california

Coachella Band Preview: Lady Gaga

If you’re reading this, I doubt you’re confused by the title of my blog because you probably know a thing or two about what happened regarding Coachella over the past week. In case you are confused though, let me explain.

As you know from the lineup announcement in the beginning of January, Lady Gaga was not on it. However, a month after the lineup dropped, Beyoncé made a public announcement that she was pregnant with twins. This started some speculation that she might not play Coachella. At the time of the announcement though, it seemed like she was fully committed to the annual festival. Then, her doctors intervened. Last week, shortly after I posted my last blog (because if it was before I would have mentioned it), AP (Associated Press) broke the news that Beyoncé would not play Coachella this year following the advice of her doctors to keep a less rigorous schedule. The announcement did state that Beyoncé will play Coachella next year in 2018, which in my opinion takes away from the anticipation of the lineup release somewhat. I guess since she was a major headliner and a bunch of the Beyhive probably bought tickets this year to see her, Coachella promoter, Goldenvoice, threw them a bone.

After the announcement was made last week, more speculation occurred over who would replace Queen Bey. Lady Gaga was one of the first acts I thought of as her replacement and this was without being influenced by rumors popping up all over the internet and social media. To me it seemed pretty logical, she’s a highly billed female pop performer, much like Beyoncé. She’s also about to embark on a world tour in support of her most recent album Joanne, which has been widely praised. It just made so much sense that she would replace Beyoncé. I saw some other names pop in the meantime though from Daft Punk to Rihanna. I also saw Lady Gaga’s name thrown around too, which made me feel like my guess wasn’t too far off. By Tuesday evening, it was confirmed. Lady Gaga would replace Beyoncé as Coachella’s Saturday night headliner and Gagachella was born.

Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, grew up in Manhattan’s Upper East Side in an affluent Catholic family. Despite attending an all-girls Catholic school growing up, she felt like she never fit in to that kind of crowd. She was always involved in music and the arts as well. She started taking piano at age 4. She played open mic nights and acted in school musicals as a teenager. She was even granted early admission to NYU’s theater program, but dropped out during her sophomore year to pursue her music career.

Her stage name, Lady Gaga, was inspired by Queen’s song “Radio Ga Ga” and a T9 accidental text message. In the years before she released her first album, she played Lollapalooza along with Lady Starlight as “Lady Gaga and Lady Starlight”. The duo also performed on the New York underground scene, which was when Lady Gaga began to incorporate pop and glam rock into her electronic dance music style.

After finally securing a record deal with Interscope/Geffen, her debut album, The Fame, was released in 2008. The album included many successful singles and earned her a Grammy Award for Best/Dance Electronica Album. Her song “Poker Face” won the Grammy for Best Dance Recording as well. Gaga’s first tour was in support of The Pussycat Dolls in 2009, but shortly after she embarked on her own headlining world tour. In November of 2009, she released an 8 song EP entitled The Fame Monster, which included the hit single “Bad Romance” as well as a few other successful singles. The Fame Monster earned Lady Gaga 8 MTV Video Music Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album. She also embarked on another world tour appropriately named The Monster Ball Tour.

Lady Gaga released her second studio album Born This Way in May 2011. The album produced several successful singles, 3 Grammy nominations, and a resulting world tour similar to her other music. Around this time was when Gaga formed her relationship with Tony Bennett which paved the way for their eventual album together, Cheek to Cheek, which was released in 2014 and earned them a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. However, the joint album was not released before her third studio album Artpop. It came out in November of 2013. Artpop is the least successful of Lady Gaga’s albums thus far and was received with mixed reviews. Despite its lack of success, it still sold about 2.5 million copies worldwide (as of July 2014).

Lady Gaga released her latest album, Joanne, this past October. Following its release, she performed at three small scale venues to promote the album. This was known as the Dive Bar Tour. Shortly before Joanne‘s release, it was announced that Lady Gaga would be headlining the 2017 Super Bowl LI Halftime Show. The halftime show became the most viewed music performance in history. Following the show, Lady Gaga announced her latest world tour plans in support of Joanne which now includes a pre-stop at one of America’s most well-known music festivals.

When Beyoncé was announced as a headliner, I had no intention of writing a preview for her because I’m not a Beyoncé fan. Honestly, I’m not a Lady Gaga fan either so the reason I decided to write this might be a mystery so I’ll explain. I’m not a fan of mainstream pop music (Adele being the only exception). In fact I used to get annoyed over Lady Gaga’s music when it first came out in 2008. The truth is though despite not being into Lady Gaga’s music, she’s had so many hit singles that I do know a lot of her music. I don’t listen to the radio normally, but I would hear her songs regardless. I’d hear them in public locations, from friends, on television, and yeah I guess on the radio when I wasn’t in control of it.

There’s been random times in my life over the last 9 years that Lady Gaga’s music has been a part of too. My friends and I sang a self made-up parody of “Alejandro” at the beach one summer, “Bad Romance” played on a music-playing amusement park ride one time when all of our previous times on this ride had death metal songs we didn’t know or like (“Bad Romance” kind of saved us), and “Applause” became one of the theme songs of my first trip to California due to its overplay and my cousin being in control of the radio. There’s probably other moments I’m not thinking of too. Also I can’t forget that my mom is a huge fan of Lady Gaga and her music. She owns almost all, if not all, of Gaga’s albums. I have to admit, I even like Joanne. Because of all the exposure, I almost feel like a fan by association and no lie her Super Bowl performance had me crushing the end of my cardio work out. So no, I’m not a true Little Monster, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Gaga live if I had the opportunity.

