indie pop music

The Dream: Album Review

When I was in the midst of previewing Coachella and almost ready to head out for the second leg of my Mexico adventure in February, alt-J dropped their fourth full length album The Dream. The band also recently embarked on a North American tour with Portugal. The Man in support of their latest with more dates planned for this year worldwide. The Dream is their first album in five years since 2017’s Relaxer. Overall, alt-j’s latest album maintains their unique indie rock style of sound that is prevalent throughout their first three records with a slightly more Americanized rock sound.

The album much like it’s title is very dreamy. It’s very chill and sometimes somber indie rock with minimal bops. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a long scenic drive in my opinion. “Hard Drive Gold” is the “Left Hand Free”, “Breezeblocks”, or “In Cold Blood” of The Dream. I feel like each alt-j album so far has one of those and “Hard Drive Gold”, the song about crypto, is that hit of their latest release. “U&Me”, “Get Better”, & “Happier When You’re Gone” are solid tracks reminiscent of that classic alt-J sound as well. The main difference from this album compared to their first three is that alt-j’s sound has steered from the Middle Eastern sounds found in their earlier music. It’s more rock heavy yet the vocals are still smooth and distinguishable as alt-J tracks.

I don’t think this is alt-J’s best work, but the album does have a good handful of quality tracks that will stick around on set lists in the future. I feel like any time a band slightly strays from their original sound this tends to happen. It’s worth listening to as an alt-J fan though and is probably worth adding to your music collection too. I added it to mine on vinyl yesterday and I’m stoked to listen to it on this rainy spring weekend. If you haven’t already, check it out on a chill day or when you need a good soundtrack for a long drive. It’s quality new alt-J ∆.

Give Me the Future: Album Review

In February, while I was solely focused on writing Coachella Band Previews, several of my favorite bands dropped some new albums and I neglected to review them. The first of those was Bastille. On February 4th, Bastille released Give Me the Future. They dropped several tracks during 2021 in anticipation of the new album. Give Me the Future is Bastille’s fourth full length album and their latest since 2019.

Bastille is a band that has such a defining sound from Dan Smith’s smooth vocals. Their sound has always been a welcome consistency for me. That consistency lacks for a handful of artists so it’s nice when it exists. I will say the sound on the new album incorporates this modern, tech-y, futuristic style sound that is unique to other Bastille records, but it’s just enough to make their album sound different without making them sound different. A perfect example of this is “Plug In…” or “Back to the Future.” The theme of the album has such a deep, meaningful nature with the lyrical content too. The band credits that to the wild turn the world took in 2020 with the pandemic and what came from it.

As much as I always enjoy the music Bastille puts out, I have to say this album as a whole didn’t really do much for me. There’s a few songs I enjoy like “Shut Off the Lights” and “No Bad Days,” but overall as a whole it hasn’t really stuck out. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the new tunes, many of which I heard over the last year before the whole album came out! Maybe that’s part of the reason why I haven’t felt as hype about it. Many of the songs I like came out before the album release. The ones I hadn’t heard yet didn’t really stick out. That could be it. I feel like I’m being picky about it. As a fan of Bastille and indie pop though, I still say it’s worth listening to and something you should decide on for yourself.

Coachella Band Preview: Lost Kings, Flume, Emo Nite, Maggie Rogers, & Hayden James

In exactly one month, the 21st installment of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival begins in Indio, California at the Empire Polo Club, 81-800 Avenue 51. It’s all come down to this. One month left in the almost 36 month wait, once all is said and done. Since I returned from Mexico, I’ve been listening to my Coachella 2022 playlist almost every day. Over the last several Coachellas since I attended in 2015, the lineup has strayed away from my music interests. What was once a largely indie rock festival now spans across genres. My music interests have developed as well. I mean I was someone who never step foot in the Sahara tent in 2015. Coachella has become a festival of music discovery for me. There’s usually a good handful of artists I know and at least listen to on the lineup, but in recent years I’ve felt like I’ve used Coachella to become more interested in artists I don’t listen to as much or to discover new artists entirely. It’s broadened my interest in Arkells, Kungs, Maggie Rogers, and Petit Biscuit, and has helped me to discover artists like Dermot Kennedy, Daft Punk (Couchella 2020 was a thing!), and Dillon Francis. This week though I’m highlighting a bunch of artists and one style of music I’ve known and have liked for a while.

The first artists on this list are Lost Kings, the electronic music duo who have been releasing music since 2014. I previewed them as part of the 2020 lineup before shit hit the fan, so you can check out that blog here for more info about the electronic deejays. Since 2020, they released a new EP It’s Not You, It’s Me in December 2021. The EP contains all of their singles released over 2020 & 2021. Lost Kings play Friday to kick off the weekend and I’ll bet you’ll catch them and their progressive house style music sometime in the afternoon at the Sahara tent. These are some of the songs you’ll wanna know before you catch their set:

  1. Phone Down
  2. Oops (I’m Sorry)
  3. When We Were Young
  4. Don’t Kill My High
  5. First Love
  6. Anti-Everything
  7. You
  8. Stuck
  9. Look At Us Now
  10. Don’t Call

