The Capitol Hill Block Party Was Legitimately Nuts: Get the deets here!
In Utero is Now a Surly 20-Year Old: The 20th anniversary reissue of Nirvana's last album will include unreleased demos, B-sides, and a live performance from 1993.
David Cameron Made a Mixtape For His G8 Friends: Unfortunately it's a bit rubbish.
Thom Yorke Visits Marc Maron: And the mastermind behind Radiohead is "not exactly revealing," so definitely take a listen!
UK Pop Continues to Take Over Your Body and Soul: Peep this video from the inimitable Lil Silva, featuring Rosie Lowe.
I realize I’m supposed to review the whole show here but I’m going to pull a Mudede for a minute to focus on one song in particular: “Pendulum”, one of the most elegant pop compositions I’ve heard in recent years and the opener of last night’s set. It's like 70's FM radio clockwork: the subtly complex bass line bobbing beneath waves of feather-light electric guitar, with the sort of so-simple-it’s-perfect drum machine beat keeping the whole thing yacht-rocking ever forward. But the part that elevates the song from merely pretty indie rock to melancholic summer anthem are the vocals by lead singer Sarah Versprille, whose ethereal, plaintive voice hovers over the music with an eerie grace. And what is the song about, you ask? I really have no idea. The lyrics I can make out, about "little fears whispered in rabbit's ears" and how "you're so hollow" seem to indicate some pretty bleak stuff. But then she says that I'm "gonna swing like a pendulum" so maybe redemption's around the corner? See for yourself.
Fittingly, my other favorite song of theirs belongs to their spiritual forebears: a straightforward yet killer rendition of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, with Versprille playing heartbroken Stevie Nicks to wondrous effect. The rest of the set was fine, perfectly serviceable Pacific Northwest indie (complete with an absence of any stage banter whatsoever), but hearing those two songs after a pretty insane, beautiful July weekend in the heart of the city was honestly the only nightcap I needed.
Okay, ONE MORE super quick Block Party post from me! I have to say that Jarv Dee's set on Sunday sounded A+. There's always a worry that the Vera Stage (and outdoor stages in general) might sound like an underwater trash heap, but he actually had better sound up there than most of the rock/indie band setups I saw earlier in the weekend. Looking around the crowd pre-show (things were running late; the schedule had Nissim ending at 6:15 with Jarv on at 6:20 [???]) we spotted a few Moor Gang folks—namely Gift Uh Gab and Nacho Picasso—who later joined Jarv onstage for a pretty non-stop show, once it finally got started. Gift Uh Gab is so badass. Let me just say that right now. She OWNS the mic, the stage, the lyrics, the 'tude—so glad I got to see her in action.
Jarv came up to the stage gate several times to get on/charm the crowd and I don't think he stopped jumping around the whole time. For the last two songs, a live drums-bass-guitar band (featuring a John Meyer-gänger in a beige sweater) came out to shred over "High Expectations" and something else I can't remember ('high' being the operative word here). Sunday was a good day for hiphop on the hill. I can't wait to sleep for the rest of my life, or at least until Bumbershoot...
Catching Katie Kate's Block Party set on Sunday was ridiculous. The Barboza setting was the smallest venue I'd seen her perform in, but I was loving the intimacy—her voice smashed the walls with pop-fury and force. Seriously, she absolutely wailed down there—hitting diva-high notes and occasionally screaming like a possessed banshee woman (in one case, until her stand was knocked over and her mic became unplugged, all the while she KEPT GOING)—in between raps as chilled as a raspberry Creamsicle. She danced, exuded serious attitude, and generally brought enough drama to her performance to overpower every lukewarm folky guitar dudester in the festival.
OH! Man! I almost forgot to tell you that she was wearing the raddest, '90s-inspired, skin-tight, future-tie-dye skirt and top combo—I complemented her by way of Twitter and received a response that she had made the outfit herself. Jealous jealous jealous. Anyway, I left Barboza buzzing from the shot of powerful beat-laced pop Kate had unleashed on us. Charles Mudede was right—if anyone is gearing up to be the Kate Bush of hiphip, it's Katie fucking Kate.
Overall, the crowd was into it—ladies sexy-danced by the bar, people yelled lyrics they'd probably learned on the spot, a dude in braces explained the band's name to his confused friends—not bad for their forth live show ever. The smooth-flowing "DDT" and the insta-hit "Gertrude" stood out the most to me. Plus EvergreenOne's nature tats, I liked those too. I wished their set could have gone on longer—a friend who knows them better than I do mentioned that she thought Frank seemed like he was just getting started. Indeed.
* I really, really wish this was a real thing. Who's in?
While it certainly fits the Oklahoma band, it comes from the name of the Coyne brothers' football team—the title typeface reproduces their t-shirt logo.
