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Phoenix Tour-Paramount Theater, Seattle, Washington: Review

For the first time in two years, the 2009 Grammy Award Winner for Best Alternative Album (Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix), the band Phoenix is on tour and stopped by the Paramount Theater in Seattle for its second show. And my god. It was absolutely glorious.
March 29th, saw Phoenix come into town with special guest Mac DeMarco opening for them.  The night didn’t start off too well, with Mac DeMarco playing a generally weak set. They have a substantial amount of energy and they actually had some nice beats, but the lyrics and singing were so painful to hear, it rendered entire songs as useless. A lot of the songs started out with potential and got my feet moving, but eventually, especially at the chorus, the beat would change or the singing would become unbearable. I even fell asleep at some points. While I don’t want to disrespect Mac DeMarco, it was flat out, not my style and their live set needs work, especially so that people can actually understand what they say. 


Bumbershoot 2012! – The Musings of a Floored Fan

Although this review is only my own opinion and what I perceived the whole event as, I am pretty sure that I can speak for most, if not all, attendees in say that Bumbershoot is the fucking shit. Yo this year was absolutely nuts. Closing day of this 3-day September adventure, you can feel a definite buzz in the air. Oh and also the tired look on the faces of the people running the booths. Now I had the fortune of attending another big music event a couple weeks ago (107.7 The End Summer Camp) and as much fun as I had at that one, Bumbershoot will always prevail. The cool thing that sets Bumbershoot apart from other music events is that while you do come for the vast amount of popular artists, and their music, you end up staying for the entire vibe of it all. There is such an overwhelming sense of pure bliss whilst walking around, hearing music blasting from every corner of Seattle Center, seeing the vast crowds of thousands, jam-packed onto a lawn. It’s just so…damn beautiful. Now that may either be the legit vibe you get or the smoke from the weed wafting up into your nostrils. Whatever the reason, Bumbershoot is just so damn fun. It is the greatest culture event out there. Nothing makes you feel cooler than walking around, strutting your shit, and listening to some of your favorite bands with some fellow fans. Not only is the music great, but the people (except the obnoxious drunk dudes), food and booths are as well. Bumbershoot should never be relegated to just music, as there is so much to do, it’s just fun to explore and look for things. There are booths out there where you can get a bunch of free stuff. Who doesn’t like free stuff right? Just cruising throughout the entire Center is fun in itself. I mean people take your photos for free too!

Two guys digging the event! The guy on the left smells bad too.

It is just a wild party that everybody should go to. Doesn’t matter how old you are, what music you like or whatever else. Go for the good times and the memories. Now about the music. Although I liked many bands that were playing, I did not go to many of them because I prefer discovering new things. Also I hate lines. Speaking of lines, before we get into music, I was considering going to Skrillrex. But it cut into Passion Pit time. So no go. Thank goodness not. Skrillex’s act started at 9:30. The line opened up at 6:00. By 6:30, there were already at least 1000 people waiting in line. By 7:30, hoards of people were waiting and the line stretched way past Key Arena. So yeah, you get the idea.

THE WOMBATS

The Wombats performed twice during the last day, once with KEXP at the Toyota booth and later at the Exhibition Hall. I didn’t make it to the exhibition hall one and I was surprised. The performance at the Toyota booth had less than 75 people watching. The line for The Wombats for their main performance was  around 3000. Yup. This 3-piece band from Liverpool is mostly known for their super upbeat, dancefloor hits that’ll get you moving, but on that day, at a special 20-minute performance, we were treated to a softer side of them. Relying on acoustics, everything was definitely toned down, but still pretty awesome. Best part had to be when they played their hit song “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” in what they called a “Hoe-Down” version, essentially an acoustic, country sounding song. Pretty damn cool. Since they were doing their acoustic thing, no real jumping around, but still had the crowd sing along!