As I said before, Lady Gaga plays Saturday night in replacement of Beyoncé. It’s her first time playing the festival and also the first time since 2007 that a female solo artist will be headlining. Being known for her crazy and outlandish costumes/outfits in her early performing days as well as becoming a major pop performer, I’m expecting her Coachella set to be epic and to have some intense production quality. No one will want to miss her performance on Saturday night, unless of course you’re a major fan of whoever is playing at the Sahara Tent. Here’s some songs to get you ready, although you might already know them:

  1. Bad Romance
  2. Just Dance
  3. Poker Face
  4. Born This Way
  5. Alejandro
  6. Perfect Illusion
  7. Applause
  8. Marry the Night
  9. Telephone
  10. A Million Reasons
  11. A-Yo
  12. John Wayne
  13. The Edge of Glory
  14. Paparazzi
  15. LoveGame

 

Coachella Band Preview: Grouplove

We are 2 months and 1 week away from Coachella Weekend 1. That means it’s the perfect time to start dusting off those flower headbands. It’s also the perfect time to check out another band playing the festival this year, Grouplove. This band is no stranger to the Indio desert having played Coachella in 2012 and 2014. Their 3rd and latest album was released in September making 2017 the year they make their return to the Empire Polo Fields.

Out of every band I’ve written about, Grouplove has the best formation story of any I’ve learned so far. Usually I’ll tell you where a band comes from, but with Grouplove the members come from all over the map. They officially formed in Los Angeles in 2009, but met before that in Crete at an artist commune in the village of Avdou. Members Hannah Hooper (vocals, keyboards) and Christian Zucconi (vocals, guitar) met on the Lower East Side of Manhattan after Hooper heard Zucconi’s band perform. She fell for him and ended up inviting him to the artist residency in Crete where they met future band members Sean Gadd (bass), Andrew Wessen (guitar, vocals) and Ryan Rabin (drums). Rabin and Wessen were also friends who grew up in Los Angeles. Gadd hails from London, England. The band formed a year after that fateful trip to Crete when Gadd, Hooper, and Zucconi decided to venture out to LA to pay a visit to Rabin’s father’s recording studio (his dad is Trevor Rabin, former guitarist of English rock band Yes).

The band played their first show in LA in 2010 and shortly after toured with Florence and the Machine and The Joy Formidable. Grouplove released their first self-titled EP in early 2011. That same year they joined forces with Foster the People on a co-headlining tour and played several music festivals including Lollapalooza, Glastonbury, and Reading and Leeds. After their busy and travel filled spring and summer, they released their debut album, Never Trust A Happy Song, in September of 2011. Arguably the group’s two biggest singles, “Colours” and “Tongue Tied” were a part of the record. Following the release, Grouplove embarked on a fall North American headlining tour in support of the album. The touring and travel life continued into and through 2012 and included the group’s first stop at Coachella.

They released their sophomore album, Spreading Rumours, in September 2013 almost exactly 2 years after their debut, which brought on another album support tour. This time though Daniel Gleason became a temporary replacement for Sean Gadd, but by the following spring the replacement became permanent. In 2014 the band again played the festival circuit hitting Coachella, Bonnaroo, Firefly, and Lollapalooza.

This past September (clearly the month for Grouplove record releases) Grouplove released their third album, Big Mess, and toured in support of it from August through November. It’s only fitting that the band would play Coachella again after releasing their latest album since they played the festival after their first two releases.

Grouplove is your standard indie band. They play an indie rock/indie pop style of music. I’ve always felt like their songs have this summery sort of vibe. In my opinion their records are the perfect soundtrack to a pool party, laying out on the beach, or taking a road trip along the California coast line with friends. It’s that kind of indie rock.

I first heard of Grouplove in 2011. I feel like that was a prime year for indie rock for me. However though, I never got into Grouplove as a whole. I’ve liked a song here and there, particularly the song “Ways to Go”, but I don’t own any Grouplove albums or have more than a few of their singles on my iTunes. So why am I previewing them for Coachella? Well the reason is I think they’re a great live band. I’ve never seen them in person, but I watched part of their Coachella set in 2014. Their set seemed like so much fun to be at. It made me want to see them in person at a festival. Ideally that festival would be Coachella because their music kind of embodies the Coachella spirit.

Grouplove plays Coachella on Sunday. I recommend going to their set because like I said their music and style perfectly represents the essence of the festival. Their music is good too! I just never got into it like I did with other bands. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it though. If I were attending this year, I’d probably be listening to their music more. Maybe even enough that I might get into them just in time to see them at Coachella. Here’s what you should check out to prep for their set:

  1. Tongue Tied
  2. Ways To Go
  3. Colours
  4. Let Me In
  5. Welcome To Your Life
  6. Itchin’ On A Photograph
  7. Good Morning
  8. Shark Attack
  9. Naked Kids
  10. Do You Love Someone

 

Well I Guess This is Growing Up

When I was in 5th grade, I liked mostly mainstream pop music. It was all the stuff you’d hear on local popular radio stations. I also liked a small amount of good music too thanks to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (Superman by Goldfinger anyone?!). Fortunately, on occasion, good music gets played on mainstream radio, which is what happened while I was in 5th grade. I totally fell for it. The song was “All the Small Things” and the band as you may already know was Blink-182.

Blink-182 was formed in the early to mid 90’s when guitarist and vocalist Tom DeLonge, bassist and vocalist Mark Hoppus, and drummer Scott Raynor decided to play music together. The band was formed in Poway, California which is a city located in southern California just north of San Diego. The band was originally called Blink but changed their name to Blink-182 to avoid legal complications with an Irish band of the same name. Before releasing their first record Chesire Cat in 1995 under indie label Cargo Records, the band played at a variety of venues in the San Diego area. They garnered some local attention upon the release of their debut album as well as attention from other well known punk bands and their management. The guitarist of one of those bands, Fletcher Dragge of Pennywise, even convinced the founder of the Vans Warped Tour, Kevin Lyman, to sign Blink-182 for their 1996 festival. By 1996 major record labels began to notice the band, which resulted in a bidding war. Eventually Blink-182 signed with MCA.

