andrew mcmahon

2017….The Best Year of Music?

Coming back from two weeks in So Cal has been a bummer to say the least. With Coachella, sunshine, warmth, palm trees, new friends, old friends, etc., I’ve been in a withdrawal. It’s also tough to come up with weekly blog topics because I feel like I gave it my all for the past 3 months writing about Coachella bands. However, there’s one thing that’s helped with all of the sad feelings recently. It’s the constant stream of new music flooding in from a bunch of my favorite bands and artists. Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve lost count of how many of my faves have released new tunes. I had a realization this past week that 2017 is shaping up to be the best year for music, or at least new music so I figured I’d write about it and give you a little preview of what’s to come.

Obviously there’s a ton of bands and artists releasing new music this year, way more than I plan to write about. The acts I’m mentioning are some of my favorites. Some I’ve written about in the past already. Actually that’s a lie. I’ve written about almost all of them before. The first is someone who I haven’t talked about for a while, but she’s one of my all-time favorites of the past 6 years, Lana Del Rey.

Lana Del Rey released a new single in February called “Love”. Upon its release, she said her upcoming new music was inspired by her fans and the people who supported her throughout the years. “Love” was the first of the new releases to give back to them. Until February, Lana hadn’t released new music since 2015’s Honeymoon. Then while I was at Coachella she released another new single, “Lust for Life” featuring The Weeknd. She also confirmed a few weeks before the single’s release that her new album would also be entitled Lust for Life. Although no release date has been confirmed for the new album (EDIT: The new album will be out July 21st.), there’s rumors that it will feature a few other collaborations with the likes of Stevie Nicks and Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon.

Another artist with new music out this year is Lorde. I, of course, wrote about her as a Coachella preview, but it was before she put out her new material. Along with Lana Del Rey, Lorde was one of the first to put out music this year. In early March she dropped her single “Green Light”. Then a little over a week after that she performed another new single when she appeared on SNL, “Liability”. I loved “Green Light” the first time I heard it. It’s the kind of song that makes you want to get up and dance. It’s the Pure Heroine follow up hit that I was looking for from Lorde. It got me so hyped for her new album Melodrama, which I thought may come out before Coachella, but isn’t going to be released until June 16th. “Liability” is the complete opposite. The song is so raw and emotional. It’s not something I’ve ever heard from Lorde. It sounds more like something Adele would sing. I denounced the song immediately after I heard it, but then I heard it again live at Coachella. It was incredible. Not just the song, but the entire moment surrounding the festival and the two weeks I spent in California.

She performed Sunday night and I was only able to see her performance on Weekend 2, the final night of what was the most incredible festival-working experience I’ve had thus far. Lorde spoke to the crowd of probably close to 100,000 people as if she were in a tiny dive bar and explained how much the song meant to her. Then she went on to sing her newest piece of music with everyone who cared to join her amongst the beautiful night scene at Coachella with the cool breeze blowing and lit up palm trees swaying as the ferris wheel glowed in the background. I took in the moment with two new friends I met while working the festival focusing on Lorde, the entire setting, and my one friend almost in tears because the song affected her that much. It was epic enough to force me to give “Liability” a second chance and I haven’t stopped listening to it since.

Then I came back from California and within days there was new music from my favorite band, Foster the People. I’ve liked Foster the People for 6 years now. They were one of the first bands that I liked when I started getting into the indie rock scene (See here for the story). They haven’t released new music since 2014 and I’ve been craving something new from them for the last 2 years. On April 27th, the indie rock trio released III, a three song EP with songs from their upcoming album. I listened immediately and have been listening to the songs non-stop ever since, “Doing It For the Money” in particular. I feel like the new music combines that old Torches sound with the newer Supermodel sound to create this in-between to both albums giving fans the best of both worlds. For me, it’s almost impossible to top Torches. I still keep the album in my car and pop it into my CD player on occasion. It’s one of my favorite records of the modern era, but this new album (at least indicated by the EP) has shades of Torches that gets me hyped for its release. As of today, the title and release date have yet to be announced, but I read that it should be out in June or July.

On the same day that the world was blessed with three new Foster the People songs, Haim announced their upcoming sophomore album Something To Tell You and released a preview of the track “Right Now”. They also announced they would release a single from their upcoming album on May 3rd. Last summer when I saw Haim play at Lollapalooza they played a few of their new songs. I don’t remember what songs they played, but I do remember liking each one I heard. Each new song still maintained their signature sound. It got me excited for their new record and I’ve been anticipating it ever since. The album comes out July 7th, but until then we have the song “Want You Back” (the May 3rd single) to hold us over and any other new songs the sisters Haim decide to drop along the way.

alt-J is another band with a new album out this year. I really got into alt-J after seeing them perform at Coachella in 2015. My friends and I then saw them while they toured a few months later. Both shows were fantastic. alt-J released the first single, “3WW”, from their new record in the beginning of March. Then a few weeks later they released “In Cold Blood”. alt-J has always had this unique style of indie music and it’s again evident in their new music so far. Their new record Relaxer comes out on June 2nd.

If you thought five new records were enough, you haven’t been paying attention to music news because there’s a few more to be excited for. One of those is a record that doesn’t have a title or release date yet, but I expect it to be out later than the rest. I’m guessing it could be out any time between late summer and winter, but I’m so grateful for the two new songs that were just released this past Friday at midnight in anticipation of it. After announcing their reunion last winter and headlining festivals throughout 2016, LCD Soundsystem finally released new music! They played several shows at the opening of the new venue, Brooklyn Steel, in New York City last month and debuted both songs there. The songs “call the police” and “american dream” were also just performed by the band on SNL over the weekend. I haven’t had much of a chance to binge listen to the songs yet, but I can’t wait to listen on my road trips I have coming up this month. Both songs are different and yet so good. At this point, I think I’d feel that way about anything LCD Soundsystem puts out.

