Coachella Band Preview: Portugal. The Man

It’s been over a week since Coachella released their 2018 lineup. Tickets went on sale last Friday and sold out in just over 3 1/2 hours. Preparations have officially begun. So if you’re headed to the desert this April, I hope you’ve been listening to one of Coachella’s Spotify playlists or curating your own. I’ve checked out Coachella’s (which are so good by the way!) and already found 1 or 2 new bands to listen to. They might even get previewed leading up to the festival.

First thing’s first though, it’s time to get into the first band preview of the year. I bought this group’s latest album while in NYC a few weeks ago. I decided to buy it at random too, only knowing two songs from the album. It was a great decision and understandably so as it’s already been nominated for a Grammy. Although this blog post is a few weeks overdue, let me tell you a little something about Portugal. The Man.

Portugal. The Man has been around for quite a while before their latest album, Woodstock, and hit single “Feel It Still” invaded music charts over the last year. Hailing from Wasilla, Alaska, they formed in 2004 as a side project band of lead singer John Gourley and bassist Zach Carothers. The band has gone through several lineup changes but Gourley and Carothers have been the true mainstays. Currently they’re joined by Kyle O’Quin on keyboards/synth, Jason Sechrist on drums, and Eric Howk on guitar. I would try to explain their band name, but it’s a bit complicated so I’ll let this 2009 interview description by John Gourley do it, “It’s hard to explain, but it made perfect sense at the time. Over the 5 years that we’ve had the band name it’s just kind of gotten lost, but the idea was that we wanted to back somebody up. I guess in choosing Portugal, it was just kind of a random choice. We really wanted a country to be the name of our person because a country is a group of people. The man just states that Portugal is a person. So really Portugal is the band’s name and the man is just stating that he is the man.” They released demos in the summer of 2004 and embarked on a U.S. tour that fall. They released their debut album Waiter: “You Vultures!” on January 24, 2006.

In June 2007, they released their sophomore album Church Mouth and toured for the following year both in the U.S. and Europe in support of it. In 2008, the band released yet another record, Censored Colors, their third full length album. 2009 brought the band festival spots at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza as well as a fourth album, The Satanic Satanist, and  The Majestic Majesty, an acoustic album of The Satanic Satanist. The band released another new album, American Ghetto, in 2010 marking the band’s fifth album in five years. 2010 also marked Portugal. The Man’s first Coachella appearance. Following suit of the previous years, their sixth album came out in July of 2011 after the band signed with record label, Atlantic Records in April 2010 (they had previously been a part of Fearless Records as well as a partnership with Equal Vision Records). The album, In the Mountain in the Cloud, brought the band another two years of touring and two more stops at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

In 2012, Portugal. The Man did not release a new album, but in 2013, they did. They released their seventh full length album, Evil Friends. The album featured backing vocals by Danielle and Este Haim of fellow Coachella 2018 act, Haim. They announced an eighth album in 2016, but said album “failed to complete” and was scrapped after 3 years of work. After the lead single “Feel It Still” was released in March, the band dropped, Woodstock on June 16, 2017. With the success of “Feel It Still”, which has topped music charts nationwide, Woodstock has become the band’s most successful album to date after 13 years and seven previous albums.

Portugal. The Man plays an alternative rock style of music with a somewhat psychedelic/jam band flavor as well. At times their music even sounds a bit experimental. Their sound has definitely progressed and changed throughout the years and through each album. Gourley’s vocals have been a defining factor in their sound though.

I found out about Portugal. The Man while working as a radio DJ during college on my school’s radio station. Our station specialized in alternative, rap, and metal, and I had a weekly alternative radio show in which I would play a mix of my own songs combined with the music on our system. One of the songs I used to play during my show was the Portugal. The Man song “People Say”. I remember when the alternative director and her boyfriend introduced me to the band one time while we were in the studio together.  There may have been one or two other Portugal. The Man songs available on our rotation but I routinely played and enjoyed “People Say”.

I partially kept up with Portugal. The Man after I graduated and ended my radio show. I was into and downloaded the songs “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue” and “Modern Jesus” after Evil Friends came out. However, I was never fully into Portugal. The Man. The first time I heard “Feel It Still” was this past summer in August (I know I was so late) on a fellow Coachella coworker’s Snapchat story. I was into it immediately upon first listen. I didn’t know whose song it was either and I thought it might be by the band Electric Guest. The song sounded similar to their song “This Head I Hold”. All I knew was I was hooked no matter what. I was surprised to find out it was Portugal. The Man because it just didn’t fit the sound I was used to from them. It was and still is an absolute banger though.

Like I’ve said in my last two blogs, as well as earlier in this one, I purchased Woodstock a few weeks ago just because of my interest in “Feel It Still” and “Live in the Moment” (another great track from that record). I don’t own any other Portugal. The Man records either, despite knowing about them and having a slight interest in their music for several years now. Within the first few days of owning the record, I had it spinning on repeat. It’s great. I even put it on my list of favorite albums from 2017 after owning it for only two weeks prior to writing that blog.

