Concert Review: Christine And The Queens, July 30, Mod Club

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As Héloïse Letissier aka Christine of Christine and the Queens took to the stage, she asked how many French people were in attendance. After a large cheer from the crowd, she responded, “So … all of you.” It seems I was one of the few non-francophone attendees and apparently part of the reason why she was speaking English to the crowd. “Sorry if you hear more English than usual. I’m trying to be more international … like Drake.” she said. Letissier has received a lot of accolades in her homeland upon the release of last year’s Chaleur humaine and with shows at SXSW along with upcoming appearances at Osheaga and on Late Night With Seth Myers, she’s looking to make some headway into the North American market. If her show at the Mod Club is any indication, she certainly has what it takes to make a good impression on an audience.

“We have one hour to be whoever we want. Tonight I’m a boy. A little dancing boy.” This line from Letissier early on in the show reflected not just the recurring theme of gender in her lyrics, but the fact that, yes, there is a lot of dancing involved in a Christine and the Queens show. A lot of fantastic dancing. While the songs are the focus of the set, the choreography on the part of Letissier and the two dancers accompanying her onstage was just as vital to the show. There’s more than a little Michael Jackson in her stage presence.

As an introduction to the song “Christine,” Letissier did a bit where she asked a few audience members what their names were and then sang their name. In many other performers hands this might come off a bit corny and she did acknowledge this, joking that people were heading for the doors as it was taking too long, but she has enough charm as a performer to pull it off. She’s totally engaging as a performer, so much so that I didn’t even really notice that her mic went out briefly at the end of the song.

During the encore, Letissier took to the stage and sang a brief a capella version of Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home” before adding, “I wish I wrote this fucking song.” Referencing a hit song by a hometown hero is a sure way to get the crowd on your side, though the crowd was most definitely already on her side, as Letissier noted earlier, joking, “Now I can call my mom. It went well.”

Concert Review: Laura Marling, July 28, Opera House

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A couple of days before the Laura Marling show at The Opera House, I was checking out a few of her videos online and perhaps foolishly I decided to read the comments. While they were largely positive, a few represented the backlash against Marling moving towards a more “rock” sound (and also, weirdly against her haircut), with one commenter stating that “going electric is not really necessary.” Interestingly, Marling just played the Newport Folk Festival on the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan going electric, an event which the festival actually celebrated this year. It’s 2015 – do people really still care if folk musicians are using electric guitars?

While some may wonder whether Marling going electric is “necessary,” there weren’t really any naysayers in the crowd at the Opera House. Rather, Marling and her tourmates Johnny Flynn and Marika Hackman played to a packed house of enthusiastic fans. When Flynn invited Marling out to join him on vocals for the final song of his set, the crowd erupted into the kind of cheers one expects to hear at a Backstreet Boys show or something. Flynn himself elicited a strong reaction with one fan shouting out, “You kick ass!” After a pause and a shrug, Flynn responded with “Thanks … I’m sure you do too.”

Marling took to the stage shortly thereafter and impressed with a crowd pleasing set. Highlights included “Master Hunter,” “Strange,” and a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind.” Before playing that one, Marling mentioned how she had been practicing her picking after playing a Country Music Hall of Fame induction for Townes Van Zandt, whose “For The Sake Of The Song” Marling would play later in her set. Acoustic or electric, it doesn’t matter – Laura Marling puts on a satisfying show.

Concert Review: The Australian Pink Floyd Show, July 22, Molson Amphitheatre

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As The Australian Pink Floyd Show took to the stage, a series of images flashed upon the Stargate shaped screen in quick succession, including Ronald McDonald, characters from Pulp Fiction, a clock, a biohazard symbol, a stop sign, Bin Laden, a skull, and of course, a kangaroo. In addition, as you would expect if you were at a show by the actual Pink Floyd (or at a planetarium) there were plenty of lasers. It was all part of the intensive visual element of the band’s live show, which later included a mid set montage of clips from such Australian cultural exports as Neighbours, Crocodile Dundee, Men at Work, Kylie, ACDC, and of course, more kangaroos. By the end of the show, a giant inflatable pink kangaroo appeared on stage – you know, just to make sure you remember that they’re Aussies.

They’re not Pink Floyd, though they are, to borrow a phrase, “the same in a relative way.” The band is made up of talented musicians playing spot on versions of all the hits from throughout Floyd’s career and sounding pretty much exactly like Pink Floyd. As the crowd all sang along with “Wish You Were Here,” it didn’t really matter that these guys were a really good facsimile and not the real thing – ultimately it all comes down to the songs. People love these songs and they’ll love them whether they’re being played by these guys, by some other tribute/cover band, by the original members of Pink Floyd or by some random dude at the karaoke bar. Just as long as they do the songs justice.

