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Sunday, Jun 15, 2008

While Friday was on point, Saturday left thousands exuberant and others –- well, a little bit pissed off by the end of it all. Notoriously the day for everyone to put their lives on the line for consumption of drugs and one heavy dousing of alcohol, this was the year to do it if you were planning on it -– the weather lay overcast above the throng of thousands in their finest.


Mastadon

Mastadon


To kick my ass in to gear, there was no other possible way to start my day than seeing Atlanta metal gods, Mastodon. There were times during this set I thought the entire tent was going to come crashing down while the bass-heavy notes were shaking my insides left and right. That could also have to do with the fact that I ended up in a mosh pit unintentionally (two mosh pits so far at Bonnaroo, it’s the beginning of a new era) and ended up with a handful of blood smudges on my wonderful white shirt from those that had a little more anger pent up than me at the time. Premiering new songs (hopefully from the upcoming record they are working on with Brendan O’ Brien) and spending time backtracking their catalogue –- there was no evidence of disappointment at this show. It’s possible that because I’m in a somewhat newly acquainted metal stage in my life that Metallica and Mastodon up to this point had been the most successful shows of the weekend. It’s also possible that these audiences are finding a new appreciation for the genre while they usually aren’t exposed to it in this environment. Mastodon fan or not, you left this show fucking shook up -– and it was beautiful as can be.


Shortly after, I had quite the change of pace over at Cat Power –- when her usual anxiety ridden self makes the most awkward stage movements of anybody since Ian Curtis. That’s just fine though, considering her voice is so damn sultry that one can’t help but swoon (not to mention she is one of the most extraordinary looking humans on the face of the earth). That’s not to mention she always puts together one of the most killer bands in the business, featuring backing bands that perfectly compliment her voice. I think it’s the only way she can really perform nowadays, considering her famed solo performances never quite went off without a hitch. [Download Cat Power set]


Cat Power - Tracks of My Tears


Lying in a hammock in the VIP area while taking in some of B.B. King’s stellar set was next on my list of priorities. Playing to a crowd that really felt like winding down, King brought em’ on home and layed it down with the usual showmanship that included call-and-response style conversations with his band and the audience. The man shows no signs of slowing down with age, and this performance put the fact that he has a record coming out in the fall on my radar.


B.B. King

B.B. King


Bonnaroo’s still relatively new Somethin Else’ Tent (named after the classic Cannonball Adderley record) highlighted New Orleans this year -– charging a $5 entrance fee for donations to the revitalization of the city taken down by Katrina. The thing that absolutely blows my mind is that Ivan Neville’s Dumstaphunk, a band full of artists from the ol’ bayou with the Neville stamp, was the damn giddiest I had been all weekend from an artist. Maybe packed with 150 people, everyone from the front to back got together for a common cause of funk and danced in the tent-formed-New Orleans style club. Anyone associated with the Neville family never fails to deliver the funk.


Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós


While I tried to muster up the strength to make it to Pearl Jam, it just didn’t quite happen. A long night was ahead considering Sigur Rós and Kanye West were scheduled to play back to back with late night sets, and chances were, my ass wasn’t sleeping. I was a bit apprehensive about how a Sigur Rós set would go over at Bonnaroo –- but other than a few technical difficulties, it was as close to perfect as it could get. Experiencing them in this environment, as odd as this sounds, the band finally felt human. After the technical difficulties, it broke down the audience between performer and audience, and made the whole thing a much more intense, emotional experience. They’ve changed their show for the new record, and have abandoned the giant screen for a more regal, straightforward approach, which could also help breaking down the aforementioned barrier. Everyone was dressed in their best attire and a horn section joined for cuts off their upcoming record, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. The new tracks, such as “Gobbledigook”, transfer beautifully live –- and in case you were wondering -– they make them just as epic as the previous tracks. It’s absolutely wonderful to see them head in a new direction, and it works for em’ –- the set felt completely organic and inspired.


This however, could not prepare us for what the hell Kanye was about to pull. Scheduled to come on at 2:45 AM, he finally took the stage after stalling, in Kanye fashion, until 4:15 AM. The glow in the dark tour seems like a totally watered down version of 2001: A Space Odyssey and was cheesy as get out -– but you pretty much had to go into the set not expecting too much. There was rumors spread that Daft Punk was going to show up (of course, untrue) and people seemed ultimately let down as the sun was coming up at the end of West’s set.