So those are all my favorites that have new albums coming out soon, but there’s also a few other good music acts that I like with new tunes on the way too. Halsey just released two singles over the last month from her new album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom due out in June. So far from the new releases, her album seems like it’ll be less dark than Badlands. Phoenix will be releasing their sixth album and first since 2013, Ti Amo, on June 9th. They just dropped the first single from the new record, “J-Boy”, on April 27th. Finally a band I recently previewed before Coachella, Oh Wonder, will be releasing their second album, Ultralife, on June 16th. Over my two weeks spent in Indio, my love for and desire to see Oh Wonder grew a little more (I couldn’t see them at Coachella). Now I’m definitely stoked for their follow-up to 2015’s debut self-titled masterpiece.

Along with all that’s to come this summer, several great bands that I like have already released new music this year. The xx just released I See You on January 13th. I missed them at Coachella, but I’ll be seeing them live next week! Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness released Zombies on Broadway on February 10th and his new record has some great jams that give off a brand new electronic feel not usually heard in Andrew McMahon music. Lastly and most recently, Cold War Kids just dropped their newest album L.A. Divine on April 7th.

In total that’s 12 new albums from bands I like, about half of those being my favorites. I’ve said recently that all I need is for Florence and the Machine to release a new album this year to really put that final piece in the puzzle. Even without them this year is shaping up to be one of if not the best in music! I’m stoked so you guys better get stoked too because there’s so much to listen to!

When I Say Shotgun, You Say Wedding

I’m always surprised when I hear about bands that I liked in high school still being relevant in the music world. I know most of those bands are still out there making music. Just because I don’t listen to their music or follow them anymore doesn’t mean they cease to exist. What really surprises me though is when those bands reach a level of success greater than the level I knew them at. For instance, take Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Sure, I guess I can argue that the band is new, but Andrew McMahon is no stranger to music. He was the front man for indie punk band Something Corporate and then for Jack’s Mannequin. He even sang about his SoCo life (“been around the world in a punk rock band”) in the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness hit “Cecilia and the Satellite”. Despite ventures with two different bands who were well-known in their respective scenes, he never bridged the mainstream gap until Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Now another band from my high school years has my attention.

I first heard about this band, by the name of Panic! at the Disco when I was a junior in high school. I got their debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which was released in September 2005, around the time I got my driver’s license. Their debut was the soundtrack to my early driving days where I gained and maintained the independence a driver’s license offers. It played as I drove to pick up friends, grab some Burger King, or take drives on a long strip of road in a nearby town known as The Ave.The first song of theirs that caught my attention was “Time to Dance”. I downloaded a demo version of the song that was different from the album version and received some attention from friends who recognized the distinction. I listened to both versions anyway and loved the rest of the songs too.

Panic! at the Disco was founded in 2004 by childhood friends, Ryan Ross and Spencer Smith, while they were still in high school in a suburb of Las Vegas, Nevada. They recruited friend, Brent Wilson to join and Wilson encouraged his classmate, Brendon Urie to join the band as well. Initially the group started out as a blink-182 cover band, but then they recorded three original songs. They decided to send Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz a link to their Purevolume account just for the hell of it, but the tables turned in their favor. Wentz liked what he heard. He met the band and asked them to sign with his very own Decaydence Records (now known as DCD2), an imprint of Fueled By Ramen, which Fall Out Boy was signed with. They signed with Wentz before even playing a live show, which came a few month before their first album was released.

Their debut album had a slow rise to the top, but in a way Panic! at the Disco needed that. They needed to learn how to be a band. They all recently graduated high school (aside from Ross who dropped out of college to focus on music) and were still young kids. In March of 2006, the band announced a headlining tour and by August of that year the album was certified platinum and their single “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” won Video of the Year at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. Pretty amazing for a bunch of teenagers right? However the Panic! at the Disco who had that crazy rise to fame isn’t the same Panic! at the Disco that exists today.

Over the past 11 years the band has had plenty of turnover. Lead vocalist, Brendon Urie is the only founding member still in the band. There’s various reasons for that though. Creative differences was one of the reasons. I totally understand this because the band’s sound has changed drastically from its debut album.

Their first record has an electronic dance punk sound. Their second record Pretty Odd, released on March 21, 2008, sounds like something you’d hear from the Beatles. It was a drastic change in sound. It was one that I, as a huge fan of their first album, wasn’t happy about. I remember looking forward to their sophomore album, but while listening to it for the first time I was confused as to who I was actually listening to because it didn’t sound like them at all. It resulted in my disinterest in the band from then on.

The band released 3 more albums since Pretty. Odd.: Vices & Virtues (2011), Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! (2013), and most recently Death of a Bachelor, which came out in January of 2016. Now Panic! at the Disco’s sound falls into the pop rock genre. I have to admit as a fan of early Panic! at the Disco, their most recent album sounds more like their debut than the second album did. The only consistent thing throughout their five albums is Urie’s signature vocals.

Now back to the first paragraph of this blog when I was saying how it surprises me when bands I used to listen to in high school reach a level of success greater than the one I knew them at. Yesterday I was looking at upcoming concerts on the Bandsintown app, my go-to app for upcoming concerts and music events. I was looking into Saint Motel’s future shows as an idea for a Christmas present for my mom who happens to be a Saint Motel fan. I saw they were playing a few shows next year nearby, but the shows were in arenas. For a band like Saint Motel, that’s not the norm. I figured they must be opening for someone so I did some research to see who they were opening for. Turns out they’re opening for Panic! at the Disco on their Death of a Bachelor Tour. I couldn’t believe it. Only a few of the shows are sold out (who knows if they’re true sell outs or not) as of right now, but it still floored me that this band is currently able to play arena sized venues especially since I haven’t heard of Panic! at the Disco making much noise since “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”. Actually, the last time Brendon Urie came into my life was over the past year at Coachella 2016 when he joined Halsey on stage as part of her set. Panic! at the Disco must be doing something right though, even if I haven’t noticed it.

