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2013 In Review : My Year In Concerts

I made a personal goal to try and make it to seventy-five shows this year. I just barely made it. 2013 was a pretty great year for shows for me. I got to see a couple of bands (Texas Is The Reason, The Replacements) I never thought I would see. I saw quite a few shows in cities (Chicago, Little Rock, Louisville, Memphis) outside of the St. Louis area. And of course, I made sure to see Lucero as many times (six) as I could this year. I tried to include all the bands on the bill for this list. Unfortunately, there are a few I forgot to write down and cannot seem to remember. I am including comedy shows in this list and shows that I ran sound for as well. I am also including the New Years Eve show at Off Broadway from 12/31/12 since it rolled over into 1/1/13 and started the year off. On to the list...

12/31/12 - 01/01/13 - Kentucky Knife Fight/Blind Eyes - Off Broadway

January

5 - Deon Cole - Laugh Factory (Chicago, IL)
6 - Texas Is The Reason/Into Another/Sense Field/Popeye - House Of Blues (Chicago, IL)
11 - The Trophy Mules/The BOB Band - Stagger Inn (Sound Gig)
16 - Our Lady/Breakmouth Annie/River City Sound - Firebird
18 - Delocated Variety Show w/ "Jon"/Archer Prewitt/Kurt Braunohler/Larry Murphy/Greg Johnson - The Hideout (Chicago, IL)
19 - Chicago School Of Rock performing the songs of Wilco - Schuba's (Chicago, IL)
19 - Lucero/Houndmouth/Matrimony - The Metro (Chicago, IL)
22 - Drive-By Truckers/Houndmouth - The Blue Note (Columbia, MO)

February

2 - 33 On The Needle/Breakmouth Annie/Clubber Lang - Stagger Inn (Sound Gig)
6 - Jonathan Richman - Off Broadway
7 - Potions/Dibiase - Stagger Inn (Sound Gig)
8 - Dana Anderson - Frawley's
16 - John Henry And The Engine/The Incurables/The Trophy Mules - The Duck Room
22 - Dana Anderson - Stagger Inn (Sound Gig)

March

1 - Earthsol/The BOB Band/Super Fun Yeah Yeah Rocketship - Stagger Inn (Sound Gig)
2 - Steve Chosich - Iron Barley
2 - Kentucky Knife Fight/The Ladybirds/Pretty Little Empire - Off Broadway
7 - Robert Earl Keen/Andrea Davidson - Off Broadway
20 - Lydia Loveless/Two Cow Garage
22 - Pete Moss And The Northsiders - Stagger Inn (Sound Gig)
23 - Breakmouth Annie - Heavy Anchor
23 - The Trophy Mules - Mangia
28 - Hayes Carll/Warren Hood and the Goods - Off Broadway
29 - Flatwheel Band - Stagger Inn (Sound Gig)

April

4 - Amy LaVere/Sleepy Kitty - Off Broadway
8 - The Revival Tour (Chuck Ragan/Dave Hause/Tim McIlrath/Rocky Votolato) - Old Rock House 13 - Billy Bragg - City Winery (Chicago, IL)
20 - Flatwheel Band - Stagger Inn
27 - Lucero/Langhorne Slim - RIBCO (Rock Island, IL)

May

3 - Lucero/Langhorne Slim - Headliners (Louisville, KY)
11 - Breakmouth Annie/33 On The Needle/Billy And The Jets - Heavy Anchor
18 - Kevin Smith - The Pageant (Q & A Session)
31 - Dave Alvin/Kevin Gordon - Off Broadway

June

6 - Joe Pug/Motel Mirrors/Shiverin Timbers/Scarlet Tanager - Duck Room
11 - Peter Frampton/Robert Cray Band/Kenny Wayne Sheppard - Family Arena
15 - Blind Eyes/Beth Bombara/Bruiser Queen - Off Broadway
20 - Ha Ha Tonka/Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin/Ezra Furman - Off Broadway

July

6 - Will Hoge/The Incurables - Off Broadway
23 - Griffin House - Old Rock House

August

7 - Tim Barry/Cory Branan - The Demo
8 - Lucero/Kentucky Knife Fight/Jesse Irwin - Off Broadway
9 - Adam Faucett/Kevin Kerby - White Water Tavern (Little Rock, AR)
10 - Lucero/John Moreland/Guy Venable - First Security Amphitheater (Little Rock, AR)
16 - Doc Ellis Band/Diesel Island/John Krane - Off Broadway
30 - TOK/Dibiase/Heroes Of The Kingdom - Schlafly Tap Room