Blink-182 released their sophomore album Dude Ranch on June 17, 1997. The album included the single “Dammit”, which earned them mainstream fame. They again spent another summer on Warped Tour and toured extensively afterwards, promoting their newest album. Tensions in the band began to fly in 1998 due to the long touring and issues involving heavy drinking with Scott Raynor causing his eventual departure. Raynor was replaced by drummer Travis Barker.

In 1999, Blink-182 released their third full length album, Enema of State. The album featured three singles, “All the Small Things”, “What’s My Age Again?”, and “Adam’s Song”, that garnered more mainstream radio and MTV airplay for the band. Enema of State gave the band multi-platinum success by January of 2000 and sold 4 times as fast as their previous album.

After gaining greater popularity and playing arenas throughout North America and Australia, the band got together to record a fourth album. Take Off Your Pants and Jacket was released in 2001 continuing the bands fame with mainstream singles “The Rock Show”, “Stay Together for the Kids”, and “First Date”. Between the release of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket and the band’s 2003 self-titled album, tensions again began building between bandmates fueled by DeLonge’s interest to pursue other music styles. The tensions lead to the hiatus of the band in 2005. During the hiatus, Hoppus and Barker continued to make music together in the band +44 and DeLonge began his new project Angels & Airwaves. It wasn’t until a traumatic plane crash involving Travis Barker and 5 others (4 were killed) that the band decided to regroup.

In 2009 the band announced their reunion on their website and joined Weezer and Fall Out Boy on tour that summer. The group recorded a sixth album, Neighborhoods, together that was released in 2011. Neighborhoods didn’t receive as much success as anticipated. In the following years, the band toured, released an EP, and again parted ways with Tom DeLonge, who yet again wasn’t focused on making music with Blink-182, in the midst of planning a seventh album.

Since then, Alkaline Trio frontman and guitarist, Matt Skiba joined the band in DeLonge’s place. The group released the band’s seventh album California a week ago. Blink-182 will begin a tour in support of their newest album on July 22nd.

Blink-182 was a punk rock band from the start. Through their success their music began to have a more pop-punk feel. Whether you call that selling out or developing their sound, the Blink-182 most people are familiar with plays pop-punk music. It’s upbeat, sometimes fast, and has that punk edge. Their roots are strictly punk though.

As I mentioned before I began paying attention to Blink-182 in 5th grade. By 9th grade, I was supposed to attend a Blink-182 concert with my best friend at the time but it fell through. I was bummed it didn’t happen for several reasons (TBS opened, seeing Blink would have been amazing, and I totally wanted to spend as much time as possible with this friend for…certain reasons *wink wink*). I might still be slightly bummed too. During high school, as my music interests developed I began to appreciate Blink-182 more, especially after I purchased their Greatest Hits album. I guess my knowledge of Blink-182 to a certain extent is their greatest hits, but I still know a few more beyond that. Throughout high school, college, and even after Blink-182’s music was a part of my life. They’ll always be a legendary band in my mind for that. “Dammit” will always be the number one coming of age/nostalgic song. “All the Small Things” will always be my first favorite Blink-182 song and “Going Away to College” will always be one of my favorite songs to play on guitar. As with many other bands, much of their music is a part of me and my life. It’s pretty incredible how music can do that.

Anyway, the reason I decided to write a post about Blink-182, besides being a legendary pop-punk/punk rock band, is to talk about the new album. I recently found out that Matt Skiba joined the band after listening to a few of the new tracks. As a former Alkaline Trio fan, I feel like this new version of Blink-182 combines the two bands musically. It’s epic! The new music has a classic Blink-182 sound but lacks DeLonge’s notable vocals. Instead there are elements of the new material that remind me of Alkaline Trio, especially with Skiba’s singing. Only time will tell how successful this record will be with the new Blink-182 lineup, but for anyone who grew up listening to both of these bands, it’s worth a listen. Here’s two lists. One contains all my old faves and the other contains songs off the brand new record you should listen to.

New Songs

  1. Sober
  2. California
  3. Bored to Death
  4. Kings of the Weekend
  5. San Diego

Old Songs

  1. Dammit
  2. Going Away to College
  3. All The Small Things
  4. What’s My Age Again?
  5. M+M’s
  6. Adam’s Song
  7. First Date
  8. Feeling This
  9. I Miss You
  10. The Rock Show

 

Coachella Survival Tips

As you know, Coachella begins this weekend. As you also know (if you’ve followed my blog), I attended Coachella last year for the first time. Sure this doesn’t make me a Coachella veteran at all. In fact, I didn’t even camp out like many festival-goers who attend the annual event in the Indio desert. All that aside, I still feel like I can offer some tips for first timers attending the festival and staying at hotel nearby (sorry campers!) based on my experience.

1. Figure out which bands are must-see acts once the schedule gets released. Every year Coachella releases the lineup schedule a few days prior to Weekend 1 of the festival. Good news for you, it was released earlier today. Check out the times of the bands you want to see and note them in your phone or on the Coachella app, which I believe has a feature you can use to keep track of your favorite acts. Also make note of the stages (and locate the stages!). Sometimes bands may be playing on stages close enough together that you can catch half of one set then half of another set. Many times you’ll find that two of the bands/acts you want to see are playing at the same time, especially if the day is stacked with your favorite talent (Sia vs. The Chainsmokers on Sunday night). If that’s the case you’ve gotta make a choice, or like I said maybe you can do the half and half thing. If your favorite acts aren’t coming on until later in the day, sleep in and head to the festival later too. Last year on both Saturday and Sunday we went to the festival a few hours later than when gates opened because the acts we wanted to see weren’t coming on til late afternoon. After exploring the festival in full on Friday, it got boring waiting around til whatever time the next band we wanted to see came on. We adjusted accordingly for the next two days. Always allow yourself enough time to arrive though because sometimes security gets increased and it takes longer to enter the festival grounds.

