From the MoSS? Pit: Alvvays

 

alvvays performing in Iowa City

Alvvays doing their thing at Blue Moose.

Even before the lopsided outcome at Carver-Hawkeye played out, I firmly believed the hottest ticket in Iowa City on Friday night was the Alvvays concert at the Blue Moose Tap House. Frankly, you could have gone to the game, left just after halftime when the result was no longer in doubt, and caught the great show put on by Alvvays and opener Sun Club. The performance would have lifted the spirits of even the most downhearted Hawkeye fan. Hell, Sam managed to still have a good time once the music started.

Even though this young Canadian band has just one album to its credit, I’ve been rewarded by shows from bands of similar stature. Cults comes to mind: just one album out when I saw them in 2011, but it was a wonderful rendition of said songs. Same thing happened here at Blue Moose, and I didn’t have to drive to St. Louis to see them as I did with Cults.

Some answers to questions posed by the uninitiated:

  • It’s pronounced “always,” even though I prefer to pronounce it “all-vays.”
  • If you’re looking for a “Recommended If You Like” reference, the best/easiest answer is Best Coast.
  • Yes, they are adorable.

They started the show attempting to start a beef between Iowa City (or maybe the state of Iowa in general) and Charlotte, N.C., over the “first in flight” dispute. (I don’t care what your license plates say, North Carolina; I am firmly in the camp that the “hop” in Burlington, Iowa, gives our state bragging rights.) It was like the polar opposite of the singer saying hello to the wrong city; these clever Canadians had done their research.

Anyway, their sunny sounds translated very well in the Moose (easily my favorite venue in terms of sonics). The crowd, which was disappointingly small, made up for things by bringing a lot of energy. (Alvvays singer Molly Rankin acknowledged that our enthusiasm exceeded that of crowds twice our size.)

One of Mark's calmer moments.

One of Mark’s calmer moments.

Well-regarded songs like “Adult Diversion” (my favorite song) and “Marry Me, Archie” got the crowd going. I believe the latter song was the one that prompted my friend Mark, clad in his finest Canadian tuxedo to honor the band’s homeland, to repeatedly pump his fist in revelry. Good music will do that to a guy; doesn’t hurt when the song is led by a blonde rockin’ a guitar.

“Atop a Cake” had the crowd singing along to the chorus and “Next of Kin” featured a nice swoon throughout the song. Songs like “Dives” and “Red Planet” took me back to another pleasant Blue Moose moment, recalling the sounds of Camera Obscura around the time of the My Maudlin Career album.

The openers, Sun Club, impressed the crowd with endless bounce. What I listened to online before the show seemed really calm compared with the songs played at the Moose. Their drummer in particular was a beast. Good way to set the mood for the show. Keep doing what you’re doing, boys.

So with a great show under their belt and an album that ranks highly in my year-end rankings (more on that later this week), Alvvays has my attention. Can’t wait for what’s next. Come back soon.

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From the MoSS? Pit: Sharon Van Etten

sharon van etten

Sharon Van Etten and her band gave the crowd at Gabe’s a great show Oct. 13.

There was this one time at Gabe’s when things got kinda awkward. I want to tell you about it.

I was seeing Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. It was a great show: Ted and the band were rockin’ out, the crowd was sizable and into what was happening, and everyone was feeling good. And at some point between songs, Ted decided to tell some story about the long-running TV show Law & Order. And he even specified that he wanted to talk about the really early episodes.

To my mind, that was a good thing, because I really liked the episodes with Michael Moriarty. For one, his Ben Stone character wasn’t nearly as melodramatic as Jack McCoy. Two, the show didn’t feel it necessary that the DA’s office rack up a win-loss record that would rival Perry Mason; in fact, it seemed like Stone and Robinette were unable to get convictions on about a third of their cases, which led to some serious philosophical conversation on the courthouse steps between the defeated prosecution team and then Stone would flag a cab while Robinette stood there looking mad/sad and you could only imagine what sort of witticism DA Adam Schiff would have spouted had he been standing there.

adam schiffAdam Schiff (at right) was the best, by the way.

Anyway, for those of you not steeped in Law & Order trivia, Michael Moriarty pretty much talked his way out of his L&O role because he was angry that Janet Reno was critical of violence on TV and Moriarty felt that she was overstepping her boundaries and feared government censorship (or something like that). Producers cited his “erratic behavior” for his eventual dismissal, not Reno, but I think they were/are part of an elaborate cover-up!

So I decided this was the perfect time for me to yell the following: “FUCK JANET RENO!”

I didn’t stop to think about how that would sound as a lone voice coming from a crowd in a venue that isn’t exactly world-renowned for its acoustics. Not the criticisms of a former attorney general, but how what I said would get lost in translation, so to speak, as the sound waves went forward toward the stage.

So Ted Leo stops mid-sentence and says, “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh did someone just say FUCK TED LEO?”

Suddenly everyone’s head swung around to look at me. It felt a lot like this:

kids pointing and laughing

I screamed out “NOOOOOO! JANET RENO!” but it was too late. Killed the entire vibe. Ted finally says, “Ah never mind, I don’t want to tell the story now.” And everyone glared at me again and I pretty much died right then. Only thing I remember after that is having tinnitus for about a week because Gabe’s.

sharon van etten with guitarAnyway, I bring this up because as good as the Sharon Van Etten concert was at Gabe’s on Monday night, one of the main takeaways was how awkward it got for a moment or two.

And once again, we have a Music or Space Shuttle member to thank! Not me this time, though!

Before I give you the lowdown on how Sam got in trouble during the concert, I’ll quickly give you some thoughts about the evening in general.

We had a pretty sizable gang out for the show (seven of us, all told) and most of us were able to make our way to the very front of the crowd. I was right along the stage, in fact. The view was great, of course, and the sound was actually quite nice from that angle. Sharon and the band seemed to be in a good mood, talking about how Doug the guitarist was celebrating a birthday and how they enjoyed their pre-show meal at the Motley Cow. It wasn’t the longest show in the world but they played most of what I wanted to hear.

“Taking Chances” and “Break Me” are two of my favorite songs and they both sounded great. “Serpents” was pretty cool although I think there were some technical difficulties or something with Sharon’s gear as she shook her head a time or two and kinda toe-tapped her pedals in a slight show of frustration. It still had a great aggressive feel to it and really it’s the vocal in that song (the way she holds the words “my mind” in the chorus) that does it for me. “Afraid of Nothing” was a great start to the night; “Your Love Is Killing Me” ended the main set very well. We got a two-song encore that included a song that didn’t make the last record but not for lack of quality, based on the rendition we heard.

Sharon seems genuinely appreciative of the fans; we noticed this at her Pitchfork set in July as well. It’s a weird juxtaposition sometimes, hearing her happy moments of gratitude before heading back into songs that pull at heartstrings, but it’s a cool trait that we like about her.

The set by opener Tiny Ruins (what we caught of it, anyway) was good. A bit more subdued than what Sharon and her band do, but they seem rooted in the same philosophical vein. I liked what I heard and need to seek out some more.

Non-concert thing: I’m still not a big fan of Toppling Goliath putting everything they have into bottling, consequently taking Golden Nugget off the taps of Iowa City drinking establishments. Lagunitas is picking up the slack, though.

OK, so let’s talk about Sam.

I have been making a conscious effort to stay off my phone during shows anymore. Not completely, but I try to get any photos or videos out of the way in the first three songs (this is a common grace period that credentialed media have for shooting photos, the first three songs). I can get a few shots, perhaps get one song worth of video, and then put the phone away. Worked out for me at the Cure at Riot Fest, as they played “Fascination Street” second overall, the song I wanted to capture. So that’s what I did: took maybe 10 photos of Sharon during the first song, sent one of them to Todd with a report about the crowd, and that was that.

So during the third song (I believe), I was kinda bobbing my head to the music, eyes half closed, when I swore I heard Sharon sing, right in the middle of the verse, “Get off your phone!” I shook my head, wondering if I imagined that, then went back to being the solemn hipster in the front row.

So at song’s end, Sharon went on a bit of a rant about people engaging during shows. About being on cell phones during shows. About how people can take photos and videos if they want, she doesn’t care, but it really sounds like she does care, and again, if you want to be on your phone, go ahead and do that, just don’t stand up front and do it, let other people up there, OK rant over let’s play music again.

I do believe that a guy two spots to my left recorded the whole thing on his phone, so he could correct any creative license I’ve taken with my paraphrasing.

Needless to say, at this point I would not be fulfilling the request I received during the second song, via text from Jess (Todd’s better half), hoping for video of “Your Love Is Killing Me.” And that reluctance was hammered home later in the set, when Sharon AGAIN ranted about cell phone use. Jesus, I thought, who the fuck set her off?

