NOT NOT FEST Reviewed

This evening I attended a small show held in a poorly ventilated Columbia suite. I’m complaining about the heat, but in reality I’ve been to house shows back in San Francisco that were FAR hotter and sweatier.

There’s really nothing like seeing music in a tiny little room of your friends; however, I am a first year student and truly know nobody beyond the friend I went with. It wasn’t like back home in San Francisco where I usually know the SF punk-house-show-goers. Or I suppose I used to when I was still with my ex. He was super involved in the SF scene and still is.

Regardless of our newness and semi loneliness (we did later make some friends at the show!!) we had a lovely time. We saw three bands play and enjoyed them all. We saw Kathryn Agatha play first. She had a great voice and presence–really glow/dream pop-y. We liked her.

Next we saw Maxy and the Beefcakes who were without doubt my favorite. The singer had a totally dope pop punk voice and his lyrics were witty and absurd. In this way they very much reminded me of Joyce Manor–one of my all time favorite bands (just realized I’ve never written anything about them on here! what the hell! I will soon.). Highlights of the set included a song about Selena Gomez. The Beefcakes also had excellent bass guitar parts (especially bass). I really enjoyed their fun little riffs. Definitely was bobbing my head around quite a lot!

Lastly we saw Drug Bug which felt very The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die-esque to me. (Sidenote: I’ve yet to write about TWIABP as well which is truly a travesty given how much they’ve moved me as a band and advanced my musical taste). In all honesty Drug Bug wasn’t nearly as interesting musically or aesthetically as TWIABP which is a fucking 15 part band, but they certainly held their own and had a good sound.

And so my friend and I are hoping to get involved further with Rare Candy (the music publication that hosted the show), and to ultimately write for the magazine and/or take photos. Big thanks to them for hosting such a cool event.

The Last Waltz: Reviewed

Directed by concert-filming genius Martin Scorsese The Last Waltz is a lively and emotional look into The Band’s farewell show at Winterland in San Francisco. And what a show it was. Bill Graham, San Francisco legend, booked the show and brought together many of music’s finest to perform together. He also allegedly is the reason the show was filmed. Dylan protested the filming of the final few numbers, but Graham frustratedly exclaimed, “This is history! We’re filming.” Basically thank god for Bill Graham. And thank god for Scorsese who has the unique ability to rig up a concert hall with enough cameras to make the show come alive on screen. He brings a unique dynamism to concert films (see my review on Scorsese’s Rolling Stones documentary Shine a Light). Like in Shine a Light, the film is primarily concert footage interspersed with some interviews with members of The Band.

The film opens with the charismatic lead guitarist and singer Robbie Robertson discussing and slightly lamenting The Band’s 16 year touring stint; they’re tired and ready for the end. Then we see The Band absolutely shred their greatest hits. Levon Helm is so incredibly soulful while Robertson is playful and fun. Shape I’m In, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Evangeline (sung with the ever wonderful Emmylou Harris), and Ophelia were highlights, but The Weight (The Staples) decidedly stole the show. After they finish the song one of the backup singers is caught on camera whispering “beautiful” barely into the mic proving that once again music is magic.

The best parts of the film though are likely the numbers featuring an impressive array of guest stars. Neil Young joins The Band onstage to sing Helpless while Joni Mitchell waits in the wings singing backup vocals. The song lends itself to an ensemble and sounds beautiful. Then Joni joins The Band onstage for an energetic and pitch perfect performance of Coyote which lends itself less to an ensemble cast but nonetheless is a treat. Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton both join The Band to perform (wonderfully) their own songs. Van The Man joins them later for an all star performance of Caravan which he totally sings the shit out of. Van works the crowd (and the band) and steals the show. I will admit that I am a lover of Van Morrison but had never really seen him perform and was distracted by his rather rodent like appearance.

And then . . . drumroll . . . BOB DYLAN! The Band gave Dylan the well deserved honor of closing out the show. Dylan comes on in what first appears to be a pink fedora but out of the light is white. He starts off with his signature blank stare and frown, but he warms up surprisingly quickly. He begins to smile at the members of The Band and even the audience. The glint in his eye is obvious; he’s having fun. I’d actually never seen our sultry poet look so happy performing, and it made me really really happy. In Dylan’s autobiography, Chronicles pt. 1, he talks about not enjoying performing and being self conscious especially when he was younger. I think that being onstage with other well known and wonderful musicians gave him the space to enjoy performing. Dylan gives a show stopping performance of Forever Young and then jams out with The Band to a punched up Baby Let Me Follow You Down. So freakin cool!

Finally the whole cast (plus Ronnie Wood and RIngo!!!) comes onstage to join Dylan and The Band for I Shall Be Released. It is a magical moment seeing so many greats side by side—Joni singing with Neil Young, Dylan with Van Morrison etc etc.

