Showing posts with label festivals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label festivals. Show all posts

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 bostoncalling.com, 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. 

June 10, 2013

Sasquatch 2013: The Good and The Bad


THE GOOD

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.


CHVRCHES
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?


P.O.S.
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.

THE NOT SO GOOD



Baths
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.


Rusko
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.

May 22, 2013

Sasquatch 2013: Set-Time Conflicts

One of the largest challenges of music festivals is that you can't see every band on the lineup. Unless you want to jump around frantically seeing one or two songs of each artist from the back of the crowd, you are guaranteed to miss some great music. Sasquatch, the greatest festival of the Northwest, has their fair share of set-time conflicts and we are here to offer our help. Here are our suggestions for who to see when the choices get tough. Click the image to zoom in.


You can see the whole Sasquatch day-by-day schedule here.

2013 Sasquatch Festival Guide

For all those Sasquatch rookies out there, here's a little info about the fest, where to be, and what to avoid.

The Acoustic Tent

For the past few years, one of my favorite places has been the Acoustic Tent, situated right in the middle of the festival grounds. Simply by scanning a bar code with your smart phone and entering your e-mail address, you can win access to the tent for the whole day. Many bands, before they perform their full sets, stop by the tent to play for 15 minutes or so to about a hundred lucky fans. I've been able to catch intimate shows from The Decemberists, Alabama Shakes, Givers, Foster The People, Flogging Molly and Fitz and the Tantrums. Keep an eye out this year for how to gain entry. It's well worth your while.

The Walk

For Sasquatch first-timers, keep something in mind. If your favorite band is playing at 1:30, don't leave you tent at 1:25. The walk, from the average camping site into the festival, can take up to 20 minutes in crowds. And that won't be a happy 20 minutes if you miss bands you want to see. Just by entering the festival a little early, you might be surprised by some bands you don't know yet, and you have a greater chance of getting in the prized acoustic tent.

The Stages:

Sasquatch Stage

The Sasquatch Stage, of course, is where the big guys play. This festival has a unique feature here though: the view. While watching any group perform at this stage, you will have the pleasure of seeing the beautiful Columbia River in the background. If you're tired, I recommend setting down a blanket on one of the amphitheater's grassy ledges and camping out to watch great act after great act. For those of you who need to be close to the stage, luckily, the main stage at Sasquatch due to its size and layout, is very easily accessible. It is often very easy to get a great spot for some awesome bands.

Bigfoot Stage

The Bigfoot Stage is the second largest stage at The Gorge, and this year, will host Vampire Weekend, Primus, Empire Of The Sun, Rusko, Grimes, Alt-J, and many more. Situated right near the entrance to the fest, Bigfoot is a great place to catch a glimpse of an act you're unfamiliar with on your way in or out of the grounds.

Yeti Stage

The Yeti Stage is a very intimate stage, which means it is a great place to go if you want a great view of some of the smaller bands on the bill. This year, Killer Mike, Shad, Surfer Blood, Shovels & Rope, Youth Lagoon, and many more will grace this little stage with their presence. 

El Chupacabra

El Chupacabra, formerly known as the Banana Shack, is a large tented stage that is reserved for electronic acts and comedy. The innovative lighting rigs always make it a perfect place to dance the night away and the shade allows attendees to relax if they want to break up the constant music with a few laughs. This year, Steve Aoki, Disclosure, Laidback Luke, Baauer, Baths, Nick Offerman, Mike Birbiglia, and more will pay a visit to the tent. 

Cthulhu

This stage is in its second year in 2013. The sole purpose of the Cthulhu Stage is to get young Northwest hip-hop artists attention. With Seattle hip-hop bigger than ever these days thanks to Macklemore, dozens of other artists are waiting in the wings. Nacho Picasso, Brothers From Another, Knowmads, Tilson XOXO, and other locals will be hoping to build some buzz after their performance at The Gorge.

Most importantly, relax, have fun, and enjoy all the great things Sasquatch has to offer.