At the end of it all, everyone was a bit pissed off –- but what the hell else were you going to do at 5:00 in the morning, go back to your tent? Kanye’s show was of epic proportions, and although cheesy, that man’s confidence is arrogant, yet empowering. Anyone who can still be that big and attract that many fans at 5:00 in the morning, has some clout, and rightfully so. Pissed off or not, people stayed and are still going to buy his records -– so at the end of the day he wins.


So as I make my way into another day of Bonnaroo, Saturday remains another success, and Sunday may wrap up on the best festivals in its seven-year history.


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Saturday, Jun 14, 2008

Bonnaroo now holds an odd place in the summer festival circuit. Although it is out of touch with its roots on some levels, it is looking ahead to the future to be able to sustain itself. With a Friday line-up bearing the likes of Metallica, My Morning Jacket, and MSTRKRFT -– it sums it up all in those three names. Metallica being the new generation of headliner material (thank the lord they nixed the two-night Widespread Panic runs), My Morning Jacket finding themselves a staple on the schedule, and MSTRKRFT falling in line with the current trend of electronic DJ late-night sets (because why not have booty bass at 3 A.M.?). That doesn’t even include the always-pleasant surprises you’ll find along the way. People complained about the Bonnaroo headliners this year, but what they didn’t take a look at was the depth within every genre across the board.


The crowd has been interesting, to say the absolute least. For one thing, I’ve never seen much cocaine at the likes of a festival with supposed “free-spirits”, but people flocked to the white stuff. Some may say Metallica caused it, others just stopped being affected by Red Bull, and so they turned to making their entire face numb for an all-night marathon. The hippie factor has diminished quite substantially, probably because they weren’t offered to see String Cheese Incident for the 27th time this year or the produce prices got too high to sell their new-aged bullshit.


Jose Gonzalez

Jose Gonzalez


After a wretched morning of chasing whiskey with beer with frat boys and Volvo kids alike, the only thing I needed in my life was Jose Gonzalez. Although he had quite the battle with the bands playing at other stages flooding into his sound, he always finds a way to trooper through being the little guy with nothing but an acoustic guitar. As things got louder—he played louder and captured everyone’s attention rather they wanted it captured or not. Gonzalez’s performance was proof that if someone writes good songs consistently, people will listen. Rather than MGMT’s Thursday night performance where a small handful of songs held the crowd’s attention (although “Electric Feel” absolutely killed – yet, everyone was left standing with their hands in their pockets during filler.


I’ve been skeptical of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova since their independent hit Once—because I couldn’t quite measure its level of authenticity. Some of the songs felt insincere, others felt heartbreakingly sincere. But I’ll tell you one thing. When these two take the stage live as under their new moniker, The Swell Season, every pore out of their humble bodies surged with emotion. Songs like “Falling Slowly”, “Lies”, and “Leave hold more weight than one would think live, and they transfer over into a full band format beautifully. Also, shockingly everyone in attendance knew all the words. In environment’s like Bonnaroo you really get to see artists breakthrough –- and the stars from Once had their work cut out for them.


Up next I had a very reluctant set on my hands. !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk, which is pretty damn funny to hear people and try and say leading up to the show) fell outside of their environment during a hot day set where people just seemed to be too exhausted to dance. Where they last left the crowd drenched in a mass of sweat a few months ago at Langerado during the night, the day just didn’t fare too well for the New York art-rockers.


After !!!, M.I.A. was scheduled to cancel, but she showed up for what she announced was her last show of the tour – although I missed the set, the information was somewhat troubling that the wrong information was reported from the press with regards to cancellations -– it frankly doesn’t help anybody out, and a “surprise” performance when she was already scheduled is just uncalled for.


Metallica

Metallica


With a couple hours to relax, whiskey commenced in the campgrounds in preparation for my first (of hopefully many to come) Metallica performance. Chris Rock was set to play on the mainstage immediately before the legendary thrashers -– and it fit surprisingly well. Rather than spending hours making fun of white people this time around, Rock went for the women. He may have caused a ruckus among a breeding ground of feminists, but when was Chris Rock not a name associated with controversial? I’ll spare you details on the jokes, because nothing is worse than trying to transcribe that into print form -– let’s just say he was in rare form and held one of the biggest audiences at the festival still standing at the end.