Portugal. The Man plays Sunday night this year at Coachella. My guess is they play the main stage prior to Eminem. This is Portugal. The Man’s third Coachella. They played in 2010, as I mentioned, and 2013. If I was attending this year, I’d definitely have them on my must see list. My only concern is that they have such a large discography that I’m not sure what they’d play or what I’d know. Hence listening prep is key here. I wouldn’t spend hours listening to all 8 albums they’ve released. I would just get a few of their older hits and focus on the last 2-3 albums. Their most recent stuff is what’s given them the spotlight anyway, making it the obvious choice for set list selection. At least at this point you have plenty of time regardless. 3 months is so far, yet so so close that you can taste that sunshine and those good vibes.

Edit: I’m sorry everyone! Totally messed this up and forgot to put song recommendations to listen to so here they are (better late than never!):

1. Feel It Still

2. Live in the Moment

3. Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue

4. People Say

5. Modern Jesus

6. So Young

7. Noise Pollution

8. Rich Friends

9. Easy Tiger

10. So American

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Coachella 2018 Lineup Release

Not 48 hours into the new year and the Coachella 2018 lineup drops. Last night at 4:15 PT Coachella released their lineup on social media and as always people have opinions, me included. Since last year I expected the 2018 lineup to be the best since 2014. If you know me, you know that I believe 2014 had the best lineup to date and every year after has  been incomparable. 2018 had so much potential. There were so many bands who released new music in 2017 that did not play the festival plus a handful of other greats expected to release new music this year. But when rumors spread just before Christmas about the headliners, I knew this year wasn’t going to meet my expectations.

Going into 2018 everyone knew Beyoncé was supposed to headline. She was supposed to headline last year but dropped out shortly after the announcement of her twin pregnancy paving the way for Lady Gaga to take her spot. The biggest question was who would accompany her on top of the poster. On December 20th, Consequence of Sound reported that Eminem and The Weeknd were slated to join Beyoncé as the 2018 headliners, much to my dismay. Here’s why. The Weeknd headlined Coachella in 2015. Was he supposed to be a headliner? No. However he played in the headliner spot. Jack White, the headliner for that night, took an early spot for whatever the case may be leaving The Weeknd to close out the night.

In my opinion Eminem is a pretty cool choice for a headliner. He fits that formerly popular/still popular angle. He’s a rapper and for the past few years Coachella has plugged that genre (or R&B) into one of their headlining spots. Plus he just released a new album. Here’s the issue: Beyoncé already filled that genre spot this year. I mean come on! The entire headlining lineup is rap/R&B. This is the first time in the history of the festival that a rock band isn’t headlining. Disappointing.

In fact, looking at the lineup, rap/hip-hop/R&B has taken over the festival this year. I think Louis Tomlinson’s (of One Direction fame) reaction on Twitter summarizes my feelings exactly. He stated, “Just seen the Coachella lineup …. Where the fuck are all the bands!? It’s a festival!?” Yes Louis, you’re right. Where are all the bands?! All I see are rappers, R&B singers, or electronic DJ’s. As I went through the lineup last night making a list of who I would see for my annual Coachella preview, there were names lacking for each day and more “possible” acts to see than definites. For Friday, I only listed 4 acts. Four. It’s a headshaker, for sure, given that this year had some high expectations. Anyway, let’s get down to this lineup analysis.

The Headliners: The Weeknd, Beyoncé, Eminem

I already summarized my thoughts on all these acts above. So re-read that.

The Other Highly Billed Performers: SZA, Kygo, Jamiroquai, St. Vincent, the War on Drugs, Vince Staples, Haim, Tyler the Creator, David Byrne, alt-J, Post Malone, Fleet Foxes, Odesza, Portugal. The Man, Migos, A Perfect Circle, Cardi B, Miguel, Soulwax, Jean-Michel Jarre, Daniel Caesar, Kali Uchis, Los Ángeles Azueles, Deorro, Chromeo, Chic feat. Nile Rodgers, BØRNS, Louis the Child, Angel Olsen, Jungle, blackbear, MØ, King Krule, Illenium, Kamasi Washington, French Montana, 6lack, Vance Joy, Russ, LANY

As always, there’s a few names in this group that I’m pretty excited about. If I were attending this year, I’d definitely be hitting up Kygo, St. Vincent, Haim, alt-J, Fleet Foxes, Odesza, Portugal. The Man, BØRNS, Illenium, and LANY. There’s a few that I’d definitely check out here too if there were no overlaps like David Byrne, Post Malone, Chromeo, Jungle, MØ, and Vance Joy. I’m mostly excited about Haim and alt-J. Even though I’ve seen both live before, they’re fantastic and two of my favorite bands. Odesza is an incredible electronic act and I can attest from seeing them live last month. I’ve seen BØRNS live before as well and it was so enjoyable. After working St. Vincent in November and listening to her VIP Q&A, I’ve gained a new respect for Annie Clark and her music. I was able to stay for half of her show but would love to see her again. The others I’ve never seen live.

