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.
Having listened to their music casually for the last ten years, I was anxious and excited to see the pop-punk kingpins Say Anything last Thursday at The Beacham in Orlando. Songs like "Hate Myself," "Shiksa," "Belt," and "Alive With the Glory of Love," all have a special place in my heart. The night opened strong with captivating live sets from both Kevin Devine and Tallhart, and a tepid, if not mediocre set from Florida's Fake Problems. The hope was that Say Anything would keep the positive vibes going forward with an astounding and undeniably impressive live show. Unfortunately, anything but that happened.
Whether it was the venue, the band or strange concoction of both, the entire set felt bombastic, brash and obnoxious. Nothing felt fluid, nothing felt harmonic, nothing felt polished. The set was raw, in-your-face and pompous. Sure swagger is a good thing, but all swagger and no polish makes for an uncomfortable listening experience. And maybe it was that Tallhart and Kevin Devine were so engaging and compelling, few if any bands could have put on a set that would have kept the night moving forward. But something about Say Anything's set felt off. It didn't feel genuine.
And yet nowhere in the venue did anyone seem to mind. Vocalist Max Bemis belted out lyrics with wanton abandon and hundreds of awestruck fans bobbed around with wonder. Even on punchy singles like "Shiksa," and "Hate Myself," the entire thing felt forced, feigned and over-the-top. If the band deserves any credit, they most certainly played to their fans, performing a slew of crowd favorites and older material and kept the caffeinated masses happy.
I suppose in the end, that's all anyone can ask for.
Alright, I'll come right out and say it. I don't really love punk music. There are days it can grab me the right way, but for the most part I dabble in much softer stuff. That being written, I found myself at the Back Booth in Orlando last Sunday seeing a set by Joyce Manor, as they opened for Andrew Jackson Jihad.
Hot damn, was it something. For starters, the crowd was ridiculously into it. Flailing their bodies left and right, crowd surfing, stage diving, jumping on stage to sing with the band, hug the band, etc. It was absolutely one of the most surreal, intense and enjoyable concert experiences I have ever seen.
And then there was the band.
Wow. Their guitar work was incredible. The rhythm section was air-tight and even the sub-par vocals had a bit of urgency and energy that isn't fully captured on record.
Quite honestly, I knew very little about Joyce Manor before the show. I had read Blake's review of the new album and I had heard many people gush over what a great record it was. Then I heard that it was less than 20 minutes long and I figured why not give it a shot. Sure it's nothing earth-shattering or groundbreaking to me, but it is still enjoyable, and I can honestly say I am a fan.
I've seen a lot of live bands this year, I'm not sure anything will match those 32 minutes of Joyce Manor in Back Booth.
For pictures and a far better write-up, head here.
I've never really understood the appeal of pop-punk, but considering I work for a web site called AbsolutePunk, I do my best to dabble in the scene from time-to-time and try and find a band that strikes my fancy. Sure enough, every now and then a certain band will catch my ear and engage me.
For the last four years, the Boston quintet Transit have churned out accessible, engaging and melodic pop-punk that's often hard to dismiss. In the last couple years, the band has shifted their sound and moved towards something more indie, more late 90s emo, and more colorful.
Seen this past Wednesday in Pompano Beach, as part of the Glamour Kills 2012 Tour, the group did little to disappoint. On halcyon cuts like "Long Lost Friends," "You Can't Miss It (It's Everywhere)," and "Skipping Stone" they ooze confidence, charisma and commercial appeal. Vocalist Joe Boynton knows his way around a stage and bopped around with the panache of a seasoned veteran. Their 40-minute set had few flaws and on the urgent "Asleep at the Wheel," the band proved that crafting earnest, rock anthems is effortless.
But in this writer's opinion, what makes the band standout is their dedication to their fans. The following night in Orlando, five teenagers had driven down from Michigan to attend the concert. Unaware that the show would sell out, they foolishly arrived at the venue without tickets. When the Transit five heard about said misfortune, they retreated to a quiet alley behind the stage and performed a three-song acoustic set for the downtrodden teens. And it was actually in that three-song impromptu set that Transit let their true colors shine. Anchored by crisp three-part harmonies and Boynton's reedy croon, there was little not to like. Whether it was the stark sadness of "Outbound," or the undying yearning on "Long Lost Friends," there was something palpable, riveting and undeniably charming of those three songs.
Prior to Wednesday, I was always keen on Transit, but after the past two days, I'm unapologetically vowing my allegiance. May their road to success be paved with unending fortune and fame. They most certainly deserve it.
For those interested, the Pompano set list was:
1. Long Lost Friends
2. You Can't Miss It
3. Asleep at the Wheel
4. All Your Heart
5. Please Head North
6. Skipping Stone
7. Cutting Corners
9. Stay Home
The acoustic set the following night was:
2. You Can't Miss It
3. Long Lost Friends
Attention music fans: Listen to the band New Cassettes. The British quintet plays dance-inspired post-punk not unlike The Vaccines and Arctic Monkeys. Their songs are hook-heavy, confident and incredibly polished. Seen live at The Social in Orlando, FL, last night, the group did not disappoint. Coasting through an eight-song set with the swagger of seasoned veterans, the group used vocalist Tom Stubb's emotive timbre and the propulsive drumming of Ed Hoare to fuel their captivating live set. Highlights included the ebullient "Bite Your Lip," and the spiky "Silent Guns." Equal parts jittery, urgent and infectious, the group seems ready to take on larger stages. For more on the band, head here.
Does anyone remember The Mars Volta? Hot damn they were good.
Just decided to pull out DeLoused in the Comatorium on the way home from work. Probably the first time in at least six years Iíve listened to that album. And just like it always did, the album floored me. From start to finish.
Like seriously, why did they have to have such an ephemeral career?
I've been listening to a lot of This Day and Age this week. I'm not even sure if I can put my thoughts about them into accurate and coherent sentences. I had the privilege of seeing this band at least a half-dozen times. Never once did they disappoint.
Though I don't own their debut album, Always Leave the Ground and The Bell and the Hammer remain as important to my heart, my psyche and my development as a person as many of my favorite albums. All their songs dot the landscape of some of my most fond memories and some of my worst moments.
Jeff Martin's lyrics were never the stuff of legends and often bordered on saccharine and maudlin. That being written, they still hit at a place everyone could relate to. A voice like his comes along every once in awhile and it was those two factors combined with inimitable music that made the band so truly memorable. I've tried in vain to find a band that recreates this sound but to no avail. In the end I've given up searching.
I don't like talking about myself and I hate even more bringing attention to myself, but the outpouring of positive comments since I rejoined staff has been nothing short of tremendous. Anyone who has said a kind word or extended themselves is truly something else. I am far from the champion ya'll seem to think I am, but I appreciate the respect nonetheless. I wasn't sure how me coming back would be taken and it's truly awesome to see you all be so kind.
I don't know if I'll be able to write with the same capacity or proficiency as last time. I have a new job now in a new city (and state), and won't be anywhere near a computer from roughly 8-6. That being said, this new job is a far departure from writing and I will need an outlet to fuel my lifelong passion. I am hoping that this site can revisit and replenish my writing whimsy.
There are no words to describe how grateful and appreciative I am. I do honestly feel like one lucky sonofagun.