DEBO BAND

I had no idea who these guys were. I walked over right after The Wombats and came face to face with this World/Ethiopian Funk type band. It sounded kind of weird at first and I strolled over to check it out and was definitely surprised. At first I thought it was some abstract band just making some kind of A capella song, but they were actually playing with violins, saxophones, guitars, drums, accordions, trumpets, sousaphones! And they sounded really great! Good enough to make me jump straight into the middle of the crowd and start to do some stupid dances with a bunch of hippies. As ridiculous as it sounds, it was very very fun! The funk of the band was overwhelming and just engulfed me. I couldn’t stop dancing to them. They had me paralyzed or something. Paralyzed with Dance-Fever! Something was entrancing about the band and I am sure I can say it was the funk. Damn, I loved it. Hippie dancing is fun too haha. But the lead singer actually came out into the crowd and danced with us! How often do you get that? Mad respect.

THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART

LIGHTS

I stood off to the side and admired her. She’s real good at singing and playing the crowd. For a more in-depth analysis of the performance, check out Seth’s post!  He saw the whole thing!

HEY MARSEILLES

PASSION PIT

Passion Pit was flipping awesome. From the beginning to when I had to leave early, the crowd was rocking along with the band. By that point in the night, there were so many people just high out of their mind, either from self-stimulation or second hand. But no one needed that to enjoy Passion Pit’s performance. Just really damn good. Great stage presence the entire time up there as well as a lot of crowd interaction as well, which was very cool. For a more in-depth analysis of the performance, check out Seth’s post!  He saw the whole thing!

To be continued later. I am tired now.


107.7 The End’s Summer Camp 2012 – Review

August 25, 2012. Marymoor Park. Redmond, Washington. 107.7 The End’s Summer Camp 12. Stuff just went down. Washington’s biggest alternative radio station just threw one of the biggest concerts of the year with big names throughout. And boy, was it good. The lineup (in order) for 2012 was Adventure Galley, Husky, Milo Greene, Animal Kingdom, The Features, Morning Parade, Atlas Genius, The Royal Concept, Walk The Moon, fun., Alex Clare. Here comes a review of the entire series (in this writer’s humblest opinion of course!)

Adventure Galley

I missed them completely. Sorry. Here is a cool song called Addict anyway.

Husky

First time I’ve heard of them and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much when I first heard them start playing. But this folk band did wonders and actually was a pleasant surprise. Their overall performance left me with a good first impression. This four-piece band from Melbourne, Australia with a folk-alternative sound has this soft, melancholy feel about them. That’s the first vibe that I got from them, but then later they actually kind of rocked as well, so look for them to be a soft band with a rockin’ side to it. The greatest aspect of their performance had to be the vocals though. The singing was very, very good. I might even go to argue it was one of the best voices of the night.

Milo Greene

This five piece band has been one of my favorites within the past year, so it might be a bit biased to say that I really liked their preformance and thought it was good. Wait scratch that. It was good! They started off their set with a flawless transition from an opening number into “Don’t You Give Up On Me” and from there, the rest of their time on stage was damn good. With reverbing guitars that echoed nicely, to the change in tones with the switch up of the lead singer, Milo Greene kept it nice and steady until it rocked out in the end with a cover of Sufjan Steven’s “Chicago”. The only knock on an otherwise, very solid set, was the difficulty in hearing some of the singers at times, especially the girl. This was a bigger problem for Milo Greene than the harder bands because they rely a lot on their soft vocals to carry them through songs, but it gets hard live. Other than that, I enjoyed the consistent performance.

Animal Kingdom

I was first exposed to this band a long time ago when their track “Tin Man” was a free single on itunes. I forgot about them and I was reminded that they are actually a quite solid band. But I was really surprised by the way their sound has evolved. I liked “Tin Man” but compare that to a track 3 years later in “Strange Attractor”. Not gonna lie, I first thought the lead singer was a girl when I first heard “Tin Man” but now he definitely sounds like a man. Interesting fact about them that Summer Camp was their first ever show in Washington, yet their first record was recorded in Seattle. But the thing I liked about their performance was some strange beat machine that kept on mixing their sounds. But one thing I can take away from them, is that I know I won’t forget about them now.