2.  Get merch the first day. If you want a t-shirt, poster, or other special merch from the festival, don’t wait around til Sunday to hit up the merch stand. They will run out of your size and you’ll have way less options. Last year we hit up the merch stand immediately after we walked in on Friday (along with the Ferris Wheel, which is another good thing to do the first day, if you plan on riding). We were able to get the Coachella t-shirts we wanted and I was able to get Coachella socks from the artsy-ish building next to the merch stand. On Sunday, I decided I was going to get my uncle a t-shirt for buying me dinner the night before we flew out for the festival. Many of the tees I liked for him were unavailable in his size, so I settled for what was left. If you’re wondering, yes the line is long on Friday. It may take a little while and you may get hot and sweaty from being in the crowded line, but it will all be worth it when you have solid proof of your Coachella attendance.

3. Eat a big meal before you come to the festival. There’s both advantages and disadvantages to this. Sure at some point you’re going to get hungry while you’re at the festival. There really are so many delicious options to choose from, but lines can be long and the food is expensive, like $10 for a personal pizza expensive. Last year we went out to eat each day before the festival. It helped save money and time. The disadvantage: you don’t get to sample all the cool, creative vendors Coachella has to offer, unless of course, you want to over stuff yourself. By going out to eat before getting to the festival, we were filled for most of the day. Then, later on, we got something if we felt hungry. In this way, we only dealt with the long lines and expensive food once a day or so.

4. Stay hydrated. Coachella is in the desert. It’s hot in the desert. During the day temps can be in the 90’s to over 100 degrees. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids at the festival even if you don’t feel thirsty. By fluids, I don’t just mean alcohol either, but its even more important to stay hydrated if you’re choosing to drink, especially in the day. You don’t wanna pass out or end up in a hospital. Water at Coachella is cheap. It’s $2 per bottle. There’s also water stations where you can refill your bottle. Pro tip: The water in the refilling stations is extremely warm, so I only recommend this if you’re broke or desperate. One cool thing I discovered last year is that they sold fresh fruit waters at the festival. There was pineapple and watermelon water. These waters are awesome. Buy one if you feel like splurging a little on hydration. The benefit to these waters though is that when you finish the water you have a cup of ice left so you can easily refill your cup from a station and not have piss warm water. By doing this you’ll get your money’s worth and necessary hydration.

5. Wear sunscreen. Besides the fact that it gets super hot in the desert. It’s also clear and sunny about 97% of the time (this is a made up number, but it seems accurate) in Southern California, especially in the desert. Those rays are strong. Sunscreen is a necessity if you don’t want to turn into a tomato or end up in a lot of pain anytime someone touches or bumps into you. Apply daily before you hit up the festival. I also believe you’re allowed to bring sunscreen into the grounds, but apply before regardless. You may forget about sunscreen once you arrive with all the distractions the festival has to offer.

6. Bring a sweatshirt/jacket. For as hot as it is in the day time, it can get about 30 degrees cooler each night. Before my first day at the festival last year, I decided to bring a backpack with a sweatshirt inside for night time. I wore a tank top and shorts. I didn’t believe I would need the sweatshirt at night because even with the temp dropping 30 degrees it would still be in the mid to upper 60’s. I figured I could handle that at night. Wrong. 60’s in the desert with a breeze each night is freezing, especially when your body is adjusting from a hot 90 degree day. If I was watching a set in a giant crowd it was less chilly, but standing in an open space in front of the main stage….brrrrr. Even standing in crowds I was slightly chilled and wore my sweatshirt. Some people even bring pants to wear at night. You know how well your body handles different temps though. Prep for what you need, but like I said, bring a covering of some sort for later.

7. Charge your phone each night. You know it and I know it. You’re going to use your phone a lot at Coachella. Whether it’s to check set times, take selfies with friends or pics of the art installations and festival scenes, post to social media, or send out texts and snapchats, your phone will get a lot of use. Many people bring their phone cords to recharge at the festival. As I found out last year though, those recharging stations don’t always work. You can always bring a portable recharger (which you’ll have to charge), or you can try to conserve battery when you’re not using your phone. Pro tip: Put your phone in airplane mode (I did this several times last year). I’ve also noticed that newer iPhones have a feature called Low Power Mode that you can turn on. There’s plenty of ways to keep your battery charged when you’re not on your phone at the festival. To be safe though, charge it every night. Start with 100% battery power each day and hopefully you make it through the day before you return to your nightly accommodations.

8. Find a meeting spot. I read this several times when I was prepping for my first Coachella. With the amount of people in such a small space at Coachella the cell service can be poor. If you lose your group of friends or plan to separate, it’s good to have a meeting spot. I actually believed I lost my cousin for a brief time last year on the last night of the festival during Florence and the Machine’s set. I wanted to be close for the set. Her back was sore so she wanted to sit further back and relax. We decided we would meet to the right of the last sound tower after the set was over. I had some issues with getting close. The set was more crowded than I anticipated and I wasn’t having fun. I decided to walk back and sit with my cousin but she wasn’t at our meeting spot. My cell service was spotty at that time due to the large amount of people at the set (people were arriving for Drake afterwards too). I couldn’t reach her. I had no idea where she went. Fortunately we found each other before the set was over because a few of my messages finally sent. After that experience, I understood the need for a meeting spot.

