Thursday, August 28, 2008

Whither Festivus: Bumbershoot 2008

In a perfect world, I'd be making my way to Seattle for the long Labor Day weekend. What's so great about Seattle this particular weekend? Well folks, it's the 38th Bumbershoot Festival, which runs from August 30-September 1. It's a whale of a festival, including far more than just a bunch of super awesome bands (though that is certainly good enough for me). You can get your film snob on at Bumbershoot, check out theatrical and performance art pieces, or have a giggle watching comedians. You can pretty much do it all at Bumbershoot, and it all takes place in lovely (so I've heard) downtown Seattle. The name is apparently another term for umbrella, which I think is an apt name for a city renowned for its rainy weather. You can still get a 3-day pass for $100, which is pretty fantastic for a big deal festival. To give you an idea, here are some of the musical reasons I wouldn't mind heading to the Left Coast:

DAY 1

Neko Case
Lucinda Williams
Band of Horses
Beck
Estelle
!!!
Asylum Street Spankers
Nada Surf
Throw Me the Statue
Barcelona
The Walkmen
Man Man
M. Ward
Kinski

DAY 2

The Black Keys
The Saturday Knights
Lee "Scratch" Perry
Ingrid Michaelson
The Whigs
Sons & Daughters
Tapes'n'Tapes
The Blakes
Final Fantasy

DAY 3

Superchunk
Del Tha Funky Homosapien
Old 97s
Mike Doughty
Blitzen Trapper
Two Gallants
John Vanderslice
Battles
Velella Velella
Arthur & Yu
Sondre Lerche

And that's just for starters.

I think Bumbershoot is a great concept, and maybe one of these days I'll get out there for it. If you happen to be in Seattle this weekend, you couldn't do much better.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Happy 9th Anniversary, Mousetrap

Ok, so this isn’t a live review. But Mousetrap, the Britpop/indie/nostalgia dance party held every month at the Black Cat, has been near and dear to my heart for years and years now, and I think it’s only fitting to say a few words about my experience at this weekend’s 9th anniversary bash. And what a party it was.

Mousetrap has been indulging my Anglophiliac ways for years, and every month has been a treat. The music selection steers a nice even course between trendy new stuff, old standards that are guaranteed to get everybody moving, and the can’t-fail classics that elicit all sorts of cheers as soon as the first note hits the speakers. My feet have logged hundreds of hours on the Black Cat’s dancefloor, and many a blister, too, from over-dancing.

But in all honesty, I don’t know that I’ve ever danced as much, or to as many great songs all in a row, as I did this weekend. Mousetrap’s DJ Mark Zimin kept ‘em coming all night, playing everything a Britpop lover could ask for, from Joy Division to the La’s to Oasis to Blur to Primal Scream to Belle and Sebastian to the Kooks and back again and again and again. Over recent years, there would have been vast chunks of time my compatriots and I would have spent wandering around the entire Black Cat, but not on this night. We were firmly glued to the floor, our feet unable to stop moving as we shimmied and shook and whirled and sashayed to song after song of danceable delight. It didn’t take my long to realize that perhaps yellow snakeskin stilettos were the wrong choice of footwear, but I kept going all the same. It was, quite possibly, the best installment of Mousetrap I’ve ever been to. And believe you me, friends, I’ve been to a hell of a lot of them. We were still dancing when the lights came on and we were all shooed downstairs.

It might not get to the decades-long reign that Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap has had on the stage in London, but Zimin’s Mousetrap proved this weekend why it’s lasted nine years. And so, let’s all raise a glass to the glorious indie lovefest that is Mousetrap. Many happy returns.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Album Review: Duffy – Rockferry

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to meet Duffy. She’s from Wales, birthplace of the legendary voices of Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, and while she obviously has more in common vocally with the latter, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if young impressionable hipster boys were throwing their boxer briefs at Ms. Duffy in the not-so-distant future, as the ladies still shed bras for the ageless Mr. Jones. Surely, Jones and Bassey must be proud of the next generation of Welsh crooning, because she picks up right where Amy Winehouse leaves off, minus all the extracurricular tabloid fodder. Like Winehouse, Duffy is rather young and in possession of one hell of a voice. And like Winehouse, Duffy sure does love to sing about love gone wrong. But on her debut, Rockferry, Duffy steps out from the shadow of Winehouse’s beehive.