As I said in my 2017 music recap blog post, I would be reviewing Portugal. The Man soon. It might now be even sooner than I thought. I’ve been stoked on their latest album since buying it on vinyl in NYC and I’d love to see them live especially since knowing about them since college. Since getting into electronic music, I’ve always been partial to tropical house, making Kygo an artist I would love to check out. I also got into Illenium’s latest album for a short time two months ago making him another electronic act I’d want to see. I’ve listened to LANY a few times over the past few years so they’re a group I’d love to see too. If you’re looking for the most indie band at Coachella this year, I’d have to say that would be Fleet Foxes. I’ve liked them for a while now and would definitely want to see them live.

As for the others that I’d like to check out, I’ve seen Jungle and Vance Joy before. Both played in 2015 when I attended and I made it to both sets. I even saw Vance Joy at Panorama last summer. They’re always a solid set. I was super hyped about Jungle in 2015, but this time around they’re not a definite for me. They’ve got new music out, which I plan on checking out soon They just didn’t make a huge impact on me last time. I’ve casually listened to Chromeo and MØ so I would casually see them. Post Malone is burning up right now. I’m not into rap, but Post Malone has a song that is more indie than rap that I enjoy. I think I’m solely interested in seeing this dude play live because of the hype surrounding him right now. David Byrne is the most intriguing to me. Honestly I had no idea who he was until I did a little research. After I found out, it felt like I failed at music so excuse me for that one. As the lead singer and guitarist of the Talking Heads, I would love to hear his set. He’s got a solo career going, but you know he’ll be playing some Talking Heads covers. Who knows maybe there’s a reunion in store?! I mean who doesn’t like the Talking Heads?!

The Rest: Maceo Plex, Alan Walker, the Neighbourhood, Alison Wonderland, Kelela, REZZ, Bleachers, Black Coffee, SuperDuperKyle, Justin Martin, Belly, TroyBoi, Dreams, Perfume Genius, PVRIS, Moses Sumney, LÉON, Greta Van Fleet, Tank and the Bangas, Cash Cash, Whethan, Skip Marley, Elohim, Detroit Love (Carl Craig, Kyle Hall, Moodymann), Benjamin Clementine, Carpenter Brat, the Blaze, Knox Fortune, MHD, Slow Magic, Avalon Emerson, Fazerdaze, Moon Boots, HITO, Helado Negro, the Buttertones, the Regrettes, Boogarins, the Marias, Señor Kino, Tash Sultana, BROCKHAMPTON, Marian Hill, Alina Baraz, First Aid Kit, Snakehips, Highly Suspect, Wizkid, Jorja Smith, Alvvays, the Black Madonna, Tom Misch, Django Django, X Japan, Benjamin Booker, Flatbush Zombies, Ekali, Yaeji, Party Favor, Big Thief, Jason Bentley, Oh Sees, Sigrid, Busy P, the Bronx, AC Slater, Sudan Archives, Jackmaster, Otoboke Beaver, Chloe x Halle, Sir Sly, Hundred Waters, Pachanga Boys, Bedouin, Cherry Glazerr, Mild High Club, Priests, Ron Gallo, Declan McKenna, Bane’s World, KITTENS, the Drums, Aminé, Jessie Ware, Jamie Jones, Kamaiyah, San Holo, FIDLAR, DeJ Loaf, Petit Biscuit, Ibeyi, LP, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Princess Nokia, AURORA, Noname, Jacob Banks, Chris Liebing, Jidenna Hayley Kiyoko, Barclay Crenshaw, LION BABE, Giraffage, Talaboman, THEY., Cuco, Joseph Capriati, Hannah Wants, Nothing But Thieves, John Maus, Kölsch, Japanese Breakfast, MAGIC GIANT, Omar-S, Michael Mayer, Westside Gunn + Conway, Buscabulla, Peggy Gou, Snail Mail, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, B Boys, the Delirians

My favorite name that showed up on the Coachella lineup this year is in this group, Hayley Kiyoko. As you know, I saw her last year in what I consider to be one of the most epic nights in music for me, seeing 2 shows in one night. One of those was Hayley Kiyoko and she played in a small venue in Philadelphia. I was beyond excited to see her name on the poster and so stoked that she’s playing Coachella this year in time with releasing her debut album. Another band that’s on my must see list is in this group too, The Neighbourhood. I’ve been digging The Neighbourhood since 2013 and I’ve never seen them live. They’re a must-see for sure. There’s a few on this list that I’d want to catch if I had time too. Bleachers, Tash Sultana, Sir Sly, Declan McKenna, and Marian Hill are the big ones among that bunch.

As a whole I feel like this is the smallest group of bands I’ve been interested in since starting my Coachella previews in 2015. I had such high hopes for this year’s festival and it all came crashing down last night. Some names I would have liked to see on this year’s lineup include Arctic Monkeys (as a headliner or part of that second line of acts), Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Foster the People, Lana Del Rey, Cold War Kids, Halsey, Phoenix, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, ARIZONA, the 1975, Sigala, Cigarettes After Sex, Passion Pit, The Kooks, AWOLNATION, and either The Killers, Arcade Fire, or Kings of Leon as a headliner (most likely The Killers though). There’s probably more bands as well, but those are a few off the top of my head.

