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1, Issue 1, Winter 2007
FEATURE ARTICLES Speaking Out In Class.........page 6 Brian Lenz ‘07 Jon Appleton Interview......page 18 Brian Lenz ‘07 & Tim Bakke ‘07 Editors’ Picks............................page 3 Editorials..................................page 9
2006 ALBUM REVIEWS...............page 12 RETROSPECTIVES Yo La Tengo......................page 21 Lloyd Miller ‘10 Pet Sounds.......................page 22 Maggie Severns-O’Neill ‘08 2006 MUSIC FESTIVALS Lollapalooza....................page 23 Lindsey Wolf ‘08 All Good...........................page 25 Scott Muir ‘08 Bonnaroo........................page 27 Molly Caldwell ‘09 Wakken...........................page 29 Ryan Chesley ‘06 Venue Guide............................page 32 Scott Muir ‘08 We Are Scientists Live...............page 34 Maryanna Brown ‘08 The Crystal Method Live...........page 35 Mike Selvin ‘07
Layout Genre Editors
Caleb Ballou Andrew Berry Abdallah Chammas Bart McGuire Scott Muir Caleb Powers Mike Selvin Greg Sirois Jen Swanda Reggae Indie Rap/Hip-Hop Indie Jam Jazz DJ/House General Rock Country/Bluegrass
Leon Chang, Maggie Severns-O’Neill, Ryan Chesley, Andrew Bailey, Emily Weisburst, Lindsey Wolf, Carlton Frost VI, Chris Symeonides, Gregory Dona, Samuel Kohn, Joseph Hilgard, Noah Hall, Henrik Bliddal, Alex Howe, Molly Caldwell, Aimee Pritchard, Maryanna Brown, Lauren Miller, Lloyd Miller, Max Bryer, Mark Davenport
Squeezebox Music Magazine exists to pursue musical discourse via the open discussion, critique, and academic appreciation of music of all genres and backgrounds and their respective compositions and concerts, to expose the Dartmouth Community to new musicians, past and present, and to disseminate information concerning new musical releases and upcoming concerts/events of note both in the general Northeast and on the College campus. The opinions printed within are those of the authors and do not represent those of Dartmouth College.
Gulag Orkestar Beirut 2006
The Harder They Come Soundtrack 1972
My general perception of movie soundtracks is that they contain one or two solid tracks, and the rest is often total crap. In the case of The Harder They Come, this idea couldn’t be more wrong. My familiarity with Jamaican music isn’t exceptional by any standards, but I’ve heard my fair share, and The Harder They Come may be the best. The album features songs by reggae legend and star of the film, Jimmy Cliff. Accompanying Jimmy Cliff on this masterful reggae, Ska, rocksteady, and vocal trio compilation are
fellow heroes of Jamaican music, Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, The Slickers, The Melodians, and Scotty. The movie, in which the soundtrack plays a major role, tells the tragic tale of a renegade singer trying to make it in the Kingston music scene that is completely controlled by a few wealthy men. Without its extraordinary soundtrack, the movie would be difficult to sit through, so I suggest you bypass the movie and proceed straight to its heart. Each song is a classic and the soundtrack is a must-have for anyone with even remote interest in the music of Jamaica.
To dispel any unnecessary speculation, Beirut (Zach Condon) is a 19-year-old resident of Brooklyn. And though his alias may belie his origins, his debut album Gulag Orkestar merits its orphic title. From the opening brass trills of the title track, Condon creates an Old World aura that is only enhanced as the album progresses. His unique instrument ensemble, consisting of tambourines, accordions, congas, trumpets, organs, ukeleles, and mandolins, beautifully blends together to form a rich, layered melody. Yet the instrumentation is surpassed by the album’s real highlight - Condon’s poignantly mournful vocals. It is his lilting baritone voice, with a power reminiscent of Morrissey’s, that completes our aural experience, providing a delicate counterpart to the grandness of the instrumental backdrop. By fusing indierock sensibilities and Eastern European influences, Beirut provides us with an album that oozes pathos. While those Neutral Milk comparisons that everyone is making are probably premature, there is certainly some truth in them, so the next time you feel like escaping or wallowing, give Beirut a listen.
Let It Be The Replacements 1984
Let It Be, The Replacements’ careerdefining LP of 1984, represents some of the best that the post-punk/alternative scene had to offer. This is a coming of age record, both artistically and lyrically. Songs like “We’re Coming Out” and “Seen Your Video” are hard-hitting, piss-off-theneighbors garage-rock ragers that cater to the quartet’s punk roots. However, these songs, while a great listen, are less memorable than the five tracks that make this album a landmark and one of
the best albums of the 1980s. These five tracks see The Replacements expanding their range of musical samplings, and they mark the maturation of the band as artists. Their treatment of issues familiar to the punk movement, like angst and teenage rage, with new musical styles and experiments is wildly successful. “I Will Dare” captures the excitement and uncertainty of an adolescent infatuation in a jaunting, melodic rocker, graced by the fantastic guitar work of R.E.M.’s Pete Buck. “Androgynous” may not sound like it, but it is a subversive pop ballad about social dislocation that is as insightful as it is witty. “Sixteen Blue,” “Answering Machine,” and most notably “Unsatisfied,” are ridden with such expressive, heartwrenching angst and frustration that they make you squirm uncomfortably in your seat, but reach to crank up the volume at the same time. All in all, The Replacements, aided by Paul Westerberg’s
burgeoning talent as a songwriter, managed to bottle the essence of an angry suburban teenager in a mere 5 tracks. Listening to the record, you get a tense, uneasy feeling in your chest, as emotions from your adolescence come rushing over you. These moments are measured by the album’s harder-rocking but less thoughtful tracks, creating a blend of sound that celebrates youth as much as it struggles with it. Inevitably, The Replacements will never sound this good again, as they move further away from the harder edged stuff that make Let It Be such an invigorating listen.
The Polyphonic Spree 2000-present Indie Co-Editor
Annual moe. fall northeast run: 10/6-7@Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, Hampton Beach, NH 10/9-10@Higher Ground Ballroom, Burlington, VT 10/14@Palace Theatre in Albany, NY Over the past 15 years, moe. has evolved from its humble beginnings at the University of Buffalo into being the Northeast’s premier rock jamband. They have become increasingly eclectic, blending a wide variety of genres and influences into a unique sound saturated with their unique personality. In the process, moe. has developed a large and extremely dedicated national fan base with many fans traveling great distances to see several performances at a time. The band shows its appreciation by practicing relentlessly in order to provide a different, largely improvised show every night, typically playing 5-8 songs during each of 2 sets lasting at least an hour. moe.’s hard work has paid off, as the band has played at two of the five Bonnaroo festivals and headlines both the Summer Camp festival and its own festivals, moe. down and snoe.down, annually. Since the inaugural Jammy Awards in 2000, moe. has taken home ‘Live Performance of the Year’ awards twice, as well as honors for ‘Best Studio Album’ for Wormwood (2003) and ‘Best Live Album’ for L (2000). They have shared the stage with the Allman Brothers Band, Dave Matthews Band, Sam Bush, John Medeski, Trey Anastasio, John Popper, Keller Williams, and many more. After a busy September including moe.down 7, and a thorough tour of the west coast and a handful of gigs opening for The Who in the Midwest, moe. made its traditional fall run through the northeast, making 5 stops within two hours of campus. The two-night run at the beautiful and intimate Higher Ground Ballroom was particularly special. Later, moe. played two nights at the Chicago Theatre over Thanksgiving weekend and New Year’s Eve at Radio City Music Hall. I suggest checking out the bootlegs.
The Polyphonic Spree sounds like what would happen if The Beatles and The Flaming Lips had a big psychedelic orgy and spawned twenty-some children who all went and crashed a symphony orchestra. The band, which consists of over 20 members, boasts an ensemble including strings, brass, harp, theremin, and countless backing vocals that all support the traditional rock combination of drums, bass, guitars, piano and vocals that provides the foundation, but not the focus, of the bands sound. While there are some melancholy moments, the band has a generally uplifting mood, with painfully catchy melodies, unexpected arrangements and shockingly emphatic breakdowns. There is thematic and melodic simplicity in lovely contrast with structural and instrumental complexity. They have two records in stores now: “The Beginning Stages of…” and “Together We’re Heavy.” I prefer the latter but they are both kick-ass. You need this.
Beast Moans Swan Lake 2006 Indie Co-Editor
It’s intimidating to write about music because by nature any reader will either a) scoff at your musical taste, or b) want to know when 50 Cent will remix “Promiscuous Girl.” (Side note: can anyone think of a more ironic title for Dartmouth girls’ favorite summer song?) So, regardless of the category you fit, you will inevitably ignore this review. This is fine, I haven’t even heard the album yet. However, you can thank me later when you realize you played the record twelve times in a row without even checking blitz, because with these three names Spencer Krug, Dan Bejar, Carey Mercer - collaborating on one album, I can’t imagine it being a flop. Dan Bejar sings and plays guitar for Destroyer and also contributes in The New Pornographers. Carey Mercer is the Frog Eyes frontman. Spencer Krug was arguably the biggest name in indie rock in 2005. Do the math, buy the album.
Mirrorball Neil Young 1995 General Rock Editor
Neil Young’s 1995 offering, Mirrorball, is widely underappreciated in comparison to many of his records. There are no standout songs, and very few have ever been performed to a live audience. However, it is unlike anything he has ever done. Pearl Jam was brought in as his backing band. At the time, the so-called “grunge” scene was coming to an end with the recent passing of Kurt Cobain and the dissent of Seattle-based musicians. This set the stage perfectly for one of classic rock’s most prominent names to collaborate with one of contemporary rock’s most popular acts. The album is a change for Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder is largely absent except for a minor backing vocal on “Peace and Love.” Without having to deal with the shadow of a strong front man hanging over them constantly, the rest of the band was able to grow musically with the guidance of Neil. The music is distorted, crowded, cloudy and best in headphones. However, Pearl Jam’s fast paced, punk influenced guitar playing and Young’s drawn out wail mesh very well. The songs on the album cover everything one would expect from two artists as socially conscious as these two. Politics, abortion, war and peace flood the albums lyrics, but do not steal focus away from the music. Although this album is far from Neil or Pearl Jam’s best efforts, the influence the ageless rocker had on the career of Pearl Jam is undeniable. No longer was their music solely guitar driven hard rock providing space for a great voice. They now moved to produce a solid wall of sound that would blend with Eddie Vedder’s chilling baritone. This shift produced their two best albums, No Code and Yield, and moved them out of the mainstream, a place Neil Young’s constant experimentation always brought him.
Trout Mask Replica Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1969
Überjam John Scofield 2002 I guess for the first Editor’s Pick I can choose anything I want from any period in Jazz history. Therefore, let me tell you about The John Scofield Band’s first release called Überjam, what I consider the best record ever made. This album features Scofield’s be-bop sensibilities (he started out playing with Miles Davis) coming face-to-face with the most cutting-edge jazz and funk artists of our time. Fusion drummer Adam
Dietch, who made a name for himself drumming with Soulive, provides a foundation pace for the backbone of the album. Rhythm guitar and sampler Avi Bortnick makes the album unique, more electronic, and arguably more progressive than anything else to come out of this decade’s jazz scene. Bassist Jesse Murphy just loves a groove; he left Scofield’s band for a gig on Gov’t Mule’s new line-up before their second release, but left his mark on their sound. Guest appearances by Karl Denson and John Medeski take this album from good to great. Whenever somebody new to the genre asks me for a recommendation, I suggest this album. It’s far from pure jazz, but this fusion release will make anybody understand what makes modern jazz worth their attention.
If Cal Schenkel’s crazy-ass cover art doesn’t hook you, then something on this 28-tracked double album really should. Dissonant and eclectic, this seminal album is experimental rock at its best. Getting through it the first time is sometimes a miserable experience, but subsequent listenings will take you in and send you on a visceral journey. It’s no big surprise that Frank Zappa produced this gem, nor is it shocking that Tom Waits called this one of his 20 most cherished albums of all time. Go bury yourself in this shit, but be warned - it is not for the weak-hearted.
Country and Bluegrass Editor
At the Controls James Holden 2006 Her hyperliterate lyrics speak of loneliness, desperation, redemption, and rebirth; they tell stories about our relationship to the universe, and spin poignant fables about degradation and lost dreams. Her distinct warble, simultaneously rough and delicate, combines with the beautiful backdrop of a Van Dyke Parks strings-based orchestration to create epic melodies that engulf us in their rises and falls. Though this album may be difficult to get through on first listen, it is certainly worth the effort.
At The Controls is only Holden’s second commercial mix CD release, the first being the seminal Balance 005, and it provides a truly different experience from its predecessor. While Balance is immediately danceable and clearly reflective of a club experience, At The Controls is better suited for enjoyment at home or in the car. A quick look at the track list is a testament to its eclectic nature. Tracks by artists typically found on his record label Border Community, such as Petter and Nathan Fake, are intermixed with artists such as Massive Attack, Death In Vegas, and Aphex Twin. The album also features two new original tracks and a remix by Holden himself. While the mix certainly doesn’t develop as it would if Holden were playing in a club, it is well-structured and clearly goes places. It’s eclectic yet cohesive, slightly discordant yet never out of key, and slightly off beat at times yet still masterfully mixed. It is, without a doubt, the most original and ambitious DJ mix CD you will hear all year.
Ys Joanna Newsom 2006
Three months after first listening to this album, I continue having trouble adequately characterizing what happens to me when James Mercer’s voice swells on the opening lines of “Australia.” More and more I’ve become drawn to music that can absorb me, and that is exactly what Wincing does. Beyond just its infectious melodies and driving rhythms, it possesses those brief moments when a perfect combination of notes and tones just seems to reach out, fill your head, and push everything else out. With tunes like these and the mainstream appeal their record sales imply, The Shins just might be resurrecting good pop.
