coachella 2015

Coachella Band Preview: Vance Joy

Coachella 2018 Weekend 1 is just over six weeks away and I can finally say I’ll be back out there for my third Coachella! I just received an offer to work the festival again at the end of last week. My hype level was at a high for sure. After working last year and soaking up every minute, I always felt like I would be the luckiest person ever to return the following year to do the same thing. Now it’s actually happening! So cool. So so cool. Another cool thing about Coachella this year is that Vance Joy is performing.

Vance Joy, a.k.a. James Gabriel Wanderson Keogh, is a musician from Melbourne, Australia. He came on to the music scene in 2013 with his smash hit “Riptide” and hasn’t gone back since. He just released his second studio album, Nation of Two on Friday.

Vance Joy, whose name comes from the Peter Carey book Bliss, released his debut EP God Loves You When You’re Dancing in March 2013. In the time between the EP release and his debut album in 2014, “Riptide” peaked at the number 6 spot on the ARIA Singles Chart. It was also used in a U.S. GoPro commerical and reached spot 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the Alternative and Rock Airplay charts.

His debut album Dream Your Life Away was released in September 2014. He toured worldwide in support of the album, then joined Taylor Swift on her 1989 World Tour as an opening act. Besides opening for Taylor Swift in 2015, Vance Joy played Coachella, Governor’s Ball, and Austin City Limits among others. He also won an ARIA Award for Best Male Artist and was nominated for awards in six other categories for Dream Your Life Away. In 2014, he made festival appearances at Bonnaroo, Firefly, Glastonbury, and Lollapalooza. Tour life continued into 2016 with the Fire and the Flood Tour. The extensive touring ceased in 2017, but Vance Joy still played a few shows and festivals last year.

Vance Joy’s music is part of the indie music spectrum. It falls into the indie pop and indie folk categories. His music really does sound like a fitting combination of the two genres. One of Vance Joy’s signature elements is the use of a ukulele in several of his songs, “Riptide” being part of that group.

I first heard of Vance Joy because of the song “Riptide” (of course!). When I downloaded the song in the spring of 2014, it was before his first album was released. Since then, I’ve gotten into several Vance Joy songs. I even heard his performance at Coachella in 2015. He played at either the Gobi or Mojave Tent and it was too crowded to actually see his set. My cousin and I sat outside and listened instead. I also saw him perform at Panorama last summer. I caught some of his set since I was working the entire day. I definitely enjoyed it. He puts on a great live show.

I’m guessing that since the last time he played Coachella and his set was over-crowded that he’ll probably perform at either the Coachella Stage or the Outdoor Stage. He plays Sunday. He’s not listed as one of the top acts that day but I’m sure he’ll be performing in the late afternoon hours on one of the larger stages. It wouldn’t make sense to for him to have another time slot at a different stage. If I were just attending, his set would definitely be one I would try to catch. From a working perspective though, I would only catch it if I was off work at the time he performed. He’s a great musician and I love his music, but I have seen him before. Plus there are a couple others on Sunday that I would pick first if it came down to that. Regardless, if you’re attending, go to his set! I guarantee you’ll know something (even if it’s just “Riptide”) and you’ll be entranced by what you don’t know. Here’s a few songs you might want to check out to get you ready though:

  1. Riptide
  2. Georgia
  3. Like Gold
  4. Fire and the Flood
  5. Mess is Mine
  6. Lay It On Me
  7. Saturday Sun

 

Advertisements

Triangles are my favorite shape: alt-J Concert Review

On Friday, I was able to attend a show on alt-J’s Fall 2015 North American Tour. I saw alt-J for the first time at Coachella this past year. I wrote about them leading up to the yearly event in the southern California desert so I won’t re-hash about the group or how they got their name from a Mac keyboard command. Instead, I’ll just let you know that my second time seeing them was just as good, if not better than the first.

After seeing them at Coachella (it was one of my top 3 favorite sets) and seeing how cheap tickets were for their date in Philadelphia last Friday, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them again. I bought tickets for myself and my two favorite kids as a gift for their graduation this past June. However, about a month and a half before the show, my friend informed me that the date of the show coincided with the Pope’s visit to the Philly with 2 million people expected to be on hand for the event. How awesome, right? Now on top of dealing with traffic and people in a normally busy city on a Friday we also had to handle extra of both because of the Papal visit. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t as big of an issue as I initially expected, and we had a phenomenal day in the city leading up to the show.

