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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On Lollapalooza, part 2

Lollapalooza is now just a few days away! This will be my last post until I return from the festival next week.

We are now in the midst of the biggest 2 weeks of the year, concert-wise. Tonight is Marilyn Manson and Slayer, which promises to be insane. Friday through Sunday I'm in Chicago for Lollapalooza. Next Wednesday is the Warped Tour, and next Friday is my 15th time seeing Dave Matthews Band. Eventually I want to write reviews of all of these shows but I'm not sure how quickly that's going to happen...

As for Lollapalooza, since my last post on the subject, the biggest change for me is that I've gotten way more into Mickey Avalon, after reading articles like this one detailing his checkered drug & prostitution past and his out-of-control live shows. His performance is now the one I'm most looking forward to.

Another band that has jumped up my list of priorities is Against Me! Due to the strength of their single "White People for Peace," they are becoming one of the festival's most anticipated acts.

Songs I'm most hoping to see performed at Lolla:

1. Music is My Hot Hot Sex, CSS
2. Wolf Like Me, TV On the Radio
3. Rehab, Amy Winehouse
4. So Rich, So Pretty, Mickey Avalon
5. White People for Peace, Against Me!
6. Nature of the Experiment, Tokyo Police Club
7. Stuck Between Stations, The Hold Steady
8. Alive, Pearl Jam
9. Young Folks, Peter Bjorn and John
10. Because the Night, Patti Smith
11. Last Kiss, Pearl Jam
12. One More Time, Daft Punk
13. Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol
14. Float On, Modest Mouse
15. The Seed 2.0, The Roots

Peter, Bjorn & John

Friday, July 27, 2007

Furries and Gym Class Heroes

Not long ago I wrote a post about all the remakes of Jermaine Stewart's "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off," and I mentioned the one by Gym Class Heroes that borrows the chorus from the original. At the time, it was the only one which didn't have a video.

A video has now been released, as the song is the band's latest single. The video is cool because it features furries dancing and singing. I like the furries. Pittsburgh just hosted what is apparently the world's biggest furry convention. Good times, I'm sure... though I was jealous that I was one of the few people who never saw any furries out and about town.

Back to the song - the most genius part is at the very end, when Fall out Boy singer and guest vocalist Patrick Stump says "Jerome!," biting a line from The Time's 1984 hit "Jungle Love." Obscure '80s lyrical references rock!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The return of Junior Senior!

Everyone's favorite Danish gay-straight dance duo is back! Junior Senior's Hey Hey My My Yo Yo hits stores next month, two years after it was recorded and released in Japan. (For some reason, its North American release was held back until now.)

Junior Senior captured my heart with 2004's "Move Your Feet," which featured Junior singing like Michael Jackson, and which had one of the most awesome music videos of all-time, a lo-fi tribute to the Atari era. Now they're back with an equally catchy song, "Can I Get Get Get." The video for this song came out well over a year ago, and it was compiled from fan-created videos. I know that these days, pretty much every singer in existence puts together fan videos, but this was the very first one I ever saw.

This is a brilliant song from a brilliant band. I just wish their upcoming tour itinerary brought them closer to me...

8/10 New Orleans, LA: Tipitina's Uptown
8/11 Cambridge, MA: Middle East Restaurant & Nightclub
8/13 New York, NY: HighLine Ballroom
8/15 West Hollywood, CA: The Roxy Theatre
8/16 San Francisco, CA: Popscene

For yinz' viewing pleasure...

Can I Get Get Get

Move Your Feet

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The best concerts I've ever attended

Feeling constrained by the tiny text column of my previous layout, and never having liked the name of my blog, I decided to do some rebranding today.

I thought I'd start the new blog with a list of the best concerts I've ever seen:

1 RADIOHEAD, Blossom Music Center, 8.8.01

My first time seeing Radiohead was magical. They had just become my favorite band, I was in the first row behind the pit, and their performance was phenomenal. I was blown away by how this band that was so experimental and weird on tape could rock so hard live. Having gotten past the doldrums that plagued him on the band's last tour, Thom Yorke was enjoying himself immensely and his enthusiasm rubbed off. This show also featured the first live performance ever of "Like Spinning Plates," a song most people thought they'd never play because its lyrics are sung backwards on the record.

2 RADIOHEAD, Blossom Music Center, 8.21.03

Another incredible show - it would've been better than the previous one, except that their encore was a letdown - they pretty much played the 6 songs I least wanted to hear. Everything else was great - "Sit Down, Stand Up" was one of the best concert-openers I've ever seen, because of the way it slowly slowly builds up and then finally goes berserk at the end. I also love "Myxomatosis" live - its guitars are so explosive, it might as well be a heavy metal song.