If you’re interested in listening to this band, here are some of my favorite songs and a few other good ones by the band who got their name from The Smiths’ song “Panic”:

  1. Time to Dance
  2. The Only Difference Between Martydom and Suicide is Press Coverage
  3. I Write Sins Not Tragedies
  4. Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off
  5. Victorious
  6. But It’s Better If You Do
  7. Nine in the Afternoon

Warped

For 7 years from age 16 to age 22, I attended the Vans Warped Tour every summer. I remember finding out about Warped Tour when I was 15 from a friend in high school. It was at the time when I first discovered alternative music. Every year Warped Tour also releases a compilation album containing one song from every artist on that year’s tour. I became super interested in a few songs on the 2003 compilation that my friend had. That’s when she explained to me what the Vans Warped Tour was. I decided to purchase the 2003 compilation for myself and I was stoked to get the 2004 album upon its release (this was in the spring of 2004). More importantly I was extremely interested in going to Warped Tour that summer. Much to my dismay though, the tour wasn’t coming to my hometown. The closest venue that hosted the tour was 1 hour and 40 minutes away. At age 15, without a driver’s license and a car, it just wasn’t happening for me that summer. When the 2005 dates were announced a few months after the 2004 tour finished, I was pumped. The Vans Warped Tour was coming to my local concert venue and there was no way I was missing it.

Warped Tour began in 1995 as a skate punk/ska festival. It was founded by Kevin Lyman. In 1996, the skate shoe manufacturer and clothing brand, Vans, became the tour’s main sponsor. The Vans Warped Tour is the longest running touring festival in North America and the largest touring festival in the United States. In the late 90’s, the tour even went overseas to play dates in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and Europe. It returned overseas to play a date in London in 2012 and again in 2015. Through the years, Warped Tour expanded on its music genres to include pop-punk, hardcore, emo, screamo, metalcore, and even some hip-hop and pop bands and artists. Many bands like Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, and Paramore, got their start on the Warped Tour. There’s even one notable pop artist who got her start on Warped Tour, but I’ll tell you more about it as you read on. It’s been said that Warped Tour is an initiation of sorts for bands because its a non-stop, all day touring event with many other bands that goes across the country over the entire summer. It’s intense to say the least, but from what I hear, tons of fun too. From the perspective of an attendee, it’s also fun for the festival-goers.

I attended my first Warped Tour in 2005.  I went with two friends and my mom because of course at age 16 I clearly wasn’t old enough to attend a music event with a chaperone (*sarcasm*). I also didn’t have my driver’s license by then so it worked out to have her as a ride. One thing different about Warped Tour compared to other music festivals is that you never know the lineup until the day of the festival. When you arrive you have to locate the giant board of set times and make a list of when and where your favorite bands are playing. It was always the craziest part of the day because everyone goes to that board upon entry. It gets so crowded on the way to there. At least I knew about the board in advance in 2005 despite being a Warped Tour rookie. That year I saw Fall Out Boy (only some of their set because Relient K overlapped), Relient K, The Offspring, and The Starting Line. I also planned to see Something Corporate, but they cancelled all their dates. It was the year their lead singer, Andrew McMahon (now of Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness and formerly of Jack’s Mannequin too), was diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment. I still had the best time and knew from then on I would be making Warped Tour an annual event in my life.

I had some amazing times throughout 7 Warped Tours. I saw tons of my favorite bands play, sang my lungs out, skanked in skanking circles (ska music), considered crowd-surfing (although I never actually did), drank overpriced water and gatorade (hydration was always important), was involved in a torrential downpour, and even saw Katy Perry play. Yeah that’s right Katy Perry played Warped Tour in 2008! Told you I’d tell you more about that pop star who got her start on Warped Tour. Well, it was Katy Perry. It was while she had the “I Kissed a Girl” single out. My friends and I were resting and talking in the amphitheater a decent length away from the stage where a performance was happening and all of sudden I heard the “I Kissed a Girl” song. We realized we were relaxing during Katy Perry’s set. We watched the rest of the song, which happened to be her last one. Thinking back on it now, it’s kind of crazy to be able to say I saw Katy Perry play Warped Tour given the level of popularity she’s reached, but I did. It happened.

I could go on about Warped Tour. My memories of the festival are countless. I could tell you about the time I skipped The Bouncing Souls set for Four Year Strong and missed the first words to “Lean On Sheena” getting screamed in my friends’ faces (it was our song), or watching Hellogoodbye and all their friends parade around in costumes during their set, or skanking to my favorite Less Than Jake song in a giant skanking circle. One year a friend who I attended with asked me if I thought we would still attend Warped Tour as we got into our 20’s and 30’s like some of the older people we would see at the festival. My response was something along the lines of, “Hell yeah! Why wouldn’t we?” At the time, I never thought I’d stop liking Warped Tour style music or wanting to attend the festival. I guess I was wrong about that though.

I attended yearly through 2011. I almost went in 2012 as well but decided against it because I didn’t feel like getting rained on again in the festival like I did in 2008 (plus I would have been going alone). That ended my 7 year Warped Tour run and I haven’t been back since. The reason being is that I stopped listening to the type of bands that play Warped Tour. I grew and so did my music interests. The last year I attended I could tell it was already happening. There were less and less bands I was interested in seeing. My focus instead became attending festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, or Bonnaroo, ones that played the kind of music I was listening to. Warped Tour was my first festival though (“you never forget your first”). It was also my second, third, fourth, and so on. It prepped me for future festivals and gave me plenty of amazing music experiences a long the way. It also gave me many memories with friends who I attended with and met up with at the festival throughout my years of attending. It was the summer event to attend while I was in high school and college. For all those reasons, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

If you’re interested in attending Warped Tour this year or checking out some bands playing the festival, head to the Vans Warped Tour website. Since this isn’t one specific band that plays the Warped Tour and therefore I can’t leave you a list of songs to check out, here’s a few links to some of my favorite Warped Tour performances and some pictures I took during my years attending the event.

“Rooftops” by Mest, Warped Tour 2003 (Also one of my all-time favorite songs.)