The Features

These four rockers from Nashville, TN came and blew me off of my feet. Not literally but pretty damn close. Throughout their performance, my shorts were shaking from the bass’ power. Their sound is quite interesting as they call themselves modern pop/indie/rock, but to be honest, the sound a bit like some abstract folk rock that relied heavily of synths. Whatever they are, they really brought it that afternoon. Their energy level was insane. As their performance went on, their energy grew and it was damn fun to watch and rock along with. It also really helped that the singer could really freakin’ belt. They had the best energy the whole night, hands-down.

Morning Parade

Their performance was absolutely flawless. That’s all I can say. It was just perfect. The crowd was in sync perfectly with the band and they had every fan out there eating out of their hands. The beats were super energetic, upbeat and hella catchy. You could just see people mesmerized by the performance. I know I was. I had an absolute pleasure watching every second of the performance. Now thing I liked most about them was their pure joy of just playing. They looked so damn happy just being up on that stage, rockin’ out while the crowd went nuts. Great show by them. Best Stage Presence.

Atlas Genius

Coming off of the high that Morning Parade brought, it was a bit weird to get switched to the slower-paced Atlas Genius, but it was still alright. They started out with a little funk sound, but they eventually sped up and gained crowd support, as well as energy. Big props to them for gaining the crowd back after a kickass performance. By the end, their ending “Trojans” had the entire crowd bouncing up and down, the first time all night that it happened. Must’ve been pretty cool for the Australians that are touring in the US for the first time.

The Royal Concept

I had previously known them as The Concept before they changed their name and when I saw them as The Royal Concept, my perception of them changed. They went from being really cool to freakin’ kickass! That night yielded very little similarities to the voice of Thomas Mars and the rest of Phoenix and The Royal Concept made a nice job banging out a name for themselves. Absolute great vibes from the crowd the entire time and people were just bouncing around digging the high-octane energy of the group. By the time their finale came up, the crowd was already pretty pumped. “D-D-Dance” came on and the place just about blew up. Freaking crazy.

Walk The Moon

How was Walk The Moon supposed to surpass any of the great bands from before? Well they do it by doing a little something like this: Make the crowd wait 30 minutes to preform (even though they were already set-up), get to the stage with the hype and excitement rippling through the air, start playin some bitchin’ music, get into it with the crowd, throwing stuff out, including the crowd in with the music (during Quesadilla, it was magical) and just getting everyone to go nuts. I didn’t know how the energy could go past what The Royal Concept brought, but it was done. Walk The Moon made the crowd just go ape-shit crazy. Everyone was jumping up and down and just whooping like no tomorrow. The best part of the set had to be during “Anna Sun” where pretty much every single person was screaming the memorized lyrics at the the top of their lungs. Best Overall Performance.

fun.

Now even though fun. was the headlining act, they preformed second to last because Alex Clare refused to play unless it was dark. So fun. took it in stride and played a fucking awesome set. They had the best set-up and atmosphere during their set. There was even a point where they blew a whole bunch of confetti up in the air and the crowd went wild:

fun. played with such a passion and the lead singer maintained his awesome singing voice throughout the entire set. Yes, “We Are Young” and “Some Nights” were freakin’ awesome too, don’t worry. fun. basically got their shit done. Coolest part asides from the confetti exploding and the awesome light show in the background, was when the crowd was given the chance to croon out the chorus to “We Are Young”. That was cool listening to 1000+ people sing together.

Alex Clare

Skipped him completely. Why not just suck it up and play during the day? Also I wanted to beat the traffic. But apparently it was good!

Overall:

There was not one bad artist there. I ended up loving each and every performance, regardless of my original thought. All the bands genuinely wanted to be there and you could really see it in their performances. A whole bunch of them came out after their sets to sign autographs and talk with the fans. It’s always cool when groups realize their fans supporting them is what got them big, so showing  little love never hurt. It definitely made the experience much greater because if the artists were happy to be there, the fans were sure as well ecstatic to be there. Asides from the heat and a bit of anger from inside the mosh pit from the swarming pile of bodies, I have no complaints of the night. Everything just kind of fit together perfectly to create an awesome cultural experience. Everything, from the music, to the weed smoke wafting up in the air, the dude holding a cardboard sign that demanded people have a dance party, to the idiots that went crowd surfing and eventually being dropped, all fit together like a perfect puzzle to put an exclamation mark on the just amazing 2012 107.7 The End Summer Camp.


