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Monday, Oct 19, 2009
Words and Pictures by Kirstie Shanley

This is one duo whose music is equally as interesting as their story.  Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero began in Mexico City and traveled to Ireland to make their way in music.  From busking to officially breaking into the music scene, they garnered a following devoted enough to guarantee their success.  Selling out Chicago’s Riviera Theater was no shock for what are now accomplished musicians, but what may have been surprising is the utter joy that accompanied their obvious talent.


Like fellow musician José González, Rodrigo y Gabriela are incredibly proficient in guitar, capable of performing with daunting layers of intricacy.  Unlike González, however, you get a much fuller sense of personality with Rodrigo y Gabriela, which makes their performance richly entertaining and more complete.  Often, Gabriela seemed blissful while Rodrigo kneeled to play or went out to the lip of the stage.


What all three musicians have in common though is how thrilling it is to watch their fingers move on their guitars.  For those in the back, or in the balcony, who weren’t able to see, these motions were emphasized with large silhouetted visuals behind the pair, making for a vivid visual setting.  Needless to say, they also showed a great sense of chemistry between them, with Gabriela often looking at Rodrigo intently or with a lovely smile.  No doubt this connection helps keep their guitar rhythms so accurate.



Rodrigo y Gabriela draw from an eclectic array of songs to construct both covers and medleys of various recognizable guitar riffs.  The pair has been called by some “Flamenco Metal,” which does partially describe their sound.  Their 100-minute long set felt fluid and dynamic, each song rushing into another seamlessly and with very little banter.  The prominent riff from The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” got some applause early on.  From classical music to metal, it was also heartening to see such a diverse crowd enjoying an equally diverse set of musical references.



Overall, their set weighed most heavily on their third release, 2009’s 11:11, which was very well received by their fans.  When Rodrigo announced that they’d be focusing on playing songs from this album, he got an enthusiastic response.  The most exciting surprise of the night, however, was when they brought out Metallica’s current bass player, Robert Trujillo, to perform “Orion” with them as a trio.  He helped elevate the song to epic proportions.  Rodrigo’s use of a beer bottle for a slide also succeeded in creating a spooky sort of effect.


The sold out crowd was active throughout the night, spontaneously clapping and dancing as the group’s dexterity created a landscape of sound that often evolved from gentle musings to intense anthems.  It was easy to feel that their proficient renditions were complete even without the well known vocals that originally accompanied many of the songs.  Rewarding the crowd with an encore that included Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” they brought the night to a satisfying conclusion. 



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Monday, Oct 19, 2009
Words and Pictures by John Bohannon

Os Mutantes have carved out an odd niche for themselves in the current music world.  The initial “wow” factor of the band’s reunion is gone, and the trend-crazed fans have seemed to fall off a bit, leaving only the true disciples along for the ride.  With very few exceptions the band’s actual fans came out of the woodwork for their show at New York City’s Webster Hall, and, let me tell you, this blew the pants clear off their mediocre-at-best showing during the Pitchfork Music Festival.


Rather than being surrounded by a bunch of clueless bandwagon jumpers, this was the real deal.  Sergio Dias led his (relatively) new troop through 90 minutes of psychedelic infused samba, touching on both relics and new gems from their first album in 35 years, Haih or Amortecedor.  The most impressive element of the night came from the addition of female vocalist Bia Mendes, replacing former vocalist Zélia Duncan.  Filling the shoes of original member Rita Lee is no small task—she went on to be the most successful of the group—but Mendes has the required fervor and spunk that fits right into Mutantes quirky image.  Not only that but she is also an absolute phenom behind the mic.  Her vocal directions on the classic “Baby” were sultry, and downright convincing that she deserved this gig.  Apparently I’m not the only one that thinks so.  There is also a Facebook group entitled “I want to party with Bia Mendes.”  It’s contagious, I know.


My main complaint with their show at the Pitchfork Festival was the lack of songs in their native tongue.  English songs have never been Mutantes strong suit, but, thankfully, last night there was an extreme shortage and, instead, an overabundance of Portuguese tracks, largely due to the new album’s material and also Tom Ze’s influence, I imagine.  Speaking of Tom Ze’s influence, Os Mutantes has all of a sudden started treading the waters of dark psychedelia… and it’s extraordinary.  Ze has been cranking out some often atonal, strange beat-driven recordings over the past several years, and his influence is both appreciated and admired on the new Mutantes recordings.  This being said, it was a fantastic showing and revived faith om their recent incarnation.  A future without Mutantes is one I don’t want to live in, so bring on the strange brew.


