So a song came across my inbox today that pretty much stopped me in my tracks. The chap's name is Danny Chait and his single is "Hanging Out," a rising and hopeful slice of EDM-inspired balladry that is hands down the best song I've heard this week. Chait has an innate ability to sound sincere without sounding saccharine. When he sings verses like "So I package up this pain that no one else can see," and "I hope you're not like me, superficial and a freak," he hints at something truly exemplary. Sure it's easy to be self-effacing and ruminate over revisionist history, but there's also a way of conveying pain and vulnerability that hits at the fabric of what makes music listening so enjoyable. Chait is blessed with a reedy voice that allows his despair to be something worth remembering. If this is truly just the beginning, there's a very good chance Danny Chait will be a name we hear more from in the months to come.
Well I've given it five listens and here's my ten cents. Also, as a closing note, I really haven't paid much attention to Triple Crown Records since As Tall as Lions went asunder. This release has renewed my vigor for the label.
"The After Party" - Ethereal and airy. Hull's inimitable voice. He really sounds his best in this kind of atmosphere. So hard to dislike or ignore. Lamenting how much he "hates to be alone." Driving/searing guitar dives into something dense, thick, meaty.
"No Reward" - Autumnal and breezy. Moves into hazy and distorted and weird. Seems like the kind that would take no prisoners live and win legions of new fans.
"Forest Whitaker" - My favorite lyrics of the year. "I started a band that was cool for awhile but it turned pretty bland. I started a fight with a neighbor next door and his pesky wife. You started a job that you hate when you're sober and hate even more when you're not. I know you hate me too, you always say you do." Buzzy, bright. Easily one of my favorite songs of the year. Andy Hull is a rare talent that is criminally overlooked by those that should pay attention.
"It Never Stops" - A quiet opening. Quintessential Kevin Devine song. Damn fine. Autumnal, mid-tempo. Just wow. A great freaking song. Woah.
"Pyotr" - Placid and ruminative. Super deep and cerebral. A paean to fidelity. When he writes songs like this, it feels like listening to a living legend at work.
"Friendly Advice" - Nirvana-esque opening. Gritty. Hull doing his best to be visceral, meaty and impassioned.
"No Sides" - A buzzy and bright Devine track, "I'm nobody's slaughtered lamb," drips with religious overtones. Not much of an impact. Just kind of ehhhh.
"Petite Mort" - Devine sings a subdued, mid-tempo effort. At this point, it feels like the album may be losing its appeal.
"42" - Andy Hull solo acoustic. Freaking amazing. Why did Hull bring his A game to this effort but Devine didn't?
"Lost Creek" - Hull again. "My dad and Russell running through the woods of Lost Creek. It's a shame Jessica never got clean." Why is it that Hull sings about nostalgia like very few of his peers? God this is just cinematic and magical stuff. What a home run.
"Ambivalent Peaks" - A quiet Kevin Devine affair that is timid and temperamental. Considering he got outshines by Hull for most of this album, this is a pretty towering effort.
One of my favorite local bands is the dream-pop indie-folk group Day Joy. Their debut album Go To Sleep, Mess is due out later this fall, on Small Plates Records but in the meantime, the group has released this slice of utopia, the title track off their new album. Fans of Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver should find something to like here. This music is something truly special. There's a reason Paste Magazine has hailed them as one of Florida's best indie groups.
Here's a video clip of the song "Talk of Terror," from their debut EP.
Somewhere inside all of us is a soul that craves pop-music. That portion of each of us may come out only sporadically, rarely and in some cases, far too often. But it exists and it sits inside all of us. This slow evolution of dance-inspired pop music has slowly unraveled, resulting in an untamed monster, spawning the likes of Ke$ha, One Direction andCarly Rae Jepsen, to name but a few. Call them guilty pleasures, call them one-trick ponies, the bottom line is they sing songs with mega-hooks. And it is that pop-music loving soul that craves these mega-hooks.
Enter the latest guilty pleasure: Action Item.