And while we are talking about big audiences, Metallica had the largest army of the night -– and to great avail, because they were hands down the masters of Friday. Generally, the headliners can be rather week –- but there was so much volume coming out of the speakers (not to mention the most active crowd of the weekend thus far) that you could hear booming far into the campsites. There were no flashy stage set-ups or any of that who-haw to distract from the performance –- the songs were plenty enough. Playing with lightning speed and accuracy, Hetfield, Hammett, Lars, and Trujillo played like they were 20 last night –- and it was un-fucking-believable. From start to finish hands were in the sky to classic cuts like “Nothing Else Matters”, “Enter Sandman”, and “The Unforgiven”. Also included were deep cuts off their debut full-length Kill Em’ All with “No Remorse” and necks were left in pain during the speed-anthem “Whiplash”. Hammett also appeared later in the night at the SuperJam (which included Les Claypool and members of Gogol Bordello) and during the My Morning Jacket set. [Download Metallica set]


Metallica - Whiplash


MSTRKRT

MSTRKRT


The late nights are always party time, and nothing starts a party like MSTRKRT at one in the morning. With rave tendencies and drug dependencies, this was one giant dance fest –- and rightfully so. One of the most talked about performances of Friday, everyone that left was spreading the word –- and it looks like this may have been exactly what they needed to escape the shadow of Death From Above 1979. Also playing was Tiesto, who shared the stage at certain points with Jose Gonzalez during “Crosses” and Tegan and Sara showed up to sing as well.


After slightly wearing down, I finished up my night at My Morning Jacket, who was surprisingly less than stellar this year at Bonnaroo (when usually they have legendary performances here; see 2006 setlist). The songs from their recently released Evil Urges unfortunately don’t fall in place with the rest of their set, therefore creating an inconsistent performance. This is the first time I’ve claimed this in my existence –- but I think the My Morning Jacket kool-aid I’ve been drinking might be slightly wearing off. Let’s wait for the next record before I jump too far ahead of myself.


All in all, Friday was beyond a success. The crowd was a lot less drug oriented and more people seemed to be here to actually see the bands playing. Always a complaint with Bonnaroo as more drug-oriented than music oriented, the tables may have finally turned –- and I have to commend the Bonnaroo organizers for their excellent decisions on the line-up this year. Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a full day ahead and a cooler of iced cold Pabst with my name on it.


My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket



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Monday, Jun 9, 2008
Pictures by Craig Bailey / Words by Christian John Wikane.
Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo


A heat wave swept through New York City last week as Donna Summer held court at the posh west-side haunt, Mansion, to officially celebrate the launch of her new album, Crayons (Burgundy, 2008). Greeted by an ovation that lasted well towards five minutes, Summer was moved to tears by the genuine adoration of fans, friends, and industry folk gathered for the occasion. Though Summer has consistently worked onstage and in the studio over the past two decades since her last full-length studio album—a fact she emphasized to the intimately gathered audience—this appearance marked an emotional, poignant “coming home” for the woman whose voice has echoed through the hallowed dance halls of Gotham for more than 30 years.


Hosted by Burgundy and radio station WKTU, the evening featured Donna Summer joined by a full band, including husband Bruce Sudano on background vocals.  Vocally impeccable throughout the eight-song set, Summer served up a cocktail of sass, humility, and divine diva stylizations. Thunder roared out of the speakers (and from the audience) on the opener, “MacArthur Park”, where every set of ears and eyes was porous with anticipation for Summer’s classic, chill-inducing belt. Turning to Crayons, the seven-minute “I’m a Fire” translated extremely well to the stage from the studio recording’s neo-disco beat thanks to the deftness of Summer’s drummer. After hitting number one on the club play charts earlier this year, “I’m a Fire” is already an audience favorite.


All photos: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

All photos: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo


Summer sizzled during a simmering medley of “Bad Girls”/“Hot Stuff”, playfully exchanging moves with the lead guitarist and striking a stance befitting a rock star with the mic stand. “Science of Love”, arguably the best track on Crayons, continued the blistering dance-rock fusion to scintillating effect while the anthem-like “Stamp Your Feet” (her latest single) elicited a sea of fist-pounding pantomime. Summer clearly relished the opportunity to perform new songs. Based on the number of people singing along, so did the audience.


Still moved by the uproarious reception, Summer extemporaneously included one verse of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” in the evening’s repertoire, dedicated especially to the audience. The spontaneity of that moment was followed by the inevitable—moments later, the familiar chords of “Last Dance” raised the energy in the room to a feverish pitch. Summer’s extended performance of the Oscar-winning song signaled the conclusion of a night that succinctly paid tribute to Summer’s iconic status across three generations of listeners.