September

7 - Slobberbone/Old Capital Square Dance Club - Off Broadway
12 - Kevin James - Chicago Theater
13 - Riot Fest Day 1 (Flatfoot 56/Smoking Popes/Andrew W.K./Bad Religion/Atmosphere/Joan Jett And The Blackhearts/Danzig) - Humboldt Park (Chicago, IL)
14 - Riot Fest Day 2 (X/Dinosaur Jr./Guided By Voices/Pennywise/Flag/ Blondie/Public Enemy/Violent Femmes/Blink-182) - Humboldt Park (Chicago, IL)
14 - Rocket From The Crypt/The Flatliners/Tight Phantomz - Double Door (Chicago, IL)
15 - Riot Fest Day 3 (Chuck Ragan/Maps & Atlases/Peter Hook & The Light/Mission Of Burma/Quicksand/Against Me!/Bob Mould/The Dismemberment Plan/Rocket From The Crypt/Suicidal Tendencies/Pixies/The Replacements) - Humboldt Park (Chicago, IL)
18 - Mutts/brotherfather - Stagger Inn
22 - Centro-matic - Off Broadway
25 - Dana Anderson/Jesse Irwin/John Krane/Dave Werner - The Focal Point
28 - Hursey Benefit - Fairview Heights Elks Club (Sound Gig)

October

4 - Fumer/Breakmouth Annie/Elbow Through Hammer - Foam
5 - 18 Stories/Mike Coykendall/The Sons Of Ill Repute - The Way Out Club
31 - Dana Anderson & Co. - Stagger Inn (Sound Gig)

November

14 - Will Johnson - Living Room Show (Chicago, IL)
15 - Kyle Kinane - Up Comedy Club (Chicago, IL)
20 - Mike Maimone/Dana Anderson/John Krane - Foam
22 - The Trophy Mules - Schlafly Tap Room
23 - Earthsol - Cicero's
28 - Brian Krumm/Tim Krumm/Dana Anderson - Stagger Inn (Sound Gig)
29 - Austin Lucas/PJ Bond/Trapper Schoepp - Duck Room

December

3 - Drag The River/The Dive Poets - Duck Room
4 - brotherfather/Monogram Suitcase/Tommy Halloran - Livery Company
6 - White Water Holiday Hangout Night 1 (Caleb Caudle/Adam Faucett And The Tall Grass/Glossary/Two Cow Garage) - White Water Tavern (Little Rock, AR)
7 - White Water Holiday Hangout Night 2 (JKutchma/Mulehead/Motel Mirrors/ Glossary/Ben Nichols) - White Water Tavern (Little Rock, AR)
8 - White Water Holiday Hangout Night 3 (Shane Sweeney/Kevin Kerby/JKutchma/ Micah Schnabel/Paul Graves) - White Water Tavern (Little Rock, AR)
14 - 18 Stories/Explosive Space Modulator - Johnny's Sidebar (Sound Gig)
19 - The Whistle Pigs - Stagger Inn (Sound Gig)
21 - Lucero/Dead Soldiers - Minglewood Hall (Memphis, TN)
27 - St. Louis Symphony : The Music Of John Williams - Powell Symphony Hall

So there it is, my year in shows. I know there are few I probably missed putting on the list, but I think this is pretty close to a complete list. I am going to have a hard time figuring out what my "Top 5 List" may be for shows this year. So many of these shows were so special and amazing for many different reasons.

Thanks to all the bands and venues for providing all the great entertainment this year. I would like to especially thank all the bands that let me run sound for them. Not only does it put a little cash in my pocket, but it allows me to do something I really enjoy doing.

I really cannot wait to see what 2014 has in store on the show front. The year is already looking to get off to a good start with shows from Diesel Island, Motel Mirrors, Bobby Bare Jr., Matt Pryor, and The Hold Steady in January. Hope everyone has a great New Year celebration and I hope to see you out at a show in 2014!

Episode 3, Part 2 is now live!

Hey gang, Part 2 of Episode 3 of the podcast is here! This episode picks up where we left off in Part 1. Bart, Jeff, and Scott talk about their first concerts and reminisce of venues that are long gone. You can find all the episodes over on iTunes by clicking here. If you would like to subscribe to the podcast while you are over on the iTunes page, we would absolutely love that. For those of you that like to subscribe via your favorite RSS reader, click here.

As always, you can still listen to or download all episodes from their direct links. Just click below on your episode of choice. (To download: Right Click (PC)/CTRL-Click (Mac) and then select Save Link As….)

Episode 3: Bart, Jeff, and Scott Rambling - Part 2

Episode 3: Bart, Jeff, and Scott Rambling – Part 1

Episode 2: The Trophy Mules

Episode 1: Best of 2012 and John Krane

Texas Is The Reason - Live At The House Of Blues, January 6, 2013 [Review + Setlist]

Texas Is The Reason are: (l/r) Chris Daly, Garrett Klahn, Norm Arenas, and Scott Winegard

One fateful day sometime back in the late 1990s I made my way into Vintage Vinyl to pick up whatever albums I could find from four bands that my friend, Dan Huffman, had played for me a few days before.

I would end up buying Horse Latitudes by The Promise Ring, Four Minute Mile by The Get Up Kids, Finding The Rhythms by Hot Water Music, and Do You Know Who You Are? by Texas Is The Reason. Sounds trivial, but this would end up being one of those life-altering type of events.

