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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is the first of four recaps I plan on writing about my MusicfestNW experience in Portland. I attended from Sept. 4-7.
Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox’s reputation as a provocateur precedes him these days to the point that a large portion of his band’s appeal, at least as a live act, is derived from the uncertainty of what he will do next. So when Cox says or does nothing of note, or fails to engage the crowd altogether, a large portion of the Atlanta band’s mystique on-stage disappears.
It became evident early during Deerhunter’s MusicfestNW performance at the Crystal Ballroom that my expectations of what this particular show could offer would be confounded, but not in a good way. Rarely have I seen a band or a crowd appear to give less of a shit at the same place at the same time than on this Wednesday night in early September.
Perhaps the crowd had no other viable option on the festival’s second day (it did – Chvrches). I wonder what Deerhunter’s excuse was.
Note: I’ve updated this post to reflect correct information about the band’s set list.
At turns a celebration and going-away party, Jersey rock heroes Titus Andronicus’s Pier 84 set two weeks ago on Aug. 8 provided the jolt of overcaffeinated energy their live shows have become known for spiced with a mix of nostalgia, humor, and emotional honesty. The free show’s Hudson River backdrop, complete with the U.S.S. Intrepid a stone’s throw away, added a touch of beauty to the evening’s proceedings.
Pier 84 marked the third time I’ve seen Titus play in NYC since moving to the Big Apple 11 months ago. This show differed from previous iterations in the way I digested it. I stood side stage instead of in the crowd. While that allowed me free beer and food I would be remiss if I said I didn’t pine for the pit during “A More Perfect Union” or “No Future Pt. 3″, the latter of which the crowd shouted louder than Stickles. (Per the crowd: Storms earlier in the evening prevented a large turnout but those who attended didn’t lack for passion.)
“I lost myself between her bedazzled sling and her sparking white fur shawl. And the three assistants who assisted her on stage … it was too much,” my girlfriend Kerry’s breathless review of Mariah Carey’s 3 1/2-song Central Park performance Saturday night. Carey performed on the Great Lawn with the New York Philharmonic as part of the 2013 MLB All-Star Game Charity Concert, benefiting Hurricane Sandy victims.
From thin air Mariah Carey appeared in the distance via a hole in the stage Saturday night in Central Park, shining like diamonds with a bazooka for a sling holding in place her recently dislocated right arm. What? You expect Mariah Freaking Carey to enter stage right looking like anything other than the gaudiest Christmas lights display in the neighborhood?
The Major League Baseball All-Star break is fast approaching. That means I’ll be in Yankee Stadium in a little over a week. Not to catch a Yankees game, but rather to watch the true stars of summer, Jay Z and Justin Timberlake. Can you say concert of the year contender?
Fast forward to August when I plan to see Titus Andronicus and Les Savy Fav for free in NYC and then September when I am flying to Portland for Musicfest Northwest, and the second half of 2013 looks bad-ass on the concert front. Not that the first half didn’t slay.
Below I’ve listed my Favorite 2013 Concerts (So Far). The list includes festival performances as well as shows I caught in more intimate settings like a bowling alley and a cramped record shop.
Sure, Governors Ball 2013 wrapped more than a week ago. I’d kick myself if I didn’t write about Nas, Cut Copy, or coke on keys from Day 2 though. Here’s a link to my Day 1 recap.
As I slogged through mud up to my ankles Saturday evening with Kendrick Lamar’s voice booming over my shoulder I overheard a girl several years my junior telling her friend, “This is what a music festival’s all about.” Her voice did not betray whether she meant her remark as a joke or sarcasm. What an idiot, I thought.
Despite Randalls Island’s grounds resembling an Occupy event for pigs, the middle day of Governors Ball featured a string of moments that transcended the conditions left from Friday’s biblical rainstorm.
Co-headliner Nas brought back the 90s while sounding like a present day title contender, Cut Copy’s pogo-worthy anthems left my feet feeling like I had played barefoot in broken glass, and Animal Collective did the unthinkable – they played songs their fans had previously heard – before sound problems cut short their set.
Below are more thoughts and observations from Governors Ball Day 2.
For four minutes and change Monday night at Maxwell’s in Hoboken Sky Ferreira not only looked but sounded like a pop idol in waiting. “Everything is Embarrassing”, her 2012 blogosphere fave, closed her 50-minute set in an aching, shimmering, starry-eyed manner. When it ended the crowd pleaded for more Sky.
The dozen or so numbers that preceded “Everything is Embarrassing” offered nothing near as electric or eargasmic. Sky and her four pretty boy bandmates, seemingly hand-selected from men’s clothing catalogues, tried dance, new wave, and quiet, acoustic tunes on like dome-conscious shoppers try on hats.