As Wayne puts it in the film, their games were mostly just excuses for the five boys to beat the shit out of each other (though original front man Mark Coyne would go on to play quarterback for the Norman North High School football team). So much for the Flaming Lips' peace and love vibe, though I believe the Wayne of today is sincere about living a positive life and not punching out people for the hell of it.
He certainly came dressed like a 1960s peacenik—or Marc Bolan doppelgänger—with fresh flower lei and glitter face paint when he introduced the doc at the Northwest Film Forum on Sunday afternoon. More photos below.
Trash Fire embody everything I love about punk rock—reckless and fun, with a hint of bitter morbidity, like the Misfits or my High School diary. Their quick, poppy songs are so infectiously upbeat that despite the fact the Cha Cha was 120 degrees with 110% humidity during their set at the Block Party, everybody packed into the at-capacity bar was gleefully bouncing along to their songs about how we're all going to die. Hooray! Dying sounds kind of fun!
The trio—bassist Jonah Bergman, guitarist Austin Hicks, and drummer Curtis Hall (who was celebrating a birthday, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!)—sounded less scrappy since playing their second show ever at last year's Block Party, but they're still wild. They're still the band born out of the desire to make the straightforward, cathartic music they wanted to be making when they were teenagers.
You can hear for yourself by listening to their new four-song EP Trash Life—it clocks in under eight minutes and makes being miserable sound real fun.
And here's some (dark) video evidence of the Block Party madness—Trash Fire playing "Want Need Want":
More photos after the jump, too!
Yesterday was the first time I've seen Ubu Roi play somewhere that was not a crusty basement, backyard, or that one time they melted some high-schoolers faces in a living room at a house party. I've always had a blast seeing them, as much as I enjoy eating a tasty, hot slice of pizza, but their show at the Vera stage was like being served an entire pie loaded with all the toppings! They rose to the occasion like snarky little punk rockets and proceeded to slay the (far too meager) crowd with meaty guitar riffs and some serious shredding.
Even having seen them several times, Dirty Projectors remain among the more satisfying brainy bands in the business. Expertly-assembled tensegrity song structures feel like a series of knotty equations being solved on stage in a surprisingly danceable delight of a perfect Tetris match. Seeing the multi-part vocals, that I once assumed to have only been possible through meticulous recording techniques, relayed among several humans with flash precision is still kind of an astonishing revelation; Amber Coffman's vocal virtuosity on "Stillness Is the Move" reinvents the pop song; Longstreth's "The Gun Has No Trigger" takes on creepy short story perfection, and the part where the dance break on "Useful Chamber" gives way to a the swelling sea with shouts of "Bitte Orca" is a terrific emotional release that made sticking it out through some physical discomfort and weekend exhaustion entirely worthwhile.
If only Flaming Lips’ music were as spectacular as their visuals… (Check out Josh Bis’ amazing photos and the inevitable YouTube clips that are being uploaded, even as I type.) Last night’s headlining performance at Block Party dazzled optically but fizzled sonically.
Keep in mind that this report comes from a fan who bought the first Lips EP in 1985 and who’s salty because Wayne Coyne and co. didn’t even toss the old-guard followers ANYTHING pre-Soft Bulletin; the oldest track was “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton.” I didn’t expect the Lips to hit me like they did the first time (in 1989 at a small Ann Arbor club where Nirvana opened for them—FACT), but jeezus, digging a little deeper into the canon sure would’ve livelied up the proceedings.
“I can’t believe how cool Seattle is,” Coyne pandered after mounting the stage about 15 minutes after the scheduled 8:15 pm starting time. The Lips started with the “Look…The Sun Rising,” one of the better cuts off 2013’s The Terror; it’s a trenchant, melancholy psych tune with caustic guitars that at least faintly echoed the Lips’ wilder, younger, better days. The crunching, fuzz-guitar funk of “The W.A.N.D.” was another early highlight. The cover of Devo’s “Gates of Steel” also excited with its staccato bombast and pulsating white strobe lights.
Our coverage is still rolling in—there was just so much to see!—so while we continue to sort through hundreds of photos, upload videos, and find just the right words to capture how fucking humid the Cha Cha seemed to get during every set, I want to hear about YOUR Block Party experience.
Was it awesome? Did you find a new favorite band? Were you the dude who puked up/re-ate pizza in the beer garden? Did you get onstage for Big Freedia or have an internal organ smashed during Girl Talk?
Let's hear it!
1. Frightened Rabbit started off on the right foot, doing their best to thaw the Seattle Freeze by playing "Old Fashioned" early in the set, suggesting that it was a completely appropriate song for taking a stranger's hand for a wee dance without seeming like a total creep. It's among their few legitimately "happy" songs, so the impulse to seize the moment in a crowd celebrating crushing heartbreak is not an entirely bad one.
2. A fun vocabulary lesson from across the pond: "piece of piss" as a synonym for "easy." This, in attempt to get the crowd to sing along, sacrificing quality for volume. Unlike the bit about the mass dance.