These five Jersey upstarts craft a slab of pop-rock that many would call cookie-cutter, derivative or banal. Hell it may be all three of those things, but one thing is for certain, this energetic quintet churns out some serious hook-heavy ear candy. Seen last night in Orlando on the Owl City Midsummer Station tour, the group was well-heeled, slickly polished and even self-effacing. Though they performed with the skill of a band many years their senior, they never let go of their youthful spirit. Their bubbly brightness married well their sun-drenched anthems and helped anchor a set that was both eye-opening and attention-grabbing. Touring in support of a self-financed documentary, Action Item are currently working on the finishing stages of an album due out later this fall. Working with a team of A-list producers, the band is drawing on their experiences opening up for the likes of Hot Chelle Rae, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and We the Kings, to name a few.
Snicker all you want, guilty pleasures lie inside us all, and there's a good chance that this time next year, a song by Action Item will bear that very title. You have been warned.
What's the point of music if it doesn't challenge you? What's the point of art if it doesn't try to do something different?
The Cincinnati duo Bad Veins clearly understand both of these questions. While their music is hyper-caffeinated, hyper-aware indie pop, live on stage it is an entirely different matter. Utilizing an antiquated rotary phone, a reel-to-reel tape machine and a vintage organ, vocalist/guitarist Benjamin Davis and drummer Sebastian Schulz performed a master class in how to perform music live, last night at Orlando's The Social. Though the crowd was small ––– 50 max ––– the tandem played without pretense and never stopped bringing their A game.
Davis walked on stage first and introduced himself and an absent Schulz before diving into "Doubt," an ode to revisionist history. When the song finished, Schulz walked on stage and the band kicked it into high gear with the uber-infectious "Don't Run," a valentine about a failed relationship. Bad Veins songs are anchored in Schulz's measured drumming and Davis' sturdy croon.
One of the things that is most compelling about a vocalist is when his intonations and utterances feel sincere and genuine, as if the pain he sings about is something deeply felt. Davis seems to understand this and performs each song with a gravity that cannot be underestimated. Whether it was the halcyon heights of "Gold and Warm," the jittery fragility of "Falling Tide," or the chilly grandeur of "Child," there was something riveting about every second. The duo write pop songs brimming with hooks and nowhere was that more apparent than on the sugary "Dancing on TV," and the driving "The Lie." Davis is at his best when he's laying it all on the line and the prime examples of that were the starkly honest "Dry Out," the symphonic "If Then," and the carnal rocker "Afraid." By the time it was finished, the crowd of 50 were eager for an encore. Mission accomplished.
Opening the set was the St. Petersburg quartet Alexander and the Grapes, who performed a set of dense Americana not unlike Pedro the Lion. Whether it was the two-dimensional "Where I Go," which started off hazy and autumnal and segued into something dense and concussive; or the autobiographical "East Coast," about the rigors of life on the road, the entire set was crisp, confident and air tight. Vocalist Alex Charos has a dry vocal delivery that gives the songs more depth. His vocals mixed with Chase Swan's pedal steel were a perfect compliment and the songs themselves were deeply resonant. While the sonic landscape is definitely Americana, the quartet were not afraid to dive into deep, dark rhythms and mine for something more visceral.
Also on the bill was Stagnant Pools, a guitar drum-duo, who recently release their debut LP on Polyvinyl. Their seven-song set was ripe with moody guitar lines, pulsating drums and frontman Bryan Enas' drowsy vocals. While many of the songs blended together, standouts included the cylindrical "Illusions," and the crunchy "Solitude." The biggest problem with the set is that Enas is shy and taciturn and so he never came across as engaging or warm. Being that the bed are young and fresh out of college, there's plenty of reason to think they'll only develop further as a live band, as the years pass.
In the end, the night belonged to the Cincinnati duo Bad Veins. Polished, pristine and incredibly passionate, it was everything that ones hopes for in watching a live set. If this band is not on your radar yet, make a point to change that immediately.
The Florida music scene is about to lose one of its most promising talents.
The Fort Lauderdale-based Jacob Jeffries Band are currently in the process of uprooting their outfit and heading north to Brooklyn. While I certainly can't fault the band for said decision it is a crippling blow to the Sunshine State. Seen last Thursday at The Abbey Theatre in downtown Orlando, the quartet performed a master-class of first-rate piano-driven pop rock.
Whether it was the infectious single "Crazy Under the Moon," the hook-driven "Worth the Wait," or the Southern rock howl of "Coming Home," there was something incredibly potent and intoxicating about every passing second. Jefferies is a born performer and his charisma knows no bounds. As a live band, the songs are deeper and more compelling than on disc, and with nuggets like The Beatles "Why Don't We Do It In The Road," and "Baby, You Can Drive My Car," thrown into the set, there was little reason to not smile. What is Florida's loss is now Brooklyn's gain.
