Coachella review: Day one, part one – The Courteeners, We Are Scientists, Felix Da Housecat, White Lies

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Indio, CA – Having lived in southern California for twelve years until moving to Texas in 2006, I have had the pleasure of attending the Coachella Music & Arts Festival a few times since its inception in 1999. One of those times was 2004, where fellow Panic Manual writer Ricky and a few other Torontonians flew out to go with me, a very memorable weekend!

I only went to the first two (out of three) days. Even though we weren’t granted press coverage for the event (boooo) and I am the only one of us that went, I’m going to review the crap out of it anyway. Friday was the day I was most excited for; even though I had already seen many of the bands I was on board right away. Sense a trend here, in reading my reviews? I’m kind of obsessive. Coachella is my all time favorite music festival for so many reasons, but mainly because the setting is absolutely perfect. Indio is a desert town nestled at the foot of the Santa Rosa mountains, 150 miles east of LA. The festival is held on the polo fields there and I have yet to attend a musical function as beautiful and well organized as this one. It is put on with the fans in mind. Water is cheap and plentiful, in fact this year they introduced a new program where you could buy a logo water bottle for $10 and get unlimited free refills throughout the whole weekend. There’s tons of good food, and well-placed spots to lay on the grass in the shade or get a beer. I cannot recommend this festival enough, even if you don’t live anywhere near it. I feel it’s something any music lover should go to at least once in their life.

The Courteeners started things off on the main stage, even though I just saw them open for Morrissey last week I decided to check them out again. A decent sized crowd formed around us pretty quickly once they started. I really can’t wait for this band to do another album. I like St. Jude very much but I think their next effort has potential to be awesome; like I said previously, Liam Fray is a very talented lyricist and I think he will only get better. They got a good reception from the crowd and I enjoyed them as much as last week.

Out of laziness and lack of interest in anything else at the time, I stuck around the main stage area for southern California locals We Are Scientists. I remember liking them back when their second album came out in 2006, though I also remember Indie 103.1 (RIP, best radio station ever – though you can still listen to them online!) seriously overplayed a couple of their singles. Seeing them live was not at the top of my list but I’m glad I did, they really got the growing crowd moving despite the rising temperature, as no shade was to be had on that part of the field.

Next up I wandered over to the Sahara tent for my first dance act of the weekend, Felix Da Housecat. His remixes are always fun and I felt like dancing.. even though the tents get stuffy in the midday sun the place was packed and the crowd was loving it. One of the reasons I love Coachella so much is for these dance & electronica tents. Even though I’ve not always been a huge fan of electronic music – at least not as much as lately – somehow nothing wakes you up from a heat coma like setting foot in one of these tents. Being around fans that are SO EXCITED they can’t stop dancing is as infectious as it sounds. FDHC “played all the hits” as they say, and closed his set with a “Smells Like Teen Spirit” remix which was really interesting, but kind of anticlimactic.

White Lies were conveniently playing next, right across from where FDHC was. They were a surprise favorite of mine back at SXSW, but were given a really short set. I was happy to find that their time slot at Coachella was much longer. Unfortunately, the sound engineering gods were not smiling down upon them on Friday. They had problems during almost every song and while the band handled it more professionally than you’d expect, many angry looks and a few frustrated words were shot in the direction of the sound guy. They’ve been on the road for months now and Harry’s voice was a little worse for the wear but he still sounded good, and he’s still got my favorite voice among my personal top bands. As seems to be customary for this band, they were very appreciative of the fans who came by to see them, especially despite all the sound problems. I also have to give a shout out to Harry’s awesome shoes. He was wearing some pretty epic black & gold Nike hi-tops.

More to come….

Concert review: Morrissey with The Courteeners, April 12, Bass Concert Hall, Austin TX

Posted on by Alli in Concerts, Everything | 3 Comments

Austin – I’m not really sure where to start in writing a review of a Morrissey show. Seeing how this is the 38th gig of his I have been to, I’m a bit biased as to whether he is any good. It had been about a year and a half since the last time I saw him so I was feeling about due for a night with the man.

