Let The Festival Season Begin and The End of a Short Era

If you take the Twitter and wanna keep up with what’s going on as it’s happening, follow me…@clemmusic. I PROMISE you will NEVER have to put up with what I am having for breakfast or my philosophical takes on the world and life and stupid-ass retweeted meant-to-be-thought-provoking crap…nothing but music, music and more music!

Many of you out there often say to me to just tell you what to listen to. If you are looking for that, then scroll to the end for the “Shopping List”. Wanna learn a little something?…read on!

As I type, I am in Los Angeles and 2 days from now will be knee deep in the major kick-off festival of the season…Coachella! Kings of Leon, The Arcade Fire, Cee-Lo Green, Bright Eyes, Mumford and Sons, Kanye and The Strokes are but a few of the well-known acts that will do their thing out in the desert along with pretty much a who’s who in the world of indie, alt and experimental music. The Sasquatch Festival will follow for me this year, as the line-up was just too good to miss. Bonnaroo will be June’s musical highlight, followed by Lollapalooza in August and hopefully wind things up in Austin in October for The Austin City Limits Festival. I think as if I were on the pro golf circuit, I will be hitting all the “majors”. It looks as if I will also get to The Vans Warped tour to see what’s going on in the world of punk and screamo and a likely trip to Columbus for the Rock on the Range festival…too many of my hard rock/ metal favorites are going to be in one place for me to miss it. As per usual there will be at least a wrap-up with good, bad and ugly at the end of each with hopefully daily reports from Bonnaroo., Sasquatch and Lollapalooza.

Some concert musings…

JUSTIN TOWNES EARL- in Salt Lake City

I saw several ghosts on State Street in Salt Lake City not too long ago. As I crossed the street in a cold mist I saw the specters of Hank Sr., The Man in Black, Woody and a few other forefathers sharing a bottle of Jack and tossin’ cigarettes to the curb. They proceeded inside to a stage and came alive in the body, voice and songs of a young kid named Justin Townes Earl. Whether actually in their presence or just in solitary nights in hazed filled apartments with their spirits on the radio, you heard how this same young troubadour had spent time with The Boss and Dylan as well. JTE is a staggeringly good song-writer and guitar player and sings with a soul beyond what one would think possible of a punk, tattooed, kid who seems to be struggling with…”incarceration and substance abuse” as he put it. But man oh man did this kid get in my head and now he refuses to leave. This is one of those “you just must experience it” to believe. He’ll play Bonnaroo this year and tour with The Decemberists, so do what you gotta do and get inside the wonderfully haunted house that is the soul of Justin Townes Earl.

THE HOLD STEADY at Terminal 5

A live show that is hard to beat…called “the world’s best bar band” by Rolling Stone…a lead singer that is so geeky he’s completely cool…the band you would most want to play your outdoor party (save Bob Marley rising from the ganja patch)…just great kick-ass rock and roll! Buy their albums…see them live…that is all!

CHRIS THILE at Le Poisson Rouge

“Y’all want some Nickel Creek or more Bach” the former Nickel Creek mandolinist/singer asked the crowd. Of course he had already covered a Radiohead tune, played a Bach Cantata, jammed on jazz, picked some modern bluegrass and hit us with a Replacements song as a first encore. There is something so powerful to me about seeing someone who is the best in the world at what they do. I know, I know this is a subjective thing but I have listened to the great mandolin players since I was a kid and in my mind (and of MANY others more astute than me) Chris Thile = world’s greatest mandolin player. No musical genre is off limits for this prodigy discovered by Allison Krauss. He is Bobby McFerrin-like in that if he can hear it, he can reproduce it. His current group The Punch Brothers (an acoustic group playing a style I like to call Progressive Grass) will be at The Bowery Ballroom on April 16th and on tour. Miss this young master at your own peril!