I ended up seeing The Promise Ring, Hot Water Music, and The Get Up Kids, as much as I possibly could, even traveled out-of-town - mainly to Champaign, IL - to catch their shows. Sadly, I never had the chance to see a Texas Is The Reason show. By the time I was introduced to the band they had since disbanded. I felt like the only way I could ever hear a live Texas Is The Reason show would be to play the split live album they released with Samiam at a really high level on my stereo. We all know that never even remotely comes close to recreating the experience of a live show no matter how loud you turn the stereo up.

In November 2006, my hopes were raised when the band got together to play a show at Irving Plaza in New York City to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the release of their debut - and only - album, Do You Know Who You Are? This show would prove to be a "one time only" gig and no further dates or plans were made by the band.

Fast forward six more years and Revelation Records started to announce plans to have shows to help celebrate the label's 25th Anniversary. News came around that Texas Is The Reason would be headlining the New York installment of the anniversary shows. And then the news hit, the band would be headlining the second night of the Chicago installment of shows. Without hesitation I snagged tickets to the show. I was finally going to be at a Texas Is The Reason show.

The show would be held on January 6, 2013 at the House Of Blues in Chicago, IL. Reunion shows in the freezing winter months in Chicago must just be in the cards for me. In February, 2008 I went up to see a reunited Hot Water Music at the Metro, and in February, 2012 I got to see The Promise Ring reunite, also at the Metro.

I was pretty anxious to get to the venue and ended up getting in the door with plenty of time to look around before the festivities kicked off. The Chicago House Of Blues is definitely a little more intimate than the Orlando and Las Vegas locations I have been to in the past. Normally, I would not describe a venue that has two balcony levels as being intimate, but the distance between the front of the stage and where the balconies started was minimal and really helped keep with the small theater vibe.

Opening the show were Popeye (from Farside), Sense Field, and Into Another. All three acts put on solid sets and were a testament to the level of quality music that Revelation Records has released over the years. The crowd was really into all three openers and many people were heard singing along during all three sets.  One personal highlight was seeing Popeye cover the Dramarama tune, "Work For Food." The set from Sense Field brought back memories of Mississippi Nights, where I saw the band open for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I admit I felt a little guilty though in wishing that the openers would just hurry up and be done. I was getting really anxious and looking forward to finally seeing a band after a 14+ year wait.

At about 11:20 p.m. my wait would come to an end as the house lights went down and the instrumental "Do You Know Who You Are?" started playing over the PA system. An image of the state of Texas filled with alternating colors, patterns, and pictures was projected onto a screen at the front of the stage. As the song came to an end, the screen slowly started to rise out-of-the-way and the curtain was drawn back to reveal the band as they exploded into "Back And To The Left."

As a cruel twist of fate, Norman Arenas' amp decided to cut out within about 30 seconds of the opening song. The band took the setback in stride and powered their way through the song. Norman held his cool and smiled his way through the gear malfunction and took to firing up the crowd by emphatically clapping along with the band. While the guitar tech swapped out amps after the song ended, Norman quipped about how everyone had been waiting 14 years for this show, so they could probably handle waiting a few more minutes.

Even after this minor delay, the band appeared to be in extremely high spirits. The smiles on all of their faces was infectious and they played just flawlessly. Bassist Scott Winegard seemed to be on cloud nine as a smile stretched from ear to ear for most of the set. The crowd sang along with every song and there was a great energy throughout the room. I found it hard to believe that a band that had been inactive for so long was just absolutely killing it. Garrett's voice sounded great and getting to watch Chris Daly play drums was such a thrill. Seriously, Chris Daly is a beast on the drums. Watching him play, especially towards the end of "Antique", floored me.

The band was playing with such a high energy level and with so much joy that you could not help but wish that they had never ceased to be a band after such a short time. Garrett even joked after playing a little riff to check his tuning that the riff was from a new tune they were writing. This joke brought up the realization that the band has stated that they have no plans to write or record any new material. I really made a concentrated effort to just let myself get lost in the performance and soak it all in and make the most of the opportunity.

In just over an hour, the band played its way through their entire catalog and even included two new songs, "When Rock 'N' Roll Was Just A Baby" and "Every Girls Dream." These two new songs were the last songs the band ever wrote but never recorded. The band went back into the studio last year with Producer J. Robbins to record them. The two new tracks will be included in Do You Know Who You Are?: The Complete Collection which will be available in February through Revelation.

Even though the band has a few gigs booked on both coasts, they have stated that Chicago was the only and last Midwest show they will be doing. To me, it was very fitting that the last song they played, and the last song I may ever hear them play, was "A Jack With One Eye." This has always been one of my favorite songs and with the lyric, "Your place is still at the heart of my everything," seemed very fitting it would end up being the last song. I am so glad I made my way up for the this show. Thank you to the band for some great memories and for being part of "my everything."