9. Take the shuttle. Since I’m writing this post for people who aren’t camping, I recommend you take a shuttle to the festival each day. Taking a shuttle is less of a hassle than driving. Last year we had a travel package that included rooms, wristbands, and shuttle passes. If you don’t have a packaged deal and are staying at a hotel, I recommend buying a shuttle pass. The shuttles take you directly to the festival and directly back. There’s different shuttle lines to different hotels. You don’t have to worry about parking, finding your car, getting too drunk, or even just keeping track of your car keys. Each day it took about an hour to arrive by shuttle from the moment we decided to leave our room until we were inside the festival gates. Of course travel time depends on where your hotel is relative to the festival. Ours was about 13 miles away. We never had to wait in a huge line for a shuttle either. Maybe that was because we arrived and left at non-peak moments. If you’re staying at a rented house, a hotel that’s not part of a direct shuttle line, an AirBnB, or some other type of nearby accommodation, find the closest shuttle line and walk or drive to it. Sure the driving part might defeat the purpose a bit, but you still won’t have to drive as far, worry about parking or finding your car, and you’ll have a bit of time to sober up on your ride back. A shuttle is the way to go.

10. Arrive early to get a good spot at a set. If you have a favorite band or artist you want to see up close, arrive to the set early to work your way to the front. Actually, arrive a set or two before your favorite act comes on that way when people leave the earlier set(s) you can work your way up as people in front of you disperse. No one likes a person who tries to push to the front at the last minute. You don’t want to be that person. Plus majority of attendees aren’t fortunate enough to have a V.I.P. pass that gives you access to special V.I.P. viewing areas at most stages. You have to get a good spot the old fashioned way. Arrive early and move up. If you’re desperate to try to see a headliner up close, come 2-3 sets early. I realize this isn’t always possible because there’s other bands you want to see. Just do your best and make sacrifices if you have to. Trust me when I say, even if you’re in the back and you can barely see the artist on stage, you’ll be able to hear the music, you’ll know if there’s any surprise appearances, and most importantly, you’re at fucking Coachella! There’s so many people who would love to be in your spot. Just soak in the atmosphere, the moment, and all the good vibes. Sing out loud. Dance your heart out. Be kind to others. Make new friends. Be young. Be wild. Be free. And have fun! Coachella is one of the best and most well-known music festivals in the world, so enjoy every second.

And with that last tip, that’s all I have to offer for Coachella 2016. Let’s get this year’s party started! Until next year…

Happy Coachella!

Coachella Band Preview: Rancid

It’s April 1st and Coachella is no joke 2 weeks away! I feel like there’s a bunch more bands to preview but I may only do 1 or 2 more after today. Bummer! I know! But it’s okay cause Coachella is soooo soon! Last year at Coachella there were a couple bands playing the festival that I would consider “old school” as far as my music taste goes. I guess by my definition that means I used to listen to them in high school. Brand New and Bad Religion fit that spectrum last year. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and Desaparecidos even gave off that “old school” feel too, especially with Andrew McMahon playing a Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate song during his set and Connor Oberst shredding guitar on stage with his new band. This year the band that falls into the “old school” category is a punk rock band who has been in existence since the early 90’s. They’re called Rancid and I’m sure you may have heard of them before.

Formed in 1991, Rancid hails from Berkeley, California. The group is composed of Tim Armstrong (guitar and vocals), Matt Freeman (bass and vocals), Lars Frederiksen (guitar and vocals), and Brandon Steineckert (drums). Steineckert replaced original member Brett Reed in 2006. In the 90’s, Rancid was part of the revival of mainstream punk rock along with bands like Green Day and The Offspring. Since their inception the band has released 8 studio albums, splits, compilations, extended plays, and online-only live albums. Their self-titled first album was released all the way back in 1993 under Epitaph Records. Their breakthrough came from their third album, …And Out Come the Wolves, which was released in 1995. The singles “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho” became synonymous with the band. In 2003, after the band released their sixth studio album, Indestructible, they even received a bit of backlash from fans. It was the first time that the independent band released an album that was distributed by a major label (Warner Bros.) and fans believed the group became sell-outs. The album was met with mixed reactions from fans who believed the album sounded more “poppy” than normal. After that the band went on hiatus for 2 years and didn’t release another studio album until 2009. Their latest album, …Honor Is All We Know, was released in September 2014.

Rancid is about as punk rock as you can get. They do have some roots in ska though since both Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman were part of influential ska band Operation Ivy. You can actually hear that ska sound in several of their songs including one of their most well known  and one of my personal favorite songs “Time Bomb”. Their sound in general is pretty distinct as well. Despite that more “poppy” album even the songs on their latest album have that same punk rock sound we’ve heard over the years.

I first heard of Rancid while I was in high school. According to my iTunes, I downloaded my first Rancid song a little over 9 years ago. I was never a huge Rancid fan during that time, but with my love for punk rock, pop-punk, and ska, I always enjoyed an occasional song. “Time Bomb” and “Fall Back Down” were and still are my two favorite songs. Despite not listening to punk rock music that often anymore, I’ll always appreciate Rancid because they influenced plenty of bands that I listened to in high school and college.

Unless I missed something in my research, 2016 will be Rancid’s first ever appearance at Coachella, which I find hard to believe given the band’s 25 year existence (you can correct me if I’m wrong). Guns N’ Roses may be a headliner but Rancid is just as legendary in their scene. If you’re into that sort of legendary band thing, liked punk rock in high school like me, or still like punk rock, Rancid is a band to see at the festival. They play Sunday. It’s tough to give you some prep recommendations because of the countless songs the band has, but here’s a few of my faves:

  1. Time Bomb
  2. Fall Back Down
  3. Maxwell Murder
  4. Ruby Soho
  5. California Sun
  6. You Don’t Care Nothin’
  7. As Wicked

2016 Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival Lineup Release

A yearly ritual right after the New Year begins for music fans is the release of the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival lineup. Last year I paid more attention to it than ever because, as you all know, I attended the festival last April. Again, I can’t adequately express how great of an experience Coachella is, and this is from someone who didn’t even camp out. My soul felt totally at home while listening to live music and soaking up the sun and chill vibes in the desert for 3 days last year. It’s something you have to experience to understand. Since I previewed the bands at the festival last year in the hype leading up to the main event, and the response went well, I plan on doing the same thing this year even though it might not have the same meaning for me (Yeah, I’m not attending Coachella 2016 and I’m a little bummed about it). Before looking in depth at each band, I have to give an overview of all the acts. Since the lineup was released around 9:45 p.m. ET last evening, I can finally talk about them. First up, the headliners.

