My Coachella 2011 Experience

Wow.  Where do I possibly begin to describe Coachella 2011?  Well, I can sit here and complain about the heat and the itchy bracelets (or “shackles” as my friend Kim called them) – but why bother when the positives outweigh the negatives? 

First of all, I have to state that Goldenvoice did an amazing job this year with crowd control.  There were the aforementioned bracelets that may have itched slightly but man, they ensured who was getting in and out of the enormous field.  You couldn’t even get within proximity of the Empire Polo Fields without the magic bracelet.  Check points for cars, walkers, bicyclists, etc. were all over Indio.  Well played, Goldenvoice – no gatecrashers this year!  Hence, no overcrowding. That brings me to the physical size of the venue.  Several football fields long, it was even bigger than last year and made room for yet another tent (ok, it was being called a dome, whatever).  The combined effect of the scanned bracelets and bigger venue size made for a fantastic weekend where overcrowding didn’t feel like an issue.  Amazing!

The fashion was, well, wacky again to say the least.  I really wanted to ask the people with fake fur scarves (and even fake fur gloves!?) what they were thinking. I mean, people, come ON – it was 98 degrees on Saturday!  Very, very hot.  I wore a simple tank top and shorts and roasted with the best of them in the shade of the beer garden each afternoon.  The food was a bit expensive as it usually is (same with the alcoholic drinks) but it was pretty darn good again.  Spicy Pie for the win!

ANYWAY – onto the music.  I tried not to drive myself crazy with the numerous conflicts in set times and just went with the flow.  I started off Friday by seeing The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.  They were having a blast up there; you could see it written all over their faces. Their near-shoegazing sounds made for a nice afternoon chillout zone and the crowd swayed along with their tunes.  Lead singer Kip Berman chatted warmly with the audience about which acts he was excited to see and highly encouraged the masses to see Suede tomorrow night (more on that later!). 

Next up was chilling out in the beer garden by the large Coachella Stage to see if Lauryn Hill would actually show up.  We figured hey, let’s hydrate and see what happens.  (Little did I know that Cee-Lo Green had shown up suuuuuuper late for his set and then had a hissy fit when he was told he had to end his set early.  Dude, show up on time and then you get to sing all your songs!)  So I’m looking at my blackberry and wondering how late she’s going to be, or whether she’s going to show up at all and lo and behold, a mere 15 minutes late, there she is!  She sounded a bit hoarse and was drowned out a bit by her incredible band and backup singers but the minute she got into Fugees music, you could just feel her win over the growing crowd.  Nicely done, Ms. Lauryn Hill!

After being surprised and then dancing for a bit, we stayed put to listen to Interpol start their set.  Moody and intense – yes.  Solid songs – definitely.  The super large screens on each side of the Coachella Stage added to the dark quality of their songs by flashing red lights throughout their set.

Next up – the Black Keys.  The crowd swelled for these guys and boy, you could see why within 5 notes of the first song.  Watching the chemistry between Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach is just incredible.  Patrick keeps a steady beat while watching Dan rip into his guitar solos.  Absolutely amazing duo and it was impressive to see what songs they chose from their latest album and what gems they chose from the past albums.  Well played, boys!

Then came Kings of Leon which was my biggest worry of the weekend.  Why was I worrying?  Well, the public has turned on them recently since “Use Somebody” has been played on soft rock stations.  And once-rabid fans are just super annoyed over their last two albums, declaring them “too soft” and wishing them to return to their rockin’ roots of their earlier albums.  I was nervously reading the Coachella message board and I’d say roughly 80% of the comments were anti-KoL and I was starting to wonder if they would even draw much of a crowd.  Well, I’ve been a fan of them for a long time and I’m pleased to announce they had a large crowd and the Followills appeared to have listened to their fanbase and played a large number of older songs!  Excellent.  Very good call!  The crowd seemed receptive and not throwing out boos or catcalls like I had feared. Phew.

Next up was the traditional “rave” spot of the weekend being performed by the amazing duo The Chemical Brothers.  Starting a few minutes late was forgiven quickly as they put on a stunning show of visuals and beats.  Glow sticks were rampant as expected and the duo closed out a fantastic first day.

Next day after some lovely time poolside (yes, you can be jealous), we headed right for the beer garden for some Erykah Badu.  There were some technical glitches during her performance but it didn’t seem to get the crowd or herself down.  “On and On” was met with usual chilled out, blissful sway-type dancing and provided a great start to our Saturday.

After feeling nice and chilled out, we went for more of the same – the Mancurians known as Elbow.  Singer Guy Garvey seemed to be immediately overwhelmed by the oppressive heat within the Mojave tent but didn’t let it ruin his band’s performance.  The second song into the set was “Grounds for Divorce” and the crowd fed into it right away.  The entire set left everyone feeling peaceful and easygoing and was quite a nice way to celebrate the sunset (and decreasing temperatures) on the second day of Coachella.

