Review: Riptide Festival, November 23, Fort Lauderdale

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When you combine good music, amazing light and sound set ups, tasty food, and the beach it’s hard to go wrong. Fort Lauderdale’s two-day Riptide Festival capitalized on this equation to put on an awesome event this weekend.

First, if you’ve never been to south Florida – you should make it a destination. White sand beaches, palm trees, crystal clear ocean, great bars and restaurants, fresh seafood and interesting (the good, the bad the beautiful and the ugly sort of interesting) people who come from all over the world. Second, what better time to go (especially for our Canadian and Chicago readers) than late November? I arrived from Chi city in a parka and immediately changed into a sundress. #yesplease

Finally, to close the argument: Riptide. The reasonably-priced festival isn’t overwhelmingly crowded, is jam-packed with interesting food and fashion vendors, is right on the beach and treats its audiences and bands right with great stage, lighting, and sound support to put on a stellar show. My personal highlights from Saturday’s line up were Judah and the Lion and The Killers. I really can’t sing Judah’s praises enough. They are just a delightful, high-energy and uplifting show every time I’ve seen them and they are touring hard so take advantage! These guys are well worth the ticket price.

The Killers, Saturday’s headliner, also lived up to expectations. The band, hailing from fabulous Las Vegas, put on a Sin City-worthy spectacle with an amazing light show and even a guest star from the audience. The band welcomed up a super talented young gentleman named Jason who wowed the audience with his drumming skills and obviously was having the time of his life. The whole show was a real treat and it was only good vibes in the audience who were soaking in the music, the surf and the beautiful Florida night. (Side note: the Killers made multiple promises to be back in Fort Lauderdale in 2020 – even more reason to book a trip.)

So, thanks Fort Lauderdale and Riptide. As we get closer to the Thanksgiving season here in the USofA I am so grateful for the weekend away from the chilly Chicago winter and the chance to see some top notch musical talent in a beautiful place with good people. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Concert Review: Minami Deutsch, Kikagaku Moyo, November 19, Horseshoe Tavern

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There’s always something special about seeing a band at the top of their game playing live – the interaction between band members with the ability to lock into a groove and jam at an almost telepathic level can make for an impressive show. And on Tuesday night at the Horseshoe, a packed house was treated to not one but two such performances courtesy of two acts from Japan – Minami Deutsch and Kikagaku Moyo.

First up was Minami Deutsch, whose name translates to “South Germany” – an apt name since the band is heavily inspired by the Krautrock sounds originated by acts such as Faust, Can, and Neu!

In concert, the band’s long, hypnotic jams alternated between a locked-in motorik groove and pure balls-to-the-wall guitar freak outs. Those were basically the band’s two main gears throughout their roughly 40 minute set, though they did find time for the odd exploratory psychedelic passage here and there.

It was an absolutely beautiful performance. I came in as a curious admirer of what I’d heard from the band on record and came out a full on fan.

Following Minami Deutsch, headliners Kikagaku Moyo took to the stage and kept the psychedelic vibes coming with a sound that was a tad trippier and more expansive than the openers, though no less intense and just as satisfying.

Concert Review: Judah and the Lion, November 2, Aragon Theater

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Choreographed dancing? Check. Campfire singing? Check. Cape-wearing? Check. Pep talk? BIG CHECK. Who’s been checking off these feel-good requirements on their ongoing tour? Look no further than the tremendous trio of Judah and the Lion (although at this show, there was a glorious six-man line-up of talent). The Tennessee-based band is making huge waves throughout the States as they promote their newest album, Pep Talks, and regale audiences with old-time favorite tunes.

The band took the stage at the estimable Aragon Ballroom Saturday night to an energetic crowd pumped up by the awesome opener Wilderado. Judah and the Lion opened up with their newest hit, “Quarter-Life Crisis”, which had everyone in the crowd asking for a pep talk – and getting it in spades. Over the next two hours, frontman Judah Akers led his band through on-stage shenanigans, crowd surfing, choreographed dancing, and silly/sexy group dancing. One of the highlights of the show was when Judah actually came off the stage with his band, setting up shop in the middle of the crowd, and leading an intimate “camp-fire sing-along” experience of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Interspersed throughout were, in all seriousness, pep talks. Judah told uplifting stories about his childhood, told everyone in the crowd they could overcome their “something” – be it addiction, divorce, or just a bad day, and generally dropped tons of love on Chi-city.

The band left the stage with a 4-song encore culminating in their hit “Take it All Back” which became an uproarious sing-along from a crowd who obviously wouldn’t have taken any of the last two hours back for anything in the world. Judah and the Lion will be on tour for the next few months – be sure to check them out when they’re in a city near you!

Concert Review: The Mavericks, October 30, Danforth Music Hall

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The intro music a band chooses to play before they take to the stage can really tell you a lot. Not only does it get the crowd a little more hyped up, but it can also help to set the tone for the evening and maybe even give you a hint of what’s to come for the night. In The Mavericks’ case, their choice to take to the stage to the strains of “Galop Infernal” (aka the Can-Can song) was a rather apt one. No, there were no spontaneous bursts of Can-Can style high kicking involved, but The Mavericks definitely put on a show during their Wednesday night performance at The Danforth Music Hall.

The Mavericks’ current tour sees them celebrating 30 years together and as such, they played a set of songs spanning their entire career, including a few selections from an upcoming collection of covers that the band will be releasing to honour the occasion.

Singer Raul Malo mentioned that after 30 years, they’ve decided it was finally time to put out an album of songs that have been important to them over the years, songs that, as Malo put it, “tell our story.” He then went on to tell a story of his own about driving around Miami with his dad as a kid listening to Freddy Fender’s classic “Before The Last Teardrop Falls” on 8-track. The band absolutely did that song justice, though to be fair, with a singer like Malo, it’s practically impossible to go wrong. The man could sing anything and make it sound fantastic, as he proved on the band’s covers of “Blue Bayou” and “Harvest Moon”, as well as their classic version of “Blue Moon.” None of those will show up on the new covers album, but their versions of Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” and John Anderson’s “Swingin’” will, and both of those stood out as highlights of their set alongside the band’s own “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down” and “As Long As There’s Loving Tonight”.

Midway through the band’s set, an enthusiastic audience member in a cowboy hat and shiny jacket did his best to get the whole crowd up on their feet and while he didn’t quite accomplish that goal, Malo assured him and all of the others who were already dancing that by the end of the set, they’d have everyone up and dancing.

“Resistance is futile,” he joked, adding, “It’s a Mavericks show.” And sure enough, by the end of the show, everyone was indeed on their feet. After all, it was a Mavericks show.