I was really lucky to go to this show, as a friend had a spare ticket and invited me. This was simply a case of a legendary act, with a legendary band, being at the absolute top of their game. "The Rising" had just come out, and the set included all of its best songs, plus the best from Bruce's career.

4 DAVE MATTHEWS BAND, Post-Gazette Pavilion, 8.3.02
I've seen Dave 14 times, and while I try not to let where I'm sitting affect my overall review, in this case it probably did, because I was in the third row and the entire evening was nonstop euphoria for me. Objectively speaking, I still think it was an amazing show. When the band came out for the encore, the crowd started chanting for "Two Step," and while I hate the fact that it seemed DMB was being turned into a karaoke act that takes requests, they relented and played a kick-ass 12-minute version of it to top off a great show.

5 U2 & PJ HARVEY, Mellon Arena, 5.6.01
In this case, I know that my seating location did not affect my perception of the show, because I was in the next to last row in section E at the top of Mellon Arena. Still, I was blown away by how U2 commanded the attention of every person in the arena for more than 2 hours. Again, a legendary band at the top of its game.

6 SIGUR ROS, Byham Theater, 3.25.03
I was familar with the work of ethereal Icelandic band Sigur Ros, but their concert far surpassed anything I expected. Their songs are so quiet and beautifully crafted, and that surprisingly translated well to the stage. During the quiet parts, you could hear a pin drop, and the power of those moments was stunning. I never expected to see singer Jonsi play the guitar with a violin bow, or see the guitarist play the bass with a drum stick. The noises they made were beautiful and majestic.

7 PRINCE, Bryce Jordan Center, 4.18.04
Very rarely am I ever in awe of anybody. I can think of only two times it's happened - one was during a Bob Dylan concert, and one was during this show. It probably sounds cheesy to say, but being 20 feet away from Prince during the encore of "Purple Rain," when he played the emotional guitar solo while the crowd sang the "woo hoo hoo hoo" lines, was very nearly a religious experience. Thinking back to when that song came out during my childhood, it was hard to believe I was really there in that moment. I still maintain Prince might be the best guitar player alive, but he so rarely shows it, which made this experience all the better.

The rest of the top 15:
8 COLDPLAY & THE MUSIC, AJ Palumbo Center, 3.2.03
9 DAVE MATTHEWS BAND, Hersheypark Stadium, 8.1.01
10 WEEZER, Mellon Arena, 2.18.02
11 SANTANA & MACY GRAY, Star Lake Ampitheater, 8.16.00
12 DAVID GRAY, AJ Palumbo Center, 4.18.01
13 BRIGHT EYES & JIM JAMES, Club Laga, 2.22.04
14 CHER & CYNDI LAUPER, Madison Square Garden, 6.26.02
15 MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE & RISE AGAINST, Wolstein Center, 2.26.07

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

July 18: Thumbs up/ Thumbs down

This is the debut of a new feature which I'm going to call Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, until I think of something more creative.

Pink. Her single "U + Ur Hand" has incredibly made it to #2 on the pop airplay chart. This song was released last fall, and seemed to die a quiet death. Pop radio has a way of discarding artists after it decides they're no longer relevant, and it seemed radio had done that to Pink. I remember driving in Johnstown on New Year's Day and hearing the song on the radio for the first time, months after its release, and getting excited. Slowly, slowly, slowly, it kept building, and now almost a year later it has rightfully earned smash hit status. It is one of several great songs right now (like Kelly Clarkson's Never Again) about women telling off lame ex-boyfriends.

Shop Boyz. I have this thing where, if a song becomes a hit on the charts before I've ever heard it, I kind of resent it, and I resist liking it. That happened for a while with Shop Boyz' "Party Like a Rockstar," but I finally gave in. I love when rappers try to be rockers. What clinches this song's status as a guilty pleasure is the silly "Totally, dude!" after each chorus.

The White Stripes. They closed their Canadian tour with the shortest concert in history - one note. Gimmicks are great.

Of Montreal. They announce more tour dates. And skip Pittsburgh again. I don't care how beautifully quirky their music is or how great their gender-bending, theatrical stage show is supposed to be - I won't be able to get into this band if they refuse to perform anywhere within a 4-hour drive of my house.

Neko Case. She's on a solo tour right now and thus didn't play with the New Pornographers at the Pitchfork Music Festival. Thank goodness I didn't go! I seriously considered buying a ticket and traveling to Chicago for the final day of the festival, just to see the New Porns. If I had done that, only to have Neko not be there, I would have been furious!

Paris Hilton. Word is she's decided to make a second record, which makes sense since the first one was such an immense success. Somewhere, Kevin Federline is crying.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Trouble in Idol paradise

It's time I comment on the whole Kelly Clarkson/Clive Davis spat. I don't have anything particularly revealing to say, but I think it's interesting how it's playing out.