For you Britpop nerds out there (like me), rejoice to learn that the Suede legend Bernard Butler produced much of the album. The production on Rockferry is slick, going for that 60s Motown/Stax sound, and coming very close to it with dramatic crescendos, backup singers, and sweeping orchestral movements. At the center of it all is Duffy, blond and big-voiced. At times she is husky, sometimes tough as nails, and on occasion cracking with fragility. As I mentioned above, the central theme on Rockferry is love gone awry, and Duffy certainly seems to be pouring her heart into songs like “Rockferry” and “Warwick Avenue.” “Mercy” might end up being Duffy’s “Rehab,” as catchy as it is. One of my favorites, “Delayed Devotion,” is the ultimate song for scorned women. She begins sweetly enough, nearly cooing, but the lyrics are anything but nice (“my love for you has turned to hate”).

Maybe it’s because she sings of ever-so-relatable, lovesick situations. Maybe it’s her not-quite perfect voice. Or maybe it’s just because she’s at the right place at the right time. But in any event, Rockferry is a great album. It’s both a fitting homage to the past and a reflection of now. I for one hope to hear more from Ms. Duffy.

For your listening and viewing pleasure, here’s the video for “Rockferry.”



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Video Vixens: She & Him

Adorable. Morbid. Morbidly adorable? Adorably morbid? As polar as the two might be, both aptly describe what you're about to see. But whatever this video is, it is pretty fantastic.

I chose this clip not only because of how taken with She & Him I have become thanks to their set at the Virgin Mobile Festival this past weekend, but also just because it's so freaking cute. However it's possible for decapitation and axes in one's back to be cute, that is. Don't worry, the Snow White-esque birds and super precious cartoon ghosts (not to mention animated blood) take the edge off all the silly violence.

And as for the song itself, well, "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here" is a sharply saccharine piece of pop, spun around so that, like its promo clip, it's not nearly as sweet and innocent as you might think.

One can only imagine the kick Zooey Deschanel got out of getting to portray the various ladies in the video, from a cowgirl shot through the heart to the white boot-wearing bride. I'm not sure how I feel about the vultures, though, but the rest of the video is a delight.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Live Review: Virgin Mobile Festival 2008

It was a weekend filled with neon sunglasses, booty shorts, and inappropriately shirtless dudes. Thankfully, it was also a weekend filled with really fucking spectacular performances. The Virgin Mobile Festival was my second festival of the year, and while it was not the cleanest, hippest, most enjoyable (hi, Coachella, the apple of mine festival-going eye) of festivals, it did manage to surprise me, more often than not in a good way.

Saturday was more of a warm-up than anything else. My friend Laura and I arrived late in the afternoon, and headed immediately to the dance tent for Soulwax. The band dazzled in their white suits with black Colonel Sanders ties, not to mention their voluminously beatific songs. The dance tent, which would prove infinitely entertaining for various reasons, was enthralled, and so was I. But Soulwax was just the start. After wandering around, we settled with pizza and flashed back to the 90s while sitting and somewhat listening to the Offspring. It was at that moment where for the first time (yet not the last) that weekend I felt like I was back at RFK Stadium for one of the HFStivals I attended all those years ago. Which isn’t, by the way, necessarily a good thing.

The reverie of retrospective reminiscence was short-lived, as the Silver Beats soon Beatlemania’d themselves onto the stage in their matching skinny ties and suits. The Japanese Beatles were delightful, making their way through “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band,” “Daytripper,” “Drive My Car,” “And Your Bird Can Sing,” “Get Back,” “Come Together,” and “Back in the U. S. S. R.,” with studied yet gleeful diligence. They were a pleasure to see, but when Chuck Berry didn’t appear, we headed over to the North Stage to take our places for Wilco (later we found out that Berry did about a 20-minute set, after the Silver Beats went through a full set of their own). Oh, and speaking of Wilco, just in case you were wondering they were sublime. As a casual fan, one who hadn’t ever seen them live before, I was really blown away. I just tried to stand there (and after a few songs, sit there) and soak in what I was witnessing. And that was a very nice green blazer, Mr. Tweedy.

