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Friday, August 27, 2010

Musician tweets of the week: Slim Thug

Slim Thug - he's the rapper who turned A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran" into the thuggy dance-rap number "I Run" - was busily tweeting away yesterday about cars and bling and the hood.

A sampling:

Instead of dropping out of school to be a rapper or trapper go to college and get a degree that will last forever. U can't sell dope 4ever

Instead of buying a $3000 Louie purse $1000 red bottoms and shopping in galleria. Put that $4000 in a $300 bag

Instead of buying diamond chains invest in something. U never see white ppl wearing jewelry

I can't tell the difference if yo shoes are from bakers or Saks and it dnt matter to me who made em it's more important how u look in em

if u do buy jewelry dnt go get that custom shit with yo name on it cause u ain't gone get shit back when u try to sell it

And I'm guilty of doing dam near all this shit so I'm speaking on experience hoping yall learn from my mistakes


Friday, August 20, 2010

Musician tweet of the week: Lisa Loeb

Lisa's recent tweet described her night:

Ben and jerry's peanut brittle ice cream, side stage watching my morning jacket

Sounds like a pleasant Saturday evening.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Deena's Lolla Experience--Sunday

We all know that festival shows in 90-degree Chicago weather are not exactly optimal conditions, but rain sucks it even harder. Wussing out, I passed up on seeing Miniature Tigers, Neon Hitch, and The Cribs and had brunch at a biker bar that garnishes their bloody marys with bacon and chorizo. Amazing.

Sunday--Getting Lazy

My latest start to Lolla ever, I arrived at 3 and thought I'd check out the hyped Mumford & Sons, but the humidity and heat combo got the best of me after only a few songs. What I heard was good, though. It kind of reminded me of when I saw Okkervil River at the same stage two years ago--Marcus Mumford's voice is captivating and full of raw emotion just like Will Sheff's, and their indie folk music has an undercurrent of energy that moves the listener. Since they're still riding the coattails of their debut album, I'm sure I'll have another opportunity to see Mumford & Sons, preferably in a less muggy setting.

Craving shade, I moved on to the Sony Bloggie stage to check out Hockey (above), touted in the Lolla program as some sort of "'80s inspired" indie synth-pop. However, their opening two songs jangled with guitars and sounded more indie than synth-pop. "Work," their third song, had a nice disco beat and seemed a little more representative of how they'd been described, and it got the crowd moving. I had to move on shortly thereafter, though, because by trading the sun at the Mumford & Sons set for the shade at Hockey's, my body had been compromised by tens of itch-tastic mosquito bites.

Did you think Green Day and Lady Gaga were the only acts that flirted with pyrotechnics during their shows? Think again, as X Japan (right) "fired" up the stage--literally--in the middle of the afternoon. It's hard to describe how tremendous it felt to see this recently re-united prog/metal group give their first full performance in the U.S.--guitars wailed and thrashed, vocals soared, and damn did they look pretty. I only wish they would have taken better advantage of the mere hour slot they'd been given; I felt like time was wasted with pre-recorded musical intros, interludes, and outtros that could have been spent playing for their rabid but small group of fans (many of who camped out at that stage all day to retain a good spot). I think they probably only played about 4 songs, each epic in length, including a newer power ballad called "I.V." that appears on the Saw IV movie soundtrack.

"I can't fucking hear you!" screamed Yoshiki Hayashi (left), drummer, pianist, and "face" of X Japan. He even has his own Hello Kitty doll.

"We are!" demanded Yoshiki.

"X!" replied the audience, raising their arms and forming the letter as they shouted.

After X Japan's set ended, I watched as fans--many in similar costume as the band--cried, sang, and simply laid on the ground as though in physical shock of what had just happened. I felt like I had been part of a strangely cool experience, a vibe unlike anything I've encountered at a show. Foolishly, I lingered around to try to catch part of Erykah Badu's set, but well, 10 minutes after her start time nothing was going on, so I decided to go buy myself an X Japan T-shirt.

I was grooving to Wolfmother's (left) '60s-esque rock sound, but four songs into the set, I wondered, "Is anybody going to talk?" Finally frontman Andrew Stockdale piped up, claiming that "I think Jimi Hendrix came back to bless this night" as he acknowledged the huge dragonflies buzzing about the south stage area. I'm embarrassed to say, but I had to Google this reference to Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic." Anyhow, I like WM, and it sounded alright, but it wasn't all that different that listening to their CD. Although it was fun to watch the mosh pit turn into some sort of love-fest conga circle during "Vagabond." Not enough fun to stick around, though--instead I opted to wait in line for half an hour to eat a Judas Priest burger from Kuma's Corner. Pure heaven.

