the xx

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.

AFI

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.

Concert Review: Hot Chip & The XX, April 20, Kool Haus

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 4 Comments

Toronto – Rarely do you see a double bill of epic proportions. Both The XX and Hot Chip could have sold out many venues in Toronto by themselves, yet they have chosen to join forces like Crosby and Malkin and take over the Kool Haus for one night. The show was beyond sold out and I was lucky enough to have tickets for the show. Having seen and loved both bands live before, I was quite excited for the show.

The XX

I like to do this thing called ‘call the venue beforehand and ask for set times’. I did this, and the women on the other end on the phone said that The XX was going to be on at 9:45. Great! I thought. I would have time to watch most of the Pens-Sens game and then go to the Kool Haus. Since when are bands ever on time? Well, not only was the XX on time, but they were early! I was shocked when my coworker texted me at 9:35 and said that the band just took the stage. Luckily, Toronto is a city of cabs and we were able to get one right away. However, the cab driver did not know where the Kool Haus is. How is that even possible? If I was a cab driver, I would scope out all the concerts and show up right when the show ends and take all the 905ers back to the suburbanite basements where they belong. Clearly this man had spent too much time studying medicine or neurosurgery and not enough time studying traffic routes in whatever country he had come from.

Arriving at the Kool Haus at around 9:45, I gathered we had missed about two or three XX songs. Bummer for Gary I guess. The XX must really hate England or have some severe gambling debts back home, for they have been touring FOREVER since their album came out, and this is their third show in Toronto since December. Having seen them in December, there has been notable growth in their live performance. The band is definitely more calm on stage and definitely have developed the confidence to tweak a lot of their songs in the live environment. The set was more or less identical to their set at SXSW, right down to the crazy drumming at the end of Infinity by Oliver Sim. As you would expect, they played all the songs off their debut album. The vocals were somewhat muffled by the Kool Haus sound system, which was a shame. The crowd was mostly enthusiastic for the band but there were definitely some chatty betty’s in the crowd and considering the XX’s music contains some quiet parts, that was quite the distraction.

All in all, a good showing by The XX. Even though they aren’t very lively on stage, their music speaks for itself. You can see them many times and still get shivers whenever Infinity or Basic Space places.

Hot Chip

Judging by the colorful nature of the crowd’s fashion choices, I would say most people were here for Hot Chip. The London band was in town to promote their latest album – One Life Stand. I’ve seen Hot Chip twice already, so I knew what to expect – a good dance session. I skipped my gym workout Tuesday night because I figure I’d get my exercise in at this show. I was correct. Going to a Hot Chip concert is like going to any other electronic act – if you aren’t dancing, then you will not enjoy the concert. That’s what their music and shows are about. If you want to stand there and sway, then go to Beach House or She and Him. Hot Chip is for people who like to dance. Having said that, I felt kinda sorry for all the people cramped in the middle of the Kool Haus. The show was sold out, so unless you were off to the side (like we were), you were pretty crammed in. This does not bode well for dancing and so I figure most of the people in the middle did not have as great a time.

Hot Chip played around 80 minutes. The set consisted of a handful of tunes off their new album and some carefully chosen numbers from previous recording. I am not that familiar with their new material but Thieves in the Night, One Life Stand and the single I Feel Better (in the encore) got some good reception. For my money, Over and Over is still their best song and the crowd went bonkers for that tune. I kind of described what that song is like live in my review of their last show. Other classic Hot Chip tunes played included A Boy From School, Hold On and set closer Ready for the Floor. Needless to say, the Kool Haus was transformed into a sweaty dance pit.

Overall, a great night of music, featuring two bands of extremely different sounds. Both were great and you can’t really ask for more.

Check out the new XX video, Islands, here:

SXSW Review: Dum Dum Girls & The XX, French Legation Museum, March 18

Posted on by Alli in Everything, South By Southwest | 1 Comment

dum dum girls

Austin – It seemed like everyone attending SXSW came to this particular show. The XX are easily the most hyped band here at the fest this year; I’d heard quite a bit about Dum Dum Girls too.

LA’s Dum Dum Girls are self-described as their own genre, “blissed-out buzzsaw”.. basically to me it translated as a cross between the Ramones and just about any shoegaze band you can think of. It’s something I’d want to listen to on a chill day at the beach. Very enjoyable.

the xx

The XX come from southwest London, I’m not sure what to say about them that hasn’t already been said. They’re young and I got the vibe that they’re a little overwhelmed by their fairly sudden fame. It just seemed weird to hear the gigantic, mostly drunk crowd cheering like they were in a football stadium after any of their sexy, understated songs. I enjoyed them quite a bit but I think it was just the wrong environment to see them in.

the xx

Concert Review: the xx, Friendly Fires, Phoenix, December 2

Posted on by Allison in Concerts, Everything | 3 Comments

xx

While we were at The XX / Friendly Fires show last night I found myself pondering this question the entire time the xx were on stage: What the hell was I doing when I was 20 years old? If memory serves correctly, I would’ve been getting blitzed every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, and trying not to fail my Greek and Roman Classics 101 course. I also went to a lot of formal dances with my boyfriend at RMC, but lord knows I wasn’t penning albums of the year or putting out the most wicked basslines heard since David Lynch scored Wild at Heart.

OK…to be fair here…If you were to ask me if the xx put on an energetic show last night the answer would be a resounding NO. The trio looked as if they’d been visited by some energy-sapping vampires the night before and the drama of having a member drop out due to exhaustion might make that theory more fact than fiction. I’d say the only limbs that moved onstage was during their last song…sort of an extended ‘Infinity’ when vocalist/bassist Jamie Smith started banging the bejesus out of a pair of cymbals to end off on. Romy Croft wins the mannequin-performer prize for moving only her fingers while strumming the guitar, though. You might think this was a shitty disappointment for us seeing as their debut album is near the top of our picks for 2009 but there was one thing that redeemed them…the music. This is an amazing album with some amazing guitar / bass work and it is something else to hear something of this caliber, live. The vocals were right on save for some wavering from Romy during Shelter. But shit, they’re 20! This is their first North American tour and comparing them to someone like say, Passion Pit, they at least delivered the goods of sounding on key even if they completely lacked showmanship.

Showmanship is what the Friendly Fires are for anyway. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that these guys are consistently entertaining, and that lead singer Ed MacFarlane’s hips are consistently limber. I thought the vocals were a little off because of his gyrating jimmy arm-movements but his enthusiasm sure as hell was infectious. Their handsome bearded guitarist also got into the act, jumping on a speaker trying to drum up clapping and such..and you know what? It worked. It always does. You can’t go to see these guys and NOT holler. They also went through the effort of mixing up their live act with some saxophone accompaniment..when they were at Lee’s Palace in the spring it was more of a conga-ish feeling. Also, they played Kiss of Life, which what Ricky was waiting for.

Since these guys have about an album a piece I’m not going to bother going through their setlists (but post them here if you have them). One thing I would like to say though, is that if you’re going to pay to go to a show and bother to stand close to the stage…STOP FUCKING TALKING. For the love of god, stand near the back if all you want to do is dis the opener. No one wants to hear it and at risk of sounding like a school marm, it’s just plain disrespectful.

That is all.