Among the retired jerseys of Kidd, Williams, and Petrovic I took my seat above the snow line inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn to watch Montreal art-rock ensemble Arcade Fire wrap up their three-night residency two weekends ago. I purchased the ticket at a discount on Groupon the week before as a means of (hopefully) closing a nine-year-old wound incurred when I skipped an Arcade Fire show, for which I had tickets, because I did not want to drive alone to New Orleans. Just typing that sentence makes me shake my head.
Seeing Arcade Fire four albums and 10 years into their career at the Brooklyn Nets basketball arena, as opposed to on the floor performing their first album at the House of Blues in New Orleans, would need to suffice on this August night. Alas, when I arrived at my section, seated parallel to the left of the stage, I couldn’t help but feel a wee bit of regret. There were seats, for one. And they were a football field from the stage. I held a $5 cup of Coke in one hand and a $7 bucket of cheese popcorn in the other. The two combined accounted for the price of one beer, enough to make any concert a sober experience.
Credit Arcade Fire and their tremendous songbook for erasing my outrage at beer prices and disappointment at my seat location. They are an arena band now. Connecting with the back row is, in many ways, as important as connecting with the front. And from where I was standing – closer to the heavens than ever before at a concert – I’d say Win Butler and Co. did a damn good job, leaving me enthused about the Arcade Fire “experience” even if the conditions I experienced them in were less than my ideal. Dare I say next time Arcade Fire comes to town I would spring for $80 floor tickets? Yes, yes I would.
Angel Olsen, she of the elusive smiles.
Full disclosure: This concert happened Feb. 20, which is almost a month ago. I might rename this site Cajun Tomato Monthly.
I entered Angel Olsen’s sold-out Le Poisson Rouge show with two misconceptions. One, her performance’s power would hinge almost entirely on her garage girl band gone old-timey country voice. The live clips I’d seen showed her gently strumming her guitar without a backing band. Two, like a sullen mime the St. Louis born alt-folk/alt-country/alt-heartbreak artist never broke her stone-faced glare while singing. In both areas a revelation awaited.
Thomas Arseneault (nee Mas Ysa) at Glasslands. Photo credit: Brooklyn Vegan
His stage name could conceivably be pronounced three or four ways. His backstory reads like a person playing hopscotch over the western hemisphere. His vocals on the Pitchfork-approved cut “Shame” recall Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu howling for help in vain as he tumbles down a sinkhole. And the song’s words, well they are anyone’s guess. Yes, Montreal via New York City via Brazil performer Thomas Arseneault (nee Mas Ysa pronounced maas ee-sa) has oodles of intrigue.
Janelle Monae doin’ the tightrope at Voodoo Music Experience in 2010.
Prior to Wednesday I considered skipping Governors Ball Music Festival this year despite three key components working in its favor – a) Outkast; b) I live within walking distance to Randall’s Island; and c) Outkast (both Andre 3000 and Big Boi are key components). Mother Nature conspired to ruin Governors Ball last year, and the memory of my boots sticking in the ground during Kanye West’s festival closing performance lingered. So did memories of lackluster food choices and poor visibility for many shows. (I’ve never attended a festival where I struggled to see the stage so often, and I am 6-foot-2 when not standing in swampy quicksand.)
Governors Ball’s lineup hints via social media in the weeks leading up the lineup release, while novel, failed to suggest how strong the final product would be. I skipped buying presale tickets Tuesday for that very reason – and in the process ended up spending $50 more. The festival’s full lineup release on Wednesday erased my skepticism and convinced me to buy tickets as soon as they went on-sale. As of this writing weekend passes are still available for Governors Ball, which runs from June 6-8.
Below are my 2014 Governors Ball Must-See Acts. My rankings are based on how much I like the performers’ music plus how many times I’ve seen live plus how much I enjoy their live show. My formula is weighted toward artists I’ve never seen before. That’s the point of going to festivals, right?
Big Freedia comin’ one more time!
Keeping in tradition of sports web sites who anoint next season’s favorite after the previous season wrapped the night before I am submitting to you, dear reader, my way too early Coachella 2015 wishlist. I limited my list to acts who did not play Coachella 2013 and are not scheduled to play Coachella 2014. Also, I took into consideration artists expected to drop new albums in 2014.
