Grizzly Bear

Festival Review: Lollapalooza 2010, Grant Park, August 7 – Day 2

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | 1 Comment

Empire of the Sun

Chicago – Festivals are a bit like running a marathon for me – a marathon that involves damaged hearing and drinking beer.  What I’m getting at here is that I like to catch as much music as possible.  So there I was, on the second day of the festival, bright and early at 11:15 am.  I caught a band called MyNameIsJohnMichael, who I knew nothing about, but who apparently have a song featured on Gossip Girl.  They’re from New Orleans and they have a pretty good sound.  The band started when John Michael Rouchell decided he was going to write a song a week for a year, so I guess they’ve got a few songs in the can already for their second album.  After playing a slower song near the end of their set, Rouchell thanked the crowd for not taking off as often might happen if a band is too mellow during a festival set.  “Actually, they have nowhere else to go” said one of his bandmates in reference to their very early time slot. 

Next up were The Morning Benders, who impressed me with their early afternoon slot.  As I watched them, I thought, “Ricky was right, these guys do look really young.”  They closed out their set with “Excuses,” urging the crowd to sing along even though it was pretty early.  Of course, festival crowds are a lot more susceptible to singalongs than regular crowds so they complied. 

The Morning Benders

Next was a band who was on my list of must sees, having missed them twice during NXNE – The Soft Pack.  The San Diego band delivered a set of tight, poppy, garage rocky tunes that livened up the early afternoon and was probably the highlight of the day for me.  Singer Matt Lamkin has a voice that’s at times reminiscent of both Julian Casablancas and hot Snakes/Obits singer Rick Froberg.  As Lamkin introduced their last song, a new one,  drummer Brian Hill interrupted – “A new song, you never know what you’re gonna get.”  “It’s side A of Rubber Soul – in two minutes” replied Lamkin.  “It’s all blastbeats,” said Hill.  “I used to play in Carcass … just kidding, it was Deicide.”  I’d like to see these guys again in a smaller club setting.

The Soft Pack

It was during the first half of Grizzly Bear’s set that I learned an important lesson – Lollapalooza is not my living room.  While Grizzly Bear sounded good, their performance seemed a little bit too laid back for my tastes, especially after checking out The xx’s similarly laid back (and ridiculously packed) set.  While Grizzly Bear may sound just fine at home, they left me a bit cold – I just wasn’t in the mood for it, and besides, I knew there was zero chance that Michael McDonald would join them for “While You Wait For The Others.”  So instead, I checked out AFI, a band I have not listened to much over the years and whose post-hardcore screamo-ish alt rock is certainly not something I would listen to these days (though I will admit I kind of liked their 2003 album Sing The Sorrow).  This counterintuitive move paid off as they were just the jolt I needed to wake me up from Grizzly Bear hibernation.


After a little bit of Metric and a little bit of Spoon (I only saw one song, but it was “Got Nuffin’,” which is one of my faves from their new album), I figured I had to check out Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a band that’s been getting a lot of positive buz these days.  A lot of other people had the same idea too, as it was so packed  at the smaller Sony Bloggie stage that people were climbing into trees just to get a better view of the band.  Even though I was way in the back, I saw enough to know that the buzz is well deserved.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

As the time approached for Green Day’s headlining set, it was a choice between a guy in a bunny costume dancing to YMCA and The Ramones warming up the stage for them or Slightly Stoopid on the adidas MEGA stage.  Truth be told, I had to watch the guy in the bunny costume for a bit, but i checked out Slightly Stoopid as well, and well … they weren’t as stupid as I thought they’d be.  In fact, their reggae rock sound was kind of fun in a way.  They ended their set with a Nirvana cover, which brings me to a recurring theme for the weekend – cover songs.  These ranged from quite good (The Big Pink doing Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine”) to acceptable (the aforementioned Nirvana cover) to perplexing (Blues Traveler doing Sublime’s “What I Got” – not that I minded hearing it, but it seemd kind of like “Hey, we had a couple hits in the mid ’90s and here’s another song that was a hit back then.”) to kind of annoying (Green Day peppering their set wih little snippets of classic rock songs … still, it was kind of cool to hear the crowd sing along with “Sweet Child O’ Mine”)

Green Day definitely knows how to work a big crowd – they’ve got the big rock moves down.  I never really gave their last couple albums that much of a listen and really only wanted to hear them play their early ’90s stuff (and after I’d heard enough hits I did go over to check out the end of Phoenix’s set in time to hear a few songs including “1901,” which made me happy), but I’ve got to admit that those newer songs work really well in a big venue – there’s a reason American Idiot got turned into a piece of musical theatre.  They even followed Lady Gaga’s lead and had a fireworks display as part of their show.  In terms of theatricality though, perhaps the most visually interesting band of the weekend was Empire of the Sun, who played opposite Green Day and Phoenix.  With crazy images projected onstage, dancers and elaborate costumes, they certainly put on a great show.  Speaking of musical theatre, why weren’t the cast of Glee invited to play Lolla this year?  I’m sure that shit would have gone over huge.

Interview: Zaza, May 8 2010, European Tour with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Estragon, Bologna, Italy

Posted on by Allison in Concerts, Everything, interviews, Music | 9 Comments


First of all, I apologize for taking so long to post this. Zaza, the three piece Brooklyn-based band (that we have referenced in our Best-of 2009 and end-of-year podcast, review of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart North American Tour) has been gracious enough to speak with our European friend, Davide prior to their sound check in Bologna before opening for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on May 8 at the Estragon.

