Nights Like These: Music Fest, Day 2 May 3, 2011Posted by Matt in concerts, Memphis.
Tags: Beale Street Music Festival, Lotus, Lucinda Williams, Ludacris, Memphis in May, Mumford & Sons, Paul Thorn, Sick Puppies, the new pornographers
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Saturday, the second day of Music Fest, always makes for a long one because you can literally see live music for 12 straight hours if you choose to do so and, of course, that’s what we generally choose to do. My friend James called me the day before and let me know of his intent to attend on that day, so I made plans to go with him and meet up with my other friends later at the park.
We arrived around 2:00 and meandered down a crowded Beale Street for a little while before heading into the Park. We met up with friends Dan, Chris, Berry, and Meredith at the Lotus show and we stayed until it was over, soaking in the funky electronic rhythms as we mentally prepared ourselves for the coming day. I had also been in contact with Beth, an old friend from Beebe who I’ve known seemingly forever, so James and I made our way over to her when the Lotus show concluded. It was another beautiful, albeit more cloudy, day, but there was more mud present than on Friday, so we carefully traversed the now-grassless earth to the next stage over. Beth and her friend were watching the Sick Puppies, a decent, if somewhat pedestrian hard rock band. We visited with them for a bit and watched the remainder of the show. It was great to see her and, once the set was finished, we promised to keep in touch before James and I moved on. Next we meandered down to the third stage on the river to catch part of blues-rock artist Paul Thorn’s set. Thorn is definitely a good guitarist and his vocals work well within the style, but we did poke some fun at his Forrest Gump-like manner of speaking in between songs. Nevertheless, it was a fun show and certainly worth the minutes we stood watching it.
At this point, it was after 5:00 and nearing time for my first must-see show of the day: The New Pornographers. If you are not familiar with them, The New Pornographers are sort of an indie supergroup, consisting of Dan Bejar (who records under the name The Destroyer), AC Newman, and one of my personal favorites, Neko Case (or as she’s known in my house, “The Other Woman”), yet unlike other music collaborations of this sort, TNG has released several albums and tour together fairly regularly in addition to their solo duties. Neko stood to one side, her red hair flaming in the sunshine and tambourine in hand, Bejar held his guitar in the center, and Newman took the other side, with assorted other musicians spread about behind them. Though I’ve enjoyed the albums from TNG, I tend to like the individual parts more than the whole, and this show again confirmed that for me. Make no mistake, I enjoyed it, but I would much rather see Neko Case do her superior solo work than see her share the stage. They kicked the set off with the opening track from their latest album, “Moves,” before playing a nice mix of tunes from their releases. I recall hearing songs like “Crash Years,” “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” “My Rights Versus Yours,” and “Myriad Harbors.” Again, it was nothing terribly exciting or surprising, but certainly good in its own right.
Following that, we again walked to the other end of the park, this time to see another band I had circled on my schedule some two months ago, folk group Mumford & Sons. We arrived at the stage just in time to catch the end of Jerry Lee Lewis’s set and see his 75 year old self rocking out to “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On.” Once he and the band took their bows and exited the stage, we worked our way into a good spot on the ground and settled in for the coming show. I’ve liked M&S’s sound ever since I first heard them, but I must admit that I was a little wary about how their easy, folk sound would come across in concert. Needless to say, once they did hit the stage, all of my misgivings were pushed aside. Though they kept their soft side mostly intact, it quickly became apparent that Mumford had no problem turning it up when the situation called for it. Their set consisted of both songs from their excellent debut album (“Sigh No More”, “Roll Away Your Stone”, “Little Lion Man”, etc.) and some great sounding tunes that will be on their new release later this year. They closed the show out with the hugely popular single, “The Cave” and everything was right for the moment. I think the large crowd gathered around the stage agreed as well, particularly the hordes of young ladies looking on with eyes of adoration.
Next on the schedule was Lucinda Williams, who I like a great deal and have seen in the past, but James was interested in moving one stage over for the Ludacris show, so being a fan of hip hop as well, I readily went with him. The area around Ludacris’s performance was jam-packed with young people and, at the best available vantage point we could barely see the stage. The music was fine, but it reminded me again why I don’t generally care for rap music in concert. It just doesn’t translate nearly as well in my eyes. Probably the most entertaining part of the show was watching all of the dancing white kids that had been drinking most of the day, but even that got old after a few songs. Soon we moved back over to Lucinda and were able to catch the last half of her excellent show. Between the swampy music and her voice, which sounded as heartbreakingly wonderful as ever, it turned out to be a much better experience. As usual, she sounded great as she tore through a few newer songs as well as some old favorites, and when she was finished, we were pretty much spent.