The Headliners: LCD Soundsystem, Guns N’ Roses, Calvin Harris

In the days leading up to the lineup release, I actually found out that LCD Soundsystem and Guns N’ Roses would be headlining. Safe to say I anticipated a great lineup this year and I was a little jealous (mostly because of LCD Soundsystem). 80’s rock band, Guns N’ Roses, are reuniting for the first time in 20 years for this upcoming Coachella performance. They’re the old school rock band performer this year, similar to AC/DC at last year’s event. The Saturday night set should be an epic rock n’ roll event for all who attend. Another band reuniting for Coachella 2016 is LCD Soundsystem. The band, who announced their split in 2011 and played their “final show ever” at Madison Square Garden that same year, is getting back together to play Coachella for the third time. They headline on Friday night. Lastly, Scottish DJ, EDM artist, and current boyfriend of Taylor Swift, Calvin Harris is set to close out the festival on Sunday evening. As a Coachella veteran and this year’s headlining EDM act, the Calvin Harris set should be the biggest of the festival. His set in 2014 was the second largest ever in festival history. As I learned last year, EDM is a huge deal at Coachella (I mean that Kaskade set though) so you can count on Calvin Harris’s as being one for the ages.

The Other Highly Billed Performers (aka the next two lines on each day of the poster): Ellie Goulding, Sufjan Stevens, Jack Ü, M83, Underworld, The Kills, Foals, Ice Cube, Disclosure, Zedd, A$AP Rocky, CHVRCHES, Halsey, James Bay, Sia, Major Lazer, Flume, Beach House, The 1975, Rancid, Miike Snow, Of Monsters and Men, G-Eazy, Purity Ring, Rae Sremmurd, Volbeat, 2manysdjs, Lord Huron, St. Germain, Savages, Grimes, Courtney Barnett, Run the Jewels, The Arcs, RL Grime, Gary Clark Jr., Silversun Pickups, Lush, ZHU, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Matt and Kim, Chris Stapleton, Cold War Kids, Death Grips, The Chainsmokers.

Like always, the Coachella lineup consists of a variety of music styles. There’s plenty of pop, rock, indie, alternative, and electronic in this year’s group of top acts along with a mix of a few other genres as well. Ice Cube, A$AP Rocky, Death Grips, and G-Eazy make up the rap contingency, especially without a main Rap/R&B headliner this year. James Bay, Sia, Halsey, and Ellie Goulding make up the pop acts. Sufjan Stevens and Lord Huron hold the crown for indie performers this year. Then there’s indie/rock/alternative bands like CHVRCHES, Grimes, Foals, M83, The 1975, The Kills, Of Monsters & Men, Silversun Pickups, Purity Ring, Beach House, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Matt and Kim and Cold War Kids and the ever popular electronic/dance/house music with Jack Ü, Disclosure, Zedd, Miike Snow, ZHU,  RL Grime, Major Lazer, The Chainsmokers. There’s even some old school punk in the mix with Rancid.

If I was attending this year, I’d definitely want to hit up the Matt and Kim set the most. I’ve wanted to see them play for the last couple years and I passed up on the opportunity last summer. I’d also love to see CHVRCHES, M83, The 1975, Of Monsters & Men, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Cold War Kids, Halsey, Sufjan Stevens, and Major Lazer. Since I wanted to see the 1975 and Cold War Kids within the last few months, it would be cool to finally see these guys in the desert. I hyped Halsey a few months ago as being one of the hottest new up and coming performers so her set is bound to be a great one. CHVRCHES is a band I recently got more into and really enjoy, especially their latest album. I feel like M83, Of Monsters & Men, Sufjan Stevens, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have been quiet for a while and I’ve liked all three groups for a few years now so they’ll be worth a listen. Then there’s electronic band, Major Lazer, who recently became more well-known with their song “Lean On”. If there was time I’d also love to check out Sia, Ellie Goulding, Beach House, James Bay, The Chainsmokers, Silversun Pickups, Rancid, Grimes, and Foals. I think Sia’s performance is going to be as huge as the three main headliners. It’ll be worth it to check out her set. Rancid is such a legendary punk band too that it would be hard to pass up an opportunity to see them. The other artists I mentioned would be fun to check out as well even though I may not be as familiar with their music as the acts I first listed. In all, this group definitely makes a great selection of top-billed talent worth seeing this year.

The Rest: The Last Shadow Puppets, Joey Bada$$, DJ Mustard, BØRNS, Christine and the Queens, Snakehips, Robert DeLong, Bob Moses, Ibeyi, Marco Carola, Parov Stelar, Black Coffee, Years & Years, Nicole Moudaber & Skin, Lido, HEALTH, Mavis Staples, Sasha, Goldroom, Carla Morrison, Nic Fanciulli, The Front Bottoms, Skepta, Sam Feldt, Lemaitre, Louis the Child, Frances, George FitzGerald, DJ EZ, Gallant, HÆLOS, Låpsley, Miami Horror, SG Lewis, Sheer Mag, Mbongwana Star, Nina Las Vegas, Nora En Pure, Masha, Deerhunter, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Rhye, Bat for Lashes, The Damned, Vince Staples, Tchami, Nina Kraviz, Snails, RÜFÜS DU SOL, Lost Frequencies, Chronixx, Vanic, Justin Martin, AlunaGeorge, Mano Le Tough, Shamir, DJ Koze, BADBADNOTGOOD, Moon Taxi, SZA, Ex Hex, Mr. Carmack, SOPHIE, Protoje, Alvvays, Zella Day, Dubfire, Matthew Dear, DMA’s, Matoma, Algiers, GoGo Penguins, The Black Madonna, Cloves, Strangers You Know, Amine Edge & DANCE, Phases, The Dead Ships, Maceo Plex, Baauer, KSHMR, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Adam Beyer & Ida Engberg, Wolf Alice, Pete Yorn, Hudson Mohawke, Kamasi Washington, Claptone, TOKiMONSTA, Melody’s Echo Chamber, Autolux, John Digweed, Thomas Jack, Anderson .Paak, Nosaj Thing, Deafheaven, Epik High, Tensnake, Alessia Cara, Crystal Fighters, The Vandals, Joywave, PRAYERS, Young Fathers, The Heavy, Tei Shi, Meg Myers, Soul Clap, Cassy, De Lux, Girlpool, Fur Coat, AC Slater