Wincing The Night Away The Shins 2007
Some Loud Thunder Clap Your Hands Say Yeah 2007
This sophomore effort is the product of a completely different CYHSY. In an attempt to create a darker, mor somber album, these Brooklyn-based rockers have generally forsaken the tight, high energy melodies that made their debut such great listening. Most of Thunder’s tracks are disorganized and uninspired, with the notable exception of “Satan Said Dance,” which can still rouse me to sing loudly and frenetically shake my head.
he lights dim on a Friday night in Albany, New York and Boom’s anthem, “Wasted Reprise,” soars over a roaring crowd. The roar becomes a sweat of anticipation, and I am not alone as a knowing grin forms on my face when I
realize an epic evening is certain to follow. Lead singer Eddie Vedder soon lends his voice, creating an ethereal aura. Before the organ has time to drown in the sea of crowd noise, Matt Cameron’s symbol beats the way from its lofty reprise into the hardhitting “Life Wasted.” As Stone Gossard’s guitar knifes in, the transition is complete, and the band immediately hits high gear. We would not see much of Boom Gasper, Pearl Jam’s “chairman of the boards,” the rest of the evening, but I don’t think anyone protested, because what ensued was some balls out rock. The nearly idle to full throttle transition was something Pearl Jam threw at us
throughout the tour. In Hartford, the band sedated the audience with the rare, mellow combo of “I’m Open” into “Sleight of Hand.” Having downed a few brews and jumped around like a maniac for an hour and a half, things were not looking good for regaining the energy needed to fully represent as a Pearl Jam “freak” for the remainder of the show. As “Sleight of Hand” ambled on I dejectedly looked to Greg, my heterosexual Pearl Jam life-mate, and said something to the effect of, “That’s it man, I’m not going to be able to get back up for this.” Seconds later I gladly ate my words and was airborne again as the band “shifted from first to fifth” and thrashed
out an intense “Comatose” followed by the ultimate blood boiler “Do the Evolution.” A mini road trip, involving back to back shows in Albany and Hartford, was a great first half of the eventual four Pearl Jam shows I would see thus far on this 2006 tour. It wouldn’t be doing the band justice to say that this tour is taking place in promotion of their recently released self-titled album. Touring is what they do, and is what they have been known for throughout the past ten years while their albums have failed to attain mass approval. That being said, there was notable emphasis placed on the recently released album, much more so than was placed on Binaural, Riot Act, and Lost Dogs in the tours following their releases. Both the Boston and Albany shows, for example, featured nine of the thirteen new tracks. Many of you are probably thinking, “That sounds about right, play most of the new album, then four or five popular songs that everyone knows and can sing along to, maybe throw in a cover, and that’s you’re rock concert.” In most cases you would be correct, but Pearl Jam doesn’t fuck around. Those nine songs made up less than one third of the average 28 song, three hour Pearl Jam show. You can see why many are starting to compare their shows and cult-like following, to those of the Grateful Dead, a comparison Vedder finds laughably absurd due to drastic musical differences. Playing lengthy shows with high frequency for 15 years can be a grueling endeavor. How many relatively mainstream bands have been able to tour regularly and produce albums for that long without burning out or fading away? What Pearl Jam has done, and continues to do, certainly does put them in elite company. Having had the pleasure of experiencing the seismic level of energy that erupts at each show, I find it amazing that this level of energy, shared by Pearl Jam and the audience alike, never wanes. This sustainable energy is potentially even harder to achieve during this tour, because the band has focused on pleasing the average fan by playing Ten classics such as “Alive” and “Even Flow” at nearly every show. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Eddie was asked how he is always able to seem really into the songs that he sings each night. His response was surprisingly simple. He doesn’t fake it or use some trick to fire himself up, for him, it’s all about the music. “I dare you to sing ‘Black’ and not feel it. I dare you,” was his reply. He feels that, “If you’re gonna play the song, you better play it.” I know I speak for many, in fact, just about everyone in the crowd on a given night, when saying that I sure as hell feel it. It’s
that unbelievably contagious feeling of power and energy that keeps me paying 60 dollars to see show after show. There are very few bands playing today that I could see four times in a little over a month and be completely enthralled each time. Although, for the past ten years Pearl Jam has been plugging away just outside the gaze of the popular eye, with this album and tour something has changed. They have raised the bar back to the heights of the Ten era. As Eddie puts it, “I feel like we’ve been handing in our work on time, and we’ve been getting A’s and B’s, but we haven’t really raised our hand and spoken out in class. This record is us speaking out in class.” I’m not quite sure what it was, maybe just Eddie being onstage in front of me, maybe his girlfriend, model Jill McCormick, in view backstage, or maybe it really was this “speaking out in class” concept, but I had a revelation. As you may have guessed, I had to share my revelation with my heterosexual Pearl Jam life-mate, so after scanning the crowd I turned to Greg and said, “Man, I think they have finally figured it out, they are all there is for these people (referring to the 30 year old males that filled audience). Pearl Jam has finally sacked up and realized it’s time to be THE band for these guys.” That may sound fairly cryptic, but it made a hell of a lot of sense to me at the time. I got so excited that I even mentioned that I wished I wrote for Rolling Stone, because I wanted to share all of the divine insight that had been bestowed upon me. Now that I actually do have the chance to write about it, it neither sounds quite as good, nor makes nearly as much sense, but I think I was referring to the fact that I could not think of any other bands that have been consistently rocking since that group of thirty year olds started high school. Pearl Jam may have fallen off the radar a bit, but they never ceased to put on one of the best shows in the business. Now that they’re back and seemingly ready to accept their responsibility as heroes. This group of beer swilling 30 year olds now has a band, one that they’ve grown up with, to get excited about again. This isn’t some joke of a reunion tour, where you have to pay a hundred dollars to watch some half dead sixty year olds just trying to live through a concert. This is one of the greatest bands of their high school glory days running on all cylinders. The idea of familiarity is an important one here. Pearl Jam is finally choosing to be a familiar name again, like they unwillingly were in the early 90s, and like they could have been all along. Beginning with No Code in 1996 Pearl Jam began to isolate all but their most devout fans by
Jam has finally sacked up and realized it’s time to be THE band ...
producing more obscure, introspective albums and not playing a number of mega hits at every show. The band cites several reasons for their intentional self sabotage campaign, most notably immaturity, stalker issues, and general contempt for the ideas of stardom and pop culture. Their philosophy of humility has been a Pearl Jam trademark for the past ten years and is largely responsible for fostering the formation of their cult-like following. Perhaps their shying away from the limelight is what enabled them to stay together, productive, and alive for the past fifteen years. It’s impossible to predict where the band would be today had they not. We all remember the outcome of Kurt Cobain’s war with stardom. That being said, if they were disgusted by all of the crap that’s played on MTV and the radio today, why not make a catchier song or two and have people listen to your music, which is infinitely better than said crap? If they’re so passionate about politics, why not amass a larger fan base to which they could pitch their propaganda? And if they’re legitimately scared of making a lot of money, they could simply give even more to charities. It took them awhile, but they seem to have realized that fame isn’t all that bad. Letterman, SNL, and VH1: Storytellers appearances, a Rolling Stone cover, the success of “Worldwide Suicide” as a single, frequent interviews, the “Life Wasted” music video, and set list changes are all indications of this realization. I guess I shouldn’t be the one complaining, because No Code and Yield are my two favorite Pearl Jam albums and they are products of the band’s former mentality, but as this encore break speech Eddie made in Albany indicates, things have
changed and Pearl Jam is ready to appease the “freaks” and “normal” fans alike. “It’s weird, it makes it really interesting. Some of the people want to hear a bunch of songs they know from the radio, some of the songs that they, uh, fell in love to, some of the songs they first got laid to, some of the songs they ran away to, then other people just want to hear the songs that we’ve never played before once ever, ever, ever…never played… and I guess what we should do is take a poll at the beginning of the night because we’d see how many of the normal people are here and we’d see how many of the freaks are here and then we could deal accordingly. And believe me, when I was growing up, the last thing…I thought the worst thing you could turn out to be was normal, so I say freaks in the most complimentary way. Here’s a song by a fellow freak.” Eddie followed that quote by performing a solo, acoustic version of John Lennon’s “Hide Your Love Away.” Sure, maybe the guys would like to add even more diversity to their set lists, but the heavy Ten bias, rarely playing Binaural and Riot Act (two of their least well received albums), and always playing the singles are what the “normal” people come to see. Add to that the Mike McCready highlight reel featuring Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” a jammed out “Yellow Ledbetter,” and a Hendrix-esque “Star Spangled Banner,” while the house lights conveniently come on during the final encore, and you may catch a few “normals” drop the word legendary. Despite the increased predictability due to renewed attention paid to the “normal” crowd, the band never forgets to throw a bone or two to their beloved “freaks.” When the band played “Rats” in Albany for the first time “since Matt Cameron joined the band” in 1998 and when they dropped
the “Leash” in Boston for the first time since March 3, 1995, they certainly had the “freaks” in mind. Between the seldom and the redundant, there is a lot of variable middle ground that cannot be overlooked. Ripping, ten minute renditions of “Porch” and “Rearviewmirror” are the highlight of many a show whether your fancy yourself as a “freak” or “normal.” Perhaps the biggest difference I can see between the current shows and those shows of the past few years, that I’m sure the majority of the fans appreciate, is that the relatively flaccid Riot Act material has been replaced with the raw, energetic, and powerful new material, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the Ten days. Granted, Eddie isn’t plunging into the pit from a thirty-foot perch and bassist Jeff Ament may not be jumping quite as high, but no one is twenty forever. Two years ago if I mentioned that I was going to a Pearl Jam show, the common response was, “Those guys are still around? I thought they’d broken up years ago.” Pearl Jam is still here, and now they’re ready to let you know it. The people who thought they had crashed are now coming to the shows, being blown away, and asking for more. There is no turning back this time, the band is having fun and has given every indication that they foresee things rolling like this for many years. If you have or had any interest in Pearl Jam whatsoever, even if you just like a song or two from Ten, I implore you to listen to the new album a couple times and get to a show. I would be surprised if you didn’t bump into me on campus and tell me it was the best rock concert you have ever attended.
driving, or working, or jogging, or fucking. When you are watching a movie and somebody asks you what you are doing you say, “I’m watching a movie.” But when was the last time you were actively listening to a record? Almost all of the time we spend listening to music, we are doing so as a secondary activity, as an enhancement to make studying more bearable, to make the basement scene less awkward, to make your walk to class less boring. There is of course, nothing wrong with this. Music makes everything better. I’m listening to music as I write this very article. However, there is a fundamental difference between listening to music as a subsidiary activity, and to giving a piece of art your full attention. There was a day when kids got together and listen to records. Just like watching a movie or a TV show, listening to music
Indie Editor Wow. I’m surprised you’re reading this article. I’m shocked you were able to fit it into your busy day of class, reading, blitz notifications and binge drinking. We all lead hectic busy lives, and unfortunately in order to save time we sacrifice certain luxuries, but one of them has been taken too far. Music has been marginalized as an art form, because nobody actually listens anymore. When you are looking at a painting you devote your attention to it. You aren’t
was a relaxing activity where one didn’t have to concentrate on anything in particular and could lose himself, even if just for a moment. Those days are largely gone. Why do we do this? Because we can. Ear-buds, iPods, laptop computers and car stereos allow us to get our aural fix while we go about our day-to-day lives. After having spent the afternoon in novack half studying, half chatting, with your headphones half on, why would you bother to spend an hour listening to music? You’ve been listening to music all day! Maybe I’m the only one that feels this way, but a song sounds different when it’s only coming through the one ear-bud that isn’t dangling near my shoulder. when I take the time to sit on my couch, close my eyes, and listen intently to a piece that isn’t competing with kilograms of background noise, I gain much more appreciation. Musicians put their heart and souls into their work. They devote their lives to it. Every nuance is intended to be grasped, every lyrical phrase pondered. We won’t even notice most of the audible nooks and crannies in the tunes we listen to, unless we meet the artist halfway and give them the focus they deserve and expect. Try it sometime. It won’t take that long. You can listen to three whole LPs in the time it takes you to watch one shitty movie. The next time your friend tries to convince you to watch Episode II: Attack of the Whatever, tell him to go speak some Klingon or something, ditch the movie, and put on some music. really don’t want to associate with the kind of people who can explain the subtleties of “Big Beat” and “Jungle”—that shit’s just weird. Trust me. Problems exist even with genres which most people assume are settled. I found this to be the case when I tried to explain what “punk” music is. How exactly am I supposed to explain that The Clash’s “The Right Profile” is in the same boat as the Dead Kennedys’ “Terminal Preppie”? And this doesn’t even cover the idiocy of labeling popular music “alternative” (a great source of jokes for music journalists in the mid-90s) or bands that appear on major labels as “indie” (same thing, except mid-00s). Let me clue you in, these titles act as euphemisms for “tuneless”. In the end, I think this problem is best left for the philosophers—we attempt to constrain the ultimate creative expression by arbitrarily creating boundaries. We’ve solved nothing here today, but, at the very least, I hope you’ve learned a couple of new terms to throw around in conversations to make you seem much more-informed than you are. Because really that’s what this is all about. Does Krautrock come with beer and sausage?
Chris Symeonides on Genres
My name is Chris, and I have no idea what the hell “Krautrock” is. As a self-described music junkie, it’s a very difficult admission to make. But the simple truth is that when it comes to genres and labels, I’m a borderline moron—but it’s something that I have in common with most music fans. Musicians are loathe to accept them and do anything to distance themselves from them, yet critics can’t trip over their keyboards fast enough to label each new band with their own personal trademarked term. These terms just cause my eyes to glaze over: Noisepop, Grunge. Dance-Rock. New Wave Revival. Krautrock. Shoegaze and slowcore. Post-punk, Post-rock, post-modern, post-anything. The various colorations of Metal. House, Jungle, Acid, IDM, Trance, Drill’n’Bass, and all things Electronic. And of course, catch-all terms like Indie and Alternative, which are meaningless, yet useful at the same time. My interest in the labeling of genres stems from my love of the music that was coined as “grunge”, a term that seems so despicable in this day and age that there is practically no one left who will own up to loving this type of music. When I listen to this music, my first impression is not grimy soap scum. Most of the bands associated with the term had little in common with one another, aside from the fact that most of them originated from the Seattle area. Pearl Jam was more of a classic arena-rock revival band, Nirvana was more of an alternative-punk mix, the Screaming Trees were psychedelic, and Soundgarden was a progressive Sabbath/Zeppelin-influenced band. The closest anyone came to something called “grunge” was the Alice in Chains song “Sludge Factory”, which was written in the movement’s dying days. Of course, every band hated the term, which was created solely to sell trashy fashion. But the thing is this—I like each and every one of these bands, and it provides a convenient label to use when describing my taste in music. However, I am reluctant to accept other genre labels at face-value due to my own knowledge of the misuse of the “grunge” tag. Broad labels are not the only problem; the opposite dilemma exists as well—some genres are way too subdivided. Is there really a need to divide Techno into a million categories, based on where the hihat hits? Of course, you shouldn’t really care about the difference. Honestly, you
Why do we all listen to music? What purpose does it serve? Why does music affect us the way it does? Why doesn’t Ol’ Rover feel the groove?
Music has no transparent evolutionary advantage, but is prevalent in every society across the globe. Mothers everywhere use music to comfort their babies and nearly every ritualized event includes music. Humans are seemingly built to appreciate music. We can detect slight changes in pitch and frequency, even if we aren’t trained to listen for them, and human beings are better at recognizing clips of songs than any computer. If you can identify songs in less than three seconds, you can even get a job tallying radio station play lists for the American Society of Composers and Publishers. Listening to music is built into our brain’s pleasure and reward system. When people listen to music, a neurotransmitter called dopamine is released into the brain, creating feelings of pleasure. This obliges the organism to repeat beneficial stimuli that create the same feelings of pleasure and contentment, teaching the body to pursue certain things (orgasm) and avoid others (sulfur). The same regions of the brain that are activated for other forms of reward and arousal are also buzzing when we listen to music. Apparently, nature wants you to listen music more. Daniel Levitin, musician, producer, and assistant professor of neuroscience at McGill University, has written a book called This is Your Brain on Music which takes a psychological look at the reasons people across the world have devoted so much time and effort to making and listening to music. Levitin believes that exposure to music begins in-utero, due to the fact that babies have been shown to prefer music that their mothers listened to while pregnant. Hearing is the first sense to be fully developed, in about the fifth month. Music in the womb would sound like it’s underwater, with primarily
Music and Biology
low frequency sounds reaching the baby. On top of the steady rhythm of mother’s heartbeat, it’s no surprise that most people and babies gravitate towards beats and lower tones similar to their first musical experiences. The common undercurrent running through most types of music relates back to human intelligence. Good music (no matter who you are) generally sets up expectations that meet enough of our predictions to make us pleased with our cleverness, but violates enough of those
music. The teenage years are when musical taste truly develops, and though it may be influenced by the prenatal experience, there are other factors. Social group and social identity have a huge impact on the type of music people listen to. These songs of your glory years will form a lasting impression and be the music you will listen to when you are old and decrepit, long after your twenties have ended and your musical horizons have stopped expanding. You ever notice how musicians never seem to have trouble finding buddies for whatever kind of play they’re up for? Well, that’s easy. Music = sex, or 50,000 years ago, sexual fitness. Levitin suggests that music was developed by males to attract mates and then selected for by the females. Males would generally perform a combination of music and dance to show their prospective mates that they were both mentally and physically healthy, displaying not only that they could learn what it took to play an instrument correctly and to create a song, but also, that their motor control was able do what is needed to play and dance. Think peacock showing off for the peahens. And, as mentioned above, music stimulates the same areas of the brain as arousal, but then, you knew that already. Grab your favorite music major. You’re the motivation for his music. Not everyone believes that music has been a beneficial and definite part of humanity’s development. It has been said that “its basis is purely hedonic,” “an evolutionary parasite”. I would prefer to believe that music was developed for a definite purpose, that there is some need in human beings for music. And Darwin is on my side.