May 20, 2013

6 Sasquatch Bands You Need To Hear

CVRCHES
Fiendishly catchy Scottish electro-pop



Wake Owl
Raw Canadian twangy singer/songwriter



Luke Sital-Singh
Immersive, relaxing, British, Bon-Iver like beauty



Indians
Danish psychedelic, folky pop



Odesza
Sunny, summery, smooth electro jams



And don't forget, Up-and-coming Hip-Hop Galore (Like Grieves) at the Cthulhu Stage!



Listen to more Sasquatch artists over at Songza!

April 10, 2013

Coachella 2013: Set-Time Conflicts

Another drawback to large festivals: crazy set-time conflicts! Coachella has just released the set-times for Weekend 1 and this is going to be a tough year for all you attendees. Here's where we recommend you go in each of the following hair-pulling situations. Obviously it is up to you, but here's what we would do. Click on the images below to zoom in.

April 09, 2013

5 Artists You Can't Miss At Coachella


Coachella's huge lineup can be awfully overwhelming. And since it is jam packed with excellent live acts, it can be nearly impossible to decide who to see! If you are headed to the desert this weekend, regardless of what else you do, here are 5 artists that you better not miss.

TNGHT - Friday - 8:35 - 9:20, Gobi Tent

'Nuff said.

Dub Fx - Sunday - 10:25 - DoLab

This Australian loop-pedal master has been honing his skills on street corners around the world and is finally hitting the US with his purely vocally-created tracks.



C2C - Friday - 1:30 - 2:20, Sahara Tent

After conquering the French DJ scene and winning multiple DMC World Championships, these four disc jockeys are finally ready to conquer the States behind their infectious debut album, Tetra. They kick off their efforts at Coachella and a few select dates elsewhere.



Rodriguez - Sunday - 6:35 - 7:15, Gobi Tent

The subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, Rodriguez became an underground sensation in South Africa while he remained unknown and oblivious to his fame in the US. For the first time in 40 years, the Bob Dylan-esque revolutionary songwriter is traveling the states and making a sure-to-be-amazing stop in the Desert.



Vintage Trouble - Saturday - 12:15 - 12:55, Coachella Stage

While your chances of seeing James Brown live are shot, Vintage Trouble are the closest thing out there these days. The group's livey retro grooves have been lighting up stages all across the nation and prove that live music can have enough energy to rival the Sahara tent's dancey bleeps and bloops.

November 29, 2012

Interview with Infantree

Infantree, an indie rock group from Southern California, just released their second studio album, Hero's Dose, to great reception and praise. Not only are these four guys the nicest crew around, their sound together is just so entrancing, with poetic lyrics, beautiful harmonies, and excellent musicianship by all members. The band has since then toured with Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and will continue promote their new album at shows in Los Angeles the rest of this year.

(From left) Donald, Matt, Jordan, and Alex of Infantree at Outside Lands
We were lucky enough to kick back with the band after their awesome set at Outside Lands, where we chatted about their new album, embarassing moments, how they got their name, and more! Read below to see what these four killer musicians had to say, and while you're at it, listen to the soothing sounds and lovely harmonies in one of my favorite Infantree tunes, "Forgive Me First." Also, click "read more"  to see Infantree on Conan performing "Fibber"!

Infantree - "Forgive Me First"
 
Your second album was just put out a couple months ago, how do you feel the reception has been so far?

Alex: Pretty awesome, definitely better than the first one!

Donald: That’s all you can hope for.

Alex: We’ve been getting a kick out of it, for sure.

Matt: Yeah, we’ve been getting a lot more college radio play.


Do you approach festival playing any differently than small, intimate settings?

Alex: Oh heck yeah, definitely. We secretly hate the sound at festivals [laughs]. It’s never as full as a small room, because the sound just goes, there’s no walls. A lot of times, especially because festivals are fewer and far between, we’re not used to that sound once we get there, so we kind of have to acclimate as we go. We don’t have a sound guy, so we just kind of do it. But it’s been fun. The main thing is that if people are there or not. And luckily, at festivals, people show up, or at least that’s been happening now.