Big Boi circa 2010.
Wednesday night’s Coachella 2014 lineup announcement confirmed arguably the worst-kept secrets in the festival’s history – namely, reunited hip-hop icons Outkast and Grammy Award-winning art-rockers Arcade Fire would serve as headliners. The festival’s third headliner, Brit rock act Muse, had also been a name kicked around the blogosphere in recent days.
Who cares about surprises when the words “Outkast”, “Arcade Fire” and “confirmed headliners” are used in the same sentence? My mind launched into cartwheel mode upon seeing the official Coachella poster. And not just because Outkast and Arcade Fire adorned it. This lineup is hotter than the California desert in early April. Last I recall that’s 106 degrees and rising.
Below are my 10 Coachella 2014 Must-See Acts. I’ll be in Indio, Calif., for the festival’s first weekend April 11-13. These are the performers whose sets take precedent over any time conflicts with other performers (and there will be plenty of these) or my never ceasing desire to wait in line for dungeness crab fries – my death row meal. Also, I focused on acts I haven’t seen live.
Titus Andronicus at Brooklyn Bowl
Here’s a partial list of places I witnessed amazing live music in 2013: a bowling alley; a glorified parking lot; a swamp-like island decimated by a tropical rainstorm; a record store with a capacity of 60; a legendary baseball stadium that seats 50,000+; and a courthouse square. None of these locales represent traditional concert forums. Perhaps that’s why they produced some of my most indelible live music memories this year. The element of surprise matched with the uniqueness of venue, whether indoors or outdoors, and, of course, the talent of the musicians involved resulted in moments of joy in which time froze.
The view from the cheap seats
This post is dedicated to my dad. Also: Thanks to Matt W. for editing.
On the midsummer night I witnessed Jay Z and Justin Timberlake electrify Yankee Stadium, more than 50,000 city residents slept on the streets, in the subways, or elsewhere without a home. I know this because in recent weeks and months media outlets like The New Yorker and The New York Times shined a light on the city’s shameful homeless record. I met one such man – a self-described Iraq vet suffering from PTSD – on my walk from the working-class Dominican community of Washington Heights to Yankee Stadium under a full moon on July 20. Ironically, four months after our brief encounter, I still think about the man – and what he represents – more so than I do the concert of the year.
Surfin' Dan Deacon style.
Here is MusicfestNW Recap 3 featuring Dan Deacon, Titus Andronicus, plus more. I attended the festival from Sept. 4-7.
Prior to my arrival in Portland for MusicfestNW I circled Friday’s lineup for its deep talent pool, diverse artistic offerings, and up-and-coming musicians, ingredients in short supply on the fest’s other nights. And after the preceding two nights predictably underwhelmed, there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth if Friday’s potential proved a washout.
Of course how could Friday suck with Dan Deacon and Titus Andronicus performing? Answer: It couldn’t.
The daffy dance impresario and the Jersey rock evangelists each cast their marks by inciting sweat-drenched revivals. Deacon orchestrated a massive freakout across Pioneer Courthouse Square. Titus’s full-frontal rock assault inside the Crystal Ballroom led yours truly and others to throw their bodies into the scrum without regard for safety or property (i.e., my New York Mets hat).
The remainder of the evening I bounced from set to set, venue to venue like a nomad in the desert never finding a show that stirred half as much enthusiasm as Deacon or Titus. Not surprising, I know.
Joy Formidable at Roseland Theater
Here is my second MusicfestNW recap featuring Joy Formidable and The Men. I attended the festival Sept. 4-7.
“This venue’s at capacity” became the unwanted, all too common mantra at this year’s MusicfestNW. I heard it at no less than four shows which might not sound like a lot but amounted to at least a quarter of the shows I attempted to access.
Typhoon’s Old Church show on Thursday night marked the first such failure. Small venue, large demand, local band – all factors that forced my friend Ben and I to reevaluate our options and head across town to the Roseland Theater.
There we saw the UK rock trio Joy Formidable, whose manic power walking onstage, blinding strobes, and lead singer’s resemblance to a ninth-grade science teacher I loathed led me to focus my attention more on the audience than the stage.