So after the show ended, I turned around to chat with the others: Michelle, Travis and Annie, Sam and Devon. They were all in the vicinity of the front row (Michelle was next to me; everyone else was one or two “rows” back).

“So you know that cell phone rant?” Sam says. “That was me.”

What?

Apparently Sam was texting a friend, letting him/her (I never asked for clarification) know that Sharon’s set had just started and there was still time to get there to catch the lion’s share of the show. I’m guessing the glow from his phone illuminated Sam’s sexy mug in such a way that Sharon couldn’t help but notice. And when a guy like Sam isn’t paying attention to you, you let him know that he’s fucking up!

sharon van etten and sam

They were apologizing to each other at blurring speeds, apparently.

The story has a happy ending: Sharon hung out after the show, and Sam went over to apologize. He said she was apologetic herself by the time the conversation neared its end.

This isn’t the first time Sam has annoyed a musician in my presence at Gabe’s. Some 12 years ago (give or take) he and I were hanging out at Gabe’s to see the Donnas. I believe there were four bands on the bill, so there was plenty of time to kill.

This was in the golden age of coin-operated bar-top games like Trivia Whiz. Apparently Sam and I weren’t the only people who liked playing that game, as two of the Donnas (Donna R the smokin’ hot guitarist and Donna F the bass player) were back there playing. So we hovered, partly because two Donnas were playing but partly because we are trivia nerds.

So we’re watching over their shoulders and eventually Sam starts chiming in with answers. Of course he’s right every time, but it’s like when you’re playing solitaire and someone comes over and says “Duh! The 8 can go on that 9!” or something like that. You want to turn around and punch the guy in the seeds.

And Donna F the scary bassist gave a look that sort of conveyed that message. This photo of Donna F found on the Interwebs is pretty representative:

donna f

So perhaps out of guilt or perhaps as a way to flirt with Donna R, Sam ended up getting like $40 worth of quarters and gave them to the two Donnas playing Trivia Whiz, saying “If I’m going to blurt out answers I should at least pay for your games.” And much like his conciliatory conversation with Sharon, things worked out. They let us join in and it was good fun. The other two Donnas dropped by at some point, which was also pretty cool (I thought Donna A the singer was kinda cute or whatever). A little while later, they put on a really fun rock show.

I should clarify a couple of things: one, Sam didn’t really get $40 worth of quarters to play Trivia Whiz with the Donnas. He can tell you the exact amount in his inevitable defense statement in the comments of this post.

Second, I didn’t witness the Sharon conversation where they made up or whatever. I had already had my own conversation with Sharon during the show. Toward the end of the concert, she mentioned how she had a really shitty morning at the airport, where she and a grumpy airport worker had gotten into a bit of a spat. Sharon said she felt horrible about it but the airport worker kinda had it coming or something like that.

So it got kinda quiet and I seized my moment to interject, “What, was she on her phone or something?”

To which Sharon, to her credit, said without missing a beat, “No…but I did text a bunch of people about it.”

Good show.

From the MoSS? Pit: Riot Fest 2014

A staple at these festivals, Social Distortion failed to disappoint.

A staple at these festivals, Social Distortion failed to disappoint. (UNLESS YOU’RE A CURE FAN AND SOCIAL D RUNS LONG AND TAKES AWAY THE CURE’S ENCORE TIME! FUCKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!)

 

(Chris and Sam both attended Riot Fest Chicago. Below you’ll find their takes. Sam’s is up first; you can jump to Chris’ by clicking here.)

SAM

I won’t bury the lead: I’d like to announce my retirement from the three-day music festival. I just don’t think I can do it anymore. My poor back and feet can no longer take it. And if I was on the fence, Mother Nature made sure I came to a decision right then and there at the beginning of Riot Fest 2014.

Friday was pure hell. It was butt cold and rained almost all day, making the next two days (which actually had pretty damn near-perfect weather) pretty insufferable, too, because of the mudpit it created throughout Humboldt Park. I ended up wearing the same pair of pants all three days of the festival because I didn’t feel the need to ruin a whole gaggle of clothes. Hey, I guess a cheap bottle of Old Spice Swagger actually DOES have some value.

And somehow someway, my shoes actually survived … but let’s pause and pay respect to the towels at the low budget Howard Johnson’s we stayed at that had to make the ultimate sacrifice for my feet. They will be missed.

I didn’t get to see Slayer (seriously, that sucked), the Dandy Warhols, or Cheap Trick. Same with the Flaming Lips. The set-up kept me from properly enjoying Tegan and Sara, Television, and Patti Smith. The curse of the festival: Not getting to see everyone you want. Ugh.

Plus, there was plenty to complain about logistically, as my compatriots and Riot Fest veterans Skeet, T-Dub, Seany, and Chris (not MoSS? Chris … I’ll call this Chris Mr. Cool from now on) continually reaffirmed to me all weekend long.

But if this is my festival swan song (and I have no reason to think it won’t be … in my seven straight years of Lollapaloozas and now Riot Fest, I’ve seen almost everything I can possibly think of), I think the music of Riot Fest 2014 will make it a proper send-off.

(I ain’t even touching The Cure, OK? My MoSS? cohort Chris camped out all 10 hours of Day 3 and was rewarded with a prime front row spot not only for his favorite band of all time but other sets by Superchunk, Tegan and Sara, and Patti. In addition, he spent more time on the stage’s big screen than Robert Smith himself. I’ll just let him tell that tale.)

Let’s not waste time here … MASTODON!!!

Mastodon makes everything betters.

Mastodon makes everything better.

 

Riot Fest is pretty much known as a punk rock festival. And there’s plenty of punk rock I love. But I’m much more metal. I prefer killer riffs to anthemic choruses.

And when it comes to metal in 2014, it begins and ends with Mastodon. They’re the gold standard. Yes, there’s plenty of doom and gloom in their music. But with his jovial preening and crowd banter, bassist/co-frontman Troy Sanders showed that metal is super fucking fun, too. It reminded me of those old videos of Ozzy bouncing up and down with a shit-eating grin on his face while singing sinister songs like “Children of the Grave” and “Black Sabbath” in the California sun in the ’70s. And when lead guitarist/co-frontman Brent Hinds screeched the hook of “Blasteroid,” I would’ve needed plastic surgery to remove the shit-eating grin off of MY face.

And the riffs? Praise Jesus. The crowd went nuts when they tore into “Oblivion,” with the differing tempos and three different vocal sections (Sanders on the bridges, Hinds on the hooks, with drummer Brann Dailor tackling the verses ). It was just perfection across the board. The only thing that sucked is that they didn’t play longer.

Mastodon was my priority of the festival. Hands down. And they did not disappoint. In fact, all the shit on the opening day of the festival – the rain, the cold, the fucking mud, the smell, the congested walkways, the hampered VIP shit –was worth it, because Mastodon rocked my ass off.

Now the bad …

Hey, Riot Fest … fuck you!

Fuck you for making me choose between Slayer and Jane’s Addiction. Seriously, fuck you right in the ear.

In my life, I’ve seen them both an equal amount of times. So it became a question of hearing Reign In Blood start to finish or hearing Nothing’s Shocking start to finish. Both in my all-time top ten list. Not an easy choice. After Mastodon blew my doors off on the same stage, I was prepared to just stay put for Slayer. My hometown pals (and friends and colleagues of MoSS?) Chris, Travis and Annie were already there and I would’ve had a kick-ass spot. But because of the getting-home scenarios with my travelmates in the shitty weather and my unfamiliarity with the area, I ventured back to the other side of the park to find them for Jane’s … just as Slayer took the stage and tore into “Disciple.” I cursed under my breath the whole way over there like a kid with Tourette’s.

Jane’s? Yeah, they sounded great. Love that album. I could see them every day and never get sick of them. That said, I wish I would’ve stayed for Slayer … especially since my festmates took off without me anyway and left me in the middle of nowhere with no previous frame of reference for getting back to the hotel. But just as I was venturing into a pretty sketchy part of Chicago looking for solutions (I was probably a half a block away from getting my throat slit for 25 cents), I serendipitously ran into Annie, Travis and Chris again on the street in a crowd and we shared a cab back downtown. So yeah, guys, thanks for saving my ass. Drinks on me at Van Etten next month.

No seriously, Riot Fest … fuck you!!

For years, all I’ve heard about from my oft-returning friends is how much better Riot Fest is when you get VIP. Well, I got VIP the year they expanded to five stages and changed the layout. My pals were NOT pleased. In fact, they apologized to ME afterward.