Donna Summer embarks on a two-month U.S. tour beginning July 3 in Newport News, VA.


All photos: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

All photos: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo



Tagged as: donna summer
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Yo Majesty's Shunda K

Yo Majesty’s Shunda K


In a cavernous building in Logan Square aptly named the Mansion, Does It Offend You, Yeah? and Yo Majesty teamed up for a riveting show memorable on two counts: the massive noise of DIOYY, which shook our ear drums senseless, and the mysterious and unexplained absence of exactly one half of Yo Majesty.


DIOYY’s UK electro-rock could use more glam but is otherwise good for losing yr senses: of hearing, that is! I was relegated to the wings, as far away as possible from the amps, and even still am convinced I left 20 percent deafer. Well, kids, it’s like they say: ear plugs can make the pain go away. I should say that while I was making no bones about being in ear-bleeding misery, many other people (mostly young ones) were going bananas, so verdicts are: yeah, it offends me, and DIOYY can rile a crowd up no problem.


Morgan Quaintance

DIOYY’s Morgan Quaintance


Shunda K of Yo Majesty came out cool and composed in banter mode, chatting up the crowd and not bothering to explain why her other half, Jwl. B, was gone missing. When someone asked her point-blank between raps where Jwl. was, she diplomatically said “Not here. But I am. Ain’t I enough?” Cue applause. That was that. And sure thing, she was enough—performing a tight set of duets solo with perfect rapidfire timing, including crowd faves “Leather Jacket” and “Pussy Kryptonite”. It was a short set, no more than 40 minutes, but she brought it, and she brought it strong. No news I could find about Jwl. B’s whereabouts that night—and so far, no hints of inner turmoil for the band. If something’s up, no one’s talking.—Megan Milks


Yo Majesty's Shunda K

Yo Majesty’s Shunda K



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Monday, May 5, 2008
by Roman Kuebler
Photo: Meg Sheff-Atteberry

Photo: Meg Sheff-Atteberry


Under Mics with the Oranges Band


PopMatters has had plenty of nice things to say about Baltimore’s The Oranges Band (specifically here and here. When the band announced that they were headed into the studio to begin work on their new record, having soldiered through personnel changes and struggles at their label, Lookout Records, it seemed like an excellent time to catch up and to allow them to speak for themselves by cataloging the happenings. Over the next several weeks, Oranges Band frontman Roman Kuebler will write in with updates from the sessions for the band’s third full-length. Here’s part four…
Jon Langmead

VOCALS


I really have a great time singing in the studio. For some reason the set up seems so pro. The room is cleared of the instruments, the baffling goes up and instead of microphones hanging all over the place, like when the band is tracking, there is just one. It is a strange experience also, in the context of writing, practicing and recording your songs because, as long as you are a singer who plays an instrument, it is the only time ever you will sing a song without playing it as well and the only time you will sing a song without anything in your hands. So besides being a little anxious and overwhelmed by the formality of the studio setting you also have to approach the song in a much different way. It is rather exciting but also very nerve racking. For me, walking into the room after you do your first vocal take on a song is a roller coaster ride. You’ve worked hard to perform the song but you haven’t any idea what you sound like. The voice is very sensitive to placement of microphones and slight changes in sound can make a huge difference in the perception of the vocal take. It’s like the perfect storm when it happens to come together. And for the first time, you are hearing the lyrics resonate within the song and the voice is totally audible. Anyone in a band can relate to the fact that you never hear the vocals at practice.


caption

Me at the mic part 1. I had to take off my jacket because it was making a ton of noise.


So why, with all these “hardships”, is singing in the studio fun? It’s simple. For me, when it works—when you get a great vocal take—it is the most satisfying part of making, playing or recording music that there is. I guess it is a risk/reward thing. Which is why, in a demonstration of appropriate cosmic duality, that when it doesn’t happen it is the most frustrating part of making music.


In approaching this album I wanted my lead vocal tracks to be distinct and adventurous. I wanted them to be energetic and irreverent. In the end though, I knew I would settle for them to not suck and be on pitch. A lot to ask in some cases I am sorry to say. I guess we are all our own worse critics and for me, if I am ever feeling a little over confident, I could take a crack at singing a song in the studio to bring me back to earth.


