Archive for May, 2011

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Primavera Sound 2011 Day Two

The Flaming Lips, Grinderman, Girl Talk and more at Primavera Sound

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI’m not sure what purpose Barcelona’s Parc del Forum, a fairly massive, considerably paved waterfront park on the edge of the city, is used for the rest of the year – it seems to built up and out of the way for just hanging out in – but for one weekend in May, at least, it’s a pretty terrific spot to hold a music festival. Some more grassy spaces would be welcome and being long and narrow, it can be a haul from one stage to the next, but when you realize you’re seeing a fantastically well-curated lineup of artists right on the shores of the Mediterranean, then a little bit of walking doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

As a North American festival-goer used to things kicking off at the crack of noon, it was odd to see Primavera Sound’s schedule not getting underway until late afternoon each day and going until almost the crack of dawn. But as it turned out, this was a pretty sweet arrangement – assuming you didn’t have to work in the morning – as it saved you from being in a wide open space during the hottest part of the day and let you do touristy things while still packing in a full slate of acts.

My Thursday began at the San Miguel mainstage for Of Montreal and though it had been a few years since I last saw them live, it was good to see that they hadn’t tamed things down at all in the interim. Quite the opposite, actually, as in addition to the psychedelic electro-funk that you find on their records, the show was crammed with such curiosities as costume changes, balloon acrobats, Mexican wrestlers and epic man versus she-pig battle re-enactment. For any other band, these technicolor shenanigans would probably constituted doing something special for the festival but for Of Montreal? Just another day at the office.

Post-Of Montreal, it was time to wander the grounds a bit and get the lay of the land and coming across the ATP Stage, I stopped to listen to London’s Seefeel for a bit, having read something about them on the Twitters. I caught about 10 minutes of their set but apparently this was just the outro of their final song, consisting of a pulsing, groovy bit of drone-dub that played quite nicely against the backdrop of the sea. Might have been nice to have actually heard a song, but what can you do.

By this time, night had fallen and ater verifying that none of the festival’s wifi points were working – no surprise but really, why even pretend they’ll work? – it was over to the Ray-Ban Stage where I was susprised to find Big Boi on stage and punctual. Maybe he was jet-lagged and thought he was two hours late. Either way, his crew had been hard at work pre-set to round up pretty girls from the audience – and this being Spain there were a lot of them – and had them on-stage as dancers. Fun to watch for a bit but after hearing the couple of Big Boi/Outkast songs I knew, it was time to move on.

The first can’t-miss act of the festival, for me at least, as Grinderman. Yes, I’d seen Nick Cave and company’s alter ego at their North American debut last Fall but whereas some acts excel in a club-sized environ, I posit that the potency of Grinderman actually comes across better in a big outdoor setting. With the extra stage and pit space to move around in, Cave seemed extra unhinged as though he amped up his intensity to make sure all the thousands in attendance got their fair share. In particular, the camera shots of Cave stalking the pit between audience invasions during “Kitchenette” reminded of ringside footage from a prize fight and in “Honey Bee”, he proved that he may be the only man on earth who can make bee noises and arm flapping come across sinisterly. Grinderman were loud, raw and exhilarating and it’s a good thing that at set’s close when Cave encouraged everyone to Suicide, he specified the band playing the next stage over and not the act. Because after their performance, this was not a man you wanted to say no to.

Circa their latest self-titled album, there’s been much talk about how Interpol’s time is past, how they’re on the decline – that’s not a position that would have gotten much traction with the thousands who showed up for their 1AM set on the Llevant Stage. And for as much as you can complain that Interpol does the same thing over and over again, there were a few new things to come out of their set. For instance, Daniel Kessler speaks Spanish – at least I think it was Kessler who addressed the audience fluently in their native tongue, I suppose it could have been Paul Banks. I couldn’t tell from way back in the field. And also different was the speed at which they plowed through their songs – tempos on most numbers were ratcheted up from the norm, perhaps for a more efficient set. It wasn’t necessarily better, but it was different. But otherwise, Interpol was Interpol. And I have no idea who’s playing bass for them now.

