight was the second quarter, beginning with “The Wedge”.  “The Wedge” was jammed on nicely, but gave way to an extremely exploratory and somewhat dark “46 Days”.  After settling back down on Earth, guitarist Trey Anastasio led the way into a full-speed-ahead “Bathtub Gin”.  This jam reached an intense peak, where, in a very cliche moment, I completely forgot what song I was listening to before being reminded by the re-appearance of the recognizable “Gin” theme.

Photo by Taylor Hill

Those who put their money and reputation on a huge Set Two opening “Down With Disease” were certainly paid in full. The jam out of this DWD was full Type I guitar-hero, with Trey soloing straight to an early peak before giving way to a dark and ambient section.  Out of this ambiance arose a slow building and intensely evil group jam, which became so full of psychedelic energy that it could best be described as an alien spaceship launch meets a Chernobyl-level reactor failure.  Segueing out of “Disease”, the first notes of “Light” were accompanied by thousands of glow sticks being thrown from the upper seating levels, giving the sense of a glow stick rainstorm, quickly leading the way into a more blissful jam, followed by the inspirational stadium-rock of “Rise”. Other personal Set Two highlights were a fun and adventurous “Piper” and a very tense but exhilarating “Possum”.

I was very pleased with the first encore, “Waste”, as it is one of the few Phish songs whose lyrics are somewhat meaningful to me, and despite being very similar each time, is very uplifting.  The final song of Dick’s 2017 was “First Tube”, giving phans one last chance to dance all of their energy out, and leaving them with the image of guitarist Trey Anastasio, bathed in white light, with guitar held high overhead.

I cannot close out this review without including this personal story though, which I feel is truly representative of what Phish is about.  On Sunday night, I was only able to attend the show alone.  While sitting down to relax before the show, I started chatting with the guy next to me about the run of shows.  He soon introduced me to his crew, a diverse group of experienced phans, many who had met each other through Phish concerts alone, and soon I was part of a larger group, even if only for the show.  During set break though, I went to check my phone, only to be met with a black screen.  Dead phone.  This was definitely a problem for me, as the venue was about 11 miles away from where I was staying in Denver, I was alone, and had been planning to use Uber or Lyft to return after the show.

I mentioned this to Nate, one of the guys in the group that I had been happily pulled into.  He told me not to worry about it at all and to just enjoy the show because his crew would get me home. After the show ended, Nate and his crew told me to come with them, and they grabbed me an Uber back to their place in Denver, where I was able to charge my phone and meet a few more of their friends before making my way back to where I was staying.  I am so thankful to Nate, Matt, Trey, Casey, and all of the other guys and girls in their crew whose names escape me for helping me out despite just meeting me, and I will pass on that good energy for sure.  These are the kind of people that Phish attracts, and I am so glad to be a part of that scene. I encourage anyone who can to attend a Phish show and form their own opinion of “Phans” and the music that unites them.

 

Check out the full Sunday night performance here!

 

Featured image by John Leyba, The Denver Post

Darkness at the Liquor Store

On September 8th, 2017, The National released their 7th studio album Sleep Well Beast. It introduces a new sonic element different from previous albums. The album artwork is black, grey and blue, and the CD and vinyl are colored blue. These dark, cold colors reflect the mood of the album.

The National uses a variety of electronic drums and synthesizers. Even with more electronics, the passionate piano melodies, gritty guitar solos, and Matt Berninger’s baritone voice provide an unmistakable National sound.

In a recent interview with NME.com, band members Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, and Scott Devendorf discuss the album, drummer Bryan Devendorf couldn’t make it. Bryce Dessner says Sleep Well Beast is experimental and takes their sound in a positive new direction. Berninger explains that the songs on the albums are connected. He says, “the lyrics to a record are just the lyrics to a record. There’s not lyrics to this song or lyrics to that song…they are all in the same stew.”

Despite the interconnectedness of the lyrics, there is a tremendous amount of contrast from song to song. Songs 1,3,5, and 7 are relatively gloomy or sorrowful whereas songs 2,4,6, and 8 are more upbeat and bold. They do a tremendous job providing this contrast all the while keeping to similar themes of fear, anxiety, sorrow, and trying to find love. The last 4 songs add a somber note, rounding out the 12 track, hour long record.

Sleep Well Beast was produced primarily by Aaron Dessner, with help from Bryce Dessner and Matt Berninger. 4 years after releasing Trouble Will Find Me, they had plenty of time to perfect the music. The high production quality allows the complexity and intricacies of the music to flow effortlessly.