Yeah, there were some perks. It helped to be able to take a piss without waiting in line. And I can’t front … the drink tickets were a plus. I’ll admit that. I got 12 drink tickets right off the bat, while the commoners had to spend $7 a beer all festival long. In fact, when I told Annie, Travis and Chris – who were serfs to my VIP – about the tickets, Annie did express some envy.

But for me, I bought VIP for sightlines. And there was nothing special about them. I had to stand out in the crowd with the cretins if I wanted even remotely a good spot for the bands.

Now, I did hear secondhand that if the weather had cooperated, there would have been a VIP path between stages avoiding all the congestion on the walkways that hampered everything. But those flooded almost immediately on Friday and were never opened. And I’ll never know if this also applied to the spots to stand and watch, too.

So, Riot Fest, I’m sure you meant well, but that’s did me no good. So suck it.

BEES!!!

The best part of the weather and the mud pit, besides the smell and piles of destroyed shoes, of course? Everybody spent all of Saturday and Sunday under siege by bees. I felt like I was in a Hitchcock movie. It’s a miracle I never got stung.

OK, now the music …

After 15 years, the Dubs are finally off the hook

It only took 15 years, but I saw Face To Face

It only took 15 years, but I saw Face To Face

In 1999, I bought a ticket to see Face To Face at First Avenue in Minneapolis. It was back when I was a working a grueling schedule as a high school sports reporter and hadn’t had a day off in weeks. I needed this. Bought a ticket. Told my boys T-Dub and Skeet, who were also going. It was all set up. Except it wasn’t, because the assholes went without me. To this day, they swear we never had that conversation. They should know better than to test my memory, but whatever.

Well, after waiting a generation, I finally saw Face To Face on Saturday. Dare I say, it was worth the wait. You see, I like my punk rock heavy. A lot of it is actually quite bright and a little thin, which gets covered up by hooks that get shouted and chanted endlessly. But Face To Face’s riffs can be a little dirty. Crunchy. They speak my language. Two of my favorite punk records – Don’t Turn Away and Big Choice – are both Face To Face records. Fifteen years after I got left behind, I finally got to see “Disconnected” live.

So I forgive you, Dubs. Don’t let it happen again.

Banner says it all ...

Banner says it all …

When it comes to punk rock, the Brits still do it best

I started the festival with the Stiff Little Fingers, from Belfast. Excellent. On Saturday, I watched the Buzzcocks, from England. Very strong. Caught a solo set by Paul Weller of The Jam. I was hoping for more old Jam songs, but it was still a solid outing. Hell, I even caught London vets Cock Sparrer while I was waiting for the Descendents. They were still super tight. I’m telling you: don’t fuck with our motherland, everybody. They’ve still got it.

Oh, there’s some great new punk rock, too

Check out the Menzingers. And PUP. For sure. PUP’s riffing had some serious balls. Highly recommended.

The ‘90s was the greatest era of rock ever, and it was well represented

Super happy to have caught this set by Superchunk.

Super happy to have caught this set by Superchunk.

Just because the surviving giants like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails weren’t there, Riot Fest found a few bands for the fans seeking some nostalgia. I caught a fantastic set by cult faves Superchunk with Chris (at the top of his Cure campout – I still don’t know if he made it through the day without eating, drinking, or peeing, as that stage filled up almost immediately after I left. If he did, kudos). I somehow missed the Dandy Warhols (sad face), but have it on good authority they were on point.

And even the rap was better in the ‘90s? Proof in point: Wu-TANG, Wu-TANG. The RZA was holding court on Saturday, yo. And with them, I’ve been lucky enough to see the majority of the Mount Rushmore of my rap fandom live, joining Public Enemy, Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest (it’s impossible to see NWA without Eazy-E, so Ice Cube, I’m coming for ya).

On Friday, with rain and mud becoming a real issue, I was still unfamiliar with the layout of the park. There was no fucking way I was jeopardizing my shot at seeing Mastodon so I took the time to walk the routes. By doing that, I caught a few songs by Clutch (bottom heavy yet hook-y … a good combo), bookended on both sides by a few songs by Failure, a band I was never that familiar with before but I found myself really kind of enjoying them. Pretty damn heavy, technical, drony, almost prog. I found myself kinda wanting to check out their stuff when I got home. But they might not have been the right fit for that snotty, punky Riot Fest contingent. Speaking of which …

NOFX? Yeah, those guys are dicks

Failure wasn’t finished for more than five seconds on the Riot Stage when NOFX took the neighboring Roots Stage and frontman Fat Mike started berating the shit out of them for sucking. In fact, they wasted a ton of their set with stage banter insulting the crowd and the other bands on the bill, managing to fit their seminal 1994 album Punk In Drublic around it (I haven’t been able to confirm from anyone if they actually played the whole thing as they were supposed to as part of the festival’s “10 Essential Albums” series). But apparently being dicks is their thing, because their fans eat it up (believe me when I say I have decades of experience gathering intel on this matter), so more power to them.

I took off early to get my spot for Mastodon, but I did hear that when they went were in danger of going over their allotted time and told they only had time for one more song, they launched into “The Decline” – yeah, the song that’s its own EP, clocking in at over 18 minutes. When they got cut off early, Fat Mike announced “you’re the first people to hear three-fourths of ‘The Decline.’ See ya later.”

Yeah, with stunts like that, I can see why punks love them.

The other white whale I caught? DESCENDENTS!!!

The first two albums I bought as a University of Iowa student? One was M.O.D.’s U.S.A. for M.O.D. – undoubtedly the best album ever recorded that contain the lyrics “What a fucking beast/Her ass alone would be a feast.” The other was the Descendents’ incredible retrospective Somery. Played it endlessly. Probably my favorite piece of punk rock of all time.

Never got the chance to see them live before. Until Saturday.

As part of the “10 Essential Albums” series … I mean, when I think of the concept of hearing a band play one of its albums from start to finish, my brain expects to hear something like Dark Side of the Moon. Well, the SoCal veterans played their 1982 debut Milo Goes To College. We’re talking about “Myage.” “Suburban Home.” “Bikeage.” Those are some heavy hitters.

But still, yeah, it took all of about 20 minutes. You know what? Not a problem.

Because in reality, it felt like they tore through the majority of Somery. I can’t think of anything I wanted to hear but didn’t (well, except “Sour Grapes,” I guess). I got “Clean Sheets.” “Silly Girl.” “Weinerschnitzel.” “Get The Time.” I was happy.

And they actually sound lo-fi live. That’s not an insult, by the way. Actually, quite the compliment. They were fucking awesome.

A post script that must be documented for generations to come…

Text

My friends? Can drink. A lot. Like Vikings, in fact. That’s selling them short, actually. I mean, you know the tales of Vikings pounding stein after stein of mead at the Festival of the Vernal Equinox? Yeah, well, my boys make those Vikings look like 14-year-old girls trying wine coolers for the first time at a high school kegger.

As the t-shirt says, "Drink Malort or fuck off."

As the t-shirt says, “Drink Malort or fuck off.”

When we got to town on Thursday, we went out for a quick cocktail to start the weekend. Or so I thought, until the bartender brought us a tab 90 minutes later for $280, a Herculean effort in day drinking … and it was only Thursday. In what can only be described as a truly heroic intake of cocktails, Mr. Cool inhaled 12 Miller Lites the way normal people inhale … I don’t know, oxygen? Needed to be seen to be believed.

And T-Dub? He was Don Draper in a pair of Vans with his partaking of the Old Fashioneds . But I think Mr. Draper, the pussy, would’ve needed Mrs. Blankenship to hold his calls all day afterward as he napped on his office couch. For Dub, it was just Friday.

Hey, we were on vacation!

CHRIS

FRIDAY

Fueled up the Equinox. Hit Iowa City. Grabbed pear cider for Denise, my favorite Chicago host; she doesn’t consume gluten, hence the fancy pear juice. Picked up Travis, Annie, and a guy we’ll call, um, “Roger”. Listened to Descendents. Annie hated it, or perhaps just my singing. Avoided the traffic by rolling into Chicago at 2 a.m. Crashed for a few hours. Met Denise for lunch, ate my weight in tortilla chips. Rode in a cab driven by a guy named Lemmy. He ripped us off AND he listened to Backstreet Boys; obviously not the Lemmy of “Ace of Spades” fame.

Rain. Not heavy, but its persistence was characteristic of Chinese water torture. But not nearly as tortuous as the douche canoe behind us as we lined up to get beer tickets. Guy turned a Clash song into his own personal protest song. (“Beer riot! A beer riot! Beer riot! Riot for some beer!”) Yes, I’ve written out the lyrics; no, you can’t understand the fullness of the suck unless you were there. But go ahead, imagine how stupid it sounded. Annie and I played rock/paper/scissors to see who got to kill him, or we should have. Beer selection also sucked. Dos Equis Amber is the best you can do? Or Newcastle Brown Ale? Is an IPA too hipster and/or passe these days? But hey no PBR so hooray.