WARPAINT at Bowery Ballroom

It is hard to describe what is so mesmerizing about these young ladies from LA but what is for certain is that they are some of the most talented women I have ever heard on their respective instruments. All of the singers often work together in a singular vocal style not unlike Sinead O’Connor and their ethereal unison vocals is a completely unique sound. The digital reverb units get their workout with this band but not to cover anything up or make up for lack of ability but rather to create an ambient, ethereal sound that manages not to wimp out and still allow the songs to bring a surprising amount of groove. I’ll be front and center for my 3rd go round with the gals of Warpaint at Coachella. Amoeba records in LA may be the best harbinger of what is hip in music and they currently have a HUGE cover of Warpaint’s The Fool on their roof…I don’t think I need to say to dig that disc if you haven’t already.

AGAINST ME! at The Mercury Lounge

I have now seen Against Me! 4 times in concert. They are such a fun act with their slammin’ post-punk rock music. Most in the crowd take to screaming along to one of the many anthemic choruses and they did just that at this odd Saturday matinee show. They were in town to open for The Dropkick Murphy’s at Roseland and while I like The DMs, a little bit of Bostonian, Irish punk rock goes a long way with me and I decided to give it a pass. I got my notice about the day concert and tickets were gone in minutes. Being front and center for Against Me! always makes me feel like I’ve run a mini-marathon but it’s part of what I love about seeing them. The criticism has been leveled at Against Me! that they are a pop band with a post-punk moniker. If you see them live there is no way you could find this to be true. The Gainesville rockers have been schooled well in The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Minutemen, Husker Du and The Clash. But like their pseudo namesake Rise Against they are not afraid to bring the punk thrash to an abrupt rockin’ half-time feel or find a unique unexpected Clash like groove. Some would say their tone and attitude have mellowed somewhat over their 5 albums but I find them as hard rockin’ as ever. Just because a vocal is well produced and audible does not mean you have lost your edge. I look at them more as a band coming to grips with their semi-maturity but realizing punk is too much fun to stop playing. This evidenced in lyrics like Do…do you remember… when you were young and wanted to set the world on fire…the politics were too convenient… but the scene got too rigid… I was a teenage anarchist …the revolution was a lie! These guys rock as hard as ANY post-punk band but as I have said before, these guys will rile you up and make you wanna pound your fist…you just don’t wanna put it thru a glass window. Against Me! has realized and come to grips with the fact that we all grow up but that doesn’t mean life or music need be any less fun, passionate or kickass!

ROCK AS A WEAPON TOUR WITH KORN, DISTURBED AND 7DUST

While I am sure the bulk of you don’t care much for the hard rock, metal or nu metal if you MUST call it that but I can’t get enough. These 3 bands together were damn near a wet dream for metal heads. The least known of the 3, 7Dust worked the crowd into frenzy and brought an awe-inspiring passion for this style of music. Look for them to bust out in the years ahead. Korn and lead singer Jonathan Davis gave the crowd the in your face, dark, twisted groove heavy jam we have come to love. You gotta love just bangin’ your head to bass and guitar riffs that simply take your face off and body over while listening to them and watching Jonathan wrestle with his devils (which are many!) is a show unto itself. As I think about it, if you were to put a gun to my head and threaten to shoot unless I answer the question immediately, “Disturbed” would probably come out of my mouth as my favorite band of the moment. Surgical musical precision, raw musical fury and the most intensity I have seen in a lead singer since Rob Halford keep me in that “I can’t get enough of this stuff” place. I know it’s not everyone’s shot of Jager but if you really give these bands a listen you will hear some of the best musicians in the industry. If you can let yourself give in to the raw unbridled emotion, a powerful musical experience can be had. C’mon what have you got to lose? OK…maybe some teeth in the mosh pit but stand in the back…let the “ragers” go at it and give the music a shot. If you want a test to see if you can take it? Try Disturbed’s Believe or newest release Asylum…you’ll hear what I’m talking about.