Donald: Yeah, and it’s tougher when you have the first slot. So the fact that as many people showed up today was great.

Jordan: I feel like I try to keep the beat simpler at festivals, cause the little things kind of get lost. It’s just a different sound.

September 30, 2012

Interview with Michael Kiwanuka

The wonderfully soulful and talented young British artist Michael Kiwanuka released his first solo album, Home Again, this past March. With the incredible emotion and musicality this man possesses, it's no wonder that his album was recently nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize.


Michael took some time with me after his set at the Outside Lands Music Festival to chat! Read below to see what this awesome singer-songwriter had to say about his life on tour, his excitement about his new album, and more, and listen to the soothing sounds of his celebrated single, "Home Again."

Michael Kiwanuka - "Home Again"


Your album dropped here in the States only a few months ago, how do you feel the reception has been so far from Americans?

Michael: Good! I feel the reception has been really warm. People have been so supportive and encouraging to me, they always say really nice things. We bump into people that were in the audience when I’m walking around. And at the shows, people have always been really nice and very warm. It feels really good, I’m really enjoying it!

You’ve done quite a few festivals recently! Do you approach festival playing differently than smaller venues?

Michael: Yeah, we like to play a little more upbeat, it’s still intimate though. I just play as upbeat as I can get. It’s more slower songs and solos when we’re playing in a club. But it’s nice to have that change, it doesn’t get boring that way.

Is touring everything you thought it would be?

Michael: No, I mean I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s...definitely a big change. But I love it. Sometimes people are not excited about touring, and I can see why, everybody goes through quite a bit of stress. But it’s exciting being in different places all the time and playing shows in places I never thought I would go to, like San Francisco, and having fun on the bus. I like going out in different cities, meeting people. It’s really cool.

You and your band seem really tight, have you all played music together for a long time?

Michael: Yeah, I’ve known Miles, the guitar player, since I was about 14. So we grew up around the same area. It’s so good to hang out, they’re the nicest guys. And some of the best musicians ever, I’m very lucky. We have fun, it’s all our first time doing most of it, so it’s good to share it with someone else. It’s so cool having friends and people to share it with.

What’s been your most embarrassing onstage moment?

Michael: Once we were playing in Florence, at a festival, and the PA went down, so no one could hear anything except the drums. But I thought they could all hear us, and I was like, “Wow, this is great!” and I was really into it! [laughs] But then I looked to the side of the stage, and my tour manager was like, miming, “They can’t hear you!” and I was just going for it, it was pretty funny.

Who are you most excited to see at Outside Lands this year?

Michael: I’d say Stevie Wonder, Jack White, and some other really great bands that are here, I’m excited.

Michael Kiwanuka performing at Outside Lands

August 29, 2012

Interview with Jukebox the Ghost

I think this is just one of those bands that has stuck-in-your-head-all-day kind of songs. The Brooklyn-based trio Jukebox the Ghost released their third studio album, Safe Travels, this June, and have been setting off on an extensive nationwide tour, including the Outside Lands Music Festival. Their lively set on Saturday was dancey and fun, and the band's stage presence certainly makes them a fun band to see live.


Guitarist Tommy Siegel chatted with me on Saturday of the fest! Read below to see what he had to say about his most embarrassing moment onstage, his wish-list for bands to see at the fest, and more, and listen to the poppy track "Oh, Emily" from their most recent album.

Jukebox the Ghost - "Oh, Emily"
 
On reception of their new album

Tommy:
It’s been going great! It’s been a really pleasant surprise to see that when we play shows, it doesn’t feel like we’re playing new songs; the crowd just seems like totally with it. It’s just been really exciting, it’s going great.

On festival playing

Tommy: We played yesterday and part of playing a festival is knowing that you’re not playing to your hardcore fans. You’re playing to get some new fans. So for us, we wanted to promote the new record. There were probably some new fans that came and were pissed that we didn’t play more songs of our first two records. But it’s the chance for us to actually branch out and show people what we’re doing right now.