Flume is no stranger to this blog. Since 2016, I’ve considered Flume one of my favorite electronic artists. In fact, Flume, also known as Harley Streton, was the first deejay to get me into electronic music. I may have liked a song or two before that point, but I really found an interest in most of Flume’s music after listening to some of his tracks before volunteering at and attending Sweetlife Music Festival in 2016. Flume was also supposed to play Coachella in 2020. Read that preview here. It would have been his third appearance, but thankfully he’s back on the lineup in 2022 and will be making his third appearance this year instead. Prior to what would have been Coachella 2020, Flume released his track “The Difference” ft. Toro y Moi. He’s dropped a few remixes since, but released a brand new single, “Say Nothing” ft. MAY-A, a few weeks ago. Flume will be dropping a new album, Palaces, in May and I anticipate Coachella will probably get some new tunes as a result. Flume plays Saturday night and I would suspect he’ll be moving to the Main Stage this time around. His 2016 set was at Outdoor Theatre. These are the Flume songs you should be listening to so you’re ready for Saturday night in Indio:

  1. The Difference
  2. Say Nothing
  3. Rushing Back
  4. Never Be Like You
  5. Say It
  6. Holdin’ On
  7. Sleepless
  8. Drop the Game
  9. Insane
  10. Smoke & Retribution

When the 2020 lineup came out, I was both stoked and intrigued to see Emo Nite listed as an act for the festival. For someone who grew up listening to emo bands and who has attended a few emo nights, I’ve never actually been to the official Emo Nite that started them all. I’m excited to finally see what this is all about at Coachella and who makes an appearance at the festival. Here is the Emo Nite preview I wrote in 2020. Emo Nite is slated for Saturday at Coachella 2022. I would anticipate it to be at one of the smaller stages like Gobi or Mojave. It may even be at Sonora, which would would be the perfect setting for Emo Nite as an all enclosed air conditioned space where everyone can mosh freely. Although it’s kind of tough to prepare for Emo Nite because there’s tons of emo music, here are a few staples that have a good chance of being played:

  1. I’m Not Okay (I Promise) -My Chemical Romance
  2. Dear Maria, Count Me In -All Time Low
  3. Misery Business -Paramore
  4. I Write Sins Not Tragedies -Panic! At the Disco
  5. Sugar We’re Going Down -Fall Out Boy
  6. The Best of Me -The Starting Line
  7. Ocean Avenue -Yellowcard
  8. MakeDamnSure -Taking Back Sunday
  9. Hands Down -Dashboard Confessional
  10. The Great Escape -Boys Like Girls

Coachella 2019 was the first time I saw Maggie Rogers perform. Honestly, I haven’t seen her since, but I’ve continued to listen to her since the last Coachella, one of my favorite festival experiences to date. Maggie Rogers was a small part of that because of her song “Back in My Body.” I became obsessed with the song while I was in Indio for three weeks and it was so cool to see her perform it live. The song now reminds me of that time in my life and working/being at Coachella. Since my preview of Maggie Rogers for the 2019 festival, she has released a new single, “Loved You For A Long Time,” and an album of old recordings, Notes from the Archives: Recordings 2011-2016. She’s recently been dropping mixtape EP’s with songs from both albums. A few weeks ago she reported that her latest album is done, but there’s no set release date as of yet. This makes me think she’ll be debuting a new song or two at Coachella. Maggie Rogers plays Sunday and I’ll be damned if she doesn’t play a sunset set at Main Stage or Outdoor Theatre. She played the Mojave tent in 2019 and it was far too small. I expect her to move up to a bigger stage just as her name moved up on the lineup. Here’s some Maggie Rogers songs you’ll want to know beforehand:

  1. Alaska
  2. Love You For A Long Time
  3. Light On
  4. Fallingwater
  5. Back in My Body
  6. Celadon & Gold
  7. Burning
  8. Give A Little
  9. Say It
  10. On + Off

My first exposure to Hayden James came in 2018 during EDC Las Vegas. If you’ve following my blog in the past few years, you’d know his song “Numb” became my top listened to song of 2018 too. Like many of the artists I mentioned before, he was slated to play Coachella in 2020 and now returns for 2022. I had the chance to preview him two years ago, since I was just as stoked to see him perform again then as I am now. Since 2020, the Australian deejay has released a handful of singles and a DJ mix. He’s also put out so much more music since I last saw him perform in 2018 at Electric Forest. I can’t wait to have the chance to watch him again. He plays Sunday at Coachella, and I can bet you’ll catch him at the Sahara tent. I’m predicting a late afternoon, early evening set. It might even be a sunset set. Here’s some old and new songs you’ll wanna check out before heading to his Sunday show:

  1. Something About You
  2. Numb
  3. Just Friends
  4. Foolproof
  5. Rather Be With You
  6. Hold Tight
  7. On Your Own
  8. Waiting For Nothing
  9. Better Together
  10. Just A Lover

These five Coachella 2022 acts have all been part of this blog at one point or another, whether they were previewed for 2020 or played in the past. The thing they all have in common though is that if I already previewed them once, then I like them and I’m hyped to see them play. I’ve been listening to all these artists for the past week, along with many others I’ve already previewed. Time is winding down. Dust off your flower crowns because before you know it, we’ll be back. Coachella will be back. The vibes, the tunes, the fashion, the art, the food, the sunsets, the views, and everything else you love about Coachella will be here before you know it. Get ready and keep listening. We’re almost there!

