Showing posts with label Concert Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Concert Reviews. Show all posts

October 23, 2014

Milo Greene: Where Have They Gone?

Milo Greene circa 2011
I went to go see Milo Greene last night, but the band I thought I knew so well was nowhere to be found.

Back in the spring of 2011, at the height of the indie-folk revival that launched the careers of bands like Edward Sharpe and Fleet Foxes, Milo Greene entered the ring. I was so excited by The Hello Sessions, their first two-tracks, that I drove 100 miles to see one of their first shows at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. The debut single, "1957," was and is one my favorite songs, a perfect folk romp that continues to grow until its nearly anthemic climax. I saw them live whenever I could over the following years, and consider their debut record one of 2012's best.

Their shows always stood out to me for a number of reasons: The group was friendly and appreciative, there was no clear frontman, and there was also no weak link. All the band members could sing, play multiple instruments, and could front a group in their own right. 

Milo Greene circa 2014

Fast-forward to 2014 and the same crew has announced album #2 and released a new single, "White Lies." Well, this is different. On the new track, and at their show last night at NYC's Terminal 5, Milo Greene has transformed into a completely different band. Gone are the oversize flannels and ponchos, replaced by leather jackets and sleek pantsuits. No more instrument trading, no more smiles, just synth-laden, retro-ish indie pop. Much of their musical warmth is gone and even their press photos have lost color! Is it a coincidence that their sound has done a 180 to match the hip sound of 2014? I hope so. 

It's not that I don't enjoy their new music. "White Lies" is catchy enough, and the rest of their new tracks are nice albeit generic. I don't hate the new Milo Greene; I just miss the old one. 

Can't I have both?

September 16, 2013

Reviewed: Volcano Choir

There's no question that Volcano Choir owes its popularity largely to the huge success of Bon Iver. I've always thought that without For Emma, Forever Ago, Volcano Choir would not even be on the map. Silly me.

Last night, Justin Vernon and friends tore down the Paradise Rock Club with their beautiful, epic, brooding tracks. Their recent sophomore release, Repave, has received very positive reviews so far and has allowed the group to make their live TV debut on Jimmy Fallon and travel the States on a nearly sold-out tour. Contrary to what I used to think, this supergroup (that includes members of Collections of Colonies of Bees) has earned its fanbase purely on the music. With vocals from the falsetto master himself, their songs aren't great for a campfire like Bon Iver is. Instead, they are larger, bombastic, and would feel appropriate to listen to on a large voyage.

Standing behind a cloth covered podium, Vernon with his stunning vocals and silly antics seemed to be where the crowd was focused. He, however, chose to stay as far from the spotlight as possible, letting guitarist Chris Rosenau handle all the audience interaction. It was pretty nice to see Vernon not hog the spotlight that he knows he could easily control. It helped the audience see the group as a full band and not just his brainchild.

When they played the brilliant single "Byegone" second to last, I had doubts that anything could follow that display of power. Again, silly me. They next busted out the track "Still" from their debut album, Unmap. This song samples Bon Iver's stunning "Woods," but turns it into something of very grand scope. It is also one of the most beautiful songs I have heard in recent memory.

September 13, 2013

Reviewed: Boston Calling Fall 2013

I must admit, I expected Boston Calling to flop. There were too many things that could go wrong. The inaugural lineup wasn't unique in any way, the venue seemed awkward, small, and ugly, and many locals were frustrated by the lack of local flavor.

I have officially been proven wrong. A week after sweating out half my body weight in the giant mass of people that was Made In America, the accessibility and moderate size of Boston Calling was a welcome change of pace. The second time around, Crash Line Productions, those behind the festival, tweaked the stage locations, separated the daily lineups by genre, and made things a whole lot better. The sound was relatively good, and because of the small venue, you always had a pretty good view of what you wanted to see. The food was shockingly cheap for a festival and by bringing Sonicbids into the mix this time around, two additional acts made it onto the bill for the early risers to check out.

The first day saw the indie/rock bands hit the stage. Lucius kicked things off with a bang, letting the audience know why they should be excited for the October release of their debut album, Wildewoman. Dressed to match (as always), the group's lead singers were in fine form as they previewed new doo-wop tracks and they sing-along title track from their upcoming record.

Unfortunately, the energy subsided for a bit after their set when Okkervil River brought a little too much psychadelia and not enough folk to their set. After they bowed out, Deer Tick played a set of almost exclusively new tracks off their upcoming album, Negativity. While it was interesting to hear the slower direction the band is heading in, some fan favorites wouldn't have hurt.

Later that evening, Boston mayor Tom Menino took the stage to commend the festival and introduce one of the best performances all weekend. Local Natives were hilariously wide-eyed from their mayoral intro and couldn't stop bringing it up. The charming LA-natives played a solid selection of tracks from both of their critically acclaimed discs, closing with the foot-stomping "Sun Hands." This set, and the audience's rapt attention got me thinking that with a little more material behind them, these guys will be a great headlining act. Their material has been remarkably consistent, as have their energetic live shows.

