Category Archives: Real Music

2 Days at BottleRock Napa Valley

Matisyahu at BottleRock 2014.

Matisyahu at BottleRock 2014.

What a difference a day makes. This year, I attended the first two of three days of the mega music festival BottleRock Napa Valley. It’s the largest event ever to hit the heart of Napa, CA, the still small-feeling town that somehow agreed to again host the event after last year’s famed financial turmoil and logistical woes ranging from crowd control to noise complaints. This year, a new organizer and scaled-down offerings tried to keep the peace, and they succeeded-mostly.

Day One- May 30:

The weather was the first surprise of the weekend; Friday offered a cool, even breezy afternoon that turned to a chilly evening. Four stages played to 24 bands throughout the day. It was a relatively calm affair that likely saw far less attendees as maybe organizers had hoped. For the most part, the logistical aspects of food and drink lines and bathroom cleanliness was kept in good order, and I saw many festival goers themselves helping to throw away garbage and just be generally decent. Maybe Headliners like the Cure and Sublime with Rome(the guy, not the city) simply brought out equal parts of older and more sedated fans who were content to throw down blankets and relax. Either way, lots of great music happened throughout. Jewish rapper and reggae star Matisyahu delivered an effortless and nicely rocking set of smooth jams and authentic beats, many from his upcoming album, “Akeda,” out on Tuesday, June 3. TV on the Radio wowed me with a continuously intensifying set of their eclectic indie rock and soulful electro pop. Gin Blossoms made the Napa County fairgrounds very “county fair” feeling with their set, but all had a great time. Overall, crowds seemed to not know or care about how much has been made (most of it in jest) of the crop of 90’s radio rock leftovers that filled out the lineup. They sang right along with “Follow You Down” and clapped, mostly in time, with the band through their back catalogue of, ahem, lesser known hits.

Delta Rae SIngs their heart out.

Delta Rae SIngs their heart out.

TV on the Radio's lead singer Tunde Adebimpe casually wows the crowd at BottleRock 2014.

TV on the Radio’s lead singer Tunde Adebimpe casually wows the crowd at BottleRock 2014.

TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone gets into the groove at BottleRock 2014.

TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone gets into the groove at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure really was the gem of this show for me. They are a longtime favorite of mine, yet I’ve only been able to see them live twice before, and it’s been 7 or 8 years since the last time. They were amazing. No way around it. They sounded great, and their setlist was a mash of surprises and staples from their 30 plus years of new wave post punk emo goth melodic pop angst. Robert Smith’s hair was a glorious tangled web of aquanet and Napa winds and Simon Gallup’s tight denim and slicked back hair still make him look like he stepped out of a 1982 Clash video. It was sight to behold. The Cure opened with “Shake Dog Shake,” a surprise choice off their 1985 album, The Top. They played for 2 and a half hours with hits old and new, and I realized how much I do in fact like their more recent material, pitch perfect pops songs and raw, soaring rock riffs. Smith also allowed himself to show off a playful side, dancing and making faces throughout the set, they and everyone else was having the time of their lives. It was only when the festival had to cut the power at 10pm (a price to pay for hosting your outdoor fest in a Napa neighborhood) that the Cure finally left the stage, and only after the crowd of perhaps ten thousand helped Smith finish singing the band’s encore of “Why Can’t I Be You?”

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

All in all, a nice easy festival experience that I looked forward to repeating again with BottleRock Day 2. I had no idea what I was about to experience.

Day Two- May 31:

“Third Eye Blind can suck my dick.”

Of all the things that I could not have expected happening on BottleRock day 2, Smash Mouth lead singer Steve Harwell talking mad shit about his apparent rivals has to be at the top. You see, these two 90’s rock throwbacks were playing at the same time on Saturday, only one was one the Main Stage, and one wasn’t. Guess who wasn’t. Still, Smash Mouth rocked the house like I could never have expected. I was having fun, dammit! At a Smash Mouth set! My God, I had to get out of there! But I could barely move, suddenly finding myself in the middle of a horde of festival goers packing us tighter and tighter with every song. And then it hit me, there’s a shit-ton of people here today!