This tour he brought along The Courteeners, an up and coming band from Manchester, hand picked by Morrissey himself. They had been slated to play at SXSW but decided to go on tour with him instead. Their album “St. Jude” was produced by Stephen Street, who has also worked with Morrissey in the past; singles from the album charted pretty well in the UK last year. Unlike most bands that tour with Morrissey, The Courteeners have actually gotten a decent reception from the fans, including yours truly. I like their album very much and for once was happy to arrive early enough to see them and was not disappointed. Singer Liam Fray is an excellent writer and musician and the band were tight last night. I’m excited to hear more from them over the next year or two.

Promptly at 9pm Morrissey took the stage to a packed theater. The Bass Concert Hall is a bit of a weird venue to be seeing him at, at least if you ask me.. I prefer a general admission environment and most fans would probably agree with me. At any rate it was a nice place, smaller than most venues on the last tour and the crowd stayed on their feet for the duration of the show. He came out in a tux and the band were dressed in black with white ties bearing his likeness. Songs ranged from Smiths hits “How Soon is Now” and the more obscure “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” (with changed up lyrics), to several tracks off 2009’s album “Years of Refusal”. Lead guitarist Boz Boorer busted out the clarinet a couple times, I personally missed the presence of multi-tasker Mikey Farrell, who played trumpet on a few tracks on the 2007 tour.. those bits were replaced with a synth which felt cheap to me. Highlight of the evening for me was “I’m OK By Myself”, which hit home as I attended this show by myself and it was additionally a great performance by all. Per tradition there are usually a few to several stage invading fans towards the end of Morrissey shows, but that didn’t happen last night thanks to ridiculously tight security, who are the same reason I don’t have any photos to post (that and my seat was 19 rows back).

It feels like Morrissey is reaching the point where he doesn’t just belong to his die-hard fans anymore. People are finally understanding what an important songwriter and influence he is upon everyone from awkward high school kids to many well known bands. The crowds at the shows have slowly evolved from semi-familiar faces and to all kinds of people of all ages. It has been nice to be part of that club all the misfits like myself belonged to over the years, but I’m also happy to share him with anyone willing to listen.

Concert Review: Sébastien Tellier – April 9, Mod Club, Toronto

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Who knew that I’d strike upon the cure for alcoholism at a Sébastien Tellier concert? Well Al-Anon, your 12-step program has arrived in the form of the “French Electro Barry White” that is, if Barry White decided that Chardonnay was his performance lifesource and his blood-alcohol levels were at twice the lethal limit of 0.45. AA members need only attend 12 drunken Tellier concerts in place of the 12 step program to sober up for life.

You may say, who am I to judge? She who has woken up in ditches, found herself the next morning locked out of her house, fallen in bushes, thrown out of various establishments, and ended up being a general embarrassment to anyone she has ever known? It’s no secret that I like to hit the sauce–some call me the Asian Patsy Stone and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone sloppier than me…but that someone just might be Mr. “French Touch” himself, only not many folks in the audience would’ve wanted to be touched by this guy. This was one of the chattiest shows I’ve ever been to with a distracted audience who had no qualms about speaking loudly over this sorry display.

I was naively optimistic for this one…although there are numerous reports floating around out there about his drunken stage presence I was expecting something more along the lines of a suave version of the Burger King Mascot instead of the slipshoddy, phoned-in performance we witnessed last night. Ricky was so unimpressed he felt burned he missed LOST (a subpar network show in my books). Now that is saying something.

This is all quite a shame seeing as the Daft Punk-produced Sexuality has a helluva lot to offer. Roche, Kilometer, and Look are all slick and sultry sounding in studio recording. Live they were more farcical than lusty and there’s no question why…This guy would probably down a Big Gulp of Sauvignon Blanc and a king pack of Black Death cigarettes in a matter of seconds if you offered it to him during his performance. Tearing through a bottle and a half of white wine on stage in a matter of an hour, Tellier was competent enough on the guitar and keyboards considering he was soused–and unlike some reports, his singing was intelligble enough (thought still flat), but is that what passes for “showmanship” these days??? His most meaningful exchange with the audience entailed him chugging the last drops out of a near-empty bottle of wine, although he did divulge into how his mother is “very ugly” and that he had some kind of chicken sausage inheritance back in France. The intelligible became the unintelligible pretty quickly and by the time his band rushed offstage to give Tellier his solo encore (a series of electric guitar strums and soft yowling) we had decided we’d had enough.