But with the departure of the JJB, comes two new additions. Stockholm, a fiery quintet from Orlando plays blistering, radio-ready new wave not unlike The Killers, et al. Equally as captivating, if not more so, than the Jacob Jefferies Band, the group had a polish and sheen that was alarming, eye-opening and nothing short of spellbinding. Vocalist Chris Arter absolutely owns the stage and has a commanding presence that draws you in. The band, who was once signed to Island Def Jam, definitely has a major label presence about them and seems more than ready for their share of the national spotlight. From start to finish, there was nary a flaw, and each of the seven songs were nothing short of stunning.
[Editor's Note: I attend more than 30 concerts a year and have been going to concerts since I was 15. That's roughly 16 years of concerts. I have not seen a live set, in a venue that size, as captivating as Stockholm's, in at least two years. It was truly spellbinding]
Though considerably less compelling than JJB or Stockholm, the Clearwater-based quintet The Normandy played a strong set of seven alt-rock cuts. Somewhere in the vein of Paramore and Kenotia, the songs were guitar-driven with a strong female presence. Being that vocalist Lyska is only in her third month with the band, there's a good chance that the band will only grow stronger as the months go on. As a frontwoman, Lyska is inarguably sexy, undeniably captivating and has a serviceable voice. Her only issue right now is becoming more kinetic and charismatic on stage. As of right now, she just feels like a hired gun. The band cites Thrice, Thursday and Circa Survive as influences and those three are definitely present on the band's two strongest songs; the hook-driven "Lonely Lungs," and the sparkling "Forest Fire."
More information on The Normandy, can be found here.
Stockhom can be found here.
And the Jacob Jefferies Band can be found here.
Here's the problem with Neon Trees. At some point, the entire thing is going to grow tired.
Seen last Friday at the Revolution in Fort Lauderdale, the entire set felt like a carbon copy of David Bowie. While Tyler Glenn has never shied away from his affection for glam-rock's poster boy, Glenn's version of Bowie 2.0 felt a little over the top. By the end of the night, he almost felt like a caricature of himself. Insofar as a live band, there was little to complain about. The songs were strong, had few flaws and the energy was definitely tangible. Utilizing a drummer as a fill-in for Elaine Bradley (who is currently at home with a newborn baby), and a lethal tandem of two more than capable guitarists, the songs were shimmering, buzzy and full of flair.
But never once did the set feel like a band. Instead it felt far more like the Tyler Glenn show. Being that the band only has 19 songs of recorded material, the set itself was also brief and brisk and without a cover. While Glenn made every effort to engage the crowed (including a stage dive towards the end of the set), at some point it all felt a bit too much. As if Lady Gaga was trying to front a power pop band. Highlights of the set included a piano version of "Your Surrender," a near six minute-version of "1983," and a powerhouse performance of the band's ubiquitous hit "Animal."
Opening the set was the Columbus, OH duo Twenty One Pilots, a tandem that includes frontman/pianist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun. Ostensibly a hip-hop/electro-pop outfit, the group is most definitely commercial, undeniably accessible and wholly engaging. Frontman Joseph is a born performer and has all the swagger and confidence of a seasoned veteran. In short, he walked on stage and commanded the room to take notice. If Glenn was the Bowie of the night, Joseph was the Freddie Mercury. The band recently signed to Fueled by Ramen and has a three-song EP available on iTunes. Of all three bands, they were the most entertaining and they definitely had a flair for the dramatic. If anything, this is definitely a band that needs to be on the proverbial music radar. Friday's set proved exactly that.
Sandwiched in between Twenty One Pilots and Neon Trees was Cincinnati's Walk the Moon, who have recently found commercial success with their brisk lead single "Anna Son," and a self-titled album on RCA. Of all three bands they were the most artist-driven. Additionally they were the only band who seemed to understand that substance matters over image. Whereas Twenty One Pilots and Neon Trees seemed more interested in aesthetic as intrigue, Walk the Moon allowed their songs do the talking. And talk they did. Whether it was the sweetly affecting "Me And All My Friends," or the hyper-caffeinated and surefire single "Next in Line," there was a dizzying and intoxicating quality about the band's kinetic live set. By the end of the night, it was these Ohioans that might have made the loudest statement of all.