Ezra Koenig and the rest of Vampire Weekend closed out night one in style. With a flowery backdrop, they ran through a lengthy set of the finest prep-pop this country has to offer. I find it very easy to forget how many great tracks they have, until I hear twenty of them in a row. Leading things off with one of my favorite songs of the summer, "Diane Young," and closing with the catchy and Massachusetts-appropriate "Walcott," they had a set packed with hits. The fans new nearly every word and proved why Ezra & Co. were worthy of a headlining slot.

Day two brought a significantly younger (and more brightly dressed) crowd thanks to the EDM-heavy lineup. Starting with Flume, a producer who makes perfect, chill head-bobbing beats, the crowd kept dancing all day long. Beyoncé's funkier sister Solange brought her soulful jams to the center of the city. There must be something in the water at the Knowles' household because it turns out that both daughters are ridiculously talented.

Following the funk, three huge electronic acts rocked the fest with their various takes on dance music. First, Chicago trap-masters Flosstradamus got things "turnt up" with their hip-hop inspired beats with coordinated shouting at the crowd. While I would never listen to their music in my room, their no-holds-barred attitude, booming bass, and squelching synths fit in perfectly among the rest of the lineup.

Wolfgang Gartner was next, taking a more traditional dance music route. His electro-house beats, however, show off his deep musical knowledge, utilizing chord progressions inspired by classical music and rhythms slightly more complex than those often found in EDM.

The climax of the evening came somewhere during the Major Lazer - Kendrick Lamar one-two punch. Diplo, the man behind the dancehall project, put on one of the craziest shows I have ever experienced. With precise command of the crowd, he and fellow members Walshy Fire and Jillionaire led what could have easily passed as a celebratory riot, filled with outrageous dance moves, scantily clad dancers, and a festival-wide clothing swap.

Mr. Lamar had by far the most anticipated set of the weekend, thanks to his hugely successful album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, and renowned live shows. This time, however, he left a few unsatisfied. While the MC himself was on fire behind the mic, his set was unusually short, not even filling up his allocated slot. Also, his backing band seemed to have a few issues, resulting in muddy sound from all his instrumentals. Regardless, it is clear why Lamar has made such a name for himself. He is a genuine, exciting performer with enough popular tracks to keep the crowd's attention for as long as he wants.

Closing out the festival were Boston locals Passion Pit. While enjoying their records, I've never been a big fan of their live shows because of singer Michael Angelakos' weak voice on stage. Despite this drawback (and he has gotten better over time), the electro-pop group was a fitting way to end the weekend. Not only were they one of the few local groups to play City Hall Plaza, they are one of the few Boston bands in recent years to make a large national impact. Somewhat like the slowly growing festival, the band has had to prove themselves to those out of the region. Let's see if Boston Calling can keep this up!

If you enjoyed this past weekend, or wished you were there, Boston Calling will be returning next year on Memorial Day Weekend. Starting now at, you can get a weekend pass and poster for an early bird price of only $75!

See the rest of our pictures here!

Photos by Kaitlin Deveau

September 03, 2013

Reviewed: Made In America 2013

I had no idea people owned so many American flag-themed clothing items. Fervent patriotism was in full force this past weekend at Made In America, the Philadelphia festival born from a partnership between Jay Z and Budweiser. In its second year, it seemed as if the festival had worked out kinks and had thought of just about everything that could go wrong. It had a killer diverse lineup, a beautiful riverside park for its location, good food, and spot-on branding/advertising thanks to Budweiser. However, there was one large thing keeping this festival from being near-perfect: over-crowding. You know there are too many people in the venue when someone has to wait nearly an hour for an $11 beer. The capacity of the park was 50,000 per day, yet somehow the sold-out festival claimed 60,000 attendees per day. Not sure how that worked.

Lines stretched and wound all over the park and logjams prevented thousands of attendees from catching their favorite acts or seeing them from a favorable spot. While the farthest stages were only about 1500 feet apart, the walk could easily take 20 minutes due to set times that caused mass exoduses from one stage to another. On night one, I had to wait over 90 minutes for a burger, eventually giving up my morals and bribing people in the front of another line to let me cut. 

Putting the crowd issues aside, this festival proved that it is here to stay. With great support from the city of Philadelphia, Jay Z and Budweiser have created the most diverse festival I have seen and packed it with amazing acts from America and beyond. 

On day one, Haim kicked things off early with a powerful set that easily proved how hard the young sisters can rock. Playing a short six songs, they made the best use of their time, wowing the crowd with the groove of "The Wire" and making their fans dance with "Forever".

Other highlights included an enormous singalong set from Imagine Dragons, and a grand welcome to America for Phoenix, one of the few foreign bands high up on the bill. 

On the rap side of things, A$AP Rocky started things off, well, rocky. After arriving 20 minutes late into a 45 minute slot, he played a brief five tracks to an eager crowd leaving most wanting more. Later in the day, 2 Chainz and Public Enemy competed for the rap show of the day, with 2 Chainz winning over the younger half of the crowd with his over the top lyrics that have been heard in dozens of hits in the last year. 