Setlist:

  1. Do You Know Who You Are? (recorded intro)
  2. Back And To The Left
  3. The Magic Bullet Theory
  4. Nickel Wound
  5. Johnny On The Spot
  6. When Rock 'N' Roll Was Just A Baby
  7. If It's Here When We Get Back, It's Ours
  8. There's No Way I Can Talk Myself Out Of This One Tonight (The Drinking Song)
  9. Something To Forget
  10. Dressing Cold
  11. Every Little Girls Dream
  12. The Days Refrain
  13. Blue Boy
  14. Antique
  15. A Jack With One Eye

Controversy erupts over criticism of St. Louis music event, An Under Cover Weekend [Opinion]

Disclaimer: This piece is the opinion of Scott Allen and does not necessarily the represent the views of the other writers at 3 Minute Record.By Scott Allen

This morning the Riverfront Times Music page posted a story that outlined some criticisms of An Under Cover Weekend, the two-day music extravaganza where St. Louis bands cover well established artists in a 30-minute tribute set. The story sent the St. Louis music scene into a buzz. Social media, pardon the pun, was atwitter.

After the initial tweet from @RFTMusic promoting the story I took to Twitter with a response:

Twitter screenshot
Twitter screenshot

After receiving some text messages about my tweet I decided to clarify my position.  Now, I have a few points that I would like to discuss.

First, I would like to applaud the writer for her take. To go out there on a limb and state your opinion on something takes guts and Jamie Lees showed she has those in spades. This is the United States of America and the Bill of Rights guarantees that we have the Freedom of Speech. Lees is a writer that contributes to the Riverfront Times and it’s her right to state how she feels on an issue.

While I don’t know Ms. Lees, I do know the organizer of An Under Cover Weekend, Michael Tomko. He is a personable, kind person that would do anything for anyone in the St. Louis music scene. A natural-born promoter with a wide smile an unmatched enthusiasm, Tomko curates creatively organized events such as the Indie Rock Ice Cream Social and An Under Cover Weekend that bring music lovers out to shows with a sense of fun and genuine camaraderie. People leave these events with big smiles on their faces and Tomko can go home knowing that he did a good job in promoting the event.

Last year I met with Tomko at a St. Louis bar to discuss his plans for An Under Cover Weekend. We sat down and got to know each other having never met in person. Eventually, he discussed his plans and I found him very organized and clear in his vision. He asked me to join in doing a couple of interviews of bands for the event and I immediately agreed. Later I got the chance to sit down with the members of Via Dove and Troubadour Dali and met many more St. Louis musicians in the process.  Those interviews were great experiences and are some of the most read posts on this blog.

Some readers may take issue with Ms. Lees herself for writing such an article. Surely she knew that there would be some sort of backlash to her words and was therefore must be willing to receive it back in kind. One issue seems to be from the advertisement of the shows. Lees writes, “The AUCW shows are being promoted online ad nauseum. It's smart business to advertise your show in any way possible, but the AUCW crew has gone into over-saturation mode, and it's enough to make me want to skip the show in protest.” In this economy and with many possessing a short attention span, the promoters need to push shows hard and do what they must to fill up a venue and get people standing in front of the stage. If she doesn’t like her social media feeds filling up with links advertising the show she could unfollow until the event was over and start-up again later. However, if she has a personal beef with Tomko, Lees needed to address that directly to him and not via an article.

The biggest issues that Lees seemed to have with An Under Cover Weekend was with what she called “better cover show events” and “self-congratulatory videos.”  Her take on other cover show events is subjective at best. This seemed like a music scene feud between the ultra-cool hipsters on Cherokee St. and Tomko’s choice of bands and the acts they were covering. In the past, Tomko has told me personally that he wanted to get more people in the whole St. Louis region out to an event like An Under Cover Weekend to demonstrate that there are music venues in the city that showcase great music nearly all week. As a musician friend of mine pointed out - people who bitch and moan that promoters are working events too hard are jealous they aren’t doing it or don’t have the contacts and talent to do as good of a job.

Lees continues her critique on the “self-congratulatory videos” when she writes,” I'm not sure what they add to the experience. We just want to go to the show and have a good time.” The videos show that the bands are determined to bring the concert-goer their best impression of the band they are representing. Rather than just covers, most bands want to transform into the band they are honoring with the covers. Furthermore, her slam on these videos demeans Tomko’s sense of history of the event and the fine work being done by local artists to capture these videos themselves. The St. Louis music scene has a great group of talented people behind the scenes to document what happens all year in the clubs and venues. From writers, photographers and videographers to club owners and promoters to sound engineers and producers, St. Louis is lucky to have a dedicated group of people who love music and want to share it with the masses.

Others inside the St. Louis music scene may criticize RFT Music Editor Kiernan Maletsky for running such a piece on the day the event begins, but I can’t take that side. From the point of view of the RFT this piece takes a side and that creates page views, which in turn creates ad revenue. As editor, Maletsky’s job is running a business and page view counts are very important to an online weekly that is owned as part of a national chain of independent newspapers. His other job is to present pieces that will stir discussion on a topic. Sometimes things become stale and a little controversy to stir the pot is a good thing. We can discuss the topics brought up in the article and grow as individuals and groups.