Out of the rest of the acts performing this year, only a few stand out to me. This might be bad news for me as a self-proclaimed music expert since I’ve only heard of a few of these bands. Guess I need to step up my game and learn about these bands. The few that do stand out though are BØRNS, Years & Years, Matoma, and Joywave. Over the summer I wrote about Years & Years and the release of their debut album. After selling out their fall tour, they’ll be supporting Ellie Goulding on her upcoming tour this spring, which I guess, from the looks of it, also includes a stop in the Coachella Valley for both in April. I’ve listened to BØRNS and Joywave a few times on Spotify and I’ve always enjoyed what I heard.

Lastly, I need to mention Matoma strictly for my jam of last spring, “Old Thing Back (Matoma remix)”. In fact, I used to listen to this song on repeat in my lead up to leaving for Coachella. Pretty sure I even played it for my cousin during our 2-3 hour drive to Palm Desert the day we arrived in So Cal. It sets the mood for some good vibes despite the explicit lyrics. Of course, the song was originally released as a song on The Notorious B.I.G.’s Greatest Hits Compilation in 2007. It was one of two songs unreleased previously. In late 2014-early 2015 the song regained popularity when it was released as a remix by Norwegian DJ Matoma. It’s kind of ironic that I’m writing this small bit about “Old Thing Back” today since a few days ago the song popped in my head when I realized I hadn’t listened to it in a while. Now I’m sitting here listening to it again on repeat. Matoma, you’re playing a year too late for me, but I’m sure festival-goers will be dancing their hearts out to the “Old Thing Back” remix in April.

After last year, I thought the lineup would make me super jealous that I wasn’t attending this year. It always seems like there’s a strong lineup every other year according to my tastes. 2014 was unreal in my mind and after 2015’s decent lineup, I thought 2016 would blow me away, especially after I heard LCD Soundsystem was reuniting to headline. To be honest though, it didn’t. I find it comparable to last year in a lot of regards. That means next year might be incredible. I should probably start saving up now since I vowed that the next time I go, I’m getting VIP tickets. I guess we’ll see what happens, but 2016 will no doubt be memorable for all attending despite opinions, whether good or bad, on the lineup. It was for me anyway.

The Countdown Continues: Send Off Series Game 2 USA vs. MEX

TWO….

Finish. It’s what the United States Women’s National Team needed to do to secure a 5-1 win against continental rival Mexico Sunday night at Stub Hub Center in Los Angeles, CA in front of a sold-out crowd of 27,000. After entering the locker room at the half with the score tied 1-1, some may have started to worry. The USWNT controlled most of the game. They had the possession. They had the confidence. They had the playmaking. They had an incredible amount of chances and missed opportunities including a header off the crossbar, a wide open net with Mexican keeper, Cecilia Santiago, out of position and a sequence of blocked shots in the 14th minute that left fans scratching their heads after no goal came from it (it was an unreal effort by Santiago and her defense to not let any shots get through). They stepped off the gas slightly for a few minutes and had a few lapses in decision making. It lead to a Mexican goal off a free kick from a dangerous area left of the 18 yard box. The only U.S. goal came in the 28th minute off a great run from Sydney Leroux who converted a Megan Rapinoe through ball from a sharp left angle. In the first half, the USWNT had almost everything. All they needed to do was finish. When they came back out for the next forty-five, that’s what they did.

The attack started promptly in the opening minute when halftime sub Abby Wambach reached a deflected ball and passed it back to fellow halftime sub Lori Chalupny who sent the ball past a diving Santiago near post for the game’s second tally. In the 58th minute Mexican defender Arianna Romero tried to clear a U.S. corner that deflected off her outstretched hand resulting in a penalty. Wambach converted the ensuing PK to give the U.S. a 3-1 edge. The fourth goal came three minutes later off another great run by Leroux who took a touch around Santiago and sent a shot from the right side into the back netting. 4-1 USA. No big deal. It made the 1-1 score at the half seem laughable, but they weren’t finished yet. In what was the play of the entire match, Tobin Heath, who entered the game for Lauren Holiday at the 62nd minute mark, used a sick, ankle-breaking cut move to leave a Mexican defender in the dust near the end line and sent a cross to the far post where Wambach finished it with her head. It happened in the 72nd minute. Even though the goal was Abby’s for the taking, the move by Heath brought fans to their feet. Heath made the whole play happen. It was an incredible show of talent and skill by the midfielder. 5-1 USA. Finished.

This match was exciting from the start. Despite the halftime score, the USA had the opportunities. In the second half they were able to convert those opportunities. It was a thrilling performance by a talent group of soccer players. I could argue that the USWNT is the most exciting soccer team to watch out of any soccer team in the entire world, men’s and women’s teams combined. I think that’s what captivated me back in 2011. The women’s game was so exciting. Just the other day before the match, I was reflecting on how I like watching  women’s professional soccer now (especially the USWNT) and how I distinctly remember at one point in my life thinking soccer was the only professional major team sport I’d never get into. Of course at the time I think I may have been flicking through the channels on TV and caught a glimpse of men’s game. So in a way, I was partially right. I’m really not into men’s soccer. I just didn’t realize I would/could fall for the women’s game.