Speaking of heaven, Chris Cornell anyone? I was pleased to see he'd grown some of his gorgeous curly locks back, perhaps for nostalgia's sake as Soundgarden (right) delivered pretty much every classic single I can think of--"Spoonman," "Rusty Cage," "Blow Up the Outside World," "Outshined" (a personal favorite, which unfortunately had some sound issues due to a wireless mic/Cornell descending the stage into the crowd), "Fell On Black Days," and of course "Black Hole Sun." Musically, the group sounded tight as ever, but Cornell simply doesn't have the range of his younger days, so the glory notes I so loved in the '90s were not quite as glorious in the '010s.

So sue me, but I really am not a huge Arcade Fire person. I stopped by for a bit, but (as usual) the north stage area was just so cramped and claustrophobic that I couldn't truly focus on the performance. This seems kind of representative of my overall feelings about the weekend. I hate to say it, but much more of this year's Lolla was spent trying to stay comfortable, perhaps at the expense of the music. Looking back at our 2008 Lollapalooza review, I only caught a couple more bands that year than this time around, so I guess I didn't do too badly.

Top Acts of Sunday:
1. X Japan
2. Soundgarden
3. Wolfmother

Favorites of the Festival:
1. X Japan
2. Devo
3. AFI
4. Green Day
5. Lady Gaga
6. Balkan Beat Box
7. Soundgarden
8. Mavis Staples
9. Gogol Bordello
10. Against Me!

Musician tweet of the week: Erykah Badu

You can always tell when a newbie plays a music festival. Badu played Lollapalooza last weekend and thought it was cool to take the stage 20 minutes late. But that sort of thing doesn't fly at music festivals, where everything is planned down to the minute.

She played for the last 40 minutes of her hour time-slot, then got shooed off the stage when Wolfmother act began playing right on time at the next stage over.

Badu was busy tweeting all weekend and into this week. A sampling:

I'm finding it difficult to find a good sleep position while nursing and trying not to mess up this mohawk.

I know I been gone for a min. been on tour. I like to focus and be my illest while on the road. missed this, all tho it is good to fast.

few more cities left then off to brazil. black panthers watching my crib . don't get no ideas.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Deena's Lolla Experience--Saturday

I had trouble committing to most of the acts I saw on Saturday, mostly because I had already seen them or wasn't terribly familiar with their body of work. Thusly...

Saturday--Deena Has ADD

The theme song from Team America: World Police blared from the south stage just before Blues Traveler (left) took the stage for their set of uptempo blues-rock. They boldly opened with "Runaround," their biggest hit, and I gladly stuck around for more, including a playful cover of Sublime's "What I Got." I wandered off to see The Verve Pipe on the kids stage but was sorely disappointed by a set that didn't start on time. Then Brian Vander Ark and company took the stage in colorful shirts and ties and started singing something that sounded absolutely terrible--oh wait, they have a children's album?! I got back to Blues Traveler in time to hear them close with "Hook."

Against Me! (right) announced that they were working on about two hours of sleep for whatever reason, but they still delivered a set of great punk anthems. Using an accordion and unleashing tuneful 3-part harmonies is not always the norm when you're thrashing out on guitars, but they certainly pull it off well. Highlights were "Up the Cuts" and "I Was a Teenage Anarchist."

Energetic and talented as ever, Gogol Bordello are a perfect festival show band. This year I watched from afar since in 2008, I had to dodge a pack of sweaty drunkards pumping their fists in order to see them. Plus I was saving my energy for AFI, who hit hard from the start with "Medicate" and "Girl's Not Grey." Frontman Davey Havoc fabulously paraded around the stage soaked in sweat, and he freaked out security several times by jumping down from the stage to get close to the audience. They closed dramatically, leaving their satisfied audience with "Miss Murder" and "Love Like Winter."

I suppose I wanted to see Social Distortion just to say I had--you know, in case Mike Ness OD's or something. But really, I couldn't connect with the unintelligible lyrics, despite a pretty solid rock n' roll sound from the band. They opened with the catchy "Story of My Life" and did their well-known cover of the Stones' "Under My Thumb," but aside from that, Social D was kind of a downer. So I trekked across Grant Park to listen to some of Spoon's set, which didn't really interest me much either. I like their music, and it sounded pretty good live, but I just sort of sat and let my mind wander during their performance. What? Ice cream? Okay, sounds good.

Unfortunately I should have stuck around it seems, because by the time I came back to the north stages, Cut Copy (right) was kicking major ass and had everyone grooving, including themselves, to their '80s-esque dance-pop. There was such a great party atmosphere in the crowd, I think they would have made excellent closers for the evening. But Phoenix was still to come. The quiet Frenchmen opened with "Lisztomania" and closed with "1901," but that's about all I remember besides the really bright flashing lights on the stage.