It has been a very busy spring for Zaza. They have already completed their first European tour after opening for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and we can expect a full length LP from them in 2010, which was on my wishlist from 2009. So well done and godspeed!

Join us as Davide embarks on a world of conversation with Zaza, covering the live versus recorded debate, how they signed with Kanine, their history with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and the organic process that they have enjoyed since it all started.

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2009: Jupiter and Beyond! (aka Paul’s faves)

Posted on by Paul in Everything, Year End Reviews | Leave a comment


Toronto – So 2009 was kind of a weird year for me.  While a lot of great music came out this year, it was also the year I became more apathetic about music for some reason.  It’s because of this that I actually had a bit of a hard time remembering what I heard and actually liked this year.  That said, here’s the stuff I liked the most this year, organized in the most arbitrary and illogical manner possible.


Grizzly Bear featuring Michael McDonald – “While You Wait For The Others”

 Veckatimest as a whole was a really great album that I dug a whole lot, but it was this version, released as a single, that really blew me away.  Grizzly Bear’s tune is made even more sublime with the addition of the king of smooth and yacht rock legend McDonald on vocals.  Maybe you think the original version with Ed Droste singing lead is the better song.  That’s what a fool believes, my friends … that’s what a fool believes.

 The Dirty Projectors – “Stillness Is The Move”

 One of the catchiest songs I heard all year, the folks at Breakfast At Sulimay’s describe it best.  Probably totally inaccurate, but it’s the best review I’ve seen.  Also, it’s fun to say singer Angel Deradoorian’s name out loud.

Franz Nicolay – “Jeff Penalty”

The Hold Steady keyboardist (and king of moustaches) tells us the story of Jello Biafra’s replacement in The Dead Kennedys, who depite just being “that one guy from Philly” or “Jeff Whatsisname”  manages to get the punks singing along anyways.  It’s a song about the power of songs and the underdog getting his moment to shine. 


Jason Lytle – Yours Truly, The Commuter

Despite having really dodgy and questionable cover artwork, this is a really solid album. I’ve been a big fan of Lytle’s ever since the release of Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump … which I still can’t believe came out in 2000.  Man, I’m getting old.  Anyways, Lytle doesn’t break any real new ground here, sticking to his familiar bag of tricks (Neil Young-ian vocals, ELO-ish synths, lyrics about enjoying the weekend) but it works.  It’s more or less a Grandaddy album released under his own name, but I’m OK with that.

Converge – Axe To Fall

 Back in my younger days, I used to listen to lot of metal and hardcore.  I don’t listen to nearly as much as I used to, but I occasionally like the heavy stuff still, and hardcore legends Converge certainly bring the heavy on this, their seventh full length album.  A blend of blistering riffs (probably the catchiest Kurt Ballou has ever written), slower, sludgier tunes, the slow burning Tom Waits homage “Cruel Bloom,” and more guest musicians than you can shake a stick at (including members of Cave In, Neurosis and Genghis Tron), this is Converge’s most accessible album (relatively speaking … ’cause, y’know, it’s still full of screaming and really heavy guitars) and definitely one of their best.  Also, unlike Jason Lytle, Converge always has excellent album covers.

 Pink Mountaintops – Outside Love

The softer yin to Black Mountain’s heavy yang, Stephen McBean’s Pink Mountaintops project kick out the hazy psych/shoegaze/folk/pop jams.  On “Axis: Thrones of Love,” they swipe the Bee Gees line, “how deep is your love” and recontextualize it, making it seem a bit more like a challenge than a question. 

 Steve Earle – Townes

One of the best songwriters around pays tribute to his late friend and mentor Townes Van Zant and ends up making one of his best records.

 Joel Plaskett – Three

Another great songwriter, Plaskett was shortlisted for the Polaris prize this year but lost out to the more au courant (yet also really good) Fucked Up.  I think part of why he got passed over is because Plaskett has been consistently good over his last several albums.  But his new triple (!) album is excellent, full of his usual clever, rootsy songs.  He even incorporates some Celtic influence, which actually works well here.  I guess growing up on the east coast, all those flutes and stuff are part of your DNA or something.

Art Brut – Art Brut vs. Satan

Eddie Argos is a brilliant songwriter.  There, I’ve said it.  Like a British version of Craig Finn, Argos talks his way through his songs, filling in all sorts of details that I can really relate to – DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake could have been written about me.  Alcoholics Unanimous not so much about me (at least I hope not), but I think many of us have been in the state Argos describes there too (“I’ve been up all night/I’ve been making mistakes/I’m hiding it well/But I don’t feel great”)

The Thermals – Now We Can See

Hutch Harris and his bandmates have brought another collection of brilliant, punky power pop.  While not quite as good as The Body, The Blood, The Machine, Now We Can See is full of instantly catchy tunes (try not to sing along with the “oh way oh ohs” in the title track)  Plus they always look like they’re having a lot of fun in their videos.

Wilco – Wilco(The Album)

Jeff Tweedy’s songs.  Nels Cline’s guitar.  The other guys’ general greatness.  ‘Nuff said.  Wilco are one of the greatest bands around.  Wilco will love you, baby.  They will love you long time.