One point where I think people in St. Louis get caught up is in the criticism itself. The citizens of St. Louis are generally nice people who don’t have harsh words for anyone. People from the coasts travel to the Midwest and remark how everyone is so nice here and how they received great hospitality. When someone is doing something to promote the general good and receives backlash, the citizens rally around that person and attack the attacker.  Let’s be frank though - if we were in Boston, New York,  Chicago or even Los Angeles, someone with a snarky opinion would have put fingers to keyboard years ago and the callouses would have built up by now. However, Tomko is one of the nice guys and I can see where feelings were hurt and I’m sorry if my initial tweet added to those hurt feelings.

There are several people, myself included in that group, who will side with Tomko and what he is doing with music events in St. Louis. One of my oldest friends, Christian Powell, guitarist for Heroes of the Kingdom and Ring, Cicada, chimed in with a comment to my tweet on Facebook, “Want to know why great touring bands are beginning to come back to STL? It’s because the people putting on AUCW are bringing them here, established a great venue, and are doing all-ages shows for music fans. This is their weekend to just go to a show and have a good time.” I concur. To contrast the 1990s, the St. Louis music scene here is much more vibrant and strong today and has potential to keep growing and become more of a national destination rather than a pass thru city.

Personally, I plan to attend the first night of An Under Cover Weekend tonight at The Firebird (2706 Olive St.) and plunk down my money just like everyone else. I would encourage the local readers of this blog to do the same. In my opinion one story published on the day of the show will not affect the attendance of the event at all. If Ms. Lees does decide to stay home this weekend in protest then she might miss some great performances from a group of hard-working local bands and then again she might not, but overall I guarantee that group of 200 to 400 St. Louis music fans will have a good time.

Epilogue -

Upon the suggestion of a friend I have officially started my own personal Twitter feed away from the official 3 Minute Record feed.  If you consider me your friend and would like to follow me there in a capacity where all opinions are my own then I would welcome you do to so. Follow me on Twitter @ScottCAllen.

Cloud Nothings and 1,2,3 play impressive sets at The Luminary [Live Review]

Cloud Nothings-18

By Lauren Smalley

“Holy shit!”

This was the sentiment shouted by one, but shared by all at the Luminary Center for the Arts on Monday night during and after the incendiary set by Cloud Nothings. I thought it was going to be difficult to top the performance that 1,2,3 put on, but I was completely unprepared for the wall of sound that hit.

I got there early enough to catch the first act, Volcanoes, a local group which I have heard a lot of hype about. For a duo, they project some loud, intense noise rock. I definitely enjoyed the heavy barrage of sound made by the drum-and-bass-soaked-in-synth combo, and the enthusiasm of gregarious “front man” Eric Peters was infectious. Both members shared time on the drum kit, adding a different twist to each song, since each has his own unique drumming style. The highlight of their set for me was “Exploding Hands” with its gritty, fuzzy bass line – which caused the kids in the front to completely lose inhibitions and became dancing fools.

After a seemingly short set up, 1,2,3 took the stage. As soon as singer Nic Snyder stepped up to the mic with his denim shirt slightly teasing hints of sweat, I noticed the girls around me moving a little closer to the stage and sharing those aside looks that only girls share. They opened the set with the hit “Work”, which I first heard on last season’s premiere of HBO’s Hung. After reading numerous tweets touting the greatness of the band from the show’s star Stephen Amell, I checked out their stuff and became a quick fan. 1,2,3’s sound is a perfect confluence of '60s era pop and white boy blues – sometimes with tinges of soul or a punk attitude.

The album New Heaven is a great listen all the way through, but if you want to really grasp what 1,2,3 is about, you need to see them live. No recording can capture how Snyder’s ardent vocals caused the females in the audience to twitter and flush. During “Scared, But Not Scared” and “Wave Pool” he was moaning, sweating, growling, whispering, screeching, oozing passion into the crowd. They finished the set with a new song that will début on their second record (according to their Facebook page) called “Leave Me in the Sky With a Lawn Chair.” It was a definite crowd pleaser, short and sweet, and a great indication of what’s to come.

Cloud Nothings took the stage at 10:00pm and did not stop their electrifying onslaught until after 11:00. I have been to hundreds of shows, but I am not sure I’ve ever been more impressed with a drummer’s live performance. The closest comparison I can think of is David Haik from the post-hardcore, screamo outfit Pianos Become the Teeth. Cloud Nothings have been playing festivals and getting a lot of press for some time, even from acclaimed critics like Michael Azerrod.

After opening with “Stay Useless” and catchy “Fall In”, two tracks from the new album Attack on Memory, Cloud Nothings launched into “Separation”; an instrumental breakdown that showcased the tightness and synchronicity of the rhythm section. It was such a frenetic and unexpected explosion of talent, that the aforementioned “Holy shit!” was shouted at the culmination.