Pitchfork Music Festival Review: Ex Hex, Wilco, Shamir, Sleater Kinney, CHVRCHES, Union Park, Chicago

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I went to Pitchfork Music Festival last weekend. It was my first time there and entirely pleasant. In typical Pitchfork fashion, I will assign these items random numbers.

Festival Items

The Grounds – 6.7: Union Park is a small park so it is perfect for the size of the festival. My only problem with the stage layout was that there was some sound that bled into the smaller blue stage. Kurt Vile was so loud I could hardly make out Ariel Pink. Also, the lack of multiple entry points to the blue stage led to a bottleneck for everyone. Otherwise, it was entirely pleasant.

Security and Staff – 4.8: Friendlier then I expected from American authority types. I guess it’s a lot funner to deal with hipster kids then armed gangsters so it was a relief for both groups. My only issue with the security was that during the MASSIVE thunderstorm that briefly shut down the festival on Saturday, security did little to help organize a bunch of wet and stampeding concert goers off the grounds.

Vendors/Drinks – 7.2: 6 dollars for a beer seems like bargain compared to the price of beers at Field Trip recently. The ticketing system also worked well. Flatstock was there so I was able to buy posters, which makes me happy. Props to FLOR, which provided little patches of carpet for people to sit on.

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The Bands

Tobias Jesso Jr – 5.4
The Canadian artist has had quite a year and was in festive spirits on Friday. Sitting on the bench playing piano, Jesso Jr exhibited the old school piano-singer songwriter/Randy Newman-esque sound while displaying the youthful exuberance of someone who was born in the 90’s. A very pleasant way to start off the night.

CHVRCHES – 7.9455555555555555
It’s amazing how far CHVRCHES have come along as performers since I first saw them awkwardly play live a few years ago. Since then the band’s popularity has exploded and their live show has improved significantly. Lauren Mayberry now glides across the stage, delivering each of the dramatic lines from their still great debut album with much gusto. The group also debuted some new tracks, which are surely going to be favorites. The future is bright for this trio.

Wilco – 6.4930849!ee3
When Wilco dropped Star Wars on the eve of Pitchfork festival, it became pretty apparently we were going to hear it live on Friday. This is exactly what happened. I didn’t have a chance to listen to it before but it sounded good. At the end of the day, Wilco will always be Wilco and that’s not a bad thing.

EX HEX – 9.3231
Ex-Hex was amazing the three songs they sang before the rain cut them off. It is a shame they didn’t play later.

Ariel Pink & Kurt Vile – ∠ 3.239745
They should have just formed a duo because their sounds bled into each other. It was like a really chilled mashup of indistinguishable sounds.

Parquet Courts – 7.23d4f3#m92
Solid as always, they didn’t play my favorite song but that might have been because I was late to their set.

New Pornographers – A = 7b x 3 / 5c
The sun had just come out after a day of uncertainty when the New Pornos came on and it provided for a glorious backdrop to the sunny pop perfection that is the New Pornographers. It was almost a moment where people started to realize that “yes, the concert will go on and it’ll be great” moment. All uncertainty about the rain went away and newer tracks Brill Bruisers and Domino Dancing blended in seamlessly with classic tracks like Twin Cinema and Spanish Techno. My only qualm was there was no Neko Case to sing Mass Romantics, although I suspect that is something we will all have to live with from now on.

Shamir – ƒ(3x + 3.4a)
Shamir took a helluva long time setting up which is almost my #1 pet peeve of music festivals. Here are my pet peeves of music festivals

1. High beer prices
2. Bands taking too long to set up
3. People who push their way through to the front after the band has started
4. Body Odour
5. Hurricanes

Once Shamir did start though, the blue stage became one big dance floor. One of the breakout stars of 2015, Shamir showcased his immense charisma that helped to guide everyone through his club worthy beats. The track On The Regular came off particularly good and I don’t even know why it’s not a bigger hit then it is. Some acts are good enough to overcome your initial annoyance. Shamir definitely filled that bill.

Sleater Kinney – Π
The headliners played a stellar rock show that made you forget about Portlandia. They lack the singalong anthems that seem to define most headliners of festivals, but Sleater Kinney is a band that allows no one to define them, much like Pitchfork, so in a way, it is the perfect fit for this festival, which turns ten this year.

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