Celeste and Jesse Forever – Film Review

It’s not perfect, but it’s wonderfully real and funny, and that’s all that should count. An excellent addition to and would-be influence on the genre of female-driven romantic dramedies.

Rashida Jones co-writes and stars in this film, and I can see how it could be polarizing. Shot in 22 days, director Lee Toland Krieger worked on a tight budget with strong actors and put together a film that tries its hardest to be incredibly realistic, an effort to be commended. However, on some minor level, it fails to reach that sense of total realism that other films like Young Adult have reached. Initially, I believed it to be Andy Samberg‘s performance, but upon reflection, I think it could be one of four things–the rhythm/pacing of the performances in general, underlying faults in an almost-there script (which could also very well be all-the-way-there), the rhythm/pacing of the direction, or the pacing present in the editing. It might be more than one, but I’d assume not. Regardless, the film is better (and funnier) than a whole bunch of other female-driven dramedies out there, so I’d definitely recommend the film. I’m just nitpicking.

The plot centers around Celeste (Rashida Jones), a controlling, smart, capable woman in the midst of a too-friendly separation with her best friend, man-boy Jesse (Andy Samberg), which turns less friendly when Jesse begins dating, and two big surprises are dumped on her lap, one at work (by her co-worker, played by Elijah Wood, in the form of a bratty pop star played well by Emma Roberts) and one at home ([SPOILER]). Chris Messina, Will McCormack, Matthew Del Negro, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen, and Rafi Gavron also get to have fun playing small roles that factor into the plot at various times.

What’s nice about the characters, and the performances therein, is that they feel incredibly real, like they could definitely be someone you know, and this could really be something that happens to them. Celeste is at times unlikable, and Rashida Jones isn’t afraid to play her like that, but at other times, she is also immensely relatable, wonderful, likable and human. Jesse is lazy and unmotivated, but he’s also funny, talented and growing into responsibility, slowly but surely. Paul, played by Chris Messina, isn’t a perfect man, but he’s not a caricature either, nor is Emma Roberts’ Riley Banks. They have layers, like everyone does. The fact that the film is unafraid to present all of these characters as unabashedly and sometimes unlikably human is courageous, noble and beautiful. It’s a great trend in a genre like romance films, which tend to be generic, formulaic and, frankly, stupid.

The message is great as well, with the absolutely brilliant ending serving as a great reminder as to why it’s so great. Most films would cop out of an ending like that. Not this one. And that made the entire movie so much better. What’s the ending?

You’ll have to go see it for yourself to find out.


Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange Tour: Show Review

Channel Orange Tour

Tonight, the audience in Seattle got an enjoyable experience of having a few unique factors play into Frank Ocean’s performance at the Showbox Market. First off the news about Frank’s revealing his first love to be a male. Secondly, releasing his album a week early. When Frank Ocean first revealed his latest album Channel Orange to a close group of friends, family, and record company representatives,  all electronic devices were not only turned off, but they were confisicated. Tonight I went in with the same approach. Tonight was not only about listening to the music, but taking in the experience of watching a man perform only after revealing some deeply personal things on his tumblr. In his music, Frank sings about the least controversial things, yet his personal life has generated the most publicity outside his companions Earl and Tyler. Of course it is important to stress that one should base the evaluation of the show mostly on the performance, but I cannot help but feel that this context further contributes to the discussion, especially later in this review.

To say that there was an air of excitement in anticipation for the opening kickoff to Frank Ocean’s tour would be an understatement. I showed up thirty minutes before the doors opened at 8pm and the line had already stretched not only one, but two corners. The build up was further compounded by the fact that it took thirty minutes just to get in.  The ticket scalpers were in full force, moving block around block, up and down the line, hawking their requests to for any spare tickets and eventually make a killing off of that. I saw a couple pay a hundred bucks each to get tickets for one reason only: Like all of us waiting in line, they couldn’t wait to see Frank Ocean.