I left their set early so as to stake out prime bubble walk/confetti cannon position for The Flaming lips. There was some ambiguity about exactly which show they were going to be performing and I was mildly disappointed this didn’t turn out to be a Soft Bulletin show as I’m one of those who hold that album up as their masterpiece and material from it doesn’t get aired out in regular sets nearly as much as it should. But if it being otherwise meant that I’d get a repeat of last year’s stellar Molson Amphitheater show, then okay – I can deal. And a lot of it was the same, but that didn’t diminish the fun of it, particularly when you’re surrounded by people who’re witnessing the spectacle for probably the first time. Because it remains a hell of a thing. Twists on this particular show included bringing out a translator to greet and advise the audience of the opening space bubble walk, a Wizard Of Oz theme for the dancers with dozens of cute Dorothys whooping it up on either side of the stage, the giant exploding confetti balloons were new, the firing of laser hands at a giant disco ball was an inspired move and there was even a new song in the set with Steve Drozdt showing off some manner of iPhone app that he used to generate noises Kaos Pad-style. It’s nice to see their show continue to evolve with new material while maintaining the elements that are now basically trademarks of the Lips’ shows. Always a blast and you would hear people singing “Race For The Prize” into the night, long after the show was done.

I should note that I started to fade at 4am. I am allowed to fade at 4am. But it wasn’t done. The evening/morning closer was back at the Llevant Stage where Greg Gillis – aka Girl Talk – was flown in from Pittsburgh specifically for this show and when you only have to work for one hour, I imagine you give it your all. Of course as a mash-up artist/DJ, “giving it your all” is more just a figure of speech but for a guy with a laptop, Girl Talk live was a lot of fun. He also filled the stage with dancers and would periodically step out in front of or on top of his desk to dance it up himself, and then there were the thousands of partygoers getting down in sea of feathers, presumably left over from El Guincho’s set beforehand. Yes, it was a sight. Musically I only knew about half of the stuff he played – typically the Top 40/pop half, not the hip-hop half – but I can see why people enjoy his stuff so much. I stuck around for a while but eventually the rising sun and falling stamina forced an end to the day.

A new Flaming Lips EP done in collaboration with Prefuse 73 is available to stream at Paste.

And in other news.

Last night’s Friendly Fires show at The Phoenix has been rescheduled for October 23 at The Phoenix after drummer Jack Savidge was hospitalized “due to exhaustion”. Details at Exclaim. There’s a pre-exhaustion interview with the band at Interview.

White Lies are back for a show at The Phoneix on August 3, tickets $27.50 in advance.

Video: White Lies – “Bigger Than Us”

The Village Voice interviews Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles. They’re at The Phoenix on June 10.

Low play a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR and talks to The Skinny.

Exclaim reports that Stephin Merritt will be releasing a compilation of rarities spanning all of his various bands and projects in Obscurities, due out August 23 on Merge.

MP3: Stephin Merritt – “Forever And A Day”

NPR welcomes TV On The Radio for a World Cafe session.

Drowned In Sound and NPR interview Death Cab For Cutie. They play The Molson Amphitheatre on July 29.

Diamond Rings’ remix series continues with an interpretation of Austra’s “Lose It”. Diamond Rings plays Echo Beach on June 3 and Yonge-Dundas Square and Wrongbar on June 18 for NXNE.

MP3: Austra – “Lose It” (Diamond Rings remix)

Fucked Up’s new opus David Comes To Life is now streaming in whole at NPR, in advance of its release on June 7. They’re playing Yonge-Dundas Square and Wrongbar on June 16 for NXNE and the Air Canada Centre on August 9. Tourdates UK has an interview with Damian Abraham.

Stream: Fucked Up / David Comes To Life

Evening Hymns are featured in a Takeaway Show; they play the Music Gallery for NXNE on June 16.

Dan Mangan has cobbled together some tour footage into a new video, presumably the last from Nice, Nice, Very Nice before his third album Oh, Fortune arrives in September. You can also stream his set this weekend at Sasquatch over at NPR.

Video: Dan Mangan – “Sold”

JAM interviews Sloan. They have two dates at the Mod Club for June 21 and 22.

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Primavera Sound 2011 Day One

Echo & The Bunnymen and Caribou at Primavera Sound

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOkay, so that’s the touristy stuff out of the way. Let’s get down to business, which is to say the music. As in festival. Music festival.

While Primavera Sound’s main, three-day event would be cramming Barcelona’s Parc del Forum waterfront park to the gills with music until the wee hours of Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the festival was also bookended by shows at a hillside venue on the other side of the city. El Poble Espanyol is a traditionally-styled Spanish village/museum that also happens to make a fantastic live music venue, offering great sightlines and a picturesque setting.

Getting through registration made me miss most of Englanders Comet Gain’s set, not that I knew their stuff at all, but their classically-appointed indie pop offered an enjoyable aural backdrop to exploring the environs and as a general kick-off to the festival and warm-up for Echo & The Bunnymen’s headlining set.

