Tune-Yards’ Musical and Political Journey

In the beginning…

I first met Tune-Yards (tUnE-yArDs) in May 2014. I was in Bend, Oregon seeing one of my all-time favorite bands, The National. Because there isn’t much to do in Bend, I showed up at the outdoor amphitheater hours before they opened the gates. The venue was located along the banks of the Deschutes River and the Oregon May weather couldn’t have provided a better evening for an outdoor concert. I was about the 10th person in line which led to me standing front row dead-center.

When Merrill Garbus of opening act Tune-Yards took the stage, I fell in love. Flamboyantly dressed, with an asymmetrical haircut, and paint on her face, she was so unapologetically herself that it was hard not to. Her music matched her quirky style with such uniqueness that I had never heard the likes of. On stage, she played with a loop-pedal, a ukulele, and various percussion instruments. Rounding out the band was bassist Nate Brenner, back-up singers, and another percussionist.

Hailing from New England, Tune-Yards’ music is characterized as Art-Pop, Alternative-Dance, or Lo-Fi Indie. I still remember hearing songs such as “Gangsta”, “Bizness”, and “Water Fountain” for the first time. I have now heard them hundreds of times and they’re still awesome.

The music continues

On January 19th, 2018, Tune-Yards released their fourth album I can feel you creep into my private life. While I was slightly disappointed with this album, compared to their earlier work including W H O K I L L (2011), there are still several songs that capture my attention. Opening track “Heart Attack” is solid and starts the album off strong.

Lyrically this album is very political. Garbus explores what it means to be a white woman in our society, primarily the privileges she experiences because of her race. In recent years, she has engrossed herself in an anti-racist curriculum attending workshops and joining activist groups including Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). She seems to experience a tremendous amount of white guilt which is evident through the lyrics.

In the song “Coast to Coast”, Garbus sings, “the seeds are sown in small acts of violence… we let freedom ring, but whose freedom?” In “ABC 123” the theme continues, “I want so badly to be liked…I ask myself, ‘What should I do?’ but all I know is white centrality.” Of the song “Colonizer”, Garbus said, “I cringed all the way through making that song…I cried a lot too…I heard my voice speaking to a friend about this experience that I had in Kenya. A lot of people think that I’m making fun of another white woman in ‘Colonizer.’ No. This is me.” She sings, “I comb my white woman’s hair with a comb made especially, generally for me…I smell the blood in my voice.”

What white people listen to

In our society, essentially every music genre was pioneered by black Americans or influenced by music of the same roots. Some white musicians choose to completely ignore this as they sweep over fellow musicians collecting paychecks and Grammies. Other bands, like Tune-Yards, use their platform to highlight problems in society. While dance music might not be the greatest platform for these issues, it is what white people listen to.

Tune-Yards will be coming to Salt Lake on April 25th. They are playing live at the Depot with guest Brightest Diamond. The show is 21 and up and doors open at 7. Years after first hearing them, I am excited to re-experience Tune-Yards. This time headlining and performing in my home-state.

 

 

Dancing the Night Away with Passion Pit

Every so often I need a night of dancing, pressed against 1000 sweaty bodies, screaming lyrics into the air. You can imagine my excitement when I heard Passion Pit was playing at The Depot. I was in for a such a night and a memorable one at that.

Opening band Courtship did little to entice me. As soon as they took the stage I leaned over to a friend and whispered, “I’m probably not going to like this band.” I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it was just so tempting. Hailing from Hollywood, they were the embodiment of LA hipsters. 4 good-looking boys played unoriginal indie-pop, dressed in designer clothes made to look like they came from a thrift store.

The music was pompously poppy and portrayed the sense that everything is happy and magical. Songs seemed to lack depth and complexity. The crowd went crazy as they covered “Hey Ya” by Outkast. The guitarist, who was essentially a glorified hype man, told a story about seeing Passion Pit years ago and how it was a dream come true to open for them just one year after forming a band. Dreams aside, I couldn’t wait for them to finish their set and Passion Pit to take the stage.