Here’s a general outline of the setlist for the night. I skipped over mentioning a few songs not to mention I probably messed up the order because I either don’t know some of the songs performed and I was too focused on enjoying the show.

  • Thinking About You
  • Novacane
  • Sweet life
  • Forrest Gump
  • Strawberry Swing
  • Made in America (chorus)
  • Super Rich Kids
  • Crack Rock
  • Bad Religion
  • American wedding
  • Voodoo
  • Pyramids
  • White

So let’s hit up the main observations from the show!

There was no opener so as soon as the lights dimmed, everyone started screaming for Frank Ocean as he walked into a warm bask of adoration. The intensity of the crowd’s passion was so extreme that whatever song Frank Ocean was singing in the opening was drowned out by the cheers and screams. I think one element that cannot be understated is that Frank chose to showcase his well-known crooning with acoustic guitars backing him up. That’s a definite sign of his versatility, not to mention his eagerness to expand the musical boundaries of what R&B sound entails.

Although I was most familiar with songs like “Thinking About You” and “Novacane”, I found myself enjoying more songs like “Forest Gump” and “Voodoo”, tracks that had either been released on Channel Orange or in between the mixtape and album. The biggest reason for this was because these tracks were so fresh or relatively unknown, only a few individuals sang along with Frank, allowing for more emphasis on the vocals . The show was thoroughly pleasing in terms of the high quality of it all. Frank has the coolness you would expect of a R&B singer, but the showmanship expected from any person associated with Odd Future (but a showmanship that is more dignified and cerebral).It’s signature Frank Ocean: the anxieties of un-reciprocated love, treated through the perspective of one who either received or inflicted it. However, Channel Orange takes it to a new direction in his music. His previous work nostalgia, ULTRA could sometimes come off as a little distant, but Frank Ocean’s latest changes that around. The diversity of the music foreshadowed at the beginning of the show was out in full force tonight. There was the  dub step-inspired instrumentation in Frank’s lament about a stripper in “Pyramids”,  the wonderful transition from the reverberating guitars of “Strawberry Swing”  into the chorus of “Made It in America”.  The show was exceptional in that it encompassed such a wide variety of genres alternative, R&B, soul, rock, and some real funky moments there.  No matter what though, the crowd was enraptured, roaring with approval at the end of each song. As Frank left the stage, I took some time to scan around the room and I could not even see a single open space. From the bar section to the main floor, people were crammed together like sardines. Multiple slow claps (and in one instance slow stomp) were started to persuade the inevitable return of the night’s triumphant performer.

However, the moment that really stood was the intimate end of the show, right after Frank took the stage one last time for his encore. Before I delve into it, take a moment and check out the link to Frank Ocean’s tumblr. I highlighted some of the text that I want to discuss below.

“4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence … until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love. It would change my life […]

Before writing this I’d told some people my story. I’m sure these people kept me alive, kept me safe. Sincerely, these are the folks I wanna thank from the floor of my heart […] To my first love, I’m grateful for you. Grateful that even thought it wasn’t what I hoped for and even thought it was never enough, it was. Some things never are. And we were. I won’t forget you. I won’t forget the summer. I’ll remember who I was when I met you. I’ll remember who you were and how we’ve both changed and stayed the same. I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now. Maybe it takes a near death experience to feel alive. Thanks. To my mother. You raised me strong. I know I’m only brave because you were first. So thank you. All of you. For everything good. I feel like a free man.”
— Frank

First we will all take note that although Frank wrote about his experience with a male, this episode does not singularly define him as that gay or bisexual singer from tumblr. Despite this key information, the narrative surrounding Frank Ocean will mostly be about that, for better or worse. The multi-dimensionality of Frank’s music stands in stark juxtaposition to the portrayal that people (including myself in certain aspects) have presented what had been some of Frank Ocean’s most private and personal thoughts.