James and I weren’t particularly interested in the headliners for Saturday (John Mellencamp, Ke$ha) so we left the park a little early and hung out on Beale for a while before retreating back to his Memphis home. We watched zombies on TV for a while and hung out until the early hours of the morning, when I made the trip back to my house and crawled into bed, exhausted from the day.
Ten for Tuesday: Music Fest’s A-Comin! April 26, 2011Posted by Matt in concerts.
Tags: Beale Street Music Festival, Cake, Greg Allman, lineup, Lucero, Lucinda Williams, Memphis in May, MGMT, Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, The Flaming Lips, the new pornographers, Wilco
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The biggest annual music event in Memphis is, without a doubt, the Beale Street Music Festival and I’ve made a point of attending the celebration for most of the past 15 years. Every year there is a certain level of anticipation, but never before can I remember being so enthusiastic about so many acts in one year. It should be a great one.
So, today I thought I would give you my top ten acts that I will try and see at this year’s Music Fest. You’ll notice a few artists missing that I might otherwise include – Stone Temple Pilots (playing at the same time as the Flaming Lips), Cee Lo (same time as The Avett Brothers), and Ziggy Marley (same time as Lucero), as well as an open slot for Saturday night’s headlining act – I’m not a huge John Mellencamp fan, but I’d take him over Ke$ha, but by-and-large I’d probably stick with these as the ones I want to see.
So, in the order they are appearing, here are the 10 acts I want to see at this year’s Music Fest:
Cake – 7:40 Friday
Cake hit it big around the time I graduated from high school with “The Distance” and their still-fun cover of “I Will Survive,” and though I always liked them fairly well, I mostly considered them to be sort of a novelty act. On the other hand, I have friends who swear by their live act and say it is not to be missed, so I’ll have to try and catch some of them Friday evening.
MGMT – 9:00 Friday
Dude, this is going to be a total psychedelic groove fest and I plan on being right in the middle of it when it all goes down. I loved their first album with incredibly catchy tunes like “Kids” and “Time to Pretend,” but I may like the 60’s-drenched psychedelic ramble of their second release even more. I’m totally pumped about them.
The Flaming Lips – 10:50 Friday
If there is one band that is a must-see for me this weekend it’s the Flaming Lips, a band I’ve been listening to for years and have long wanted to see live, but have never had the chance. When it comes to crazy psycedelia, nobody is even close to the Lips. They are the long-time reigning kings of acid-drenched weirdness and I cannot wait to see them live.
The New Pornographers – 5:40 Saturday
I was really excited to hear that this indie rock supergroup, which includes both Dan Bejar and a personal favorite, Neko Case, would be playing Music Fest this time around. Their brand of indie pop is impossible not to like.
Mumford & Sons – 7:15 Saturday
These guys made big waves in the folk community last year with an incredibly catchy release and an energetic live show, setting them up as darlings of the alt-country crowd. I found their first album to be both beautiful and brilliant, so I’ve got high hopes for their live show.
Lucinda Williams 8:55 Saturday
What can be said about Lucinda Williams, the long-time queen of alt-country? Her latest album, Blessed, is proof that, despite now being over 50 years of age, she can still produce some of the most relevant music around. I saw her at an earlier Music Fest some 10 years ago or so and she’s definitely on my list to see again this time.
Lucero 3:35 Sunday
Memphis’s own alt-country favorites are roaring back into town for another show that cannot be missed. Ben Nichols & company always put on a great show and I expect nothing less from them this year either.
Greg Allman 5:10 Sunday
Come on, he’s Greg Allman! One of the Allman Brothers! Of course I want to catch him live!
The Avett Brothers 6:55 Sunday
Much like the aforementioned Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers firmly put their stamp on the alt-country world over the past few years with recordings that range from high-octane banjo rock to tender ballads. I’ve never had the chance to see them before, so this one cannot be missed.
Wilco 8:40 Sunday
I’m a longtime fan of Wilco, but it seems like every time they come through the Memphis area, something comes up and I can’t make it. Well, this time around I will be there. Mark my words, I will be throwing down with Jeff Tweedy and the boys Sunday night.