Music and Sex
Music and Human Development
expectations and surprises us enough to keep us interested. Music that children love is often considered repetitive and boring by adults, who are used to the standards of music in their own culture. Children are still learning the rules for what is standard in music, so things adults have heard dozens of times may be enough to interest a child. As children grow and become more acculturated by their society’s music, they tire of simplistic tunes and listen to more complicated
This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession Dr. David J. Levitin Penguin Books
Off the Dome
When listening to the Lil’ Wayne’s albums , I can’t help but follow the ridiculous flow and word intonations, as the 22 year old seems to land his squeaky voice so effortlessly and unpredictably on any beat given to him. Although some may find his lyrical content a bit mundane and his voice a bit aggravating, I can overlook these shortfalls, because his original flow variations and emotion-filled vocal tones make up for them. I have grown much more fond of Weezy (as some call him) over the years as the countless hours of hip-hop listening have led me to favor erratic and fluid rhythms over formulaic and repetitive flow types. I would put Lil’ Wayne in the same category as “free-flowing” emcees such as Biggy,
Jay-Z, Tupac, Eminem, and the Game. Relax, I’m not saying he (or the Game for that matter) is as good as any of the other emcees in the category – not yet at least. I am simply suggesting that these rappers have an intuitive knowledge of the flow that allows them to rap without an obvious rhythmic structure. Emcees like Jadakiss, Big L, Cam’ron, Fabolous, Ludacris and Lloyd Banks have had tremendous success with highly structured rhythms, as their styles allow more focus and stress to be placed on their descriptive, vivid and/or playful lyrical content. Less originality and variations in the flow usually allow for more creativity with the word choice, which explains why Jadakiss and Big L are among the best at conveying hard and poignant lyrics, and why Ludacris and Lloyd Banks manage to rap with such playful and witty imagery. All professional emcees can plan out a structured song before hand, but a much smaller portion of them have the skill to freestyle impressively and properly incorporate it into recorded art. Such rappers are set apart by this “off the dome” approach, where they step up to the microphone with less written preparation. Eminem has been rumored to completely freestyle some his songs, which may explain the randomness of his subject matter in songs like “Rain Man.” Jay-Z and Lil’ Wayne have been known to write almost nothing on paper feminist, anti-war – were occurring almost simultaneously. Growing numbers and influence of the baby boomer generation galvanized movements. The draft must also be taken into account, which undoubtedly increased the popularity of the anti-war movement and protest music. Having over 300 television stations and more publications describing what shoes to avoid than those that focus on current events makes it all too easy to avoid absorbing news. Now large corporations have a near-monopoly on radio stations, stripping earlier generations’ independent DJ’s of the influence they once had. The recording industry has become more and more commercialized, which involves choosing profits over message and offending as few people as possible. The music of the singer-songwriters of the 60’s probably didn’t change anyone’s mind – the music was simple and the message often obvious – and a resurgence of protest music today would most likely not do so either. However, the music and festivals offered a focus and an outlet for the causes of the time, brought awareness to a generation through popular culture, and encouraged dialogue and action.The ability of music to unify that generation is perhaps something important missing in the realm of activism for our own. Many artists, such as Ani Difranco, Green Day, Pearl Jam, The Coup, and Bright Eyes feature themes of social or political discontent (as opposed to those regarding ones “lady lumps,” of
but are able to put together entire tracks by simply reiterating or varying their freestyles. There is something about the “off the dome” approach that has a special appeal for me. The spontaneity adds a unique and refreshing aspect to a song that lyrical preparation cannot match. In the midst of a pure freestyle, the artist loses consciousness in a sense, as unfettered expression becomes one with the beat. If you ask me, the ability to come “off the dome” is a true sign of emcee talent and skill. Of all of the Hip-Hop greats, regardless of how they approached recording their songs, they all are or were gifted enough to drop bars and bars of beautiful and fluid rap improvisation, and, in some cases, they are even skilled enough to make entire tracks of spontaneous inspiration. I personally commend rising hip-hoppers like Lil’ Wayne who take the “off the dome” approach because it truly adds a refreshing flavor to rap music while giving it more credibility as a musical genre. Maybe record labels should make it a pre-requisite to freestyle for 200 bars before being able to sign an emcee to a deal. A few purely lyrical rappers might be lost, but I guarantee that the fake bullshit you hear on the radio that gives rap a bad name would be cut-down immensely.
Protest music, in one form or another, has played an important role in many periods of history. Musicians often give a face and a voice to social reform and other movements. Artists such as Woody Guthrie, Joe Glazer, and Pete Seeger played a formative part in the U.S. labor movement. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, Phil Ochs, Peter Paul and Mary, and countless others sang for civil rights, free speech, and disarmament. A musician today however would have a great deal of trouble making a name for himself using the same approach. At a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert I attended this summer, Young attempted to engage the audience in a sing-a-long rendition of his newly released “Let’s Impeach the President for Lying,” and Crosby & Nash’s “Immigration Man.” With exception, the crowd seemed a great deal more appreciative of “Southern Man,” “For What it’s Worth” and “Ohio.” I was frustrated with what seemed like a desperate attempt at recreating an atmosphere that doesn’t exist anymore. Why is it that songs of the same genre lack the audience and influence of similar songs from other eras? The cultural and political environment today is quite different than that of the Vietnam War era. Then, several influential movements – civil rights, free speech,
arguably equal importance). Many major musicians attempt to get their message across verbally at concerts and festivals if not in their music, and just as many support causes they believe in with their own funds, such as Elvis Costello, Dave Matthews, Bonnie Raitt, and the Dixie Chicks (who have recently had to cancel many scheduled concerts due to their politics). While a number of hip hop and pop musicians have written songs protesting the war, these songs are virtually ignored as album fillers. There are also countless musicians who independently create and produce their own music with a message; however in most cases you have to know where to look. Musicians are still protesting, but like it or not the audience isn’t what it once was. If you’re looking for a lone songwriter and his guitar singing new songs and asking for peace, be prepared to do some solitary sifting.
The Young Knives Voices of Animals and Men Release Date: Aug. 21, 2006 Wea International
Audioslave Revelations Release Date: Sept. 5, 2006 Sony
his British trio’s freshman effort surfaces among the recent flood of British post-punk art-rock revivalists. Echoes of the Strokes and the Futureheads reverberate throughout the record. Additionally, The Young Knives’ roots are obvious and increasingly commonplace: XTC, the Jam, and Gang of Four are most prominent. And yet, Voices of Animals and Men could be one of the most distinctive debuts of 2006. Opening with “Part Timer”, the album is immediately charged, infective, and restless. A majority of the tracks share these qualities, resulting in a record pregnant with edgy hooks and melodies that will inevitably pulse in your head later in the day. Even tracks like “Another Hollow Line” and “Temblings of Trails,” which ease off the frantic riffs, find brilliance in their keen melodic punk sensibilities. Of course, like any worthwhile band, the true character of The Young Knives resides in more than catchy hooks and jittery bass lines. Henry Dartnall’s vocals can only be described as idiosyncratic; sung with a pitch-shifting British twang, they are fantastically treacherous. “In The Pink” features choppy lines of cynical fury intermittently met with a sinking, melancholy refrain that makes you feel as though you fell into a Shins’ album. The Knives weave pleasant harmonies, hard-hitting anthemic verses, and random, nearly out-of-place falsettos so tightly that the result is a quirky sound, which is complimented by the band’s solid instrumental groundwork. The writing is generally as good as the other aspects of the album. Although many of the lyrical references are lost on an American audience, their wit shines through, highlighting their penchant for furious observations on subjects like the working class (Weekends and Bleak Days), elitism (Loughborough Suicide), and boredom (Part Timer). Unfortunately, Voices of Animals and Men is far from perfect. Rearing their appalling heads about halfway through the album, “Tailors” and “Half-Timer” are terrible songs, and they absolutely kill the rush delivered by the previous 6 six tracks. The energy of the first half of Voices never fully returns after this mid-album two-track train wreck. Despite its weak points, this is an excellent debut by a band whose sophisticated immediacy is instantly appealing. Overall, Voices of Animals and Men is an invigorating listen – before “Part Timer” even finishes, you’ll be hooked. Tim Bakke
ive years ago when we heard rock supergroup Audioslave’s eponymous debut album, we were blown away. It wasn’t Soundgarden Redux or Rage Against the Machine Rehashed, but rather possessed a new sound that incorporated some of the best elements of both bands. Guitarist Tom Morello retained his raw style of play from Rage, and Chris Cornell’s dark and emotional vocals replaced de la Rocha’s occasionally annoying rap, giving us an album that was at once heavy and melodic. While it may not have been revolutionary in breaking down genre barriers or experimenting with new sounds, it was a powerfully hitting record that swept us away and had us angrily shrieking and wailing along to its tunes. It established the band’s strengths: power, anger, and the ability to get us carried away. Latest release Revelations’ title track (also the opener) aptly reveals that this new album is lacking those very qualities that made the debut worthwhile. Quitting smoking and excessive boozing has taken the character out of Cornell’s voice and smoothed out his compelling rough edges, or at least the album has been remastered to sound that way. “Revelations” – and half of the other tracks on the album – sounds like soulless, mainstream rock. There are certainly moments when they sound like the hard Audioslave we love, but overall, the melodies and arrangement are so trite that not even Morello’s guitar can salvage them. There’s just no edge or energy. The half of the album that isn’t just bland rock finds Audioslave attempting to create a new sound. Morello has described the record as “Led Zeppelin meets Earth, Wind and Fire,” and on tracks like “Original Fire” and “Broken City,” we do hear some funk and R&B influences though the Zeppelin is missing. These moves may appeal to a different audience than the band is used to, but fans of Audioslave will likely be disappointed. The funky guitar riffs and variegated rhythm stylings just aren’t Audioslave’s forte. If you’re really craving some new Cornell, try and find a bootleg of an unplugged show he did in Sweden as a promotion for Revelations. Download “Moth” and be done with this disappointing effort from a band we deserve more from. Chet Ramamurthy
Girl Talk Night Ripper Release Date: May 9, 2006 Illegal Art
Night Ripper sounds like the unconscious of a pop-music obsessive five milligrams of Adderall short of heart explosion. Composed of mash-ups, it joyously bounces from sample to sample to sample—over 150 in all. Overall, it is one of the most fun albums in recent memory, a frenzied celebration of all that is pop music. About two minutes into “Smash Your Head,” the “Tiny Dancer” piano melody drops like a bad habit as Biggie raps like a man about to die. Words fail, jaws drop, white people dance; the mashup as grace. Girl Talk is Philadelphia DJ Greg Gillis, and his genius is selection. Every sample is precisely the best part of a great song: the string hook from the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony,” the piano line from Phantom Planet’s “California,” the 50 Cent’s first verse from “Hate It or Love It.” Part of the fun of the album is trying to identify the samples’ sources, which range from the Pixies to Southern rap to the Beatles. The greatest achievements of Night Ripper are the glorious juxtapositions in the vein of the Biggie/Elton John masterstroke described above. The album is full of such moments: the Game verse is on top of pastel synths that put his fire on ice, and the “Bittersweet Symphony” sample is laid under the most profane rapping the YingYang Twins have to offer. If that sounds crazy, wait until you hear it. The samples have intensity in common. About ninety seconds into “Hold Up,” the “Laffy Taffy” chorus soars over a beat of unearthly speed. Before the song is over, every sound is new: call-and-response rapping backed by chopped-up snares, and Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” guitar solo as the fireworks over the grand slam. Night Ripper is a party. Invite your friends. Alex Howe
After a chilled-out interlude in the A duo that has remixed everything from form of “Not Enough” and “Amsterdam Britney Spears to Dido to Nalin & Kane Interlude,” the tempo picks up again with to the theme of Brokeback Mountain, Josh a relief from vocals and a floor-shaking Gabriel and Dave Dresden finally give us their debut genre-defying artist album. The “Sydney,” leading to the finale uplifting “Tracking Treasure Down.” It sounds like album as a whole has a very harmonic, it should be an anthem but unfortunately, introspective feel and while certainly not it doesn’t quite make it. a typical “dance” album, there is a broad Good though they are, I can’t range of styles here, shake the feeling that the from a deep dance vocals do get in the way of floor sound verging some of the tracks and are on house to an almost a distraction from G&D’s commercial, radioexcellent production skills. friendly pop style. All While all cuts from this but two tracks have album have their moments, vocals, though not the there’s no true standout ethereal vocals we’re track here. Nonetheless, used to in trance; innovative use of sounds in instead it’s about places, careful filtering and punch and attitude effects, and a very unique here. The opener “Let Gabriel & Dresden style make this album a great listen and certainly Go” is typical of Gabriel & Dresden something fresh, provided the whole album, with lots of vocals, Release Date: Aug. 8, 2006 you’re not expecting fourpumping dance jingly synths, Organized Nature Records to-the-floor throughout. floor tracks background acoustic Overall, this album feels guitar arpeggios, and like it wants to be great, and has all the percussion, which combine to sound elements required to make it a classi but more like rock than dance. Nevertheless, it’s crying out for a tougher remixed it’s catchy, thoughtful, and uplifting. version that cuts most of the vocals and Appearing a few lackluster tracks later, ditches the dodgy synths but keeps the the snappy “Closer” is one of the album’s highlights, with sharp production and great patches. great synths, though I would have liked to hear a non-vocal remix. Samuel E. Kohn This time, celebrated genre-defying gives way to “Backstage Girl,” a terribly turntablist DJ Shadow (Mike Davis) long story of a sexual tryst with a seeks to establish his continued groupie (complete with guitar swagger relevance by embracing the rising that desperately needs to be sent back to trend of Bay Area hyphy hip hop. Kid Rock) that’s really only an excuse to This move fails – the mainstream rap use the line, “I gotta stop fucking with tracks taking up half the album could these bitches off of MySpace, dog.” almost have been written by anybody That said, some of the hyphy else. The underwhelming tracks manage to performances of guest be catchy - “Enuff” artists such as Keak proves charming Da Sneak and E-40 with its salsa dance come off as phonedsensibilities, and in reminders of these E-40’s son Droop-E artists’ fondness for provides a bonus the finer things of remix of “3 Freaks” hyphy culture: stunner that improves a bit shades, gas breakin’ upon Davis’ original. and dippin’, getting But nowhere does dumb, turf dancing, the album get any and buying magazines better than the about car stereos. aforementioned Davis’ experimental of “This DJ Shadow 1960s soulenjoyable, style does shine Time,” an The Outsider if not slightly through a bit on each song, though, even if Release Date: Sept. 19, 2006 rudimentary, exercise only as the cheery bain turntablism. With Universal Records/Island Records The Outsider, Davis’ ling! of a Game Boy or an odd choice of scatterbrain style synthesizer. Sadly, his genre-mashing misses the mark. style doesn’t operate with the usual In future albums, I hope never to smoothness, leaving the album a jumble again hear The Federation rhyme “ghost of self-contained tracks thrown together ridin’ the whip” with “[she] ghost ridin’ in a schizophrenic hodgepodge. Soulful my dick.” 1960s Al Green sounds are suddenly replaced by the thumps of mainstream rap. A frantic storm of electronic beats Joseph B. Hilgard
they also mimic Queen with high-pitched Lately, it seems as if every surfacing group background vocals, and the track new wave band breaks out with a hit comes off as clumsy and awkward rather debut record only to spiral into relative than empowering and energetic. Although oblivion due to an uninspired sophomore lead single, “When You Were Young,” slump. authoritatively and aggressively charges, The Killers clearly harness inspiration, the album lacks a definitive toe-tapping but it seems altogether too fake. Rather jam. Without the incredibly than developing in a catchy anthems found on Hot new direction all Fuss, Sam’s Town ultimately their own, Brandon lacks a substantive base. Flowers and company The Killers take strive to no avail themselves too seriously, and to assume defining the negative effects manifest characteristics of not only musically, but legendary artists. They lyrically. Flowers struggles to leave behind the bits establish a deeper meaning and pieces of David to his lyrics, but he lacks the Bowie channeled so literary skill to pull off the beautifully on Hot lofty metaphors he shoots Fuss, in favor of motivation from a The Killers for. Lines such as “he doesn’t look a thing like Jesus” fall supposedly more Sam’s Town flat and leave the listener mainsteam musician: Bruce Springsteen. Release Date: Oct. 3, 2006 entirely unimpressed. The Unfortunately, such a Island, Lizard King Records Killers must continue to pursue musical adaptation stretch proves far out and evolution. Next time of the group’s reach; we want to see them do something unique, they simply lack the experience and talent, among other things, possessed by the Boss. original, and true to their style. “Bones” showcases Flowers’s voice by pushing it slightly passed its limits into a Gregory Dona warm, embracing tremble. Unfortunately,
The Mars Volta Amputechture Release Date: Sept. 12, 2006 Universal Records
I’m baffled. I don’t get it. The Mars Volta should not be in the Billboard 200 (peaking at No. 9). The general public should not like them, but it does. Granted, they did have the advantage of riding the coattails of At The Drive-In, and have John Frusciante and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing on their albums. But come on, their songs are long, bombastic, and lack structure. However, I guess once in a while a band receives recognition for being one of the most adventurous Progressive Rock bands out there. This is their third album since their debut in 2003. While it is not as mind-boggling as their debut or as uncompromising as their sophomore effort, The Mars Volta really hit their stride with this one. The album encompasses all that has made the ‘70s Prog bands legendary: breaking new grounds without sounding contrived. Rather than abusing the old template, they bring back what makes this style progressive: being bold and taking risks in their composition of music. They manage to meld widely differing influences ranging from Metal, Classic Rock and Latin music into organic songs. To be sure, there’s the meandering of ambient passages and the seemingly endless guitar solos which some might find annoying. For fans, though, that’s the beauty of The Mars Volta – they do not cater to cookie-cutter conceptions of what music should be. So thanks to the Volta, Prog is back in the spotlight, where it used to be in the days of Genesis, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Yes. In sum, this is an outstanding work of art that has to be appreciated to its fullest. I suggest headphones!
