experimental

Coachella Band Preview: Portugal. The Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Feel It Still

2. Live in the Moment

3. Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue

4. People Say

5. Modern Jesus

6. So Young

7. Noise Pollution

8. Rich Friends

9. Easy Tiger

10. So American

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An Ode to Bowie

This morning when I woke up and checked Twitter I saw that legendary rock music icon, David Bowie, passed away at the age of 69 after an 18 month battle with cancer. I typically wouldn’t make a blog post about someone dying unless it was someone who I really loved or admired or who affected my life in such a significant way, but then something happened. The way I found out solved a 15 year mystery for me and it got me thinking. David Bowie has kind of been a subliminal figure in my life for a while, but especially the last several years. I would never label myself a David Bowie fan so to speak. I never listened to his music frequently, saw him as a personal cultural icon, or followed his life and career, but somehow David Bowie managed to silently sneak into my life at various times. So I figured, I would do a small ode to Bowie blog post as reminder of his subtle influence in my life.

David Robert Jones (Bowie) was born and raised in South London. He took the name Bowie during the start of his career so he wouldn’t be confused with the Monkees’ Davy Jones. He broke into the charts of the music world with Space Oddity in 1969 and released many more albums in the years following to much success. He even released a final album, Blackstar, as a parting gift to the world this past Friday. Bowie was known for his progressive, innovative, unique, and gender-bending persona. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Throughout his life he was involved with many aspects of music, but also acted in several films. He truly was an entertainment superstar.

As a music fan, I know and have heard David Bowie’s music before. I’ve heard “Rebel, Rebel” more times than I can count.  I, of course, know the song “Under Pressure”, which he recorded with Queen in 1981. I’m pretty sure most people in general know the song, can hum the baseline, and also confuse it with Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”, which caused some legal controversy in the early 90’s. “Heroes”, however, is my most favorite Bowie song of recent years, solely for the fact that it was featured on the soundtrack of a movie based off of my favorite book of all-time, which counts for one subtle Bowie appearance in my life.

Two more of those times involves two music themed movies. One of those movies has already been featured on The Film Playlist series (The Runaways). The other will be featured in the near future I’m sure. Both films have references to Bowie. Thus, two subtle David Bowie life appearances. Besides casually seeing David Bowie t-shirts, hearing celebrity references, and occasionally hearing his music throughout my life (more subtle appearances than I can count), Bowie’s limited acting career includes a few life appearances. One of his acting roles was in the movie Zoolander, a favorite movie of mine in middle school. He played himself and was the judge in the famed walk-off  challenge scene between Derek Zoolander and Hansel. Another movie he starred in back in the 80’s was Labyrinth, a movie I’ve never seen before.

You’re probably wondering how this movie and David Bowie fit in with my life then, right? Well in middle school a girl in my class used to randomly sing this song “Dance Magic Dance” , which at the time I thought she made up because it was so ridiculous. For those of you who have seen Labryrinth, you now understand the Ah-ha moment. For those who haven’t, let me explain. David Bowie played the role of Jareth the Goblin King and sings this song in the film. It wasn’t until the very moment that I found out about David Bowie’s death that I connected the dots on that song. I read a tweet by a celebrity I follow on Twitter that referenced Bowie’s death, the “Dance Magic Dance” song, and Labyrinth. Finally, I made the full connection. Right before I wrote this, I watched a clip of the song in the movie on Youtube. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and shook my head for the entirety of the clip. It was the first time I’d ever heard the real version of the song this girl used to sing in middle school, which was more than 15 years ago. Crazy. Subtle Bowie. So Subtle.

Lastly, I had a Halloween party a few years ago where one of my friends came dressed as David Bowie with the classic Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt painted across his face. Both him and another one of my friends had an appreciation for Bowie and his uniqueness that translated into him being Bowie for the party.

I’m sure there have been other times Bowie appeared in the background somewhere in my life. It’s like he’s photobombed all these life scenes for me. He may very well continue to do that even if he’s no longer with us. So thanks David Bowie. Thanks for being involved in cool things and random things, music things and movie things. Thanks for influencing so many in a variety of ways. And thanks for being subtle yet not-so subtle at the same time. *insert pic of Bowie creeping in the background*