Coachella Band Preview: FINNEAS

From the day after the last Coachella ended in April 2019 until now, I’ve been waiting to go back. Obviously March 2020 put a huge damper on the yearly spring tradition, and since then it’s just been a waiting game. I spent so many times thinking about Coachella, looking at pictures, and wondering what the day would be like when I finally get to go back and hoping by then it would be a normal Coachella. Now here we are, I leave for Coachella in just under a month and the festival begins in 5 weeks tomorrow. 1,090 days since the last Coachella once Day 1 Weekend 1 2022 hits. It’s unreal. I still keep holding my breath as I prep by listening to acts playing the festival this year, watching the Coachella Documentary from 2020, booking my travel, and planning out what I want to wear. With plenty of festivals now happening and three years since the last installment, Coachella seems imminent. I truly can’t believe we’ve made it this far. With the amount of time left, it’s really time to intensify the prep so this week I’m previewing an artist I’ve known about for a few years who, in my opinion, doesn’t get enough credit.

Finneas Baird O’Connell really has his claim to fame through his sister, Billie Eilish. He writes and produces a ton of her music along with other artists. He also writes and records his own music under the name FINNEAS. Before taking on his own project, he was the lead singer in the band, The Slightlys and took on some acting projects in the early 2010’s, including having a few appearances on the musical based TV show Glee. Since 2016, he has been recording and releasing his own music though. He released his first EP Blood Harmony in 2019 and his first studio album Optimist just last year. His music style is considered pop/alternative. After listening to FINNEAS for the first time in 2019, I would definitely consider him a pop artist. Also, despite the fact that he writes Billie’s music, I really do prefer his stuff over his sister’s. I knew once I discovered this that I wanted to listen to him more, but never really made the effort to do so. I guess there’s no better time than the present and no better festival to do it for than Coachella.

Billie Eilish is Saturday night’s headliner and usually a Billie festival appearance equates a FINNEAS festival appearance (sans Coachella 2019 when Billie made her first Polo Fields appearance). He plays a Sunday set. I’d expect a Sunday afternoon appearance from the older O’Connell sibling. I would also expect a Gobi or Mojave set from him. His set will likely be far less crowded than the set he’ll be a part of on Saturday night, but nonetheless, will be just as good. Here’s what you should be listening to in preparation for FINNEAS:

  1. Let’s Fall in Love for the Night
  2. Break My Heart Again
  3. I Lost A Friend
  4. Till Forever Falls Apart
  5. What They’ll Say About Us
  6. Angel
  7. A Concert Six Months From Now
  8. I Don’t Miss You At All
  9. Claudia
  10. New Girl

Coachella Band Preview: Jamie xx

Two things: it’s almost March and I’m almost home from my winter in Mexico! This means one thing: Coachella is a little over a month away after almost 1,100 days. Simple math. It makes my Coachella motto all that morning meaningful. I’ve always said to live every Coachella like your first Coachella. This time live every Coachella like your first Coachella and your last Coachella. Live it up hard. You never know. It just might be a while before your next one. Safe to say it’s been that way for this week’s preview artist. He last performed solo at the event in 2015 and performed with his band The xx in 2017. He goes by the name Jamie xx.

James Thomas Smith, or Jamie xx, is an English DJ/record producer. As I mentioned, he’s a member of indie pop band The xx, but it was shortly after the band’s formation that he began remixing tracks leading to his solo work. Along with remixing tracks by The xx, he began remixing music of several artists such as Florence + the Machine, Adele, and Glasser. His first album, We’re New Here, was entirely remixes. It came out in February 2011. His second and first original album, In Colour, was released in May 2015. He hasn’t really released much new music since then, aside from a single in 2020. The xx, however, last put out an album in 2017.

It’s definitely been a while since the last polo fields visit for the electronic artist who specializes in a style that incorporates future garage, post-dubstep, and house. He takes to the stage on Sunday in the desert. I’d imagine he would play the Sahara tent, but I could very well be wrong. He may be on the Coachella main stage or behind the booth at Outdoor. I would love a Jamie xx sunset set, and I feel like I’m not alone in this so I’ll be crossing my fingers that it happens. I’m also hoping that there may even be an appearance from Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, the other two members of The xx. It would be so sick to get the band back together for their first appearance in several years. To get ready for whatever the Jamie xx set brings, I’ll be listening to:

  1. Loud Places
  2. I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)
  3. Gosh
  4. See Saw
  5. Idontknow
  6. Obvs
  7. Girl
  8. On hold (Jamie xx remix)
  9. You’ve Got the Love (Jamie xx remix)
  10. Stranger in a Room

Coachella Band Preview: Phoebe Bridgers

As we near the end of February we’re another week closer to desert sunsets, festival fashion, chill vibes, and incredible music. I’m closing in on the end of my 2022 Mexico run and what a time it’s been this year. It’s always such a unique experience living and working in another country. With this year came plenty of other new challenges too, but I’m thankful for my team and friends who were there through all of it. Mexico is just the Coachella pre-party anyway right? I’ve spent some time listening to several 2022 performers, while working south of the border, including a woman who has gained significant popularity over the past few years, Phoebe Bridgers.