When Beyoncé took the stage at the close of day 1, it became clear that she ran the show. Queen B drew every single attendee to the main stage to see her recently redesigned Mrs. Carter Show. Even though her hubby decided to stay out of the spotlight and not make an appearance, the show was flawless and clearly demonstrated why so many millions of fans revere her. On the epicness scale, this was among the biggest productions I have ever seen, keeping 120,000 eyes focused on her for an hour-and-a-half of hits, dancing, and outfit changes. 

Day two didn't go exactly as planned (for me at least). Trains carrying kids from the suburbs to the center of the city were so packed that they decided, without informing anyone, to not pick up people at every stop. Therefore, I walked into the show about two hours late, just in time to catch the end of Kendrick Lamar's set. He was joined by his fellow TDE artists Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q and had an immense crowd in the palm of his hand the whole time. 

As every single Kendrick fan left at the same moment to see Miguel, I was stuck in the middle of it all, and was therefore unable to see Alunageorge. I decided to stick around the Freedom Stage anyway to see what GTA was all about. The Miami DJ's mantra is "Death to genres" and they follow that motto pretty strictly. With sets that could please pretty much every EDM fan out there, they definitely made a lot of fans at MIA. 

The rest of the night was full of hits, from a lively set by the always-fun Macklemore & Ryan Lewis to back-to-back-to-back electro-punches from Feed Me, Nero, and Calvin Harris. Each DJ brought their own style to the table and provided the audience with a taste of the currently diverse EDM scene. Needless to say, there was something for everyone. 

A bus issue unfortunately caused me to miss headliner Nine Inch Nails, putting the bookend on a travel-issue-filled weekend. Luckily Jay Z and his pals over at Budweiser put on a great show, one that couldn't easily be ruined by buses or trains. 

Well done Jay. Just remember: more people don't necessarily make a better festival. 

July 18, 2013

Reviewed: Hudson Mohawke

Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, MA

This kid is the future. The lanky Scotsman who most people know as HudMo has been making quite a name for himself lately. Last night, he brought his testosterone-filled beats to Cambridge to wow an enthusiastic crowd with the biggest, brashest noises in music these days.

The slightly grimy basement venue was the perfect match for his simple, drop-focused beats. Without saying a word, HudMo packed his set to the brim with his original beats, copious amounts of new Kanye tracks, and hard-hitting material from his TNGHT EP with Lunice. The crowd seemed to know quite a bit of his material and production work, going the craziest at the drops of Kanye's "Blood On The Leaves," and TNGHT's "Higher Ground" and "Bugg'n." He also featured a few tracks that have only been heard live or on his radio mixtapes, like personal favorite "Chimes."

There is something spectacular about hearing this tracks live. Even though they are not being made on the spot, the sheer wall of sound that comes at you when one of his songs drops is unparalleled. This is the kind of music that makes you want to run through brick walls, and makes you feel like you can. In a live setting, the force is just that much stronger.

June 17, 2013

Reviewed: The Lone Bellow, Swear & Shake, Ballroom Thieves

The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
Photo by Alexandre de Veiga
The other night at The Sinclair, the folk music revival was on full display. Three bands, all acoustically focused, jammed their hearts out and gave us their unique takes on the lively folk music that has been slowly taking over the world. 

First up: The Ballroom Thieves. A local group, the band knew how awesome it was to get this opening slot. The room was packed early as everyone had the pleasure of seeing undoubtedly one of the most exciting Boston bands yet to break out of the local scene. The trio seemed to fit in a niche between The Lumineers and City and Colour, meshing rootsy fun with a tattooed, slightly more rocking style that didn't come off as fake. 

Next: Swear & Shake. Undoubtedly the least unique of the groups, that doesn't mean they weren't a bunch of fun! Very similar to Ivan & Alyosha, the dapper quartet threw in some fiery electric guitar licks on top of their twangy folky jams. Frontwoman Kari Spieler gave the show her all, coming out from behind her huge hair to let loose a powerful voice that was unexpected from such an innocent face. 

Finally: The Lone Bellow. What everyone had been waiting for. The trio, backed on bass and drums, wows consistently with their confessional lyrics, superb chemistry, and unreal harmonies. Luckily they managed to play my favorites: "You Never Need Nobody" and guitarist Brian Elmquist's track "Watch Over Us". A moment of hilarity came when they started a new song; all the members started differently. "Sorry, we have too many songs that sound the same," frontman Zach Williams quipped. It's true, they have an easily identifiable sound. But their career has just begun, and I am eager to see how they evolve musically. There seemed to be no debate in the crowd where these guys are headed. It will be hard to see them for a mere $15 ever again. 

June 10, 2013

Sasquatch 2013: The Good and The Bad


Once Again, The Acoustic Tent
For the third year in a row, the intimate acoustic tent situated in the middle of the festival grounds, proved its worth. While large festivals rarely offer chances to see your favorite artists up close and personal, Sasquatch sets itself apart with the acoustic tent. If you spin a wheel and win day passes to the tent (you can spin it as many times as you want until tickets run out), you gain entrance into mini-sets performed by some awesome acts! This year, Vampire Weekend, The Tallest Man On Earth, Edward Sharpe, CHVRCHES, and Alt-J all stopped in to give their fans a special experience.