“The Words ‘Best Friend’ Becomes Redefined” by Chiodos, Warped Tour 2009

“I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry, Warped Tour 2008

“Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fall Out Boy, Warped Tour 2005

“Bada Bing! Wit’ a Pipe!” by Four Year Strong, Warped Tour 2010

“Devotion and Desire” by Bayside, Warped Tour 2009

 

 

 

Coachella 2015 Recap

It’s with great pride and pleasure that I can now say I’ve lost my Coachella virginity. As you know, if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, I was beyond stoked to go to the epic three day festival in Indio, CA. Now that I’ve been there though, it’s difficult to put into words just how special it is. The atmosphere is filled with the best vibes imaginable. It’s incredibly relaxed (possibly due to all the pot smoking). People are in good moods (mostly…I ran into a girl who seemed a little angry the last day before the Florence and the Machine set when I put my hand on the bar she was going to lean on). The bands and artists bring their best performances because they’re just as excited to be there as everyone else. The artwork is innovative. The food, although overpriced, is delicious and there are plenty of options to choose from. The setting makes it though. It’s so beautiful. Palm trees line the polo fields with vast mountains in the background as the signature ferris wheel from the California State Fair rotates giving riders the ultimate view of the festival. It’s incredible and it’s difficult to appreciate when you’re there since you want to catch as much music as possible. That’s really the most important thing about Coachella. It’s about the music. Without it, Coachella wouldn’t exist. Everything else is extra. Fortunately I only experienced a few conflicts but I made it work so that I was able to catch at least part of, if not all of the sets I wanted to see.

On Friday, I planned to see Angus & Julia Stone, Alabama Shakes, Tame Impala, and AC/DC. My cousin (she attended with me) and I got to the festival early the first day to do a bit of exploring before the Angus & Julia Stone set in the late afternoon. We rode the ferris wheel, got some merch, checked out the stages, saw the artwork, and relaxed in the field before the set. Angus & Julia Stone play mellow indie music so the set was very laid back. A lot of people were sitting and relaxing while they listened. We were too.

Alabama Shakes hit the Outdoor Stage just as the sun was setting. Brittany Howard brought the house down with her powerful vocals. I was a little disappointed the band didn’t play my favorite song (“Hold On”) but they did debut some new material from their soon to be released album Sound & Color (April 20th on iTunes, in stores April 21st). Either way they killed it.

Tame Impala hit the main stage right before Friday night headliner, AC/DC. The crowd really started buzzing when they launched into their hits “Elephant” and “Feels Like It Only Goes Backwards”. They also debuted some new tunes at the festival and the crowd was totally loving it.

AC/DC closed out Friday with a mixture of new tunes and old favorites. We were spent by the time AC/DC started and only ended up staying for half the set. They put on a great show though. I heard some of my favorites like Back in Black, Thunderstruck, and You Shook Me All Night Long. I was even singing along to the faint sounds of T.N.T. as we made our way to the shuttles. I was glad I had the opportunity to see them live.

On Saturday with the reminders of how tired we were, how late we got to bed, how much cell phone charge we had left by the end of the night (the charging stations didn’t work…such false advertising), and by the desire to sample local eats, we decided to head to the festival about 2 hours later than we did on Friday. We were both more pumped for Saturday’s planned lineup which featured Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Milky Chance, Jungle, Belle and Sebastian, alt-J, and Jack White because there was less waiting time in between sets (we had lot on Friday and we were getting antsy). After a longer than planned ride/entrance to the festival due to security reasons, we made it in with a little over a half hour to spare before Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness took over the Outdoor Stage. We grabbed some drinks and headed over there. Upon arrival, the crowd was small. It was so small that I could have managed being in what would be considered the second row. It was hot though so I was fine with hanging back a bit. By the set time more people had come in behind me, but unlike some sets I went to on Sunday there was enough room to breathe.

His set was one of my favorites of the entire weekend. He engaged the crowd and you could tell just how excited he was to play Coachella (he stated it as well but he didn’t even need to). He included a Jack’s Mannequin song (“Dark Blue”) and a Something Corporate song (“I Woke Up in a Car”) in the set which were both favorites among the small crowd who sang along with vigor. Then he followed up with their single “Cecilia and the Satellite”. At some point during the set large balloons were brought out and members of  the Andrew McMahon team held them in the crowd. Near the end of the set (it might have been during “Cecilia and the Satellite), the balloons popped and confetti was released from them. It was such a fun moment and added to the already enjoyable performance. I think the most memorable part came during the last song when gym class parachutes were given to and held by the crowd and Andrew came off the stage and sang with everyone standing under them. The set was a great way to kick off my Day 2 and left me pumped for the rest of the evening.

Next on the list was Milky Chance. We could only stay for some of the set because Jungle overlapped slightly. I wanted to make it to the Jungle set to get a good spot. I only knew two songs they played including the one everyone knows, “Stolen Dance”. We were able to hear both but I thought the performance of “Stolen Dance” wasn’t as great as I had hoped. They only sang the verses of the song. When the chorus came around Clemens Rehbein (vocals) left it up to the crowd. However the crowd wasn’t large enough to get the desired effect of everyone singing along. From where we were standing all you could hear was the music. It was disappointing so we left for Jungle.

Jungle’s set was jam packed with songs off their debut album. The crowd danced and sang along to their funk inspired sound. A favorite amongst everyone in attendance was “Burnin’ Easy”. It got the flower headband wearing hippies moving. Their final song “Time” had the same effect.

Shortly after Jungle finished, Belle and Sebastian began their Coachella set. We only stayed for a few songs because I knew we needed to be at Main Stage early for alt-J. Belle and Sebastian were a perfect example of an indie band playing the festival. Their songs are both mellow and upbeat. It’s not the type of music you’d necessarily bounce around and shake your head furiously to. It’s the stuff you would sway your body around to, which was what the audience did to the few songs we heard. I read the band played a lot of good hits near the end of the set (the part we missed) and the crowd was really into it, but I think the spot for alt-J was worth it.