Estimates on Saturday were leveled at around 30,00 festival goers. Now, Friday could not have had more than ten thousand attendees, but this day was different. The whole vibe of Saturday was opposite that of Friday. It looked like a younger crowd, beefier, more apt for alcohol. Beer and wines lines were a dozen deep by 2pm, twice that by 4pm. The food trucks felt the pinch as wait times for orders hit a half hour. Bathrooms got gritty. The whole thing got gritty. Suddenly, people were competing for space, competing for views. There was a tension in the air, at least on my radar.

Trebuchet play BottleRock 2014.

Trebuchet play BottleRock 2014.

The day started out well enough, Petaluma band Trebuchet played a fun set of folk rock with great harmonies and cute little ukuleles. Brooklyn indie duo Matt & Kim were the highlight of the early afternoon, running out to meet the crowd from the main stage and practically beaming throughout their energetic and hip set of synth rock. Drummer Kim Schifino’s smile infected the whole crowd, and I’ve rarely witnessed a duo able to get a party going more effectively than these two. L.A. noise punks No Age blew out some eardrums, but sounded awesome on the smaller stage, right before Smash Mouth started taking jabs and downing drinks that weren’t Coca-Cola. After that, the mood seemed to change, couples were bickering more around me. People were stumbling, either from not eating right or not hydrating enough in the sun after drinking heavy craft beers and strong Napa wine. I started to watch my step, if you know what I mean.

Matt & Kim get the party going at BottleRock 2014.

Matt & Kim get the party going at BottleRock 2014.

Weezer plays BottleRock 2014.

Weezer plays BottleRock 2014.

Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo rocks out at BottleRock 2014.

Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo rocks out at BottleRock 2014.

De La Soul connects with the crowd at BottleRock 2014.

De La Soul connects with the crowd at BottleRock 2014.

But, I’ve totally buried the lead here. Day 2’s headliner was the recently reunited hip hop dream team of Andre 3000 and Big Boi, aka Outkast. The duo have been headlining all the festivals lately, and the general consensus is that they were the big “get” of BottleRock this year, playing it over other major Bay Area festivals like Outside Lands. They were crazy, introduced to the audience in a giant glass case like Magneto at the end of that first X-Men movie. Soon enough, they escaped their confines to perform a blistering, dizzying and all-out electrifying set of hits. The other big evening act was classic rock sister act Heart. Let me tell you, Anne and Nancy Wilson still got it. They sounded amazing, looked spectacular, it was a rock and roll show every step of the way. They, too, got the cut-off treatment at 10pm. But that slight wasn’t nearly as bad as when attendees tried to get out of the festival that night, as 30,00 people attempted to form ONE line that led to shuttles taking folks to the parking areas located out of town. I got the bright idea to leave a little bit early, and still took a good 45 minutes to go from festival gate to car door. I heard reports of people waiting three hours, and fights breaking out over line cutting and such. Not a good way to end the day.

Outkast at BottleRock 2014.

Outkast at BottleRock 2014.

Outkast at BottleRock 2014.

Outkast at BottleRock 2014.

OutKast at BottleRock 2014.

OutKast at BottleRock 2014.

I’m actually glad that I did not get to go to the third and final day of Bottlerock. I know there’s some great acts playing, like Deerhunter and Thee Oh Sees; there’s also some horrible bands playing, like Spin Doctors and Barenaked Ladies. It would have been awesome to see LL Cool J if  for no other reason than to say you did it. But, after two long days of escalating madness, its best I stay out of wonderland this last day. I must say it was much more fun than I anticipated, although I knew for a fact I was going to love the Cure already (biased reporting I know, sue me). Would I try it again next year? Maybe, we’ll have to see the lineup. If you can get Crash Test Dummies to come out for 2015, you’ve got my ticket already spoken for.


