Should I Stay or Should I go: Coachella Edition

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Music | 1 Comment

The Coachella lineup was released Tuesday night, and as you would expect, the knee jerk reactions from hardcore music fans (including myself) ranged from “OMG I have to go!”* to “what a lineup!”* to “I would DIE if I can’t make it!”* Given the usual rush of emotions that comes when a music festival lineup is announced, I’ve decided to write a little article about whether or not you should go to Coachella. For the record, Panic Manual members have been to Coachella in 2004, 2006 and 2010.

Let’s start with the obvious – Can You Afford Coachella?

Let’s say you have 3 other friends interested in going. You are on the East coast in a major city with an international airport, then here are some costs. I am assuming you are going to take Thursday off, and Monday off. Here are some rough estimates:

YYZ – LAX: 400$ if you book early
Car Rental: 30$ a person if you are over 25, and someone has a credit card with collision insurance
Gas: 20$ a person
Accomodation: 125$ a person for four nights stay at a reasonable hotel
Coachella ticket: 280$ (absurd)
Food, Merch, Drinks: 150$ (assuming you don’t go nuts)

This ranges out to about $1000 a person for a five day trip. Not insane prices, but definitely will make you want to assess your plans. Some people might suggest you go camping. I don’t know about you, I don’t really want to camp in a desert. Maybe I’m old, but the weather at Palm Springs varies wildly (as would any place in a desert climate) from day to night. The other thing you have to realize is that music festivals are draining exercises, and the last thing you want to do after a night of music festival going is to wander into your campground, finding your tent, realizing your sleeping bag is in a weird angle and then having to fend off any potential drunk/high neighbors. If you are going to Coachella or anywhere far, might as well drop a few more dimes and get yourself a cozy hotel room with a hot tub, so you can get fully recharge for the next days adventure.

Still, music festivals are a great adventure, and as someone who does go to these things, it comes down to the music. So here is my general assessment:

Reasons to Go#1: OMG bands

Anytime I assess a music festival lineup, you pretty much have to find a few bands there that are in the “oh my god, this is something I won’t ever be able to see” zone. These are either bands that are reuniting after a long period (not DFA 1979, who broke up not even 3 Harry Potter movies ago) or bands who rarely tour. Looking at the list, these are the only bands that come to mind:

Duran Duran
Suede (reunited in 2010)
Chemical Brothers
Lauryn Hill (released from mental institution)
Big Audio Dynamite (reuniting)
Leftfield (reunited in 2010)
Empire of the Sun (apparently put on mind blowing shows, but excessive drug use means they sometimes schedule two concerts on the same date in different cities)

Now if you are a hardcore fan of any of these bands, then by all means you should go, assuming they also don’t schedule a North America tour at the same time, or recently just flew to England to see them.

Reason to Go #2 – Haven’t seen many of these bands

Sometimes I forget that I go to a ridiculous amount of shows, and so basically, I’ve probably seen a majority of the bands playing at any festival so if you have never seen bands like Interpol, Animal Collective, Mumford & Sons, The National, PJ Harvey before and you want to somehow wrap up all those experiences in one weekend, then by all means, go. However, you must realize that festival time slots means that each act other then the major headliners will only play about 40 minutes. Do you really want your first time seeing the National to be a 45 minute affair? What if it conflicts with another band you want to see? (That will happen). Still it’s a great way to see a lot of your favorite new bands for a reasonable price. I am guessing you will see about 10 bands a day, 30 bands in total if you go there day and night.

Reason to go #3 – Never been to Music Festival

If you haven’t been to a music festival, Coachella is a pretty sweet first time festival, it’s warm, there are a lot of pretty people everywhere, they all speak English, you get to go to LA, you might run into drunk celebrities and it’s also a pretty good lineup.

Reason to Not Go #1 – You live in Toronto or New York

Let’s face it, most of these bands are going to roll through here at one point or another. You have your own music festivals in which all the bands in size 12 point font will play two or more shows and really, you’ve probably seen these bands before. The Arcade Fire played Toronto 3 times last year and aside from the OMG bands, every band on the list will be here at one point or another if they are touring/and are smart. There are better ways to spend $1000

Reason to Not Go #2 – Most bands only play ~30-40 minutes/ Crowds / Overlap

The two massive drawbacks of overpopulated music festivals is that most bands play a short set and also some major act will be stuffed in a tiny tent that will be too crowded and you’ll get pissed that you didn’t see them (ie Beck in 2004). There will also be at least one instance where you wish you could be at two places at once, although none will be as bad as having Lady Gaga play opposite the Strokes at Lollapalooza. Either way, these are probably the major setbacks of any festival, if you are one to get frustrated easily, then music festivals might not be for you at all.