I started doing a bit of research on this year’s lineup compared to my favored 2014 lineup. I plan on editing this post later today or tomorrow with my findings. Until then, you should start listening to some bands on this lineup. There’s plenty I know nothing about and a few that I do. Maybe you’re stoked on this lineup. Maybe you’re not. The fact is that Coachella is in 3 months and the prep officially began yesterday. One thing is certain though, regardless of who is on the lineup and the amount of complaining done, people are still gonna go to Coachella. It’s the festival to be at. It’s Coachella. You’re bound to have a great time because although I strongly believe music festivals should be about the music, Coachella is more than music. It’s art. It’s atmosphere. It’s good food. It’s being with people you care about and have a good time with. It’s hot days and cool nights. It’s palm trees, and mountains, and desert. It’s fashion. It’s celebrities. It’s social media. It’s sponsors. It’s ferris wheels and hip merch. Mostly it’s the best kind of positivity and vibes you’ll ever experience. So Coachella 2018, I’m ready for you! Here’s to hoping I can be part of the magic again.

(EDIT: I spent the last hour or more doing some research and the numbers I came up with are unreal. I analyzed the 2014 Coachella lineup vs. the 2018 Coachella lineup. I looked at the first 3 lines of each poster plus the headliners and I grouped performers in 4 categories, Rap/R&B, Electronic, Pop, Rock/Indie. In 2014, out of the 165 acts, there were 71 featured on the first 3 lines of the poster including the headliners. Out of those 71, 14% were Rap/R&B, 28% were Electronic, 6% were Pop, and 37% were Rock/Indie. In 2018, out of 165 acts, there are 69 featured on the first 3 lines of the poster including the headliners. Out of those 69, 33% are Rap/R&B, 25% are Electronic, 9% are Pop, and 33% are Rock/Indie. Compared to 2014, the number of Rap/R&B acts have more than doubled. Is Rap/R&B back on the rise and I didn’t know about it? If you asked me, I would tell you no. So what’s the deal this year? What’s even more shocking is that I also compared the number of Bands to Artists for each year. I defined “Band” as a group or single performer with a backing band that plays classic instruments (guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, etc. as opposed to electronic equipment). Artists included rappers, R&B singers, electronic DJ’s, and pop singers. In 2014, out of 71 acts, 55% were Bands and 45% were Artists. In 2018, out of 69 acts, 30% are Bands and 68% are artists. To me those numbers, are staggering. Louis Tomlinson noticed it and he’s right. The bands have decreased this year in favor of the artists. So seriously Coachella, WHERE ARE THE BANDS?! And why are you straying from what made you amazing in the first place? #Coachella2018thefestivalthatcouldhavebeen)

2017: The Best Year in Music Recap

Last year around New Year’s, I wrote about how music saved 2016. It was a pretty shitty year for the country and in the grand scheme of things. Although people would say 2017 might not have been the best for some similar reasons, I would have to argue. 2017 was a great year. Personally, I worked more events than last year, worked new festivals including my all-time favorite, Coachella, had the opportunity to work a few different roles, saw tons of incredible live music, made new friends, got closer to friends I already had, and figured out what my ultimate goal is. Overall yes there were several bad and upsetting events that happened especially in America. There were even a few hiccups in my own life. However, despite the bad, there were plenty of instances of hope. As for music, as much as I thought it was the best part of 2016, it doesn’t hold a candle to this past year.

So many artists released new albums this year. I mean I guess that’s pretty standard for every year but this year was special for me. It was all of my favorites (minus Florence and the Machine) putting out new albums. I also discovered so many more great bands thanks to the incredible people I met and grew closer to this year.

I could do a detailed recap of all the music I loved from this year, but I wrote about it so many times so I’ll give you all the links in a ranking of my favorite albums of 2017.

My 2017 Top 10 Favorite New Albums

10. Zombies on Broadway   -Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

The follow-up to Andrew McMahon’s debut had a handful of hits. I never reviewed this album and I’m so sorry because it was a good one, making it #10 on my list.

9. Something to Tell You   -Haim

Although Something to Tell You wasn’t quite what Days Are Gone was for me, I was super stoked to hear some new music from the Haim sisters. The new album had a few great jams like “Little of Your Love” and “Want You Back” which helped it earn my #9 spot.

8. Lust For Life   -Lana Del Rey

As advertised, Lust for Life was an album for the fans. In my opinion it wasn’t Lana’s best nor her worst. “Coachella – Woodstock on My Mind” and “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” featuring Stevie Nicks were two of my favorites, but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for by one of my favorite artists, putting Lana at #8.

7. Woodstock   -Portugal. The Man

I owe the love of this album to our self-planned Hipster Day in NYC when we went to Brooklyn, checked out cool street art, and spent time in a record store where I purchased the album on vinyl. Who would have thought 2017 would have re-introduced me to Portugal. The Man? After a banger like “Feel It Still” it, it happened though. I never reviewed this album or this band on my blog yet, but don’t worry it’s coming soon. My recent hype and appreciation for Portugal. The Man’s hit album helped it reach the #7 spot on my list.

6. American Dream   -LCD Soundsystem

American Dream was the highly anticipated comeback album from LCD Soundsystem. It might not be Sound of Silver, but it’s got plenty of great tracks that will be played at LCD’s show until they decide to break up for good this time.