Shovels & Rope
These rambunctious South Carolinians wowed me instantly with their twangy sound that fits somewhere between The Civil Wars and Mumford & Sons, with a healthy dose of barnstorming fun thrown in. The duo sounded like helluva lot more than two people and provided fun for thousands who gathered at the tiny Yeti Stage to catch a peek of indie-twang's newest stars.

Vampire Weekend
I may be late to the party, but I was never particularly excited by the New York prepsters' first two albums. They were pleasant enough, but they didn't capture my attention like their third record has. With their new material, the Vamps mature their sound, leaning more towards rock 'n' roll as opposed to light prep-pop. Along with the recorded improvement in their sound, their live show is now a well-oiled machine of entertainment. They have now proven themselves as one of the premier indie acts of the decade and have a live show to back it up.

Father John Misty
I went into his performance not enthralled with his music, but simply interested. Seeing his hilarious on stage antics led me to believe that Mr. Tillman was truly born in the wrong decade. Aside from the people watching the show through their iPhones, there was nothing to say that this performance did not happen in the 70's. He had all the style and casual charm of a crooner from a bygone era and I couldn't stop smiling.

Robert DeLong
Mr. Delong got the dancing going early on Saturday, enthralling listeners as a truly one-man band. Switching between drum pads, singing, synths, and live drums, he simultaneously looped his own voice and manipulated it using a Wii controller. I was as amazed by the inventive use of technology as by the catchy melodies and infectious beats.

My latest musical crush: Lauren Mayberry. The lead singer of this up-and-coming Scottish trio sings honey-sweet tunes over hard-hitting grimy synths and has an adorable accent! She also has the ability to seamlessly transition between The Knife-style weirdness, 80's synth ballads, and Rage Against The Machine covers. What's not to love?

Going back a few years, P.O.S. was in fact the first act I ever saw at a music festival. And sadly, I was underwhelmed. But this past weekend, the Minnesota rapper earned back my devotion. Mostly running through tracks from his recent We Don't Even Live Here, he spent as much time in the crowd, interacting with the fans as he did on stage. Chatting with the audience (hilariously by the way) showed that Mr. Alexander is perhaps one of the most personable rappers out there. Not even a slippery wet stage and a painful-looking fall could stop everyone from having a great time.


Baths' debut album Cerulean caught me by surprise, exploring glitchy, ethereal soundscapes that were able to maintain my attention. Unfortunately, with his followup, Obsidian, Will Wiesenfeld, turned a corner and began to focus more on his vocals, often whiny and too straight-forward. At his Sasquatch show, thousands of beat junkies turned up to hopefully hear some of the soothing, intricate tunes he is known for. Little did we know, we would have to wait until about halfway through his set to hear a single track from his heyday. While he was trying hard to plug his new album, fans were streaming out towards something more interesting.

Four Color Zack
I'm not sure what the Sasquatch organizers were trying to do with this one. The Seattle DJ recently won a Red Bull DJ contest catapulting his fame upwards in a matter of days. Maybe it was a deal made with festival sponsor Red Bull, but giving this guy a 2.5 hour set in the Chupacabra tent was far too generous. Sure, maybe he did do well at the contest that he won, but he was clearly not prepared for this, sounding as if a random festival-goer won the chance to open the festival.

I'm a big fan of Rusko's music and was eager to hear him close out the weekend in style. Unfortunately, he would turn his bangin' beats down every 30 seconds or so to yell the always important "Let's Go Sasquatch!!" This could have helped pump up the crowd every 10 minutes or so. Instead, his constant commentary only interrupted his flow.

The Food
Other festivals have caught on. Why not you Sasquatch? $13 for a beer? $9 for a frozen chicken wrap? I understand the urge to jack up prices, but can't the food at least be good? Dozens of festivals invite local food trucks and restauranteurs to set up shop for a weekend, and I have no doubt that Seattle has tons of chefs who would be willing to trek out to The Gorge to feed 30,000 hungry fans. I appreciate the addition of the lone food truck: fish 'n' chips and tacos. Hopefully that was a test that proved successful.

April 29, 2013

Reviewed: The Milk Carton Kids, Molly Tuttle

Brighton Music Hall, Allston, MA

Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale of The Milk Carton Kids are quite an odd couple. Ryan is tall, lanky, meek, and a tad awkward. Pattengale is short, spastic, and sweaty. But together, they unite to form something mesmerizing, stunningly beautiful, and entertaining. The other night at the Brighton Music Hall, the two gussied-up California gentlemen made me laugh, smile, and fall in love with their music all over again.

The opening act, Berklee School of Music student Molly Tuttle, blew away the unsuspecting crowd with her rapid fire bluegrass guitar work that would put even the most talented shredders to shame. It was a marvel to see such incredible technical skill combined with a sweet voice and fun, barn-storming songwriting. She reminded me a bit of Nickel Creek, if all three members were transformed into a single bluegrass superhero.