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MusicfestNW 2011 In Review

This last week/weekend found most of downtown Portland and beyond dominated by the massive musical festival that is the annual MFNW. Set over 5 hot and muggy summer days and dozens of venues around the city, it featured an outdoor stage in Pioneer Court House Square and acts ranging from the local to international. Here’s a smattering of what I caught, a fraction of the action to be sure.

Sebadoh by Daniel Cronin

My first show of the fest was one of the biggest. A headlining set by the recently reunited Archers of Loaf and a supporting set by Sebadoh, with local duo Viva Voce opening. Set in the sweltering Crystal Ballroom, the show was a shot of nostalgia with both “The Doh and The Loaf,” as Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow put it, sharing the bill at a venue show for the first time in, well, ever. Sebadoh’s set was marked by Barlow and compatriot Jason Lowenstein switching off from sludgy, slanted indie pop, to straight up punk thrashing. The trio perfectly set the stage for Archers of Loaf, and the influential 90’s rockers shot through a catalogue crossing set featuring a band that is a little older, and a little easier on the gear, but no less exciting. The wide eyed grins coming from generations of fans after the show spoke of that.

Friday was a younger version of Thursdays events, starting at the Star Theater with Seattle troublemakers BOAT cruising through a set of catchy, hooky indie rock with a Pavement-esque appeal and a deadpanned passion that had audiences signing along and throwing confetti like some kind of  house party. To contrast to that, Dirty Beaches played a set over at Dante’s with a minimal and anti-pop approach. Songwriter Alex  Zhung Hai utilizes prerecorded beats and a dissonant guitar to accompany his growling vocals in what could be a primordial soup of rock and roll. A very surreal set of music. Following that, back at the Star Theater, San Francisco psyche rockabilly band Thee Oh Sees absolutely tore the place apart with their hyperactive roots and punk rock.

Thee Oh Sees by Andy Wright

For all the frenzy and excitement of the first two days, the weekend was downright pleasant, though no less scorching. Saturday saw an outdoor show at Pionner Court House Square that featured some local and not-so-local acts. Opening up was ambient producer Eluvium, aka Portland’s Matthew Cooper, who makes wonderful music to watch shadows dance across buildings to. Next up, beloved Portland ensemble Typhoon played an appropriately rousing and spirited set. After that followed sets by Brooklyn scenesters The Antlers and Austin’s instrumental post rockers Explosions In The Sky. From there, Avi Buffalo and Blind Pilot played at the Crystal Ballroom. While the young and eager Avi Buffalo suffered from both equipment and banter failures, not to mention a sloppy set, Portland’s Blind Pilot saved the day by putting forth a solid set of both folky harmonic tunes and and their newer, more rock leaning soon-to-be-hits. This show was their official album release for We Are The Tide, and by the reaction they got at the Crystal Ballroom, bet on Blind Pilot to really take off this year.

OK, enough puns, down to the last day. With festival fatigue setting in, it was nice that Sunday was the shortest day of the week, with only the outdoor show downtown happening. Cass McCombs delivered a sublime set of music, most of it off his recently released album Wit’s End, and all of it stunning in it’s melodic simplicity. An artist who can do very much with a minimal effort, it would be nice to see him again live, maybe in a more intimate setting and one with less distracting circumstances. Headliners Band of Horses were the main attraction of the show,  and they played a fun and lively set to be sure. Thankfully, a few cuts off their superior debut album made it on the set list, as well as a few new as yet still untitled tracks that could have been worse. All in all, a fitting end to the long week.

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Don’t call it a comeback

This is the first thing I’ve written in a while, so I fully expect to be a bit rusty. Let me see. Ok.

So, lately I have been thinking a lot about bands, at least the ones who’ve broken up. The bands I discovered after they had parted, quit, died, etc. It’s always been the fan’s dream for a reunion. Of course! Who doesn’t want to see the good times again, those times you were unaware of or not yet born to be a part of. The times that have been so well documented after the fact, the acts whose influence and tremendous power is felt only after they’ve given it up. The reunion.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about ever since I heard that Pavement is having a reunion tour. This was some time ago now, and the thought had strayed, until the Lineup for Sasquatch was announced. And right up at the top, crowded around My Morning Jacket (yawn), Vampire Weekend (yaawn), and Ween (really?), Pavement would finally be within my reach.