The best part of the film is perhaps watching the members of The Band watch their guests perform. Seeing the wonder in Robertson’s eyes as Dylan sings Forever Young, watching Rick Danko smile like a kid seeing Joni, seeing Levon’s childlike reverence for Muddy Waters. When you think about it it’s remarkably selfless (or confident?) that The Band decided to bring so many incredible musicians—all who totally hold their own and steal the show—onstage with them for their last show. I think for The Band it has always been about the big sound of togetherness. Their songs (e.g. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down) lend themselves to a big, loud, joyous ensembles of singers. Even their name allows for an ensemble of stragglers and solo artists who join the band just for the night.

I’m Not There: Reviewed

This film is required viewing for anyone who even KINDA likes Bob Dylan, folk music, and/or great cinema. Ironically and hypocritically my dear father had been telling me to watch this film for years, and I’d been blowing him off until the other night my friend Kavi also demanded I watch it. Two was enough, and I caved.

Directed by Todd Haynes, I’m Not There breathlessly and beautifully chronicles bits and pieces of Dylan’s life. Six different exceedingly talented and brilliant actors play Dylan in the film, an approach that highlights the many faces and lives of Dylan, who is, in my mind, the most complicated and also frequently over-simplified artist of our time.

The different Dylans show different parts of our greatest poet: the troubled husband and father, the eager child, the tortured artist, the born again Christian, the lonely mountain man escaping life, and the eerily wise beyond his years storyteller. Cate Blanchett, interestingly, plays the most recognizable Dylan during the time before and after Dylan goes electric. She gracefully inhabits a struggling, awkward, self-conscious and unhappy young Dylan. Each Dylan shows us something different and often things previously unknown.

The film-making is spectacularly gorgeous. Each Dylan shows us different colors of life. Young Dylan lives in a yellow-y dreamworld while the tortured musician lives, of course, in black and white. The camera work is equally intriguing and unique, panning over the audience and pausing frequently to show us the candid expressions of random onlookers and fans.

And the music of course. The Dylan songs chosen are so well chosen that the film risks coming off as a little cheesy in certain moments, but ultimately the songs enhance both the literal messages and the artistry of the film. Example: Simple Twist of Fate is playing and Dylan and his wife, Claire, are at the park which cues, “They sat together in the park / As the evening sky grew dark / She looked at him and he felt a spark / Tingle to his bones / ‘Twas then he felt alone.” The scene changes and Claire is alone at a party and Dylan is paying her very little attention which cues, “People tell me it’s a sin / To know and feel too much within / I still believe she was my twin / But I lost the ring / She was born in spring / But I was born too late / Blame it on a simple twist of fate.” As I said, risks being obvious, but ultimately works well.

Just like Bob Dylan this film is anything but predictable. It takes a windy road through Dylan’s life that surprised me at every turn. Watch this film!

Elvis Depressedly: Concert Review

I saw Elvis Depressedly tonight with Teen Suicide at the Swedish American Hall in the Castro. Here is my review.

I really love Elvis Depressedly. They’re just so cool. And it’s the perfect mellow music. It’s sad when you’re sad, but it’s also relaxing and has cute lyrics that make you smile. I started listening to them Sophomore year and saw them at Bottom of the Hill a little over a year ago. I think I discovered them through Run for Cover Records.

Tonight they played with Teen Suicide, a band I listened to a bit last year but don’t love nearly as much as Elvis. Elvis played a pretty short set but sounded SO good. Significantly better than they sounded at Bottom of the Hill (the sound was just a bit funky for that show, but they did play a few of my favorites). Their music goes a lot harder live (because he yells and they play the shit out of their instruments). I love this about them. Highlights: No More Sad Songs, off their newer album New Alhambra, was beautiful. Weird Honey was so fun (lots of yelling “if there’s a cold spot in hell, I hope you get it”). Inside You, of course.

Wouldn’t have minded hearing more off New Alhambra! I think it’s an excellent album. I have the vinyl too so I listen to it a lot. Wouldn’t have minded if they’d skipped the covers or if they’d gone with a crowd pleaser i.e. Weezer or Green Day.

I had fun with Alex though and enjoyed the show. Such wonderful, beautiful people. Music is magic, guys. Also the n.m.s.s. video attached below is such low production value and made me laugh really hard. Lovely song though! Sounded awesome live.

Outside Lands: Unpacked & Unloaded

I attended Outside Lands Music Festival in Golden Gate park this last weekend. Below are some thoughts!

Going into the weekend I was focused almost exclusively on LCD Soundsystem and Radiohead, two of my favorite bands. I was also excited to see Chance the Rapper (this may surprise readers because Chance is admittedly outside the genres I generally listen to, but it’s the trumpet and timbre of Chance’s voice that gets me).