But as I said in an earlier installment, a record is a document of what you did when the tape was rolling so you don’t really have much choice but to step up and do something, right? And so I did. When Adam (co-producer, engineer) and I were doing vocals I’d start by describing which song I was trying to rip off and he would respond with an appropriate microphone, mic placement and effect scenario. The best part about trying to rip off songs, though, is that you can never recreate someone else’s magic so you hope to stumble upon your own. So here it goes, first song.


caption

Me at the mic part 2. Less noisy…


We started with a song called “One More Dog”. Why? Well, it was the shortest. Short and fast and to the point. It reminds me of a Pink Flag-era Wire thing so that is where we started looking for sounds. When ripping off other songs (take notes, kids) I like to go right to the source so we played some songs from Pink Flag. We decided they were relatively dry (no reverb), mid-range (not quite a radio voice, but close) with maybe a slight delay on them. We picked out the right mic for the job and ran it through the effects and got the EQ just right… and it sounded nothing like the Wire song. Of course. The other thing about trying to rip stuff off is that what you are hearing is the whole song. You can’t isolate the vocals, necessarily, and predict how they will fit into a totally different song in a totally different context. It’s why trying hard to rip something off is a great way to work. It provides the parameters, the boundaries, and I think I said before that in the context of recording, I need some boundaries.


OK so, here we are with this vocal sound that doesn’t do quite what we thought it might, but it does sound pretty cool so we tweak it just a bit and forge ahead. Once you have a sound you can concentrate on the performance. This song was pretty straight forward, meaning I didn’t expect that it would change much from the practice room to the recording so it was just about getting the lines right—one at a time. I feel like I can always find some reason to re-do a line. A quiver in the vocal, just a little flat, I don’t like the “r” sound in that word, etc., etc. Basically, it is really hard to commit to the idea that the line you just sang will be the way that song exists… pretty much forever. Scared of commitment? Yikes. Oh well, you gotta say yes sometime and I am paying for this thing by the hour so eventually we make it through the song. The funny thing is that when you finish a vocal take you are so sick of hearing it that you can barely listen to it and appreciate it. In fact, coming back to it the next session is always kind of scary… did I really get it right or was I just sick of trying? Am I a hero or a heel? Like I said… a real roller coaster ride.


So instead of recounting my triumphs and tragedies while singing these songs… and there were a few of both, let’s just do a quick run down of what a few of the songs on the record are called and what I tried to ripped off while recording them. I imagine this could be an incriminating document in a court trial, but luckily I was unsuccessful in truly copying ANY of these brilliant works. When our album does finally come out (in 2012 at this rate) you can check these against the originals… you’ll see, total failure!


caption

My view. With my favorite mic, the fabulous Shure SM-7.


“Everyone Burns Out” (working title): The Replacements - “Takin’ a Ride” complete with a… “referential” line.


“When Your Mask Is Your Revealing Feature”: Peter Gabriel “Steam” and “Shock the Monkey” also ESG for the female back up vocals. This one doesn’t sound at all like those things… but it came out ok anyway.


“Gordon’s Night Club”: I thought could be a Kinks song… but it totally isn’t. I did do a Phil Lynotte thing in the beginning that is really funny and a weird trill at the end that was ALL ME (or is that Paul Macca?).


“Absolutely (Instru)mental”: As the name suggests, this song doesn’t have vocals but that doesn’t mean I didn’t try to rip something off to get it. Ha ha! It is modeled after Laika & the Cosmonauts - “NY ‘79” a truly complete and catchy song with no vocals. It was recently announced that Laika and Co. will be breaking up at the end of this year… say it ain’t so!?!


“Ottobar (Afterhours)” - Hot Snakes - “Automatic Midnight” and “Salton City” (whoos!)


“I Wouldn’t Worry About It”: This one is pretty original, really. I was going to come up with something to steal eventually but we were doing some back up vocals on a different song (Ottobar) and had a really cool sound going. Really distorted and delayed and weird. When that song was over, this one was next on the reel so we just let it roll and I did the lead vocal… in one take. Easy. It also relieved me from having to rewrite the lyrics, which I was going to do for some reason. I mean why would you need more than two lines in a song?


caption

This is the studio room cleared out for the vox. 


Well, that ain’t quite all of them but it is most of them. All secrets revealed right here. Man… these things take forever; albums that is. There are so many tiny parts to get right and it’s like an automobile or a golf swing… so many things working in harmony that when one things is off, your whole program is interrupted. This is just to say that here we are, nearing the end of tracking and it still feels a light year away. OK well, stick with me here. Thanks for reading.


Roman Kuebler


Tagged as: the oranges band
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