They start the album talking about going home to be alone. The opening song, “Nobody Else Will Be There”, is Berninger pleading with a loved one asking, “can’t we just go home?”. In “Day I Die” he says, “I’d rather walk all the way home right now than to spend another second in the place… just come outside and leave with me.”

Berninger’s depression and anxiety are seen through the lyrics. He sings about over-thinking things and how that ruins his head. He says, “I’m no holiday”, “I can’t stand me”, and “nothing I do makes me feel different.”

The lyrics tell the story of a someone fighting for love. In “Born to Beg”, Berninger sings that he’d do anything for his love. He feels sorry for something he has done and is willing to take the blame. This theme continues in “Dark Side of the Gym” as he sings, “I’m gonna keep you in love with me.”

It’s not a National album without the mention of alcohol. Throughout the album, Berninger sings, “meet me in the stairwell… for a glass of gin”, “I get a little punchy with the vodka”, “I mix weed with wine”, “I’ve been hoping to drink”, and “I have helpless friendships and bad taste in liquids”. The lead singer is drunk almost every time they perform and frequently drinks on stage.

The album ends with the lyrics “I’ll still destroy you someday, sleep well beast.” Berninger is caught up in his sorrow but has come to grips with his situation. He has been through it all emotionally and can endure anything life throws at him.

The National started in 1999, releasing their first album in 2001. 16 years later they still have so much to offer the indie-rock scene. Sleep Well Beast is personal and honest. They incorporate new musical ideas and keep aspects of their classic sound. They show that rock isn’t easy nor safe. You’ve got to take chances and be bold. Most importantly, you have to be true to yourself. Sleep Well Beast shows that The National still has a couple punches left before they go down.

Boombox Cartel Takes Over The Sky SLC Dance Floor With Their Unique Trap Beats

Hailing from Mexico, the duo of Boombox Cartel, aka. Jorge Medina and Americo Garcia, have been making waves and taking names for the last few years; including putting on a stunning performance on the main stage at Ultra Music Festival in Miami, FL. Earlier this year, the duo took a hiatus. However, they don’t call it a comeback, saying ‘The Cartel never left…’ They exploded into 2017 with their release “Jefe” and have been taking dance floors by storm ever since!

The first time I saw these two live was at Foam Wonderland 2016 in Salt Lake City, UT, where they opened up for Brillz and Borgeous. I had never heard of this duo before, but they took me away by storm when I heard their first drop. I knew that these two had potential and that they were going to get huge in the EDM world… and I was right! With that being said, I had an incredible chance to talk with Amerigo, himself, and chat about his love for music and how the cartel all came to be!

Amerigo and Jorge are both Mexico-based while Amerigo was first born in South Texas, then moving down to Monterrey in Mexico, where he and Jorge first met and attended middle school, high school, and even college! It was shortly after when Amerigo and Jorge moved up to Minneapolis, Minnesota to attend music school, where they then joined forces and decided to make music together. However, Jorge does not have an American visa, so he cannot perform at shows in the states just yet, but all of that is currently in the works.

They decided to name themselves ‘Boombox Cartel’ because it was just a bunch of stoner music kids creating ideas. “They were all like, ‘you guys make music, y’all are like a boombox and then you two are from Mexico, y’all are like the cartels’”, says Amerigo from Boombox Cartel. “It was super dumb but we stuck with it and decided to make music under that name!”

After the ‘Boombox Cartel’ was named, Amerigo and Jorge started sending their music to everyone: blogs, DJ’s, other producers, etc. along with spreading the word locally. “All of a sudden, our music became international,” says Amerigo. “You just have to start small – be passionate about your art keep pushing your limits!”

Ever since then, the boys have been headlining shows since 2012, and then states that it is easy to headline your own show. “You just make music and put it out, and eventually, you will get booked,” says Amerigo. “Headlining shows is fun – it doesn’t matter what time your set is or even who you are, it’s just all about the music.”

Boombox Cartel has recently released their latest EP, Cartel, where it consists of a group of work of two-and-a-half years! Amerigo says to imagine fifty songs and then having to eliminate forty-five of them. “It wasn’t hard to narrow it down, however, because there were ones that stood out and felt the best,” says Amerigo.

Amerigo then states that his favorite song off the Cartel EP would be “Phoenix”. “It doesn’t consist of just the drop, like what you usually hear in most EDM music,” says Amerigo. “It’s just a song that takes you somewhere! It’s also very fun to listen to, not just in a club, but at home or basically anywhere.”