Joey Ryan took the stage unassumingly, saying a meek 'hello' and proceeding to give a hilarious deadpan welcome to the show. Throughout the rest of the show, he managed to give the audience a lesson on the use of the comma, as well as deliver playful jab after jab to his bandmate, bringing quite a bit of laughter to a show filled with sad songs. While Ryan stood almost perfectly still strumming his chords, Pattengale swayed and swayed, as if he was squeezing every bit of his soul into each note. His lead melodies tastefully intertwined with Ryan's guitar work and produced a full, yet extremely simple sound.

Touring behind their new record, The Ash & Clay, the Kids are playing to the biggest rooms yet (or as Ryan mentioned, "the second smallest room in Boston"). Luckily though, they still played quite a bit of material from their stunning debut studio album, Prologue. Vocal harmonies were flawless, and the clarity of their vintage guitars was unparalleled.

After observing the mannerisms of Ryan and Pattengale, the band's name takes on a much more real meaning. Each with a different and unusual approach to social situations, the two may have likely bonded over their social difficulties. Whether that story is true at all, I get the idea that music is what saved these two from being lost.

April 23, 2013

Reviewed: The Lone Bellow, Ivan & Alyosha

Brighton Music Hall, Allston, MA

I kind of feel bad for Ivan & Alyosha. Their recent album, All The Times We Had, is a solid, catchy, and interesting indie folk-rock record, and they put on a very entertaining show to back it up. When this tour of theirs was booked, few had heard of the opening act, but now, touring behind their fantastic Civil Wars-meets-Mumford and Sons debut, The Lone Bellow is taking the nation by storm. So when they finished their jaw-dropping opening set, Ivan & Alyosha had a pretty tough act to follow. 

I have never seen an opening band win over a crowd so quickly and effectively. While it seemed that at least half of the crowd was familiar with The Lone Bellow, by the end of their set, they had 300 new guaranteed fans. 

The first thing that stands out about The Lone Bellow is the harmonies. And yes, they are pristine live. Frontman Zach Williams jumped, sweated, and hollered all over the tiny stage, whipping his soaked curls with excitement. While most people say they put 100% into every show, Williams manages to squeeze all 100% into every single song. Between tracks, he looks like he is about to pass out, and then, miraculously, summons enough energy and power to do it all over again. Ten more times. As NPR's Bob Boilen accurately describes it, he sings "every word as if it's the last time he'll ever get the chance."

Guitarist/singer Brian Elmquist didn't step into the spotlight for most of the show, but when he finally took the lead on his track "Watch Over Us," it became instantly clear that there is no weak link in this group. His voice was crystal clear bluesy perfection and the song was a nice change of pace that split up the set nicely. Please, RELEASE THAT SONG. It was unreal. 

Those lucky enough to be in the audience knew what they were witnessing: a band truly on the verge.

April 04, 2013

Reviewed: Frightened Rabbit

House of Blues, Boston, MA

"Who wants to see me down this whiskey?" That was perhaps the most popular moment of the night as Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison took advantage of Boston's avid alcohol fervor. The drinking was not out of place, however. The Scotsmen are well known for making some of the most raw, honest, powerful, and painfully sad music out there. While the music may bring to mind heart-wrenching breakups and lonely nights, Mr. Hutchison, charming accent in tow, provided the most entertaining, hilarious, and lively stage banter I have heard in quite some time. It makes me want to go to Scotland just to meet people like this every day.

While the night started off terribly, with a horrifically tedious subway debacle, causing me to miss opener Wintersleep's entire set, Frightened Rabbit did an awfully good job making up for it. The guys have an extremely rabid fan base, one that is familiar with all four of their albums. A recent devotee, I primarily know their latest Pedestrian Verse, an album that took me by surprise and inspired me to delve into their catalog. They filled about about a third of the night with new cuts, but also featured quite a bit of their critically-acclaimed breakout album, The Midnight Organ Fight. The new material fit in seamlessly with the classics, incorporating their trademark huge emotional swells and poetry-like lyrics. While many groups tend to bore the audience with long-winded chats, Hutchison's words are what made the night something special. He provided astute narration and a character that allowed us to put the songs in context.

Frightened Rabbit-"The Woodpile"

April 02, 2013

Reviewed: Local Natives

House Of Blues, Boston, MA

Growing up and developing a broad music taste when I did, Local Natives' debut album, Gorilla Manor, was one of the first indie albums I loved. It had a fixed spot in my car's CD rotation and was probably the album I listened to most during my last year in high school. My fanhood peaked and I saw them live for the first rocking the 2011 Sasquatch main stage. Sadly, three years and hundreds of music discoveries later, the SoCal group that I was so fond of rarely entered my thoughts. In January, when they released their sophomore effort, Hummingbird, the memories of jamming out to "Airplanes" in my car flooded back. They had created a second record that fulfilled the elusive goal of expanding upon their sound while maintaining all the qualities that made them great in the first place. Hummingbird is no doubt more atmospheric and less rollicking, but just as catchy, harmony-laden, and sunny. 