We decided to hop onto the ferris wheel and kill some time rather than join a band’s set midway through.  The wait was worth it when we reentered the Mojave tent for The Swell Season.  Glen Hansard came out for a few minutes to tune with the band (imagine that, a performer wanting to be part of the setup process!) and the growing crowd screamed approval.  Once the entire band took stage, it was just mindblowing how incredible their performance was.  The crowd sang along to the songs from the movie Once in approval and overall, it was another feelgood and heartfelt performance for the day.

Right after The Swell Season left the stage, I pulled my friend Kim forward as far as we could go (which turned out to be pretty damn close) and waited for Suede (that’s The London Suede to us Americans).  She had never heard one song by them and I was just dying to see how they would be.  Well – they were nothing short of incredible.  I’m going to call them the act of the weekend. Seriously, that good!  Lead singer Brett Anderson never uttered a word to the audience as he immediately laid out his signature sexy moves by swaying his hips, jumping up and down, demanding the crowd sing along and wrapping the mic around his body several times.  The band ripped into their hits without a hitch, sometimes just starting a song on the final note of the previous song.  I am still absolutely mesmerized by their performance and can only hope they’ll come back to the states for another show.  My friend turned to me with a huge grin on her face and said “that was UNBELIEVABLE” and a guy to our right stated “that was better than sex.”  Yes people, it was THAT good of a performance.

We rushed over to catch Arcade Fire as soon as Suede finished up and to our delight, they were only 2 songs in.  Phew!  Arcade Fire was solid as always, playing a great mix of songs from their Grammy-winning album and frontman Win Butler seeming to be in disbelief that they were playing to such an impressively huge crowd.  While I personally was still on a Suede high, I will say that Arcade Fire was great and the surprise of the balls being dropped at the end was a great way to cap Saturday night.

And then, the last day.  Booooo.  😦  Once again, we headed right for the beer garden and listened to Nas and Damian Marley.  The crowd within the beer garden was highly enthusiastic when Nas did his biggest hits and then broke out in cheers and applause for their rendition of Bob Marley’s “Could This Be Love.”  Very nice!

We raced over to catch some of Best Coast, who did their dreamy super short songs to a large crowd.  Their hit song “Boyfriend” got the biggest reception but they also threw in some brand new songs into the mix. 

After grabbing a burger and shake, we ran over to catch Foster the People.  They came on a bit late for the massive crowd in the Gobi tent and we only caught a few songs, but the band seemed to be having a blast playing for a crowd that was spilling out of the tent. 

We zipped over to catch the majority of Duran Duran’s set.  The 80s rockers blended a nice mix of songs from their latest Mark Ronson-produced album and biggest hits from the 80s.  Seeing people randomly dance around for “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” was a great sight.

The it was time for The Strokes.  Julian Casablancas made his usually witty comments in-between songs and the band gave the crowd exactly what they wanted – rock songs delivered with gusto.  Playing all their past hits, you could tell the band was truly enjoying themselves on stage.

And then it was time for the most highly anticipated performance of the whole weekend – Kanye West.  Everyone was wondering how he would cap an amazing weekend of music and boy, he did NOT let us down. Appearing on a moving elevated crane above the audience with a stage full of writhing dancers, one got the feeling they were in for the performance of a lifetime. Sure enough, Kanye delivered and dedicated it to his beloved mother, ending the night with a heartfelt “Hey Mama.” 

I fully admit to still having the post-Coachella blues (and total exhaustion from taking the redeye back to NYC last night) but all I have to do is look at my pictures from the weekend and relive the memories.  I can’t wait until Coachella 2012 🙂

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The Watson Twins Announce New EP And Tour

The Watson Twins are showing their admiration to artists like PJ Harvey, The Black Keys, Bill Withers, Sade and more by putting together their own take on their songs. The whole EP was recorded in only a week and encompasses moments from five decades of music, with a special Watson Twins touch. You can download their cover of Turtles’ “You Showed Me” on their website HERE.

The twins will also be taking the new tracks on the road over the next two months when they open for Amos Lee and Alexi Murdoch. Check out the dates below.

Here are their upcoming tour dates:

3/3  –  Costa Mesa, CA – Detroit Bar (with Alexi Murdoch)

3/5  –  Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg Theater (with Alexi Murdoch) SOLD OUT

4/22 – Raleigh, NC  – Lincoln Theater (with Amos Lee)

4/23  – Charlotte, NC  –  Knight Center (with Amos Lee)

4/24 –  Asheville, NC – Forsythia HallHeadlining show (with Amos Lee)

4/25 – Knoxville, TN  – Tennessee Theater (with Amos Lee)

4/26 – Atlanta, GA – Smith’s Olde Bar Headlining show (with Amos Lee)

4/27  – Athens, GA  –  Melting Pointkno Headlining show (with Amos Lee)

4/28 – Charleston, SC – NCPAC (with Amos Lee)

4/29  –  Birmingham, AL  – WorkPlay Soundstage (with Amos Lee)

 

The Morning Benders @ Webster Hall, NYC – November 18, 2010


The Morning Benders are a band I first encountered at The Market Place Hotel (R.I.P.) in Brooklyn supporting Surfer Blood (also that evening playing alongside bands such as Grooms, Turbo Fruits, and Beach Fossils) and I’ll admit at first I wasn’t impressed, but there was a certain charm their stage presence put out that has stuck with me. The band not only seemed incredibly young but ripe for the journey most aspiring musicians cannot even comprehend, fast forward to where we are today, the bands sophomore record Big Echo is destined to make many top 10 list, they have already supported Ra Ra Riot, White Rabbits, MGMT, Yeasayer, and The Black Keys, and after all of that the band have set out on their first headlining tour. Not bad for the four little guys who played Market Hotel earlier this year.