3. Cultural lesson from down the coast: The Scottish lads claimed to be very pleased to be in Seattle after spending time in Los Angeles because they could walk around town without being confused for homeless people.
4. So many of their songs have lyrics that seem borne out of some sort of misery, but through some combination of time, distance, or marination in ample quantities of alcohol, they mostly sound strangely happy. Even "Backward Walk," which starts out the most plaintive and near-weepy, crescendos into a fairly boisterous wall of guitars quite pleased with being knee deep in shit. And later, is there a more upbeat song about suicide by inevitable drowning than "Swim Until You Can't See Land"? That is, it's nice that these emotional journeys have passed "wallowing in agony shame spiral" stage to the part where they can be shared with a wry smile, a pint, and maybe a few thousand people occasionally singing along.
"Put your hands in the air," Dave B yelled to the crowd. Several folks obeyed, but some stood static, intimidated by the idea of letting loose in full daylight. "Don't worry about how stupid you look," he advised. That's some good life wisdom right there.
Between songs, he kept shouting "Jazz!" into the mic, triggering his band to bust into a quick jam session, giving him the chance to have little 10-second dance parties with himself. "I like jazz," he said with a huge smile. The smile didn't leave his face for the 30 minute set.
Dave B's positivity was the perfect thing to see yesterday afternoon, when I was starting to feel the weight of the weekend drag me down. His fluid hiphop—playfully laced with jazz, reggae, and pop—got everyone grooving, without being too demanding. It was effortless, fun, and genuine. I got the feeling that, whether there was a crowd there or not, Dave B would be having the time of his life, which got everyone around him to let go and do the same.
So, this is what normal people listen to and love, eh? Intriguing. Poor Moon are a sextet who include a xylophone player and a versatile gent who plays mandolin, guitar, keyboards, and shaker. They weave three-part harmonies through pleasant folk-pop songs for humans with reasonable dreams—people who live close to the earth.
Poor Moon’s Fleet Foxes pedigree and Sub Pop contract ensure a sizable following, and with a name derived from a Canned Heat song, the band can reel in the older demo who lost their virginity to “Going Up the Country.”
The highlight of Poor Moon’s set was the song that sounded like a Sea and Cake outtake. I yawned 11 times in the 30 minutes Poor Moon were onstage. But that just might be a symptom of the soul-gnawing emptiness of modern life in a capitalist system.
aaaaand drunk dude just grabbed my hand and asked if he could FART IN IT.— Anna Minard (@minardanna) July 29, 2013
I SAID NO— Anna Minard (@minardanna) July 29, 2013
and he was like, "i already did."— Anna Minard (@minardanna) July 29, 2013
Neumos was full of people who apparently hate the sun; they're here to witness Black Marble. These Hardly Art recording artists consist of two white guys: one plays synthesizer; the other plays synthesizer, bass, and sings like Stephin Merritt (he sort of looks like a young Merritt, too).
It’s clear from the start that Black Marble have a simmering love for ’80s synth-based music. But we’ve had almost two decades of this sort of worship among musicians. Bands now should strives to sound like the 2080s, ffs. All of their favorite ’80s synth bands weren’t trying to emulate past music; they were gunning for something innovative. Emulate that spirit of discovery.
All this being said, Black Marble are perfectly adequate and upbeatly glum purveyors of 1980s-smelling synth music. But after a while, their set started to flatline into an aerodynamic, peppy mope.
Odesza are two, clean-cut white guys from Seattle using silver Macs and Akai something somethings with many knobs and buttons to create very cheerful, danceable nice-guy-tronica with gauzy atmospheres and tectonic subsubsub bass pressure. Their favorite bands are probably New Order and Pet Shop Boys.
A large audience massed before the Main Stage and danced with mild abandon. Some young couples groped. Odesza’s conflict-free, night-bus-esque club fodder went down very well with the crowd, including a late-50s-looking King County sheriff who was standing outside the fence near High Voltage. All of Odesza’s music is free online, said the nice guy wearing the black shirt onstage.
So, why are you sitting on this chair? Shouldn't you be in someone's hand and/or belly, being enjoyed?
I think the hope is that I will look good enough to lure people away from seeing, like, Cults and Frightened Rabbit and stuff. They'll be like, "Oh, hey, a Bloody Mary with a hamburger on it! Let's skip the Flaming Lips and have a drink!"
Is it working?
I don't know. I think they forgot I'm out here.
There's a lot of food here at the Block Party—I had some pizza yesterday. It was okay. Why should people come get you instead of, like, a pulled pork sandwich or some succotash or something?
Look, lady, I don't know. They just put me here. I'm just trying to do my job.
Okay. Sorry. So what all is on you?
Well, obviously, there's a burger. But I have some celery, lime, pickled asparagus, an olive, an onion, a cherry tomato, a little cube of colby jack cheddar... a little bit of something for everyone.
It looks like your bun is getting soggy.
Yeah, that'll happen.