What about you? Are you going? If so, who do you want to see?
Ten for Tuesday: 2005 August 3, 2010Posted by Matt in top ten.
Tags: 2005, Beck, Bright Eyes, Gorillaz, Kanye West, music, My Morning Jacket, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, the new pornographers, The White Stripes, top ten
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Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken trips in our top ten time machine to 1980, 1990, and 2000. Today we will be taking a short hop to five years ago, 2005. In ’05, I was 28 years old, we had been living in the Memphis area for a year, and our second child was born. Needless to say, it was a busy and exciting time. There was also a great deal of excellent music and movies being released and that is what we will look at today.
Top 10 Albums of 2005
10. The Decemberists – Picaresque
Picaresque was my introduction to The Decemberists, a Portland-based indie band known for its use of unusual instruments and hyper-literate lyrics. I was quickly taken by their lush arrangements and Collin Meloy’s storytelling, particularly on great songs like “We Both Go Down Together” and “16 Military Wives.”
9. The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
This was around the time that I first became aware of one of The New Pornographers, one of indie rock’s great supergroups, and soon their brand of power-pop drew me in. The combination of Dan Bejar, AC Newman, Neko Case (one of my personal favorites) and others is a winning one on this fantastic collection.
8. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
I can understand how Conor Oberst’s earnest, quavering voice rubs some people the wrong way, but I’m certainly not one of them. To me he exudes confusion and doubt in way that seems so real and normal.
7. Beck – Guero
I’ve been a huge fan of Beck since his breakthrough back in the 90’s and over the years I’ve collected all of his albums. While this one is not his best (a distinction that goes to either Odelay or Sea Change), it is a nice swerve back to the “two turntables and a microphone” style of alternative dance-rock, complete with random Spanish phrases and great beats, that he popularized a decade earlier.
6. Gorillaz – Demon Days
It was an interesting concept to say the least when Damon Albarn from the band Blur teamed with cartoonist Jamie Hewlett to form a new sort of project, one involving an animated alternative rock/hip-hop act, but it was this incredible second release, with unavoidable hits like “Feel Good, Inc.” and “Dirty Harry,” that they truly became a force to be reckoned with.
5. Spoon – Gimme Fiction
For 15 years, the Austin-based band Spoon has lurked just below the level of stardom, slowly building up their name and garnering attention without ever truly breaking through to the big time. Gimme Fiction shows the band doing what they do best, creating great danceable alternative rock numbers like “I Turn my Camera On” and “My Mathematical Mind” for their growing legion of fans.
4. The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan
The duo of Jack and Meg White were on top of the world at this time following the hugely successful lo-fi albums White Blood Cells and Elephant, but with Get Behind Me Satan, they decided to swerve from the blues-rock path they were blazing. Their more experimental style may have confounded some, but I loved it, particularly on great songs like “My Doorbell” and “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet).”
3. My Morning Jacket – Z
I was first introduced to MMJ’s spacey, retro-70’s style on the incredible album preceding this one, It Still Moves, but I think I can safely say that I believe Z is even better. Jim James’ band is on fire this time around, employing their Southern sensibilities through a psychedelic haze to produce a truly great work. Check out songs like “Gideon” and “Off the Record” and you’ll agree.
2. Kanye West – Registration
Back before he was a headline-grabbing bad guy, interrupting the acceptance speeches of teenage award winners, Kanye West was one of the most important forces in hip-hop and this is probably his masterpiece. How can you not like “Gold Digger” and “Diamonds from Sierra Leone?”
1. Sufjan Stevens
Illinois marked the second in Sufjan Stevens’ now seemingly-stalled 50 state series of albums, but this work is so incredible, so varied and interesting, that it seems almost impossible to top. Stevens employs a childlike uncertainty to his vocals against a lush instrumental background to tell stories from the great state, including songs like “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.,” “Decatur, Or, Round of Applause for Your Step-Mother!,” and “Chicago.” This is a must-have from 2005.
Best of the Decade – Music Edition (81-90) November 23, 2009Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: 2000s, Belle and Sebastian, decade, Gizzly Bear, Gnarls Barkley, Matisyahu, Modest Mouse, Okkervil River, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, the new pornographers, top 100, U2
Last week we began an ambitious expedition through the best music of the past decade and I posted the albums ranked 91-100. Today we will tackle the next ten, numbers 81-90. Let me know what you think.