Of course I strayed from Phoenix a few songs in, finding a picnic bench near Lederhosen's Biergarten where I watched the video feed from the Green Day (left) concert, which looked just as packed as Lady Gaga had been the night before. Their show seemed about the same as when I saw their American Idiot tour a few years back...but "about the same" for Green Day means "pretty damn awesome." I watched their cover of The Isley Brothers' "Shout" morph into other singable classics like "Satisfaction," "Hey Jude," and "Paint It Black;" then they followed with "21 Guns" as their "closer." Which was hardly a closer--after reappearing onstage to perform "American Idiot," they went on to play the epic 10-minute long "Jesus of Suburbia." Finally, Billy Joe came out to perform an acoustic mash-up of "She's a Rebel," "Good Riddance," and "Wake Me Up When September Ends" so we could all leave Lolla feeling warm and fuzzy.

Saturday's Top Acts:
1. AFI
2. Green Day
3. Gogol Bordello
4. Against Me!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Deena's Lolla Experience--Friday

I'll admit it--I have been really lousy about keeping up with music over the past year or so. And I didn't do nearly as much research on the bands playing Lolla this year as I did when Scott and I took on the festival in 2008. Also, this year my fiance reluctantly agreed to accompany me and I had to keep someone else's interests in mind and not focus on my journalistic/blogging tendency to want to be up in every band's face, standing in the blazing sun for 8-10 hours every day. So yeah, my Lollapalooza experience was a lot different than others'.

Friday--All roads lead to Gaga
Catching the tail end of Atlanta hip-hopper B.o.B.'s set was a welcome pick-me-up after waiting about a half hour to enter the fest on opening day. He had everyone dancing to "Nothin' on You" and "Airplanes" before closing the set with an impressive cover of MGMT's "Kids" (which I believe also ended MGMT's own set). 6-piece world/dance music ensemble Balkan Beat Box tore up the south stage with an electric set as well. The Walkmen seemed to pale in comparison to the previous high-energy sets, though Hamilton Leithauser's Dylan/Petty sounding tone was beautifully clear over the music. "Juveniles" (a new song) and "On the Water" were upbeat standouts alongside their mostly slow to mid-tempo songs.

Balkan Beat Box

After that I headed north to get my gospel on with Chicago native Mavis Staples, but I arrived early enough to catch the end of Los Amigos Invisibles' interesting Latin synth rock set. In the ten minutes I spent listening, they spiked in tidbits of the Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited" and 2 Unlimited's "Get Ready for This"--and anybody who can mix in cheezy '80s and '90s pop into their act is pretty awesome in my book.

Anyway, the 70-year-old Ms. Staples offered an inspirational set of blues-folk gospel music, complete with a surprise appearance from Jeff Tweedy "from the Wilco band," who apparently had a hand in producing her upcoming record. She even lent her soulful, gravelly voice to memorable classics like The Band's "The Weight" (a.k.a. "Take a Load off") and "I'll Take You There" by The Staple Singers, the family act where Mavis got her start.

"Greetings Chi-ca-go! It's two thousand ten! And we're here to fucking 'Whip It' again!" An energetic Devo was the high point of Friday's acts. Their set full of costume changes, dorky theatrics, and goofy background videos paired seamlessly with a quality musical performance from the guys, who are all pushing 60 years old. They opened with two infectious new tracks, "What We Do" and "Fresh" and then "de-volved" into more of their deep cuts off their first album like "Uncontrollable Urge," "Mongoloid," and "Jocko Homo," which asks the immortal question: "Are we not men? / We are Devo!"

After Devo I wandered around and caught some of the Fuck Buttons and their dirty, nerdy, electronica. Their music had an interesting evolutionary quality about it, with layers of noise building and changing, but it was a slow process and didn't exactly make for good festival show material. Moving along I checked out Neon Trees, who played an ear-catching set of emo-disco. Flamboyant frontman Tyler Glenn playfully chatted up the crowd as he powered through tracks from their 2010 debut album like "Love and Affection" and the single "Animal."

Neon Trees

Next up I parked it on the south lawn for Hot Chip, whose set started off slow but picked up momentum during "Over and Over" and continued with bigger beats and dancier tempos. I was surprised and a bit impressed with this electropop group's use of steel drums in their music; however, their overall set seemed kind of lackluster to me.

Speaking of lackluster, Montreal's Chromeo seemed just okay--nothing had really changed since they played at Lolla two years ago despite a few new songs and the addition of the "Chromettes," who look strangely like the Robert Palmer girls of the '80s. If this were my first time seeing the sleaze-pop duo like so many of the gyrating white kids around me, I might have thought differently, I suppose. Highlights were "Night by Night" and "Mama's Boy."