Gov’t Mule began in 1994 as a power the point of seeming stale at times. The trio, a love letter from frontman Warren worst offenders are “Mr. High & Mighty,” Haynes and bassist Allen Woody to classic which follows in the same vein as “Mr. groups like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Man” from Déjà Voodoo and the Free cover Experience. Although the band had to “Mr. Big” (see a pattern here?) from their replace Woody after his death in 2000, and 1995 self-titled debut. Not to mention added a permanent keyboard player on “Nothing Again,” which is such a rehash their last album, 2004’s Déjà Voodoo, they of Voodoo’s “Little Toy Brain” that Haynes have stuck to their classic-rock guns. High can’t help but play a nearly identical solo. & Mighty is no exception If you’re already – Warren and the boys have a Mule fan, High & come back with more of the Mighty is an album same bluesy rockers and worth getting excited heartfelt ballads fans have over. This band is at come to expect. its best in comfortable Haynes’s powerful, classic-rock territory, soulful voice, like an older as evidenced by the Chris Robinson with better disappointing reggae enunciation, is in top experiment “Unring The form, adding a sense of Bell.” If at times a little drama to the album.. This too formulaic, the album is especially true on the is still altogether good. up-tempo “Streamline The arrangements Gov’t Mule are generally an Woman,” as the somewhat High & Mighty improvement over Déjà generic lyrics (“Ooo, streamline woman, let me Release Date: Aug. 22, 2006 Voodoo in that Danny be good to you”) become Louis’s keyboard parts Red Ink mesh a little better with convincing through Warren’s strong, but the rest of the band, and nuanced delivery. Another highlight of the feel like less of an afterthought. If you album, “Like Flies” pairs a sinister guitar approach this album expecting the band to line with lyrics that harshly criticize pop break new ground, you’ll be disappointed. culture, accusing those “who wouldn’t However, if you’re looking for more of the know the difference between Vin Diesel Mule you have come to know and love, and Van Gogh” of “spreading filth / then by all means, pick up the album. buzzing all around my head / like flies.” Haynes’s formidable slide guitar chops Henrik Bliddal Noah Hall make an appearance for the reflective, nostalgic anthem, “Brighter Days.” Gov’t Mule’s original bassist, Allen Woody, died of a heart attack in 2000. High &Mighty’s biggest strength is also Andy Hess, bassist for the Black Crowes, currently tours with the band. its biggest flaw – it’s more of the same, to
Mogwai Mr. Beast Release Date: Mar. 6, 2006 Matador Records
Mr. Beast is not just the title of Mogwai’s latest album – it’s a metaphor for the music they create. Each track is an animal that seethes, growls, and purrs. With the explostion of Young Team onto the scene, Mogwai redefined a genre and gave life to a creature that would spawn multiple bands for years to come. If the long, epic tracks of their earlier albums were the untamed animals of the post-rock world, this latest album takes these beasts and tacks on a title to their names. Call it “Mr.” Beast. “Auto Rock” opens with a simple piano melody, growing in force as synth counterparts and a pounding drum beat bring the track to a peak. This is the new, sophisticated sound of Mogwai. There is still that undeniable power and intensity in each track, but you can feel the reins being pulled in ever so slightly. The tracks sound clean and crisp, the muzzle is strapped a little tighter. Tracks like “Team Handed,” “Friend of the Night,” and “Emergency Night” possess the grace and elegance of the New York Philharmonic. The increased piano presence contributes to creating this pleasant sensation. The simple melodies swell and spread, exploring more complex rhythms and sounds. In particular, “Team Handed” has a beautiful piano melody that shifts from a lullaby to a sonata and back again. A lighter touch can be felt all around, creating the sensation that the album fears breaking the silence that falls between each key of the piano. Yet, whatever happened to the Mogwai we knew? Where are the cutting, searing tracks that would have our ears splitting and our hands turning up the volume? “Glasgow Mega-Snake” brings back the sharp sound of distorted guitars and crashing drums and delivers the intensity of older Mogwai. Honestly, how can a song with the word “Mega-Snake” not be the rocker of the album? The song crushes as much rage as it can in less than four minutes. The live version on the album is even better, and shows the absolute power Mogwai can explode with given the chance. Not much can awe the senses like the tried-and-true combination of a
hard guitar riff and a thrashing drum beat. and growth, the song takes your mind, A track similar to “Glasgow Mega-Snake” wraps it around a mesmerizing pedal steel, is “We’re No Here,” another heavy-hitting and fazes you in to whatever daydream post-rock episode of the Mogwai of the you want. Aptly named, “Acid Food” past. The sole purpose of “We’re No Here” comes as the drug of choice of the album. seems to be drawing as much sound as Mr. Beast isn’t a Young Team. It’s not possible out of their instruments and even a Come on Die Young. Instead, it’s a expelling a riot of the loud and angry. grown-up version of the smashing tracks The theme of restraint seems to be a of their earlier albums. None of the songs constant in Mr. Beast, limiting yet reach the six minute mark, while past controlling their epics like “Mogwai potential. In Fear Satan” on ...[“Acid Food”] takes your tracks like “I Young Team reached Chose Horses,” fifteen minutes or mind, wraps it around a which feature more. The album a combination portends greatness; mesmerizing pedal steel, of a soft, slow it just needs the mix of guitars and fazes you in to whatever time and space and synth with to realize what it the comforting can become. The daydream you want. spoken Japanese harder, post-rock of Tetsuya Fukagawa of the hardcore band tracks could use more freedom in Envy, the self-control is reassuring. The song expanding and swelling to the grand sizes chooses not to go places, but instead to wax of Mogwai’s earlier songs. While maybe and wane gradually within its boundaries. lacking in scope and ambition, the album “Acid Food,” another vocal track, is one finds beauty in Mogwai’s newfound of the shining moments of Mr. Beast. The minimalism. The piano sings softly and the steady background complements the lyrics drum hits clean and crisp to craft a new perfectly – “we learnt them as we went / direction. Mogwai says it best themselves: forgot them straight away / the ones we left “we’ll come back the other way.” behind / the ones we sent away.” Almost Leon Chang as if Mogwai describes its own progression
Over the course of the last two years, Steve Lawler has distinctly changed his style as a DJ. Long gone are the days of “Dark Drums.” The tribal house style with which Lawler built his reputation has been replaced by a mix of minimal techno and synth-driven electro, reflecting a recent trend that has seen many DJs (Lee Burridge, James Lavelle, and even John Digweed) making this transition to a more “electro” sound. While Lawler’s shift has managed to retain his signature grittiness, it has drawn rather harsh criticism, having occurred more rapidly than the pace at which the average DJ evolves his or her style. The first release from what will be a three part commercial series entitled “Viva,” the mix distinguishes its three discs as separate “days.” The first disc is a warm-up, the second a peak-time set, and the third an after-hours session. Disc one is heavy on the synths, with thicker drum patterns and more vocals than the other two discs. Nothing groundbreaking, but the best disc to listen to at home or in the car. Disc two, the peak-time set, sounds most similar to what Lawler has been playing in nightclubs. Although the tracks are minimalist in nature and create significant energy, tension and a tangibly darker feel, despite dub-heavy drums and simpler synths that, at times, lack any real melody. The driving bass lines, accompanied with punchier drums, result in a minimal, yet big room sound. This is my favorite of the three, featuring highlight tracks such as the Misc. remix of Trick & Cubic’s “Easy” M.A.N.D.Y.’s
Steve Lawler Viva Release Date: June 27, 2006 Viva
“Jah,” and the Tiefschwarz remix of Lindstrom’s “I Feel Space.” Disc three’s after-hours mix is full of obscure down tempo and ambient tracks. When big room DJs experiment with down tempo mixes, the result is very unpredictable. Lawler’s attempt, while comprised of interesting songs, falls flat. Sometimes mixed and sometimes just faded, the third disc lacks cohesion and comes across as rather boring. All in all, Viva is a very solid release and will probably prove to be one of the year’s best. Lawler proves that although his signature tribal drums have been reduced to something far more minimal, the grittiness that characterized his earlier style is still very much in effect. Mike Selvin
Kaki King ...Until We Felt Red Release Date: Aug. 8, 2006 Velour Recordings
Kaki King has come a long way since her debut release “Everybody Loves You,” a showcase of her unbelievable and unprecedented acoustic guitar technique. There were virtually no lyrics or nonguitar instrumentation on the entire record. I was shocked that her sophomore effort “Legs to Make Us Longer” contained sparing use of drums, vocals, and other added layers to her trademark sound. Now on her third record, “…until we felt red,” she has completely transformed into a singer and multi-instrumentalist who uses full arrangements and prominent vocals in many songs. While it is very different from her old sound, I think “…until we felt red” might be Kaki’s best yet. Kaki’s vocals sound like those of a ghost, the most benign beautiful ghost imaginable. They are gorgeous and haunting but at no point threatening. Instead they sound inspired and otherworldy. The opening track “yellowcake” provides not only some of the most appealing guitar on the album, but also a vocal arrangement that stands your hairs on end. The non-vocal additions are unpredictable and eclectic, including lap steel, Wurlitzer, heavy bass, flugelhorn, dulcimer, some mild electronic elements… the list goes on. On one song Kaki is credited with playing “a bowl of corn.” There is even a touch of distortion here and there, but only on deep bass and various floating sounds. Both structurally and instrumentally, King has taken her songwriting to an entirely new level of sophistication. Tracks such as “you don’t have to be afraid” are able to take us to many different worlds in a single song, something King was never able to do as a solo guitarist. The songs are generally both appealing and interesting, easy listening with heavy thinking. The guitar is still the most prominent part of the arrangement. The acoustic guitar sound is intricate and gorgeous with a
spark the adrenaline of the runner and What would be the product of three extended background moans provide of America’s top corporate forces – Nike, additional motivation to keep pushing. As Apple, and Fox Broadcasting Company fatigue begins to set in, an amalgamation – coming together for a musical project? of horns motivate the athlete to keep him Apparently, their combined influence results in a 45 minute and 33 second track energized and performing at his peak. These fade and give way from “OC” darlings to the quickest time frame LCD Soundsystem. yet. The body naturally Nike merged their picks up on the frequent fitness prowess aural vibrations and with a group made responds with an inspired popular by Fox’s hit last push to the finish line. show to mastermind This rapid thrust peters a jogging oriented, out and surrenders to iTunes exclusive track. a charming assortment The group mixed of chimes and various their addictive dance other mellowing sounds, beats, showcased on ensuring a relaxing media phenomenon consummation of the “The OC,” with Nike’s image to LCD Soundsystem workout. Although appealing craft a musically 45:33: Nike+Original Run as a standalone track, impressive track Release Date: Oct. 17, 2006 “45:33: Nike+ Original tailored perfectly for the jogging hipster. Nike (iTunes only) Run” truly shines by perfectly complementing A passive beat eases a 45 minute run. The band achieves the listener into a comfortable jog flawless timing – its ability to motivate before introducing breathy, rhythmic lagging muscles just as they begin to whisperings calling for a slight give way proves exceptional throughout. acceleration. As the song progresses, Many wondered how LCD Soundsystem the pace picks up, pitches elevate, and could improve upon their 2005 double disc more sporadic noises arrive, all of which release. This function-specific project is a indicate a need to kick the conditioning worthy start. into full gear. Trippy blips frantically Gregory Dona scattered throughout the tune subtly After capturing thousands of new fans with their brilliant album Z, it seems only proper that MMJ would provide a live album to not only give a taste of their legendary live shows (the 3 and a half hour set from Bonnaroo this year comes to mind), but also to give new fans a glimpse into their older catalog. The band is tight and energetic throughout, shifting seamlessly from the old to the new, but the listener is left wanting a bit more. Perhaps the lack of true improvisation in the solos plays a part, but it’s the total lack of contact with the audience that is most unsettling. I may be spoiled from listening to dozens of Pearl Jam boots that each have at least one hilarious story in them, but really the only indication that this is a “live” album is the audience noise that filters in at the end of half the songs. It’s truly a shame, because MMJ is truly capable of putting together a landmark live album— but this certainly isn’t it. Chris Symeonides improved in so many other ways that there is simply no time to dwell on the past. In the end the album is reminiscent of classical music but led by more modern elements. There is a distinct jazz influence, with a little rock and roll as well as some noise on the side. Its all very low key, but involving; something that you’ll be able to use as bedtime music, but only once you’ve listened to it a couple times to get your head around it. Otherwise it will keep you awake with images of brilliant red snow and molten hot guitar strings zipping through your hair. Yikes. Bart McGuire
My Morning Jacket Okonokos (Live) Release Date: Sept. 26, 2006 Ato Records
consummate frenzy of finger-picking, harmonics and an innumerable variety of other techniques. My biggest complaint with the record however, is her neglect of the “slap guitar” styling that put her on the map in the first place. Perhaps she felt that now, with the use of drums, it was not necessary to call upon the percussive nature of her old slap guitar. Ironically, though, these new songs are much less percussive than her older work, even with the addition of drums. There are a handful of instrumental songs, and lots of time spent on solo guitar, but at no point do we even get a hint of “Everybody Loves You.” However, her sound has evolved and
Beck The Information US Release Date: Oct. 3, 2006 Interscope
ne of the greatest things about Beck is his ability to completely change styles every album. From noise-rock to folk to mournful acoustic ballads to Princestyle audio sex, Beck has shown himself capable of a great many distinct styles. However, it looks like Beck has finally run out of ideas. His previous album, Guero, was a straightforward no-frills album, a re-treading of territory already explored. Now, The Information reveals a surprising lack of progress, featuring the same new flavor – plain. Beck has now dedicated two consecutive albums to a middling rehash of his earlier works. Centered on what an arithmetic mean of Beck would sound like, all the tracks lean slightly one way or the other; some folksy, some balladic, some slightly hip-hop, with halfhearted folk guitar and a dash of turntable samples throughout. But it’s not just that Beck is reheating his earlier albums – The Information repeats
itself throughout. “Think I’m in Love” and “Soldier Jane” are the same damn song. (Tired Cliché Alert: Beck sings that he “Thinks [he’s] in love” but it “makes [him] kind of nervous to say so.”) The voice sample that begins the album pops up again midway through, and the bass line for “Cellphone’s Dead” reappears on the last track. “New Round” sports a tedious and repetitive two-note swivel that is later copied by “Motorcade.” One almost feels that Beck is stretching just to reach the one hour mark. Lazy and uninspired, The Information pays lip service to the breadth of Beck’s style while demonstrating none of it, but it’s the timing that’s most worrisome. By following up Guero with more of the same, Beck could well be dedicating himself to writing garden-variety junk the rest of his days. Download “Elevator Music” and “Cellphone’s Dead” and never look back.