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Sunday, Oct 18, 2009
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

The artist, songwriter, musician, and overall celebrated tortured genius Daniel Johnston performed a capricious set Wednesday night at the Highline Ballroom in New York City.  While his severe bi-polar condition and episodes have mythologized his persona and recordings they have also erected a dubious boundary within is work, one between mind and reality, good and evil.  One thing, however, remains painfully clear:  Mr. Johnston’s songs are haunting vignettes of concentrated emotion, providing mainstream fans, as well as artists, a continuous well of authentic sentimentality, often replete with humor.  Though Mr. Johnston frequently cites the humor overshadowing his music (and favorites like “Speeding Motorcycle” easily conveyed this at the Highline) many songs are hesitantly, and uncomfortably, comic, especially after seeing Mr. Johnston’s demons delineated in the acclaimed 2006 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston.  Wednesday he shared a recent dream:  “I had a dream last night this guy was sentenced to death for attempted suicide.  And that guy was me!  And I’m sitting in the back of the courtroom saying ‘No, no, no, you got the wrong guy!’”  The resounding laughter presented the obvious question if people were laughing at or with Mr. Johnston.  Either way people screamed his name and cheered wildly during his solo set, even while singing sympathetic lines like “I love you all but I hate myself.”  Opening band the Capitol Years (Weezer-harmonizing indie pop) then joined Johnston for his second set, accompanying him on both his own numbers, like “Fake Records of Rock and Roll” and “True Love Will Find You in the End” from his latest Is and Always Was, as well as some poignant Beatles covers, “I’m So Tired” and “Day in the Life.”  Often times his brother Dick played along on acoustic guitar as Mr. Johnston’s uncontrollably fidgety hands gave up on guitar and also inadvertently unplugged his mic several times, which also prompted wild cheers of encouragement (“You don’t need that thing Daniel!”)  Daniel’s own ambitions were always to be a famous artist, but what cost that imposes on his own condition is, at best, difficult to measure and unsettling to endure.  Throughout the set his hands tremored and social anxiety loomed.  Hopefully his parents and brother can successfully enshrine his body of work so that ultimately they aren’t undermined, or glorified, as a result of his accompanying condition.


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Sunday, Oct 18, 2009
Words and Pictures by Sachyn Mital

What if I told you that Tegan & Sara, Kele Okereke of Bloc Party and Jónsi of Sigur Rós were all on the same album?  What if I said it was a techno album?  Tiësto—often ranked the world’s #1 DJ—has a new album, the aptly titled Kaleidoscope, packed with myriad indie-crossover collaborations.


On a very late Wednesday night, Tiësto put on an excellent, just-over-two-hour long, show for a sold out crowd at Philadelphia’s Electric Factory.  Fueling people with his apparent inexhaustible energy, Tiësto crafted his mixes front and center but danced along at every chance he could.  Throughout the set his beats were enhanced by blinding strobe lights and large LCD displays covering the front of his mixing consoles and the back of the stage, incorporating kaleidoscopic shapes, emblems and logos as well as visual segments of the new album’s vocal collaborators.


The crowd could not be blamed for anticipating some massive trance anthems and dance-floor smashes considering that Tiësto has four artist albums and countless remix credits.  So after being herded into the venue from a line nearly the length of the block, people jammed into every inch possible; some pushed precariously close to the edge of the balcony and some, unlike any of the club shows I’ve seen, even crowd-surfed.


The first song I caught was a bit of Metric’s Emily Haines singing “Knock You Out” before Tiësto played “Century” featuring Scottish producer Calvin Harris, whose statement to “get your hands in the air” was quickly realized by the crowd.  The catchy Quin sisters track, “Feel It in my Bones,” had them singing while disembodied green heads twirled around before sweeping off the LCD screens.  During “Traffic,” the screens flashed numerous city names rapidly before stopping on Philadelphia and alternating with a command to “MAKE SOME NOISE.”  That really set the crowd off.


“Traffic” began as an intense streak of songs with one standing out:  “Love Comes Again”, an older collaboration with producer and vocalist BT, gave the crowd the opportunity to sing the encouraging lyrics when Tiësto dropped out the music.  Unexpectedly, he continued into “He’s a Pirate”, a remix of the epic-sounding Pirates of the Carribean movie score, before going into his trance-reworking of Barber’s classic and dark “Adaggio for Strings.”  Its climactic strings over pulsating beats again threw the crowd into a timed frenzy.


Approaching the venue’s cut-off time, Tiësto took a moment to thank the amazing crowd and encourage them to go even more crazy.  But instead came the low point of the night: he played the cheesy Zombie Nation song that I will never appreciate.  It was a minor blemish in an otherwise energetic finale of a strong show.


Closing the two hour session, Tiësto tossed his headphones into the teeming dance floor before leaving the stage.  The profusely sweaty, skeptical crowd chanted for him to return but soon after the house lights came on and people began streaming out into the chilly night, broken down that the show ended so quickly but reassuring themselves that Tiësto would come again.