And then there was Lady Gaga. I'm sure tons of people have said the same thing, but I'll say it too--it was a little disappointing. Yes, I understand she needs time to change costumes, but each change--hell, even her opening number, sung from behind a curtain where only her shadow was visible--seemed to take just long enough that I had time to get pumped up...and then get bored. Once the performances were underway, it was great, but the minute she was not singing, it was torturous. "Do you think I'm sexy?" she demanded as she writhed on the stage; clearly this is a woman with a lot of deep-seeded insecurities, as evidenced by her reminding us many times how she used to get made fun of and told she wasn't good enough. Instead of being motivational, it just became a bit trite, though, especially when trying to discern anything intelligent between swear words. Bottom line--I still love Lady Gaga. I just love her more when she's singing and dancing.

Friday's top acts:
1. Devo
2. Balkan Beat Box
3. Mavis Staples
4. Lady Gaga

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lollapalooza 2010 photos

Deena and I, as well as several other Pittsburgh bloggers (check out BNAC, PGH Music Report and The Pop Eye) attended Lollapalooza in Chicago this weekend. I'm not sure if I'll be posting much in the way of a review, as I've posted my opinions at length elsewhere, but I'll share some of the weekend's photos and list my favorite shows of the weekend.

My top 15 shows of Lollapalooza 2010:
1. Mavis Staples
2. Gogol Bordello
3. Frightened Rabbit
4. Arcade Fire
5. Lady Gaga
6. Matt & Kim
8. Empire of the Sun
9. New Pornographers
10. Hockey
11. AFI
12. Neon Hitch
13. Los Amigos Invisibles
14. BBU
15. Warpaint

Gospel legend Mavis Staples brought out Wilco's Jeff Tweedy:

The New Pornographers with Neko Case & Dan Bejar:

Dodos brought out Neko Case for an all-too-brief cameo:

Matt & Kim were their usual euphoric selves:

Lady Gaga performs behind a curtain during her opening song "Dancing in the Dark":

AFI took us back to 2004 with several great tracks from Sing the Sorrow:

Newcomer Neon Hitch is a Nelly Furtado-meets-Ke$ha star in the making who turned the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" into an exotic, mystical pop song:

The Ike Reilly Assassination gave their all despite a very small crowd:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Musician tweet of the week: Kanye joins the party

Kanye West joined Twitter just over a week ago and has already been declared one of music's top tweeters. A sample of his tweets:

I love everybody... only thing I don't like is taxes.. me and taxes gone fight

Office clothes are the shit

I need a flight to Brazil soon as possible

hey kaynes nya album ar magiskt.... that shit is crazy... det basta som gjorts pa lange....lyssna pa det and get back to me!!! K&H&C

I hit you people with tweets in a different language!!!!!! haahhahahaaaaa !!!

I got my projector in today for the living room then image is about 13 feet wide 10,000 lumins watching Dark Knight in the day

The Huffington Post recently had some fun matching up Kanye's tweets with New Yorker cartoons.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

August Pittsburgh Concerts

8/18 Paul McCartney @ Consol Energy Center
This month's must-see show is a no-brainer. Any time you get a chance to see a Beatle, you go. (Even if it's Ringo.) Paul McCartney makes his first stop in the Burgh in years. Crazy off-the-wall prediction: He's going to play "Hey Jude."

8/6 Heart @ Station Square Amphitheatre

I've been wanting to see Heart forever but I keep missing them, and it's not going to happen this time either, as we'll both be at Lollapalooza in Chicago. Their three-decade body of work includes great '70s rock songs like "Magic Man" and "Barracuda," though of course I'm partial to the cheesy 80s hits "Alone," "Never" and "These Dreams," one of which might be appearing in my upcoming 'Favorite 100 songs of all-time' countdown (I won't give away which one just yet.)

Others to keep in mind:
8/1 John Mayer & Train @ First Niagara Pavilion
8/7 Mayhem Festival with Korn & Rob Zombie @ First Niagara Pavilion
8/11 Jonas Brothers & Demi Lovato @ First Niagara Pavilion
8/12 Jimmy Buffett @ First Niagara Pavilion
8/12 Vanilla Ice @ Altar Bar
8/13 Punchline @ Diesel
8/14 Beth Orton @ Mr. Small's
8/15 We Are Scientists @ Brillobox
8/17 Herbie Hancock @ Heinz Hall of the Performing Arts
8/17 Maps & Atlases @ Brillobox
8/19 Ozzfest with Ozzy Osbourne & Motley Crue @ First Niagara Pavilion
8/20 Hanson & Rooney @ Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
8/23 Matisyahu @ Mr. Small's
8/27 My Morning Jacket @ Station Square Amphitheatre
8/28 Stone Temple Pilots @ First Niagara Pavilion
8/29 Maroon 5 & Kris Allen @ Station Square Amphitheatre