Joseph B. Hilgard
suppressed panic and anger: “When the refrigerator naked and the cupboard is bare/ People got to strip naked, stick ‘em up in the air/ Was it lies when they told you wasn’t nothin’ to fear?” he asks the man on the street. That bare-cupboard uneasiness works its way into every line; the closest Thought gets to romance is the rape and victimization of “Baby” – not very close. Behind him, the band skips the flaccid jams that marred earlier albums and reminds us that they are the tightest unit since P-Funk went into orbit. Make no mistake: this is the best Roots album yet. ?uestlove’s growing skill behind the boards transmutes the once childish magic. Lead single The Roots studio trickery intois the showstopper: “Don’t Feel Right” Game Theory four minutes of anguished-soul wails, US Release Date: Aug. 29, 2006 percolating percussion, and a bridge that sounds like Herbie Hancock’s clavinet on Def Jam the warpath. Only the closer, an 8-minute canonization of the late producer J Dilla, fails to compel. The rest of the material Since their inception as “The Hip-Hop is uniformly strong; even as the music Band” more than a decade ago, The Roots industry follows have struggled the iTunes Pied to translate their Make no mistake: this is Piper back to musical prowess the old days of into popularity. the best Roots album yet. singles and pop After their confectionary, lackluster The The Roots have Tipping Point (2004), released an honest-to-goodness album. with its silly attempts at club-fare, it It is worthy of purchase and extensive seemed that the boys from Illadelph were headphone time. Bravo. doomed to be forever name-dropped by only palefaces and hipsters. Not quite. It seems that the band spent Mark Davenport their leave listening to Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, and have answered that manifesto with one of their own. The songs are terse and dark, woven together in one long suite of gnarly funk. Drummer/guru ?uestlove’s production is as exciting as any Bomb Squad track, and he still makes the skins crack and pop like no other. Black Thought is focused and articulate; he flows like Ron Hubbard played – no showboating, just –The Staff polished delivery. His lyrics are all barely-
Every issue we provide our predictions on some upcoming releases, and next issue we’ll see how they panned out.
Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank Release: March 20, 2007 With legendary guitarist Johnny Marr (formerly of The Smiths) joining Mouse as a full-time member, this album is sure to be strong a follow-up to 2004’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News. Expect typical Modest Mouse melodies infused with Marr’s disinctive high energy riffs. Klaxons Myths of the Near Future Release: January 29, 2007 (UK) Heralded as Britain’s hottest new group, Klaxons will not live up to the hype. Their album, which is due out in the U.S. later this year, will inevitably fall short, leaving us ever searching for the next great hope from overseas. Arcade Fire Neon Bible Release: March 5, 2007 We’re cheating. We’ve heard it. It’s good. Radiohead [Currently Untitled] Release: “Sometime in 2007” If you liked The Bends, then legit. If Kid A and Amnesiac were more your style, then shit. This album will rock like it’s 1995.
My album sucks! =(
A Conversation With:
than a Powerbook G4. So people just couldn’t believe that it could be possible. Similarly, they couldn’t believe that you could have a musical instrument based on a computer you have in your home. Well, that didn’t deter me. SB: We have the benefit of having the synthesizer around for so long, with so many different means of electronic innovation. To even imagine that back when you were starting must have been so immensely difficult or trying of a task – to picture where that can go. In the present day, do you see any paths that have yet to have been explored? JA: Yes I do, but when I tell people they think it’s a crazy idea. SB: Most innovative ideas start out like that, I think. JA: Did I ever give you that article about the brain cap when you were in my class? The idea behind the brain cap is
Jon Appleton joined Dartmouth’s music department back in 1967. His achievements at Dartmouth since then have been impressive. He is the coinventor of the NED Synclavier, which is regarded as the first self-contained digital music synthesizer. Winner of the Guggenheim, Fulbright and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, Appleton also created the College’s graduate program in electro-acoustic music. Tim Bakke and Brian Lenz got a chance to sit down with Professor Appleton to discuss his achievements, the state of electro-acoustic music, and his teaching experiences at Dartmouth. At the end of this fall, he will be leaving Dartmouth’s undergraduate program after 35 years for a visiting professor’s position at Stanford. SB: What initially turned you in the direction of electro-acoustic music? Was it the excitement of uncharted territory? Or maybe it was easier to make a name? JA: No, it wasn’t easier to make a name because nobody knew what electroacoustic music was when I started. I was actually quite traditional before I discovered electro-acoustic music. Once I started to play around with the primitive equipment we used in those days, I found that I was making a kind of music that was really interesting and that I liked. So that was an important part of it. SB: Coming up with music that is not necessarily groundbreaking but new and unique seems to be increasingly difficult these days. Do you agree with that? JA: It’s much harder today than it was in the late sixties. My first electronic piece was in 1963, but I didn’t really gain a reputation until the late sixties/early seventies – I think that was because things were much more open back then. There was bigger interest in alternative music culture, and today we’ve hit a low spot because of the complete control of most of the outlets by a few major corporations that continue to buy each other out. So pretty soon you have just 2 or 3 big corporations that are controlling the rights for music throughout the United States. These companies basically decide what we listen to. But this will be very short-lived, I think, because people are sick of hearing the same thing over and over. Also, as the means for music distribution by the net become more the usual channel…maybe it already is. Anyway, I started working on the synclavier back in 1973. That was when John Kemeny was president of Dartmouth, and he used to tell people, “Someday everyone will have a computer in their home.” Everyone would laugh, because in those days computers were things that filled entire buildings. Do you know what the Kiewit Center was? That was built just for a computer. It had miles of cabinets housing a huge computer less powerful
that by using magnetic resonances you understand what your favorite music is, based on all your experiences about music, your collected emotional, acoustic information and the way it is stored in many different places of the brain. Read the article. It is called “A Vision of the Future: Musical Delivery Systems in the Mid-21st Century.” That is what I foresee in the future. SB: You were talking about the development process of the synclavier. You said you weren’t discouraged by the fact that it seemed outrageous. Were there any major setbacks or hurdles? JA: No, the main hurdle was finding interested companies to produce this musical instrument, because their vision was so narrow that they couldn’t even conceive of how they could be used. I can give you a perfect example of that. What we developed in that instrument was the first live sequencer, where you could play on a keyboard and push a button and it would play it right back. That had never existed before: you had to put it on tape and rewind the tape to play it back. And they all have that now, but when we showed it to people they thought it was a trick, they didn’t believe that it was commercially feasible; they couldn’t accept it. Eventually one company did, but it was easier for my co-developers to start their own company and try to sell it, so they did.
It was called New England Digital Corporation. SB: I read in your “incomplete” autobiography that you were discouraged that when you were performing, the audiences were more interested in the technology than they were in your music. Did that make you lose hope? JA: It didn’t make me lose hope, it just made me less interested in being a performer. SB: Did it make you doubt your choice to enter the electro-acoustic world? JA: No. I always knew there were people who really liked what I did, but those weren’t necessarily the people who were showing up at the concerts. SB: What do you think of the current state of electronic music? JA: Well, I think it is very interesting that when I started in this field, it was something quite separate and unique. It was a kind of music that was completely different from the music that other people knew or what they even thought of as music. And today, that’s changed completely. It has all been incorporated, bits and pieces of it from everything; from rap to synthesizer stuff to the whole idea of people doing records where not a single musician gets together in the same room
I really enjoy teaching. However, a lot of people who are in academia do not. They do it as way of supporting themselves to do their research or, in my case, composition, but they don’t really take [any] pleasure in it.
– it’s all recorded and assembled. Even synthesized voices are becoming better. There’s no question, for example, that if you really want new tunes by Frank Sinatra, you can have them. It’s just a question of developing the technology to capture the nuances of the way he sang. I don’t know that people are particularly interested, but there are so many projected possibilities of manipulated digital audio in ways that are really mind-blowing. The real question is: “How do you interest people in trying something new?” SB: Do you know anyone now who is doing what you were doing, making totally radical or different or unique music?
JA: Do you know John Zorn? Check him out. I think that he does very unusual things. There’s also a musician by the name of Michelle Redolfi. Look them up on the web. Their work is so complicated that I can’t quite explain it. They’re not complicated to experience, it’s just that you have to see the range of things that they do. Let’s see, who else. I also find DJ Olive and a Montreal DJ named Kid Koala very interesting. Those are some directions that I think are new. SB: What initially inspired you to start teaching? JA: I really enjoy teaching. However, a lot of people who are in academia do not. They do it as way of supporting themselves to do their research or, in my case, composition, but they don’t really take pleasure in it. I think that what happened is that when I went to college – and I went to Reed College – I had some really dedicated teachers, and they inspired me to do the same thing. It made such a difference: people who took the time to talk to me, to listen to my aspirations and goals, to introduce me to new things, not to hit me over the head – I just think that’s important. SB: In your autobiography, I know you mentioned your stepfather Sasha as giving the gift of music to you. JA: Well, he did. But that was pre-school.
SB: Where do you see the music department going at Dartmouth? JA: I think the music department is in very serious trouble right now because it’s been split into two. There is a very conservative group who would like to get rid of all of the composers and experimentation in electro-acoustic music, and I think it’s a very sad situation. All you have to do is go interview someone like William Summers. Go ask him what he thinks of electroacoustic music. See what he tells you. He doesn’t believe that there’s been any good music written since 1900. So the fact that you can tolerate people like that, well I guess you can tolerate anybody then. You don’t have to like music to know that it’s moving forward and that new kinds of music are coming around and being discovered and people are enjoying it! It may not be what you personally like! You have to be able to separate yourself from your taste when assessing the quality of music. And a lot of people are not able to.
New England Digital’s synclavier
I was six when he came into my life. And so, I was just surrounded by music. But I think I was musical before that. I do believe that there are genetic propensities toward musicality. There’s no question about it. I think there are a lot of people who never develop them or never have the opportunity but I think that it’s there, and it’s not the only way to do it. I teach everything – I have taught basic theory, SB: You aren’t going to be here much harmony, and all of that. But I think in longer. As a closing question, for any this particular field [of electro-acoustic student who’s interested in pursuing an music], you can bypass traditional musical experimental direction in music, what training and get at the heart of people’s essential musical abilities. And that’s really would you suggest to them in that pursuit here at Dartmouth? good. That’s what makes it exciting, and that’s why in my undergraduate class JA: If you are at right now you can see Dartmouth, I think that these are kids you should get to who would never have done anything To make a career in know Larry Polanski, a professor here. like that, and all of music you have to have only am I leaving,Not Eric a sudden they’re left last year, making pieces in persistence. A belief Lyonknows who isso who ways they never you can attain your going to replace us. thought about, and it’s fun for them. goals, whether you are a They haven’t made any decisions, so I SB: Because performer or composer. don’t know who will be here. otherwise they would need to spend That you can deal with a long time learning discouragement [or] that SB: Maybe even looking further, once the fundamentals of you’re willing to listen you leave Dartmouth, musical theory. have any to criticism, but also that do you for making advice JA: That’s right! This you are willing to be any sort of career out way you jump ahead with the technology critical of your own work. of it? that enables you to JA: Oh that’s a very do that. simple question to answer. To make a career in music you SB: This is your last term at Dartmouth, have to have persistence. A belief you right? can attain your goals, whether you are a performer or composer. That you can deal JA: Well no, I teach a graduate seminar with discouragement, that you’re willing next summer and the summer after. And to listen to criticism, but also that you are then in the springs I teach at Stanford. willing to be critical of your own work.
These are very difficult abilities to attain, but they are very important. I don’t think, to be honest, that someone needs to study music at Dartmouth to become a good musician. I just don’t think that. When I went to Reed College, they had one music professor and maybe five courses in music. I did it by myself. I got together with players who wanted to play my music, and I learned just by doing it. I still think that that’s not a bad way. Music courses in theory can help you along, but they can also cripple you. Because you don’t want to know what the rules are to make music: there are no rules! There are rules of good taste, but nobody wrote those down in a book. There aren’t any rules to what could be music or what’s going to sound good. You have to make your rules. Now it’s good to know about the past, just like you’re not going to invent the light bulb without knowing something about electricity, conductivity, and so forth. Just like you should know something about basic science before you invent something, you should know something about basic music, what people have done in music in the past, before you compose something. But aside from that, I guess that the more music you listen to, the more sophisticated you will become in your taste, and that will automatically transfer over into what you do as a composer. You don’t need to study it. Studying music really sometimes does cripple you. Just doing it and being critical of yourself and being persistent are most important.
Check out Zorn’s 2006 release, Astronome. This AvantGarde album functions as a three-act aural play.
Gregor Asch (aka DJ Olive) put out Heaps As, Live in Tasmania in 2006. The listener friendly album combines elements of reggae, funk, dancehall, and Latin flavor.
Head to http://www.djkoala. com and click on his dome.
Hope I don’t die before i get old:
On their website they have set up a mock online petition to Congress to make ketchup America’s official national condiment, wryly condemning the “increasing ubiquity of soy sauce, Branston Pickle, sriracha, chutney and the scourge of undocumented salsas on our tables.” That should tell you a great deal of what you need to know about the three seasoned veterans of the indie rock scene that make up the band Yo La Tengo. Releasing their Sonic Youth-inspired debut album, Ride the Tiger, in 1986, they have since become standardbearers for the entire indie rock movement, hailed by critics and fans alike as one of the most innovative and consistently exciting of contemporary bands. Their blend of ironic humor, naked emotion, and amplifiercrushing noise rock pyrotechnics has proven enduring. Their live shows continue to be a celebration of pure rock energy unlike almost anything around today. And to top it off, they have just released, at the onset of their third decade as a performing unit, an album may just be the best of their career. I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass does not really take Yo La Tengo in any decidedly new directions, but it acts as a blissfully perfect summation of their past achievements. The album starts out with “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind,” a tenminute blast of distorted riffs and tight grooves laden with guitar feedback that recalls their early days as Sonic Youth imitators. But their real strength as a band becomes apparent once they move into more tightly constructed songs. Lead guitarist and singer Ira Kaplan got his start as a music critic, and he and his wife, drummer Georgia Hubley, possess an encyclopedic knowledge of 20th-century pop music, a fact reflected in the great stylistic variety of their songs. Indeed, throughout their career Yo La Tengo’s albums have been littered with elements of country, jazz, electronica, psychedelic rock, and classic Brill Building pop, most often filtered through the lens of their signature hazy, atmospheric sound. The earliest prominent example is the 1995 album Electr-O-Pura, which features, alongside sleepy ballads and extended feedback jams, the irresistibly catchy “Tom Courtenay,” a song about the Swinging London of the 60s that would fit right into
the Beatles’ catalogue were it not for the amplifiers being turned up to eleven and the ending devolving into a noisy and atonal, yet exciting, guitar solo that ends up drowning out all other sound. Their next album, 1997’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, boasted an even greater stylistic diversity and has proven one of their most popular efforts. Yet, most representative of Yo La Tengo’s deep love
of even the most obscure of popular culture is their 1990 album Fakebook, a collection of covers of forgotten gems from the pop canon ranging from the Kinks (“Oklahoma, U.S.A.”) to the Holy Modal Rounders (“Griselda”) to indie culture darling and total nutcase Daniel Johnston (“Speeding Motorcycle”). But to my mind, Yo La Tengo’s masterpiece (aside from the superb new album) remains 2000’s And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, an album composed mostly of quietly beautiful songs about the joys and pains of mature love and relationships. It’s their most textured, atmospheric work, generally told from the point of view of suburban loners taking comfort in each other’s company in the late hours of the night. There are still the cheeky pop culture references (as in the brilliant “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House”) and distorted guitar workouts (“Cherry Chapstick”), but the heart of the album lies in songs like the lilting “Crying of Lot G” and the country-esque ballad “Tears Are in Your Eyes.” Perhaps Yo La Tengo’s most moving (not to mention gorgeous) song, the latter is filled with close harmonies, yearning guitar lines, bursts of distant feedback, and delicately brushed drums. Nevertheless, And Then Nothing was greeted with mixed reviews in some quarters, with a number of critics complaining that Yo La Tengo had abandoned their rock roots and were drifting into a sort of comfortable Starbucks coffee-sipping middle age. Their latest album has not only proven this theory untrue but confirms that they remain at the top of their game and are one of the most vital artistic forces in music today. As they embark on their fall North American and European tour, they can be pretty confident that, indeed, not many bands can beat their ass.