Being the ripe old age of 10 when Pavement were at their height (sorry if that made you feel old) I only discovered the band some six or seven years ago, too late to see a show. The band called it quits in 1999. And now a decade later they are playing shows together. Yay! I get to see them now! But, why do I feel this conflict within me?

Is it cool to see a band after they’ve reunited? I get to thinking. Well, I myself saw the Pixies at Coachella, but I wasn’t really there for them, and basically sat around in the polo field listening halfheartedly. But by then, the Pixies had gone from an underground sensation to a sold out festival headlining spot right off the bat.

And others have done the same thing. Mission of Burma were hardly known outside of Boston in the 80’s, but when they returned, everyone had heard of them. Pretty convenient if you ask me. Reuniting right when the next generation has discovered and marketed your old life.

Dinosaur Jr. are ooooold. But still cool. How do they do it?

Then I get to thinking, you know there’s really two types of reunions, those that stay relevant, and those that don’t. Dinosaur Jr. and Mission of Burma both came back and released a good number of quality albums. Then you have the other side, like the Pixies, who reunite, but only for a brief moment, reliving (or cashing in on) the glory days and the best of times.

So what? Do I go see Pavement or not? Let’s get to it. And bottom line, courtesy of Mr. Eric Ritz, ” They were never a good live band to begin with!” They were a great album band, every album sounds supreme, and the songs are expertly wrought, but live they turned into a lazy jam band of sorts, just fiddling around, not taking it too seriously. But that’s who they were. And this can be attributed to their scene, to the early 90’s in Stockton, CA.

Guy I know, he grew up in Stockton, saw Stephen Malkmus’ high school band before Pavement, saw them play local clubs. They were deeply in the scene in Stockton, whose defining motto, as this guy put so eloquently, “Fuck everything, man. Fuck school, fuck work, fuck it.” Nice.

At the core of my argument is this. Seeing Pavement today will never be as cool as seeing them fifteen or twenty years ago. Standing at a festival, surrounded by children and yuppies dancing around in their sun glasses at night is not the way to see Pavement. It just wouldn’t be right.

Alas, I will not be seeing Pavement. I don’t want another Mark Kozelek experience just yet**. But I will be seeing the Appleseed Cast playing their albums Low Level Owl Volumes One and Two, back to back in their entirety on Monday.  I am seriously stoked. Those albums are amazing, I can’t wait.

Listen to these albums now!

So there you go. A lot of my favorite bands, Yo La Tengo, Built to Spill, Flaming Lips, Radiohead, they’ve all been doing it a long time. And I really respect that. If you retire in the NFL, you should stay retired. If you retire, especially if you simply walk away from music, don’t expect me to come crawling back later. I don’t know if I can go through that again.

That’s about it. Oh yeah…

**I saw Mark Kozelek at the Great American for Noise Pop. It was awful. He came out and couldn’t play through most of his songs. He forgot entire verses, and then second verses. He even forgot “All Mixed Up,” probably his most popular song ever. He made everyone get patted down at the door, and demanded that no pictures be taken, not even by IPhone or whatnot. Then he admitted to “rolling out of bed” before coming. He talked shit about Noise Pop at their  show that they asked him to play. He even gave away that his fingers were too cold to pluck the strings. Umm, that’s why people “warm up” before a show, asshole. I’ve waited years to see him play, and now I’ll never have to wait again. Cripes.

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Top Ten Reasons Why the Cure Does Not Suck!

Nine hours in to the new decade and I just got dissed. What’s worse is I had zero comeback. Nothing. I was stunned, not only because someone was calling me out on New Year’s morning, but dude. Nobody, but NOBODY says the Cure suck. And here’s why:

10. Boys Don’t Cry

Yes, I see the irony in acting like a whiny little baby, and then start off with “Boys Don’t Cry,” but that’s just how it’s going to be. One of the catchiest pop riffs ever, the song is simple, yet wholly memorable, tapping into truth and insight in two and a half minutes. And Robert Smith was barely 20 when he wrote that. It only gets better from here.

