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.
Patrick Stickles/Photo by Cajun Tomato
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.)
Central Park on a Saturday night
“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?
Artists not featured on my list
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.
A Governors Ball selfie
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.
Maxwell's stage, post-Sky
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.
The Randalls Island Swamp
The mudfest known as Governors Ball 2013 is drying in my mind. Here is my Governors Ball Day 1 recap, the first of three recaps chronicling my experiences during the second annual NYC music festival, which wrapped Sunday.
Mid-afternoon Friday my roommate Will and I and our girlfriends, Leigh and Kerry, sat in our living room, pre-gaming tall boys and streaming Pandora cuts from Friday’s Governors Ball lineup including Holy Ghost!, Best Coast, and Feist. Rain tap-tap-tapped on our fifth-floor roof overhead. Our experience to that point, albeit one confined to our living room, had been superb – dry with cheap beer, good tunes, and unobstructed sight lines.
Then we went to the festival.
Hamageddon's upon us!
Here’s a recap of my first (sorta) NYC music festival – The Great Googa Mooga – one that did not live up to its “great” billing.
It doesn’t take a soothsayer to predict organizers and vendors will not reflect upon the 2013 edition of the Great Googa Mooga food and music festival with loving memories. After pockets of rain threatened to turn Prospect Park in Brooklyn into a marsh Saturday persistent rainfall soaked the grounds Sunday, forcing the event’s cancellation before the gates opened for the day. I shall remember it as The Great Googa Mooga Drizzle Fizzle.
That doesn’t mean the entire event went bust. Below I’ve recapped the two days I attended with a list breaking down Googa Mooga’s good, bad, and tasty.
Majical Cloudz stages sit in
The unusual, mid-set request took little salesmanship. All it took was a dour proclamation.
The second half of Majical Cloudz’s Monday night in-store performance at Other Music would be “slow and morose,” frontman Devon Welsh explained, offering his rationale behind asking the 60 or so people in attendance to sit on the floor. The first three songs were not exactly a party.
The Montreal duo’s final four songs delivered on Welsh’s promise, doubling down on intensity, atmosphere, and lyrical frankness. Toward the end of “Silver Rings”, Welsh rose from the floor, shouting “I don’t think about dying alone” with a force that belied the intimate setting.
Majical Cloudz played Other Music on the Lower East Side a day in advance of the release of their new record, Impersonator, out on indie giant Matador Records. The vocal/keyboard duo of Welsh and Matthew Otto incorporate the former’s stark baritone and death-obsessed words with the latter’s sparse, repetitive key strokes that, when wedded together, excavate the glory of life from the clutches of despair.
Titus Andronicus at Brooklyn Bowl
One moment, I bounced around in a 360-degree lunatic pirouette shouting about looking for a new New Jersey – yeah, imagine that. The next, my glasses flew off my face and into the Brooklyn Bowl crowd, leaving me momentarily blind and frantic.
My glasses returned in one piece – thanks to my friend Will – before the second verse of “A More Perfect Union” ended Wednesday night, just in time to see Titus Andronicus close its set with two more balls-out rockers from its middle album, The Monitor.
For the second time in as many months, the Jersey-based quintet cemented its place, at least in my mind, as one of rock’s best live acts, willing their fans to dance, stage dive, and run into each other at any given time.