Crucial Quest: Day 2

The K-UTE writing staff ventures to this year’s 7th annual Crucial Fest in a quest to discover new artists and experience a festival like no other in downtown SLC.

Morgan C.

There’s a certain pride one feels whilst taking part in a local made event such as Crucialfest. This Utah created and sustained event does nothing short of give back to everyone involved. With a killer line-up of local and touring bands, Crucialfest 7 has arrived once again to give Salt Lake’s people a loud and lively week of musical chaos and energized performances to look forward to.

That being said, the week is an exciting one with several after dark shows kicking off the crucial-week at participating venues Metro Music Hall and Urban Lounge (which happen to be just a couple of favorite local venues in the SLC music scene) and the main two-day event taking place at the Gateway.  The second day into the main event I was able to catch a couple of shows earlier in the day, including, The Flatliners, a punk band straight from the Ontario Canada ska/punk scene with catchy melodies carrying classic punk sound construction and gritty yells alternating simple chord progression.

But, ultimately my Crucial quest led me back to the outdoor setup later in the evening, and as I approached the Slug stage, Pinback was beginning to set up their equipment. Perfect, since they were on the agenda to see for the evening.

I’ve met quite a few ‘Pinnies’ as I like to call them- Long-time fans of Pinback. People who get it, people who pick-up the musical messages the band is putting down. Because of these encounters, I was pleased to check out the group first hand myself. Not being a prior fan, the first thing I noticed was how there was two guitarist taking main stage, and how they appeared to be playing the same chords in the same pattern at the same time. However, I then heard the combined vocals of lead and co-lead singers, Rob Crow and Zach Smith, in which I began to see the effective use of two leads. The gentle voice of Rob Crow breathed somewhat meaningful lyrics over-energized instrumentals, while the vibrating tones of duel vocals danced on the jangly combination of drums and strings creating a hypnotic harmony which contributed to the continuous flow of melody, and I can see why so many ‘Pinnies’ give praise to this feel-good band.

Next up was Built to Spill a group from our neighbors in Boise. They hardly need an introduction considering they’ve been playing since the early 90’s with a fan base that has been listening just as long. Now, that’s not to say that they aren’t capturing the attention of new fans. As the instrument-driven band began to play it was apparent they were pulling the biggest crowd i’d seen in hours. Guitar riffs soared through the air piercing our ears with vibrant sound waves that quivered over steady basslines and drums, and the understated vocals echoed along giving a vintage feel reminiscent of the good vibes at Woodstock.

The last performance of the night was by headliner group the Growlers, and the Cali grown 7-piece group did not disappoint. The entire performance oozed a groovy aesthetic with the lead singer wearing a painfully cool printed collar shirt strutting around purring catchy lyrics tied to the string of wailing sounds being emitted by the whole lot of garage-rock dudes.

The vocals alone lived up to the band’s name as pithy one-liners like “drinking the juice” and “If your heart thinks I’m a crock of shit, then I’ll follow it” were growled towards the audience. The unrefined vocals and sounds of multiple instruments produced a fun raw sound akin to other popular garage rock groups such as the Hives and Hot Hot Heat for an exhilarating performance that acted as a bid goodbye to the super fun fest. Till next year!

 

Morgan P.

Not to be cheesy or anything, but this fest is crucial for our salty city. This was the seventh Crucial Fest and first one to be so large. SLC is too often overlooked as a music hub but in recent years there has been more attention directed here and it’s events like this that makes that happen.

Rolling up to The Gateway later in the day felt so comfortable and nostalgic, sending me back a few years to when I would take Trax down with a friend just to window shop and hang out in the city. It’s really cool to see how the mall has changed over the years although it is bittersweet to see the shops that have gone. However, the unique use of space for music and community events is a novel idea that I hope continues in the future.

After a spontaneous trip to Wyoming, I, unfortunately, missed a few of the opening bands but after being at the venue all day on Saturday, I couldn’t really feel too bad. The first item of business: finding a spot to set up camp so the K-UTE crew and company would have a place to hang out in between sets. We found two chairs on the turf between the Rye and Graywhale tents and never had less than three people sitting together enjoying the late summer day and stellar music.

The Flatliners were the first band on when I got there and although I’d never listened to them before, but their old school style punk rock sound made my inner riot grrrl way too happy.