9. the hair

Oooohhh, the hair. Good God, it’s just so… so… big. I guess once you go Aquanet, you can’t go back. I don’t know, for me the hair is awesome. All of that effort, so many hours and curlers and shit, just to look like that. You know what that is people? It fucking dedication to the cause! You know what? Same goes for the eyeliner! You go, goth!

8. the year that was 1982

Besides sporting one of the best title/cover combos in music history, this album defined the Cure as a post punk innovator and pioneer in 1982. Nobody sounded like this when the album hit our shores (maybe Joy Division), full of tribal drums and brutal wails, its almost like an early 80’s precursor to today’s black metal.

And now for something completely different.

No this video itself is not from 1982, but the song is. Two reasons to post this video. Not only is “Let’s Go to Bed” a critical point in the bands time line and growth, but DAMN! look at Robert Smiths short short haircut! Holy Geez.

So after Pornography, there was a bit of a detox that needed to happen. The band was in bleak states, almost breaking up in the process. Smith, on his own, set out to “write the antithesis for what the Cure stood for ” at the time. What emerged was a highly energetic, danceable, and goddamn fun as all hell song. It became so popular that Smith would feel comfortable in the future to write such greats as “Why Can’t I be You?” “Friday, I’m in Love” and “In Between Days,” all amazing songs.

7. Robert Smith’s awesome F-Bombs

It doesn’t happen often, in fact it’s quite rare. But once in a great while Robert Smith will just drop the most amazing F-Bomb in his lyrics. Most notably on “The Kiss,” the opener to Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me.

Oh, it’s a dark intro, building and building. You can tell things are bad as Smith starts in with “Kiss me kiss me kiss me/Your tongue is like poison/So swollen it fills up my mouth”

But when he really gets into it, you just want to stand back, give the man some room, and he needs it as he explodes with “Get it out get it out get it out/Get your fucking voice out of my head.” It’s probably the single most satisfying F-Bomb in music. So good.

6. Cult Hero

A quick little side band to show you. Cult Hero was formed briefly in 1979, right before the Cure became known for Three Imaginary Boys. The Cure was basically joined by Smith’s sisters and a local postman, and released two incredible songs, “I’m a Cult Hero” and “I Dig You”. Just listen to ’em. You’ll love it.

Tracks 11 and 12.

While you’re at it, just listen to the whole Seventeen Seconds album. I am.

5. Simon Gallup

When you think of the great duos in history, Batman and Robin, peanut butter and jelly, Donald Trump and his toupee; few things go together as well as Robert Smith and Simon Gallup. The Cure’s bassist for most all of their thirty years, Gallup was even Robert Smiths best man. That, and he’s one of the most imitated, influential musicians out there. Make no mistake, more than one of your favorite bassists had Simon Gallup in the back of their mind when they bought their first four string.

4. Close to Me

Speaking of Simon, how ya like that bass line from “Close to Me?” My personal favorite video of theirs. It speaks for itself.

3. 4:13 Dream

That’s right assholes. I love the latest Cure album. The most common complaints about the group usually focus on their recent output. For some reason, starting with Wild Mood Swings and Bloodflowers in the 90’s, the Cure sound was no longer cool. WTF?

I love that Smith and these guys (by the way the current lineup is maybe the best for outright musicianship) are still at it. If the Rolling Stones or motherfucking KISS with their stupid as fuck FACE PAINT AND HIGH HEEL BOOTS are still cool in their old age-and they’re not, really- then the Cure, who have never tried to retire only to come out of it and play for more expensive ticket sales, are still cool.

The band still sounds just like the Cure on this highly underrated album, from the pretty, sappy pop of “The Only One,” the heavy use of chimes and the rock solid riffs on every track. It’s at least worth checking out, sure this isn’t a masterpiece, more just a minor work from a master, but whatever, whatever. It’s good.