On his most embarrassing moment

Tommy: [laughs] That’s a great question. Okay, this is a bad one. So, on our first record, we have a lot of songs about the apocalypse. I was giving a little introduction at one of our shows to talk about what the song was about, and instead of apocalypse...I said “Holocaust.” It got really bad. As a Jew myself I was able to clean it up a bit, but it was not good.

On bands at Outside Lands

Tommy: You know, I was kind of most excited to see Neil Young last night, because I’ve never seen him, that was awesome. He lived up to all my expectations. And I’m excited to see Tame Impala today. I was excited to see Yellow Ostrich but I think I missed them. Dr. Dog tonight will be great, Stevie Wonder tomorrow will be great.

August 26, 2012

Interview with Fitz & The Tantrums

Fitz & The Tantrums, a six-piece band based in Los Angeles, California, have come a long way since the release of their debut album Pickin' Up the Pieces about two years ago. This soul-influenced funk/indie band has garnered national media attention with their throwback tunes and have been traveling around the country playing shows and major music festivals, such as Outside Lands! The group played an energetic, hour-long set that had everyone at the main stage on their feet and dancing. No matter the venue, these guys really understand how to get the crowd moving, and every show they perform is truly a blast.


Two members of the band, drummer John Wicks (left), and sax/flute player James King (right), were kind enough to take some time and chat with me after their set! Read below to see what these two skilled musicians had to say, and listen to the band's soulful cover of "Sweet Dreams."

Fitz & The Tantrums - "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)"

ON TOURING

John: A lot of us, James in particular, have done touring prior to being in Fitz & The Tantrums. So I think really, to be honest with you, the only guy that was kind of new to it was Fitz himself, he had never been in a band that had toured. To his credit, he kind of hit the ground running and was really a road dog from the start, even when we were just in a van or in a car, and it was a little bit rough but he handled it really well. We’re kind of road dogs as it is. The thing that’s been really surprising has been the quick rate of growth that we’ve had, playing for these size crowds, just insane.

James: We definitely all have toured in different situations. For myself, I’ve been in that level of kind of the van to tour bus, but like John said, to come and play for 20-30,000 people at big festivals on main stages, we’ve done a lot of those in the last year and it’s always humbling. Coming here today is just no different. That never gets old.

ON FESTIVAL PLAYING

James: You perceive it a little differently [than playing smaller venues], but I think that the intent is always the same. It is to get everyone, from the front to the back of the crowd, into it. You have the same challenges with a small club to a big festival. Sometimes, you just have to put yourself in the right mindset. And it’s one of those things that if you really, really give all of yourself to the show, then people will respond.

John: From a drumming standpoint, it’s a different thing. Like James said, you still want to put the same energy, whether it’s 10 people or 10,000. But, when you’re playing in an outdoor venue like this, you actually have to taper down the amount of subtle things you do because they don’t really translate, ‘cause people can’t really hear that stuff. It’s kind of more of a meat-and-potatoes style of playing that translates to the back of the crowd. The other thing is, you get so freakin' amped up when you see that many people that you have to be careful that you don’t wear yourself out after the first song. Because if you go out there with guns blaring, sometimes, by the end of the first song, I’m just like, “Oh my god, I still have an hour to go.”

ON MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENTS

John: [laughs] It might’ve been today! Bless his heart, we had a guy that we totally fed to the lions today. Unfortunately, our keyboard player had some family issues that he had to attend to so we had a last minute sub. And this guy came in and he did such a great job, but at one point, he started the wrong song, and it was just like, “Woah,” and I was looking at him and it’s that moment where you’re trying to figure out, are we going to go with him and start this new song?

James: That’s when those years of touring come in handy.

John: That’s right!

James: ‘Cause we look at each other and we know what we’re going to do. When something like that happens you just have to run with it, and the less experienced musician might have responded, “Ah, I’m just going to start it myself and maybe everyone will follow me,” but you really have to be a psychic and all come in together.