The other night, I went over to House of Blues to see them perform their new tracks in front of a quickly sold out crowd (the biggest on their tour). Luckily for me, they split the night evenly between their two records, playing every song I had so wanted to hear with the lone exception of "Camera Talk." In a live setting, the tracks on Hummingbird were much louder and tighter than I was expecting, almost allowing me to forget which album they were on. Between the spastic moves of guitarist/singer Taylor Rice and the unassuming but powerful presence of keyboardist/singer Kelcey Ayer, the Natives were in fine form. Ending the show with the powerful "Sun Hands" was the perfect move, leaving the crowd jumping with their hands in the air, hoping to catch some of the bands warming rays. 

March 26, 2013

Reviewed: Sara Watkins, Field Report

The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA

I was already excited to go to last night's show at The Sinclair before the headliner's name caught my eye. Initially, I planned on attending solely to see Field Report, Chris Porterfield's beautiful folk group whose tour had somehow been eluding me for the last year. It took me a few days to realize that Porterfield would be opening up for the Sara Watkins. As in the singer/violinist who had earned my attention as one-third of Nickel Creek and live violinist for The Decemberists. Even then, I didn't expect to see a two-thirds Nickel Creek reunion on stage with Sean Watkins supporting his sister on guitar for "Reasons Why," a classic track from 2000's Nickel Creek

Kicking off the show to a half-full seated audience, Porterfield led his group through some of the most ethereal, soothing folk music being made these days. Accompanied by Randy Pingrey on trombone, Porterfield was all smiles, even while playing self-proclaimed "sad, kick you while you're down" music. With a small, quiet audience like that, it would have been easy for an artist to seem disappointed, or even upset with the crowd. But the charming frontman was affable, lively, and responsive. After a fan blurted out asking to hear "Taking Alcatraz," Mr. Porterfield quickly decided to take the guy's advice. And thank goodness. They hadn't been planning on playing it, one of their album's standout tracks. It seemed as if the group was more focused on the atmospheric, harder-to-digest tracks. In my humble opinion, if Porterfield plans on making some more waves, he should stick to that guy's advice. That track is killer!

Watkins hit the stage with her star-studded band and quickly turned up the energy level. With foot-stomping bluegrass jams and string-burning fiddle skills, Watkins featured her new album Sun Midnight Sun, but squeezed in a bunch of covers as well, taking on Tom Waits, John Hartford, Robert Earl Keen, and Bob Dylan tracks with ease. While Porterfield is a new voice hoping to emerge in the folk-country scene, Watkins is clearly a seasoned veteran, having played in some of the biggest groups of the genre. Now roughing it on her own, Watkins is easily proving that her practice has made perfect.

March 04, 2013

Reviewed: Milo Greene

The Sinclair, Boston, MA
Photos by Kaitlin Deveau

I can confidently call myself a Milo Greene veteran. I have been with them since the beginning, and since hearing the first strums of "1957" off their Hello Sessions a few years ago, they have held a special place in my heart. Last night at The Sinclair, I saw them for the third time live, and boy have they improved. While they have always had a certain casual charm live, this time they turned that charm into visual, visceral passion that made their show louder, tighter, and all-around better. They no longer sounded like rookies; they are road-worn performers who know how to knock a crowd's socks off.

The LA-natives sold out the venue, their first stop on a month-long Eastern-US trek, and brought their A-game. Aside from some oddly stiff stage banter from Marlana (is Boston really your favorite city? I didn't buy it), the night went off without a hitch. One of the things I always love of about the group is their ability to seamlessly trade instruments and lead vocal duties for almost every song. Everyone on stage last night could be a frontman of their own band, and when combined, their powers multiply. While it was no surprise that they played their entire WTTB best of 2012 debut album, they also packed in a spot-on chant-worthy version of Sufjan Steven's "Chicago" and a lively rendition of Wilco's "A Shot In The Arm." A personal highlight came when they ended their set with "1957," my absolute favorite song of 2012. Even though this was not my first time seeing the group, they managed to keep things fresh and are lively enough that I wasn't bored for one moment. Well done guys!

See the rest of the photos here!

Overheard at the show: 
A woman to her friend: "What are you doing? Get off the floor!"
Her friend: "Shut up! I'm texting my future husband!"

February 26, 2013

Reviewed: Enslaved

The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
Photos by Kaitlin Deveau

There aren't many posers in the Norwegian metal world. That corner of Scandinavia takes their metal quite seriously, producing some of the most extreme, heavy, melodic metal out there. In the diverse scene there, Enslaved are the cream of the crop, respected all around the world for their consistently intriguing use of growls, speedy bass drums, screaming guitars, and guttural bass, without forgoing strong melody.