The show was at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing. The venue’s location is right on the Delaware River. As we were walking to the pier, it reminded me of being at the beach to see a concert. The fact that sand surrounded the platform which housed an area for the general admission crowd to stand added to that effect. Add in that it was a cool, breezy September day/night and I felt like I was on a beach on the west coast rather than in a city on the east coast. It was ideal for me. We didn’t have any food at the venue as our stomachs were full from the Shake Shack burgers and fries we had earlier that evening, but I did make a purchase of a Blackberry Lemonade flavored Mike’s Hard. It was way too expensive at $15, but for alcohol at shows/concerts, that’s the price you pay.

San Fermin opened for the boys from Leeds, UK. They’re an American pop band with classical roots formed by Ellis Ludwig-Leone, a Yale University graduate who studied composition during his time there. Having released their sophomore album this past April, the eight piece ensemble played songs like “Parasites”, “Sonsick”, and “Jackrabbit” to get the crowd going before the headliners took the stage. I found their music catchy. They seemed like a band I would listen to on occasion but not fall entirely in love with. By the end of the set, I was just itching for alt-J to play.

alt-J opened with the “Intro” from their latest album, This Is All Yours, (how appropriate) and went straight into “Every Other Freckle” much to the delight of concert attendees. As a headliner on their own tour versus an act at an acclaimed music festival, their set was predictably longer. It featured songs from both full length albums like “Something Good”, “Dissolve Me”, “Matilda”, “Tessellate”, and “Fitzpleasure” from their 2012 debut An Awesome Wave and “Left Hand Free”, “The Gospel of John Hurt”, “Nara”, and “Leaving Nara” from This Is All Yours. They even played the bonus track Bill Withers cover “Lovely Day”. Perhaps one of the coolest transitions in their set was when they performed “Bloodflood” followed by “Bloodflood Pt. 2”. There weren’t many breaks between songs to chat with the crowd, which I liked. To be honest, I do like when bands talk in between songs, but I can also appreciate what alt-J did Friday night. There’s more time for music and there’s nothing wrong with that. The lighting and screens with digital imagery used in their set really captured the essence of their songs as well. This might be overlooked at a show when you’re focused on hearing your favorite songs, but it shouldn’t be. It gave their great performance a little something extra.

After “ending” their set with “Fitzpleasure”, which we all knew wasn’t really the end, the band came back out to perform a four song encore that started with “Hunger on the Pine”, followed by “Warm Foothills” and “Taro”, and closed with “Breezeblocks”. It was a perfect encore. The show left fans feeling fulfilled including me and my friends. It reaffirmed my choice to see them again and was great day/night all around. If you’re a fan, they’re worth seeing live, but even if triangles aren’t your favorite shape, they’re still worth it.

(Since this is the end of my post and I usually recommend some songs, but I’ve written about alt-J before and included song recommendations, I’ll just say to listen to any of the songs mentioned in this post and link you to my alt-J Coachella Band Preview for more info.)

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

According to my little stats here on the blog, it’s been 22 days since I made any sort of update. With the epic coverage of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup throughout June and trying to focus on getting my life in order plus some vacation time, I needed a little break. Right before the World Cup began, I failed to note a much anticipated release in the music world.

Since seeing Florence and The Machine at Coachella back in April (one of my favorite performances of the festival might I add), I anticipated the release of her latest album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. It came out on May 29th, about a week and a half before the USAvAUS opener. However, I was waiting to purchase it with my gift certificate from Amoeba Music (the world’s largest independent record store with three locations in California- Berkeley (the original location), San Francisco, and Hollywood) during their monthly 15% off sale. The sale didn’t happen until mid-June so I ordered it on vinyl then. I received it by the end of June, about a month after its initial release. I didn’t listen to the album aside from an early song release or two in prep for Coachella until I had the record in my possession. I did however unintentionally hear a few songs from the album because FoxSports, who covered the Women’s World Cup, used some songs off the latest album as background music during their video montages of the tournament. Needless to say, that just got me more hyped to listen to the album.

The album was worth the wait. After purchasing the first two Florence and The Machine albums on vinyl, I had to follow suit with the third. Like the first two albums, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful delivered with the same powerful female vocals, catchy choruses, and indie pop/rock style. I  honestly love this band’s consistency as far as style goes. Although the themes in Florence and The Machine’s albums may vary, the sound never disappoints or strays from what made people fall in love with them in the first place. It may be my favorite album of theirs to date. I highly recommend it. The album topped the charts in eight different countries during its first week on the market, including the number one spot on Billboard’s Top 200 in the United States. It was the first time a Florence and The Machine album received that honor. So there’s a little proof of how good this record is besides me just saying it’s awesome. So check it out asap and check out these songs in particular:

1. Delilah

2. Queen of Peace

3. Ship to Wreck

4. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

5. What Kind of Man

6. Caught

7. St. Jude

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: Night Terrors of 1927

So the epic two weekend long Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival begins on Friday. Finally! I’ve been waiting for about 8 months officially but it was about 10 months in the making. This is the last band preview for the 2015 festival, and in a way I struggled to figure out which band to do. There were a ton of options, but not many I could make connections with as I have with all the bands I’ve previewed so far. So I did some listening, reading, and reviewing and I found a new band for myself.