Phoebe Bridgers started her solo career in 2015 after leaving her first band Sloppy Jane. She released her first EP, Killer, around that time. The record was produced by then boyfriend, Ryan Adams, and released under his label PAX AM. Phoebe released her debut album Stranger in the Alps in 2017 shortly after signing with independent label Dead Oceans. The album was an independent success. Bridgers then joined up with fellow independent artists Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus to form the indie rock super group Boygenius. They only dropped one EP and embarked on a U.S. tour in the fall of 2018 before again continuing on with their solo projects. However, Bridgers also joined another side project with Bright Eyes front man Conor Oberst in 2018 when the two formed Better Oblivion Community Center and released their debut album in January 2019. The two embarked on a sell out tour that spring as well.

In 2020, Bridgers was supposed to tour with the 1975 in support of the release of her second solo album Punisher. Of course we know what happened there and the tour was ultimately cancelled. Punisher went on to major success though receiving tons of publication accolades and three Grammy nominations, one for Best Alternative Music Album and two for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song for the single “Kyoto.” Bridgers, herself, also received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, even though the “new” felt pretty relative as she’s been making music for several years.

Phoebe Bridgers music style is substantially indie folk, but can also be considered indie pop or indie rock. Nevertheless, she’ll fill that indie music spot for Coachella this spring and will likely attract a huge audience due to her 2020 success. 2022 will mark Bridgers first time performing the iconic southern California music festival. I’m hoping to be able to see one of her performances over the two weekends. I first heard about her in 2018 when a coworker of mine thought I would like her music and gave me a song to listen to. Again I can’t say I fell into the hype over her during the past few years, but I’d still love to see her. I suspect she’ll be playing Friday night on the main stage before Harry Styles. I plan on doing all the prepping I can for her set, because I feel like I should like her more than I do. Here’s what I’ve been listening to and what you should too:

  1. Funeral
  2. Kyoto
  3. Motion Sickness
  4. Garden Song
  5. Scott Street
  6. I Know the End
  7. Smoke Signals
  8. Graceland Too
  9. ICU
  10. Georgia

(Bonus: Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America (the 1975 song but feature Phoebe Bridgers because I just love it))

Coachella Band Preview: girl in red

Now that it’s February, we’re closing in on the two month mark until Weekend 1! It feels so weird writing this anticipating Coachella like it’s any other year. It’s not though. We haven’t been thriving on the polo fields since 2019. So much has happened and changed since then, but at the same time, having Coachella back will feel like another part of normal life has returned. I keep writing these blogs like I have for years, but god knows I’m so much more excited and emotional about getting back to Coachella this year than I ever was. That being said, this week I’m stoked to preview an artist I didn’t know much about when the 2020 lineup came out. She was on it but I had no idea at the time. Thankfully over the last two years I got to know and love girl in red.

When girl in red was booked for Coachella 2020, she was up and coming. She was an undercard. But thanks to tik tok and lesbians everywhere, girl in red has since exploded. Last spring girl in red, aka Marie Ulven Ringheim, released her debut album, if i could make it go quiet. The album reached top 10 spots on music charts worldwide. I was able to catch a few songs of her ACL set during Weekend 2. She played the main stage early in the day. She wasn’t drawing a huge crowd at the time, but I guarantee she will at Coachella. This time her name has moved up on the lineup poster and I suspect she’ll be playing a late afternoon or early evening set on the main stage or at Outdoor.

Since I first wrote about girl in red, as I already mentioned, she has gotten a lot bigger. Over the last year, she’s stuck to the festival circuit, in support of her debut album. Her name has been rising higher on every festival lineup though. She has a completely sold out spring North American tour lined up that includes her stops in Indio, before she heads back overseas for the European leg of the tour. The European leg is completely sold out too.

girl in red is an act that you won’t want to miss in April. She fills the indie rock card that now seems a lot more rare at Coachella. However, she’s part of that new wave of Gen Z indie rock, so you’d expect a lot more younger fans at her set. She’s definitely going to crush her first Coachella appearance though. Here’s a few tracks that you’ll need to know before you catch her:

  1. we fell in love in october
  2. Serotonin
  3. i wanna be your girlfriend
  4. bad idea!
  5. midnight love
  6. girls
  7. I’ll Call You Mine
  8. summer depression
  9. Rue
  10. You Stupid Bitch

Coachella Band Preview: Bishop Briggs

We’re almost to the end of January. With that lineup release last week, time is limited before Coachella 2022 begins. At this point we’re officially past the 3 month mark until Weekend 1! That being said I have a lot of bands to write about and not much time. It’s time to start picking out your Coachella fits and planning which artists you want to see. It’s also time to start listening to those artists. So without further adieu, first up on my list is one of my most anticipated acts this year, Bishop Briggs.