We ended up with a spot on the barrier next to the V.I.P. area, which allowed for a celebrity sighting during the set (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul), but it was also close enough to be in the thickness of fans. Alt-J opened with “Hunger of the Pine” (Miley didn’t show much to my displeasure) and had the crowd bumping the whole time to a mixture of songs off both An Awesome Wave and This Is All Yours. Of course the most pleasurable reactions came from current hit “Left Hand Free” and closing/well-known song “Breezeblocks”. It was another favorite set of the day for me.

Jack White took the stage after alt-J. His performance and talent on the guitar was unreal. It began to my surprise with a White Stripes song, “Icky Thump”. His whole set included a bunch of White Stripes songs including the last song “Seven Nation Army” which had the crowd chanting “O-O-O-O-O-O” at one point when they cut the music during the song. The set wasn’t all White Stripes of course and had songs like “Lazaretto”, “Love Interruption”, “High Ball Stepper”, “Would You Fight For My Love?”, “The Black Bat Licorice”, and “Sixteen Saltines”. Jack White’s beliefs and passion for music were evident through what he spoke about in between songs. He was my favorite headliner. We were able to see the entirety of the set since his time slot was pushed down in favor of the Weeknd closing out Saturday night. I’m glad it was.

Sunday was the busiest day of the festival for us. It was the only day with conflicting set times. The biggest one was deciding between RAC and St. Lucia (St. Lucia started 15 minutes after RAC). Since I had listened to RAC more in prep for Coachella and because my cousin also likes one of their songs, we went with RAC (although still managed to make it to the Main Stage for the last 2 St. Lucia songs). They were also first on the list for Sunday. Like the day before, we decided to head to the festival around the same time since we needed to check into our flight around 1 and wanted to try a pizza place for lunch about 2 blocks from our hotel (it was better to only eat once or so at the festival since it was overpriced). Because of that, I missed the Night Terrors of 1927 and Saint Motel sets. It would have been nice to check those guys out but it wasn’t a necessity since I don’t know that much of their stuff anyway (two good bands nonetheless).

RAC’s set was a blast. They played all my favorites off their album Strangers including “Tear You Down”, “All I Got”, “Hollywood” which special guest Penguin Prison came out to perform, and “Cheap Sunglasses”. It did surprise me that RAC only had one special guest since Matthew Koma performed on Saturday and could have easily made an appearance. Unfortunately St. Lucia couldn’t join them for the song they collaborated on because they were playing at the same time. Still, it was a great set and I was dancing and singing along the whole time.

After RAC we rushed over to hear the end of St. Lucia’s set. We heard “September” and “Elevate”, both were good so I’m sure the rest was great too. I think seeing either band (RAC or St. Lucia) would have been comparable as far as enjoyment level goes for me, but I got a little of both with the choice I made.

My cousin decided she wanted to hear Vance Joy’s set so on the way over I caught one song by Conor Oberst and his punk band Desaparecidos. I didn’t even recognize Oberst as he looks way different now than he did as the dark haired, emo Bright Eyes front man. The set also attracted a smaller crowd and would have been fun to attend if it didn’t overlap with others.

While waiting for Vance Joy to come out, the Mojave stage got super crowded. After he played one song my cousin decided she’d rather get out of the tight bunch of people and listen from a more comfortable spot. I agreed. Vance Joy could have easily been an Outdoor or Main Stage performer as his set attracted an overflow of people from the covered Mojave. I tried to listen to Vance Joy in preparation for the event but I wasn’t feeling his music. I like “Riptide” but beyond that it wasn’t my vibe. I guess it wasn’t my cousin’s either so we listened as we “Coachilled” (A Coachella term meaning to sit and relax) from a spot just outside the crowd and tented stage. We sang along with “Riptide” as Vance Joy closed out his set then made our way back to the stage as the crowd filtered out. Brand New was on next.

I was hyped for Brand New. I decided I wanted to be closer than the previous times we saw bands on the Mojave stage. I was so ready to go hard to one of my favorite high school bands. To my dismay though, Brand New’s set was mostly songs off the two most recent albums Daisy and The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me (my two least favorite Brand New albums). I planned on going so hard to all the Brand New songs but it didn’t work out that way. However, when the beginning of “Sic Transit Gloria” started and the whole crowd let out a scream, I did as well. Everyone belted out the Deja Entendu classic. That was followed by “Okay I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t” another favorite amongst the crowd (I went so hard). It seemed like those two songs along with “Jesus Christ” and “Sowing Season (Yeah)” got the biggest crowd reaction (they closed out the show with those two along with “Degausser” in between). The set featured no songs from “Your Favorite Weapon”. I think because of my high hopes for that I was disappointed and found the set less enjoyable than expected. Don’t get me wrong the set was great and everyone there was dancing hard while screaming out the lyrics to their favorite songs, but from my perspective, it was disappointing.

St. Vincent was next on my list for the day followed by Florence and the Machine (one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend). We saw St. Vincent perform a few songs. “Digital Witness” was one of them, but once I noticed Kaskade finished his extremely popular set on the main stage (which was right by the stage St. Vincent performed at) we headed there to get a good spot for Florence.