After final opener Pallbearer left the stage and their equipment was whisked off, an odd emptiness covered the stage for over 30 minutes. The Norwegians were running late due to bus troubles, but when they eventually pulled in, the crew worked at super speed to ensure that they were able to play (albeit a shortened set). Despite the fact that they were only on stage for an hour, they used every minute of it, cramming in "Thoughts Like Hammers" and others from their 2012 album RIITIIR, fan favorite "Ethica Odini," and unearthing old black metal from their 1994 album, Vikingligr Veldi. The crowd's unrest about the late arrival quickly dissipated into moshing, crowd surfing, and awe at the group's huge stage presence.

They end their tour tonight, which is a shame for all of you out there who missed them, but have no fear! Twelve albums deep into their 20 year career they show no signs of slowing down. They are one of the most prolific metal bands, rarely waiting 2 years between releases. Lucky us!

See the rest of the photos here!

Note to The Sinclair:
The venue, located in Harvard Square, is Bowery Boston's brand new plan to capture bands that would otherwise play The Middle East and Brighton Music Hall. While the layout, size, and overall feel of the place is great, they should have figured out how to do the sound for a metal show before booking one. Opener Pallbearer's doom riffs sounded awfully sludgy and the vocals were completely lost in the mix. Enslaved sounded good in comparison, but still not great considering the intimate size of the venue. The Middle East has mediocre sound at best, and if The Sinclair wants to steal their thunder, it might want to step their sound game up a bit. Also the lack of security at a show where moshing was inevitable was quite worrisome. While some people don't mind a shoe to the head in the middle of a concert, I know I speak for others when I say that the venue should have kept things a little more under control. 

February 18, 2013

Reviewed: Meshuggah

Photo by Kaitlin Deveau

I get a huge kick out of seeing two completely different bands on the same stage. Two night ago, I saw Punch Brothers kick out bluegrass jams at House of Blues in Boston, and last night I headed back to hear progressive metal titans Meshuggah mesmerize the audience with their epic, intricate, mosh-worthy tracks. For those of you who don't know their music, Meshuggah stands out in the metal world a great deal due to their creative and awe-inspiring use of rhythm. Along with riffs that weigh a sonic ton, the long-haired (and one bald) Swedes divide up measures like no other. They give complex time signatures a whole new meaning, incorporating beats that only the most diligent listener can actually follow or replicate. All this combined with ridiculous technical skill (have you heard that bass drum action on "Bleed"?) gives you one hell of a band.

Their music, filled with down-tuned guitars and a whole lot of bass, is tough to pull of in a live setting, but their sound guy knew what he was doing and the group was so tight that the sound was as good as any metal show I have attended. The setlist focused a great deal on their latest offering, 2012's Koloss but also managed to squeeze in favorites "Shed," "Bleed,"and a huge encore of "Dancers To A Discordant System." While I was looking to hear my personal favorite "Rational Gaze," I understand that filling a set with songs that average about 8 minutes long is tough.

Though singer Jens Kidman has been battling a rough flu, his growls, while impossible to comprehend, were at full force. He had complete control of the rowdy crowd and is probably one of the few people who can actually get a crowd of 2,000 metal fans to be quiet and listen when he talks. These guys garner a great deal of respect in the metal community, and its pretty obvious why; they are consistent, among the heaviest groups out there, technically astonishing, and they put on a damn good show.

See the rest of the photos here.

February 17, 2013

Reviewed: Punch Brothers

House Of Blues, Boston, MA

It is not often you encounter a true genius, but last night at the House of Blues, one stood on stage playing the mandolin. Last year, Chris Thile was a recipient of a MacArthur genius grant for his prodigal mandolin abilities and variety of musical endeavors. 

The mandolin maven led his group through a lively setlist that included Radiohead and Beach Boys covers. He has managed to surrounded himself with incredible instrumentalists, all of whom had their fair share of time to solo in the spotlight. They announced to the audience that this was their biggest show ever, revealing why all five of them were accustomed to being huddled around each other, never stepping outside a small carpet on stage. Their old-timey charm hit the audience like a bear hug that never let go. Mr. Thile was introduced to me years ago via Nickel Creek, his San Diego-based pop-bluegrass trio. When I saw them perform on their 2006 farewell tour, the encore included an epic mandolin rendition of a Bach piece for violin. Thankfully, this is growing into a trademark move for Thile and he obliged again, running through a lightning fast Bach partita like only a virtuoso could. 

Since his Nickel Creek days, Thile's songwriting has grown much more complex and innovative, now mixing wacky time signatures, dissonance, and classical influences with a classic bluegrass sound. Even though they all shredded with ease on their respective instruments, it was clear they were having as much fun as the crowd. Plenty of improvisation and extended bluegrass jams kept the show lively and proved their skills to everyone there. I have a feeling that if I saw them again tonight, the show would be completely different, giving a unique feeling to each performance that is rare these days. 

