Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Glastonbury Day 1: Animal Collective

Animal Collective headlined the first night at the Park Stage. The Park is secluded from the rest of Glastonbury, and takes a good 20 minute walk off of the main grounds to reach.

When I originally saw this I had the feeling that the show would be smaller and more personal, and I was right. The stage was much smaller than most, and sits at the bottom of a rounded hill that envelops the sound the same way as an amphitheater. Perfect for all of the acts that I saw there.

This was easily my favorite stage of Glastonbury, and falls into one of my favorites of all time:

Full crescent moon.

Not to mention that this stage was absolutely perfect for this band. There was no display in the back of the stage, just a black sheet with a number of small lights popping out and a few large ones blazing through the band. Animal Collective set up their long and thin neon light sets, the only prop that assisted them on stage other than a few spotlights above. And it was perfect.

I managed to squeeze my way to the front for this one, primarily because I ventured off alone. To me, AC still remain the most important band right now, and I wanted to get up front. Seeing them up close at the Troubadour vs up top at the Wiltern made a huge difference, in fact I didn't enjoy the Wiltern show. Being up close made this another monumental show.

These are some of the best pictures I have ever taken of a band.

Their equipment:

Does that setup not scream at you "Animal Collective"?

And of course, them:

Fucking beautiful setup.

This show was nothing short of perfect. No hiccups, no sounds problems, no singing issues, the sound was great, they were into it, we were into it. I haven't seen Panda Bear rock out that hard, nor sound that good, so I think this was a particularly good show for them.

They played a mostly Merriweather set while throwing in "Fireworks" and "Slippy." My only complaint is that they didn't play "Leaf House," a song they have included every time I have seen them, and one of my personal favorites live. In addition English crowds love to dance and that song has one of the sickest buildups/basslines that would have made everyone go nuts.

But you can't have everything. This was as close to perfect as we're going to get. One of my two favorite shows of the weekend.

Glastonbury Day 1: Friendly Fires

This band is fun, their performance was fun. Nothing spectacular, but fun:

These guys played their songs pretty well and had good energy, so my hat goes off to them.

Glastonbury Day 1: Fleet Foxes

This is a band I have not seen yet however have heard that they are very good live, so I made the trek and squeezed through the crowd to see these Northwesterners play on a stage and to an audience that was way too large.

I think it was a mistake to put Fleet Foxes at the Pyramid Stage. The Pyramid hosts some 60-100k people, depending of course on the act, and is mostly tuned to mainstream rock or pop that gets you dancing and tapping your toes. You need someone loud and charismatic, not a group of singer-songwriters that are akin to playing shows in small clubs and bars.

Pecknold started with "I feel honored to be scared shitless of all of you." The crowd didn't laugh too much but I did. Remember who these guys were a little over a year ago? Neither do I.

All in all, it was difficult to really see these guys but their music did sound great. The guitars and harmonies were perfect as far as I could tell, but who really knows, I was a football field away.

Is that even them?

People were enjoying it, and singing along, but again really not attuned for 4 pm at the Pyramid. They should have been headlining the Park stage on the third night.

Glastonbury Day 1: Fucked Up

Oh boy, here we go.

I don't know how to start describing how ridiculous this show was. I'll probably go in chronological order, trying to recapture the insanity of Pink Eyes / Damian Abraham's performance.

I found this today and fight it quite suiting:

Damian showed up to the stage wearing wellies, baggy shorts, a familiar hip hop inspired tshirt, and the Glastonbury pass around his neck. Holding a plastic bottle of wine along with a plastic cup shaped as a wine glass, he poured the wine into the cup, sipped it with one pinky sticking out, and then splashed the rest onto his face right before screaming at the top of his lungs for the intro to Son of the Father.

He ran around for a bit, still fully clothed, still screaming into the microphone, and then proceeded to climb the rigging and sing a full song while hanging with one arm, wellies still on his feet.

Shortly after coming down, he jumped off the stage and joined the audience, singing from right behind the barrier, grabbing the crowd into it. After a couple minutes he slipped and feel backwards, onto the floor, and into the mud. Keep in mind that it rained all night prior and the floor was far from solid. Instead of getting up, he just stayed there, and sang the rest of the song, on his back and deep in the mud.

When he got up his back was fully brown and he received a rambunctious cheer from the crowd. He took off his shirt, and commenced singing into the crowd, now shirtless.

At about this time Damian took a second to address the crowd. "People told me Glastonbury was crazy. But I had no idea how fucking crazy this place really is. People are literally living in human shit!" We all laughed, and the show continued.

By this point people began to crowd surf, and you guessed it, Damian wanted a piece of the action. This is from NME:

When the crowd realized they couldn't actually carry him (sweaty, harry, muddy, overweight) Damian fell to the floor, but again, kept singing. After getting up and mashing with the crowd for a little while he stormed through everyone to the back of the tent, the rear stage where the guys run the mixing board.