POS was the next artist up and I wasn’t particularly interested in this performance until I saw the huge crowd that had gathered but were facing away from the stage. It took me a second to realize Stefon Alexander was standing on the stairs next to the SLUG Stage. I wandered over to see what was up just in time for him to be in the center of the crowd absolutely commandeering the energy. Everyone watching was so intently INTO the show that even people who probably wouldn’t have normally come over were expanding the crowd even further.

The indie rock vibes that seemed to dominate the lineup continued when Minus The Bear took the stage. For me, this performance wasn’t as much about seeing the band as it was hearing the music exist as background sound while walking through all different groups of people, checking out the art gallery, and relaxing under the trees. I was quite pleased with the mix of songs they chose to play what with their newest album, VOIDS, having come out in March.

As far as the second day goes, Built To Spill is who I was looking forward to most. Carry The Zero had come up on my Spotify discover playlist a few weeks prior and quickly found its way onto frequent rotation within my own playlists. I’ll admit that I don’t have any sort of vast knowledge on the rest of their songs but that didn’t make seeing them live any less special. Contrary to the popular belief that you have to know every word and riff to every song by a band before the band even knows they’re a band — you don’t. It is possible to like a band even if you only know one song; who would’ve guessed?! After all, there is simply too much music in the world to go that in depth with every artist.

Finally, headliners, The Growlers took the main stage and immediately began belting out their signature sound of beach goth vibes. Having grown in popularity at an immense pace over the last decade, The Growlers showed their finesse. The band shifted between songs from their discography with personal favorites “Chinese Fountain” and “Someday” receiving the love treatment. The crowd was going wild for it. Most Growler songs keep it poppy within the requisite three to four-minute song length, but on stage, the band took each song into the stratosphere, stretching out the catch guitar riffs and general fun for much longer. Fantastic renditions permeated the end of the night. Because now Crucial Fest was completed. A fabulous four days of music and energy. Seeing the festival growing was a spectacle in of itself and I can’t wait to see what happens next year!

Crucial Quest: Day 1

The K-UTE writing staff ventures to this year’s 7th annual Crucial Fest in a quest to discover new artists and experience a festival like no other in downtown SLC.

Sarah

After waiting months in anticipation, the first days of Crucialfest 7 were finally upon me, and I had no idea what to expect. First of all, I had never been to any of the previous Crucialfest shows, nor had I been to any “festival” style concert before. However, after seeing the setlist for Crucialfest 7, I couldn’t wait to go.

Upon entering, the band SALES was already performing. Their music was simple and minimalistic with soft guitar rhythms and drums. They also took a minimal approach to their live show; wearing casual outfits and rarely moving around the stage. While I’m typically a fan of theatrical and over-the-top concerts, I enjoyed how SALES let the music speak for itself. The band’s lead, Lauren Morgan, had a uniquely high pitched and nasal-y voice that contrasted beautifully with the toned-down instrumental. While I was a DJ a K-UTE, I became a fan of their two songs “Chinese New Year” and “Renee.” If you’re a fan of dreamy indie-pop, they’re definitely worth a listen.

After their set, I thumbed through some records at the Greywhale Entertainment booth and made my way into a large gallery (presumably an emptied out shopping area). There, the local band The Boys Ranch was playing a set. I had seen them at previous shows, but never with their full band before. They played upbeat surf rock tunes and bounced around the stage in matching striped shirts. The Boys Ranch had charisma and confidence. The audience loved their energy, and so did I.

As I exited back into the main stage area, the band Baroness was playing. I had never heard their music before, but watching them perform was quite the show. The band’s lead, John Baizley, had a booming and full voice that soared over the heavy/progressive rock instrumental. The music was high-intensity and electric. I also noticed my eyes being continually drawn to one of the guitarists who played with such an intense emotion and passion. I definitely have an appreciation for bands who play with all of their heart; it’s a hard thing to do, but it makes the music all the more special and personal.

Finally, after Baroness’s set, the audience swarmed back over the main stage. The energy hummed in anticipation as an introduction track played for STRFKR’s entrance. Even though I had listened to STRFKR multiple times before, I had no idea what to expect from them in terms of a live show. Whatever I had in mind, however, was completely wrong.

Fog that was pooled at the surface of the stage was immediately dispersed by the entrance of a crowd of men wearing full astronaut suits. I immediately knew that I was in for a show. The lead singer, Joshua Hodges, entered in a bobbed pink wig, sunglasses, and a dress. When I said that I was a fan of theatrical concerts, this was what I meant. STRFKR’s music is heavily electronic, which paired perfectly with the intense visuals. At one point, one of the “astronauts” flung himself into the sea of hands and started crowd-surfing; the audience was going wild.