The last action of Day One took us back to where we had begun, the dance tent. It was packed, and for good reason, as Underworld was about to begin. I’m a casual Underworld fan at best, knowing them for the most part for “Born Slippy (Nuxx),” which anyone who has seen “Trainspotting” would instantly recognize. Mouthpiece Karl Hyde shimmied and bounced his way around the stage in his outlandishly sparkly jacket, as the beats kept on coming and the ground heaved with the swirl of dancers. After a few songs we left, just in time to see Dave Grohl’s face on the South Stage jumbotron as the Foo Fighters played to the masses.

Day Two was daunting, fantastic, grueling, and one hell of a day. It began at 10:45 in the morning, when we slowly made our way to the North Stage for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s noon set. I’m not sure about the state of affairs in the world when BRMC plays earlier in the day than Paramore, and don’t even get me started about certain rappers going on after Bob Dylan. Black Rebel’s Robert (whom I saw wandering around amongst the masses several times over the course of the day) quipped that he had “never been up this early before,” and he wasn’t “gonna make a habit of it.” In the interest of not gushing too much, and since there’s so much else to write about, I will merely write here what I had written in my notes about their set: fucking amazing. Those of us who were there saw something really special. Here’s what they played: “666 Conducer,” “Weapon of Choice,” “Berlin,” “Shuffle Your Feet,” “Ain’t No Easy Way,” “Salvation,” “Six Barrel Shotgun,” “Spread Your Love,” and the added bonus, since they had a few extra minutes, “Whatever Happened to My Rock & Roll.”

I had just enough time to pick my jaw up off the dusty, grassy field when Shudder to Think took the stage. Basically, it was too much goodness to early in the day. My brain almost couldn’t handle that much ridiculously wonderful rock. Shudder to Think sounded great, and once more I felt like I was seeing something rather special. We migrated over to the South Stage for some Andrew Bird next, and please pardon me for sounding like a broken record but Bird and his band were also dynamite.

One of the biggest, most pleasant surprises to me was due up immediately after Andrew Bird, in the form of the Zooey Deschanel/M. Ward pairing She & Him. To quote the Kills, they absolutely fried my little brains. Live Deschanel’s voice takes on an almost Patsy Cline-esque quality, far more so than on their album, and I found myself hanging on her every note (not to mention coveting her adorable royal blue frock). After She & Him, it was over to the overpriced food for some expensive yet rather tasty quesadillas. We took refuge in the dance tent, and sat in the shade while Deadmau5 caused the tent to rattle for quite some time.

And then it was time, time for what I would say was almost definitely my set of the weekend: Iggy & the Stooges. It was insane. Iggy tried to incite stage invaders, but the security staff successfully rebuffed all but one intruder. “TV Eye,” “1969,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and my favorite “No Fun,” were all shredded and elicited roars of approval from those of us who appreciated what we were seeing. Iggy Pop thrashed, pirouetted, and contorted his way around the stage, just as one might expect. And it was, ladies and gentlemen, breathtaking.

The Black Keys, as good as they were, just couldn’t fully capture my attention, sandwiched as they were between the Stooges and Bob Dylan (with a slight stopover in the dance tent to see Moby’s smiling face). Dylan was, well, not the same Dylan of yore. The voice definitely sounds worse for wear, but being in the presence of his greatness was honestly good enough for me. He could have gargled for an hour and I probably would have been in awe. I couldn’t believe how many people left during his set, and it vexed me considerably. But it just goes to show that some people have no taste.

The final set of my festival experience nearly knocked the Stooges off the top of the heap. A very, very impressive Nine Inch Nails set was the perfect way to end the weekend. They were shockingly good. I’d seen them live once before, a few years ago, so I knew they were good. But Mr. Reznor and his cohorts really outdid themselves this time. Besides gaping at how hot Reznor is these days, we were also rendered speechless by an hour of NIN attacking their songs, and playing them with power and authority that it was hard not to be captivated. They were the epitome of showmanship, and it was only the thought of the long drive back to Richmond that tore us away.