My cousin’s back was sore so I told her to sit in the back next to a speaker pole (A9 to be exact) while I made my way closer to the stage. It was a difficult task. I planned to try to go to the opposite side of the stage from where we were for alt-J, but with the amount of people it didn’t work out like that. I was near the same spot I was at for alt-J (near the V.I.P. area). It was so cramped. A girl was annoyed that I tried to “steal her spot”. To be fair I left enough room for her to stand near the bar where we were, but she just didn’t want to share. It was dark by then. The V.I.P. area filled up too so it was difficult to see if anyone famous was hanging out, which I’m sure there was. When Florence and the Machine took the stage, I couldn’t see anything. All I saw was the big screen which showed what I could’ve easily watched at home on YouTube. I made the decision to leave the cramped spot during the second song “What Kind of Man” (she opened with “What the Water Gave Me”). Cell reception was at its worst of the weekend so I had a hard time figuring out where my cousin was (she was not at pole A9). I visually missed a large chunk of the set because I was looking for her. I did stop to watch at times though. It was just a difficult moment. We finally reunited (she was at pole A7) and I was able to watch the end of the set which included new song “Ship to Wreck”, “Shake It Out”, and “Dog Days Are Over”. Singing and dancing along to “Shake It Out” and “Dog Days..” made up for lost time. During “Dog Days..” she had the crowd embrace each other, take off an article of clothing and wave it around, and jump up and down, which she took part in as well (She took off her shirt. It was wild!). If it weren’t for all my issues during the set (being cramped and losing my cousin) I would have fully enjoyed it. Everything I saw of it was amazing. Florence and the Machine put on a hell of a live performance. I’d love to see them again in a more intimate capacity (you know just a Florence show rather than at a festival).

The last set of the night was Drake (my cousin’s choice and I figured “Hey I’ll see him just to say I saw him” because Drake is not my type of music). His set started a half hour late. I knew zero songs. My cousin knew one which he only sang/rapped part of. We left around 11 which was 15 minutes or so after it started. We missed the whole Madonna thing. It wasn’t a big deal to us though. The best part of the Drake set for me was his pre-show playlist. It included Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” which got the whole crowd going. Back in the day when I liked rap and Eminem, I used to listen to the song before every 8th grade basketball game so it was fun to sing/rap to again.

Leaving the venue during the Drake set concluded my first Coachella experience. Like I said it was incredible. I feel so blessed to have gone and experienced it. I would recommend it to anyone to attend. Sure there are other huge similar style festivals like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and now even Firefly, but there’s something special about Coachella. Maybe it’s the atmosphere or maybe it’s the hype with the parties and fashion and tons of celebrities that go every year. No matter the reason, it was a dream experience. For me, it was the music. It’s always the music. To quote something Jack White said during his set, “I hope you realize for a few seconds every day that music is scared. That music is sacred! That music is sacred! That music is sacred!” I agree Jack. So whether it be Coachella or any concert or festival or radio station or CD or record or ipod/iphone playlist, let’s remember that. Music is sacred.

 

 

Coachella Band Preview: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

10 days til Coachella! Yes I said it. It’s almost here. I fly out in a little over a week and the anticipation is killing me. I’m beyond stoked. I’ll probably have one more festival blog post between now and then, but this is it. Home stretch. If you haven’t been listening to any of the bands playing the festival, now is the time to cram. This band I’m about to preview is one of those smaller festival sets that you might not have heard of yet. Maybe you have though. If you’re like me and grew up with the punk/emo/indie/alternative scene in the early to mid-00’s, you may very well know the name of this guy who is responsible for Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. His name is Andrew McMahon (duh).

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is the solo project of former Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin front man, Andrew McMahon. Compared to both of those bands Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness sounds a lot like Jack’s Mannequin’s pop rock, piano rock style but with a slight indie sound as well (Something Corporate was more pop punk). Even though the sound is similar to Jack’s Mannequin, the lyrics represent a different time period in this artist’s life. Jack’s Mannequin songs were more about breaking free, dealing with the struggles life brings, and then rising above them. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness’s first single “Cecelia and the Satellite” is about McMahon’s daughter who was born in February 2014. The music in this new band is a lyrical progression of his life. The band’s debut self-titled album was just released in October (2014). McMahon has since been playing venues around the country in promotion of his new band and album. He’s also playing a bunch of festivals and events this summer with a few solo dates mixed in. To get a full history on this new project though, you really have to understand where he started.

Vocalist and pianist, Andrew McMahon, along with bassist, Kevin Page, drummer, Brian Ireland, and guitarists, Josh Partington and Reuben Hernandez (later replaced by William Tell) formed Something Corporate in 1998. Through their time as a band the group released three albums, Ready… Break (2000), Leaving Through the Window (2002), and North (2003). By 2004-2005 the pop-punk band decided to go on hiatus with a promise that the break wasn’t an end to the group (the band played a few shows together at various times since their hiatus began and had a reunion tour in 2010 but did not release any new material since North). During the break, McMahon took the time to work on his side project Jack’s Mannequin, but life had other plans for the musician.

While on tour in 2005, McMahon woke up one morning with an inability to speak, so he went to the doctor to get checked out. After getting some tests done, McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was 22. That summer tours were cancelled and he went through intense cancer treatments. The day Jack’s Mannequin’s debut album, Everything in Transit, was released, McMahon received a stem cell transplant from his sister Katie. The album sold 25,000 copies in its first week. By December, McMahon had made a full recovery and played his first show in 6 months. Jack’s Mannequin released two more albums The Glass Passenger (2008) and People and Things (2011), but by 2012 McMahon was ready to close the door on Jack’s and that time period of his life.

Now flashback to late 2003 when I still listened to the radio and pop music. I was a freshman in high school and had yet to hear of bands like Dashboard Confessional, Brand New, and Taking Back Sunday. One of my friends told me about this song I should listen to that she heard about from this boy she liked for several months called “Punk Rock Princess” by a band called Something Corporate. I listened and got into the song for the sake of my friend. Sometime after that though, within the next year to be precise, I really started listening to Something Corporate. Sure it might have been after the whole Dashboard discovery, but still. I purchased Leaving Through the Window and fell in love with songs like “Hurricane” (one of my favorite songs of all time), “Cavanaugh Park”, and “I Woke Up in A Car”. I got North around fall/winter of 2004 and fell more in love with the band with songs like “She Paints Me Blue”, “Ruthless”, “21 and Invincible”, and “Space”.