As Warped Tour wraps up, I thought I'd give a quick ten cents on my visit to the Orlando Warped Tour stop and my thoughts on those bands that I saw.
Hostage Calm: These Connecticut upstarts are definitely on the precipice of something big. Signed to venerable Boston label Run For Cover Records, the group performs taut, guitar-driven pop-punk that is heads and shoulders above its contemporaries. Vocalist Christopher Martin is a born frontman and has all the charisma and swagger that is needed to vault a live set to the forefront. Additionally, the songs deliver a message and hit home. Rather than wax rhapsodic about the vagaries of love, Martin and Co. ruminate on same-sex marriage, growing up in a broken home and the fear of commitment. They are in a few words: refreshing, honest and undeniably engaging. A new album with J. Robbins is in the works. Holy smokes, that's going to be something.
Stepdad: Buzzy, bristling and hyper-caffeinated, this electro-pop quartet is nothing short of stunning. Though they probably belong at SXSW or the CMJ Music Marathon, it was a real treat to see such a cohesive, and well-anchored band at Warped Tour. Songs "Jungles," "Pick and Choose," "My Leather, My Fur, My Nails," and "Starfriends on Earth," were incredibly catchy, surefire singles, and nothing short of ear candy. To put it simply, this band has a big future. Woah. To quote Blogciritcs.com, "If Passion Pit and The Postal Service got drunk one night and had a kid out of wedlock, the result would be Stepdad."
Transit: Though I'd seen them before, I was impressed with how much better they had gotten in just a few short months. Realizing that Warped Tour was a big stage, the band stepped it up and did so in a big way. Joe Boyton's vocals were spot-on, the rhythm section didn't miss a step and the guitars were urgent, kinetic and memorable. As an added perk, the group did an acoustic set in the Acoustic Basement, but lost a lot of steam during the set. Though its probably too foolhardy to call them the future radio darlings of pop-punk, it's also not out of the realm of possibility. This band is something special.
Taking Back Sunday: Okay, I did it. I finally saw them. I finally put my personal prejudices aside and decided to check it out. Holy hell am I glad I did. This band knows how to perform. Lazzarra is the consummate frontman and the sound was polished, air-tight and without flaw. They also catered to their fans and performed many of their biggest hits. It was to put it succinctly, a clinic in how to perform live on a big stage. Literally every band on Warped Tour could take a cue from TBS and apply the lessons learned to up their game. It was without a doubt the day's peak moment.
We the Kings: Travis Clark needs to stop yelling. He writes caffeinated, bubble gum pop and yet he wails to the crowd as if it was a screamo show. Relax dude. Its just harmless pop music. That being written, he was back home in Florida and was one of the headliners, so I suppose his bleats made sense, but oh man, did it get tiring. All that being written, the set was fine. T. Mills joined him for "Party on the Radio," and other sugary cuts like "Say You Like Me," and "Check Yes Juliet," were performed with precision. The band even earned props for performing a cover of Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle," which Clark cited as "my all time favorite song."
Twin Atlantic: Only caught the last two songs of the set but they were easily a highlight. Their sound was in a word: controlled. There was nothing superfluous, nothing too loud, it was just clean, neat and absolutely engaging. There's a reason this band is so well-respected and praised, they most definitely deserve it. Awesome stuff from an up-and-coming British band.
Lostprophets: They were trying to be metal, dense and edgy and they achieved it. The set was abrasive, meaty and relentless. Vocally they could have sounded better but I'm not sure that's what they were trying to achieve. Bear in mind I only caught three songs, but the entire thing was too concussive and over the top for me to stick around. I also bolted so I could see Chuck Ragan.
Chuck Ragan: Do yourself a favor and see him live. His gravelly vocals and homespun Americana anthems are bordering on legendary. Buttressed by a violin and an upright bass, the songs were earthy, warm and truly something special. The only regret about Ragan is that he didn't pursue this American project sooner. Easily one of the highlights of the afternoon. A consummate professional and the very definition of a troubadour.
Palmer Reed: I understand he's young, inexperienced and doesn't have a lot of range, but this may have been one of the most disappointing sets all afternoon. Reed has miles to go before he's even considered to be in the conversation as something worth remembering. This was coffeehouse karaoke at best.