I have more affection for the loveable drunk performer than the average bear but even *I* think this guy could benefit from a serious lesson in PACING. Note to Mr. Tellier: Stage presence involves more than dressing up in a white linen suit, sparkly scarf, sunglasses, putting yourself at risk for heatstroke, and drinking yourself stupid. Remember the MUSIC?

Concert Review: The Presets, Golden Filter, April 6, Mod Club

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Everything | 2 Comments

Toronto – What a horrible way to start April – I got sick, the Penguins lost two crucial games to CAROLINA and FLORIDA, I forgot to attend my fantasy baseball draft and worst of all, it is still practically winter. It snowed last night, what the hell? Seriously, not funny. As bad a start as April had, it seems to be getting better. Last night was a good beginning as Aussie dance rock troupe The Presets are were in town, promoting their hit album Apocalypso.

Before the Presets were the opener The Golden Filter, who have been receiving a lot of attention lately, and is a favorite of our friends Indie Kid Vs Dance Kid. They are an electronic dance duo (accompanied by a drummer for live performances) from Brooklyn. Everything is from Brooklyn these days. Here is an interview by Eye magazine with them. The venue was about half packed when the band took the stage at 10 pm, which prompted me to figure out why the hell didn’t I stay at home and watch 24 first. The live set included a drummer, the guy on the keyboard/synth/electro knobs and the lead singer Penelope, who looks like a cross between the girl from the Ting Tings and Alison Goldfrapp. I couldn’t actually make out what she looked like because her hair covered most of her face, so I can’t vouch for her hotness. One thing I will say is that she has the sexy nonchalantly dancing and clapping thing down pat. I would say that’s her signature move – swaying side to side, looking into space and clapping. That’s ace.

I was not very impressed with the set, I had heard some buzz about this band earlier so I went to see them. The music all seems very similar, breathy sultry vocals delivered over standard electro beats. In fact, it was so repetitive I myself was doubting the whole genre as a whole. I was all like ‘is this really that bad or have I been in a cave lately and all my appreciation for electro acts have all been a veil pulled over my head by RayBan wearing ravers?’. I decided that this was a case of the music not being very good. While Penelope definitely looked the part of a lead singer, she lacked a certain stage presence that is probably necessary for an act like the Golden Filter to succeed in a live environment. Actually, she reminded me a bit like Lykke Li, if Lykke Li grew up in Williamsburg. I am sure with time, she will be more engaging in a live concert environment.

The Presets came on at around 11pm. Much to my surprise, the Presets are not a live band! I had always envisioned a lead singer (Jules), a drummer, a bassist, a guitar and someone on the synth. The Presets are just Jules on the synth/electro knobby dj thingys and Kim on the drums. This was much to my disappointment. The crowd however, was nuts from the starting track of ‘Talk Like That’ all the way to the last track before the encore, which I believed to be ‘My People’. Toronto fans are often guilty of being the standing around types, however, tonight was not the case as people were dancing left and right.

The concert itself was a bit to slow to start, I was still getting over the disappointment of them not being a full piece set. ‘Yippiyo-ay’ sounded better on album and I was thinking that I was heading to another disappointing show ..then the wall of lights turned on.

Through out the set, the Presets had a relatively normal Mod Club light show, however, behind them was a picket fence of light bulbs, you could say. For much of the first half the set, these lights weren’t on and I was starting to think that maybe they were decorations. Then halfway thru the set, the lights turned on and wow oh wow. What a light show. The next forty five minutes of the set was basically an orgasm for the eyes as colors exploded left and right, lights here, lights there. It was one of the most impressive light shows I have seen. It was about that time when I decided that this show was alright.

The next 45 minutes of the show was a bit of a blur, the dance beats/super light show combo started to overwhelm your senses and soon enough, it was hard to resist dancing. Once you get into that mode, the tunes starting flowing better and it’s hard to not lose it for the songs ‘If I Know You’ and ‘This Boy’s in Love’, both of which sound awesome live.

All in all, a slow start turned into a solid night. People who went to the show got their dance on, and even if I feel that they would have benefited from a more live sound, I think the Presets are worth a look the next time they roll around. Oh yeah, awesome light show.