When Warped Tour announced in 2005 that they were coming to my area, I had all intentions of going. I had heard about the festival for the past year and was super excited to be able to experience it. I was even more excited when I found out Something Corporate was on the tour and playing my date. Unfortunately, that was 2005, the same year McMahon was diagnosed with leukemia and SoCo cancelled their Warped Tour dates. I was bummed because Something Corporate played a show near me in the spring of 2005, but I had missed out on it. That summer at my first Warped Tour, I remember there was a Jack’s Mannequin merch table that I guess stayed on the tour after SoCo announced they wouldn’t be playing. It was promoting the new album due out a few weeks later (my date was in early August). I ended up buying a t-shirt from them. I also bought Everything In Transit upon its release and loved it (although not as much as those SoCo albums). Three years later I finally saw Andrew McMahon perform as part of the annual spring concert at my college. He was still with Jack’s Mannequin, but of course the show didn’t go without a few Something Corporate songs. After that, I really didn’t follow Jack’s Mannequin or Andrew McMahon as much. Only within the last year when Andrew began touring with his new band did I find out what he had been up to.

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness plays both Saturdays at Coachella 2015. Seeing this new Andrew McMahon band at Coachella would be another case of nostalgia for me (like with Brand New). However, since the opportunity to see him again has presented itself, I may as well take advantage of it (just like I hopefully plan on doing with Brand New). If other bands I want to see play at the same time, I might have to pass. If not though, I’ll definitely be at the Andrew McMahon set. I’m guessing the set won’t just be songs off the self-titled album either. There will probably be some Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate songs thrown in the mix. I’ll cross my fingers for “Konstantine” (one can only hope). I have listened to his new stuff though and it’s good so either way I know I’ll enjoy it. If you check him out, hopefully you will too (even if he is a dad now and doesn’t still spell confusion with a “k”).

Song recommendations:

1. Cecelia and the Satellite

2. Canyon Moon

3. High Dive

4. Halls

5. Black and White Movies

(Just in case you really want to be prepared…Something Corporate recommendations:

1. Hurricane

2. Space

3. Konstantine

4. The Astronaut

5. I Woke Up In A Car

AND…. Jack’s Mannequin recommendations:

1. The Mixed Tape

2. Holiday From Real

3. Dark Blue

4. Bruised

5. Kill the Messenger)

 

2015 Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival Lineup Release

With the new year upon us, only a few months remain until spring and summer. What seems to have become a bigger deal in recent years during these seasons at least according to my perspective are music festivals. I mean up until 4 years ago or so all I knew of was the Vans Warped Tour (travels all over the country) which I had attended from 2005-2011 and the Bamboozle Festival in New Jersey, which is no longer in existence. Apparently musical festivals, a lot of which last several days, are a big deal.

Some of the biggest in the country are Lollapalooza in Chicago, Illinois, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, and Coachella in Indio, California. Of course if you want to get global we could also include Glastonbury in England. On the east coast (where I reside), Firefly (Dover, Delaware) and Governor’s Ball (New York, New York) seem to be getting some acclaim. On the west coast, I’ve heard some pretty good things about Sasquatch (Gorge, Washington). Then again, there’s plenty of other festivals for specific types of music as well.

When it comes to all these festivals, those who look forward to attending anticipate the lineup announcements, and for those who plan on attending Coachella, the lineup was released 2 days ago. Since Coachella is probably the biggest and most acclaimed festival in the U.S., I just wanted to take the time to feature the lineup.  It’s also pretty important to me because for the first time ever I will be attending the festival during Weekend 1 (yes this festival got so big it is now two consecutive weekends) and I want to discuss what I expect from the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival 2015.

The Headliners: AC/DC, Jack White, Drake

These headliners are always front of the rumor mill for weeks leading up to the lineup announcement. With this lineup of headliners and often with Coachella headliners we’re given a blend of different types of artists. AC/DC is old-school, classic rock. From what I’ve read this may be one of the last times they even play a show together, so it’s bound to be a special experience. Plus it’s a guarantee that everyone knows their songs and will gladly sing along as they shred Friday night in the desert. This will be Jack White’s first time playing as a solo artist at Coachella (he played as a member of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather). He’s also a rock guy and with being a well-known musician, plus the success of Lazaretto he seemed destined to headline the event. Lastly, rap artist, Drake, will be closing out the list of headliners Sunday night. As stated, Coachella seems to get many music styles in their yearly lineups. Having big name rappers headline the festival is nothing new (Kanye West, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre have previously headlined) but being given a top spot for a rapper is quite the honor. His set is already being referred to as one of the most highly anticipated sets of the weekend. With Drake’s success, I’m sure he won’t disappoint.

The Other Highly Billed Performers (aka the next 2 lines on each day of the poster): Tame Impala, Interpol, Steely Dan, Alesso, Alabama Shakes, Ride, Nero, the Weeknd, Axwell ^ Ingrosso, alt-J, Belle & Sebastian, Ratatat, Hozier, Florence & the Machine, Kaskade, Ryan Adams, David Guetta, St. Vincent, Azealia Banks, Flying Lotus, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, Lykke Li, DJ Snake, Porter Robinson, Caribou, Flosstradamus, Bad Religion, SBTRKT, FKA Twigs, Tyler the Creator, Father John Misty, the War on Drugs, Deorro, Marina and the Diamonds, Fitz and the Tantrums, Brand New, Madeon, Stromae, Kygo, Odesza, Gesaffelstein, RAC, Lil B

Obviously I can’t go into discussion about each of these bands, but as I stated twice already, Coachella puts a lineup together of all different styles of music and this year is no different. I do have to mention Steely Dan and Ride, which along with AC/DC make up some pretty old acts. Out of this group I’m most looking forward to Alabama Shakes, alt-J, Belle & Sebastian, Florence & the Machine, St. Vincent, RAC, and Brand New. I’d also be interested in checking out Ride (I really know nothing except for “Vapour Trail” because of The Perks of Being A Wallflower (the book)), Hozier (will definitely check them out if there’s time because it’ll be a fun set, but I did see them last year at the Sweetlife Festival and they’re not high on my list of faves), Bad Religion (I don’t know too much of their stuff but another old school band I listened to in college on occasion), Father John Misty (I just wanna hear “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”), Fitz and the Tantrums (good band but like Hozier I saw them at Sweetlife), and Tame Impala (they’re alright and I own an album, but again not one of my faves).

