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Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014
The Polyphonic Spree's 'Psychphonic' summer tour is nearing it's end and it was a psychedelic trip worth taking.

The Polyphonic Spree have over 20 members in their band (a smaller amount for this tour) and are currently wrapping up a Summer tour that supports their most recent album, Yes, It’s True. This was my first time seeing them live and, upon first glance at the band, I was immediately struck by two different visions of what I was seeing. Their ‘60s apparel, particularly band leader Tim DeLaughter’s shaggy hair and flowing shirt made it seem like I was either taking a peek into a party with a lot of marijuana smokers or witnessing a cult-leader try to persuade people to join his brainwashed masses. The spinning disco lights that lit most of the show furthered the first hypothesis, that and their Flaming Lips-esque trippy music of course. The show wasn’t sold out but the fans packed in tight near the stage to gaze rapturously into DeLaughter’s eyes presumably. It was such a positive experience that the band did their breakaway hit “Light & Day” twice back to back just wantonly throwing their positivity about.


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Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014
While it is now under the umbrella of a non-profit foundation, the Newport Folk Festival still remains one of the top Summer festivals for an artist to play.

It wouldn’t be hard to believe that Jack White, head honcho of Third Man Records, had a say in Saturday’s lineup at the Newport Folk Festival, given that many acts who’ve released something on the label or dabbled with him in the studio appeared that day. There was John C. Reilly and Pokey Lafarge just to name a couple (okay, you want a few more as proof? Try Chris Thile, Shovels & Rope and Haden Triplets). Plus I saw Beck wandering around on Friday (a few days later White made a guest appearance at one of Beck’s shows). White himself was taking in sets from various acts on Saturday, including young guitarist (and NPR-intern reject) Benjamin Booker, his own label’s Language Lessons reading series (Third Man now has a publishing arm) and taking Polaroid selfies with people.


Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it out on Sunday so I missed a ton of good photo ops but it was hard to even catch most of the surprise moments on the days I did go. I missed Mavis Staples do guest appearances at least twice - she joined Lake Street Dive on Friday and Lucius on Saturday for example. Of what I did see (non White-related), Reignwolf put on one of the most aggressive sets. Hozier was quite busy, with two short sets on Friday and Saturday and a proper set Sunday. Ryan Adams was thrilling to see live for the first time. Sun Kil Moon (who didn’t allow photos) expressed concern about the number of white people at the festival and how as he was getting older, his dick “wants to do things” but his body can no longer keep up before singing a song he wrote for his mother. Jimmy Cliff received round after round of applause for a set that included a fantastic cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World”.


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Thursday, Aug 28, 2014
The teenagers of the Strypes ended their current tour run in spectacular fashion in New York.

Four teenage lads who hail from Ireland, Ross Farrelly (vocals), Josh McClorey (guitar), Peter O’Hanlon (bass) and drummer Evan Walsh make up the Strypes, a straight up rock and roll band influenced by ‘60s and ‘70s acts. Their current US tour with Brooklyn’s the Skins recently wrapped up at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg where the crowd went a little bonkers, turning half of the dance floor into a churning mosh pit. The young band put out their first album Snapshot last year and have a new EP out this year, but they didn’t just fill their show with only their songs. Throughout, but primarily at the finale, the Strypes’ included covers of acts that influenced them, from Vince Taylor to Howlin’ Wolf. The two most fun covers at the end included some audience participation though. The Ramones’ “Rockaway Beach” and the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” became sing-alongs and the latter saw the Skins return to the stage to close out the night and the tour with their friends.


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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014

Photos by Mark Manary


Joan Jett strolled on stage in Sedalia, Missouri, at the Missouri State Fair with a gum-chewing grin, fiddled with her Gibson for a couple seconds, and then ripped into an opening trifecta:  punk proclamation “Bad Reputation”,  The Runaways classic “Cherry Bomb”, and the grandstand-rattling “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”.  After shedding her black leather jacket, she exhibited her wiry frame, jogging around the stage, still like a teenage Leather Tuscadero in a spandex chevron jumpsuit and Chuck Taylors.


Jett was intent on showcasing her first new album in seven years, last year’s strong yet underrated Unvarnished, playing six of the album’s ten songs, including the Hurricane Sandy-inspired “Make It Back”, the Dave Grohl collaboration “Any Weather”, and “Soulmates to Strangers”, a co-write with Against Me’s Laura Jane Grace.


The parade of new songs was broken up with three older self-penned numbers:  the first song she ever wrote, The Runaways’ “You Drive Me Wild”, 1981’s “Love is Pain”, and “The French Song” (Joan’s “all-time favorite video”) from 1983’s Album.


But this is a state fair and with the smell of funnel cakes and diesel in the air, the people had come to pump their fists to the hits while trying not to spill their $5.75 Bud Lights. Just when the crowd seemed to waver on unfamiliar new album material, Joan delivered the haymaking threesome of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”, “Crimson and Clover”, and “I Hate Myself For Loving You”.  After introducing her Blackhearts during the three-song encore, she summed up her message of rebellion, individualism, and acceptance with Sly Stone’s “Everyday People”.



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Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014
Mutineers may not represent David Gray's best work, but his performance at Northerly Island nonetheless found him in fine form.

The fact that David Gray is able to nearly fill massive venues across the world almost 15 years after the release of his lone global breakthrough (1999’s White Ladder) is somewhat perplexing. This isn’t because Gray himself is bad; he, in fact, remains one of the most underrated singer/songwriters out there. But in going through his discography, it doesn’t take one long to realize just how off-kilter he is compared to his contemporaneous singer/songwriters. His chord progressions are often unpredictable and at times unsettling (“When I Was in Your Heart” from 2010’s Foundling); his choruses typically rely on repeated simple phrases (“It takes a lot of love” from fan favorite “My Oh My”); and, most of all, his lyrics, while rich with playful alliteration and intriguing images, at times become too surreal for their own good (“There are carnivals of silverfish waiting to dance upon our bones” from 2009’s Draw the Line). He’s easy to admire, but it’s equally easy to be confounded by how popular he remains, given the type of fare that typically does well in the mainstream public.


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