All in all, the performances by the band (and the gorgeous weather) were the saving graces of the weekend. There were many things about the Virgin Mobile Festival that left a lot to be desired (the mess, the fighting, the scheduling of bands, etc.), but as far as the music goes, the weekend was a success. But while he might have been knighted, Sir Richard Branson’s Baltimorean folly has a long way to go before it reaches the spectacular heights of a festival like Coachella.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Newsflash: Wolfmother Dismantle Themselves

Another day, another bit of less-than-spectacular music news. Wolfmother, possibly the most famous of those lupine-named bands that exploded several years ago, sent a notice out to their mailing list today. The news is as shocking as running into a bearded dude in Richmond, given all the rumors I had been hearing for months about the rift between the two departing members (pictured left and right) and he who remains in Wolfmother (center, naturally), but it still was a little sad to read. Here's the email in full:

"
Hi Megan,

Grammy Award winning rock band Wolfmother has announced the resignation of bass/keyboard player Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett effective immediately.
Singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale now plans to find other musicians over coming months and to then begin making a new Wolfmother album.

Wolfmother toured the world virtually non-stop through 2006 and early 2007 on the back of their acclaimed self titled debut album. Longstanding frictions within the group then lead them to take an extended break during the second half of 2007 to consider their future.

In early 2008 they regrouped and worked on new material. Initially encouraged by those sessions, they committed to a handful of live shows to 'road test' the new songs and to try to find a way forward.
Those dates concluded with a headlining slot last Sunday at the Splendour In The Grass Festival in Australia's Byron Bay where rumours circulated about possible lineup changes.

Following that show Chris Ross decided to announce that he was leaving the band due to irreconcilable personal and musical differences. Myles Heskett has also decided to leave the band rather than continuing as part of a changed lineup. The pair has been working together on songs for some time and they plan to focus their energies on that new project in the future.

Wolfmother's self titled debut album is one of the most successful Australian rock releases this century. It has sold over 1.3 million copies and received multiple ARIA Awards and a Grammy – making them the first Aussie band to receive such an award in 25 years.

Other highlights for the group have included appearances at just about every major music festival in the world, sharing stages with Pearl Jam, The Who and The Strokes, and a special performance inducting the legendary Led Zeppelin into the UK's Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame.


Andrew Stockdale, Myles Heskett and Chris Ross will make no public statements at this time except to say that they are each really looking forward to making their new music over the years ahead.
In the meantime they simply ask all Wolfmother fans to please understand that in spite of their best efforts over a long period of time, they just could not find a harmonious way to work together and that has lead to the decisions announced today."

It remains to be seen whether Stockdale will reemerge with a new pair of partners, but even if he does, they'll never be the same band. I have to say that Wolfmother was one of the best live bands I've ever seen, and a good deal of that praise is a result of Heskett and Ross, both in terms of their musicality and their showmanship. The first time I saw Wolfmother, it seems so long ago now, Ross nearly bashed my head in with his keyboard stand, but I learned from that night in Brooklyn and never stood in front of him again. This afforded me a great view of his antics, leaping around the stage like a cracked-out bunny rabbit, as well as checking out Heskett mauling his drums with maniacal glee. Sure, Stockdale is a truly great frontman, but to be a great live band you've got to have a certain intangible chemistry working for you. And did they ever. I will remember them fondly, and best wishes to all of them in their future endeavors.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Newsflash: Stooges Gear Stolen in Montreal

I was checking in with the All Tomorrow's Parties site to see what new additions had been made to the lineup when I came across the ridiculously unbelievable news about the Stooges gear being stolen in the wee small hours of the morning in Montreal. One of my biggest dislikes is stealing, especially from musicians. And stealing from legends is somehow especially atrocious. Here's the information, so you folks in Canadia, keep your eyes peeled:

"If anyone has information, ANY INFORMATION!
please, please, PLEASE as soon as possible contact
Eric Fischer at:
nycentral13@gmail.com
cell phone: +1 646 932 1907

PLEASE FORWARD AS FAR AND WIDE AND AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE!!!

