Friday, July 31, 2009

Pitchfork Music Festival 2009 - pt. 1

I'm the guy everyone else behind me hates at concerts - tall with a big head. But that also means I get to see everything and have a heads-and-shoulders advantage for taking pictures and video. My camera doesn't do justice to any of the guitar sounds, mostly all you can hear are the vocals and drums, and typically my pictures are mediocre at best. Just take my word for it that it was one of the best, and most exhausting weekends of my life. The festival crams about a dozen bands into 10 hours each of Saturday and Sunday, and a few bands on Friday. (I did not go on Friday.)

Acts I wish I didn't miss: The Walkmen, The National, Pharaoh Monch, Vivian Girls

Worst show: Doom

Most annoying hipster accessory I'm guilty of: Wayfarer shades

Good shows I don't have pictures of and therefor aren't covered below: M83, Matt and Kim

The following clips and videos are ranked with my favorite show of the weekend first.
Black Lips
Saturday, July 18
The Black Lips are a bunch of deviants. After a lengthy sound check, guitarist whats-his-face immediately smashed the shit out of his Gibson on the first song, tossing the broken neck into the crowd, asking if anyone needed a pick-up.
Known for their onstage antics, the boys didn't do anything illegal this time around, but they did a fine job of letting the world know that they, in fact, do not give a fuck.
Standing in the first few rows for the Black Lips, it was too rowdy to take any video, and the stills I took before we pushed our way to the front are mostly garbage 'cause it was nighttime. Needless to say, the Black Lips put on a raunchy, awesome show, full of crowd surfing, band-member drinking and fan behavior-bating. Over the course of seeing more than a dozen bands, the dirty bastards in the Black Lips still find a way to standout as the grimiest bunch of rock n' rollers in the group. They had to play a short set - Pitchfork agreed with the Po to shut everything down by 10 p.m., and the band before the Black Lips played late. I should feel guilty for skipping the National for the Lips show, they were, of course, every critic's favorite, but I can listen to the National at home. I can't jump and sweat and scream with kindred idiots at home. The set hit all the favorites - "Oh Katrina," "Bad Kids," "Starting Over," but they could have easily played for another hour and not run out of titles I wanted to hear.

The Thermals
Sunday, July 19

The Thermals mixed in several covers, opening with Sonic Youth's "100%," (a song I didn't know) along with some others easier to recognize - Green Day's "Basket Case," which they played without a hint of irony, giving it the same level of enthusiasm they imbue any of their own political indie-pop punk. This was probably the closest I got for any show, and left without most of my voice, and several ounces of sweat. This video is lame, one of my least favorite songs they played, but the crowd wasn't going as crazy so I could pull our my camera without risk of breaking it.


This buzz band blew up quick as hell (and without backlash, so far), from recording on a bedroom record label to playing for thousands at Pitchfork. And they rocked. Dude's got one guitar feeding 12 12-inch fender speakers (in 4 cabinets), mic'd for the PA of course, and gets the crunch only a pile of hot glowing tubes can get. His confidence borders on cockiness, but the guys from Canada know how to put on a rock show. Did I mention/brag that I had the vinyl before anyone else? Sorry.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2009 - pt. 2

Blitzen Trapper
At a hippie music festival, they are the indie band, at a indie festival, they are the hippie band. use whatever label appeals to you, but Blitzen Trapper make timeless rock and roll, with touches of folk, psychedelia, blues and even glam rock. And dudes got some pipes you don't notice until you see them live. The drummer looks like cousin it, has one of the most righteous beards of all time, and the Garfunkel-esque rhythm guitarist applied about a gallon of sun screen to his forehead.

Couple pictures:

Fucked Up
Art-damaged hardcore outfit Fucked Up have one hell of a front man. Damian Abraham made the typical stage banter actually humorous, telling the crowd the crown they are better than "that Animal Collective record, they sound like Phish." Too easy? Maybe, but shifting one's jokes to the crowd at hand isn't always easy at is it probably seams. He was grabbing the beach balls out of the air and deflating them with his teeth, eventually wearing one as a hat. Here's a quiet moment during "Crooked Head."