Clive, of course, is the legendary record exec who said Kelly's new album didn't have any hits and insisted she "fix" it by cutting some of the songs she wrote and recording new ones. He publicly humiliated her by playing some of the new material at a private record company meeting, and explaining how they were all crap. She refused to change the songs and got her way, and now her album and the first single, "Never Again," are tanking. (http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1637584,00.html)

Clive has been proven right, but is that a good thing? Shouldn't an artist get to make their own artistic decisions? Should the bottom line always be the most important thing, or should record companies allow their artists to make their own mistakes as they grow and develop their own careers?

I tend to side with the artist, so I hope Kelly's album rebounds, but I'm not holding out hope.

Here's an interesting commentary on the situation:

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The strings are driving me nuts!

I just watched VH1 Classic's documentary on the making of Metallica, the group's self-titled 1991 release, aka The Black Album, and it was fascinating. It was one of those great tales - arrogant metal band thinks it knows it all, then a producer comes along and says their previous material was crap, and says he can make the next album better, and the skeptical band agrees, but they can't get used to the new producer's methods, and they despise the recording process, and it takes way too long to finish, but ultimately they realize the record was far better than anything they had done before.

The most fascinating part was how this producer, Bob Rock, got the band to agree to put strings on "Nothing Else Matters." Once they got over their initial shock, they liked the sound so much that years later they ended up doing an entire concert with an orchestra.

I'd say about 99% of the time, strings make songs better, but there's one recent example of how strings totally ruin a song. "Hey There Delilah" by the Plain White Ts is a beautiful ballad that is the best song of 2007, so far. Released more than a year ago, the song was ignored until a more stripped-down version gained new life this spring.

I wasn't aware of the original version until I heard it recently, and I was shocked by how horrible it is! The unnecessary strings really make it schlocky and unlistenable. But the version with just guitar and voice is so poignant. Just another lesson on the importance of good production.

Some radio stations have, regrettably, begun playing the strings version. I was going to post a YouTube clip of the video, but all the videos on YouTube also have strings. The music video On Demand does not have strings! How come no one has posted that version! Gah!!

The only video clip I could find without strings is a live performance. Whatever, it will do:

Friday, July 6, 2007

On Lollapalooza, part 1

We're finally just one month away from Lollapalooza. I've been looking forward to it forever. I'm going alone, which is actually great because when you go to these kinds of festivals with friends, you end up splitting up anyway to go see the bands you want to see. Being unfettered means I'll more easily be able to worm my way through crowds and get closer to the stage.

My biggest beef with Lolla is that they don't stagger the headlining acts, they have them performing at the same time. Which means that for much of the festival, I'm going to be catching 25 minutes of one band, racing to the other side of the park, and catching the last 25 minutes of the other band. That is not ideal, but I'd still rather do that than stay with one band for the full hour and miss the other band entirely. My biggest conflicts are Patti Smith vs. Spoon, Interpol vs. Muse, and Lupe Fiasco vs. Amy Winehouse.

I'm all about seeing as many bands as possible. I'd rather see 20 half-sets than 10 full sets. I've never quite understood the opposite mindset, but I guess to each his own...

Another criticism of Lolla is there are no WOW acts playing. Bonnaroo last year featured 2 of my 3 favorite bands, the Dresden Dolls and Radiohead. At Lolla, there will be a ton of very good acts, but none that are in my personal top ten.


Top 5 bands I'm looking forward to:
1. TV On the Radio -myspace
2. CSS -myspace
3. Tokyo Police Club -myspace
4. M.I.A. -myspace
5. Patti Smith -myspace
Honorable mention: Silverchair, Iggy Pop & the Stooges, Smoosh, Amy Winehouse, Pearl Jam, Mickey Avalon

TV On the Radio are playing late Sunday night, right before Pearl Jam, and right after !!! and Modest Mouse, so that's going to be a memorable way to end the festival. They blew the roof off Letterman when they played last year:

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I long for D'Arcy and Slash


The Smashing Pumpkins are touring this fall, and there's even (shockingly) a Pittsburgh date. I'm not going, though, because it ain't the real Smashing Pumpkins without D'arcy and James Iha. I hate when bands try to pull off reunion tours when it's not even the real band.

The most egregious instance of this, of course, was when Axl Rose and a bunch of nobodies went on tour a few years ago and called themselves Guns N Roses. I despise Axl Rose. I'm sick of reading about how everyone is waiting for his record to come out. I've been reading this since the late '90s. Enough already. When it comes to Chinese Democracy, put me in the 'I couldn't care less' camp.