This was HEAVY FUCKING METAL DAY. So why not start with Gwar. But not too close; I was wearing a snazzy button-down shirt and didn’t feel like wearing “my” poncho to fend off the blood. (“My” is in quotes because it was a borrowed poncho, and I’ll just leave it at that.) Those guys are funny, even if they killed a Robert Smith parody. If the real Robert was on stage, those goofballs wouldn’t step to him, I GUARANTEE IT.

Clutch played next. Think my dad would have dug their set. Seriously. Bluesy, definitely his speed. If you know my dad, you’ll know that I’m not dissing Clutch. They weren’t incredible or anything, but good stuff.

Rain coming harder. Mastodon coming hardest. HOLY SHIT those guys were great. Owned the stage. And we had good spots. Common theme on Friday. Not sure if it was the rain or the workday or the shorter schedule but it wasn’t terribly crowded. This would change.

Biggest conflict of the festival was upon us: Slayer vs. Jane’s Addiction. I hadn’t seen either one before (unless you count Porno for Pyros, but that would be silly). Both were playing landmark albums front-to-back. But this was HEAVY FUCKING METAL DAY, and this was Slayer, and this was Reign in Blood, so really it wasn’t as tough as it first seemed on paper.

Slayer played the song that my wife LOOOOOOOOVES, “Disciple.” Sarcasm, of course. She once yelled at me for listening to it. “On a Sunday, no less!” Hilarious. God hates us all. Played a few more choice tracks, including “War Ensemble,” which made me think of Sam’s air-guitar antics at our first post-college job in M-Town. Kerry King ain’t got shit on Sambob. Then “Angel of Death” to “Raining Blood,” in one fell swoop. Travis and I provided great vocal accompaniment. There’s only one way out of here…PIECEBYPIECE! DO YOU WANNA DIE?!? I HAVE YET ONLY JUST BEGUN TO TAKE YOUR FUCKING LIFE! (devil horn hand gesture!!!!) One person in front of us commented how cute we were or something. Not very metal of her.

The music ends. The line for taxis begins. The rain continues. The cold gets colder. Taxis don’t come for 45 minutes or so before we finally started walking in search of a ride, which we found eight blocks away on Damen. But the wait was divine intervention, perhaps, as we reconvened with Sam and got him back to his hotel safe and sound (unless the cabbie did something impure/unseemly to Sam after we got out). Food run to nearby Walgreens. Muddy footwear left in the hallway. My socks were quarantined to a pocket of my suitcase. Jeans in rough shape but they’re going back on tomorrow. First day done. Fuck yeah.

(My gang hung together for most of Friday, although Denise missed the rainy day entirely thanks to being a responsible job holder and all that. So not much third-person post-script this time. I will say this of our pre-festival shopping trip: H&M has reasonably priced apparel.)

SATURDAY

Denise with us today; no more of that work stuff for her. More direct cab ride to Division. Found some good breakfast eats (read: chocolate chip pancakes) a few blocks from the park. Arrived at Humboldt to find a line longer than Bill Ennis-Inge’s junk (too obscure?) and a lot of bees. Annie and I would duke it out all weekend long to see who would deliver the best bee puns. I would say I won Saturday. Orderly punks seems odd and it didn’t last forever; eventually we swarmed the gates. We missed the Pizza Underground due to the wait. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but I would have taken a free slice from Macaulay Culkin.

7 Seconds in a swamp of mud: pretty cool. Buzzcocks on more steady ground: awesome. Television while chilling under some trees about 100 yards from the stage: relaxing.

Left the punk scene and headed over to Riot Stage. Die Antwoord. I’d previously only thought of them in terms of gimmicky nonsense; now I think they’re a lot of fun, at least live. Freaky but I liked them a lot. Still, those haircuts are fucked.

Jeans were struggling at this point. Grabbed some sliders and nachos and found a quite area to feast. Went back to Riot/Roots stage area to watch Wu Tang Clan, who still claim they are nothin’ to fuck wit. I might beg to differ. I mean, I wouldn’t step to them, but the music is not beyond reproach. Left after a few songs, leaving Denise alone to later get dragged through the mud during Metric by some crazed kid. Bag contents strewn about the mud. Figures the one HUGE Metric fan would have to run by D.

I wanted front-row action for Descendents. Sat through the last few songs of Get Up Kids, then swam upstream against the fleeing flock of emo kids to get a spot on right side of stage. Cock Sparrer played on nearby stage; not bad. Milo comes out with backpack, ready to go back to college.

Band spends first 20-some minutes playing Milo Goes to College. Then knocks out probably 15 more songs after that. I sang damn near every word while holding on for dear life. Hadn’t been in crowd action like that in many a year. Couldn’t breathe against the gate a couple of times, still sang my heart out. Inner nerd came flying out with fist pumps galore. “I’m not a cool guy anymore//As if I ever was before.” Milo even came down to the rail so that the fans could sing; found the mic in my face. What fun. Got quite a workout passing crowd surfers over rail to security staff. Felt half my age in the moment but twice my age by night’s end/the next morning…sore as hell. Hardly any voice left; so what.

Despite that, I still sounded better than Danzig did with Samhain, which immediately followed Descendents on nearby stage. Fucker was out of breath by second song, even though he wasn’t being smashed against iron by a crowd of hundreds. They were horrible.

Learned our lesson about waiting around Humboldt for a cab. Walked down Division, grabbed huge slices of pizza, found a cab. Damen is the place to find a cab in that area. Got to Denise’s, threw away jeans. Put on different pants. Annie, Travis, and I hit a bar near Denise’s apartment, first stopping to get some cash and discuss the amazing nature of palindromes. Annie kept referencing “racecar” while I helpfully added “boob” and “tit.” Jukebox was rockin some country…until I played Slayer’s “Postmortem.” One guy across the way nodded in approval. Drunk ladies seemed oblivious. One such lady soon found the floor. I went to play more Slayer but some dude had put in 16 credits and was going to town picking Van Morrison tunes—an upgrade from Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon,” I suppose, but that seemed to be our cue to GTFO. Back to Denise’s to crash. Second pair of socks quarantined. Still had manic energy from Descendents set but somehow fell asleep. That’s one comfy ass egg cushion on Denise’s sofa sleeper.

(Stuff I missed: everyone else was raving about Flaming Lips; the fact that the power went out early just added to the legendary moment. Travis and Annie got a cool selfie with Wayne in bubble above them. Roger agreed with my Samhain summation: sucked. Annie had a good day catching Orwells, Dandy Warhols, and Tokyo Police Club. Wish I could have worked in Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas.)

SUNDAY

No one was worried about arriving too early. Slept in, grabbed delicious burger at Parlor, which just opened two days prior. Annie built an insurmountable lead in the “bee pun” game; one landed in her mimosa and she quickly observed, “That bee’s sure getting a buzz.” GAME OVER, although she made some other comment later about making a bee-line for something, piling on for good measure. Cabbie was playing King Sunny Ade and Bob Marley on way to Humboldt; our best taxi soundtrack yet. Punks learned to say “fuck waiting in line” or else we just got there late enough that most people were already in the park. Took a piss and prepared for my endurance test. Went over to Riot Stage, where the Cure would be playing to close out the fest, and caught Kurt Vile and the Violators. Set got over around 2:15, I plowed my way to the front rail. I would be staying there until the Cure played the final note of the set at 10:00. No food, no water, no bathroom break. Mind over body. I was about 25 feet from where Robert Smith would be standing so it was mission accomplished as far as I was concerned.

And it’s not like I just stood there staring at walls for the next five hours. I had great views of Superchunk (fun as hell) and Tegan and Sara (really great set) and Patti Smith (surpassed my expectations). When our stage was quiet, the nearby stage featured the music of Billy Bragg, Naked Raygun, Dropkick Murphys, and Social Distortion (who played a few minutes long and fucked up the Cure’s encore…more on that later). Sam hung out with me during Superchunk and I was surrounded by friendly Cure diehards—I wasn’t the only one willing to sit tight for the entire day. The woman on my right was surprised to learn I was going to stay there through the Cure; she figured with my Paddy cap and Donnelly’s Pub t-shirt, I would be sprinting over to Dropkick Murphys.

I counted five people hauled out of the crowd after passing out for one reason or another. The first one happened right at my feet during Tegan and Sara. Security couldn’t quite reach him, and seeing as many a member of the T&S audience belong to the small teenage female demographic, I had to do some serious heavy lifting to get the guy over the gate. Once again I felt it was proper to chalk it up as even more exercise.