The Flaming Lips
The last show on the last day. Word has it they spend $5,000 on confetti, that about sums it up. It's the second time I've seen the Lips. They played a couple new songs, and some super rarities, not of which translated live that well. And they let the crowd decide (by applause) between "She Don't Use Jelly" and "The W.A.N.D." The crowd chose "Jelly." I wanted the other. Why can't we have both? They also didn't play "Free Radicals," so that sucked. But otherwise the Lips were as entertaining as ever, even if i was a mile away.

I don't care what my friends think, Ponytail is awesome, especially live. The post-punk guitars absolutely destroy. Sure, "singer" Molly Siegel's lyrics are all ecstatic yelps and "whooos!" and "whyatcha!" But that's the point. She is just pure joy and energy on stage, personified. The band started as an art school project that took a life of its own, after all, and her voice is just an abstract instrument. I couldn't help but smile the whole time. (Insert joke about wondering if she's a boy or a girl .... that shit's tired, grow up).

before the show, I was sort of ambivalent about Yeasayer. Now I get it. Polyrythmic without losing it's groove, soulful while still digitally relevant - the band finds a happy area somewhere between TV on the Radio's poppier moments and something actually on the radio. One of the more amazing moments of the festival happened during their set, when it started dropping buckets of rain, only to stop when the band reached the chorus of it's indie hit - "Sunrise" - and the big yellow guy actually peaked his out from behind the clouds.

Grizzly Bear
I only saw part of this show. Another bedroom/ear phone band.
"Two Weeks"

Cymbals Eat Guitars
This was the first show on Saturday, and I only saw the last three songs. it was impressive enough to prompt me to order their CD. It's not only one of the best debuts of the year, it's one of the best records of the year. Not immediately as engrossing as seeing the band's energy live, the album "Why There Are Mountains" is a grower, and it's been in my car nonstop since its purchase.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Serious Man

Being that the Coen brothers are by-far my favorite contemporary film makers, this opinion is just a bit biased: their new film "A Serious Man" looks awesome.

Here's the trailer:,31054/

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pearl Jam scavenger hunt: I did the work for you

Pearl Jam hid 9 pieces of album artwork all over the internet, from the upcoming LP "Backspacer." I did most of the work for you, links to seven of the nine are posted farther down. If anyone finds the last two, please post them in the comments section, I'd appreciate it.

Via Rolling Stone:

For Backspacer’s artwork, the band enlisted their friend and political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow (of "This Modern World" fame)

There is some extra incentive for fans to scour the ‘Net looking for the remaining Backspacer art: Once fans find the other eight images, they’ll nab a “free download.” Also, the Backspacer art gallery (click the image to go there) is currently streaming the album’s first single “The Fixer.”

After clicking on each link, clicking on the image will take you to the band's Web site and automatically fills in the blanks.

Being a former giant Pearl Jam fan who has recently become rather ambivalent about a bunch of aging grungsters who haven't made a compelling album in 10 years (no, I was not swept up by the Pearl Jam-is-back hype of aught-6), I'm having a hard time working up enthusiasm for the new album. Though, I do still enjoy the band's old work, and will probably buy it out of loyalty and obligation.

Friday, July 17, 2009


The first track from indie roots-rock collective, the Monsters of Folk (My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Bright Eyes' Connor Oberst, M. Ward and Mike Mogis), is available for free download on the group's Web site:

The track has the trademarks of M. Ward's production - warm, layered acoustic guitars and reverbed vocals, with a fuzzed out electric guitar solo melting the top of mix (complete with a Jack White-esque octive-shifting wammy-pedal affect).

It's a track that would have livened up portions of both My Morning Jacket's last LP "It Still Moves," or feel at home on a Wilco record. James sounds like the principle singer on this track, but the quartet chimes in for the chorus.