Bishop Briggs is no stranger to Coachella. She last performed at the festival in 2017 prior to the release of her debut album Church of Scars. Since then she dropped her second album CHAMPION in 2019. She’s been touring and playing festival gigs consistently over the last few years too. Her music hasn’t really changed much either. She still has that powerful, deep, dark, and soulful sound. She also still brings plenty of energy to her sets.

I could see her playing an early set on the Coachella stage or the Outdoor Theatre or a later set at Gobi or Mojave. I highly believe she’ll draw a crowd. It’ll definitely be a fun upbeat set to be at and I know she’ll be bringing the heat to the desert. She’s one of my top artists this year and I really hope I’m able to check out her set. Given that her set is on Friday, I may not have the opportunity. I’m hoping for a late set because of this. I’ll definitely have more of a chance to see her if it is. As for set preparations for Bishop Briggs, here’s what I’m gonna start listening to:

  1. River
  2. Dream
  3. CHAMPION
  4. Wild Horses
  5. HIGHER
  6. White Flag
  7. Dark Side
  8. JEKYLL & HYDE
  9. Tempt My Trouble
  10. Be Your Love

The Return of Live Music and the Top Tunes of 2021

I came into this year believing it would be a transition. I knew it wouldn’t be the best year ever, but I truly believed we were going to transition back into some weird period of normalcy that wasn’t quite exactly normal yet. Sure enough after 15 long months, we did and live music came back into our lives. I went back to work. I saw my friends again, made new ones, and got closer to others, which is something I’m so grateful as someone who works in live events. Usually at the end of the year, I recap some of my favorite music, but this year, after talking to a friend of mine, I’ve decided to include something extra. This was the first year in a while that I didn’t have a stand out favorite song of the year. For me, this year was a comeback to music I know and love with a few new faves along the way. You’ll see what I mean. So let’s get to it, here are my 2021 favorites in music:

Torches X -Foster the People

I knew going into 2021 that Torches, one of my all time favorite albums by my favorite band Foster the People, would be turning 10. Last fall, I was hoping they would play a drive-in show in May in honor of the 10th anniversary. Needless to say I never expected I would get to see them play a 10th anniversary show in LA in November nor did I expect a deluxe edition of the album with some of my favorite early Foster the People songs. That’s what I got though and I’m more stoked about it than you know. Plus after years of hoping and wishing, “Broken Jaw” is now on Spotify. It can’t get any better than that.

30 -Adele

After 6 years, Adele finally put out new music in 2021. As I wrote recently, 30 hasn’t been my favorite Adele album, but it was still something I anticipated for quite a while. It deserves recognition for that, especially after the endless amount of Twitter teases over the past 2 years. It’s still one of my favorite albums of 2021 and has several great tracks that I love. I’m stoked Adele is finally back.

Decco

Decco was a huge discovery for me this past spring. I spent a good amount of time listening to their songs after finding them because of a Kygo song on my Release Radar Spotify playlist. I’m actually surprised their song “I Didn’t Know” wasn’t my most listened to song of 2021 because I surely spent a lot of time listening to that track this past spring and summer. I’m hoping there are more solid Decco songs released in the future and maybe even a festival set or two. They’re great and I’m glad I found them.

“Chapstick” -COIN

I added this song to my work out playlist in mid-October after returning home from ACL and it’s been a song that I haven’t been able to get enough of since. I’ve been listening to COIN here and there for the last few years, but this song just hits different for me. It’s got such a great edgy, rock feel. I’ve kept it on repeat for the past 2 months and I’ll likely be keeping it that way into the new year.

“Dissolve” -Absofacto

My friend Hailey told me about this song during Lollapalooza because Absofacto played the festival. She said the song was a big hit, but I hadn’t heard it. She played it for me and I was hooked. I added it to my summer work out playlist and much like “Chapstick” it was a song I kept playing on repeat. In fact, I even extended the listening period by putting it on my fall work out playlist too. It’s been a song I’ve loved since the summer and one of my favorites of 2021.

“Low Rider” -War

This 1975 classic has been the official/unofficial song of the year for me. What started as a joke over the radio at Peach just carried on for the rest of the year. I kept hearing this song at random times after that and it’s always a jam. I even bought the single on vinyl 2 weeks ago. Glad this song made a comeback this year for me and the festie pals because it’s truly the best.

Loving in Stereo -Jungle

Jungle’s Loving in Stereo was another one of my favorite albums of the year. It has such a complete track-listing with so many songs I enjoy. I had it playing in my car for months too. I’ve been listening to Jungle since their debut album was released in 2014 and caught them at Coachella in 2015 and Lollapalooza in 2018. This is definitely my favorite album of theirs so far and I’m disappointed I didn’t see them on their tour this fall in support of it. I’m hoping for some festival appearances next year that I’ll be able to catch because this album made me love Jungle even more.

“Sweet Talk” -Fitz Leland

In early 2021, I discovered this jam by independent artist Fitz Leland. It was one of my favorites to listen to last winter, especially during my weekly adventures on the slopes. It was always such a vibe hearing it while on the lift or while lifting (you know it was on the work out playlist too!). This one definitely helped carry me through a winter I tried to make the best of. It’s such a mood.