Yo La Tengo Getting Better with Age
Waiting for the Day The 40th Anniversary of
It’s okay. You can admit it: the Beach Boys have been collecting dust in your music collection (and your heart) for a while now. If you ever did “wish they all could be California girls,” the sentiment has long faded. Harmony and 32-bar songs no longer strike your fancy. Calling surf music “dated” is an understatement. I understand. Now, my turn: remove Pet Sounds from your shelf. Immediately. I don’t care if you hate the Beach Boys (or do not like demands being made of you via magazine). Pet Sounds is underplayed. It deserves better. In fact, its 40th birthday deserves a look back at the history and legacy of this landmark album. Let’s give Pet Sounds what it deserves, starting now. At the start of 1966, the Beach Boys had achieved success through popularizing “surf rock”, cranking out 16 top-40 hits such as “Surfin’ USA” and “I Get Around.” Front-man Brian Wilson, however, was experiencing rapid creative growth that undermined his interest in the band. 1965 marked Wilson’s introduction to LSD, as well as his decision to stop touring with the Beach Boys. It was in 1965 that Wilson began laying the ideological groundwork for Pet Sounds, though he himself did not understand where his new “brand” of pop music was going. In the end, it was the release of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul that provided Wilson with both the competitive drive and the inspiration for his new album. The new promise of Rubber Soul was twofold: both its emotional range and its track-to-track coherence were jarring to Wilson. In January 1966, Wilson bought a house outside of L.A. and called on relatively unknown songwriter Tony Asher to help write lyrics for his inspired creation. By having nothing to do with the Beach Boys, Wilson gained the obsessive creative control he had desired for years, and the two went to work recording in Wilson’s home. This shift is crucial to understanding Pet Sounds. Wilson stepped entirely outside of the Beach Boys and used the band strictly as performers of his music. Rarely has an individual had Wilson’s level of creative control in the composition and production of an album. Wilson’s painstaking perfectionism was wellsuited for the task.
What emerged was nothing if not revolutionary. Wilson’s tendency towards working abstractly and intuitively led to an album that was conceived of as a whole, and built as such from the ground up (think of Pet Sounds as you would an impressionist painting, or grassroots political movement). Wilson recorded individual riffs, harmonies, or other such pieces weeks apart from one another, layering and building on different parts of a track before it was conceived of as a whole. A concept that was itself innovative, this layering also accounts for the unconventional sounds and instrumentation on the album (listen for Wilson’s dog at the end of Caroline, No). The one-man, intensely theoretical approach to making an album is the source of the compositional genius that one senses while listening to I’m Waiting for the Day or the title track, Pet Sounds. The second important feature of Pet Sounds is its treatment of the album as an art form. In the 1960’s, most LP’s were constructed by stringing a few “singles” together with other songs whose primary function was to add length. Pet Sounds departs from this. It has been suggested that Pet Sounds functions as a concept album: a narration from a teenage boy’s perspective on the angst of finding and losing love. This explanation functions well, but fails in explaining the adapted folksong, Sloop John B. More important than debating the presence or lack of lyrical congruence, however, is the emotional breadth and depth of Pet Sounds. Beginning with the lofty romance of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” the listener is swept into a journey that encompasses a remarkable range of emotion. The instrumental tracks on the album (“Let’s Go Away for a While” and “Pet Sounds”) build on this range despite their lack of narration. Pet Sounds was released on May 16, 1966. It was the first album since the Beach Boys initial success to not go gold, and was passed on at that year’s Grammy Awards. Capitol Records was equally disappointed by the album, and did little to promote it. Though it floundered in the U.S., there were a number of key figures listening across the pond. Pet Sounds gained fans amongst British critics and artists, amongst them John Cale and Elton John. Eric Clapton was another Pet Sounds devotee
at the time. Clapton later said, “I’ve often played Pet Sounds and cried.” Most famous of Pet Sounds listeners, of course, were John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The two reportedly heard Pet Sounds prior to its release, while recording Revolver, and adjusted the album in response to Wilson’s compositional complexity. McCartney in particular was a devout fan of Wilson’s; his fascination with Wilson’s tension-forming bass lines (look to tracks such as “That’s Not Me”) would surface in subsequent Beatles recordings (“Fixing a Hole,” for example). The 1967 release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the final chapter in the rivalry between the Beatles and the Beach Boys, taking Wilson’s ideas on composition, instrumentation, and the album itself a step further. On the whole, the desire to “beat” Pet Sounds led to an album that legitimized pop music as an art (at least for a time), and popularized Pet Sounds’ spin on both psychedelic and conceptual pop. Even the emotional range and percussion-heavy composition (listen to the percussion on “Within You Without You”) are reminiscent of Wilson’s masterpiece. The release of Pet Sounds marked the beginning of the end for Wilson. He descended into a spiral of mental illness and drug abuse that would dominate the next 20 years of his life. Consequently, he was fired from the Beach Boys in 1982. For a time, it seemed that both Wilson and Pet Sounds had passed their moment in the limelight. However, the 1990’s marked a comeback for both parties: Brian Wilson reemerged onto the popular scene, and Pet Sounds took on a new life. Recently, critics have hailed the importance of the album. It was recognized on several “millennium”type lists of important music, and as the best of the 20th century by British MOJO Magazine. The growing notoriety of Pet Sounds has spurred the release of several box sets and studio sessions, as well as a live tour. Wilson may not have reached his fans initially, but he has certainly made them amongst music fans and musicians today.
For me, Chicago is music. Growing up in Milwaukee, I learned to curse the city’s sports teams and berate its drivers, but I have to admit that when it comes to concert choices, Chicago is far superior. At least once every summer, when options in my own city were lacking – which they always were – my friends and I would pile into our parents’ cars and make the trek to the Windy City. It was no surprise, then, that when presented with the choice of taking another sophomore summer astronomy quiz or taking my friend up on his offer to do “whatever it fucking took” to get my “lazy ass out of New Hampshire” and to Chicago’s Grant Park for Lollapalooza, I opted for the latter. A week later, we set off on the 19-hour drive from Hanover and began what was to become the best weekend of my summer. Created in 1990 by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell as a traveling festival showcasing some of alternative music’s most groundbreaking acts, Lollapalooza was resurrected in 2005 as a stationary festival taking place over three days in the heart of Chicago. With 130 performers and eight stages this year – twice as many as last year – Grant Park was packed with festival attendants, making it nearly impossible to see everyone we wanted to see without an airtight plan, and even then the extensive trek across the park made splitting sets tricky. My own Lollapalooza experience, not counting the road trip from Hanover, began Friday morning with several delays courtesy of the Chicago Transit Authority, causing us to miss all but the last few harmonies of The M’s, our intended first show. Having no desire to see anyone in particular for the next few
hours, I aimlessly wandered the festival grounds hoping to discover new music. First stop was Editors, a UK band I was told I would love if I liked Interpol. I like Interpol. I do not love Editors. Editors, in fact, sound a lot like Interpol… only not as good. I left halfway through their set, unimpressed. Two hours in and already losing energy, I was relieved when British MC Lady Sovereign bounded onstage, Veuve Clicquot in hand. Lady Sov is a lot like me – a short and skinny white girl who curses and guzzles alcohol while jumping around obnoxiously spitting out ridiculous rhymes – but she’s also got an accent and a side ponytail, not to mention critical acclaim and a deal with Jay-Z, making her infinitely cooler. Her erratic stage presence and British snarl, in addition to the man behind her “playing the canvas”, made the show one of the weekend’s pleasant surprises. The performance of the night, however, went to Sleater-Kinney who, without being overly-indulgent or nostalgic for what was to be one of their final shows, rocked through one of their most solid and straightforward sets yet. Relying heavily on material from 2005’s The Woods but ending with old-school favorite “Turn It On,” the trio played with the same enthusiasm and energy that inspired me to pick up a guitar and “rock out”, as the kids say, at age 14. (Never mind that the guitar was quietly laid to rest in its case a year later – Sleater-Kinney is still responsible for my passionate, if short-lived and technically flawed, rock career.) Saturday began with the sultry sounds of Leslie Feist who, despite her adorable head-shaking and fist-pumping, managed
to rouse only a portion of her sleepy, sunsoaked audience. The quiet Canadian’s vocals were often overpowered by the bands playing at nearby stages, muffling her already-subdued songs. After standing through half a lackluster set by Built to Spill and a few soulful songs from Lyrics Born, I crossed Grant Park to where thousands had already gathered to hear Gnarls Barkley. The set itself, in spite of a few unexpected covers and the amusing coordinated tennis outfits sported by the band, lacked the enthusiasm I expected, and as soon as Cee-Lo finished the last hummed notes of [if-I-hear-it-onemore-time-this-summer-I’m-going-toshoot-someone] “Crazy,” most audience members had already turned around to leave. Annoyed, the man behind me drunkenly screamed for “Transformer” – one of the best songs on the group’s debut album – and got what he requested. However, the depressingly slowed-down version of the song almost made me wish for “Crazy” again. Disappointed, I ran back across the park just in time to catch Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, surrounded by Santa Clauses and aliens, entering a giant inflatable ball and rolling over a fanatical crowd. The show continued with Coyne shooting confetti and balloons into the audience, and though Pitchfork has called the set a “disaster,” everyone should see a Flaming Lips show at least once, for the spectacle if for nothing else. Next was the New Pornographers who, despite the absences of both Neko Case and Dan Bejar, flawlessly played their catchy pop songs, with AC Newman cracking jokes about performing between Common and Kanye (pronounced CANye). I opted to pass on Can-ye, however, in favor of international star Manu Chao in one of his only US appearances. Chao’s live performance sounded very little like his Latin and salsa recordings, and his tendency
to extend every song into some sort of punk jam grew tiresome after the third song, but no one in the crowd could resist bouncing and shaking with the band well past the concert’s scheduled end, making it one of the sweatiest and most fun experiences of the weekend. Sunday proved to be the best day of the trip, starting with an energetic set from The Hold Steady. Described by a friend as a combination of “a TI-86, a Budweiser, and a Gibson SG,” the band looks like the tired and slightly overweight middle-aged men my dad hangs out with – hardly a recipe for rock success, but somehow lead singer Craig Finn speaksinging about Catholic schoolgirls and the
Upper Midwest on top of generic guitar riffs works. Halfway through the set Finn raised his Bud Light to the crowd and declared it “the most fun [he’d] had before three in the afternoon.” Not including the very drunken El ride to Grant Park that morning, I had to agree with him, and The Hold Steady officially became my new favorite band. The performances by Andrew Bird and The Shins, despite being other “favorite bands,” were plagued by sound problems and imbalances, proving that some acts (especially Bird and his subtle loopstationed melodies) are better heard within the intimate setting a club or theater offers. Of Montreal, on the other hand, complete with witty banter and costume changes, led the audience into a dancing frenzy, leaving everyone’s legs as happy as their ears. As the evening cooled down, Wilco played to a receptive hometown crowd and Jeff Tweedy, looking very much like a leprechaun with his hat, green jacket, and full beard, admired the audience for knowing “how to go to a festival.” The set was perfect, comprised of favorites from their most recent two albums as well as several new songs, though I may be biased – after all, I first stumbled upon Wilco on Milwaukee’s lakefront years ago and still maintain that you haven’t really heard Wilco until you’ve heard “Via Chicago” stretching across Lake Michigan as the summer sun sets behind you. The final show of the evening was Broken Social Scene, performing (finally!) with all of its 11+ members. Musically one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, the only disappointment was when it ended fifteen minutes earlier than all of the festival’s other shows so that the Red Hot Chili Peppers could take the stage across the field. Bitter, I skipped the Peppers and instead hopped in the car again, ready for
The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne preparing to roll over the audience.
by Scott Muir
For 8 of my classmates and me, the long journey to tiny Masontown, WV for All Good Music Festival was hands down sophomore summer’s greatest adventure (not to mention the overwhelming highlight of ’09 Whitney Paterson’s summer vacation). As we left campus early in the afternoon on July 14th, I could hardly believe that we had assembled such a mighty crew of foolhardy, fun-loving men and women for such a trek. No expenses were spared. In our giddiness, we threw down more cash than any of us could responsibly justify spending, arriving with enough beer, BBQ, and absurdly-sized snacks (shout-out to ’07 Chris Fiore and his handy ‘inner circle’ BJ’s card) to feed half of the free-loading drains on society in attendance. After stopping in Cranbury, NJ to pick up Whitney, we drove all night, sharing stories, asinine observations, uninspired anecdotes, and Gushers fruit snacks. A few quick stops for meat, propane, and beer, and we were ready to enter the gates at sunrise. Unfortunately, the local volunteers were not ready to let us enter without paying the $15/head ‘early arrival fee,’ despite the sun having already risen on the opening day of the festival. We refused to pay, of course, and spent a couple of delightful hours tailgating with resisting hardcore wookies who informed us that the festival was a scam: “It’s only half good, man.” Our enthusiasm undiminished, we provided them with a couple Keystones for a taste of Dartmouth. By the time we were sufficiently sketched out by our new friends, we were allowed into the festival without additional charge. We were extremely fortunate to quickly find a flat site and set up camp. After grilling some delicious burgers and throwing back a few cold ones, we were ready for a full weekend of music. All Good is unique among festivals of its size (19,000 in attendance) in having only one main stage area with a sidestage for short, between-set performances by smaller acts, which makes it much easier to navigate the grounds and catch most of the sets. Before the day started, I confidently asserted that I would rage harder than anyone else (musically, that is), but I was pleasantly surprised that my companions gave me a serious run for my money. Bassist Oteil Burbidge (Allman Brothers Band, Aquarium Rescue Unit) and the Peacemakers opened the festival with an enthusiastic set of bouncy, Southern-fried funk despite the blistering heat. After the set we made the steep hike back to the campsite to escape the oppressive sun and to ‘prepare’ and pace ourselves for the long day ahead. We returned to the stage for John Medeski and the Itch’s inaugural performance. Medeski (Medeski, Martin and Wood, The Word) enlisted Eric Krasno of Soulive and Adam Deitch of John Scofield Band specifically for this festival set of tight, lick-laden funk that recalled MMW’s 1996 classic, Shack Man. We were surprised by the brand-new band’s intense cohesion and lack of improvisation, but the music was perfect for working the sunburned crowd into a groove. After a thoroughly strange but largely uninspired set from Les Claypool, Maggie SevernsO’Neil ‘08 and I were fortunate enough to discover the festival’s best keep secret, the unadvertised campground tent sponsored by Ropedope Records, where All Good’s funkiest artists let it all hang out. As the sun mercifully set behind the ridges, Medeski and the Itch provided a full hour of pure improvisation, more than making up for the restraint of their main stage performance. The three players communicated effortlessly, churning out
A view of the concert lawn.