The bands performance really surprised me. Its unbelievable how much a band can change in the span of a year but The Morning Benders make it a feat to show that they’ve been doing nothing but learning. Chris Chu fronts the band with a relaxed talent but isn’t afraid to get into his tunes, while his brother Jon Chu backs him up with a rhythm guitar which could be named precision. After the third track Chris Chu proclaimed “Earlier this year we released an album called Big Echo! We’re going to play a lot of tracks from it to thank all of you for the year we had!” I was lucky enough to capture their show at Webster Hall (along with photos of opening act Twin Sister).

Photos from the show can be viewed here.

No Age – ‘Everything In Between’


No Age’s second album for Sub Pop, Everything In Between, builds upon the mastery of their dirty clean sound which traces its antecedents through New York No Wave, Modern Noise, Dream Pop, Hardcore and the kind of adolescent punk which sprung from the ether in LA over the past decade.

Dean Spunt and Randy Randall are musicians using a solid combination of guitar and drum and effects, aiding the normalization of other recent break out two-piece acts such as Japanther, the late and much lamented Death From Above 1979, The Black Keys and Japandroids who use noise in less an abrasive manner than in service to the songs.

This is most apparent on Everything in Between with the excellent “Fever Dreaming” whose distressed and scorched wails are the amazing guitar noises that are half broken robot, half toy keyboard and half screech of tires. Yes, 150% awesome. That’s “Fever Dreaming.”

Though they step out of the expected mold time to time on this album such as with the quiet duet “Chem Trails”, these soft butterflies of chaos are not the songs that you’ll find yourself returning to or adding to party playlists.

Everything in Between isn’t quite a move forward or evolution of the sound No Age has been kicking down stairs since their first compilation Weirdo Rippers. Rather, it’s a lateral move from the excellent Nouns whose combination of minimalist compositions and maximum rock n’ roll got No Age the well-deserved recognition beyond the loft show set.

Frankly speaking, despite the missteps and seemingly out of place songs, Everything In Between contains strong contenders for your year-end Songs of the Year listings while those same growing pains don’t quite coalesce just yet for No Age over all. It’s tempting to hope that this is somewhat of a transitional album and that they are able to once more make the musical leap from the growth demonstrated in Weirdo Rippers to Nouns.

Make no mistake, Everything in Between demands your undivided attention and you would do well to grant it.

Members Of The Oblivians, The Ettes Team Up For New Album

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Greg Cartwright(the Oblivians, Compulsive Gamblers) and Coco Hames (the Ettes, Coco Motion) had an idea. They would each record a song and release it as a split-45.

That idea has blossomed into a whole album, featuring guest spots by members of the Black Keys and the Raconteurs.

“”I thought, I’d write a song, Greg would write a song, we’d record them together, and that would be that,” says Hames.  “Luckily Greg’s prolific awesome switch was on, and we got this whole record instead.”

Recorded under the name the Parting Gifts, the album (The Strychnine Dandelion) features contributions by Dan Auerbach (the Black Keys) and Patrick Keeler (the Raconteurs, the Greenhornes).

You can find it on store shelves and online (of course) November 9th. Luckily for you, we also have one of the tracks available right now! You can hear “Keep Walkin” right here.

Parting Gifts-Keep Walkin by John Grimley

The track listing for the full album looks like this:

1            Keep Walkin’
2            Bound To Let Me Down
3            Strange Disposition
4            My Mind’s Made Up
5            Shine
6            Born To Be Blue
7            Staring
8            Don’t Stop
9            My Baby Tonight
10            (Walking Through The) Sleepy City
11            Don’t Hurt Me Now
12            Hanna
13            I Don’t Want To Be Like This
14            Strychnine Dandelion
15            This House Ain’t A Hom

The Demon Beat

Every now and then we come across a new band that blows us away completely. Case and point, meet West Virginia’s own The Demon Beat. This three piece band blend rock with a whole lot of soul that will have you out of your seat dancing.

Singer Adam Meisterhans’ voice is  unbelievable, and has a bit of southern howl to it.  With influences from everything such as the Black Keys to Jimi Hendrix, The Demon Beat manage to combine everything they love and make it there own. Each song just gets better and better.  Be especially sure to check out the track ‘I’ll Be Your Man’, one of the most phenomenal tracks I’ve heard in quite a while. This is one band to look out for.

The Demon Beat is currently on tour. You can check out their Music and Tourdates on Myspace