Tracklist: (from tiestotracklists dot net)
  01: Tiesto feat Jonsi – Kaleidoscope
  02: Tiesto - Flight 643 (Laidback Luke Edit)
  03: Tiesto & Sneaky Sound System - I Will Be Here (Tiesto Remix)
  04: Jose Nunez, MYNC, Harry \\\‘Choo Choo\\\’ Romero - Boogers (Avicii\\\‘s Dumb Dumb Remix)
  05: Sander van Doorn – Ninety
  06: Tiesto feat C.C Sheffield - Escape Me (Extended Mix)
  07: Tiesto feat Emily Haines - Knock You Out (Remix ID Unknown)
  08: Tiesto feat Calvin Harris – Century
  09: Deadmau5 – Strobe
  10: Tiesto feat Priscilla Ahn - I Am Strong
  11: Tiesto feat Carry Brothers - Here On Earth
  12: Tiesto - Always Near (Extended Mix)
  13: Tiesto feat Tegan & Sara - Feel It In My Bones
  14: Editors - Papillon (Tiesto Remix)
  15: Tiesto - Louder Than Boom (Original Mix)
  16: (ID Unknown)
  17: Tiesto - Traffic (DJ Montana 12\\\” Edit)
  18: Tiesto feat BT - Love Comes Again (Original Mix)
  19: Tiesto - He\\\‘s A Pirate
  20: Tiesto - Adagio For Strings
  21: (ID Unknown)
  22: Ben Nicky - Special Moment (Original Mix)
  23: Nenes & Pascal Feliz – Platinum (Tech Mix)
  24: Boys Noize & Erol Alkan – Waves
  25: Zombie Nation – Kernkraft 400 (Laidback Luke Edit)
  26: Tiesto - Surrounded By Light


Tagged as: tiesto
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Friday, Oct 16, 2009
Words by Allison Taich, Pictures by Patrick Houdek

When thinking of punk rock what bands come to mind? Maybe the Sex Pistols, Screeching Weasel, NOFX, or Naked Raygun? What about the Butthole Surfers? I normally would not have associated the Butthole Surfers with punk, that is, until I witnessed them headline the opening night of Riot Fest in Chicago.  The aim of the five night event was to showcase generations of punk rock music of all shapes and sizes.

Normally punk is not my first choice of music; I associate it with teenage friendships, an adolescent rite of passage soundtrack if you will.  But what drew me to Riot Fest was the Butthole Surfers, a band I have enjoyed since seeing them on Beavis and Butthead.


Photo by Patrick Houdek

Photo by Patrick Houdek


Hesitant about their association to punk rock I really did not know what to expect.  The venue was filled with an eerie glow from a screen serving as a stage backdrop.  As the band took the stage, audience members packed in as close as they could to best glimpse the imminent spectacle.  The backdrop began to flash, spastically, three different montages as the band hammered out “Something,” with guitarist Paul Leary on lead vocals.  Meanwhile usual front man Gibby Haynes danced around, honking on the saxophone.  Jeff Pinkus slammed his bass, and percussionists King Coffey and Teresa Taylor drove a steady yet intricate rhythm on various drums.  The lineup of Haynes, Leary, Pinkus, Coffey and Taylor represented the band’s original roster from the mid-‘80s.  After the first song I knew it was going to be one hell of a ride.


The music got increasingly loud, intense, and stylistically interesting.  Every song featured Haynes’ patented “Gibbytronix” voice modulator, which tweaked sounds and altered his vocal pitch.  Other effects included an abundance of distortion pedals, industrial soundtracks, a megaphone, sirens, squeaking, squawking, and plenty of noise trails.  Interacting with the crowd, Haynes chatted about how many girls were there, the number of people wearing glasses , how many were bald, and how young the crowd seemed.  He described the scene as “unprecedented.” 


Photo by Patrick Houdek

Photo by Patrick Houdek


Known for their extreme debaucheries on stage the Butthole Surfers played a relatively tame show.  The only shock value came from the blood, guts, fear, fury and skin projected on the backdrop.  Some film scenes were recognizable—such as It, Silence of the Lambs and Killer Klowns from Outer Space—while others just included surgeries, zombie/slasher films, bugs, geometric shapes, explosions, combusting heads and more.  It was not unlike A Clockwork Orange, being force fed images of violence and gore.


Their set closed with “Who was in My Room Last Night?,” with Haynes performing an inspiring interpretive dance as the song rumbled to a close. Then the backdrop went black and the stage remained still for almost half a minute.  At this point the venue reeked of B.O. and smoke, thanks to a smoke machine filling the room with a thick fog.


Coming back for an encore, Leary confided in the crowd: “Normally we’re this really good rock and roll band [who] plays normal shit…it takes special people to come see us!” Their encore, lasting almost 20 minutes, was full of monster solos from each member, and more deafening psychedelic freak outs.  It felt like a finale to one of the slasher films projected in the background, when the apparently doomed teen knows they will eventually get out alive.  The show officially ended with grinding noise, like helicopters hitting pavement, topped off with bass reverb.


Reflecting on punk, the theme of Riot Fest, and how the Butthole Surfers fit into the picture, I thought that their sound was not all-out punk, but instead their energy and ethos reflected the genre.  They took the audience for a twisted ride, razed some eardrums, and upheld their legacy of being a motley band of bizarre, discombobulated chaos, who ultimately leaves their fans satisfied.


Set list obtained by Allison Taich

Set list obtained by Allison Taich



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