At festivals a considerable amount of people go to just bop around, drink and see whatever music they end up seeing. All good, but I personally go less for the relaxed “music in the park” vibe and more for the “I’m going to see the stuff I really love and go really hard” vibe. And being in the front matters to me. The large majority of the bands I listen to and see live are pretty small. When I see a band like Modern Baseball at Slims I can be rest assured that I’ll be able to see the stage and be in the action. You can’t say the same for OSL. Given that, my general approach is to see the two-three bands playing before whoever it is I’m there to see.

First night I was there to see LCD Soundsystem, and I wanted to be up close and personal with James Murphy when he’d take his drumming breaks. So I saw Miike Snow with some friends (was good fun), and then everyone left to see J. Cole for which I had less than zero desire to see. I saw Duran Duran play before LCD, and it was so great. I felt completely transported back to the 80s. The white leather, the visuals, everything. Rio and Notorious were highlights. Who knew I like disco!

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Duran Duran doing their 80s thing (my photo!)

Then LCD came on. I honestly could not have asked for more. Their songs sounded even better live (I’d never seen them in concert before). This amazes me given how complex some of their music is! And LCD isn’t that lame Zedd “on my MacBookPro” shit. Nancy is actually doing everything live on real boards and pedals etc. James Murphy became my fascination after I watched Shut Up and Play the Hitsand his performance Friday was superb. He was energetic, funny, and his vocals were PERFECT. Interesting enough to feel unique and different from the recordings, but absolutely perfect. It was wonderful.

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James Murphy singing the shit out of New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down. (also my photo)

They played essentially every song I really wanted them to play (except maybe North American Scum and All I Want).

Highlights: I Can Change was insanely beautiful. Someone Great. Losing My Edge was SO COOL. New York I Love You brought me to tears. Dance Yrself Clean really truly made me dance myself clean. All My Friends sounded beautiful although it did make me wonder where all my friends were (they were at J. Cole). Honestly I didn’t miss them for a second. LCD wrapped me in a big hug of musical love, and those two hours were some of my favorite yet.

Day 2: I was totally focused on Radiohead. I saw nothing particularly great while waiting for Thom except Air. Air was cool. They didn’t have a guitar just really really dope bass. The drummer was also sick. The music was truly interesting and complex, and I found myself in a musical trance. The vocals, however, were a problem. For whatever reason Air puts the vocals through the weirdest effects. They come out literally robotic. It made me understand part of why I love LCD so much: the interesting electronic and super clean music is perfectly complimented by James’s punk rock, raw, un-altered vocals. That’s the way to go. I can’t stand when the vocals are just drowning in their own reverb or cleaned up digitally till they sound cold and fake.

Radiohead was wonderful. Highlights: noticing the unique instruments they use live (including but not limited to: a coat hanger with bells hanging off it and an old transistor radio) and watching Thom Yorke’s groovy as hell dancing. Set highlights: 2 + 2 = 5, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Everything in It’s Right Place, Bodysnatchers, Idioteque (so. much. fun.), and Karma Police.

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Radiohead. (still my photos)

Day 3 there was no one I cared deeply about. I wanted to see The Oh Hellos and Chance. The Oh Hellos played a wonderful set early in the day at one of the smaller stages. They were endearing and sounded insanely good. It must have been a 12 piece band, and they were all in perfect synch and very into the music. It was fun and lighthearted, and we danced a lot. Then we went into a very aggressive and unkind crowd to wait for Chance. Fortunately we got to see the Muppets (!! so much fun !!) and Third Eye Blind (middle school emo kid jams!) while waiting. The Muppets played a short set of popular, classic covers (including: Home by Edward Sharpe and With a Little Help From my Friends).Third Eye Blind was pretty funny and bad. However, I went very hard to and deeply enjoyed Jumper.

Chance the Rapper was great when he was performing. However, he played the shortest set in the history of music, and considering we’d been waiting in a very aggressive crowd of white frat boys it kinda sucked. I’m not a die hard Chance fan so it was okay, but I felt badly for my friends. He did have great energy and sounded awesome though.

Day 3 headliners weren’t particularly enticing. We saw a bit of Lana Del Rey’s set. I quickly became depressed and bored and unhappy. So I begged my friends, and we hightailed it to catch the last 30 minutes of Lionel Richie. It was SO FUN. My friends kept saying how happy they were I convinced them to leave Lana. We danced ourselves SO CLEAN to Brick House and All Night Long, and we sang our hearts out to We Are the World.

It was a wonderful weekend of friends, food, fun and music. Overall, LCD Soundsystem stands out from the rest. It was a truly wonderful performance.

Until next time Ranger Dave.