As the start of the 2015 Women’s World Cup rapidly approaches (19 days say whaaaat?!), another player from the U.S. squad to watch out for is Sydney Leroux. After a slow start to the year because of an injury and lack of playing time, Leroux made it known in last evening’s match that she’ll be an attacking threat for the United States this summer in Canada. Her speed, tenacity, and skill as a forward make her a weapon for the U.S. Not to mention, she’s half Canadian and will no doubt be the recipient of some taunting by Canadian fans, who consider her a traitor to the nation. Leroux’s mother is Canadian and her father is American which gave her the privilege to play for the U.S. Soccer program through her youth and professional career despite being born in Canada. I’m sure she’ll use whatever harassment she receives next month to motivate her to the fullest because that’s the kind of determined player and person she is. She really is a force to be reckoned with. Then again, the United States is loaded with them. They have everything they need to go all the way to lift the coveted World Cup trophy. All they need to do is finish.

(Link to the Tobin Heath move to set up the 5th goal.)

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: Alabama Shakes

Too hyped that Coachella is only 3 weeks away? Me too. I’ve been listening to music, planning what to pack, and figuring out some other things I need for my arrival in beautiful Southern California. It’s about to get so real. In the meantime though, I’ve decided to blog about a band from the south playing the festival this year for their first time, Alabama Shakes.

Alabama Shakes was formed in 2009 when lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard and bassist Zac Cockrell began writing songs while still in high school together in Athens, Alabama. They recruited drummer Steve Johnson to join the group  prior to recording some of the tracks they had been working on. Later, guitarist Heath Fogg came on board and so began their life as Alabama Shakes. They were formerly just called The Shakes but added the “Alabama” to differentiate from other bands also known as The Shakes. Their first album Boys & Girls was released in April of 2012, but they started gaining attention prior to that due to the release of a four song EP in September 2011. The band received Grammy nominations for “Best New Artist” and “Best Rock Performance” the following year for their work on the debut album.

I first heard of Alabama Shakes in the spring of 2012 shortly after the release of Boys & Girls. I heard the single “Hold On” and really enjoyed it. Then I remember reading about the group/album thinking, “these guys are gonna be like Foster the People was last year. I need to get into them before everyone else finds out about how good they are. (I like to say I knew about bands “first”.)” So I went out and bought the album. I told all my friends to listen to them. I saw they were touring and selling out shows after a solid performance at SXSW (South by Southwest) that year. However, what I thought would happen didn’t really happen as I expected. Alabama Shakes did end up receiving those Grammy nominations that were predicted when I first heard about them, but I still think Foster the People blew up more.

The band plays a blues, soulful type of rock known as roots rock, which is a combination of folk, blues, and country rock. They could also be classified in the Americana genre. Now that I think about it, it makes total sense why I got into Alabama Shakes in spring 2012. It was also at that point that my interest in The Black Keys started to peak. I purchased El Camino probably a month before I got Boys & Girls. Although I wouldn’t classify their styles and sounds as being the same, both Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys have some similarity with the blues rock sound they produce. Alabama Shakes definitely has more soul and a country-ish feel to their music though. I guess I kind of progressed to Alabama Shakes after listening to The Black Keys.

Like some other bands/artists playing Coachella this year, Alabama Shakes also have a new album due out soon after the festival (the week after Weekend 2 to be exact). The sophomore album is called Sound & Color and the group has already released two singles from it, “Gimme All Your Love” and “Don’t Wanna Fight”, but I doubt those will be the only new tracks the band plays in Indio. This year Alabama Shakes joins Coachella for the first time in a minor headlining role. They play Friday on both weekends. There’s not that many bands I have on my must-see list for Friday, but Alabama Shakes is one of them. I remember wanting to see them in 2012, but not having anyone to go with (at that point I wasn’t too keen on going places by myself). So now I can finally fulfill those wishes.

Song recommendations:

1. Hold On

2.Don’t Wanna Fight

3. Hang Loose

4. Always Alright

5. You Ain’t Alone

6. Be Mine

7. I Found You

Coachella Band Preview: Florence + the Machine

It’s close to the one month countdown to Coachella Weekend One which means it’s time to ramp up your music listening. It also means it’s time to talk about another band playing the festival this year. This group out of the U.K. has been making a name for themselves since the release of their first album Lungs. With the anticipation of the release of their third album slated for this June, Florence + the Machine is sure to put on a killer set at Coachella this April.

Florence Welch and her friend Isabella “Machine” Summers are the founding members of the group which started in 2007. Along with Robert Ackroyd, Chris Hayden, Tom Monger, and Mark Saunders, the band released their first album in July of 2009. It sold over 100,000 copies in a month and debuted at #1 on the U.K. charts. The BBC supported the band and played a big role in the attention they received upon the release of their album. After touring, playing plenty of festivals, receiving award nominations (including a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist) and a few awards since the release of Lungs, Florence + the Machine released their sophomore album Ceremonials in October 2011. The album received much praise and gave more attention to the already well-known band. They received two more Grammy nominations, VMA nominations, Brit Award nominations, and other award nominations in the years post-Ceremonials release.

In 2012 Florence + the Machine played their first Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival in a minor headlining role. This year it’s no different. Their blend of soulful and dark indie rock will be flowing through the large crowds in Indio in a little over a month with hits like “Dog Days Are Over”, “Shake It Out”, and “What the Water Gave Me”. I’m sure they’ll be playing some new material like their already released first single off their new album “What Kind of Man”. Their set is bound to be a favorite among festival-goers. It’ll be worth checking out.

So check out these songs in the meantime to get you ready:

1. “Dog Days Are Over”

2. “Shake It Out”

3. “No Light, No Light”

4. “Spectrum”

5. “Cosmic Love”

6. “Howl”

7. “Only If For A Night”

8. “Kiss With A Fist”

9. “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”

10. “What the Water Gave Me”