Miss May I: Man, they whipped it with a belt. Anyone who reads my columns knows metal/hardcore is the farthest from what I dig, but I was impressed by how much this band put into their set. Surely it got tiring hear how "metal," the band was, but the band also deserved credit for their "marathon pit," and their unrelenting slice of hard rock. All you can ever ask for in a live band is that they don't mail it in, that they leave everything on stage and give it their all, as if it was their last night on earth. Miss May I did exactly that and that's why they've earned the respect of this writer.
All Time Low: I saw them in 2001 and was unbelievably impressed. They were young, cocky and comical. They also put on a whale of a show. 11 years later and they're still doing it. Cocky, comical and pretty proficient at what they do. Though I only caught two songs, I was nonetheless floored. Here's to them for that.
It was a big blow for the Long Island music scene when upstarts Envy on the Coast called it quits after only two releases, but sure enough Envy's charismatic and immensely gifted vocalist Ryan Hunter is back with North Korea, a band that also includes Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Billy Rymer and former Envy bandmate Brian Byrne.
The band recently signed to Triple Crown Records and is working with Mike Sapone (Brand New, Sainthood Reps) on a full-length. The group's two EPs are available for free on Facebook and if the full-length sounds anything like those two EPs, holy hell, they are going to blow it out of the water. Color me stoked. Find them here.
I'd post this as a review but it came out months ago.
Has anyone listened to this Gotye album Making Mirrors? Like really sat down and listened to it? Holy hell it's amazing. Now granted we're all familiar with the ubiquitous worldwide smash "Somebody I Used to Know," but my word, there are so many other potential singles and quality first-rate songs on here. "Easy Way Out," is splashy and danceable, "Eyes Wide Open," has surefire single written all over it, with its huge chorus, driving guitars and epic narrative; "Save Me," is equally as strong as the prior two. As much as he is a modem artist, he is also very much a throwback. "Easy Way Out," sounds like Beck while "I Feel Better," sounds like something The Temptations could have written.
On his more artsy cuts, namely "I Feel Better," and "In Your Light," he uses twinkling arrangements and haunting soundscapes to take pop music to places it doesn't normally go. The music can be a bit chilling, a bit creepy and a bit off-beat, but never once is it disappointing, uninspired or weakly performed.
There's plenty of balladry too, as songs like "Giving Me a Chance," and "Bronte," seem culled directly from the denouement of an art-house film. Making Mirrors does have its hiccups, as "State of the Art," uses a vocoded dub that makes it laughable in places. Truth be told, had he not used vocals and recorded the song as an instrumental it would have been a huge positive. "Don't Worry, We'll Be Watching You," uses the same sentiment as "State of the Art," but pulls it off in a far more triumphant fashion.
Seeing that Making Mirrors has gone 3x platinum in Australia, platinum in Belgium, 2x platinum in Belgium, and gold in Austria, Canada, Germany and the UK, it is clear that he is a worldly superstar, most deserving of his status. Considering that DeBacker wrote, composed, produced and played most of the instruments on Making Mirrors makes the album that much more astounding. Though his sound is definitely quirky, it is also immensely creative and undeniably artistic. The album employs a chunk of horns, tribal beats, and instruments few people can find in guitar stores: a whale cello, a West African thumb piano, a Winton Musical Fence. That in and of itself is why Wally de Backer is arguably one of pop music's most intriguing, challenging and important figures. Unconventional, uncompromising and unabashedly honest, he is the very embodiment of a rock star.
I apparently missed the memo about Mid-Year Top 10. So nonetheless, here's my list:
1. John Mayer - Born and Raised
2. Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
3. Fun - Some Nights
4. Arkells - Michigan Left
5. Norah Jones - Little Broken Hearts
6. The Cribs - In The Belly of the Brazen Bull
7. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel
8. The Shins - Port of Morrow
9. Rufus Wainwright - Out of the Game
10. Robert Francis - Strangers in the First Place
Shortly after seeing City and Colour live last month, I decided to browse YouTube and listen to live versions of Dallas singing. And somehow in doing so, I stumbled across Paulina Faith's version of "Sleeping Sickness." Within seconds, I was entranced and quickly became a subscriber. She's posted about a dozen videos over the last 2-3 years, many of which are covers. As one would expect, some are certainly stronger than others. There are those that leave a little to be desired, and then there are those, that are in a word: revelatory. Foremost of those are her covers of Adele' "One and Only," Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away," and Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning." Her most popular video, said cover of "Sleeping Sickness," was recorded when she was just 15. Her latest, however, Katy Perry's "Wide Awake," just might be her best.