2. that South Park episode

You know that episode where Mecha Streisand is terrorizing South park? And the only man who can save us is Robert Smith. Apparently, Trey parker and Matt Stone would agree with me that…

1. “Disintegration is the best album ever!”

It is you know. Combining the early gothic stuff with a melodic undertow and sublime songwriting, there is nothing, not one second of this album that I don’t cherish. Please, please listen to this album once in your life, preferably in a dark room with the sound turned all the fucking way up. Superb. This is why I like music.

So there you go mean girl who thinks the Cure suck. Take that. You have successfully revived my complete and utter devotion to a group that I had sort of stopped thinking about for awhile. Thank you for reminding me why I proudly wear my hoodie, and by the way, you suck!



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Some of the Best Albums of 2009

So here we are, ready to sum up a year in a top ten list. Now, when I originally set up this blog one year ago, it was intended to be a space not only for movies and geekiness, but music as well.

In fact, most of my writing not associated with Fun Run is music journalism, has been since college. So, yea. I have been listening to a boat load of albums lately, trying to catch up enough on 2009 to collect a best of list. I don’t think I quite got it all, but here are some of my favorites of the year.

And for the record, no, Animal Collective will NOT be on this list. They get enough attention and I have not actually listened to it. But also, some of my favorite bands like Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and Morrissey will all be absent from this list. Just know that I still love them.

Ok, here we go. In no particular order, here’s what I remember from 2009.

Built to Spill – There is No Enemy

There is no enemy, but also there is no way a Built to Spill album is coming out and it doesn’t go in my top list. They are simply one of those bands who can do no wrong. They excel at both the heavy psych rock, the short and sweet pop song, the blazing at both ends heavy shit, everything. These guys are the consummate professional, the masters of their craft, and it comes through in every second of There is No Enemy. Not one note is wasted, not one minute misguided. Simply put, Built to Spill rule.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There are Mountains

I discovered this band in the course of writing assignments, and they blew me away almost instantly. “…And the Hazy Sea” is one of the best opening tracks of the year, and the rest of the album is a chaotic, catchy and enticing blend of the best of indie rock in the 90’s (I know, right?) and some good post rock thrashing about. Plenty of good stuff to pick and choose from, but the whole album works as a single musical statement.

David Bazan – Curse Your Branches

Ever since Pedro the Lion stopped me cold in my tracks, singer/songwriter David Bazan has been one of my musical heroes. With an emotional and lyrical weight, Bazan has been exploring more and more personal issues in his solo material. This culminates on Curse Your Branches with a fall from grace of sort, a break up with God, and some of Bazan’s best writing in a decade. This was the album I was hoping for, so it’s all the more satisfying when the songs get stuck in my head for weeks on end.

Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

I had always kind of been on the fence with Grizzly Bear until this year. They were always interesting enough, but does that make them a good band? Well, Veckatimest puts all that fence-sitting to rest, as the album breaks down any walls (or fences I suppose) one might be tempted to build. Utterly gorgeous and pitch perfectly arranged, this offering from the Brooklyn based group proves their hype and signals a new step in their rapidly maturing prowess. “While You Wait for the Others” might be my favorite song of the year.

Mount Eerie – Wind’s Poem

I’m always a fan of anything Twin Peaks, so when Phil Elverum took that and the forests surrounding his own small northwest town as inspiration for this album, he had me at “Through the Trees.” Add to it moments of utterly brutal metal and scenes of wanton vulnerability, and you have one of the most diverse and original sounding records of the year. Full of nature and the fury contained within, Wind’s Poem is the bleakest of Mount Eerie’s material, but also the most accomplished.

Nurses – Apple’s Acre

My new favorite Portland indie pop band, Nurses excel at a whimsical and disarming psych pop blend of electronics and harmonics. While their long hair and capes may signal hippie rock, their music is anything but. With unique and hook laddened rhythms abundant throughout, Apple’s Acre is a great introduction to a band that is just months away from breaking wide open. Get in on it now, thank me later.