The LP is due Sept. 22.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pitchfork Music Festival

Of course, several of the bands I most want to see at this weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival are playing at the same time, so I'll be seeing some half-shows. But, one of the biggest advantages of the P4k fest is it's condensed lineup that stresses quality over quantity — at a reasonable price. There are only two bands playing at any one time, as opposed to 4 (like Bonnaroo). Plus I won't have to dodge trust-fund hippie acts cluttering every other stage. Instead I'll have to watch my back for scarfed trust-fund brats riding around on fixed-gear bicycles.

I plan on taking some pictures, and maybe some short videos.

Bands I don't plan on missing:


8:30 The Black Lips (I will probably have to skip the National, they play at 8:40. Oh well, I see them as more of a sit-at-home-with-the-headphones kind of band rather than a jump-in-the-heat-and-sweat-all-over-your-neighbors kind of band. And who would want to miss the dissolving depravity of a Black Lips show. It's rock 'n' roll devil's music with all the fun and dirt and stink of the garage. )

5:30 Wavves (He had an onstage breakdown a few weeks ago in Europe, and then broke his wrist skateboarding this week. We'll see how well the lo-fi train wreck plays out.)

4:30 Ponytail (Orgasmic screams bellowing from a petite art school student backed by post punk guitar riffing and swirling? Sounds good to me.)

3:35 Bowerbirds (In a festival concert setting, I like big loud guitars and concussive drumming more than mellow, female/male singer-songwriter duos, but their album is tits. I'll probably just leave the Pains of Being Pure at Heart show 15 minutes early to catch the last few songs from this boyfriend/girlfriend team.)

3:20 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (A Pitchfork-endorsed act with a gag-inducing name? Check. Abuses all the "correct" influences at just the right time to be "hip"? Check. Do I like them anyways? A little bit.)

2:30 Fucked Up (Hell yeah, Pink Eye and his other misfits are going to destroy. Too bad I'm going to be too tired after this show to enjoy the rest of the day.)


8:40 The Flaming Lips (nothing to say here. The put on a fucking spectacle.)

7:25 Grizzly Bear (The first half of their new album, "Veckatimest," is pretty awesome. The rest? Puts me to sleep. Either way, I'll wanna catch a little of the most blog-buzzed band of the year)

6:30 Vivian Girls (Along with Grizzly Bear and the rest, P4k might as well be called Brooklyn Weekend: Chicago Addition. Oh well. These girls ain't too shabby.

5:30 Japandroids
5:15 The Walkmen

(This is the scheduling conflict I'm most pissed about. I've worn out my copy of Japandroids 2009 full-length debut "Post-Nothing," and the Walkmen's "You and Me" is one of my favorite records (and classiest) of '08. I figure since Japandroids only have one full length, and the Walkman have half a dozen, the latter's show will go quite longer. So they should have scheduled Japandroids first, so you could start there an then move on. Oh well.)

4:15 The Thermals (This is my most heavily anticipated show. I'm going to injure myself. Hopefully the set is "The body, the blood, the machine" heavy.

2:30 Blitzen Trapper (Some roots-rock will be a nice change of pace from the rest of the noise damagd, post punk fair filling the lineups here. Plus, Blitzen Trapper rule. Will be a good start to day number two.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New Spoon album in the works

In an interview with the Decider Austin, Spoon lead singer Brit Daniel said the band played a half-dozen new songs on the last tour, and that new album might be ready by this winter.

"I’m hoping the album will be done by the end of the summer, which means probably January—or December, rather, but then there’s this thing called “Christmas,” and you don’t want to put out records on Christmas."

This news comes on the heals of a surprise EP release this month, "Got Nuffin."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

High School, again

Note: I wrote this a month ago and for whatever reason didn't publish it.

Yesterday I was the victim of the most cruel and unusual punishment.
In order to have a recent speeding ticket erased from my perrrrmenant recorrrrrrrd, I had to attend a four-hour defensive driving class.