When Passion Pit front man Michael Angelakos stepped into the light I knew we were in for a show. He has a tremendous amount of swag in his shirt and tie, casually undone and untucked. He is confident and relaxed with the crowd that is looking to unwind themselves. Eager anticipation sweeps over the audience as they wait for the music to begin. Passion Pit jumps into “I’ll Be Alright” and the crowd erupts. They know every word and boogie with the music.

Passion Pit is currently touring following the 2017 release of their fourth studio album Tremendous Sea of Love. Formed in 2007, the indietronica band from Cambridge, Massachusetts has known moderate success. Manners (2009) and Gossamer (2012) performed well both critically and commercially. While their most recent albums have been less well received, Passion Pit continues to make their mark in the electropop world.

The crowd helped carry the concert and made it special. Due to Angelakos’ singing style, the vocals are fairly quiet. The voices of 1000 others singing along amplify the music and fill the room. Their love and help is appreciated and expressed by Angelakos. He jokes that his voice was never that strong, but the always energetic crowds of Salt Lake do the work for him. Passion Pit played the hits for around 70 minutes, including, “Sleepyhead”, “Carried Away”, and “Lifted Up (1985)”. After a brief exit and chanting from the crowd, Passion Pit returned to the stage to play “Talk a Walk”, the cherry on top of the sundae.

Passion Pit put on a marvelous concert. Michael Angelakos was entertaining and got the crowd involved. The dance-heavy show didn’t drag on and tire out the fans. The sound quality at The Depot is always top-notch. At the end of the day there is nothing better than live music, especially when it’s as good as Passion Pit.

The Freedom of Music

Concerts on the first day of school have a sentimental meaning for me. When I first started school at the U, I moved into the dorms on a Thursday. That night, I journeyed to Pioneer Park with a couple of classmates. Kid Cudi would perform in what was the most attended Twilight Concert to date.

I remember how incredible I felt that day. For the first time in my life, I experienced true freedom. Freedom to stay out as late as I want. Freedom to go to a rap concert singing songs about marijuana. Freedom to be me, whoever that was. I had no idea what lie ahead of me that year, yet I was ready to accept the consequences of my own decisions.

4 years later in 2017, on the first day of school, the day of the solar eclipse, I journeyed downtown again. This time the venue was a little smaller, the artist had a little less hype, but that same feeling persisted. Washed Out was playing with Dega at the Depot.

The Depot is one of my favorite venues is Utah. They sell tickets at the door on Fridays prior to the show, eliminating the always dreaded service fees. Security works quickly and effectively. The venue stays relatively cool and has appropriate seating for those who want to sit. The sound is not overbearing but clear. The doors opened at 7. Dega started playing at 8 and Washed Out at 9:30.

Dega set the stage for an awesome show. Their set up included various synthesizers, a couple of microphones, a guitar, bass, and a computer with drum backing tracks. Both musicians played a variety of the instruments and added vocals. They did what all openers should do, get the crowd excited for the show.

Washed Out, aka Ernest Greene, is on tour following his June release Mister Mellow, a psychedelic chillwave album that explores stonerism and the monotony of life. The entire album has a coordinated visual music video designed to create a psychedelic or trippy experience for the viewer.

Washed Out played several songs off of his latest release as well as some older crowd favorites. The entire show was set with timed light cues and different projections on a screen behind the musicians. Washed Out truly personified his sound. He danced around like a lazy stoner lost in the music. Greene’s enchanting vocals gave the impression of daydreaming. The crowd fell under his spell and swayed along for what could have been 30 minutes or 3 hours.

This concert meant more to me than just the music. It represented a new school year, a new opportunity. I’m not sure who I’ll be at the end of it and I’m not sure exactly how I’ll get there.  Although I am filled with uncertainty, here’s to one more year. Another year of concerts. Another year of school. A couple more late nights in the library and weekends downtown. A few more friends made and hopefully a couple less lost. Whatever happens, music will help me get through.