Night Terrors of 1927 was formed in 2012 by former front man of The Honorary Title, Jarrod Gorbel and former Rilo Kiley lead guitarist, Blake Sennett (Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley is also playing Coachella this year as a solo act). Some of you 90’s kids may even know Blake from his role as “Joey the Rat” on the TV show Boy Meets World or as Ronnie Pinsky from Salute Your Shorts. In 2013 they released a debut EP called Guilty Pleas. Their debut album, Everything’s Coming Up Roses, just came out in January. Now they’re on tour and making a stop in Indio along the way.

Their music may be considered indie pop but their album also sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a modern John Hughes film. It’s got the 80’s vibe, yet still a modern electronic indie feel. In fact, I’m pretty sure they could do a solid cover of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”.

As for me and my connection to the band, I literally just found out about them on Thursday. I wish I had listened to them earlier because I really do like what I’m hearing. Unfortunately though, they play both weekends at Coachella on Sunday along with just about every other band I want to see. I’m not sure if they’ll conflict with anyone I already had planned to see. If not though, I think they’re worth checking out. Who knows, maybe they’ll end up blowing up like many other bands who have played Coachella have done before them. Well, it’s been real previewing these Coachella bands. For anyone headed to the festival over the next two weeks I hope you have an incredible time. As for me, I’ll recap everything next week some time. Until then, peace, love, and good vibes.

Song recommendations:

1. When You Were Mine (feat. Tegan & Sara)

2. Dust and Bones

3. Young and Vicious

4. Always Take You Back

5. Never One To Complain

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)

 

Coachella Band Preview: Brand New

If you had asked me in the months between when I purchased tickets to Coachella until when the Coachella lineup came out who I thought was going to play the event or who I wanted to see at it, I could have given you a bunch of bands. The Arctic Monkeys. The Black Keys. Alt-J. Cold War Kids. Florence and the Machine. The list goes on and on. When the lineup came out in January, some of those bands made the cut (i.e. Alt-J, Florence, etc.). Many did not. What I wasn’t anticipating was seeing a band on the list that had been a major part of my life since around the time I started listening to “good music” in high school. It was a band that I haven’t listened to in several years because my taste in music changed quite a bit (when I strayed on a more indie route from my punk rock/emo/scene kid days). Even though that is the case, I can’t pretend I wasn’t stoked to see their name on the poster.

Coachella is noted for booking artists and bands that appeal to a wide array of music tastes. So, it shouldn’t have come as such a shock to see Brand New’s name on the lineup. I wasn’t expecting it but like I said, I was still pretty stoked. If you had asked me during my senior of high school who my favorite bands were, Brand New would’ve been in the top 3 so possibly seeing them as part of my first Coachella experience would be pretty rad.

Formed in 2000 from Long Island, New York (one of the best music scenes in the late 90’s-early 00’s), Brand New is made up of members, Jesse Lacey , Vincent Accardi, Garrett Tierney, and Brian Lane. Since their creation, Brand New has toured world wide, played countless festivals, and even performed on some late night television shows. They released their debut album Your Favorite Weapon in 2001. The second album, Déjà Entendu, came two years later and was a change in style from their first album. The first album was angsty, emo punk rock about all kinds of relationships. Most notably a few songs on the record supposedly took a dig at Taking Back Sunday guitarist, John Nolan, who was childhood friends with frontman, Jesse Lacey (for more on the bands’ feud you can check this out). The sound on the second album was way more mature. It was more alternative rock, more mellow at times, and much less angry. It was a progression of sound as well as success as it surpassed sales of their first album in a matter of weeks. Brand New’s third album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, was released in November 2006 and featured one of their most successful singles, “Jesus Christ”. The sound in this album also progressed from their second album. Although I would also consider it alternative rock, the band’s punk rock roots were less evident in it compared to Déjà Entendu (at least it seemed that way to me, but you could argue). Daisy, their fourth full length and latest album, was released in 2009. The sound in it was comparable to their third album and didn’t stray as much as the transitions between the other 3 albums.