John: Right. But as far as the most embarrassing thing that’s happened, Fitz saying the wrong city we were in. That’s happened once or twice.

James: Yeah, that “Hello Cleveland” thing is never good.

John: [laughs] Yeah, we were in Spokane or Seattle and he said something like that. So we got booed there for a minute and then you try to win ‘em back over, cause you don’t want it to seem impersonal. But I think that was a month into our tour, and you’re just delirious. It’d be like going to San Francisco and saying, “Hello L.A.”, it’s like the worst possible thing you can do.

ON THEIR UPCOMING ALBUM

James: I’d say [the new album] is a lot different. We touched a nerve with people when we first came out because we harken back to this classic sound. We came in around the time when a lot of other people were looking to that era of music, which is good, the timing was perfect. Of course, that’s a sound we’re all into. For the next record, those production techniques haven’t gone away, we’re still trying to get classic sounds, but it’s more kind of looking back to stuff that we came up listening to. So that would be classic 80s. It’s a different kind of retro thing, I guess. We have a lot of the same elements as the first record, but there’s this whole other palette of sounds that we have to work with in our heads, and we’re excited that we get to use those on the next record.

John: The common thread between the last record and this next record is the songwriting. Fitz, before we even started writing for this record, set the bar and said, “Look, no matter what, every song has to be able to stand up on its own and not lean on a single, and it’s got to be all killer, no filler.” And when you’ll be able to listen to this record soon, you’ll see, that it’s the same as the last one, it’s all great songs. And I don’t think there’s any ones that are there for filler.

James: That’s really a litmus test for all of us, we’re musicians that have worked in a lot of different genres. And, like right now [Beck is performing in the background], Beck is playing “Lost Cause” and it’s the test for a musician like that. Can you play one of his songs on the guitar by itself and will it sound good? Will it sound like a song? And of course, for him, the answer is yes. For us, I mean the challenge in that is not having any guitar players, but would these songs make sense, say, if a pianist was sitting at a keyboard and singing by himself? I think so. And you know if the song is there, if the picture’s there, then all we have to do is show up and play the best we can. That’s really a challenge and a blessing at the same time.

ON THEIR MUSICAL BACKGROUNDS

James: John and I are both style hoppers, we listen to anything and everything. We’ve studied all different types of music. And they do seep in. Of course, you can’t go crazy and go and play thrash metal to our music. But yeah, you definitely can take pieces of yourself, that’s why we work as a band. It’s not just like, Keyboard Player A, Drummer B, we actually work together as musicians with like-minded taste.

John: James and I both came up playing jazz music mostly. It’s kind of a funny thing that happens with jazz musicians, there’s two camps; you hit a crossroads and it’s the point where you go, either that you enjoy the athleticism that’s involved with that style of music and the sheer technical facility that you’ve acquired from that music, that’s very very difficult. But some guys, I can’t speak for James but I know him well enough that he sort of shares this with me, that sort of lost its sparkle for me. I got tired of music feeling like an athletic event. I started to take more of an attraction, I don’t want to say simple music, but music that was less notes and more heartfelt. Sort of go that route. All of my favorite drummers are guys that didn’t play that many notes, and technically were not that great, but they were so heartfelt so we went that camp. I have the utmost respect for the other camp, which is to try and take it to the next level technically and play just amazing stuff, and I’m always blown away. A lot of those guys end up being true innovators. But, I couldn’t do that anymore.

James: I think where that line exists for me is, at a certain point, when you’re studying jazz and going further into it, there comes a point where you’re playing to an audience of musicians, or are you playing to an audience of your peers and people who you can actually change their perspective a little bit? If you’re playing to an audience where, like John was saying, you’re trying to take it to the next technical level, athletic level and intellectual level, that’s awesome. I have the utmost respect for that, like he said. But you’re playing to a room of saxophone players, drummers, bass players. There’s a time and place for that. But you couldn’t do that at a place like Outside Lands, you have to connect. That’s been the goal with this band from the beginning and with the next record, I think it’s really going to happen.