THE END OF A SHORT ERA

LCD Soundsystem, unnoticed by many, made their mark on the music world in a relatively short period of time…less than 10 years from start to finish. They made 3 albums, all of which were highly praised by the critics and always ended up on that year’s “best of” list. They played most of the major festivals last year to massive numbers of people. Yet even many knowledgeable music fans did not know them. At what seemed to be their pinnacle of a growing popularity, leader James Murphy called it quits and said that their third album, This Is Happening, would be their last. Many assumed that this would change as they had wowed so many on many huge stages and were gaining a big following but Murphy stuck to his guns. It was suggested that they play a final show at Madison Square Garden but Murphy balked. They would never sell enough tickets to warrant such a venue, he felt. When a sell-out occurred in a matter of minutes all involved were stunned. The band members themselves went online looking for tickets only to find them being scalped for $600-$1,200. Murphy went ballistic and his web page is still recovering from a rant against scalpers that could have been written by David Mamet. “No one should EVER pay that kind of money to see us play” Murphy trumpeted (you should insert a few “F-bombs” to get the full effect). Further investigation found that MANY fans had been locked out of the sale by scalpers and Murphy struck a deal for 4 performances at Terminal 5 on the nights before the MSG date, only allowing 2 tickets per person and forcing those who had purchased tickets to show I.D. at the box office and immediately enter the venue rendering scalping impossible. The 4 shows at the 3,000-person venue sold out again in minutes but this time it was to fans and at a realistic price of $45 per ticket. I attended 2 of these 4 shows and Murphy and company gave all what they came for…a highly emotional and energetic tour of their 3 albums in 3 sets. LCD Soundsystem was an odd mix of 70s analog disco grooves, Talking Heads like stream of consciousness rants over cool riffs and a bit of 80s new wave. It was danceable, it was intelligent it was fun and now it’s gone…well the live version anyway. If you missed this important act don’t feel bad…you weren’t alone. As with many great artists the intelligencia now tout their great importance now that they are no more. But the indescribably good efforts by Murphy and company are there for all to hear…I urge you to do so.

“Shopping List”- CLEM’s recommended listening

The Decemberists- The King is Dead- great music, great lyrics, Gillian Welch, Peter Buck of R.E.M fame and sparse yet fantastic production have put this album on the top of the 2011 hill…I am waiting for somebody to knock them off.

James Blake- James Blake- I’m still trying to musically understand the definition of post-dubstep (which is the style of music we are told Blake brings) but whatever it is, it’s totally trippy and a masterful showing of what can be done in the world of digital mixing.

Rise Against-Endgame- Chicago’s post-punkers entered the Billboard charts at #2 with their 7th album. The momentum has been building for these guys since Lollapalooza 2 years ago. Playing on the big stage for 70,000 will do that for a band. Lots of energy…LOTS of rock!

Bright Eyes- The People’s Key- people seem to love leader/singer/songwriter Conner Oberst or hate him. I fall in the Love him category and he and his mates forge a bit of new ground on their latest effort. The same altish, pseudo-folksy songs we have come to love but forging ahead stylistically and musically.

Pretty Lights- anything you can find- these two dudes from Denver are taking electronica/mixmaster way beyond what you are used to hearing. Danceable goes without saying but inventive, wildly musical and compositionally impressive all fit as well. These guys make DJ Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold and Junior Vasquez sound like DJs at a wedding.

Justin Townes Earle- Harlem River Blues- Johnny Cash, The Boss, Dylan, Chet Atkins, Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt…like any of those dudes? Then you are gonna LOVE this!

!!! (pronounced chk-chk-chk)- Strange Weather Isn’t It?- these cool, groovy, danceable jams are reminiscent  a bit of Depeche Mode and maybe a little New Order.

Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues – you can call ‘em a hippie group from Seattle or the 2000’s answer to The Beach Boys but I just call these great songwriters and harmony singers REAL good. The album doesn’t release ‘til May but from what I have heard of it watch for big waves when it does.

YUCK- Yuck- new British post-punk band making big waves here across the pond. You will say anything but their name when you give it a listen.

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