90. U2 – No Line on the Horizon (2009)
I’ve long been a fan of U2, but have rarely found their complete albums to be great. Even their magnum opus, The Joshua Tree, is terribly front-loaded. No Line continues their tradition of good recordings, proving to be one of their better collections overall and definitely their best since 1991’s The Joshua Tree. Some of the songs, like “Magnificent” and “Moment of Surrender,” can stand up to anything in their legendary catalog.
89. Matisyahu – Youth (2006)
An orthodox Hasidic Jew doing reggae music? Why not, this is the 2000’s. Matisyahu mixes socially conscious lyrics with danceable rhythms to produce one of the more unusual and surprising releases of the decade. The title track, “Youth,” and “King Without a Crown” are two tunes that particularly show that he could be in for a long and fruitful career.
88. Pearl Jam – Riot Act (2002)
As I’ve mentioned on many occasions in the past, I’ve long been a rabid fan of Pearl Jam and this is probably my favorite of theirs from the intervening years between No Code and Backspacer. It has a varied sound that is more akin to Vitalogy than to any of their other works, while showing the maturity of a group of men closing in on 40. The album contains jabs at corporate America and President Bush, but I think my favorite tunes are probably “I am Mine,” “Thumbing my Way,” and “Love Boat Captain.” It’s definitely a must-have for PJ fans.
87. The New Pornographers – Challengers (2007)
TNG is an indie rock supergroup of sorts made up of AC Newman, Dan Bejar (aka Destoryer), and one of my personal favorites, Neko Case. The band makes interesting music together, but I personally wish they would utilize Case more often than they do. Regardless, this album has some great songs, including “Myriad Harbor” and the title track, “Challengers.”
86. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit (2006)
Scottish band Belle & Sebastian have been carrying the indie pop banner for several years now and The Life Pursuit continues their streak of interesting and catchy music. Their sound is similar to the alternative bands of the 1980’s, such as The Smiths, just with a bit more sunshine from earlier mainstream pop. Check out songs like “The Blues Are Still Blue” and “Funny Little Frog” to get a better idea of what they are about.
85. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (2006)
The combination of producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse and rapper Cee-Lo Green quickly proved itself to be a formidable one with their debut release, St. Elsewhere. Funky and soulful, with inescapably catchy songs like “Crazy,” the duo blew up in 2006 with this multi-platinum released and have continued to prove themselves with an innovative style that appeals to both critics and regular listeners.
84. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (2009)
Interesting and intelligent, the band Grizzly Bear is a critical darling of the decade for a reason. The have a real knack for bending genres, mixing electronic sounds with vocal harmonies a la Fleet Foxes and some very nice alterna-pop melodies. Catchy songs like “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait for the Others” will be stuck in your head for days. Though I had heard some of their last release, Yellow House, this was the first album of the band’s that I’ve listened to very often, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Grizzly Bear has in store for us in the future.
83. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief (2003)
Would it be considered a heresy for me to call Radiohead the Beatles of generation X? There is probably no other group who have changed music, who have camped out at the cutting edge and set themselves up as the standard-bearers of a generation, to the same extent as Thom Yorke’s band. While this politically charged album may not be among their best, it is still quite good and proves that even when not on top of their game, Radiohead is on another level than everyone else. Songs like “2+2=5” and “There There” are nearly on par with anything in their career.
82. Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004)
I had listened to some Modest Mouse prior to the release of this album, but for whatever reason, they never truly grabbed hold of me. It was not until the catchy and anthemic song “Float On” hit the airwaves that I went back, listened, and became a fan. This breakout album for the longtime indie stalwarts is definitely a must-own for someone interested in the music of the early 2000’s.
81. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins (2008)
This hyper-literate Austin band hit paydirt with this 2008 release and its ultra-catchy “Lost Coastlines.” Though this set of recordings is supposed to be a companion piece to their 2007 release, The Stage Names, I think I actually enjoy it more. Frontman Will Sheff likes to make strange and sometimes obscure references to everything from French playwright Antonin Artaud to a 1920’s German silent film to the Gospel of Thomas, and that’s only in one song (“Singer Songwriter”). How cool is that? Seriously, check this album out if you haven’t already.
Ten For Tuesday: Top Albums of 2007 (the top ten) January 8, 2008Posted by Matt in music, top ten.