“Cut You” was a worthy follow-up with the lyrics “Does he hurt you like I do / Can he be as mean as me / Can he cut you in your sleep” being spit out in a rage by wiry front man Dylan Baldi. In the middle of “Wasted Days” the boys catapulted into another strictly instrumental furor, this one lasting a full 12 minutes. Usually jam sessions annoy me during a song, but I was completely blown away by the skills of this band, as a unit and singularly. Guitarists Baldi and Joe Boyer were the highlights this time, with searing, emotional melodies and solos over a dredging bass line.

By the time the set ended, the crowd was sweaty, exhausted, and screaming the lyrics “No future! No past!” right back at the stage. The encore was the showcase for the older songs, and included a funny anecdote about Baldi’s recent run in with Wilco. Even with the pause, everyone was left with ringing ears and heart pumping. “Holy shit” was the perfect reaction.

A Weekend at Coachella - Part 2 - Saturday and Sunday

By Shelia Moore Coming off the high of seeing Refused for the first time ever on Friday night I went back to the festival on Saturday with very few expectations. We started the afternoon watching Childish Gambino on the main stage. I’m a huge fan of Donald Glover in Community and watching him as a rapper was equally entertaining. I think the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that he used a full band while performing. In an era where electronic music is becoming king and musicians are using their computers instead of real instruments this was refreshing to see. After listening to Childish Gambino rap about his love for Asian girls in “You See Me” (Forget these white girls/ I need some variation/ Especially if she very Asian) we walked to the other side of the grounds to get some food and chill out while listening to Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I was unfamiliar with Grace Potter before Coachella. Upon hearing her sultry vocals and watching her wail on guitar I became completely enamored with her soul and funk infused style.

Saturday afternoon and evening became our indie-band portion of the festival- mostly by accident. Having recently seen the Head and the Heart headline their own tour back in March, I was a little bored. That’s not to say they didn’t play well; they sounded great and had great set list (it is kind of hard to have variation when you only have one album). Playing their semi-hit “Down in the Valley” mid-set got everyone singing and clapping along- it was one of the few times during the festival that I could tell everyone watching the band genuinely liked the band. They closed with my personal favorite “Rivers and Roads.” The lush harmonies created by Josiah, Jon and Charity gives me tingling chills every time I hear it. (Not to mention, the song was used during a pivotal moment of this current season of "How I Met Your Mother" making it the song and show that much better). Watching keyboardist Kenny Hensley slam his stool on the stage to the beat of the bass drum was the perfect end to the song and their set.  

Multi-instrumentalist and whistler extraordinaire Andrew Bird was a delight to watch, filling his 50 minute set with songs off his brand new record, Break it Yourself, along with old crowd-pleasers “Plasticities”, “Fitz and the Dizzyspells” and “Fake Palindromes.” The highlight of the set was his rendition of “Bein’ Green” that he did for the Muppet movie soundtrack which had even the oldest of fans smiling ear to ear.

Jeff Mangum, of Neutral Milk Hotel fame, prefaced his set with an audio recording telling people that “taking photos and videos were strictly prohibited” which kind of made me laugh. What made me laugh even more were all the cameras and smartphones I watched shoot straight up in the air the minute he came on stage. Nice try, Jeff. He opened his set with just his acoustic guitar playing “Two Headed Boy, Part 2,” bringing out the drummer and horns for “In the Aeroplane over the Sea” and several other Neutral Milk Hotel songs. Because he played a majority of his set acoustically I became very aware of how close together the organizers placed the stages. You could clearly hear the band on the main stage during the especially quiet parts. I realize that is the nature of a big festival but that didn’t make it any less distracting.

The Shins, Bon Iver, and Radiohead were back to back on the main stage. We lingered far in the back unwilling and unmotivated to push our way through the hoards of people get a closer spot. While I enjoyed The Shins and Bon Iver had an impressive stage set-up and sounded amazing, they definitely were not the highlight of my Coachella weekend. The cold desert night and numb feet got the best of us so we only stayed for a few songs of Radiohead, who I don’t care much for, but my husband assures me they were awesome.

Sunday was my favorite full day of the festival, mostly because all of the bands we cared to watch were all playing back to back on the same stage. After two days of walking around and pushing through hoards of people to get to each stage it was nice to stay in one spot. We made it back to the festival in time to catch Fitz & the Tantrums play an energetic, sassy afternoon set which had everyone dancing to their jazz-inspired hits. I was impressed with how great they sounded live and how vocalists Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs worked the crowd the entire time.  Bookending their set with their two most popular songs “Don’t Gotta Work it Out” and “Moneygrabber” was a great way to pull the crowd in and leave them wanting more.