This show was one of their Crocodiles/Heaven Up Here recitals, following up the Ocean Rain recreation which they brought through Toronto in October 2009. While that show made perfect sense, boasting both some of the band’s most famous songs and lending itself to orchestral enhancements, offering the first two records the same treatment – sans strings – was a less obvious move. Both were considerably less populist and accessible affairs, very much attached to the band’s post-punk roots and existing in a darker sort of atmosphere. The “fans only”-ness of the set list didn’t keep them from packing the courtyard, though, nor from putting on a show that reinforced past impressions that the band rises – or falls – to the occasion when playing live. This was mostly the former, with Ian McCulloch much more animated onstage than in the past. A relative statement, certainly, but it may have explained him making more effort to hit those high notes which are audibly a strain for him these days. After the main set, they returned with a short set of “hits” as an encore – yes to “Bring On The Dancing Horses”, no to “Killing Moon” – and were done.

Not surprisingly, the crowd thinned somewhat before Caribou took the stage – after all, the demographics for ’80s British New Wave/post-punk and ’00s Canadian cosmic disco don’t entirely overlap – but the audience maintained the crucial density necessary to achieve dance party critical mass. Okay, dance party may have been an overstatement for the start of the set as it was only the handful of die-hards up front who began flailing when the music started, but as the set went on and the grooves got deeper, the dancing seemed to spread virally throughout the audience. I’d not seen the four-piece Caribou live show before – only the baker’s dozen-strong Vibration Ensemble – and their tightness and intensity totally impressed. There were no hat tips as to where they might be going on the in-progress follow-up to Swim, but wherever they go with it I can pretty much guarantee you that it will groove. Hard.

Note that since I didn’t have a photo pass, there’ll be no regular galleries from the fest but live and atmosphere shots that I got from the crowd can be seen at Flickr.

And in other animal-related band news:

Drowned In Sound gets Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison to annotate their debut album Sings The Greys. The Selkirk Weekend Advertiser also has an interview. They play The Molson Amphitheatre on July 27.

Black Book talks to Alex Turner and Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys and The Guardian to Turner alone. Their new album Suck It And See is streaming over at Soundcloud; it’s out next week.

Stream: Arctic Monkeys / Suck It And See

Under The Radar profiles Wild Beasts.

Today, in Antlers links: NYCTaper is sharing a couple of live recordings, The Alternate Side has an interview and session, The Line Of Best Fit and Drowned In Sound have interviews and a new MP3 from Burst Apart is available to download. They’re at The Mod Club on June 14.

MP3: The Antlers – “I Don’t Want Love”

The AV Club talks to Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes.

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

"A Quick One (While He's Away)"

My Morning Jacket covers The Who

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangStill on vacation, so a quick one while I’m away.

The Bonnaroo festival in the middle of Tennessee is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year and including this year, My Morning Jacket have played six of them. Clearly, they don’t need any particular excuse to get up there and jam it out for a few hours but when they do so this year, they’ll have a shiny new album in Circuital to show off. This doesn’t necessarily mean that folks should expect a track-by-track recital of the new record, though. When they performed in 2006, their new record Z wasn’t a year old and yet they still opted to include a complete performance of The Who’s mini rock-opera “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” into their set. Why? Why not? There’s precious little in the musical world that My Morning Jacket aren’t willing or able to tackle. Does it always work? Evil Urges says no, but by god they’ll try it.

The New York Times has a feature piece on My Morning Jacket, whose Circuital is out May 31 and who have a date at The Kool Haus on July 20. The Who are off the road at the moment but Roger Daltry will be heading out solo this Fall to perform Tommy – there’s a Toronto date for September 30 at the Sony Centre. Pete Townshend’s memoirs, which may be called Who He?, is set for a 2012 release. Bonnaroo goes June 9 to 12 in Manchester, Tennessee.

MP3: My Morning Jacket – “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” (live at Bonnaroo 2006)
Video: The Who – “A Quick One (While He’s Away)”

Friday, May 27th, 2011

CONTEST – Zoe Keating @ The Great Hall – June 4, 2011

Photo By Nadya LevNadya LevWho: Zoë Keating
What: Canadian-born, USA-based, self-proclaimed “avant-garde” cellist, formerly of goth-cello act Rasputina.
Why: She released a new album last year entitled Into The Trees.
When: Saturday, June 4, 2011
Where: The Great Hall in Toronto (19+)
Who else: The show is billed as, “An evening with”, which generally means no support.
How: Tickets for the show are $20 in advance but courtesy of Collective Concerts, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away to the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Zoe Keating” in the subject line and your full name in the body, and have that in to me before midnight, June 1.
What else: The Houston Press has an interview and The AV Club a very helpful primer to her works – watch it and you’ll probably want to go to this show.