5. A Moment Apart   -Odesza

Odesza was a new discovery for me this year. When this album was released, I had never listened to them so I wasn’t anticipating the release nor planning an album review (I linked my general blog post from a few weeks ago instead). It took a special trip that included an Odesza concert to force me to listen to the album, but it was definitely worth it as it comes in as my #5.

4. Ultralife   -Oh Wonder

2017 became the year that I really fell for Oh Wonder. I owe it to Coachella, Denise, and a shitty work schedule, yet I’m so grateful it worked out that way. Their new album picked up where their self-titled debut album left off and added a few new hits to their repertoire making Ultralife my #4 top album this year.

3. GALLERY   -A R I Z O N A

After discovering A R I Z O N A last year, listening to almost every new single they released, and loving each and every one, their debut album had to be high on my list. The album is basically a compilation of each single plus a few new tracks. I don’t even own the album, but I’ve spent a lot of time listening to their songs. Again, I linked up my general blog post from this year about the band.

2. Melodrama   -Lorde

If I wasn’t biased, this would hands down be the best album of the year. Every song on Melodrama is fantastic. The album was the kind of sophomore album bands and artists dream of, but not many can achieve. Lorde crushed it with this one giving her second full length my #2 spot.

1. Sacred Hearts Club   –Foster the People

Like I said, I’m biased on this. I’ve always said Foster the People was one of my favorite bands, but this album made me fall in love with them all over again. It’s not quite Torches, but it’s close. “Sit Next To Me” became my favorite song of the year. Seeing them live twice and up close was everything I needed. They’re always my #1.

Honorable Mentions: I See You -the xx, Relaxer -alt-J, Wonderful Wonderful -The Killers, Everything Now -Arcade Fire, L.A. Divine -Cold War Kids, Masseduction -St. Vincent

So there you have it My Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2017…the Best Year in Music, at least in my opinion. 2018 has a lot to live up to. There’s sure to be plenty of good music this year, but it’ll be hard to beat all the new stuff from my favorites. Still we have a few to look forward to. I heard some rumors about upcoming albums from Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, and MGMT. Hayley Kiyoko will be releasing her debut album this spring and the 1975 is supposed to drop their third full length album. Chrvches and Bastille are also on radar for some new albums. As you can see there’s still good things to come. Plus the Coachella lineup drops this week and you know what that means. So thanks 2017 for being so special. 2018…”just come over here and sit next to me” because I’m ready for you and all the music you have to offer.

Everyday is Christmas: Album Review

For the last 5 years or so when it comes to Christmas, I’m the Scrooge. Christmas used to be my favorite holiday because I loved Christmas time and everything that came with it – the lights, trees, gifts, music, everything. Now, I lack Christmas spirit. Sure, I still shop for gifts and decorate and just go through the motions, but I lack the enthusiasm I used to have. Another thing I’ve stopped doing is listening to Christmas music. I used to search for Christmas music by bands I liked at the time instead of listening to classics. Although, I would listen to a few like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and “Dominic the Donkey”. It was something I always used to do until I got over the whole Christmas thing. I thought this year was going to be pretty much the same, but then Sia dropped a Christmas album filled with all original music.

Everyday is Christmas was released on November 17th. The album features 10 original Christmas themed songs. Sia also released a music video for the single “Santa’s Coming For Us” which stars Kristen Bell and her husband Dax Shepherd, Caleb McLaughlin, Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff, Susan Lucci, Henry Winkler, and J.B. Smoove. It was released a few days after the album. The album, as well as several songs from it, have made their way on to music charts throughout the world despite receiving mixed album reviews. I can understand the mixed reviews though.

The sound of the album strays somewhat from Sia’s regular albums solely for the fact that it is a Christmas album. It’s jazzier at times. The lyrics are frivolous and kind of ridiculous (I mean she sings a song about puppies!). However, Sia’s vocals are so powerfully distinct that it saves the album. There’s also several Sia style ballads that stray from a few of the jazzier Christmas jams.

Personally, I love it. I’ve been waiting for a while for an artist I like to release a Christmas album like this. Most times bands or artists just sing Christmas covers or write a new song or two and the rest cover the classics. Not this. It’s all original. So even though, yeah it is ridiculous, it’s also Christmas music and Christmas music is ridiculous. As someone who hasn’t been vibing anything Christmas for a few years, this got me to listen to Christmas music this year. So if you’re up for a change from the regular Christmas stuff, this is a great refresher.

Gravity Can’t Hold Us Down

This Friday I’m attending my second ever electronic show. I probably wouldn’t be going to this show if it wasn’t for my friend’s love of electronic music and Odesza (the group we’re seeing) and the little vacation we’re going on. Nevertheless, it’s happening and because of it, I got into the electronic group.

Odesza is comprised of electronic music duo Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight. Mills and Knight met while they were both students at Western Washington University and began making music together as Odesza during their senior year. The band name was made out of an alternate spelling of Mills’ uncle’s ship that sunk.

Odesza’s self-released first album Summer’s Gone was released on September 5, 2012, two months before they played their first show. Their first EP My Friends Never Die was released a year later. In the fall of 2013, the group opened for Pretty Lights and then embarked on their first headlining tour the following year. It was a quick start for Odesza who gained popularity through streaming sites like Soundcloud and Spotify and by word of mouth.