Now, the length and name of the course should be frightening enough, but what really sneetched the Zax outta my Lorax was that, essentially, I was sentenced to an all-night High School classroom. Less than half the other prisoners were juveniles, yet it took less than an hour for the brats to assume control of the room's tone. Not only was I stuck in some sort of evil time warp where the stupid questions of the past circle through a wormhole to pummel my tired eyes and ears once more, this was a collection of teens with proven poor judgment. Like, guilty of poor judgment beyond a reasonable doubt. I was in league with the dumb-ass all stars of Peoria county. Imagine their decision making process when it came time to contribute. One halfwit commented that roads are probably safer now than 15 years ago because now we have headlights and better road signs.

Every tidbit of driving law provided by the teacher was instantly questioned by a toad-voiced teen quoting what his drivers ed teacher said, claiming ridiculous laws and loopholes somehow remembered from the most inaccurate imaginary text book ever.

By hour two, the two preppy high school sophomores in the middle row were chatting incessantly.

And when it wasn't debate-the-teacher time, it was, in the grand traditional of self-important teens, MOTHER FUCKING STORY HOUR.

Bratty high school sophomore: "My Dad works at Harley Davidson and this guy that he works with was driving his motorcycle, and this semi-truck driver DIDN'T EVEN SEE HIM. And he just got smashed. He died."

Thank you, I'll remember not to crash my motorcycle into any tractor trailers.

19-year-old who said he works at a meat packing plant: "I don't wear a seatbelt because one of my family members was killed by one. Decapitation."

I'll remember not to tie the seat belt around my neck.

Bratty high school sophomore: "Yeah, yeah I know where he's coming from. There was a couple girls killed from our high school because they were wearing their seatbelts. There was like, seven people in the car and they were the only ones who died."

Teacher: "Were they the only ones wearing seatbelts?"

Bratty high school sophomore: "Um, I dunnno, but they died and they were sitting in the middle of the car."


I quit.

Leaving the parking garage was one of the more terrifying pursuits of my young life, knowing that every other person leaving was an excessive speeder and/or incompetent "Defensive Driving Course" student.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stereo Court Case: Deer Tick

Charge: I'm listening to Deer Tick right now, a lot.

Argument: The common complaint about Deer Tick is their lack of adventurousness, that they don't break from a lock-step adherence to traditional folk, country and rock 'n' roll sounds and structure. Each track is one or the other, with little blending, and that the band hasn't put its own footprint on the well-worn paths. I'd argue that right now, that is one of their strongest attributes. Just as the Black Keys' unironic take on garage blues earned them their own room in the mostly-empty indie house of earnestness, Deer Tick, for the time being, can crank out a rockabilly track, followed by a Rolling Stones homage and not offend any listeners like myself looking for an unwinking throwback every now and again. And, lets not forget the superb lyrics and dude's industrial-grade blender voice. Like Dylan bled through a broken speaker, lead singer/principle songwriter John McCauley's throat adds a whole new texture to the slide guitars, country shuffles and occasional rock 'n' roller. If your looking for a reason to listen to Deer Tick, his voice should be enough, and it should also be different enough to separate the band from its obvious influences.

Decision: The band has two tradition-minded albums under it's belt. Why rush the maturation and "expanding their sound" album? As long as the songs are good, what's wrong with playing the music most of us love to listen to? The upbeat chord change midway through "Born on Flag Day's" opening track "Easy" should be enough to validate the whole enterprise. We don't need any more synths or computer blips in the background of songs. I think Wilco has it covered.

Friday, July 3, 2009

This ain't no Van Gof, folks

Outside of the "sketch" of of the nefarious leprechaun haunting Mobile, Alabama, this is easily the most incompetent suspect drawing I have ever seen. Time to start rounding up all the white, middle aged little league coaches. Luckily Napoleon Dynamite was on hand to add his pencil shading skills.

This amateur can't even draw a baseball cap, unless the alleged serial killer really did have a hot dog bun stapled to the front of a beanie.

Here's the news story