I had no idea what to expect when I signed up to go to Crucialfest, but one thing’s for sure, I’ll definitely be going again next year.

 

Martyn

Two o’clock in the afternoon and rushing through downtown Salt Lake City on my way to the 7th annual Crucialfest was an apt way to arrive early in the day. For those who have never seen the mostly dilapidated Gateway Mall on Rio Grande street, the empty storefronts contrast against the finely manicured grass and comfortable sitting area. But for Crucialfest, the circularly fashioned mall was alive with two massive stages facing each other from either side, vendors, records for sale, a wonderful circus of noise and sights. We walked down the stairs with an aerial view of the festivities while King Dude played from afar.

First up on the local stage was the (always-wanting-to-see-them) band, Indigo Plateau. A personal favorite of the Salt Lake scene, they opened the Exigent Stage (and the local side of Crucialfest). Playing original songs off of their solid EP The Heights along with some new ones, their passion and immaculate playing ability sounded rad through the converted Forever21 qua concert venue (which, aesthetically, was quite pleasing although the acoustics were less than tight).

After a windfall of music, eating, and constantly trying to find a place to sit, was the band Sales. Hailing from Florida, they have been to Salt Lake a few times. Their dreamy vocals and guitar playing played to a calmer atmosphere than the previous metal bands. The beauty of Crucialfest being a bevy of musical variety allowed one to move from the outside heat and main stage bands to the local stage inside.

After a half hour of Sales, I made my way to The Boys Ranch gearing up for their unique brand of surf-rock. Again, these local heroes proved the significance of Cruicalfest as a way for people who may not experience the immaculate surf-rock to see something new. The Boys Ranch got the crowd into a frenzy of dancing and good beach vibes (being that this is a landlocked state, the irony is not lost). Surf rhythms and guitar riffs straight from the oceanside came through the venue. This is the type of band that feeds energy into a crowd and should always be a priority show when available.

Minutes after the local stage set ended, Baroness began playing outdoors on one of the main stages. A metal band incorporating some nu-metal influences. they hammered out their set list in a fury under the setting sun. The mix and mingle of the crowd between those now arriving for STRFKR and those here for Baroness were a gorgeous sight to behold. As the headliner from the metal influence of Crucialfests past. Baroness was well enjoyed and sounded great outside.

Some more minutes after Baroness had finished, the main stage was again lit in a flurry of anticipation as the crowd shifted eyes towards the approaching STRFKR. Opening with a quiet monologue piece set to electronic rhythms, the band came out in matching NASA astronaut suits, the band and dancers all synchronizing to lead singer Josh Hodge’s beautiful dress and pink wig.

The band was essentially throwing passion into the audience even as an astronaut went crowd surfing on top of a large, inflatable white duck. STRFKR’s electronic sensibilities were heightened by the live performance where each song could cascade into lengthier versions of themselves. “German Love”, “In the End”, and “Open Your Eyes” each sounded like a new song. With the light show streaming from the background and the heavy draw of synths, guitars, and drums, STRFKR played an amazing outdoor set to end the night on. Better still, there was an entire day to go.

 

 

What’s On My Playlist? #2

With the fall semester in full swing, there’s no better time to find some fresh music to keep you on your feet. Here are some songs that I’ve been listening to so far:

“how do you sleep” by LCD Soundsystem

For a nine minute track, “how do you sleep” passes by at an incredibly fast rate, but that’s to the credit of the track. It starts quiet and gloomy, dissonant strings creeping in the background beside Murphy’s vocals, with plucky synths bubbling at the surface as drums rattle ever-onward. Before you know it, the bass synth comes crashing in, and if that doesn’t win you the dance beat certainly will.

 

“Trampoline” by Kero Kero Bonito

With a large amount of music last year reflecting on more somber topics (often in beautiful fashion), it can be surprisingly refreshing to listen to a song about something as simple as jumping on a Trampoline. That’s what exactly what Kero Kero Bonito does on “Trampoline”, mixing together punchy synths with a snappy percussion and bubble gum vocals. The end product is a song that is endlessly addicting and a touch ethereal, which is appropriate given the music video.