A friend once told us that watching The Hives perform is like watching a ringer leader in a circus. This is probably the most accurate comparison one could make after seeing their performance.  Kicking off with percussive “Come On!” the band walked on-stage in their signature black tuxedo tails and top hats. Frontman Pelle Almqvist proved to be entertaining and hilarious asking the crowd between each song if they loved him and if they loved The Hives saying that he loved all of us. At one point during his stage banter he said “Here in America you have a game called Simon says.  Well as far as you’re concerned my name is Simon and you will do exactly as I say” continuing with “Please, please everyone move in, I didn’t come here to play to grass, fill that area in.” While whipping the crowd into a frenzy during their hit “Hate to Say I Told You So” a young guy in front of us, who’d been jumping around and dancing the entire time, looked back at a nearby couple and asked if they had seen The Hives before and if they were always this awesome before running up front to join a mosh pit that had broken out. Closing their set with “Tick Tick Boom” Pelle stopped mid-song and asked everyone to sit down continuing to call-out those who didn’t comply ripping into the VIP section saying, “Everybody in the fucking VIP you’re not that important! Sit down! I see you over there VIP, you’re not that important just because you spent a little more money on your ticket or know someone in middle-level management at Coachella, sit down. I’m talking to you Tom Hanks,” gaining riotous applause from everyone in general admission area. They kicked back into the song with everyone leaping up and jumping to the beat of song while cheering. Their performance was the second highlight of the weekend for me.

Watch The Hives performance of “Tick Tick Boom”:


Awaiting At the Drive-In’s performance, we had the pleasure of experiencing Justice, our first electronic/DJ of the weekend and all of the fans who came along with it. While sitting and waiting for them to start we watched a few young kids taking swigs out of a sunscreen bottle - assuming (hoping) it was filled with vodka and chasing it Vitamin Water. It reminded me of something I would have tried in college. I can’t say I blame them for going to such lengths to sneak in alcohol considering beer was $9 and cocktails were $10+ and you could only drink in designated “Beer Garden” areas. We also overhead a rather interesting exchange between a self-proclaimed medical professional who spent several minutes explaining to her friends why they should quit smoking weed, but then accepted just half a tab of ecstasy rather than the whole; because she felt like she may have had too much already that day. There are no words.

Justice was exactly what I expected- loud, lots of lights and lasers, good beats and lots of jumping, dancing, and fist pumping. They did an interesting mix of D.A.N.C.E and DVNO- playing only portions and mixing in a few other songs. While watching all the people around me go crazy I started to see the merit in some electronic music. Since nothing is really happening on the stage there is no reason to get a good spot and you can act like a loon and no one cares, but after about 15 minutes I was deaf (those DJs can turn up the amps way louder than any rock musician) and exhausted from sensory overload.

The second reason I decided to fly out for Coachella was to watch one of the few reunion shows At The Drive-In was playing. Much like Refused, I became a big fan after they broke-up making this one of the few chances I was going to have to see them perform. The excited buzz in the crowd exploded into impromptu mosh-pits as they kicked off with the opening track from Relationship of Command, "Arcarsenal." Much to my chagrin, the band didn’t live up to what I was sure was going to be my second favorite performance of the weekend. While the music was played with precision and sounded phenomenal, lead guitarist Omar played with zero enthusiasm Cedric’s vocals sounded rough. After an 11 year hiatus of screaming and playing hardcore/punk shows, I’m sure it isn’t easy to readjust. Between songs Cedric was drinking what appeared to be hot tea which would explain his rough vocals. They continued with “Pattern Against User” followed by “Chanbra” off of In Casino Out filling the set with a good mix of songs from their two most popular albums. At one point Cedric dedicated a song to “all of those who came out to the desert and decided to dress like it is Cirque de Soleil.” They predictably closed with “One Armed Scissor,” the only song that had the entire crowd singing along and ending their set on a high note.

The only time I thought I might actually get trampled to death occurred as we were desperately trying to leave the main stage area after At The Drive-In while everyone else in attendance was pushing their way in to secure spots for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Making our way to safety, far in the back with easy access to the exit, we waited. Earlier in weekend we’d heard rumors that Eminem was going to make a surprise appearance with Dre and Snoop which sounded promising. Little did we know how many other famous rappers were going to make appearances that night. The set started with “The Next Episode” to the elation of the white college girls next to us who started bumpin’ and grindin’. “Gin N Juice”, “Nuthin’ but A “G” Thang”, and a cover of the House of Pain hit “Jump Around” filled the first half of the set along with special appearances by newcomers to the rap scene, Kendrick Lamar and Wiz Khalifa. I was ecstatic when 50 Cent joined Dre and Snoop on stage performing, what became our college anthem, “In Da Club” as well the hit “P.I.M.P.” Snoop and Dre performed “California Love” before bringing out the next special guest. Since we were so far back there was some confusion as to exactly who was on stage with Snoop for the next two songs. My husband insisted it was a video of Tupac since the voice was undeniably his. I was insistent that it was not a video, there was person walking around on stage. It turns out we were both somewhat correct. Hologram Tupac had made his debut and it was probably the coolest thing I’ve seen at a concert ever. I was awestruck by the ingenuity of it. Managing to top themselves one last time, Eminem came on stage to perform “I Need a Doctor” and then breaking into “Forgot about Dre,” the song we’d been wanting to hear all night. Eminem teased the crowd saying he was out and had a cab waiting, leaving just as quickly as he arrived. Wanting to beat the crowd, we left Coachella while Dre and Snoop were finishing their set, knowing we would probably never again have the opportunity to see so many rap legends - both alive and dead - share the same stage.   