grooves that sounded far too sweet to be spontaneous. The mad scientist seemed to be completely in his element with his new band mates as he aggressively attacked his organs and synthesizers in front of the small, but intensely enthusiastic crowd. It was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend, and I think it’s safe to say we were getting down. After retiring back to the campsite for some rest, dinner, beers and Jagerbombs (the official drink of the heady music festival), we made our way back to the stage for G.R.A.B.’s (Mike Gordon and Trey Anastasio of Phish with the Benevento/Russo Duo) primetime performance. Although the set was much more energetic and enjoyable than their rain-soaked Burlington show earlier that week, it still left much to be desired, as the band never lived up to its potential. It just wasn’t the sum of it’s four incredibly talented parts. Nevertheless, the peaks were quite high and we all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. The majority of our crew retired before the Disco Biscuits latenight ‘rave your face off’ set to save our energy for Saturday’s marathon lineup, while sleep-deprived Dara rocked all night with her sketchy Bisco friends. She paid the price the next day. Saturday proved to be one of the most jam-packed (no pun intended) days of music I have ever experienced. Tea Leaf Green, San Francisco’s up-and-coming jam-rock quartet, woke us up with a roaring early afternoon set. Next, Railroad Earth, one of the finest Newgrass bands touring today, picked up a storm, rocking out surprisingly hard on their acoustic instruments in the scorching heat. We retired for a couple hours in the shade to relax and grill more burgers. On the way back to the campsite, self-hating hippie Sara Khan ’08 stopped to shun her brethren with unwarranted disdain: “Ugh, they even make soccer gross.” Meanwhile, Bennet Meyers ’08 was so inspired by the fanciful festival atmosphere and the beauty of the West Virginia mountains in the hot July sun that the physics major decided to abandon his hard science track and become a writer. After spending hours trying to convince us that this was a momentous and overwhelmingly positive event in his life, he gave up on his afternoon-long dream. Note that despite my repeated insistence that Bennet contribute to the notebook I brought specifically for such inspirations, he did not actually write anything during his short-lived career. Late in the afternoon we returned to watch New Orleans’ Galactic funk it up on the main stage. Drummer Stanton Moore led the band through a variety of material from throughout their long career with his driving bass drum and tasteful, innovative licks. Next, Chicago’s Umphrey’s McGee breezed through a relaxed, but airtight set of its unique brand of eclectic improvisational progressive rock. Half of us wandered from the unfinished set to catch ‘Stanton Moore and Friends’ on the tiny Ropeadope stage. The setting sun painted a magnificent panorama of oranges, reds, and purples, leading Bennet to conclude, “I hate beauty.” Meanwhile, the wildly enthusiastic stage emcee riled up all the ‘party people,’ repeating the ingenious mantra, “Go ‘head, it don’t stop.” Moore’s Galactic bandmates (minus saxophone/harmonica player Ben Ellman) filled in for his missing trio players, keyboardist Robert Walter (who later appeared with the Greyboy Allstars) and guitarist Will Bernard (T.J. Kirk, Midnight Voices), as the quartet ran through the drummer’s excellent new material from his then unreleased trio
album, III. The relaxed, spontaneous atmosphere allowed the players greater improvisational freedom, but Moore and his band mates maintained the album’s tight, funky sound with their well-developed chemistry and incredible rhythmic command. After returning to the campsite to throw back a few more beers and ‘bombs, we made our way back to the main stage to catch the Black Crowes. The Atlantabased rock band wasted little time, ripping through anthems ‘Halfway to Everywhere’ and ‘Sting Me’ to open their primetime set. From there, the Crowes took a decided turn from the expected list of crowd-pleasing renditions of hits and rockers, electing to play a delightful mix of underplayed tunes (‘Cosmic Friend’ and ‘Young Man, Old Man’), soulful ballads (‘Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye’ and ‘Thorn in My Pride’) and choice covers (‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’). The band continued to build up momentum, energizing the crowd with a scorching version of Neil Young’s ‘Alabama.’ It seemed the set was coming to a close as they launched into their old hit ‘Remedy,’ but Jimmy Herring (The Dead, Aquarium Rescue Unit) appeared for an extensive take on the introspective Allman Brothers Band classic, ‘Dreams.’ The Crowes soared to new heights as Herring traded fiery, blues-inflected solos with guitarists Marc Ford and Rich Robinson, while Chris Robinson delivered a heart-wrenching vocal performance that nearly rivaled the legendary Greg Allman himself. It was the definitive peak of an incredible weekend of music, drawing a raucous ovation from the largest crowd of the festival. The Crowes responded in kind, returning for an encore of Joe Cocker’s ‘Space Captain.’ After the dust settled, the Greyboy Allstars closed out Saturday night with an impressive demonstration of their trademark west-coast funk. The Allstars are back and at the top of their game, having reconstructed their sound throughout their lengthy reunion tour after a six-year absence. Melodic masters Robert Walter (keys), Karl Denson (sax) and Elgin Park (guitar) traded virtuosic lines and funky riffs as they collectively led the band through the long set, alternating their old, up tempo jazz compositions with new harder-hitting funk. Unfortunately, our academic obligations forced us to leave early Sunday morning and miss performances by the Aquarium Rescue Unit, the Wailers, Mofro and others, but I think we had all just about had our fill. After surrendering 85 hours (nearly 30 spent on the road), hundreds of dollars, and millions of brain cells, we returned exhausted, sunburned, and utterly satisfied. The sacrifices made were inconsequential in light of the incredible times we shared and our pride in knowing that we pulled off the perfect heady festival experience. The wookies were wrong. It was definitely all good.
by Molly Caldwell
DAY FOUR—Sunday, June 18th
“BONNAROOOOO!” a figure clad in home-made, orange plastic overalls yells, while running through the crowd that waits before the What Stage. He darts in front of me and my friends who are sitting close to the stage in high anticipation of Phil Lesh and Friends, who are preparing to perform the last show of the 2006 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. “Oh wow!” one of my friends comments. It turns out the orange overalls have been cut out in the back and a bare bottom is weaving its way through the crowd at eyelevel for those of us fortunate enough to be sitting on the ground. I ask, quite legitimately, “Was that a man or a woman?” “A man,” my friend Udit replies immediately. “That was one hairy ass.” Hairy Ass Man isn’t the only character in the audience. Beside me, a boy about my age lies flat on his back staring straight up into the clouds above. Every so often he giggles. I lean over to the kid and whisper, “I want in on the joke. I can never get the clouds to talk to me.” He ignores me but I don’t feel too insulted. Periodically, people squeezing their way closer to the stage will get a look at this guy and stop with huge grins on their faces. “Having fun, man?” they’ll ask. Giggle. Ahead of us, a girl wearing wings is sprinkling everyone who passes with goo from a broken glow stick. “I’m a fairy,” she sings out. The mushroom fairy, I guess. The last day of the festival has been highly satisfying, with concerts by Soulive, moe., Bonnie Raitt (making several antiBush comments), Sonic Youth, Steve Earle, and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. The last is my favorite, being comprised of some of the best musicians in the world. Lead by Béla Fleck on the banjo, the Flecktones are made up of bassist Victor Wooten, Jeff Coffin, who plays two saxophones at once, and Future Man, inventor of the Drumitar, an extraterrestrial-looking instrument that possesses all of the powers of a full professional drum kit. A roar comes from the audience and we’re all on our feet as Phil Lesh and Friends take the stage. Lesh is joined by singer Joan Osborne from the Grateful Dead days, guitarists Larry Campbell and John Scofield, plus the usual members John Molo on drums and Rob Baracco on keyboard. They kick off the show with “Uncle John’s Band,” which sends the crowd into motion, bouncing up and down, throwing glow sticks, knocking beach balls into the air, and dancing the hippie dance. Behind me, three Dartmouth kids attempt their own rendition of the hippie dance, but it looks more like the Drunken Bar Crawl. It’s certainly nothing compared to Joan Osborne’s stage presence. She has positioned every flowydress inch of herself in front of Phil Lesh and is twirling her heart out. At first, I’m a little annoyed, as her only contribution seems to be a little backup on the choruses and she is obstructing my view of Phil Lesh. “Who is this chick anyway?” I think to myself. However, that question is answered about half-way through the first set as Lesh and Friends transfer from “Scarlet Begonias” into “Fire on the Mountain” with Osborne belting out the vocals. She’s equally strong on the cover of “All Along the Watchtower” that immediately follows. Lesh and Friends hit a large number of Grateful Dead songs, ranging from the country funk of “Big River” to the bluesy “New Speedway Boogie,” on which Osborne’s vocals have an almost Billie Holliday sultriness. Near the end of the set, Lesh and Friends do a number of squealing guitar jams with a psychedelic touch. “Box of Rain” is their single encore as the sky pours down on the ecstatic crowd.
selling cool beverages in the ever classic Bonnaroozies, the Bonnaroo adaptation of the coozie. A man offers me a pamphlet, which I accept unthinkingly. It starts off promisingly enough, “You are going to engage in lots of crazy activities this weekend, many of them illegal.” Great, I think. “BUT what happens when the fun ends? God is watching you!” “Oh man!” I say dropping it. My Dartmouth friends in the back grab it and start cackling. “The South!” they exclaim. Our camp site is named Camp Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars section. There are Port-a-potties and trailers full of sinks placed randomly around the camp grounds for the 80,000 people in attendance. VIP ticket-holders get showers, but they also have to shell out 300 more dollars a ticket for these showers. Any true hippie would scorn such luxury. At seven o’clock the music starts. The main path leading to the entrance of Centeroo, where the ten stages are located, is called Shakedown Street and is full of vendors selling everything from hammocks to five hundred dollar blownglass bongs. A girl ahead of me stumbles through the crowd waving a handle of Jack Daniels above her head. I watch as a mounted police officer rides by and scoops the bottle out of her hand. No glass bottles allowed at Bonnaroo by ruling of the Clean Vibes Clean-up Crew. After my friends and I enter Centeroo,
DAY ONE—Thursday, June 15th
My friends and I arrive in a caravan of cars on Thursday morning. We wait about two hours on the highway, which is nothing compared to the thirty hour interstate backup of Bonnaroo 2002. In all directions, people sit on the top of their cars smoking bowls, or run along the side of the interstate tossing Frisbees. As we turn off the highway onto Bushy Branch Road, the two mile long dirt road that leads to the Festival site, a 700acre farm in Manchester, TN, our car is accosted by all sorts of people handing out free stuff and
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke getting emotional.
we approach That Tent where a band I’ve never heard of before, The Motet, is playing. They are amazing! Created and led by drummer Dave Watts, the Motet plays their music with a focus on the percussion. The result is a dance-jam that includes funk, African, reggae, salsa, and jazz beats.
DAY TWO—Friday, June 16th
Three major events mark Friday. Tragically, a twenty-one year old concertgoer is killed when he bolts onto the interstate in front of Ricky Skaggs’s tour bus. Throughout the day, the shortage of weed (despite the large amount of back-packed drug dealers who roam around calling out their wares) is noted by festival attendees everywhere. It is not until I return home that I learn the cause. On Sunday, a U-haul headed down to Bonnaroo was stopped carrying two thousand pounds of weed (one million dollars worth.) Thankfully, the music doesn’t stop. Ben Folds is the first big performer, playing on Which Stage. Despite the sweltering heat, Ben Folds is filled with energy as he bangs away on the piano, at one point attacking it with the stool he’s sitting on. This antic is not the only way Folds engages his audience. For one song, he leads the crowd in a three-part harmony. Later, his sweet and sorrowful voice fills the air on a heartfelt tearjerker, a cover of Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit.” Later, while Death Cab for Cutie, Ricky Skaggs, and Robert Randolph and the Family Band all perform on various stages, I remain stationed at the main stage watching Oysterhead, arguably one of the best shows all weekend. Despite having not played together since 2001, Police’s drummer Stewart Copeland, Phish’s Trey Anastasio, and bassist Les Claypool (from numerous bands including Primus, Flying Frog Brigade, and Bernie’s Bucket of Brains) reconnect instantly.
Just your typical mushroom fountain. Notice the lack of hippie bathing.
Copeland provides a steady background to Anastasio’s laid-back jam, as they mesh perfectly with the funky, demonic Claypool, who during a creepy, jailbait cover of “Jailhouse Rock,” comes out wearing an Elvis Mask. Oysterhead is followed by headliner Tom Petty, who performs his Greatest Hits album followed by a slightly excessive run four encores. In a festival where tremendous improvisation is taking place on every stage, I find him somewhat disappointing. However, he does create a stir when he brings out Stevie Nicks for a duet of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” The late night shows compensate for the lull created by Petty’s performance. The collaboration between Umphrey’s McGee and the Disco Biscuits is absolutely off the hook, and performances by My Morning Jacket and hip-hop artists Common, Lyrics Born, and Blackalicious complement it very well.
DAY THREE—Saturday, June 17th
I don’t know whether I lose my way due to the confusion of haze and dust or because everything in Bonnaroo moves around in an Alice in Wonderland-esque fashion, but upon entering Centeroo I find myself in the middle of the 1,000 square foot Sonic Forest. The Forest is
Béla Fleck and the Flecktones are among the most talented live acts around.
Among the Heathens
awoke on the morning of the fourth of August, 2006, so hungover I could barely move, stiff-jointed and reeking of whiskey. This in itself was not unusual, but on this particular morning, for some reason I could only dimly recall, I was curled up not in my bed, on a couch, or even a floor, but in the driver’s seat of a rented Volkswagen. As I struggled mightily to sit up, I heard Manowar echoing over the fields from a cranked-up car stereo: “The gods made heavy metal / And they saw that it was good / They said to play it louder than hell / And we promised that we would!” I suddenly awoke, revitalized by the absurdity of the rousing chorus. Was it being played ironically? Who knew? Who cared? At that moment all that mattered was that I was at the Wacken Open Air Festival, the largest gathering of metalheads in the world. It takes place every year in northern Germany: for three days, dozens of bands and 62,000 madmen (and a surprising
number of women) descend on this tiny farming village and completely take it over, rampaging through the streets like a horde of black-clad Huns. This year, I was one of them, along with my fellow pilgrim Andrew. What better way to kick off our month-long tour of northern Europe? I grinned. And then my head started hurting again. As I stumbled around to the back of the car, I was offered a can of Polish beer by Lukas, a burly philosophy student from Gdansk whose camp was next to our own. Nearby were colonies of Germans, Italians, Canadians, Iranians – any nationality you could name, gathered in tents and cars that sprawled from horizon to horizon. We had befriended Lukas and his fellow Poles the day before by offering them some of our whiskey; they had reciprocated with something called “spiritus” mixed with cola, which tasted like nothing at all but turned out to be some kind of high-octane Polish moonshine. Prompted by the non-verbal code of the metalhead’s wardrobe, Lukas showed that he approved of my Venom shirt by calling out song titles, and so we began screaming lyrics at each other (AHH… AUGGH… AAAAUUUGH! BLACK METAL!). Fighting through language barriers and the encroaching effect of the spiritus, we discussed the relative merits of Polish versus American metal; he played us some of a band called Witchmaster, we played him our band’s demo. We met some Germans
and Canadian backpackers, and plied them for information regarding their Eastern European adventures over beer bartered for some more of our whiskey. One of my last coherent memories is of Lukas inviting Andy and myself to come back to Gdansk and live with him (“My Grandfather, he died… he left me a house with five rooms… I will give you two”); as near as I know the offer still stands. I have hazy recollections of Andy dragging me out of the car, where I was locked in a life-or-death battle with the spiritus, to go see the Scorpions (of “Rock you Like a Hurricane” fame), and of leaving them in disgust because they were so bad that no amount of alcohol could possibly make them enjoyable. Andy, who has the misfortune of remembering the whole thing, relates that “the guitarist was jumping around like a damned idiot for two hours,” which I suppose is as much of a review as you need. According to the official program, the theme of the evening was “A Night to Remember….” So much, as they say, for that. Which brings us back to the morning of the first full day. Lukas and I, now joined by Andy (who appeared to be in far better shape than me, the swine) compared notes concerning the weekend’s festivities, which promised to be every bit as hyperbolic as the day before. A mind-boggling array of bands awaited, performing back to back on the festival’s two main stages: the “True Metal Stage” for
more traditional acts, and the “Black Stage” for the genre’s darker and more extreme offshoots. Together with the small, peripheral “Party Stage” and tent-enclosed “Wet Stage,” the complete line-up encompassed all of metal’s distinct sub-genres, indistinguishable to outsiders, but as different as night and, well, even blacker night to those who have mastered the lexicon: Black Metal, Death Metal, Speed Metal, Power Metal, Thrash, Grindcore, and every conceivable blending thereof. It is telling, however, that the most universally anticipated acts were either reunions of long-defunct bands or stillactive holdovers from metal’s formative years, well beyond their creative prime: Celtic Frost, Emperor, and Atheist in the first case, Motörhead and Morbid Angel in the second. Fans often reverentially describe these undisputed innovators and their peers as metal’s “old gods,” undisputed innovators of almost superhuman stature whose early works are still venerated to this day. A cynic (such as myself) could dismiss the other headliners as superficially pleasing novelty bands: Children of Bodom, a Finnish quintet who have risen to popularity over the last five years on the strength of their catchy, high-speed power metal; Finntroll, whose delightful blending of Black Metal and Finnish “Humppa” music was always a kind of self-parody but became positively intolerable after their guitarist/songwriter got drunk and fell off a bridge several years ago; and In
The resurrected Celtic Frost hold the crowd in thrall as they intone their morbid tale
Extremo, a German ensemble which reinterprets medieval minstrel tunes by incorporating electric guitars alongside bagpipes, tympanis, and fire-breathing. While all enjoyable in their own ways, their strengths seem more like gimmicks when placed next to the achievements of their musical ancestors. These sobering ruminations were far from my mind on that morning, however: old gods, new gods, no matter: all judgment and criticism were suspended in anticipation of the upcoming highdecibel bacchanal. The first stop was the Metal Market: stepping over the prostrate bodies of overly indulgent revelers, we threaded our way through the copious booths hawking bootleg shirts, rare LPs, drinking horns and hand-made gauntlets. Equipped for the struggle ahead with some lethal-looking spikes, we returned to the car for some sausage and beer while we awaited the day’s worthy bands. In the meantime, we could hear the afternoon’s opening act, Canadian “satanic fuckin’ rock-n-roller” Danko Jones, tell the crowd that not only was he “the fuckin’ greatest,” he got “this fuckin’ eye-patch” while “fuckin’ jerkin’ off.” I’d never heard of Danko before, but after hearing his set from afar I can confidently say that he is one of the worst people in the world. My mood improved as the day wore on. I left Andrew behind, as he had heroically decided to pass out spreadeagle on the hood of our car (ha ha, fucker, now it’s your turn), and made my way to witness the return of Atheist, whose improbable mixture of technical death metal and free jazz more than lived up to their formidable reputation. We spent the next several hours alternately breaking in our new drinking horns at the campsite and enduring competent but ultimately mediocre sets from Opeth, Six Feet Under, Carnivore, and others. In Extremo’s aforementioned pyrotechnic circus of creative anachronism offered an entertaining spectacle, particularly when several thousand closely-packed fans fell down simultaneously in the middle of their set. As the sun went down, the crowd in front of the two main stages swelled and the festival’s iconic 20-foot cow skull was set ablaze with torches. Finally, the first night’s headliners took the stage: First came Children of Bodom, who despite or perhaps even because of their inescapable cheesiness won over the thousands of assembled spectators with nonstop guitar- and keyboard-based frivolity. Celtic Frost, however, blew nearly everyone away: a cult pioneer of extreme metal in the mid-80s, they more than proved their contemporary relevance by not only nailing 20-year-old classics such as “Into the Crypt of Rays” and “Circle of the Tyrants” but also delivering enthrallingly doom-laden performances of material from their 2006 comeback album Monotheist (see sidebar for Andy’s review). Exhausted, we returned to our campsite to rest before the final day. Saturday’s afternoon performances were disappointing: Aborted, like many American bands, showcased impressive speed and brutality but derivative songwriting; Arch Enemy’s Swedish-style death metal floundered despite their charismatic and talented frontwoman/ growler Angela Gassow; and Soilwork’s Swedish-style death metal floundered because, well, they’re a mediocre band. Morbid Angel, in my opinion the world’s greatest death metal band, proved an outstanding exception: the return of original Dave Vincent and the paradigmshredding guitar work of Trey Azagthoth
Celtic Frost Monotheist Release Date: May 30, 2006 EMI
With their groundbreaking 1980s albums, Celtic Frost greatly influenced both modern metal and more mainstream bands such as Nirvana. Monotheist proves to be an excellent comeback record, featuring lush doom-filled sound-scapes full of weighty guitars slurring out rhythms and minimalist dark melodies, whilst Tom Warrior delivers surly, weathered vocals. Key Tracks: Ain Elohim, Obscured, Synagoga Satanae Andrew Bailey
even managed to incite the otherwise complacent European crowd to sporadic frenzies of American-style pit violence, raising our collective adrenaline level considerably. Anticipation ran high as the evening approached. I took advantage of Whitesnake’s set to position myself front and center for Emperor, unquestionably the most avant-garde and musically literate Black Metal group to emerge from Norway in the early 90s. They were returning to the stage for the first time since hanging up their gauntlets in 2001 after releasing a pair of lackluster albums that forsook the rich, majestic atmosphere of their classic works for soulless prog-metal wankery. I steeled myself for bitter disappointment, but they delivered a genuinely transcendental performance: an opening medley drawn from their 1993 masterpiece In the Nightside Eclipse laid the foundations perfectly for more complex works from 1995’s Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, and even the baroque neo-classicism of their later albums sounded monumental in a live context.