In September 2014, Odesza released their second full length album In Return and played a sold out headlining tour that fall in support of it. The group also began playing music festivals as well beginning with Sasquatch! Music Festival in Gorge, Washington in 2013. They have since gone on to play Coachella, SXSW, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Firefly, Governor’s Ball, and several others.

This past September Odesza released their third full length album A Moment Apart and announced a world tour in support which began on September 14th in Auckland, New Zealand, after a preview of the new live show in May at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater. The tour has since made their way into the United States and the album was recently nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album. The track “A Line of Sight” feat. Wynne and Maisonair was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. The group was previously nominated in 2015 for Best Remixed Recording, Nonclassical for “Say My Name (RAC remix)”.

As electronic artists, Odesza fits in the sub genres of electropop, indietronica, chillwave, and future bass. Their style is sort of like a blend between electronic music, indie music, and pop music filled with synth lines and subtle rises and falls of energy and bass. Their new album has a several collaborations which account for the vocals on their tracks. Their songs create this dreamy, nostalgic type of feeling regardless of whether the tracks have vocals or not though.

I first heard of Odesza in late 2015 when a family member who I hadn’t talked to in years asked if I liked them after I told him I was attending an alt-J concert in the coming month. I told him that I didn’t and he told me how awesome they were. Then we started talking about something else and I never even checked them out. To be fair, at the time I was dealing with a lot of other things so I just kind of forgot about it. I first listened to Odesza in late September-early October of this year, shortly after the new album release. I liked the song “Higher Ground” and added it to my workout/new music playlist on Spotify. It was only about 2 weeks later that my friends and I had planned a trip to New York City and bought tickets to see them in Brooklyn.

Since purchasing tickets, I’ve listened to Odesza a lot more. We received a free copy of the new album with our tickets so when that came in the mail I put the CD in my car for a while. I also recently purchased their sophomore album too and have been binge listening to it.  It’s safe to say that I definitely became a fan. I’m beyond stoked for Friday night. I can’t wait to see what kind of energy they’ll bring by playing in a large scale venue like the Barclays Center, but I’m sure it’ll be epic. I’m also just stoked to see this band play with my friend and to witness her fully in her element as an electronic music fan.

I highly recommend checking out Odesza, but especially this new album. There’s a reason it was nominated for a Grammy. Even after listening to In Return several times, there’s just something special to A Moment Apart that Odesza’s been working towards since their inception. You’re bound to find at least one song you like. It’s that good and it’ll only be a matter of time before Odesza hooks you for real.

 

 

Lady Bird

“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” -Joan Didion, Lady Bird

On Monday I had the pleasure of seeing a film that’s been generating a ton of hype, Greta Gerwig’s coming of age film, Lady Bird. Just the other day it broke the record for positive reviews with 100% positive on movie review website, Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also been receiving some Oscar buzz since award season predictions have begun.

The comedy-drama film is set in Sacramento, California in the early 00’s and explores the relationship between a mother (Laurie Metcalf) and her teenage daughter (Saoirse Ronan) who renames herself, Lady Bird. The movie spans a year through the ups and downs of Lady Bird’s senior year of high school at a Catholic high school into the beginning of her freshman year of college. It was both written and directed by Gerwig. Lady Bird also stars Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s father Larry McPherson, Beanie Feldstein as Lady Bird’s best friend Julianne “Julie” Steffans, Lucas Hedges as one of Lady Bird’s love interests/friends Danny O’Neill, Timothée Chalamet as another one of Lady Bird’s love interests Kyle Scheible, and Lois Smith as Lady Bird’s teacher/principal Sister Sarah Joan.

After seeing the film on Monday, I thought it was such a great depiction of the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, Marion. Both characters are so much alike that they constantly butt heads despite caring for each other tremendously. I also thought the movie was a great ode to the city of Sacramento. The city holds a special place in my hearty because I spent 6 days there for work this past June and they were some of my favorite of the year. So seeing this movie about 6 months later filled my heart with joy. I also thought it was cool to see the capital of California get some recognition in the entertainment industry because usually if a California city is the setting for a television show or a movie, it’s Los Angeles or San Francisco. The movie was also filmed on location in Sacramento which made for accurate visuals of the city.

I’m definitely a huge fan of coming of age films and this one was no different. The story was so raw and real as well which allows viewers to have a special connection with it. As award season approaches, there will be many films being talk about and many you’ll want to see. I feel like Lady Bird is one that can resonate with almost anyone though, making it a must-see this year. The acting and cinematography are just as brilliant as the story too. I’m not saying this movie will be the best picture of 2017 but it will definitely be high on the list.

 

 

Legendary Venues: Red Rocks Amphitheatre

It’s been over 75 years since Red Rocks Amphitheatre opened in Morrison, Colorado. The venue first opened on June 15, 1941, but had been hosting open-air music performances since the early 1900’s when John Brisben Walker envisioned the geological phenomenon as a place for live music.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is much different than any other music venue in the world because it’s the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect outdoor theater ever. What creates this natural perfection are two 300 foot rock structures known as Ship Rock to the south and Creation Rock to the north. The amphitheater sits between these monoliths that date back 160 million years and contain dinosaur fossil fragments from the Jurassic period. Both are bigger than Niagra Falls. There’s also a rock structure behind the stage (east) known as Stage Rock. Besides the incredible rock formation, the amphitheater overlooks downtown Denver, which creates one of the most beautiful, picturesque views offered at a music venue.