So I know I usually do a top 10 followed by some runners up, but this year wasn’t about music I listened to. It was about music I saw. Being sidelined for 15 months from shows and work made me want to see music as much as I could as soon as I was able to. I also appreciated seeing live music much more. After thinking about it and looking back on my calendar, I’ve seen 39 full and partial sets this year since June, when I saw my first concert since Dermot Kennedy back in February 2020. So instead of just songs, albums, or artists, here’s something extra that I’ve never done yet. Here are my favorite sets from concerts and festivals (in the order in which I saw them) once live music came back this year:

The Suicide Machines & Less Than Jake

This was my first concert in 15 months. I saw both bands play AC Beer Fest on the first weekend of June at a time when everything was starting to transition into a normal-ish time again. AC Beer Fest was an outdoor festival that we tailgated on a beautiful Saturday. I can’t even express what it felt like in that moment to be together with my friends at a ska punk show again. Tears were had. Songs were sung. We skanked and I got beer accidentally dumped on me on the way out to the parking lot. It was the best day with my pals.

Carrie Underwood at Country Jam

Country Jam was my first big gig/festival that I worked since Mexico in the winter of 2020. I also got to work a role that I wanted to try to get involved in on my next festival season, credentials. The last night of the festival Carrie Underwood headlined. I’m not a country fan but of course I know Carrie Underwood, even if it’s only like 2-3 songs. So I anticipated her set all weekend. After a successful week on the Jam Ranch, I watched her Saturday night set with my co-worker friends. Again, it was an incredible feeling to be back to work and back at a music festival and that realization set in while taking in Carrie Underwood. The set culminated in “Before He Cheats.” We went so hard that we probably could have taken a Louisville slugger to both head lights in that moment that truly felt like live music was back.

Miley Cyrus at Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza has always been one of my favorite festivals. Unlike other festivals, I didn’t get to work Lolla in 2019 so it made the return to Lollapalooza this year even more special for me. I actually felt an excitement coming into work the first show day that I hadn’t felt at all yet despite working 2 festivals at that point. It was a different feeling that comes with working my favorite festivals though so that’s probably why. Miley Cyrus headlined the first day of Lollapalooza this year and I figured once I closed up my ticket help I would catch the end of her set. I met up with a girl on my team who I had met 2 days prior and that I clicked with instantly along with my VIP one-off turned festival worker homie Finnerty. Two of our other friends popped out of the VIP area that we were standing next to when Miley went into “7 Things.” We all went so hard. I kind of forgot the song existed until that moment. After that, she just kept playing all the hits. I couldn’t believe how many Miley songs I actually knew. She killed it too. I loved watching everyone get emotional during “The Climb.” The production during “Can’t Be Tamed” was fantastic. Then she closed with “Party in the USA” a half hour after her set was supposed to end which felt like a true party with people being together, dancing, and singing in the heart of downtown Chicago at the first major music festival since the panny d began. It was a special moment, granted some news about new variants and such changed everything the next day. That first night was a true celebration though and I was grateful to take it in from the crowd.

Green Day at Hella Mega

When the Hella Mega Tour was announced in 2019, I knew I wanted to work it. I even got to the point this year thinking I might attend if I didn’t get the chance to work. Fortunately though, I was able to work two dates on the tour and it was the coolest VIP event I worked all year. It was a no stress, low energy type of work day that ended as soon as the headliner, Green Day, took the stage. Green Day is such an iconic band and anyone who has ever listened to alternative/punk music has listened to Green Day. The first date I worked was in Hershey in August. I was entranced when I walked in the venue and I saw Bille Joe Armstrong strumming hard to “Holiday.” Green Day played all their hits on the tour from “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” to “Basket Case” to “21 Guns.” It was all around awesome. They were so entertaining to see live and that was my first time ever seeing them. I, of course, popped in the venue for one or two Fall Out Boy songs earlier and heard their entire set along with Weezer and the Interrupters’ from the VIP check-in spot too. We were set up right near the stage. It was a great day overall and I felt so lucky to have experienced it.

Lizzo at Firefly

Firefly was a rough week and half for me due to some personal feelings and such, but being able to actually be at the festival is always a rarity these days and one I cherished about my time in the Woodlands. After the Lizzo hype of 2019, I was so stoked to see her Sunday night set in one of her first performances back since early 2020. I got to see it from the VIP area with several of my friends who were working in VIP that weekend. It was a nonstop hour and a half dance party filled with endless joy that felt “good as hell!”

Glass Animals

After Firefly ended, I had 2 days before flying out to Austin for ACL. I was home for a total of 26 hours because the night before flying out I saw Glass Animals with my friend Amanda. We bought the tickets when the tour was announced back in May cause I anticipated being able to make the Tuesday night date. I made it happen and it was another night of nonstop dancing. Before I got into Glass Animals, I saw bits and pieces of their July 2017 Panorama set. That following fall I started listening to Glass Animals and felt bummed when I missed the call on them earlier that year. Dreamland was one of my favorite albums of 2020. I spent so much time at home listening to them last year that finally getting to see them perform in late September after all that time felt so satisfying. We had such a good time that we’re even thinking about seeing them again next year at Red Rocks because we don’t wanna talk we just wanna dance to Glass Animals again and again.