IGGY AND THE STOOGES
EQUIPMENT STOLEN ON AUGUST 4, 2008
OUTSIDE THE EMBASSY SUITES HOTEL
208 SAINT ANTOINE OUEST,
MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA

all equipment was in a rented penske 15 foot yellow truck
with u.s. (michigan) license plate number AC46493
and the theft had to have happened in the morning, between 6:30 and 7:30 am

there's a web page at:

http://www.hootpage.com/stoogesstolenstuff/stoogesstolenstuff.html that will soon have pictures and updates to more stuff found missing

Item, Country of Origin, Serial Number

Red roadcase containing: USA No serial number
Red Gibson 1963 EB-3 bass (this is mike watt's bass!) USA No serial number

Black roadcase containing: USA No serial number
Reverend Flying V guitar - Volcano black USA #08001

Black roadcase containing: USA No serial number
Reverend Orange guitar USA 03416 ZSL7

Black fibre case containing: USA No serial number
Gibson red SG short scale bass USA No serial number

Black roadcase containing: USA No serial number
Marshall Vintage/Modern Amplifier UK M-2007-07-0926-2 RoHS

Black roadcase containing: USA No serial number
Marshall Vintage/Modern Amplifier UK M-2007-07-0927-2 RoHS

4x Marshall 4x12 Cabinets (with Tuki cover) UK #1 Slant: M-2007-05-0149-0

4x Marshall 4x12 Cabinets (with Tuki cover) UK #2 Straight: M-2006-49-0380-0

4x Marshall 4x12 Cabinets (with Tuki cover) UK #3 Slant: M-2007-05-0150-0

4x Marshall 4x12 Cabinets (with Tuki cover) UK #4 Straight: M-2006-49-0381-0

Orange Calzone road case containing:
Guitar pedal board and pedals USA/Japan No serial number
Assorted leads USA/UK No serial number
2x mic stands Germany No serial number
Assorted strings and spares USA No serial number
plus:
2x Boss TU2 Chromatic Tuner
Boss CH1 Super Chorus
Fulltone OCD Overdrive
Crybaby Wah
Peterson Strobo-Stomp Tuner Pedal
Whirlwind A/B Boxes
Whirlwind Cable Tester
and many many instrument cables
various tools ( screwdrivers, soldering iron, pliers, etc... )
tambourine and maracas

Cardboard box containing:
Assorted replacement drum heads USA No serial number

Gretsch Silver Sparkle Catalina drum kit USA No serial number
26" Kick Drum No serial number
13" Rack Tom No serial number
18" Floor Tom No serial number
4x Cymbal Stands No serial number
1x Snare Stand No serial number
1x Hi Hat Stand No serial number
1x Drum Throne No serial number

Eden D810 Bass cabinet USA D810RP4 0703E5001

Eden D810 Bass cabinet USA D810RP4 0703E5002

Cardboard box containing:
Eden VT300 Bass amplifier USA 0601E5115

Cardboard box contaning:
Eden VT300 Bass amplifier USA 0507E5033

Floor Fan CHINA No serial number

Floor Fan CHINA No serial number

Green clamshell suitcase containing:
Yamaha snare drum JAPAN No serial number
Yahama kick pedal JAPAN No serial number
Zildjian Mega Bell cymbal USA No serial number
Zildjian 15" Hi-Hats USA No serial number
3x Zildjian 18" 19" 20" crash medium cymbals USA No serial number

Brown Epiphone guitar case:
Black Epiphone EB3 short scale bass KOREA F300503

PLEASE FORWARD AS FAR AND WIDE AND AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE!!!

If anyone has information, ANY INFORMATION!
please, please, PLEASE as soon as possible contact
Eric Fischer at:
nycentral13@gmail.com
cell phone: +1 646 932 1907"

As you can see, a lot of stuff was taken. A rental truck's worth of equipment is no small thing, and a shockingly brazen crime. We here at LET hope the recovery of the thefted items is happily resolved sooner rather than later (or not at all).