February 15, 2013

Reviewed: Lucius

Great Scott, Allston, MA

The lead singers of Brooklyn-based indie-poppers Lucius coordinated their hair not only to look the same, but so that when they each approached their mics, they were perfectly symmetrical. Now that is dedication. Strong pop songwriting, catchy hooks, and two mesmerizing lead singers combine to form one of the most exciting young groups I have heard lately. Kicking off their tour in Allston, they hit the stage with ferocious energy and proved that their brief debut EP is only the beginning of something much bigger. The vocals were stronger live than on the record, and if you take a listen below, you will know that that is saying something. Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig's vocals wove nicely together, creating a sound that is better than the sum of its parts. If you're a fan of romping, catchy indie anthems, you don't have to look any further.

January 24, 2013

Ellie Goulding - Attack of the Bras

When I imagine a show at which dozens of bras are thrown on stage, I imagine Dave Navarro, or a band like Kiss. But last night at the House of Blues in Boston, Ellie Goulding was the recipient of even more intimates than your average hair metal group would expect. Maybe the girls simply wanted to maintain an ounce of attention at a show where every gaze was focused on Goulding. Who knows.

Anyways, the charming British pop princess tore through a diverse set that focused on her heavy electro-tinged new album, but managed to squeeze in her debut album's hits, and her gorgeous cover of Elton John's "Your Song." Her new songs hit hardest and had the crowd dancing as much as they could given the little room they had. Thanks to her huge singles, Goulding has transformed from an acoustic singer-songwriter into an electro-pop champion. Luckily, she does not leave her other songs behind, often not releasing her strongest tracks as singles. That quality has allowed her albums to be strong all the way through, easily preventing the one-hit-wonder status that I feared after "Lights" took off. With an ever-growing fan base in the States and a solid one across the pond, I wouldn't be surprised if next time she came to town, it was in an arena.

December 05, 2012

The Best Live Shows of 2012

I went to more concerts in 2012 than in any year before. I attended a show on average every 11 days and had a hell of a lot of fun in the process. I saw acts ranging from Andy Grammer to Tech N9ne to Bassnectar in venues from The Gorge in Washington to Vega Music Hall in Denmark. I saw some of the best shows of my life. Here are my favorites. 

Bon Iver (Sasquatch Music Festival)
This show, Bon Iver's headlining spot at The Gorge, and my first time seeing the group live, changed how I see live music. The level to which the enormous band built upon the already beautiful songs was unparalleled. From the opening notes of "Perth" to the last chord of "For Emma," the entire crowd was completely enveloped in the music. Mr. Vernon's words were genuine, proclaiming his awe at the loving crowd and jaw-dropping landscape. I cannot imagine a better show. 

Glen Hansard (Le Poisson Rouge, NY)
After being a fan for years, this summer I finally caught up with Hansard's travels in New York. Instead of attending his show at the Beacon Theater, I was lucky enough to opt for the intimate 3-hour warm up the previous night. The night felt more like a casual jam session as the Irishman invited Lisa Hannigan, John Smith, K'naan, and some new friends from the audience to join him for select cuts. A barrage of delightful covers and relaxed banter helped every audience member feel like a VIP.

Delta Spirit (Paradise Rock Club, Boston)
Delta Spirit is gritty. Their brand of rock isn't clean cut and prides itself on being awesomely messy. They got wild on stage and put on the best rock show I've seen in a while. The show was timed nicely at the peak of my excitement about their brilliant new album, and they proved that their new sound worked even better live.
Read the original review here

The Lumineers (Cafe 939, Boston)
I got really lucky on this one. The tour that took The Lumineers to the intimate Cafe 939 was booked long before they blew up. The young group got the crowd stomping their feet in no time with their lively brand of folk rock. I had as much fun at this show as any before despite the fact that I was there by myself. On their next visit to Boston, they will be playing a venue 12 times as big: House of Blues.
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Death Cab with Magik*Magik Orchestra (Wang Theatre, Boston)
You know you've been to a great show if the performance makes you a bigger fan than you were before. When I caught Death Cab For Cutie performing with an eight person string orchestra, that is exactly what happened. The strings were arranged tastefully and while they didn't take a leading role, they enhanced every song and took the performance to a new level. Only their most recent album was recorded with the strings but even their old tracks received an added punch from their presence.

Delta Rae (Bowery Ballroom, NY)
When I heard Delta Rae's debut album, I had no idea they had four amazing singers. The voices sounded similar enough that I wrote them off as having two vocalists. But when I witnessed them live their four-part harmonies took my breath away and each member held their own as they traded off lead duties. Just plain awesome.
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Purity Ring (Le Poisson Rouge, NY)
It is rare that I attend a show that is like no other I have been to. Purity Ring's album release show in NYC was one of those nights. They performed in the round, on a circular stage in the middle of the venue. Hanging all over the place were colored orbs that pulsated to the beat of the music. Instead of just playing their music, the duo grabbed the audience and dragged them in.
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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Vega, Copenhagen, Denmark)
On this list two years in a row, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are definitely some of the most consistently brilliant performers in hip-hop today. I have now seen them four times in a variety of settings and they never fail to get the crowd going. Now with a complete album to perform, they have more ways than ever to work the audience. These guys always give 110% and are more dedicated than any other act I know. Luckily, they tour like crazy so you will probably have a chance to catch them soon.