Papercuts – You Can Have What You Want

Where to begin with Papercuts? San Francisco’s Jason Quever has been making his off kilter brand of indie rock for years, mostly on his own, and mostly under the radar. This album is easily the best of his career. It’s an unnerving concoction of vintage organs and falsetto shakes. Quever helms some dark territory throughout, playing up his isolation and disconnect to the majority of his surroundings. For me, it doesn’t get much better than “Future Primative.” Not only does it have one of the best bass lines of the year, it breathlessly propels itself and the final act of the album to some unbelievable heights.

Russian Circles – Geneva

You know that RCA ad where the guy is sitting in his chair and the TV is just blowing a hurricane of sound into his face so hard he’s got to wear shades to protect himself from the unstoppable onslaught bearing down on him? Russian Circles is like that. Only more so.  Each output by this group gets louder, crunchier, heavier. And Geneva tops all with its gut punching, face tearing, maniacal gleam in the eye brand of instrumental post rock. Get your metal face on kids, Russian Circles is not fucking around here.

Woods – Songs of Shame

The lo fi buzz of Songs of Shame comes as no surprise to fans of Woods, but may raise a few unsuspecting eyebrows otherwise. Certainly it’s the most accessible album of their career, though it’s also one of the more diverse and eccentric works they’ve produced. The boys in Woods are a restless lot, as evidenced in their myriad of side projects and label ownings, but that doesn’t mean Songs of Shame is unfocused, it’s just a spirited and, well, kind of kooky brand of indie rock. Really, I’m not sure how to recommend it, except to say just jump on in. The shock is bracing, but the water’s fine.

Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs

Yo La Tengo is in the running for best band of the last 25 years, and they should be. Their music is no less than spectacular. Time and time again they break barriers, exceed expectations, and prove themselves both as sensitive artists and freaks of the scene. Trying to out shred guitarist Ira Kaplan is an exercise in futility, as is any attempt to one up their overall craftsmanship. Popular Songs continues this tradition of kicking everyone’s ass with pop painted aural soundscapes. Long live Yo La Tengo.

That’s enough. I’m spent.


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Week in Review

I just got back to Portland last night after more than a week working and visiting in the Bay Area. So here’s a quick wrap of my last few days.

The Treasure Island Music Festival

treasure island overview

In it’s third year, the treasure island festival finally sold out. Ticket wise that is. The festival, a past time for me and Annie since its inception in 2007, was packed for both days, meaning more crowds and more craziness. Saturday the 17th was an electronic filled day of dance and DJs galore. I only got to see a limited amount of that day, but it was an earful. MGMT headlined the day, which also featured acts ranging from Passion Pit to Girl Talk to Murs. It was eclectic and exciting to say the least.

Day two, the 18th, was really more my style, with indie rock as far as the eye could see. The day was much chillier, and the music reflected that was Beirut, Grizzly Bear, and The Flaming Lips all gave us some stellar sets. Yo La Tengo was my personal highlight, a group that I have loved and praised for over a decade now, but have never seen live. They did not disappoint, playing an all time favorite (“Stockholm Syndrome”) as well as some great stuff off their latest record Popular Songs. Here’s some more pictures I did not take but which can be found on the treasure island website


the flaming lips


Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros


Grizzly Bear ... I'm actually in this picture. Can you spot me?

After this weekend of fun and excitement, it was time for work. To make money, I set up and help run live events like this past week’s Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. This is the second or third time I did this show, and usually it’s a mixture of hugely powerful CEOs and the bums who want to sell their next big idea. Sometimes there is a special celebrity cameo. Last year it was Former Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore.

al gore

This year?

Carson Daly


So it was that I exchanged a head nod and eyebrow raise with Carson Daly backstage at Web 2.0 this year. Just a couple of dudes, saying what up.

Fucking Carson Daly man. What a glamorous life I lead.

So I was doing that for the week solid. Long days, lots of fun. It’s my job. When I wasn’t working I was getting reacquainted with terrible TV shows. I can tell you for a fact that TV is killing our minds, and they’re not even trying to be subtle about it anymore. I literally watched a CBS sitcom with a punchline that went: “I’ll have to Facebook him!” (huge unexplainable laughter coming from studio audience)


After so much depressing TV and work, it was high time I drove back up to Portland. Lo and behold, the night I get back there’s a great show happening at the Aladdin Theater. Ironically, or coincidentally at least, the band in question is from San Francisco. Hey, I was just there!