The city of Denver purchased Red Rocks from Walker in 1928 and hired Denver architect, Burnham Hoyt to design the area into a music venue while including the preservation of the land’s natural elements as part of the transformation. The construction took 12 years but was well worth the finished product that has since attracted musical acts from all over the world.

The Beatles concert on August 26, 1964 is considered to be one of the first notable rock concert performances in Red Rocks history. Another notable performance was the Jethro Tull concert in 1971 which resulted in a 5 year ban of rock concerts at the venue. Fans without tickets to the event attempted to barge through police lines and throw rocks at officers resulting in the deployment of tear gas to control the riot, which eventually carried into the venue affecting all in attendance.

The unique venue attracts bands across music genres from rock to pop to electronic to jam bands. Many bands have recorded performances at the famous venue as well. It has also been used in film and television. Then, in 2015, it became a national landmark.

I’ve never had the pleasure of going to Red Rocks. I’ve actually never even been in Colorado. After I began traveling around the country for work though, I learned about Red Rocks and it’s been high on my list of venues to see/work at ever since. I’d be beyond honored to work an event in such a place and I’d even be more awestruck by seeing a concert there. I’m not even sure if I can imagine what it’s like to be there. It sounds like such a spectacular venue. I think it’s one of those places you have to experience to understand how special it is even if pictures and descriptions already convince you. It’s one of those places where a picture really doesn’t do it justice. If Red Rocks isn’t the definition of legendary venue, I don’t know what is. It’s legacy has spanned the test of time and it continues to be a favored venue of many bands and artists. It’s definitely a place that concert and music lovers need to experience at least once or even countless times.

Bishop Briggs

2017 is almost over. It’s been such a great year in so many ways. However there were two times I could’ve done something better. I realized I failed twice this year. The first time was with Glass Animals. I started listening to them after they played a bunch of festivals I worked at. Their tour dates were also sold out by then. I found out yesterday the second time I failed was with Bishop Briggs.

Last night I was going through a few pre-made Spotify playlists looking for new music and I decided to listen to a song called “Dream” by Bishop Briggs. I’d known her name since working Coachella back in April. While working at the festival, I was taking a few of our Safari guests to their desired location while we talked about music. I mentioned I thought that BANKS had such a draw at her set that she was too big to be performing at the Gobi Tent. I said she should have been on the Main Stage or the Outdoor Stage (both allow for more space). Then one of the guests agreed and said she thought the same thing about Bishop Briggs. Up until that point Bishop Briggs was just a name on the Coachella lineup to me. I told the guest I never listened to Bishop Briggs and she started talking about her and how great she was. I told her I’d check her out. I never really did until yesterday. Fail.

Sarah Grace McLaughlin, aka Bishop Briggs, is relatively new on the music scene first making her mark with the song “Wild Horses” in 2015, then under the name “BISHOP”. She changed her name to Bishop Briggs in 2016 to avoid any legal confrontation with a metal band by the same name. The name comes from the town where her Scottish parents are from in East Dunbartonshire, Scotland. She was born in London, England but spent her formative years growing up in Tokyo and Hong Kong, eventually moving to the U.S. to attend college in Los Angeles. She developed a love for music at a young age after performing in a karaoke bar when she was 4.

After being discovered by a former A&R rep. in 2015, Bishop Briggs gained popularity when “Wild Horses” appeared in an Acura commercial. In early 2016, she released her second single “River”. The song made Alternative charts on Billboard and iTunes as well as topping Spotify’s U.S. Viral 50 chart and reaching #2 on its Global Viral 50 chart. By late 2016 “Wild Horses” started climbing the charts. The song was featured on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart and Twitter Emerging Artists chart as well as iTunes Alternative charts.

She released 3 other singles last year which culminated in her first EP which was released in limited capacity as a vinyl on Record Store Day Black Friday 2016 and in full on April 14, 2017. The full self-titled EP also featured two unreleased songs. She also contributed the song, “Mercy”, to the xXx: Return of Xander Cage Soundtrack and collaborated with Cold War Kids on their song “So Tied Up”. She’s spent time on tours opening for Coldplay, Kaleo, and alt-J as well as playing some major music festivals this past summer. She’s currently on tour opening for Bleachers.

Briggs has described her music as being a trap-soul style. Her singing is dark, deep, and soulful. Her music is also considered to be part of the indie pop, alternative rock genres. I agree with all of these classifications. To me, her sound is comparable to BANKS, but their songs differ slightly too. Bishop Briggs almost has this indie folk type sound with deeper, scratchier vocals, whereas BANKS offers cleaner vocals with more of an electronic sound to her songs. Both sing with a powerful sound though and are alternative in their own rights.