Watch Hologram Tupac’s performance: 


A Weekend at Coachella - Part 1 [Live Review]

Editor's Note: Obviously the people who write in this space love music. Conversely, we have friends that also love music and go to see great shows. Our correspondent Lauren Smalley had another music loving friend who attended the Coachella festival in California a couple of weeks ago. Please welcome Shelia Moore as she checks in with her thoughts of the festival's first weekend.  - Scott

By Shelia Moore

My experience at Coachella 2012 can really be summed up with three words: Refused. Hologram Tupac.  But I’ll get to that a little later.

Walking into Coachella on the first day I was both excited and nervous. While getting through security proved be a trying experience - one in which I was forced to throw out my Excedrin, walk half a mile through the campgrounds only to have to go through another security check - we managed to find our way to main festival grounds. Although it was a little rainy and quite chilly - low 60s during the day - there was no shortage of shirtless bros, girls sporting high-waisted super short shorts (showing under-butt, no less) paired with shirts that appeared to be made from their grandmother’s doilies, and the occasional group of girls who laughed in the face of pneumonia with their bikini-clad bodies leaving little to the imagination. We were officially out of Illinois and in some weird hipster realm where showing as much skin as possible and smoking a joint in front of security was the norm.

Having attended multiple music festivals, my husband and I have become pseudo professionals in navigating the multiple stages, overlapping performances, where to stand for the best view, finding the quickest route to food/drinks/bathrooms, and most importantly, not losing each other in the process. When we first arrived to the festival grounds we checked out the lay of the land and got our bearings. We had one mission for the day: get a good spot for the Refused performance - which wasn’t until 11:20 that night. For the next several hours on that chilly afternoon we meandered around checking out all the stages and catching a few performances.  We quickly learned that the tent covered stages were where almost all of the DJs were performing and to steer clear of the area - unless we wanted to be swept up in an ecstasy fueled dance party accompanied by seizure inducing light displays. Not really our scene.

We caught the end of Yuck’s set- which I rather enjoyed. I was not the biggest fan before the festival but hearing the last few songs “The Base of a Dream is Empty” and “Rubber” I was impressed and made a note to listen to their album when I got home. We walked over to the Main Stage in time to watch the Arctic Monkeys. My husband is a new-found fan after seeing them at Lollapalooza last year and was excited to see them again. Opening with the fast-paced, raucous “Brainstorm” off Favourite Worst Nightmare they immediately got the crowds’ attention. Even though it was obvious not everyone in the crowd was familiar with their songs they still managed to get everyone bobbing their hands and clapping along. Halfway through their set broke into the hit “I bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor” to jubilant cheers. After their 50 minute set the air was still buzzing with excitement from new and old fans.  

Making our way through the crowd we were able to catch most of M. Ward’s set. Who, if you ever have a chance, go see him even if you don’t know his music. He has worked with a slew of respected musicians and was impressive live. After M. Ward we decided to start scoping out a place to stand for Refused. We still had a few hours before they went on but in our experience it is best to claim a spot early for the bands you really want to see. We got to the Outdoor Stage for Mazzy Star’s set- which we found boring and dreadful. It probably didn’t help that we were tired and didn’t know any of their music but I also think it speaks volumes about a band if they can’t win over non-fans during a stage performance. Explosions in the Sky was up next and while I’m not really into strictly instrumental music I was truly impressed and found them engaging.

After hours of waiting, one of the reasons we flew to California was finally happening. The fucking REFUSED. I can’t even begin to explain the anticipation we were feeling as  the intro to “The Shape of Punk to Come” started. The band had it recorded so it was playing in a loop before the members came on-stage. The lead singer, Dennis Lyxzén, came out first and started in with “Hey baby! you never felt this good” after a few seconds the rest of the band ran on stage and started in with the pulse-pounding drum and guitar parts. It was truly amazing to see them play with the precision and energy that many young bands find hard to muster. I could not wipe the smile off my face hearing how good the vocals and music  sounded given that they haven’t played a Refused show in 14 years. The set list was exactly what you would expect - most of the songs were off The Shape of Punk to Come with just a few off Songs To Fan the Flames of Discontent. I would like to say that the crowd went apeshit and people starting moshing, I probably would have joined in, but everyone I could see from where I was standing was surprisingly nonplussed. Maybe everyone was just taking it in. Lyxzén was charismatic telling the crowd how they wanted to start a punk, anti-capitalist revolution when they started back in the 90s. He was sincere and overwhelmed by fans’ support saying that they helped make the reunion possible. At one point an older gentleman - probably in his 50s - walked up to an equally older gentlemen and said “I don’t know these guys, but they are great!” Indeed sir, indeed.