2-3 years ago I was pretty hyped on Alabama Shakes so I’m looking forward to their set and hearing Brittany Howard kill the vocals. I just got alt-J’s latest album on vinyl and I’ve been a fan of a selection of their songs for a couple years. Belle & Sebastian have been around for awhile. I passed up the opportunity to seem them in Pittsburgh last summer and I’m kind of looking forward to singing along to “Boy with the Arab Strap”. Out of all the bands playing I think I’m looking forward to seeing Florence & the Machine the most. Florence Welch has some insane pipes. I have both of their albums on vinyl and with a third coming out soon, it looks like I’ll have to make that purchase before I fly out to SoCal. I’m not a huge St. Vincent fan but it’s mostly because I haven’t really listened to a ton of her music. I know a few songs and I really enjoy those so I’m gonna have to prep for this one. I still like her enough to add her to my list of most anticipated acts. I was hooked on the song “Cheap Sunglasses” by RAC this past summer and I downloaded a few other songs since then. I plan on learning more in the three months until Coachella so I’m ready for what I think will be a fun set. Finally, Brand New. I could make a whole post about Brand New and I probably will at some point. I’ve liked Brand New since I was 15 years old. Since my second musical enlightenment (refer back to the post about that), I’ve fallen out of listening to them (unless I feel like playing some “Seventy Times Seven” to myself on guitar). I’ve seen them three times already and enjoyed each experience. Out of all the bands playing Coachella though, I know the most songs by Brand New. It’ll definitely be a throwback for me and I guarantee everyone at that set will most likely be feeling the same nostalgia I’ll feel. It’s gonna be fun.

The Rest: Caribou, Todd Terje and the Olsens, Angus & Julia Stone, Hot Natured, George Ezra, Squarepusher, Kiesza, Action Bronson, Gorgon City, Reverend Horton Heat, Sylvan Esso, Kimbra, Vic Mensa, Erol Alkan, Kele, Cloud Nothings, Keys N Krates, MK, Pete Tong, Ab-Soul, Haerts, Eagulls, Allah-Las, Alvin Risk, Chris Malinchak, Jon Hopkins, Oliver Heldens, Ryan Hemsworth, Jason Bentley, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Marques Wyatt, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Los Rakas, Run the Jewels, Tycho, Chet Faker, Kasabian, Drive Like Jehu, Swans, Milky Chance, Toro y Moi, Jungle, New World Punx, Clean Bandit, Glass Animals, Royal Blood, Alison Wonderland, the Gaslamp Killer Experience, Loco Dice, Danny Tenaglia, Antemasque, Parquet Courts, Gramatik, Lights, What So Not, Yellow Claw, DJ Harvey, Tale of Us, Yelle, Andrew McMahon, Carl Graig, Phox, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Cashmere Cat, Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich + Fussible, Tourist, Benjamin Booker, Matthew Koma, Perfume Genius, Jamestown Revival, Bad Suns, Ruen Brothers, Bixel Boys, Andrea Olivia, Ryn Weaver, Radkey, Coasts, Until the Ribbon Breaks, Circa Survive, Jenny Lewis, Desaparecidos, Jamie xx, Martin Solveig, Duke Dumont, Mac DeMarco, Vance Joy, Built to Spill, J.E.S.&S (Jack Master, Eats Everything, Skream & Seth Troxler), Panda Bear, Kaytranada, R3hab, St. Lucia, Dirty South, OFF!, Charles Bradley, Philip Selway, Cedric Gervais, Claude Von Stroke, Touché Amoré, Joyce Manor, Angel Olsen, John Talabot, Tiger and Woods, Dubfire, Sturgill Simpson, Annie Mac, Chicano Batman, MØ, Sloan, Doc Martin, Saint Motel, The Orwells, The Cribs, tINI, Ben Klock, Night Terrors of 1927

Some of the bands listed here might also be considered highly billed as well but I just listed everything in poster order priority. Out of this group, I’d like to see Angus & Julia Stone, Milky Chance, Jungle, Desaparecidos, Vance Joy, St. Lucia, and Andrew McMahon. Even though they’re not listed as a top performer, I really like St. Lucia and I missed them at Sweetlife last year because I was trying to secure a good spot for Lana Del Rey. I just received their album on vinyl for Christmas and I love it so I’m definitely making these guys a priority. Next on the priority list from this group of bands is Desaparecidos which I never listened to/heard of until today (listening as I write this actually). I’m kind of upset I haven’t because they’re a side project band of the all too well-known Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. I always thought it would be cool to see Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes and I don’t plan on missing out at my opportunity. Count the rest of the bands I listed above as ones I would see if there was time/nothing else going on. It’s not like Andrew McMahon is going to play a bunch of Something Corporate songs for me to jam to (although “Konstantine” would be devine), I only know the most well-known song by both Milky Chance and Vance Joy, and Angus & Julia Stone are great to listen to on a long drive but I only know a few songs and they’re not one of my favorites. Jungle is borderline. It depends how much I listen to them in the coming months/how much I enjoy listening to them but I do really love the song “Time”.

As far as this lineup goes, I think it could be better based on my own tastes (I liked last year’s lineup a lot). However, I still feel fortunate that I’m going and get to experience what Coachella is all about. Who knows though. There might be other bands I check out and end up loving that I add to my list of bands I want to see when I attend this epic 3 day extravaganza with my awesome cousin, Kelly, who agreed to go with me. You can bet I’ll be prepping for the next 3 months and you can also expect a review of my experience/the bands post-festival. Please feel free to comment with any bands you think I would like or should listen to because I’m all about good prep suggestions. The countdown to this famed festival got real with the lineup release Tuesday, and I can’t believe I actually get to be there instead of watching the stream on my computer this year. Until then, it’s music prep time. See you in the desert!