It’s the Dodos, with New Zealand’s Ruby Suns opening.


The Dodos is a recently upgraded duo to trio outfit that can be best described as punk folk, or stompin’ acoustic, or tribal country. I’m not sure. I can tell you that the drums from Logan Kroeber are hard and pounding as singer Meric Long’s guitar is furiously picked and strummed while Keaton Snyder’s giant xylophone/vibraphone monstosity is ding donging along and the whole thing is just so good. It’s head nodding, foot tapping rocking out pure white heat, and made for an amazing return to PDX.

Today I had a health exam complete with paper suits and blood letting, but you don’t want to hear about that now do you? Next week I’m off to Vegas, celebrating Ben and Nicole’s wedding on Halloween. Sweet God, I am looking forward to that. Until then…

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Filed under Real Music, The Little Things, TV Sucks

Today in Unecessary Supergroups

The latest thing in music seems to be the super friends phenomenon. Musicians, prompted either by lackluster sales or lacking inspiration, just can’t seem to get enough of palling around with other elitist musicians and creating the dreading supergroup. It’s a sight all too common since Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and a Beatle(!) got together for the stupidest-band-name-in-history finalists The Traveling Wilburys.

But theyre so old...

But they're so old...

These days, any Tom, Dick and Harry in the indie world is scanning their ranks and pairing up or forming teams a la recess softball. And now, here come the hippie’s entry with Monsters of Folk.

Clockwise from top left: Conor Oberst, Jim James, Mike Mogis, M Ward

Clockwise from top left: Conor Oberst, Jim James, Mike Mogis, M Ward

Honestly, I’m not sure where to start.

1. You’ve got four reasonably talented songwriters, apparently sharing duties and collaborating, and this is the best they could come up with for an album cover? For a name? Monsters of Folk? Are you freaking kidding me?

2. The very notion of this even being a folk group is dispelled upon first listen. Sadly, the three tracks released prior to the album, out Sept. 22nd like you care, are about as trivial and misguided as anything the men could have done on their own. Maybe Oberst. That snot nosed little brat is always fiddling with some brand of suck.

Psst. You look ridiculous.

"Psst. You look ridiculous."

Just listen to their turntable laden falsetto crackin’ jive talkin’ BeeGee’s derived “folk” hit Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)

NO REALLY. LISTEN TO IT. Dear God is right. Dear God make it stop!

3. I mean, besides the quality of the actual recording process (is that even there?), this kinda blows right? Am I off on this one? Am I the only dimwit out here who’s thinking, “maybe a band with the word folk in it should play folk music?”

Yes? No?

It’s true that I’ve never really been a fan of My Morning Jacket or Jim James, I’ve seen them, I’ve heard them, no big whup.

And M. Ward is alright, but no big deal to me either. (and I like She & Him even less. Take that hipsters!)

And I don’t even know who Mike Mogis is. But really, Mike Mogis? They couldn’t get one more famous pseudo folkster on for something called Monsters of Folk? Mogis?

Sorry. If you’re fuming in disbelief right now cause My Morning Jacket is, like, the best ever or M. Ward is so fucking amazing he makes you cry like a little girl then I guess this sounds a bit blasphemous, but I’m willing to take that chance.

Really, I just hate it when kids today are listening to absolute shit out there and, instead of teaching them the good stuff, musicians are more apt to resort to whatever means necessary to get a slot on The Tonight Show or MTV or Rolling Stone, or any of those spotlights that could not care less about actual music. And I see this as one of those moments.

C’mon guys. If you are the Monsters of Folk you claim to be, step up and play some fucking folk music! Hmmmm. Whatever. The real tragedy is, these guys don’t even really inspire that much emotion out of me. I’m already over it.

Give me the Monsters of Rock!!!



Filed under Real Music