... it felt as though they had single-handedly driven the sun below the horizon.
By the time they closed with “I am the Black Wizards” and “Inno a Satana,” it felt as though they had single-handedly driven the sun below the horizon. As Emperor retired to the lengthening shadows, it fell to one final act to deliver the weekend’s killing blow: Motörhead, a name which should be familiar to even the metallically-illiterate. Their hard-charging, dirty rock-and-roll was a foundational influence on modern metal, and though they’ve evolved little in the last thirty years, they have remained primitive and uncompromising. They are heavy music’s great white shark, a barbaric force of nature. At one point, as the crowd of 60,000 headbangers roared for the obligatory “Ace of Spades,” 61-year old-front-man Lemmy Kilmister (who looks not a day over 100), grumbled, almost self-deprecatingly, “until I fuckin’ die, right?” before launching, appropriately, into “Killed by Death.” Ace of Spades came last, of course, in all its anthemic glory, providing the perfect parting shot for the festival before we staggered back to the car to say goodbye to the Poles and try to get a few hours
of sleep in before we left at dawn for Hamburg and the rest of our European journey. In strictly musical terms, Wacken offered a handful of truly world-class performances and several fun spectacles amidst a sea of mostly forgettable mediocrity (and utter crap; fuck you, Danko Jones). What made the weekend truly memorable, however, was not the music per se: the total experience of Wacken amounts to far, far more than just a parade of bands. The artists on stage merely provide a focal point for the celebration of a thriving subculture shared by countless fans around the world, living 362 days a year in permanent diaspora amongst menial jobs, oppressive governments, prolonged war and collar-popping SAEs. It may be that only the “old gods” were truly able to live up to the expectations set by the scope of the event, but this is no reason to declare metal dead or even dying, as its detractors and even its fans are often quick to do. The true spirit of metal at Wacken springs from the cameraderie of the sprawling tent cities, the booths and byways of the metal market, and from the bottom of so many beer bottles, opened by strangers but finished by friends. The old gods still reign here, but for now, their immortality seems assured. Until you fuckin’ die, Lemmy – until we all fuckin’ die.
Darkness Descends: The metal hordes gather beneath lengthening shadows as the second evening ramps up.
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Never before was there a more perfect combination than We Are Scientists and Berlin, Germany. It was fated that this pairing would produce epic results, and thankfully, we were there to witness something I can only describe as magical. Although any respectable scenester would never show up on time, Andrew Flynn ’07, Marianne Epstein ’08, my German host sister Eva, and I rolled into Bastard Klub, deep in the bowels of East Berlin, fifteen minutes before the show was scheduled to start. Though we had to wait an hour and half before the band actually started to play, it did allow us ample drinking time and an opportunity to grab a place tantalizingly close to W.A.S. in the intimate venue. When I think about the self described “most handsome bachelors in New York,” which I do often and intensely, a few words come to mind: spectacles, flamboyant bass lines, and perhaps most importantly, cats, which can be found on their album cover, band tees, and photos posted on their website. Their show lived up to all of my wildest fantasies with one major exception – there were no cats. This was a huge blow to all of us. Cats aside, although the sound quality left a little to be desired, the set was fabulous. But not even sketchy sound could bring down the crowd’s enthusiasm for the group’s two hits, “Great Escape” and “Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt,” which roused even the most cross-armed, head nodding, tight-panted, German hipsters to dance. However, the witty scientists, famous for their on-stage banter, were less than talkative during their set, which was probably
By Maryanna Brown
...we slipped behind the curtain and into another world, a world of beer without cost. I was convinced it was heaven...
due to the fact that everyone in the crowd spoke exclusively German. Having exhausted their 13 track album With Love and Squalor, the band left the stage without even attempting an encore. Although the absence of an encore was a bit disappointing, we can’t complain, because that’s when the magic happened. When the three lusciously diminutive musicians left the stage, we saw our dreams of meeting the band, a hope we had cherished at least thrice daily for the previous two weeks, crumbling around us. After we milled around the venue for a bit, we stumbled upon a roped off corridor. We surreptitiously slipped behind the ropes, took off down the hallway, and made our way up a couple flights of stairs. When the fruits of our journey rewarded us with a coat check-in, we turned to leave. However, before we left, Eva peeked behind the velvet curtain adjacent to the check-in and revealed Chris Cain, Keith Murray, and Michael Trapper with their small entourage. It was fate. Destiny had brought me to Berlin, not to learn German, but to meet We Are Scientists, which was a relief because I hadn’t learned German.
After a group huddle, which in hindsight must have seemed incredibly suspicious, we slipped behind the curtain and into another world, a world of beer without cost. I was convinced it was heaven, but maybe that was just because I looked directly at Keith Murray, finalist for PETA’s sexiest vegetarian, without taking proper precautions. I was blind, blind with love for W.A.S. For heaven, it was a little small and dingy. This East Berlin club was not a classy establishment and neither was its coatroom, which apparently doubled as “backstage.” Admittedly, upon arrival we just stood there awkwardly, mainly because there were only about twelve people in this little gathering including the band. Almost immediately their manager came over, “Are you guys supposed to be back here?” clearly sensing we were randos. “Oh totally...” “You need to leave.” “But but but...” I stammered, watching everything slipping away, “I came all the way from Alaska to see this show.” “We both know that isn’t true,” he replied. “That maybe so, but I am from Alaska,” I said with a shrug, expecting to get booted out by security within in the next thirty seconds. It’s widely believed that Alaskans are the most attractive and charming of the nation, and my ensuing experience only proves that theory. We were not only allowed to stay, but were given the first of many free rounds of beer that we would receive during the course of the night. And while we may have been uncomfortably awkward, we were enjoying free
The Crystal Method
Live @ Crobar, NYC 7/21/06
hen I arrived at the Crobar it was already late into the night, and I unfortunately missed the opening DJ and the first few minutes of The Crystal Method’s set. The main dance floor was packed wall to wall, as one would expect from Manhattan’s largest capacity nightclub (3,000 people) at 2 AM. After about a ten minute effort to navigate through the mass of dancing bodies, I finally made my way to the stage. This summer I interned at a management and booking agency for DJs called The Collective Agency, and The Crystal Method is one of their clients. Although I worked full time for no pay, I was reimbursed through free entry and stage/VIP access whenever our clients were playing. Once on stage, I found a convenient spot just to the side of the DJ booth from which to watch without getting in the way. The Crystal Method, which is composed of two guys from Los Angeles named Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland, garnered some commercial success a few years back with a number of hit albums, namely Vegas, Tweekend, and Legion of Boom. Their success came as producers, not as DJs. Tonight, however, they were DJing rather than playing their own hits live. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it, but the duo played a solid two hours of high-energy breaks, with the occasional tech house or electro house track thrown in the mix. Their performance was top notch. Although they weren’t experimenting with new sounds or wowing the crowd with any particularly impressive tricks
By Mike Selvin
or techniques, did give the people what they wanted to hear without resorting to their own commercial hits. In fact, the only instantly recognizable tune aside from the closer was Souwax’s “NY Excuse”. The pair truly played as a team, one of them setting up a record and mixing, as the other looked for the next track to throw on. They switched the actual mixing duties five or six times over the course of two hours, and were clearly as excited about the performance as the crowd was. At one point, Scott was standing in front of the decks as Ken was playing, jumping around and throwing free bottles of water and cans of Red Bull to people in the crowd. While those of us in the booth were worried he was going to fall off, it never seemed to cross his mind. As 4 A.M. rolled around, Scott and Ken threw on their last track, a dubby house edit of Blur’s “Song 2”. The crowd hadn’t diminished in the least, and “Song 2” made for an epic ending to a great performance. The track also set the tone perfectly for the closing DJ, Brooklyn native Tommie Sunshine. Tommie mixed from Blur straight into his own special blend of rock & roll infused electro house. While still an up-and-comer, Tommie Sunshine has been attracting international attention of late, and that night he proved why. While I couldn’t stay longer than about 45 minutes into his set, it was smooth, powerful, and very original. Dropping tracks like his own electro remix of Fall Out Boy’s “Dance Dance,” Tommie finished off an excellent night in perfect fashion.
endangered animal species crackers, which were both delicious and rare. When a heavily-mustached Chris Cain strolled over and introduced himself, I peed a little in my pants. After we told him we went to Dartmouth, the same school as his former girlfriend, Emily Cross ’08 Grad Student, we had our in. Plus, it turned out that she was a climbing friend of Flynn’s. So after Flynn scored us the in with Cain, we all made our way over to some ridiculously comfortable couches and chatted about increasingly random subjects for the next hour or so. Admittedly, I spent a good part of that time not-so-suavely gaping at Keith, who was sprawled on a nearby couch eating take-out Thai— much to my dismay he was not a talker. Could this be because I spent most of the concert repeatedly screaming, “I love you Keith”? Perhaps. As I sat there with Marianne, inhaling cheesy dolphins and blue whales, while Chris showed off his new calculator watch and described his penchant for racing random strangers with mathematical calculations, I knew this was indeed the highlight of my young life. Eva had yet to hone her English seduction skills—she was trying to win over their manager using such lines as, “How much money do you make?” Oddly enough, that line usually works for her. Damn those hot German women, they’re irresistible. We sensed that Cain was one of us and Andrew invited him to join our gallon challenge we had scheduled for the next day. We must have impressed him with our good looks and winning personalities because he accepted the challenge in his characteristically goofy manner, and we exchanged numbers. For the record, we are still in possession of said digits. They are my most prized possession. He suggested that we show him around Berlin after we got out of class the next day, a prospect which would have validated my existence. Maybe he never called...but he could have. I’d like to think he just got a little busy...the upkeep of his mustache alone must take hours, not to mention reviewing random localities and objects, such as Gatorland and the sink basin in the public toilet at Ekko, on the band website. Not to be discouraged, we called him—he never picked up. Honestly, I felt like a scorned lover, and I suspect Flynn did as well. Were we not good enough to warrant a second hang-out? I didn’t sleep for weeks. Rather than counting sheep to lull me to sleep, I instead counted the reasons Chris Cain was too cool for us. Reason #23- His friends are people like the Arctic Monkeys. I’m not even British. We’ve all gotten over the scorn, but this relationship is far from over. W.A.S. has a show in Montreal on the 26th of October and we are so there.
The Penultimate Page
(LOLLAPALOOZA from page 24) the end of the weekend and the sleepy ride home, via Chicago. Lollapalooza has been criticized for many things – lack of audience diversity, heavy reliance on corporate sponsorship, and a recent “bigger is better” mentality – and though many of these criticisms are valid, I still managed to have a pretty amazing weekend. Lollapalooza, like any large outdoor festival, has its limitations. It isn’t as “alternative” as it once was, and I didn’t get to see everyone I planned on seeing (the weekend’s casualties included Be Your Own Pet, Cold War Kids, The Go! Team, Sonic Youth, and the Violent Femmes) but the fact remains that it still offers an incredible line-up. Ignoring all the bullshit, it’s the music that draws people to Lollapalooza, and it’s the music that makes it worth the 19-hour drive. (BONNAROO from page 28) made up of sixteen eight-foot high metal poles that play an ever-changing series of lights and melodies as they sense a person nearby. They are designed, like everything else at Bonnaroo—the Silent Disco, the playground, the small city of hemp art— for people on drugs. However, for everyone, drugs or no drugs, there is Radiohead. At 8:30 it appears as though all 80,000 concertgoers are waiting in front of What Stage. Moments later, a wave of sound and light engulfs the audience as Radiohead appears and breaks into “There, There” from Hail to the Thief. The screens on either side of the stage don’t work and I can hardly see a thing, but it really doesn’t matter. Their music is so full that I feel as though I’m listening to it in a flawless, acousticallyengineered concert hall. Through twentyeight songs, two encores, “Idioteque,” and “Karma Police,” Radiohead is able to surpass the momentous expectations of the crowd (many came to Bonnaroo solely to see Radiohead) and hold the audience in ecstasy to the very end. As we all file out after the show, towards This Tent where Dr. John will shortly be performing in full Indian headdress, I look up at one of the fifteen-foot high plastic men that grin over the crowd. This particular man has a large, hairy, beer belly and a pair of old-school aviators. I follow his gaze to the giant mushroom fountain. During the day it’s filled with people cooling off and bathing, many at least topless, but now it’s deserted except for animated bubbles which float up the the mushroom toward the golden glow of water spouting from the top. I can’t help but think to myself what a long, strange trip it’s been.
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