He was exhausted by the time he got there, which is understandable considering he was wearing wellies and had to push through some 20,000 people.

At this point we were lucky enough to catch sight of both his ass and his penis.

After singing a few songs at the back, he again pushed through the crowd to finish off his set at the front.

He closed with a couple more songs and an interesting bit. "I want to thank the security guards for letting me do all of this. I can't tell you how many shows I've been to where I've been kicked off the stage for trying to have some fun. Let's give it up for these guys." And they got their applause.

My friend Julian is convinced that they are going to make a training video for security guards titled 'What is wrong with this performance?' Let's be honest, this would have never happened in America.

It was a crazy show, and I'm pretty sure Damian knew it would be when he showed up.

Glastonbury Day 0: We Have Band

There were only a few shows on Thursday, as the festival formally started Friday, however I managed to see one that I thought was worthwhile.

We Have Band made it to Glastonbury by winning a Q Magazine competition. They weren't kidding--they gave these guys four full slots in four days. And then they're off to tour Europe. It sounds a little bit fixed to me but nevertheless I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

After sitting through a painful hour with Maximo Park, whilst many English teenagers jumped up and down my back, We Have Band came on. A threesome wearing all white and consisting of a white guy on bass (mostly through effects), an Eastern European looking girl on vocals and keyboards/synths, and a black guy who stood while singing and handling percussion.

In case you weren't aware that the late 70s and 80s are back:

This band reminded me a lot of CSS, or other bands that are newer yet sound like they came off one of the New York Noise compilations. Very dance/electro/funk; beat, synth, and vocal driven. It's by no means excellent or groundbreaking, but fun nevertheless. I would recommend it to anyone looking to get their heart rate up before a night out.

I was impressed with the band's performance, they put on a good show. Their instrumentation was nearly flawless, especially with regards to the drummer. Standing up and playing a full drum set, while at the same time singing, is by no means easy, however he pulled it off. The female singer was suiting for this type of music and her dance moves kept the crowd intrigued. The bass player was rather subdued and typical and probably the only weak link to the performance, but it wasn't distracting and our eyes focused on the other two.

This is one of those bands that I could see hitting the main stream, at least for a short while. We should keep our eyes open.

Here's a tune, one of their singles, and gives a good idea of what their music sounds like:

Oh! - We Have Band

Glastonbury 2009

Yesterday was the end of a truly incredible event. The English know how to organize a music festival, and did it well in every way possible.

Getting to Glastonbury, UK, was an experience all of its own. Trecking down small country roads, with houses, walls, schools, and churches made of ancient brick from a local quarry. Beautiful countryside, green hills and valleys as far as the eye can see.

Once you park and set up camp, we began our walk from the campsite to the festival. Treading down the steep (and depending on the weather, muddy) slope to enter through Gate C gives a great view of the full grounds. Stages, stands, tents, and people span the entire hillside.

During the day:

And at night:

This wasn't a music festival, it was a contemporary arts festival. Whether it was circuses, comedy shows, street performers, smaller bands on side stages, pubs bars clubs and excellent nightlife, or kids shows, there was something for everyone. I saw toddlers and old men. As many people in their 30s, 40s and 50s as there were in their 20s. There were many families there, with their children, and I can understand why.

Of course, for me this was an epic experience because of all of the great shows I managed to see in one weekend. And with only one battery pack in my camera, I managed to capture quite a lot.

Over the next couple of days I'll post a series of reviews, in chronological order, for the most notable performances.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Grizzly Bear @ the Troubadour

This was one of those shows that only happens once in a while.

Originally, Grizzly Bear were scheduled to play a show at the Wiltern, a venue 5x as large as the Troubadour. The Wiltern show was their biggest venue yet, and they sold it out. About a week ago, they announced a second secret show at the Troubadour. Seeing this band at a place like the Wiltern would be way different from a place as intimate as the Troubadour. With a band like Grizzly Bear, intimacy made all the difference.

Their harmonies were flawless, inspiring, and gorgeous. Ed Dioste sang about 6 inches away the microphone and projected his voice very calmy and subtly. They amount of power he was able to draw with such little effort was quite incredible. At times I was amazed that he was even singing because his mouth was barely open.

Daniel Rossen, notable for his excellent side project with Department of Eagles, seemed humble and relaxed. He had a smile on his face between songs, a solemn glaze while he played and sang. He seemed very content and to be enjoying himself. Maybe he felt at home, which would be suiting considering he grew up in LA.

Together, they put on quite a powerful performance. Their voices are so contrasting yet so familiar, and along with help from Bear and Taylor, built a wall of sound and voice that was mesmerizing. The singers switched between lead and backup, with 2, 3, or 4 singers at once, all members of the band sang at different times. This is all there on their albums, but less apparent. Seeing it live was a very different experience. Each singer seemed to have his distinct place in each song and buildup, and was necessary for the completion of the song.