And yet for all the power of her covers, Faith sounds best on her own compositions. Take for instance, "The Bluebird," a bouncy ode to personal fortitude, that has all the trappings of a timeless classic: positive message, confident vocals, a winning chorus. Equally as potent is the uplifting "Anybody But You," a paean to originality and self-worth. The Colorado teenager was actually one of ten finalists in Guitar Center's Who's Next contest, losing out to Tennessee's Josh Doyle. Being that she is only eighteen, one has to think that her share of the spotlight is not too far away. While the promise of a 3-song EP with Grammy-winner John Shanks has eluded her, it seems inevitable that something just as promising is right around the corner. Blessed with movie star good looks, soaring vocals and an innate skill wise beyond her years, there's little reason to think that given the right amount of time, Paulina Faith won't land herself in the center of the national conscience.
I spent at least 10 hours watching Bonnaroo live streams/feeds this weekend. It happened by accident. I turned it on Friday night to see Radiohead out of curiosity. I turned it on about 20 minutes into the set and boom, wouldn't you know Thom Yorke and crew suck me into their vortex. I was mesmerized, I could not turn away.
I figured it would end there.
But then Saturday afternoon came around and I saw that El Mariachi Bronx was playing. So I figured, why not? Everyone has been buzzing about this band. So I watched. I tried to like it. I was sorely disappointed. They looked utterly bored. I wanted more. I wanted to see another Radiohead. But Saturday came and went and I was out and about and doing things.
And then Saturday night came. Red Hot Chili Peppers was on the stage.
Now, I'll admit I caught the set late, but hot damn if Anthony Keidis and Flea didn't stop me in my tracks. Suddenly, I didn't want to go to bed, I wanted to see this thing to the end. And I'm glad I did. Quite honestly, I don't know how the band still does it. All the drug use. All that time away from the spotlight. And Lord if they didn't slay it. I have no idea who that new guitarist is. Josh something or another, but man, he certainly is no slouch. I understand he's no Frusciante, but few are. All I'll say is he's a worthy replacement. Then I thought, I was really done. Enough Bonnaroo for the weekend. Time to watch something else.
So I logged on and saw Gary Clark Jr. was playing BAM! Freaking Bonnaroo had hit me again. Then I looked at the day's lineup. Oh man. So many good bands, so much to see. And man if it didn't knock the cover off the ball.
Without further ado, here's some bullet points on what I saw:
Gary Clark Jr: One word: incredible. Amazing guitar solos. Top notch backing band.
The Antlers: Worth the praise. A lot more peppy than I expected. Peter Silbermann is the consummate musician.
Here We Go Magic: Really engaging. One of the surprises of the weekend. Did not know this band had that much talent in them.
Grouplove: One word: legendary. As good a live show as I saw all weekend.
City and Colour: Strong. Started off slow, got good towards the end. That Neil Young cover at the end was a delight.
Kathleen Edwards: Near-perfect. She hit all her notes. She was gritty, she was angelic. Man, she whipped it with a belt.
Ben Folds: Dazzling. Has it really been 12 years since they were last on stage? You wouldn't have known it. Folds also seemed genuinely humbled by the moment, and he's an egotist. That's a rare thing.
Bon Iver: I only caught some of it, but he is worth the hype. "Skinny Love," and "Beth/Rest," alone were worth the viewing.
The Shins: I always thought they were mid-tempo and boring. James Mercer changed my mind in a hurry. "Phantom Limb," and "Australia," alone sent shivers down my spine. "Bait and Switch," and "The Rifle's Spiral," were no slouch either. They also ended with a bang. "Sleeping Lessons," and "One By One All Day," most particularly.
Young the Giant: Better than I expected. I saw them live in Tampa earlier this spring and they were just as good, if not better. "Camera," in particular sounded the best. They've really got that one down pat. Can't wait to hear it on the new album.
Fun: One of the highlights of the weekend. Nate Ruess was made to perform. This was a first-class, first-rate concert. Truly awesome stuff. They deserve all the hype and praise.
The Civil Wars: Another highlight of the night. Considering every band listed thus far had a rhythm section, and an army of help, it was shocking how just two voices and one guitar could say and do so much. I have the albums, I've read the hype, I've never heard it live. Until now. If this band isn't on your radar, you're really missing out on something truly extraordinary.