Video: Zoe Keating – “Into The Trees” (live)

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

The Length Of Las Ramblas

Notes from Barcelona

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI’ve been in Barcelona for a few days now – four, including today – and as of tomorrow things become very Primavera-centric so now’s as good a time as any to offer some thoughts on the trip so far and the city in general. And those thoughts can be summed up pretty succinctly as, “amazing”.

Before coming here, I had very little history with Spain, at least from a pre-conceived or pop cultural sense. I’ve seen a number of Almodovar films and started (but have not yet finished) Don Quixote, but had nothing of the romantic notions about the place that I do for, say, Britain or New York City. A few days here have rectified that, however, and I am now in a general state of wonder about this place, on so many levels. In no particular order:

The civic planning and infrastructure. This is an old city, and yet it seems to have been laid out in a way that it perfectly accommodates modern needs. Their main boulevards are massive, allowing fast movement of cars, buses and taxis while also providing extensive bike lanes and pedestrian thoroughfares and there’s lots of scooter parking, too. And they do this while largely maintaining an almost perfect grid-pattern through much of the city and allowing for giant fountains and monuments at key intersections, though if that’s all too orderly for you there’s the old-school European narrow streets and alleys of Barri Gotic. Add in the fact that the subway is extensive, modern and reasonably priced? Getting around is a joy.

The architecture. Everyone knows about the works of Gaudi – and they are unique and breathtakingly strange, existing out of time and place – but most everything else in the city is just as beautiful in their own way, with a pleasingly sort of old world classicism unifying many of the structures but all with their own distinct character. All of which is to say, everywhere you look, there’s something beautiful.

The culture. This applies to most places in Europe I’ve been, but it’s reinforced a thousand-fold here, seeing the value they put into things like their galleries, their opera house, the music festivals they host, the sheer appreciation for art. It’s so completely opposite to how cultural institutions are regarded in North America, it’s astonishing. The creative things they invest in simply because they understand their value beyond monetary terms is inspiring and depressing (because such thinking seems to be anathema to so many at home).

The food. Holy cow. Never has pointing randomly to colourful presumably edible things on menus or in counters ever been so tasty. There has been much tapas consumed on this trip, and hopefully more before I leave – question to 416-ers; where is there good tapas in Toronto? I need to know where I can go to obnoxiously declare that the food is not as good as in Barcelona. I also ate at my first – and at those prices possibly my last – Michelin star restaurant this trip and while it cost more than I care to recount, it was a gastronomical experience I won’t soon forget. I wish Coke wasn’t quite as expensive as it is – I’ve had carbonated cola cravings since I’ve been here – and it’s been harder to find a to-go coffee shop than it should be, but by and large the food? Dang, son. Dang.

The women. Hola!

Photos from the trip thus far are up on Flickr and for those of you who care not one whit for my travelogues – which is fair, you heartless bastards – here’s some music-related links.

The Quietus has assembled a retrospective piece on the glory of Pulp, which may be instructive to those of you who didn’t live through the Britpop era and may not understand why it was necessary for me to get on a plane to see them perform.

Even though they were indeed just here at the start of the month, Peter Bjorn & John have put together a Fall tour that brings them back for two nights at Lee’s Palace, September 2 and 3.

Video: Peter Bjorn & John – “Second Chance”

NOW talked to Lykke Li in advance of Sunday night’s show at The Phoenix.

New Raveonettes video!

Video: The Raveonettes – “Appartitions”

Pitchfork has a stream of the first track from the new Horrors record Skying, set for a July 26 release.

His time with Pavement again winded down, Stephen Malkmus has reconvened The Jicks and with the assistance of Beck as producer, will put out a new album in Mirror Traffic on August 23. Details at Pitchfork.

Spinner talks to Superchunk about their legacy.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Steve Earle. He plays The Molson Amphitheatre on August 20.

Billboard has posted their upcoming cover story on Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, whose new record Bon Iver is out June 21. They play The Sound Academy on August 9.

MP3: Bon Iver – “Calgary”

Charleston City Paper chats with Neko Case.

Spin checks in with Broken Social Scene’ Kevin Drew about his favourite things. Surprisingly, the answers are broader than just “Kevin Drew”.

Handsome Furs have released another MP3 from Sound Kapital, due out June 28. They’re at The Garrison on June 18 and The Horseshoe on August 1.

MP3: Handsome Furs – “Repatriated”

Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham lists off some of his influences for Spin. David Comes To Life is out June 7 and they play two NXNE shows – Yonge-Dundas Square and Wrongbar – on June 16 in addition to their August 9 engagement at the Air Canada Centre.

Spinner looks into the longevity of Sloan. They’re at The Mod Club on June 21 and 22.