Other than vocally, the musicians played their instruments flawlessly. True professionalism. Bear on the drums was nothing short of perfect, and as many drummers would agree his percussion is not easy to construct or replicate. Taylor and his bass carried every song, subdued yet deep and distinct. He threw in the wind instruments, flute and a saxophone, which complemented the vocals and melodies on every opportunity.

My highlight of the night was Knife, probably their most well-known song. After the buildup and builddown, then Dioste leading "Can you feel the knife," Rossen carrying the 2nd melody, the others the third and fouth, they hit their harmonies like a knife. It cut through your spine, leaving nothing but remnants of shivers.

The real virtue of being at a show like this is that it is where all of the closer followers of the band will show up. This was apparent last night. The crowd was extremely enthusiastic, especially this one guy that kept yelling things in between songs. Normally I would find this obnoxious, but for some strange reason it seemed very appropriate. "Grizzly Bear!" "Genius!" "You guys sound like fucking Thom Yorke and Jeff Tweedy!" The crowd, and the band, would smile every time this guy yelled something.

Grizzly Bear, and the LA crowd, had an excellent evening.

Monday, June 15, 2009

San Francisco

Now that I have 1 job again and the Lakers are world champs I can finally have some free time. It's been a long stretch, some rearrangements on the trade desk then covering others while they're on vacation, all while depriving myself of extra sleep (yes, I go to bed at 9 pm) to watch the playoffs.

This past weekend I flew to San Francisco to visit my best buddy Dan from high school, see his world, meet his friends, etc. I had a blast. What a great place. So much life and character.

Most of my weekend had in one way or another to do with music. Maybe that's just virtue of hanging out with probably the most knowledgeable punk snobs I know. I learned about many bands and great records that I either passed over previously or never heard before. I am in the midst of making a punk collection that I will post on my blog, it will probably take a couple more months but I'll get it to you eventually.

The first night we hung out at this bar that could have been located in Echo Park, equally grungy and hipster, all with great taste. The DJ was this cute and charismatic brunette that had a killer collection of 7"s, playing tracks ranging from garage to psychadelic to punk. She laid off the soft stuff, and it was pretty killer.

We got pretty hammered, we being everyone in our group, and Dan and I set off to a different bar where we got free shots and beers. Why did I drink more? I don't know. But they were playing such bad music at this place that it was comical, so we laughed and drank. Dan called it a "bridge and tunnel" bar, not nj cats but oakland rather. Not a great place, but we knew the bartender and he hooked it up.

So I'd tell you the rest of my night but it was kind of a blur. All I know is that it was fun as hell. Don't mix whiskey and fernet and beer. I promise you will not have a good time the next day.

The next afternoon, after my 3 pm wakeup, was spent at a bar where Dan DJed. This was exceptionally cool because I got to sit there and listen to his tracks while him and the lead singer of his band narrated. Between talking and listening, I sat on my phone and made lists--albums I need, bands I need to check out, songs I need to revisit. I'll be busy for weeks.

Later on we drove out to the show, Jay Reatard and Thee Oh Sees at the Independent. Thee Oh Sees opened, who are now getting decent hype and I think they are somewhat worthwhile, but I have yet to own a record. The singer had a penchant for putting the microphone in his mouth while he sang or yelped. Interesting guitar work too, at times rocking the 12 string. We'll see how it sounds out of a recording studio.

Jay Reatard put on a pretty good show, although I have to say that the first time I saw them in LA was much better. Dan agreed, his last show was better, primarily because he threw a girl off the stage. That's what you get for fucking with his V. But anyways he played his songs crisp and quick, his drummer is a pretty sharp guy. Playing flawless drums like that for 30 odd minutes is pretty sick, especially with no breaks in between. For some reason they didn't play DOA both times I saw them, and yes, that's my favorite song of theirs.

The crowd was rather interesting. Not the group you would expect to see. Maybe because many came to see Thee Oh Sees. But some douche kept saying "Man, they sound like the Buzzcocks!" behing us, and anyone who listens to Jay Reatard or the Buzzcocks knows that the only similarity is that they fall within the same genre. On another note some fat girl grabbed my ass.

Jay likes to pull people on stage and this time it was no different. He pulled this kid on, gave him the guitar, and the kid was going fucking nuts, playing like he was the fucking star. When the show was over there was blood on the guitar because he strummed so hard and didn't have a pick. Pretty sick.

In the morning I made a stop by Haight and Amoeba before my flight. Amoeba San Fran. Better Rock LP collection than LA, and it's own punk section. That was perfect because most of my weekend picks were punk. The LA store is great, and much much larger, but I think I liked the store on Haight more. The layout was simpler and I enjoyed talking to the staff. Music snobs but didn't show it. I grabbed my Amoeba plastic bag, got into a cab, and took off. But yea, I'll be back sooner than later.

All in all I was frustrated to come back to LA, to my apartment, to the job. But that's virtue of having a great weekend away from things.

In one week I'll be off to London, and that's really all I can think about.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Radiohead and Finance

This came on my Bloomberg last week. Pretty perfect.