Dermot Kennedy at ACL

I made my return to ACL this year after working my first one ever in 2019. It was always a festival that I wanted to work but couldn’t figure out an in for. I was asked at Lolla if I wanted to do it again and I immediately said yes to spending two weeks in Austin. ACL brought a ton of great times and reunions with my ticketing fam and Austin friends, but none was more special than my reunion with my friend Danny, who I lovingly refer to as the Danimal. It had been just over 2 years since we last saw each other and after taking a full time role with a major event company he came to the 2nd weekend of ACL for fun. Thanks to my amazing team I was able to take some time to see all of Dermot Kennedy’s set with Danny. Danny was with me at Coachella 2019 when I first discovered Dermot. I caught Dermot’s set at Lolla, but seeing his ACL set with my favorite festival buddy was more special. We sang along to everything and danced harder than one would expect at a Dermot Kennedy set to the point that we created a mini mosh pit with two strangers during “Giants.” It was one of the most fun live music moments I experienced all year.

Foster the People (Torches X Show)

I already dedicated a whole blog to this show, so please check it out for all the detail. Just to reiterate though, I can’t believe I got to experience this show. It still feels surreal. Favorite band, favorite album, in one of my favorite places. Surreal.

LCD Soundsystem

When I wrote my end of 2020 music recap, I wrote about hoping to hear from LCD Soundsystem again in 2021. Well they came back. They announced a 20 show residency in NYC in November and December in early October and I spent one morning before heading to site at ACL struggling to get tickets. I managed to secure tickets to one of the early December shows with plans to see them again with my friends at their final date of the residency. The residency got cut short due to the unrelenting panny d, but I was still able to go to the show I purchased tickets for in the beginning of December. It became a whole weekend of shows with my friend Hailey who flew in to hang with me and to see James, Nancy, Pat and the rest of the crew. We spent some time hanging in NYC too. LCD Soundsystem always gets me hyped since I never thought I would get to see them after getting into them in 2012 post-break up. This time was no different as I planned to dance myself clean for the third time. We heard, in my opinion, one of the best set lists of the residency too. I danced myself clean with all my friends as daft punk played at my house and New York, which I love brought me down. It was so good that I could do it on repeat.

Streetlight Manifesto

The day after LCD Soundsystem Hailey and I made our way to Philly to attend mine and my friends’ annual Christmas celebration at Streetlight Manifesto. Usually it happens in central Jersey with just me and my two friends Ashley and Noah, but this year with an announced Philly date, we decided to do it there with a bunch of other pals. I convinced Hailey to come even though she wasn’t into Streetlight with the promise that she would get to experience this incredible tradition we started in 2018. Despite not playing “Point/Counterpoint” into “Keasbey Nights” back into “Point/Counterpoint,” we had the best time singing along with our arms around each other to the uptempo ska songs we loved listening to in high school after a year not being able to see Streetlight. It was another one of my favorite concert moments of the year.

Runners-Up:

All Time Low

Thanks to my friend Emily and her homie at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago I was able to attend All Time Low’s Lollapalooza aftershow during Lolla week (the show was Wednesday before the festival started). After Hailey hooked it up with providing a place to stay, we both started talking about attending a show the night before Day 1 of the festival. We both had an interest in All Time Low and it just happened to work out that Emily had connections at the venue when I told her we wanted to attend. The only problem was I worked onsite until 7 PM the day of the show which was when it started. There was an opener though so I figured ATL wouldn’t hit the stage til 8:30 or show and we would be fine. We were not, in fact, fine. All Time Low came on at 8 and we got to the venue around 8:40 by the time I left work, moved my stuff to the place we were staying, quickly changed, and ubered there. We saw the last 4-5 songs though. They were all bangers and it was enjoyable for the brief time we were there. I got to hear “Dear Maria…” their most iconic song, which was really cool because I’ve known that song since high school and I had never seen All Time Low before that night. Overall, it was fun to take in a show with Hailey since we were getting to know each other and realized we had similar music tastes. It really kicked off my return to Lollapalooza too and I knew it would be a great week.

The Killers at Firefly

As I mentioned before, I was able to see a bunch of music at Firefly given my role and hours for the week. I was able to see everything I wanted to see on Friday and Sunday at the festival, which included Friday night’s headliner, The Killers. Both times I saw the Killers previously were with my mom, so this was the first time seeing them without her. I was sure to record her favorite song though and send it to her as I took in the set with some of my festie friends. It was another set of the weekend that included tons of dancing as I sang along to mostly every song. The Killers always put on a good show and this was no different even if they didn’t end with “Mr. Brightside.”

Nelly at Firefly

My inner middle school self was so excited to see Nelly at Firefly. That’s the great thing about festivals, being able to see music you wouldn’t normally buy a concert ticket to. I took advantage of the opportunity and it was such a fun set. Nelly was so big during my middle school and high school years that I knew almost every song he performed. There was a huge crowd for his set and almost everyone was singing/rapping along to hits like “Ride Wit Me”, “Hot in Herre”, “Air Force Ones”, and “Grillz.” As a former fan, it was definitely a highlight to be able to see Nelly this year.

