Having seen Josh Ritter twice already this year, I was aware that he’s been giving a lot of time on stage to honing new songs. The new material is fascinating and it is a treat to see him perform songs like the enthusiastic “Henrietta” alongside crowd favorites like “Kathleen” and “Joy to You Baby”. However, unlike the most recent time when I saw him perform with Zachariah Hickman, Ritter went solo for this set, on par with headliner Damien Rice. Unfortunately, this resulted in Ritter being drowned out by the collective audience chatter.
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The Northside Festival has tons to offer, and is perhaps the biggest series of shows outside of CMJ in New York. The weekend after Governors Ball, this series is more like CMJ than a getaway, as the festival has shows across tons of venues. While the entire festival encompasses music, film, and tech, we were only able to attend some of the music nights, notably the second (Friday the 12th) and the last (Sunday the 14th).
The rain on Sunday night might have been a surprise but it was not a deterrent to the throng of fans attending the final headlining set of the 2015 Northside Festival from Run the Jewels. El-P and Killer Mike (with one arm in a sling) were devastating together and even more so when Nas made a special appearance. Friday night had a headlining set from Neko Case, but I wanted to catch Malawian group the Very Best along with Heems at another one of the multitude of showcases. The Very Best are supporting their new album Makes a King while earlier in the day Dutch artist Jacco Gardner was performing tracks from his new album, Hypnophobia. Following Gardner and Irie Maffia, former Das Racist, Heems took the stage solo, save for a portable music device providing beats, spitting out rhymes from his album Eat Pray Thug. I, like some others in the audience, were confused by the guitar he occasionally strapped on and “played” but it didn’t appear plugged in so… ? Check out photos from these sets below.
The music of Hand. Cannot. Erase., the new album by the English musician and producer Steven Wilson, is quite fitting for the big city environment. The record, Wilson’s fourth as a solo artist, is a concept album based off of the disturbing tale of Joyce Carol Vincent, an Englishwoman who was discovered dead in her London flat after two years. Remarkably, no one had missed Vincent during the two years in which her body lay rotting in her apartment; despite having family and friends, she had successfully “erased” herself, to use Wilson’s words, to the point that her presence could go unnoticed for two years. In various interviews for Hand. Cannot. Erase., Wilson points out that if one truly wants to disappear, she should, counterintuitively, go to where there are the most people: the modern metropolis, cities like London, New York City, and, perhaps, even Chicago. About ten minutes before Wilson and his band take to the stage, a projection showing long shots high-rise buildings sets the mood for the two and a half hours of music that follow. The buildings are not unlike the many that dot the nearby Old Town and Lincoln Park neighborhoods.
The same weekend NPR premiered the stream of Corn, a new posthumous collection from Arthur Russell, the Red Bull Music Academy assembled a live musical tribute to the “great genius” of New York’s ‘80s music scene. Held over two nights at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, “Red Hot + Arthur Russell” featured band leader Stuart Bogie and numerous musicians, including Sam Amidon, Cults, Lonnie Holley, Devonté Hynes, Redding Hunter, Little Scream, Thao Nguyen (of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down), Richard Reed Parry (of Arcade Fire), Rubblebucket, Jake Shears (of Scissor Sisters) and Grey McMurray performing songs from the late, great Russell. Many of those tributes were released as part of the Master Mix compilation from Yep-Roc last year.
Mavis Staples and the Flaming Lips were among the lineup for the 2015 Nelsonville Music Festival, an annual four-day event produced by Stuart’s Opera House, “a historic, non-profit theater located in Nelsonville [Ohio]”. Both acts returned to the festival after previous appearances in recent years. The Flaming Lips performed a memorable show in 2011, and Staples began to perform in 2013 before her set was interrupted by a thunderstorm. That both artists were interested in another visit to Nelsonville is a testament to the quality of the festival and its growing reputation as a place for music and art enthusiasts to enjoy eclectic programming.
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