Noelle Scaggs of Fitz & The Tantrums performing at Outside Lands

Photos by Rachel and Olivia Fidler 
Click here to see all of Write To The Beat's photos from Outside Lands!

August 25, 2012

Outside Lands: The Good


The 5th annual Outside Lands Music Festival brought the rock August 10-12th in San Francisco. Set in woodsy Golden Gate Park, festival goers got to experience a wonderful blend of nature and metropolitan in one of the best festivals in Nor Cal. With big-name headliners this year, one might think that this fest might've lost its down-to-earth vibe. Turns out we won't have to worry about that. Not only was the venue fantastic, the food absolutely delicious, and the people friendly and ready to have a good time, the musical acts were impressive and just plain fun. Here are some of Write To The Beat's favorite acts from the weekend!

(See all of our photos here!)


Definitely my favorite act of the weekend, hands down. I never would have expected such an enjoyable and amusing show when I cruised over to the smallest stage Saturday afternoon. Joshua Tillman, formerly of Fleet Foxes, performed at the festival under the moniker Father John Misty. He was certainly one of the most pleasant surprises of the weekend, capturing the audience with his witty banter and jokes, sultry dance moves, and killer back-up band. The band's lead guitarist displayed incredible talent, shredding on some rocking solos as the entire band jumped and jived to their music.


The first band to play on the Twin Peaks stage this weekend was PAPA, a four-piece group led by lead singer and drummer (previously of the band Girls) Darren Weiss. The crowd was loving the energy as they rocked through a 45 minute engaging set of their tunes. PAPA had a really strong turnout even though they had an early set, with many dancing and jumping to the band's lively music. They were clearly a fan favorite, and PAPA is bound to be going places this upcoming year.


The Icelandic band Sigur Rós performed an electrifying set on Saturday night. Perhaps it was because Metallica was performing on the main stage that night, but the crowd at Sigur Rós was lively and engaged, definitely a plus. This band is unique and fascinating, and I was completely and utterly wrapped up in the evocative beauty of their music. It was certainly a spiritual experience for me and many others in the crowd.


Though these guys have been lying low since the band's 2009 Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, Franz is back with a kick. They played all their old favorites and had the packed main stage dancing it out during the whole set. These Scots really know how to rock out, ending their act with all four members concurrently participating in a 5 minute drum solo (on one drum set). 


It was a full-on dance party at the Panhandle when Electric Guest took the stage; their songs were just made to dance to. The lively tunes, reminiscent of 70s funk and jazz, combined with the killer falsetto of lead singer, Asa Taccone, are certainly a crowd pleaser. This band released their debut album, Mondo, only April of this year and are bound to be heard more and more these next few months.


Stevie Wonder has and always will be a legend. Everyone had a blast at his set, with the whole crowd singing and grooving, making it was a fantastic way to end the weekend. Not only did he play many of his most popular songs (did you know he's had more than 30 top ten hits??), but Stevie also played some great covers, like "My Girl," "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," and more. Mr. Wonder also took the time to emphasize his well-known philosophy of loving everyone, and urged us at the festival to do the same. His great music and soulful ease on stage continues to make him a great performer.

Having seen this band at Sasquatch, I knew that Alabama Shakes would draw a huge crowd, but nothing could have prepared me (or the rest of the festival-goers) for the massive amounts of people at their set. The whole "Lindley Meadow" was PACKED with thousands of people, all vying for a chance to see Brittany Howard and the rest of her crew play their well-known tunes. Never turn down the chance to see these guys live, they play a show like no other!

Regina Spektor
This girl's got guts. It has to be mildly terrifying, stepping out onto a huge stage to a large crowd of eager fans. But you wouldn't guess that Regina has any qualms about performing. She started her set with an amazing acapella tune and her act just got better from there. Her voice is as impeccable live as it is on her album, and her quirky style and sweet demeanor really drew me in. A very talented singer-songwriter, indeed.

Photos by Rachel Fidler