Now that I did a double review for the year that brought live music back into our lives, what’s next? Well there’s still plenty of concerts and events that didn’t get to happen this year so next year the comeback is still on. I’m highly anticipating new Arctic Monkeys next year and a Foster the People tour that they mentioned at their Torches X show. I’m also still hoping for new music from LCD Soundsystem. At least they came back to play shows these past 2 months. I’m also excited for new alt-J and Bastille. Both have new albums dropping in February. I’m still hoping for more Florence and the Machine as I was last year, but it would also be great to add Tegan & Sara to that list too.

If all goes well, in a few days there should be a certain well-known festival that will be dropping a lineup. I have my fingers crossed that all goes accordingly with it this year since it’s been 3 years since the last one. I know so many others are hopeful as well. In any event, once that lineup drops there will be several blog posts coming straight from the marathon month I’ll be spending in Mexico, since those events are back as well. 2021 will definitely go down as a return to live music and I hope it all keeps going smoothly into the next year. Until then, don’t stop listening and buying tickets!

Raise Up to Your Ability

It’s rare that I write a specific post dedicated to a personal music experience outside of Coachella especially with the amount of music I see, but I recently had a worthy one. About two weeks ago I traveled to LA to see my favorite band, Foster the People. They played a 3 night run at the Wiltern. Aside from a gig in Mexico a few days prior, it was their first live performances since 2018 (understandably so given the live music shutdown for over a year). This stint wasn’t just regular shows though. It was a 10 year celebration of the release of their first album, Torches. The band played the entire album in order during their sets each night.

A year ago, when I stayed home most of the time and spent my days working out, looking forward to meals and the occasional visits with friends, and missing live music, I started thinking about the fact that Torches would be turning 10 in 2021. I thought to myself then that Foster the People would be the only band I would compromise my feelings about drive-in shows for (I thought they were dumb), if they played a 10 year Torches anniversary show in May (Torches came out in May 2011). I didn’t know what the status of regular shows would be at the time and I wasn’t trying to jump the gun either. Then in August, after almost 2 months of a close to normal return of live music, Foster the People announced their 3 night run of Torches anniversary shows in LA. I had no choice but to maintain that promise I made to myself last fall and go.

So on a chilly LA evening in late November, I ubered to the Wiltern from my hotel in Venice. I met friends in a line that wrapped around the block upon arrival. That was followed by another wait in an extensive merchandise line so I could buy the special poster for the anniversary shows. Thank god for drinks and my pals. We secured a spot relatively close to the stage, house right after I secured the commemorative poster.

Foster the People came on around 9 PM. I attended the Friday night show and for the first time in a very long time, I had not looked at the set lists from the previous two nights. Other than a spoiler of “Lamb’s Wool” I saw as I scrolled through Twitter two days before, I knew nothing about their sets. They opened with “Style”, a song released in 2019 on the Pick U UP EP and proceeded to play a mix of old songs and new songs, including one of their earliest songs “Chin Music For the Unsuspecting Hero”, before that all too familiar drum and synth intro of “Helena Beat” began.

By this point, I had not stopped dancing or singing along to every song. Thankfully one of my friends went on a bathroom run and grabbed us some waters. After “Helena Beat”, I knew what was coming, Foster the People’s most famous song “Pumped Up Kicks.” The cheers were loud when that bass line started. It’s the song that everyone knows, but given all the controversy, I tried to take it in as much as possible because I wasn’t sure if it would be the last time I hear it live. It felt amazing knowing I had one last time hearing the hit song live though in case they don’t play it anymore.

“Call It What You Want” and “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)” were next. I didn’t chug my water until after “Houdini”, which featured an appearance of blow up Torches album art creatures that flailed along as we rose up to our ability. When Mark and the boys (without Mark Pontius for the first time since his departure from the group in mid-October) finished “Warrant,” the applause and cheers lasted for at least a minute. I couldn’t even believe I had just heard one of my all time favorite albums played live front to back. It was a special feeling. I was sweaty and so ready for more.

The band played five more songs after that. It was another mix of new and old with live debuts of “Cadillac” and “Walk With a Big Stick” amongst “Ruby”, the cult favorite “Broken Jaw”, and Sacred Hearts Club hit “Sit Next to Me”, which featured the Sacred Hearts Club tour neon light dropping into the background. After a brief departure from the stage, Foster the People returned to encore with 3 more songs, “Under the Moon”, “Lotus Eater” sans cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones that they played during their last tour, and finally ended the night with Supermodel jam “Pseudologia Fantastica.”

When the house lights returned, it was 11 PM. Foster the People played a 2 hour long set, longer than any other night during their brief run at the Wiltern. It was the second time I heard them play that long. The other was the last time I had seen them, September 18th, 2017 at the Fillmore in Philly. That was the best concert I’ve ever been to. They played countless hits from every album released until that point. I was up against the bar watching every movement and action on stage. I even caught the set list. This was just as special in a different way.

It was an incredible night that reminded me about the importance of live music. Last year I spent so much time wondering when I would get to go to another show. I felt frustrated in losing so much of what I loved. My only consolation was to tell myself that we would be back soon enough. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this concert was one of the reasons I got through last year. It was my favorite band, playing my favorite album in one of my favorite places (California) and I felt beyond grateful to experience it.