Patti Smith was encouraging an overthrow of pretty much everything in between her rockin’ renditions of her tunes. I was more impressed with the ferocity of her music than the rally cries but whatever. She was not afraid to be confrontational with songs like “Rock n Roll Nigger.” I went into the set thinking it would be an interesting novelty act but I was genuinely impressed. Denise was not impressed. AT ALL. She had worked her way up, getting within about two or three “rows” of me at the front, but the diehards were not letting her through, even after I confirmed that she was with me. I was bummed, but at the same time, I get it.

Cure was supposed to go on at 7:45 but fucking Social D was still playing. They went over by five minutes. Not a big deal, one might say, but it was to us. Anyway, Social D shuts the fuck up finally, fog machine in high gear, intro music from the Wish era comes over speakers, the lads come out, and I swear to fucking god Robert locks eyes with me momentarily and gives me a hint of a nod. I know I sound 14 instead of 40 with that sentence but it’s an honest assessment of the moment so I’m sticking with it.

What is undisputed: I’m in the front row at a Cure show.

The first half of the set was really nice. “Open” led into “Fascination Street.” The latter is the one song I recorded on my phone; the video below will give you a glimpse of my view. And yeah, you can hear my finest Robert Smith singing voice on this vid.

One of my favorite “album tracks,” “Push” from The Head on the Door, was played fourth, followed by the sing-along keyboard line in “Play for Today” and the simple-yet-ominous tones of “A Forest.” As you can hear around 10:22 of the embedded video below, I unleashed a timely scream of “SIMON!!!!” just before he plays the closing notes of “A Forest.” I knew I gave it a good belt, confirmed by being picked up by some other guy’s video.

Simon Gallup is age-defying; at 54 he has more energy than rockers half his age. It’s no wonder I once named my cat after him, because he rules. (So did my cat…RIP.)

The second half of the set featured a few of the overly poppy songs that I enjoy (“Close to Me,” “The Walk”) and some that I could do without (“Mint Car,” “Friday I’m in Love”) but it’s a festival so there’s no sense brooding about not hearing 23 deep cuts. And truth be told, the pop songs are quite good but just not my favorite side of the Cure. But toward the end we got “One Hundred Years,” which is as punishing as pretty much anything played throughout the festival.

So the band finishes “End” right at 10:00. Robert says thank you (or, you know, “Q!”) and then looks at us and shrugs and walks off. Photo of the setlist reveals that they were going to come back out and play a one-song, four-minute encore: “Give Me It,” a great song from The Top that would have satisfied the diehards, but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, fucking Social D had to run long and fuck it up, since Chicago has a very strict noise ordinance that cuts off the music at 10:00. Lot of whining from fans around me, mainly because they didn’t get to hear “Boys Don’t Cry,” which it turns out they weren’t going to play anyway. Ha. Still, while not the perfect setlist, the performance was top-notch and my front row spot was amazing. Worth not consuming or excreting anything for eight hours.

Stopped at the same pizza joint from the night before. Left my knapsack there…goodbye awesome gray Paddy cap. Would have cost three times the retail value to take a cab there and back, as I only realized the loss once we were back at Denise’s. Third pair of socks quarantined. Lou Mitchell’s breakfast in the morning before returning to our Iowa reality.

(Stuff I missed: the gang applauded Primus. Annie and Denise enjoyed Weezer. Denise HATED Patti Smith—did I mention that already? It needs to be noted twice. HATED HER. Dropkick Murphys made people happy.)

My top 5 of the weekend:

5. Die Antwoord

4. Mastodon

3. Slayer

2. The Cure

1. Descendents

Honorable mention to Buzzcocks and Patti Smith.

If this mega-sized version of Riot Fest irons out some wrinkles (the park layout was horrible; a couple of scheduling conflicts seemed unforgivable), I think I’d go to this as long as I’m physically able (and as long as my wife keeps letting me go to these things). Maybe I can make it long enough that The Next Generation could go with me…a dad can dream.

(Jump back up to Sam’s recap)

From the MoSS? Pit: Kings of Leon

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Remember the MoSS? Pit post about the trip to Kansas City Mrs. Todd and I took a few months back to see Arcade Fire? If not click here. If so, then you know it was an awesome concert and we had a great all around trip. It just so happens that on the drive down to Kansas City, the Mrs. and I impulsively bought some tickets for a future great concert and great all around trip. (I love technology…always and forever…always and forever)

Of course, we didn’t know it would be great at the time. We were just hoping for good weather and a fun show when we bought tickets in the pit for Kings of Leon in St. Louis. If you read our Undisputed Top Albums ever posts them you’ll remember that I had the Kings of Leon album Aha Shake Heartbreak listed as my #51 album ever. You’ll also remember that after introducing my wife to their music she has become a KOL lover pushing into stalker-like levels. She’d seen them before with pretty decent seats but it was my goal to get her right up to the front of the pit. Come hell or high water we were going to have the best view in the house for this one.

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Mrs. MoSS? Todd excitedly bragging/texting her friends.

The venue was the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater west of St. Louis where Kings of Leon previously played and left the stage mid set because they were getting bombarded by pigeon shit. Really. Pigeon shit. Upon hearing this news,  we weren’t just worried about getting a good spot to see the show. Now we also had to worry about pigeon doodoo? Chris and Sam had been at the venue before to see The Cure and assured me that if we got there right at doors, we would be able to get to the front of the pit. Unfortunately, they had no assurances for the pigeon poopy. We took their advice and we arrived at the venue 15 minutes before doors. There was probably a hundred or so other concert goers in line already but once doors opened and we made our way through security into the pit area, we were able to walk right up and secure a spot 10 feet from the stage. The Mrs. was thrilled, I was husband of the year and all was right in the world.

Kongos

Kongos

 

The only negative, if there was one, was that we had to sit through 2 opening acts that neither of us was too thrilled about. The first was the South African band of brothers, Kongos. We actually listened to their album, Lunatic, on the drive down but neither of us really liked it much. Their live show was actually much better. They were energetic and at times they reminded me of Graceland era Paul Simon. Maybe it’s their South African roots.

The 2nd band was the oddly named, Young the Giant. I’d heard them a bit on satellite IMG_1517radio but never really enjoyed their music. It just doesn’t touch me in any way. I felt the same about the live show. The music was fine. It just doesn’t affect me one way or the other. It just sort of …is. I will say this about Young the Giant, the front man is very charismatic. He works the stage well and really gets into the show. So I guess there’s that.

Needless to say, once Young the Giant were over we were ready for some KOL. Although, it was pretty cool being right up front and watching the small army of men tear down and put up the lighting and sound gear.

After 15 minutes of watching roadies and downing a couple shots we sneaked in, the lights dimmed and the show began. KOL kicked the show off with the terribly titled, but rousing runner of a song “Supersoaker.” It’s the lead single from their latest album Mechanical Bull. Prior to the show my wife and I were discussing past KOL setlists and listing songs that we really wanted to hear but thought to be seldom played long shots. To our delight, the next two songs were actually on that list as they played “Taper Jean Girl” and “Fans” in succession.

IMG_5324KOL have a contest running during this tour where the fans pick a song for each venue of the tour and they will only play the winning song that night. No repeats during the remainder of the tour. The St. Louis selection was “Slow Night, So Long” from the previously mentioned album Aha Shake Heartbreak. This was a particularly fun point of the night because, at their own admittance, they weren’t really prepared to play that one. They pulled it off quite well though. I actually tweaked my neck a bit banging my bald head back and forth in the part of the song when the drums really kick in.

The rest of the set was pretty decent mix of songs from all 5 of their albums. I really enjoyed the sing-along moments of the show during “Knocked Up”, “Pyro” and the KOL stadium killer anthem, “Use Somebody”, which closed out the pre-encore part of the set.

The crowd was pretty diverse. For much of the first part of the show I actually had an 8 or 9

My super sweet merch tent purchase. Aha Shake T-shirt.

My super sweet merch tent purchase. Aha Shake T-shirt.

year old girl standing next to me belly up to the rail. Before the show started, I couldn’t believe that her parents would bring her to a show at that age. She knew the words to every song though and belted them out as she jumped up and down. I think my wife was a more than a bit jealous as the band members handed the girl special used items before the encore started. Guitarist Matt handed her a pick and my wife’s favorite Followill brother, drummer Nathan, sent the little girl a drum stick. That last one stung the most I’m sure.

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The last 3 songs of the night were KOL encore staples “Crawl”, “Black Thumbnail” and the crowd pleaser “Sex on Fire.” The band seemed to really enjoy themselves throughout the set. Maybe they were just happy not to be dodging pigeon feces all night. No matter the reason they played their asses off and the crowd loved it.

