live music

Come Up For Air

I love music. You know this if you know me, or if you read my blog. Although I’m supposed to be writing about sports, entertainment, and music for this blog, it turned into a music blog for the most part, aside from the occasional USWNT update. That said, my love of music started many years ago. However, in high school when that first “musical enlightenment” I wrote about last year happened was when everything started to come into place. I focused more on playing instruments and looking for music than I had before. I fell into the culture of the bands I listened to. Most importantly though, I frequented live music performances. I went to so many shows. They made me feel so alive and that I had a place of belonging. There’s something about live music though. That moment when the lights go out, right before the band comes on stage, is everything. That moment you hear the opening notes to your favorite song that you end up screaming at the top of your lungs along with the band is beyond words. Even that time right before the encore when the lights are still out and everyone is screaming and shouting “One more song!” is incredible because for one moment in time everyone is brought together by music. Hearing a band/singer/artist live is so special. It’s way better than listening to music any other way.

Ever since I learned that, I’ve tried to experience as many live music events as I can. In a few weeks, there’s a chance I might be heading to another show. I can only hope my plans for the show work out as right now it’s uncertain. I started listening to the band playing the show about 4 years ago after a friend recommended their song “Hospital Beds”, but they were on the scene several years before I heard of them.

Cold War Kids is an indie rock band formed in 2004 in Fullerton, California. Their name was inspired by an instance during bassist Matthew Maust’s Eastern European vacation. He found a playground in a park filled with statues that had been dumped after the fall of Communism in Budapest. Being in that environment caused the phrase “cold war kids” to pop into his head. It was relevant to Maust as well, since he was born in the Cold War era and it stuck. Along with Maust, the group also consists of Nathan Willett (vocals/guitar/keyboard/piano), Dann Gallucci (guitar/keyboard), Matthew Schwartz (keyboard/piano/guitar/vocals) and Joe Plummer (drums). Plummer and Gallucci replaced founding members Jonnie Russell (guitar) and Matt Aveiro (drums).

The band released three EP’s (Mulberry Street, With Our Wallets Full, and Up in Rags) before their first full length, Robbers & Cowards, came out in October 2006. They toured for two full years before getting back to the studio to work on their second full length, Loyalty to Loyalty, which was released in September 2008. They promoted their second album while being on tour with Death Cab for Cutie, before releasing the EP Behave Yourself at the end of 2009.

After spending the next year recording, Cold War Kids released their third full length, Mine Is Yours, in January 2011. The third album received mixed reviews but earned them spots in the festival circuit playing Coachella and Bonnaroo. Their fourth album, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, was released two years later. They spent 2013 touring to promote the album and announced a fifth was in the works by the end of that year. Hold My Home, the band’s fifth album, was released a little less than a year ago on October 21st. Hold My Home contains their most successful single to date, “First”, which reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Alternative Song chart.

I wish I could say the exact time and moment I first heard Cold War Kids, but I can’t. I can’t even remember if a friend recommended it or if I heard it on a Pandora station. So I may be lying with that statement I made before. All I know is I downloaded “Hospital Beds” in July of 2011 and a few months later I downloaded “Hang Me Up to Dry”. Both songs didn’t really spark a genuine interest, but maintained spots in my listening routine from my “Most Recently Added” playlist. It wasn’t until last fall that I became a bit more interested in the band. Before the release of Hold My Home, I became addicted to their single “All This Could Be Yours”. I almost purchased the album because of that song. For some reason though, it never happened. I even featured the song “Hot Coals” in an app prototype I designed for a computer graphics class I took at the time. When “First” started hitting the airwaves this past spring, I once again became addicted to another Cold War Kids song. I realized 2 months ago it was probably a mistake not getting that album last year. Then again, I’ve still yet to purchase it (I’ll get on that).

While looking for nearby concerts and shows, as I routinely do, I noticed Cold War Kids booked a nearby venue at the end of this month. I almost saw them last January, but decided against it when I thought they might be playing Coachella. Then the weather didn’t cooperate for the weekend they were playing. Go figure. Unfortunately they didn’t play Coachella 2015 so I’ve yet to see them play. When I once again saw they had a date booked for a nearby show, I realized I only knew a few of their songs. I knew those songs well though and liked them a lot too, but it was still only a few considering how many albums they have. So recently I’ve begun to listen Cold War Kids more than ever in prep for a show that I may not even attend for scheduling reasons. Either way, they’re a great band, and I’ll never regret knowing more of their music no matter what happens. If you want to know more about their music too, you should listen to:

  1. Hospital Beds
  2. Hang Me Up to Dry
  3. All This Could Be Yours
  4. First
  5. Miracle Mile (addicted to this song at the moment)
  6. Mine Is Yours
  7. We Used to Vacation
  8. Audience
  9. Hot Coals
  10. Hold My Home

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.)