 

“Cary Me Back” by Mild High Club

Alex Brettin’s project gets compared to Mac Demarco a lot, and that’s fair given the fact he toured with the guy, as Benjamin Scheim notes in his review of the album Skiptracing on Pitchfork. “Carry Me Back”, however, manages to successfully utilize Brettin’s influence as a stepping stone, blending the breezy feel and vocal style of Mac Demarco with a syrupy mix so drenched in reverb it would make Beach House proud.

 

“Fastlane” by King Geedorah

Growing up I was a diehard fan of the Godzilla films and their wonderfully corny dubbing, so I was immediately fond of MF Doom’s turn as King Geedorah on the album Take Me To Your Leader. “Fastlane” in particular captures some of my favorite aspects of the album: bits of sampled audio (including from the film Invasion of the Astro Monster)  mix with epic grooves and a relentless momentum to create a work both timeless and time-hallowed.

 

“Is This Music?” by Teenage Fanclub

To an extent, Teenage Fanclub’s album Bandwagonesque has lost some of its appeal since its initial release, but that is largely due to how influential the album is: everyone from Liam Gallagher to Kurt Cobain sung the band’s praises, and their sound was mimicked throughout the 90s. While some of the novelty has worn off, “Is This Music” still shines; it’s a roaring, instrumental track built upon the foundation of layers of distorted guitar, mustering enough energy and power to part the clouds and pick you off your feet.

 

“Going Somewhere” by Jessy Lanza

I didn’t listen to Jessy Lanza’s album Oh No, released last May, in full until this summer, but it may be one of my favorite releases of 2016. With a deft use of stereo and a dry mix, Lanza creates an all-encompassing soundscape of synth-pop that rings right in the ears. These qualities shine best on “Going Somewhere”, where Lanza delivers breathy vocals over a rattling percussion and synth that build up to a tasteful crescendo.

A Night In The Red Rocks

People do crazy things to see the bands they love. I have waited in the scorching heat and freezing cold. I have traveled across the country and around the globe. I have gone to incredible lengths just for a couple hours of live music.

I saw The Head and The Heart and Grouplove in August of this year. I highly-anticipated this show since I bought the tickets back in December of 2016. Not only was it 2 bands that I really liked, (and have seen both live before), but it was performed in what is often regarded as the best concert venue in the US: Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. This was the type of concert that I knew was going to be legendary from the moment it was announced.

For those who have never been to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, it’s truly a spectacle. Located 30 minutes outside of Denver, the venue is placed around a breathtaking landscape. Massive red rocks eject out of the green hills creating a visual masterpiece. Smashed in-between a couple of these rocks is a 10,000-person open-air theatre. Because it’s built on a hill, everyone in the venue can easily see the stage. The sound becomes amplified around the rocks creating natural acoustics which make the sounds feels like they’re coming down from heaven.

Artists and fans alike understand the reputation of the venue and act accordingly. The energy of the musicians and the crowd is unparalleled. It is common for bands to say, “It’s great to be back here at ______”. But when they’re at Red Rocks, they actually mean it.

Grouplove played first. I say played first instead of opened because both bands are good enough to headline. The indie rock band from Los Angeles could sell out the venue by themselves. The 2 bands have toured together before and are close friends. Grouplove never fails to entertain. The frontmen of the band and partners, Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi, dance around, feeding off each other’s energy for their hour-long set.

They played 14 songs including the more well-known “Itching on a Photograph,” “Tongue Tied”, and my personal favorites “Hippy Hill” and “Enlighten Me”. Their music is up-tempo, happy, and perfect for dancing along to. After seeing their enjoyment and pure love for what they do, it’s almost impossible not to have a good time.

The Head and The Heart is much more mellow but equally as entertaining. The Seattle Band’s indie folk sound relies heavily on 3 part harmonies from vocalists Josiah Johnson, Jonathan Russel, and Charity Rose Theilen. They played a 15-song set list, a 4-song encore, and were on stage for 1 hour 45 minutes.

Both times I have seen them, they have ended with the familiar “Rivers and Roads”. The song off their self-titled debut album is what propelled the group into fame and is still a favorite among many fans. The final lyrics, “rivers and roads, rivers and roads, rivers till I reach you”, are repeated multiple times. Theilen starts as the lone vocalist. She messes around with the melody adding musical expression and variation not heard in the recording. The instruments and other vocalists slowly build as the entire crowd sings along.

These final lyrics provide hope for something not yet achieved. To desire something more is human. We may be searching for different things but we are all searching. For some it is that one person they can’t live without, some might be looking for success in their career, others just want to find live music. Whatever you’re looking for, go down every road and every river, til you find it.