Reason to Not Go #3 – Propensity for Heatstroke

It gets hot in Palm Springs. There are also thousands of thousands of people. This will raise the heat further. If you are the type who can’t handle heat or a crowd, then this is probably not a great festival for you, unless you are only interested in seeing the bands in size 10 font.

Conclusion

Going somewhere is always fun. Coachella is always fun. It also has the benefit of being the first North American festival, keep in mind there’s also Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Osheaga, Sasquatch, some thing in San Fran and pretty much every major city that happens every summer, so while you are frantically messaging your friends trying to convince yourself you need to be in Indio, remember that there are other options and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t go. Which you should..probably. I don’t know, I’m not your father.

* I just made those up, didn’t bother looking for references, assumed it to be true. Real Journalism, yo.

Concert Review: Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, January 15, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Allison in Concerts | Leave a comment

Saturday night’s show with David Lowery, and the more-or-less original line-ups of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker illuminated a few things for me. First, some people age better than others (frontman David Lowery still looks pretty much exactly the same as he did in 1993, except that he may now need bifocals as evidenced through his indecisive “should I keep them on or take them off” fiddling with his glasses); second, that the late 80’s/early 90’s remain to be an overlooked era of new music; third that I should go to more reunion shows to feel young.

Let’s talk for a bit about reunion shows. Some of you (by this I mean 5 people) might already be aware of my conflicted feelings about this matter. It’s not that I dislike reunion shows, it’s more that I think their very nature (being a cash grab) makes for rather lifeless shows. But it’s a double-edged sword…on the one hand those of us who would’ve been too young to go to these concerts in the first place want to relive a missed past. On the other, shouldn’t we be letting these people get on with their lives instead of driving barrel-fulls of money up to their homes begging them to perform said almost-chart-topper? Shouldn’t we be letting these people get on with their lives? It’s all very gray and hazy for nostalgic folks such as myself, but I at least acknowledge that recapturing what was then will never be for now.

The same contradictions that I feel about reunion shows can apply to the way they are being carried out. More than a few acts have taken CVB’s/Cracker’s same approach of touring one definitive album, often considered by fans and critics alike to be the band’s best release, and giving the fans what they want. The Wedding Present did the same thing with Bizarro this past year, and judging from t-shirt sales, this is what people are looking for. I suppose it’s better than getting a barrage of requests by a pathetic drunk superfan’s barrage of “best of” requests being flung every few minutes (more on that, as well as Lowery’s response to this,  later).

First off, I note that Lowery is really well-preserved and his gravelly voice is on par with how I remembered it, hearkening back to my observation that some genres of music are simply more forgiving than others when decades pass. He first appeared with a 6-man line-up for the Camper Van Beethoven blitzkrieg-paced performance of Key Lime Pie. Some renditions went over better than others, with the country-infused (like with Borderline ), augmented  “baby getting hit with a cat” violin bits of who I can only assume to be Don Lax not flying over so smoothly. Interlude and Flowers were a bit more dodgy, probably based more on my lack of appreciation of the songs more than anything else. Of the slower tracks, June probably came off best. Their cover of Pictures of Matchstick Men, the biggest  managed to revitalize the lulling crowd (which looked almost sold out to me at this point).

The most amusing interaction Lowery had with us was when he was setting up a recorded sample on his iMac, where he admitted we could probably hear the interruptions from his Gchat account pinging him. Which begs to question, how seriously are these shows anyway?

Not very, and rightfully so. Lowery even sent so far as to belittle an annoying drunk fan who wouldn’t stop yelling out requests, in spite of the explanation that this would be a track-by-track performance of the Cracker album Kerosene Hat. “Dude, you are so not funny anymore”.  During another jabbing round when the guy continued to yell out songs he wanted to hear, guitarist Johnny Hickman attempted to break it up with some light stories about how the drunk guy would eventually succumb to embarrassing stories of the first time he was laid, to which Lowery responded “What are you kidding me? This guy’s never been laid in his life!”

Let this be a lesson to you loud request yellers.