Mrs. MoSS? Todd resting her dancing shoes as she calls for our ride back to the hotel.

Mrs. MoSS? Todd resting her dancing shoes as she calls for our ride back to the hotel.

Today when Hip-Hop and EDM lead the way, these guys are a real throw back to the days of the stadium filling rock bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s. If you want to see a real rock show, by a real rock band in their song writing and performing prime, I can’t recommend seeing Kings of Leon enough. If you want, you could even join the wife and me for an upcoming Kings show in Vegas. I will be turning 40 years old in the VIP section as the Followill brothers kick off their show at the MGM Grand. I can’t wait. Holler up at me, maybe I’ll see you there.

From the MoSS? Pit: Pitchfork Music Festival

slowdive performing at pitchfork

Slowdive performing on the final day of Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park. It was so fucking great.

At the age of 40, I finally did all three days of a weekend-long music festival…Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago’s Union Park, to be specific. It can be summed up pretty much like this: I purchased and redeemed numerous drink tickets (the last batch handed in for Goose Island’s Sharon Van Etten signature brew); I ate and drank (mostly ate) my way up and down Randolph going to and from the fest; my back was killing me by Day 3; only one artist truly disappointed me; I’m still envious of my friend Denise’s view from her downtown home and appreciative of her hospitality when we (me, Travis, Annie, in this case) come to town; the band I really wanted to see surpassed my expectations to claim the honor of being my favorite act of the weekend.

What were my takeaways from the experience, which saw Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Kendrick Lamar headline the three days?

Despite being markedly shorter than the following two days, Friday was pretty much awesome, even without Death Grips.

sharon van etten

Sharon Van Etten and her band perform on the Red Stage.

I thought for sure Friday would not be nearly as special without Death Grips kicking things off. But it turned out to be the most consistently satisfying day. Factory Floor grooved the Blue Stage (which resembles the shady confines of The Grove at Lollapalooza). Sharon Van Etten performed a great set on one of the two larger stages. She couldn’t hide her glee in between songs, which presented an odd contrast to her vocal stylings, but anyway, she was wonderful, and I can’t wait to see her again in Iowa City come October.

Sun Kil Moon provided a nice soundtrack for kicking up our heels. Giorgio Moroder was an absolute home run, something I didn’t see coming. It was truly fun. (Weirdly, this was the only moment where I saw anything remotely resembling confrontation. I guess disco still pisses off some people.) I think Giorgio was neck-and-neck with Deafheaven vocalist George Clarke in terms of best conductor of the audience.

Had no idea what we’d get from Beck’s headliner set. The new album is good, but not sure it’s festival-mainstage kind of stuff. But we got a nice cross section of his catalog, delivered with great energy. I found videos of set opener “Devil’s Haircut” and megahit “Loser”; I was unable to find any videos of me nailing all the lyrics to “Get Real Paid.” I also didn’t get a usable photo of the 7-foot guy who nudged his way up by us in the crowd, towering over Denise. Oh well.

Service at The Haymarket was shitty after the festival on Friday.

Seriously. It sucked, and the food we eventually got was nothing to write home about (even though I guess that’s kind of what I’m doing right now).

Oh, you crazy kids in Twin Peaks…

They looked even younger than they probably are (the quartet’s collective age I’d estimate at 81). They had crowd surfers (which reminded me of shows from back when I was the same age as the Twin Peakers). One guy rocked out from a wheelchair (ankle injury, I guess). Another guy smashed his guitar and chucked it into the crowd. They were manic, they were fun enough, they were a good band to open the day. Greg Kot speaks highly of them in the video recap below.

Saturday probably had the biggest disappointments of the festival.

Cloud Nothings didn’t impress our party much; they became a running joke in our group because of how much Annie disliked their shit. (I might have the highest opinion of them, in that I enjoyed the first five songs and then found it a bit monotonous.) Denise and I took a big risk in skipping St. Vincent to head to the cozy Blue Stage to catch The Field and FKA Twigs, which, I’m sorry, was a terrible mistake. The Field was fine for chilling in the shade before making our move forward to get a good spot for FKA Twigs. The music is kinda cool, but her live act seems to rely mostly on slinky moves and diva attitude over anything resembling decent vocals. (I realize my opinion is counterbalanced by the shit I overheard in the crowd, such as “She’s so elegant, she’s so perfect, she’s beyond human!”)

We made it back to the other side of the park in time to catch one, maybe two St. Vincent songs from a distance. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Thankfully her entire set is on YouTube, which you (and I) can watch below.

Some people might have been disappointed that Pusha T had to play a truncated set since his DJ didn’t show up or whatever.

Tune-Yards live > Tune-Yards on record.

That’s not meant as a dig at Tune-Yards’ recorded work, although I don’t find myself listening to Tune-Yards for an hour straight very often, if ever. But I could have watched and listened to the live act for three hours. So much life in that performance, and not just limited to Merrill. It was easily my second-favorite set of the weekend, surpassing Sharon VE and Beck.

I haven’t found any YouTube videos that really capture this, so for now, take my word for it.

My Donnelly’s Pub t-shirt was quite popular on Saturday.

Three times I was stopped so that someone could give me props for the shirt. Of course, Travis one-upped me by having four people compliment him on Sunday for his Black Angels shirt; one guy even handed him a strand of drink tickets just to show him proper respect. This happens to him a lot, or so I’ve heard.

Dum Dum Girls were great; the bass player secretly loves me (I’m sure)

We got a late start to Sunday, catching just the tail end of DIIV and missing Speedy Ortiz completely. After sitting through some of Isaiah Rashad’s set at the Blue Stage, we finally got our closest spot for a set, about four rows back for Dum Dum Girls. One of the coolest acts, and certainly very easy to look at. But seriously, the music is great, and it came through in this energetic performance.

Deafheaven’s vocalist (George Clarke) is perhaps the most intriguing character from the whole fest

The dude comes out all buttoned up in black, looking quite straight-edge or something, and absolutely takes over the entire park. Standing at stage’s edge, directing the crowd with rapid hand gestures, placing one boot upon the monitor and going into a tense crouch, and then unleashing THAT scream. It’s absolutely mesmerizing to watch him work. But as I said in my Best of 2013 album list on Facebook, I love Deafheaven’s music but am not a big fan of the vocals. Seeing him live was worth a few songs, but I thought it more important to stake out space for Dum Dum Girls rather than stay for the whole set. Still, cool to see.

Slowdive was the best

They might not be as beloved as My Bloody Valentine in the shoegaze universe, but Slowdive put out three wonderful albums in the ’90s, and the songs translate live better than MBV does, if you ask me. The quintet filled up the outdoor setting with ease, with layer upon layer of guitar washing over a crowd that, truth be told, probably wasn’t all that familiar with the band coming in. (I mentioned to Travis that Slowdive was the main band I wanted to see on the whole bill; a woman in front of me said “If I block your view, just let me know. I’ve never heard of this band before.”) We had a great view and the band met my expectations. I really miss the ’90s, and not just because of grunge heroes like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. The shoegaze bands are marvelous; Todd and I even kicked in some cash to Kickstarter to help fund the making of a documentary on the subject, “Beautiful Noise.” The film is making the festival rounds, and we should have our DVD in the near future. (Screening party!)

Anyway, here’s some Slowdive.

Real Estate was as expected, which is to say very good

They are good at what they do, and at times it sounds spectacular. Sounded good as the sun got low in the sky. Here’s a taste:

What did others think?

Neutral Milk Hotel was to Annie as Slowdive was to me. Denise and Annie loved Grimes. Travis is still loving Sharon Van Etten, and he and Annie loved Deafheaven. Our entire group loved Slowdive. It’s safe to say Denise did not love Neneh Cherry and absolutely loved Giorgio. Dum Dums went over well with everyone. The hard cider option was much appreciated, as were the Big Ass Lemonades and Big Ass Arnold Palmers.

Outside the park: Beer Bistro was the best: food, drink, service. So was the place where Denise and I got nachos for what felt like our ninth meal of the day on Saturday; don’t remember the name of the joint. Kaiser Tiger was a cool place to hang out right across from the park, but unless you’re really hungry or have six people in your party, don’t get the large order of fries. An entire cookie sheet stacked with fries arrived at our table. Beggars Pizza was really good but it was quite an ordeal to get the damn pizza. Meli Cafe and Lou Mitchell’s served top-notch breakfast, each in its own way. You already read my feelings about Haymarket.

I definitely preferred the Pitchfork setting over Lolla. I feel like I was able to get to see almost everything I wanted, thanks to the more compact structure. And even with way fewer artists on the bill, I feel it is a much more impressive lineup than what Lolla is going with this year.

I’d love to return to Union Park in 2015. Who’s with me?