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Whither Festivus - Virgin Mobile Festival Review

It seems 2008 is to be my year of festivals. One festival was nice, two was to be grand, but three, well, three is the bee's knees. This one was another rather last minute addition to my gig schedule, too. This weekend I'll be hitting the road up to ye olde Pimlico racetrack near good old Baltimore for the 2008 Virgin Mobile Festival. The Virgin Mobile Festival kind of flew under my radar, what with Coachella and All Tomorrow's Parties taking up most of my attention this year, but the lineup is rather impressive on its own. Not as solid from top to bottom as the other two, but who can argue with seeing legends like Dylan and the Stooges? Not to mention some of my favorite nouveau gazers, a 60s-esque soul siren, Britain's former favorite exports and current favorite big-voiced babe, hometown hero Dave Grohl, some of alt-country's finest, and the oft-mentioned at LET Lord Reznor. The V Fest makes a nice sandwich festival, fewer bands than Coachella and way more patrons than All Tomorrow's Parties. While swimming in the heat and humidity that inevitably wait for us all in Maryland, these are some of the artists we spectators will be spectating this weekend:



Day 1

Cat Power
Duffy
Gogol Bordello
The Swell Season
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
Soulwax
Bloc Party
Chuck Berry & the Silver Beats
Wilco
Underworld
Foo Fighters

Day 2

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
The Go! Team
Shudder To Think
Andrew Bird
She and Him
Iggy Pop & the Stooges
The Black Keys
Nine Inch Nails
Bob Dylan

There are others, but these are the most worthy of the lot. I'm happiest about finally seeing the one and only Bob Dylan, though the Stooges also present a rather exciting legend sighting as well.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Live Review: MGMT @ the National, July 29

It took about a week to recover from four shows in five days (it’s no mean feat the older you get). The icing on that delightful, if somewhat ridiculous, cake of musical delectableness was my second absolutely yummy MGMT show in as many nights, this one at the absolutely gorgeous National.

I felt like half of Richmond was there with me, the place was so busy. We were treated to fantastic opening sets by Kuroma and Violens, both of whom you should immediately seek out and fall in love with. As for MGMT, well, they picked up right where they left off from the 9:30 show.

A very, very lengthy instrumental intro led into “4th Dimensional Transition,” which felt a bit fast but not horribly so. My favorite MGMT song, “Pieces of What,” was next, and the twang slayed me once more. It’s one of those songs that has the ability to turn my knees to jelly whenever I hear it. Before launching into “Weekend Wars,” the National was sanctioned as a “cool place to play,” which pleased the assembled mob greatly. As for the song itself, well, “Weekend Wars” was spotless as can be, with slightly less bratitude in the vocals than can be found on the Oracular Spectacular LP.

Hank from Kuroma ventured onto the stage to join MGMT for “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters,” and if there is one thing I think we’ve all learned over time it’s that you can never have enough guitars onstage. Hank was a welcome addition to the already full sound emanating from the stage. “The Youth” was next, which felt appropriate given the possible average age of the persons taking in the show.

The kids went absolutely out of their minds for “Electric Feel,” and you’re a stoic soul indeed if you’re not getting into the groove by the end of the song. Age and the need for sleep got the best of me, and as the strains of “Time to Pretend” filled the National, I stopped to ogle the adorable boy manning the merch booth before heading home, visions of electric eels dancing in my head. They’re not your grandparent’s lullabies, but MGMT works for me.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Say it Ain't So!: Charlatans Cancel DC Show

File this under shittiest news of the weekend. One of my favorite bands of the 90s, and still very much beloved to me, the Charlatans had brought immense joy to my life after the announcement of their October 15th date at the Black Cat. After all, I've been loving songs like "The Only One I Know" and "Sproston Green" for nigh on 15 years now. But today, while perusing the Black Cat's schedule to add to our own fabulous calendar of events, I noticed these terrible, horrible, no good very bad words:

"Wed Oct 15- CHARLATANS UK have cancelled. Internet and phone orders will be automatically refunded. Please return to place of purchase for all other refunds."


Be still my breaking heart! I've been scouring the internets looking for reasons why, or if this is the only date cancelled, but so far no such luck. If you've got any info on this staggeringly dire news, please feel free to let us know so we can spread the word.
I'm gonna go throw on some vintage Charlies and mope for a while.

[Photo by Roger Sargant, via the official Charlatans website]