Despite our current insistence to heavily invest in the parts of Frank Ocean’s piece about loving another male, I would like to reference the final line in the passages shared from Frank’s post. He wrote “I feel like a free man”, and that post was his catharsis. Throughout the night, there Frank was, being affable and barely being able to keep a smile under wraps as he took in the cheers from the crowd. This was a man clearly at peace with his past, and hopeful for his future.

I will now return back to my original point of discussion by recalling the image of Frank sitting there at the piano, all alone onstage with one spotlight shining down on him. For about a minute, he simply sat there and played, ignoring the pleas of a few young ladies for him to just sing. In many ways, I can’t help but feel that was symbolic of the recent events and attention in Frank’s life. No matter what he was doing, Frank’s actions were going to be placed under a microscope to be determined for further significance, or in the case of those demanding for him to sing, some would demand Frank to become an activist for the topic he chose to disclose earlier this month. In this final performance, Frank Ocean gently rebuffed all such attempts by continuing to play the piano before softly crooning about how he wished love between the two could just be simple. That line was repeated over and over again, with no information whether the recipient was a male or female. In that regard, it was an illuminating experience for me. Paradoxically, the casual matter in which Frank revealing his love experience is what makes it so noteworthy. It was done on his terms. The normalcy in which Frank presented this information paralleled those last minutes of his time in Seattle. The intimacy of that moment demonstrated how different and similar Frank Ocean is now. Even though that significant moment that Frank told his fan base has altered some of the soundbites in relation to his work, what doesn’t change is that Frank Ocean has the demeanor, the voice, and the production to be the biggest presence in the R&B scene. May this day be remembered not just for what he has accomplished but for what he has yet to finish. Thank God I was able to see it. Seth, my friend, you shouldn’t have sold that ticket to me because you missed out.


The OF Tape Vol. 2 Review

 

 

 

 

 

Odd Future have put out another mixtape. Despite its problems maintaining consistency, there’s some quality hip-hop on here, and the tape does a great job showing that Tyler and Earl are from from the only thing OF has to offer.

Beats are the foundation of a good tape, and the ones on here are inconsistent. “We Got Bitches” falls flat after its promising intro with some overused hi-hat. These guys do best when they’re making gnarly, evil sounds, and The OF Tape Volume 2 is sadly short on these types of beats. “Hcapd” is an exception, with some eerie synths and a heavy horn line, and “Sam (Is Dead)” uses similar elements with equally positive results. And Domo is correct when he says “this beat is fuckin’ perfect” at the beginning of the track “Doms.” Outside of these, though, most of the beats are average at best, and some dip into bad territory.

That said, the primary members’ flows have progressed miles since the last collaborative OF mixtape Radical. Hodgy and Domo in particular are absolutely on fire. They both killed it on their own records last year and they sound like seasoned vets now, with technical skills and wordplay rivaling and sometimes surpassing Earl Sweatshirt’s old material. Hodgy finds his niche as a lunatic spitting shotgun blasts of rage, while Domo continues to perfect the laid-back stoner sound showcased on last year’s Under the Influence. Together, they’re the highlights of the tape.

As for the rest of the crew, results are mixed. Frank Ocean’s voice is silky smooth, easily a highlight of the tape, although his sincere style contrasts poorly with the rest of the group’s brag/shock schtick, and the beats don’t always allow him to shine outside of the good-but-not-great track “White.” The Internet continue to be unimpressive and rather boring. Left Brain’s few appearances are enjoyable enough, but also fail to make much of an impression. Jasper and Taco serve their purpose as comic relief, but they’re capable of bringing down potentially god tracks (I’m looking at “We Got Bitches). Tyler’s up to his old tricks, which is fine, although it’s starting to get tired. He drops shock lines about things like Casey Anthony, even though that ground has already been covered in better fashion by Childish Gambino. While Tyler isn’t completely worn out, he’s going to need to figure out some new tricks if he wants  the upcoming Wolf to avoid being a bore.

The mixtape is enjoyable enough for what it is. For those hoping for a big change from OF, don’t bother, because this is largely more of the same, albeit slightly toned-down. There are hits and there are missteps as is the case with any OF release. Odd Future have shown that they’re not out of gas, but they have left me wondering how much is left in the tank.

6/10