I just witnessed what was arguably the best show I have ever seen. Thing is I wasn’t even there. I’m talking about Kanye West’s recently concluded Coachella performance.
It was epic from the word go. He performed his opening track from a platform 40 feet above the crowd while ballerinas fluttered around the stage. It was exotic. It was artistic. It was a run to your nearest social media and shout it to the world-type performance.
I watched it live on YouTube in my living room hundreds of miles away from Indio, Calif., the home of Coachella. I am a HUGE fan of live music. I’m in the camp that seeing a band live is better than watching them on television or the Internet.
But, Coachella’s live webcast on YouTube owned me the past two days. In addition to Kanye West, bands like Arcade Fire, The National, The Strokes, Yelle, and Broken Social Scene captured my imagination and delighted my ears.
The disco ball has dropped.
As I walked back to my office after lunch today I listened to LCD Soundsystem’s all-time great single, “All My Friends”, on my iPod. With each step, a series of (seemingly) hyperbolic thoughts danced in my head.
Among them: “All My Friends” was the best song of the past decade. No, the best song of my generation. LCD frontman James Murphy is a genius. That one’s undeniable.
It’s been nearly two weeks since LCD Soundsystem played its final show, a rousing 3-hour, 41-minute showcase at Madison Square Garden in New York. I am bummed that the band won’t be releasing more music or touring.
Big Freedia at VoodooFest
I knew seeing Big Freedia in the tiny sauna that it is Holocene would be intense. The diva’s music dares you not to sweat a pound of mussy liquid out of your system.
And yet, two hours before the show, I watched the Trail Blazers defeat the Lakers at a local bar, in the company of four chicken tenders and fries splashed liberally with salt.
I knew what Freedia’s show would entail — namely, azz everywhere — and yet I gluttoned out anyway. By the time Freedia (pronounced Free-duh) came on around 12:30 a.m., I regretted my decision, but there was no going back.
BRAIDS made me lose track of time.
It was somewhere around the six-minute mark of Montreal dream pop quartet BRAIDS’ performance of the gorgeous, slow-burner “Native Speaker” at the Holocene when I saw the sun rise over southeast Portland Wednesday night.
Granted, the actual time was somewhere around 11:30 p.m., and I was in a tiny, dark room without a visible window, and the sun wouldn’t make an appearance the entire next day. Damn Portland weather!
But vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s spellbinding voice echoing the words “oh, you are my native speaker” through the veil of distorted guitar loops woke the sun from its slumber. Or at least it seemed that way to me.
BRAIDS floated into the Holocene in southeast Portland Wednesday night on a cloud of blogosphere buzz as thick as the beautiful haze on their debut record, Native Speaker. They shared the bill with fellow blog buzz band/headliner Baths, a one-man act whose emo lyrics, ADHD beats, and awkward, jerky stage movements I didn’t care for.
Ted Leo at One Eyed Jacks in NOLA last year.
Punk rock lifer Ted Leo joked at the start of his solo set Saturday night at Portland’s Backspace that he was happy so many people came out to see him when they could have called it an early night in preparation for Sunday morning church.
It was an odd opening remark, and one that stayed in my head throughout Leo’s 19-song set, as I watched the majority of the crowd act like they had wandered into a Catholic mass. Sure, there were a few Pentecostal revivalists in the crowd, but it was a mostly solemn bunch.
I found myself somewhere in between. Don’t get me wrong. I have mad respect for Leo. He is a great guitarist, has a great ear for lyrics, and is an impassioned singer. He has penned several great albums and one arguably classic album (The Tyranny of Distance) as the frontman for Ted Leo+The Pharmacists.
Are you ready to Tightrope, New Orleans? Photo Credit: Cajun Tomato
I love the live music experience. Seeing a band bring their sound and vision to the stage, no matter how big or small, is an exciting thing. There is so much that can go wrong, and yet the payoff can be incredibly high. To me experiencing a great concert is comparable to a food lover eating at a four-star restaurant. This year I was spoiled. I witnessed great performances in small clubs and at large festivals in the South, Midwest and Pacific Northwest. There were very few shows I wanted to attend that I missed. Well, there were two – the Strokes at Austin City Limits Festival (bought tickets but scratched my plans) and Florence and the Machine at Voodoo Music Experience (I was saving up for a move). It’s okay, though. You can’t see every show you want, right? Right????
Monae, the great ... painter? PHOTO CREDIT: CajunTomato
It’s been almost two weeks since Janelle Monae put on one of the finest shows I have seen this, or any, year.
That I am writing about her tour de force at Voodoo Music Festival in NOLA almost two weeks later seems appropriate, or at the very least ironic. After all, Monae and her band took the stage more than 45 minutes after they were slotted to begin.
Make ‘em wait. It’s the creedo of Kenny Powers in Season 2 of HBO comedy series Eastbound and Down. I wouldn’t be surprised if Monae and her band hadn’t borrowed it. They soundchecked and soundchecked and soundchecked some more.
But the restlessness I felt during the delay washed away when Monae took the stage.
Since graduating high school nearly a decade ago — yes, I’m dating myself there — I’ve had precious few opportunities to attend pep rallies.
I miss pep rallies. I didn’t really enjoy them in high school. I thought they were a waste of time. But now that I am older and subject to the day-to-day grinds of being an adult, I see their benefits, particularly uniting people behind a common purpose, and appreciate them.
Enter Matt and Kim, a keyboard and drums duo from Brooklyn, whose performance Tuesday night at the House of Blues in New Orleans had all the giddiness and, dare I say, gymnastic stunts of a top-notch pep rally.
Brooklyn trio Yeasayer are a band I find equal parts exhilirating and frustrating. The songs I love by them (i.e., “2080”, “Tightrope”, “O.N.E.”, etc.) I LOVE. They cut to an emotional core that is augmented by a wide-ranging palette of musical sounds that stretches from the Caribbean to Far Eastern. But there are just as many songs on their first two albums that I am inclined to skip. These songs are more meandering and the lyrics can seem, at times, lazy and uninspired. (i.e., “Rome”, “Strange Reunions”, etc.)
Full disclosure: I have a tendency to wear out songs I like, at the expense of exploring the album as a whole. I am more of a singles person, in that respect. Yeasayer’s most immediate and catchy material is often at the front of their albums. Therefore, I’ve found myself hitting repeat on All Hour Cymbals and Odd Blood without giving the second half of either recording, which I find more tedious, nearly as many plays.
So the question for me going into Yeasayer’s show Saturday night at the House of Blues in New Orleans was how would the songs that I didn’t know as well hold up live? Would they keep my attention? Would they make me dance and nod my head like the tracks I was more familar with?