As for the Kerosene Hat set, it made me remember how good this album was in 1993 and still is today. The energy was a lot higher because of the singalong qualities of most of the songs that would’ve come back to casual observers like even me. Songs like Low, Get Off This,  Let’s Go For A Ride, and Euro-Trash Girl all made me realize how heavily rotated it was and how “alternative rock” even seems like a bit of a dinosaur concept nowadays. These guys did it pretty well, and seemed pleased to be up there, which is always better than someone killing your memories.

CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN – good guys and bad guys by celsofloyd

Concert Review: Four Corners II, Jan. 14, Steelworkers Hall

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – Four Corners is a pretty interesting concept for a concert.  There is no stage.  There are no opening acts or headliners.  Instead, there are four bands, each set up in one corner of the room and taking turns every couple of songs, culminating in all four bands jamming together.  For this, the second edition, the bands involved were Lullabye Arkestra, Quest For Fire, Sun Ra Ra Ra, and Rituals.

Rituals were up first and I’ve got to say they didn’t really make much of an impression on me at all.  This could have something to do with the fact that they were playing in the corner that was furthest away from me, but on the other hand, they didn’t want to make me move closer either.

Sun Ra Ra Ra, on the other hand, made quite the impression on me.  Again, their placement in the room could have had some bearing on my opinion as I was right in front of them, but the Peterborough based band impressed me with their garage/psych/rock n’ roll sound.  Their opening song had a very immediate visceral vibe and an opening riff that reminded me a bit of The Monkees’ “Circle Sky” (this is a good thing … no, seriously).  These guys seem to play around Toronto quite a bit and I’m looking forward to seeing them play a regular set sometime soon.

The remaining corners were filled by two more established Toronto bands, Quest For Fire and Lullabye Arkestra.  Quest For Fire did not disappoint with some solid stoner rock, but they didn’t blow me away either.  They seemed to be keeping it a bit low key, but perhaps that was just a side effect of being sandwiched between Sun Ra Ra Ra and Lullabye Arkestra.  Lullabye Arkestra had an abundance of energy.  The husband and wife duo make a hell of a lot of noise for just two people. 

One of the drawbacks of a show like this is that a band doesn’t necessarily get to build up much steam.  It’s a bit like musical ADD in some respects.  However, it does make for a nice sort of sampler and a unique live music experience.   It also took place in a union hall, which I think is notable since really, how often do you get to see a show at a union hall?        

Lullabye Arkestra – We Fuck The Night by wavelengthtoronto

Lyrical Analysis: Our Lady Peace – Superman’s Dead

Posted on by Ricky in Rickys Random Articles | 3 Comments

Toronto – Everyone who grew up as a teenager or a preteen in the 90s had Our Lady Peace‘s second record, Clumsy (except Paul, apparently). Nevermind the fact that the band has spent the past decade trying to be Canada’s crappier version of U2 (and abandoning the older fans in the process), this album was pretty damn good in it’s hey day.

If you are like me, you were probably always wondering – what in the holy hell was Superman’s Dead about?

Lets take a look at the lyrics:

do you worry that you’re not liked
how long till you break
you’re happy cause you smile
but how much can you fake
an ordinary boy an ordinary name
but ordinary’s just not good enough today

Chorus:
alone I’m thinking
why is superman dead
is it in my head
we’ll just laugh instead
you worry about the weather and
whether or not you should hate

are you worried about your faith
kneel down and obey
you’re happy you’re in love
you need someone to hate
an ordinary girl an ordinary waist
but ordinary’s just not good enough today

Chorus

doesn’t anybody ever know
that the world’s a subway…

Going to the always accurate SongMeanings.net, the general consensus is that the song is about bullying because the word “superman’s dead” implies that there is no one to rescue the said person. Maybe it’s about expectations or female imagery in the media, as the line “an ordinary girl an ordinary waist, but ordinary’s just not good enough today”. Maybe Raine Maida was just really high. Maybe OLP was just trying to be very topical, since it was around the time when DC killed off Superman and returned with those five different guys. I really don’t know.

What does the line “the world’s a subway” mean?

- moves very fast?
– you can get on and off?
– every year, gets more expensive?
– not available to third world countries?

Maybe it’s referring to the restaurant chain, and the world is about how you have limited selections?

Some of these mysteries will never be solved, but it’s still good to think about occasionally, what’s your take?