Category Archives: Concerts

Angel Olsen Lights Up Le Poisson Rouge

Angel Olsen, she of the elusive smiles.

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.

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Mas Ysa Fails To Launch During Record Release Show

Thomas Arseneault (nee Mas Ysa) at Glasslands. Photo credit: Brooklyn Vegan

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.

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2014 Governors Ball Must-See Acts

Janelle Monae doin' the tightrope at Voodoo Music Experience in 2010.

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?

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Way Too Early Coachella 2015 Wishlist

Big Freedia comin' one more time!

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.

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Coachella 2014 Must-See Acts

Big Boi circa 2010. Photo credit: Cajun Tomato

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.

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Favorite Concerts Of 2013

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.

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Legends Of The Summer Homeless

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.

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MusicfestNW Recap 3: Dan Deacon, Titus Andronicus

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.

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MusicfestNW Recap 2: The Joy Formidable, The Men

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.

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MusicfestNW Recap 1: Deerhunter

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.

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