Tags: Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, josh ritter, Michael McDermott, music, Radiohead, Robert Plant, Ryan Adams, Spoon, the new pornographers, The White Stripes, top ten
Earlier today I posted the albums I ranked from 11-20. Below are the ten must-haves of the last year. Enjoy.
10. Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger
I know that Adams’ arrogance knows no bounds, but he is certainly the most prolific songwriter of my generation and perhaps one of the most brilliant as well. Easy Tiger is easily his best work since 2000’s Heartbreaker (there have been 7 albums since then) as he revisits his country past.
Download: The Sun Also Sets
9. The New Pornographers – Challengers
I’ve been in love with Neko Case ever since I first heard her 2006 album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, so I will quickly snatch up anything that has her name on it. This supergroup, which includes the great Ms. Case, showcases her greatness yet again (and the rest of the band isn’t too bad, either).
8. Robert Plant/Allison Krause – Raising Sand
It may seem like a strange pairing to mix the queen of bluegrass with the man who helped invent hard rock, but whoever came up with the idea is a genius. Zeppelin experimented some with folk-type music in songs like Gallows Pole and Going to California, so I guess it shouldn’t be such a surprise that this works so incredibly well. What I really want to hear now is the two of them collaborating on Battle of Evermore.
Download: Please Read the Letter
7. John Fogerty – Revival
People in their 60’s just aren’t supposed to rock like this, but, despite his age, former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty lays down the gauntlet and outdoes all of those young whippersnappers. This is how rock music is supposed to be.
Download: Creedence Song
6. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
I’m a 30 year old white guy who can’t dance a lick, but when I listen to this album (or any of Spoon’s other ones) I want to get down. I defy you to listen to this and not bob your head or tap your foot or something, it is downright infectious.
Download: You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
5. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
It is kind of humorous that we have both The White Stripes and Robert Plant in the same list, because there is nobody around today that channels Zeppelin more than Jack White. Even more amazing is that White can lay down some fat Jimmy Page-style riffs while sounding eerily like a 70’s era Plant belting out rock anthems. It also doesn’t hurt that I had the chance to catch The White Stripes in concert a few months ago. Wow.
Download: Icky Thump and I’m Slowly Turning Into You
4. Radiohead – In Rainbows
The band made headlines across the world back in the fall when they offered this entire album on their website with the option of paying whatever amount you wanted for it. Having been a big fan of Radiohead since their “Creep” days, I snatched it up on the first day it was available. Now, I have to admit that I have been a bit disappointed with their work as of late (Except for Thom Yorke’s solo album, The Eraser), but this is, without a doubt, their best work since 2000’s amazing Kid A. These guys weave together a sonic landscape that few others can even come close to.
Download: Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
3. Michael McDermott – Noise From Words
I offer my sincerest thanks to Scott and Greg for introducing me to this stellar album by singer-songwriter Michael McDermott. It is one of those few collections of songs that I can listen to from beginning to end, over and over, and never get tired of. From the heart-rending ballad of loss Still Ain’t Over You Yet (Most nights I wish that we’d never met / Most days I choke on my fear and regret / and I hate to admit / that I still ain’t over you yet) to the inspiring album-ending anthem of redemption I Shall Be Healed (Then I stood at an altar / The weight it caused me to kneel / Just say ye the word / and I shall be healed) this is truly a work that must be heard.
Download: Still Ain’t Over You Yet and I Shall Be Healed
2. Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Another guy in the running for best songwriter of my generation, his incredible melancholic 2006 album, The Animal Years, seemed impossible to top, but this work, with its more upbeat yet still poignant sound, may have done it. The album opener, To the Dogs or Whoever, blows the doors off of his normally subdued sound while ballads, like the apocalyptic love story The Temptation of Adam, show his continued maturity as a songwriter.
Download: To the Dogs or Whoever and The Temptation of Adam
1. Bruce Springsteen – Magic
With artists like the aforementioned Robert Plant and John Fogerty, 2007 was the year of the return of old rock stars, and nobody epitomized this more than 58 year old icon Springsteen. In my opinion, this one if far greater than the 2002 Grammy Award-winner, The Rising, and his best work since at least Born in the USA. Yes, this one is Magic indeed. From Radio Nowhere’s hard charging guitar riff to the small town imagery of Girls in Their Summer Clothes, this is a certain masterpiece.
Download: Radio Nowhere and Girls in Their Summer Clothes
What would you add to the list?