From the MoSS? Pit: Tegan and Sara

tegan and saraI’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m a 39 year old hetero male and I friggin’ love Tegan and Sara. Their last 3 albums are ranked right up there with some of my favorites of all time. Sainthood made my top 100 albums list and Heartthrob topped my best of 2013 list. Honestly, I had never really considered my enjoyment of them to be something to feel ashamed of. I just liked their music without thoughts to their sexual orientation, the main demographic of their fan base or how any of it does or doesn’t effect me. They produce songs about universal themes of life, love, and loss that anyone should connect with.

At a recent concert, one of my fellow concert goers gave me shit about my high regard for T&S and called into question my musical taste in general.

Concert Goer: “I don’t trust your opinion. You like Tegan and Sara.”

MoSS? Todd: “What? You don’t like them? Really? Come on, they’re great.”

Concert Goer: “No, I’m not a sexually confused teenage girl.”

MoSS? Todd: “What what what? I’m like the exact opposite of that and I love them.”

Concert Goer: “They suck”

MoSS? Todd: “Yeah well……You suck”

Well you get the point. I like Tegan and Sara and any of you paying attention over the last few years of MoSS? posts will know I am kind of obsessed with Prince. What does that little tidbit of info have to do with anything you ask? Well, a few months back, Tegan and Sara announced a summer tour and one of the stops would be at First Avenue in Minneapolis, a venue made famous by Prince and the movie Purple Rain. I’ve seen that movie a million times and have always wanted to see a show there. It was definitely in my top 5 “Concert Venue to Visit” checklist along with  CBGBs unfortunately now defunct, Red Rocks in Colorado for the amazing scenery, The Metro in Chicago due to the Smashing Pumpkins association and The Whisky A-Go-Go because ROCK!!!

First Avenue

So you can understand my excitement when I saw Tegan and Sara were playing at First Avenue. For the second concert ticket purchase in a row I was able to score 4 pre-sale tickets so I could assure entry. The owners of the other three tickets would be Mrs. MoSS? Todd and our friends that have expertly served as concert support crew for many shows written about here like the 2012 Pygmalion Festival Best Coast show and last summer’s Fleetwood Mac tour.

We had everything planned out perfectly for the day of the show. Hit the Mall of America for part of the day, head downtown and check into our hotel which was conveniently located approximately 50 feet from First Avenue, grab some pre-show food and drinks then head to the show. It all went without a hitch until the U.S. World Cup Soccer Team threw a wrench into our schedule. One of my support crew member made the excellent recommendation that we go to the legendary Gluek’s Restaurant and Bar for pre-show sustenance (This place is really cool. Good food, good beer and the place has been open for like 80 years and hasn’t changed much since then. It’s like a time warp. If we had a bar like it where I live I’d go there everyday like Norm from Cheers.) We purposely got there in time to grab a table near a T.V. so we could watch the match. Team USA played at 5PM and doors for the show opened at 7:30. We thought we’d watch as much of the match as possible then hop into the line at First Avenue and get a good spot to watch Tegan and Sara. Little did we know that this would be such an exciting match. With the scored tied 1-1 late there was no way we were making it to doors in time. Miraculously,late in the match, Team USA scored with a beautiful header from a corner kick. GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!! U.S.A….U.S.A.Brooks Header

After the excitement wore off, we headed over to First Avenue. Since we were late for doors the place was a little full but the ladies in our group weren’t dissuaded. They beat a path through the crowd while the guys purchased beers. I will say that one of the benefits of going to a show where the attendees are predominantly of the LGBT community is that most of the crowd is shorter than me. We were about 10 feet from the stage and I had an unobstructed view. My 5’2” wife could even see perfectly and this is usually not the case in general admission.

The first opener was Vancouver indie pop trio The Courtneys. I really enjoyed the set. Their music has an old school early ‘90s lo-fi feel to it and I’m always impressed when the band’s drummer is the lead singer too. Check out one of their videos below.

The second opener was the electro-pop group My Midnight Heart. Lead singer Angelica Allen has a powerhouse voice and she really showed it off during their set. I found them to be pretty similar to the group Blood Orange whose album I really enjoyed last year.

As good at My Midnight Heat were, we were all getting pretty antsy for Tegan and Sara to get up there. To soothe our anxieties we knocked back a couple of our smuggled in booze shots, grabbed another Miller tall boy and before we knew it, it was show time.

Tegan and Sara 1The crowd erupted as the sisters Quin started the set off  with “Goodbye, Goodbye” (strange choice for the opening song) and followed that up with 3 more upbeat numbers from their most recent album Heartthrob. It was a great way to start the show because the crowd never stopped being engaged even when they changed the tempo in the middle of the set with songs from their older less danceable albums.

This was probably my favorite part of the show. They played my personal favorites from 2007’s The Con “Back in Your Head” and “Nineteen.” Then, I lost my voice singing along to a cluster of songs from the 2009 album Sainthood, “Sentimental Tune”, “Alligator” and “On Directing”, also personal favorites from that album.

They ended the first set with their most successful single (it actually hit #1 on the U.S. Dance Tegan and Sara 2Charts), “Closer.” This would have been a more than satisfying ending to a fantastic show but we all knew they weren’t through yet. After a brief break, Tegan and Sara came back up for three more tunes. The first two were from their own catalog, a rearranged version of  “Call It Off” and an older song, ‘Living Room”, from the 2003 album If It Was You. The final song of the night was a super-synthed-up and shimmery cover of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door”. They dedicated it to the crowd as a thank you. No need to thank us ladies, all we did was sit back and enjoy a stellar show. As per usual, my video of the event was horrible so I found this clip of the closing number from a few weeks back.

Bonus Concert Coverage:

Check out these photos of a semi-inebriated and excited MoSS? Todd posing by his favorite band’s stars at the First Avenue wall of fame.

A cluster of greatness. White Stripes, Beasties and Pumpkins

A Cluster of greatness. White Stripes, Beasties and Pumpkins

The Pixies!!!

The Pixies!!!

The Purple One and Bob Mould. I took great pains to crop out Soul Asylum's star. Hate them.

The Purple One and Bob Mould. I took great pains to crop out Soul Asylum’s star. Hate them.

From the MoSS? Pit: Nine days, three shows, one wish

julianna barwick

Julianna Barwick performs in Danforth Chapel on the University of Iowa campus. (Christopher Clair)

April Fool’s Day 2014 was wonderful. I didn’t fall for any Internet pranks; my colleagues didn’t put my hand in warm water while I napped. (Kidding! I can’t nap at work; I usually consume about 128 ounces of caffeinated soda during the workday.)

That night I saw Warpaint at Gabe’s, and the show was fan-fucking-tastic. And so began my 2014 Mission Creek Festival, which is arguably the most wonderful time of the year in Iowa City.

Warpaint is absolutely in my wheelhouse: female musicians, moody tunes, lots of energy. The band sounded great (yeah, in Gabe’s, no less), seemed genuinely happy to be there, and played a nice mix of songs from the two albums and early EP. They played my favorite song, “Bees,” during the encore (probably because about halfway through the show, I punctuated every between-song moment with shouts of “BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!!”) They ended the whole night with a marathon jam on “Elephants” from the EP. The girl from the movie “The Rules of Attraction,” the one who kills herself because James Van Der Beek ignores her, was in fine form. American Psycho’s brother should have paid more attention to that one. Our crew (me, MoSS Todd, Travis, Annie, recent MoSS guest Sam, Ian) certainly did.

warpaint

Warpaint dominates the opening night of Mission Creek 2014 with a killer set at Gabe’s.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Gabe’s was a packed house for the show. It had a similar vibe to the Wild Belle show from last fall: good crowd, all enjoying the groove laid down by the band.

Upon show’s end, I immediately validated the band’s performance by going on Facebook and making this profound statement: “WAR. FUCKING. PAINT. Your move, rest of #MissionCreek.” (Yes, I’m one of those guys trying to make hashtags happen on Facebook.)

Fast forward three days, and I’m standing outside the Englert waiting to go inside for The Head and the Heart’s sold-out show. The band’s most recent album, 2013’s Let’s Be Still, pretty much snuck up on me. I didn’t even realize there was a new album to be had until the lazy days of Christmas break; by then, I’d already put out The Definitive List of the Greatest Albums Released in 2013™. Thankfully the band was able to withstand this egregious snub and sell every ticket for the show within a matter of days (hours?).

This show always was going to differ from the Warpaint event: much different style of music, radically different venue, reduced alcohol intake. But it was glorious. For one, the opening act, Basia Bulat, was so wonderful. I was unfamiliar going in, but I find that a good strategy for openers. If they suck, well, openers sometimes do that. If they’re great, it’s like going to two concerts for the price of one.