Phish: Alright, I get it. They are top-notch musicians. But does every song HAVE to be at least 6 minutes? Can they utilize more guest vocalists? I don't think a single person in that band has a voice that I can listen to for more than 20 minutes. If anything, they get props for throwing in a swath of great cover songs. Not many bands can pull off TV On the Radio, Velvet Underground, Kenny Rogers, Son Seals and Lynn Anderson. I love their ambition, I love their talent, I just sort of wish they were an instrumental band.
And......Kenny Rogers, really? Really? I love me some country music, but seriously? Was Barry Manilow busy?
Last week I saw City and Colour live for the first time. I've followed Dallas' career from a distance but really got sucked in after my brother gave me a copy of Bring Me Your Love this past Christmas. Sure I'd heard of the album and I had heard "The Girl," but i had never spent time sitting down to digest it. My brother said it best when he told me, "It's your kind of record." I listened and instantly fell in love. From then on, I was hooked. When I spent some time with Little Hell this past January, it only confirmed just how talented Dallas really is.
So finally I saw him live last week.
I won't get hyperbolic and say it was the best concert I've ever been to, but I will say it might have been the most enjoyable concert I've seen this year, next to Zac Brown Band in Daytona Beach. I've been to nearly 25 shows this year, and City and Colour was the second best show I've seen. That's how good it was. But let me soften up all this adulation.
For starters, the audio system at The Beacham can get so shoddy, I always have trouble making out what the headliners are saying. I don't think I caught a single word of his onstage banter, and missed a good chunk of his lyrics. So from that standpoint, it could have been a lot better.
Insofar as the music itself, I was absolutely blown away and astounded by Dallas' backing band. Aaron Goldstein and Daniel Romano have to be two of the most supreme talents I have ever seen. Good Lord. Dallas really tucks himself into his songs and gives it all he's got. If anything, he may have been too restrained. Through the first five songs, he seemed shy, introverted and afraid to step into the spotlight. As the night moved forward, he seemed to step out of his shell. It's hard to pick which songs were best. The fans seemed most stoked about songs from Bring Me Your Love, so "Sleeping Sickness," "The Girl," "What Makes a Man," and "Waiting," all drew huge responses. Personally, I think "Body in a Box," and "As Much as I Ever Could," were the most moving.
And then the songs from Little Hell just blew it out of the water. As good as those songs are on record, they really shine live. "Little Hell," "Weightless," "Fragile Bird," and "Sorrowing Man," are the kind of songs that need a live setting to be fully understood. Much like "Body in a Box," and "As Much as I Ever Could," hit me the hardest, so too did "We Found Each Other in the Dark," and "The Grand Optimist." Also his cover of Low's "Murderer," was pretty much a heart-stopper. God, if they didn't slay it.
Perhaps the reason Dallas and band were so darn awesome is because the openers just didn't do it for me. I've been a fan of David Bazan since I heard Pedro the Lion's Control. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect his live set to disappoint me as much as it did. For starters, he sat down. Now I don't mind the whole sitting in a chair and strumming away on an acoustic, but when you're opening up a show, you need to at least connect with the audience. When you sit down, your mobility is limited and I just feel like it hampers the whole set. Now I am no touring musician, so I have no idea if some days you just don't feel up to it or what not, but God almighty, can you at least seem interested? Once again, the sound at The Beacham sucked, so I have no idea what he said in between songs. He just seemed really uninterested in performing and seemed ready to get off the stage ASAP. His set list is here, if interested.
Daniel Romano opened things up and that was pretty cool. It was nice to walk into a venue and not stand around for an hour before an opener comes on. But Lord love a duck, did Romano have to play EVERY sleepy song in his repertoire? Who wants to go to a set and listen to lullabies one after the other. I'm an avid country music fan, so I absolutely LOVED hearing Porter Wagoner's "Tell Her Lies," George Jones' "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me," and Roger Miller's "Got Two Again," but I never knew when he was playing an original or doing a cover. He seemed to be performing only for himself and not for the crowd. That being written, I did buy his two albums and wish like hell he toured the States more often. Next to Robbie Fulks, I don't know another singer-songwriter that identifies with country music as well as he does. He is a true talent and definitely something to cherish.
I think Canadian artists just understand in a way American musicians never will. But maybe I'm just crazy.