I realized shortly before starting this blog that I listened to some of Bishop Briggs’ Panorama performance this summer. I remember thinking then that she was definitely good and I’d have to spend some time listening to her. I also was exposed to her from the Cold War Kids collaboration which I heard for the first time back in June. I loved the collab. Last night her newest single, “Dream”, is what made it click for me. I fell in love with the song immediately after hearing it for the first time. So I decided to listen to her other music along with playing “Dream” on repeat a few more times. I had so many opportunities to see her this past year that I never capitalized on and one opportunity where I didn’t appreciate her enough, similar to my Glass Animals experience, which was coincidentally at Panorama too. The good part about this though is that Bishop Briggs has yet to release her first full-length album, which usually means a headlining tour. So maybe I still have a chance? Until then though I’ll just keep playing “Dream” on repeat, listen to her other songs in there too, and hope for the best. Do yourself a favor and listen to her. But, unlike me, actually do it. “Dream” is fire and her other singles are pretty damn awesome too.

The Film Playlist: We Are Your Friends

While at my cousin’s house over the weekend, we watched another movie that easily makes The Film Playlist. It’s been a while since I wrote about a movie for this series so let me explain. The Film Playlist is a blog series I started about movies that are about music. It’s been about a year since I added anything to it, but as soon as we started watching We Are Your Friends this past weekend, I knew I had to write about it this week.

The 2015 drama stars Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, and Jonny Weston. It was written by Max Joseph and Meaghan Oppenheimer based off a story by Richard Silverman. Joseph also directed the film which marked his directorial debut. The movie is about an electronic music DJ named Cole Carter (Efron) who is trying to work his way up in the music industry. It’s also partly a coming of age story because Cole and his friends are young adults trying to figure out their lives in the midst of partying at night clubs, selling drugs, and being part of the electronic music scene. While booked to play a gig at a club one night, Cole meets the headliner, who was once a hot commodity in the electronic music world, James Reed (Bentley). Reed in a way becomes a mentor for Cole once he realizes his talent and helps Cole to understand how to create music that doesn’t sound like every other electronic song.

As soon as we started watching this film Friday night, I knew I would love it. The plot is average though. It’s nothing out of the ordinary or exceptional. I strictly loved it for the fact that it was about music and electronic music in particular. I’ve never seen another film that surrounds the electronic music scene. It was cool to see scenes about creating electronic music and also scenes featuring EDC Vegas, which is an electronic music festival done by one of the leading electronic festival promoters Insomniac Events. The soundtrack for the film was excellent. Its feature track “We Are Your Friends” by Justice featuring Simian is where the film got its title from. It also features songs by Years and Years with Gryffin, AlunaGeorge with Tchami, Seinabo Sey with Kygo and Deorro ft. Erin McCarley.

If you’re expecting an award winning film, that’s not what We Are Your Friends is. It’s really just a fictional coming of age film that surrounds the electronic music industry. If you’re at all into electronic music, I suggest you check it out. It’s a film you don’t have to think much about and can purely enjoy, especially if you have a love for music, especially electronic music.

Legendary Venues: The Stone Pony

The reason I started this Legendary Venue series was because I was scheduled to work a show at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. I was stoked about it because The Stone Pony is pretty well-known and because I’ve never been there. It’s is actually a street away from the Asbury Park boardwalk on the east coast of New Jersey. Originally the venue was a restaurant named Mrs. Jay’s. In the 1960’s the restaurant began allowing bands to perform, but after the restaurant moved to a new location in 1968 the building became dormant.

In February 1974 The Stone Pony opened its doors as a music venue. It was opened under the management of John P. “Jack” Roig and Robert “Butch” Pielka. The first year was rough for the new venue, but it was the “house bands” that kept the venue going. The first notable “house band” was The Blackberry Booze Band which later became Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, whose founding member Steve Van Zandt became a member of the E Street Band, the famous backers of rock and roll legend, Bruce Springsteen. Many other members of the E Street Band frequently played at The Stone Pony, including Springsteen himself. The venue is credited with giving Bruce Springsteen his rise to stardom. Springsteen has been known to drop by the Pony from time to time. He’s played there more than any other venue, yet none of his appearances are ever billed.

Before Sayreville native, Jon Bon Jovi, had the status he has now, he played some of his earliest gigs at The Stone Pony. Many other famed artists and bands have made stops at the venue during their prime as well, including Elvis Costello, KISS, The Allman Brothers, Blondie, The Ramones, The Replacements, and Patti Smith. It has also given the rise to local Jersey bands like The Bouncing Souls and Gaslight Anthem.

The Stone Pony went through periods of opening and closing, but in 2000 after it closed its doors, it was refurbished and reopened by an effort from the local community to keep the venue open for good. It was noted to be a staple, not only to the Asbury Park community, but to so many all over the country as a legendary music venue.

As you know by the fact that I was supposed to work a show there a few weeks ago, The Stone Pony still exists to this day on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Ocean Avenue in Asbury Park, NJ. Although I didn’t have a chance to work there recently because my position at the show was cancelled, I may have the chance to at least check it out from the outside next week since the venue for a show I’m working was recently changed from a place in Toms River, NJ to another venue in Asbury Park. I’ll definitely be stoked to check it out and if you ever have the chance to, you should too. You never know, you just might have the chance to hear Bruce Springsteen play some time since his appearances are never planned.