In late 2004, a friend of mine introduced me to Brand New by burning me a copy of Your Favorite Weapon (it was actually the same friend who introduced me to Bayside). I was a huge fan from that point on. I listened to the CD constantly. I’m pretty sure I ended up getting Déjà Entendu not long after. It might’ve even been for Christmas 2004. I loved almost every song on Your Favorite Weapon though. In particular, “Failure By Design” was my all-time favorite. I related to the lyrics so much since I was such an emo kid at age 15. I purchased a Brand New t-shirt at Hot Topic (before Hot Topic got trendy) that is still to this day one of my favorite band tees. My Brand New “Because Mics Are For Singing Not Swinging” zip-up hoodie (another dig at Taking Back Sunday) was my go to during my senior year of high school. I screamed the lyrics to “Seventy Times Seven” when I got in fights with friends, and then I would put that song on the mix tapes I made them.

The first time I saw Brand New play live was in October 2006, my senior year of high school, when they were on tour with Dashboard Confessional. They opened for Dashboard. I saw them two more times after that. Both came in the spring of 2010, my junior year of college, within a week or two of each other. Yes, it was two shows on the same tour. I haven’t seen them since. I haven’t really had the desire to either since I experienced that second “musical enlightenment” in the spring of 2011 (my music taste changed a bit for those that haven’t read my blog posts).

Seeing them this year at Coachella would be like an added bonus (since I never expected to see them there). They’re playing on Sunday for both weekends in what will be their first Coachella appearance. I haven’t listened to them to prepare for their set because I’m sure if I do end up seeing it I’ll know the songs well enough already. However, if you end up seeing their set, I have a feeling they’ll be playing some new material. In November 2014, they announced a fifth album was in the works. I haven’t heard when it’ll be released but I’m sure they’ll use this opportunity to play a few new tunes. So if you’re like me and Brand New was part of the soundtrack to your teenage high school days (or if you’re into the kind of music they play), their set is worth checking out. It’ll definitely be nostalgic.

Song recommendations:

1. Seventy Times Seven

2. Failure By Design

3. The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows

4. Okay, I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t

5. Jesus Christ

6. Archers

7. At The Bottom

8. Jude Law And A Semester Abroad

9. The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot

10. Soco Amaretto Lime

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: St. Lucia

Oh man. Do you know what day it is today? It’s officially one month until Coachella 2015 kicks off. I’ve been trying to preview one band per week that’s playing this year and that I listen to/am interested in seeing at the festival. So with four weeks remaining, time is short. This week I’ll be writing about a band playing Coachella for the second consecutive year, which is a rarity for many artists.

Jean-Philip Grobler, known to the music world as St. Lucia is relatively new to the indie music scene. He released his debut album When The Night, which was years in the making, in September 2013. Grobler, born in South Africa, started out involved in music from a young age as part of a world touring boys’ choir. He began making his own music during his preteen years. After studying music in Liverpool for three years, he moved to Brooklyn and worked for a company as a jingle writer prior to being signed by Neon Gold Records. The record company re-released his independently released self-titled mini-album in March 2012.

St. Lucia’s music uses both electronic and non-electronic instruments to create almost an experimental pop type sound. It has also been described as 80’s synth-pop. I first heard of this electro-pop artist about a year ago after I purchased tickets to attend the Sweetlife Festival in Columbia, Maryland. They were on the short list of artists to play the one day event in early May so I checked them out while I was prepping for that. I liked what I heard but wasn’t extremely stoked on St. Lucia initially. After I downloaded three songs, it took listening to my Sweetlife playlist (of songs by bands performing at the festival) on repeat to discover that I really did dig the few St. Lucia songs I had. Unfortunately due to my desire to maintain my spot for Lana Del Rey at the main stage, I wasn’t able to see St. Lucia who played on the other stage. I’m also pretty sure the set time overlapped another band I wanted to see.

Within the last year I decided to purchase When The Night on vinyl, which ended up being another Christmas gift record (along with the latest Alt-J album if you’ve been following my blog). Then when the Coachella lineup was released in early January and I saw St. Lucia was part of it, I knew I had a second chance to see this artist. To be honest, I ended up being pretty bummed after Sweetlife that I didn’t see him.

This year St. Lucia plays Sunday’s date at Coachella. Both this year and last year, Grobler’s act isn’t/wasn’t listed as a minor headliner like some of the bands I already previewed, but who knows how long that will last. Maybe the next time St. Lucia plays Coachella that will change. It’s best to check them out now when you have the chance though because I doubt he’ll play for a third consecutive time next year. I know I’m going to. I’m sure with the upbeat synth-pop tracks it’ll definitely be a fun set.

Song recommendations:

1. Closer Than This

2. All Eyes On You

3. Elevate

4. Before The Dive

5. Wait for Love

6. The Way You Remember Me

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”