Bulat was a good fit as an opener for the Americana of TH&TH (even though she’s Canadian!), both in musical stylings and as a magnetic personality to warm up the crowd for the headliners. At one point early on, she picked up an instrument that looked quite familiar: the autoharp. I recall playing one in grade school music class, accompanying my classmates as they sang hymns found in our Glory & Praise songbooks. Safe to say Bulat looked way cooler playing the instrument on her songs than I ever did strumming along to “Be Not Afraid,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” or anything else of that sort.

the head and the heart on stage

The Head and the Heart perform to a sold-out crowd in the Englert.

As enjoyable as Bulat was, The Head and the Heart was on another level. The six-piece was tight; their relative youth an odd sight when paired with the quite mature music they create. The interplay between frontmen Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell was seamless, but the crowd was (justifiably) most moved whenever violinst/vocalist Charity Rose Thielen took her turn at the mic. (Sondra went to this show with me. Her lone criticism? “The drummer…I couldn’t decide if he was really into it or if he was just an annoying bro.”)

They played pretty much everything from their two albums, but I’m sure everyone in the audience would have stuck around for another hour or so to hear the band perform covers. I think I still prefer the first album (total music snob move!) but hearing the new songs live really upped my appreciation for the latter. “Another Story,” “Josh McBride,” and “Shake” sound superb alongside first-album gems like “Rivers and Roads,” “Down in the Valley,” and “Ghosts.”

This performance was crazy-good. Didn’t hurt that we had front-row balcony seats from which to observe. The only bummer: Misson Creek’s Friday night was PACKED. I don’t regret my choice, but had I not secured TH&TH tix, I would have bounced over to Jason Isbell or Weekend (my most regretful miss of the festival) or !!! (which I could’ve hit after TH&TH, but fuck, man, I’m old). Gotta spread those out next time.

Mission Creek wrapped up Sunday, April 6, but the post-Mission Creek withdrawal lasted just three days. April 9 brought another show to see: Julianna Barwick in tiny little Danforth Chapel on the University of Iowa campus. Perfect home for Barwick’s ethereal tunes. MoSS Todd and Sara (the supplier of the “blue” for our Breaking Bad party last year) joined me for this one; due to the intimate setting, we occupied about 8 percent of the capacity ourselves.

I reviewed this show for my friends at Hoopla. Some excerpts:

Julianna Barwick's hands during a showIt’s one thing to hear [Barwick’s] end product via a recorded album (and if you haven’t heard her catalog, you really should); it’s quite another to watch her create on the spot. From the spartan Danforth “stage,” Barwick would sing and record a snippet, loop that segment while singing and recording a second snippet (often different from the first), loop the second segment, and so on. This seemingly effortless exercise yielded a lush chorus that filled the cozy venue, all the more impressive after learning that Barwick was dealing with some serious allergy issues on this night.

Barwick is a humble performer, nodding to the crowd and whispering “thank you” at the end of each song. Heck, she even came out after opening act Vasillus concluded its set to personally let us know that she’d need about 10 to 15 minutes to set up, almost as if she were asking our permission or forgiveness. A relatively short wait, and well worth it to hear her perform.

The opener, Vasillus, the moniker of Brooklyn-based artist Ahmad Bilal, entertained the crowd from the drop. The key element to the music was Bilal’s soulful voice, which simply soared over the sinister synths (“synthister,” if I may create a new word) and drum machine dirge. He was clearly enjoying the performance, so much so that he caught himself joyfully cursing in church. No sin in having fun, my man.

I praised Barwick’s renditions of “One Half” and “Crystal Lake.” I left out of the Vasillus paragraph that he was wearing a great T-shirt: it said “The Smiths” across the front but rather than a photo with Morrissey and Johnny Marr, it showed Will Smith and his family. I want one.

I guess I’m writing all this because Todd and I like to document those moments when we can tear ourselves away from our adult lives, our parenting roles, our responsibilities, and go out and enjoy live music. But I wanted to sum up this wonderful “three shows in nine days” period to ask a question: why can’t it always be like this?

The answer, perhaps, is “we’re getting there.”

I think the Iowa City scene is doing a better job booking and attracting good stuff outside of Mission Creek season. Part of that is due to the work of SCOPE, a UI student organization that books a handful of concerts each semester. They delivered Sleigh Bells, the Avett Brothers, James Blake, Best Coast, and many others in the past couple of years. They booked the Julianna Barwick show, and would have had Sky Ferreira the other night had she not been bested by illness.

The Mill somehow manages to book bands despite having jack squat in terms of amenities (the inverse of Blue Moose, which has great stage/sound but can’t book a damn thing without Mission Creek). And Gabe’s upcoming calendar looks solid. Between now and when May runs its course, Gabe’s will have hosted Cloud Nothings, Perfect Pussy (with Yamantaka//Sonic Titan opening), Mirah (I like her), and Blitzen Trapper. I compared this run with what High Noon Saloon in Madison has going on over the next six weeks—surprisingly we got ‘em beat. (I say that because it seems like every article announcing a band tour includes a High Noon date.)

Give these bands a reason to keep coming to Iowa. Go to the shows. Keep the vibrancy of Mission Creek going whenever you can. I’ll see you there, as often as I can.

From the MoSS? Pit: My Bloody Valentine

mbv backdrop

If My Bloody Valentine’s visual and sonic bonanza at the Aragon Ballroom is the last concert I attend this calendar year, it is the perfect cap to 2013. This trip around the sun gave me my third Cure show (at my first Lollapalooza in 19 years), a bucket-list cross-off (Sigur Ros), a “hi-how-ya-doin-great-show” moment with Bethany Cosentino at the Deadwood after a Best Coast show, a proper rock show by the Thermals at the Mill, a festive Wild Belle show at Gabe’s, and my son’s first concert, Vampire Weekend in Kansas City.

What a year. And what a show MBV put on for the Aragon faithful. And thank God, because since the day I bought these tickets, I had this small but nagging doubt that this band would be able to live up to the unbelievable standard set on the albums and EPs. Anyone’s who checked out live clips on YouTube might have the same anxieties. (As you might detect from my iPhone videos below, the camera phone probably isn’t sophisticated enough to accurately capture the pleasant onslaught on the senses.) I also had been experiencing so much joy from the anticipation of the event, I feared that perhaps I was setting myself up for a letdown.

IMG_2312

Bottom line: can the MBV experience really pay off in a live setting?

The answer is yes. No, it isn’t as precise and multi-textured as what you find on the studio output, but the spirit is still there. Gorgeous and lush, dreamy and dense, and, of course, loud as fuck. They still pass out earplugs at the door, with signs strongly encouraging everyone to use them “given the extreme volume of this particular artist” (I’m paraphrasing, but I think that was pretty close to the actual language). I kept them out until the last three songs; I think my friend Kory was the only person in the building who didn’t use them during the finale. (More on that later.)

So our gang of six (me, Kory, Nancy, Denise, Sam, and Travis) had a drink or two at a nearby bar, where I had blue balls.

(Wait, that sounds bad…)

Where I ate blue balls.

(Wait, that doesn’t sound better at all…)

Where I ordered a concoction that involved shredded chicken, peppers, and spices, all shaped into four spheres that were hand-breaded and fried, and then served over a bed of Maytag blue cheese dressing. This menu item was called “[something] [something] blue balls.” I ate those things. They were delicious.

IMG_8750

We entered the Aragon and snaked our way toward the stage as best we could. After a relatively short wait, the “mbv” logo from the new album appeared on the backdrop, and soon enough the house lights went down and out came the shoegaze legends. Well, most of them, anyway. So Kevin Shields starts strumming the opening part of “Sometimes” (a song I always thought was just an OK My Bloody Valentine song until Sofia Coppola used it to perfection in Lost in Translation). Debbie Googe was going to work on the bass and…well…um, someone else was playing a guitar.

Someone who didn’t look much like Bilinda Butcher.

And as someone with a minor crush on Bilinda Butcher, I really wondered what the hell happened to Bilinda over the past few years to end up looking like the drummer, Colm O’Ciosoig.

Until I realized it was O’Ciosoig, strumming away on a song that didn’t require his drum work. Whew.

Bilinda soon surfaced and we were off, bouncing around the catalog a good amount before the night was over. Naturally they played a good deal of Loveless (seven of the 11 songs), and five off the new album. We got three from Isn’t Anything (including one of my favorite songs from that album, “Nothing Much to Lose,” with its frenetic drum fills and guitar squelches bookending the nice verses and bridges) and a couple of songs from the EPs (“Honey Power” from Tremolo and “Cigarette in Your Bed” from You Made Me Realise).

Highlights? “Soon” was definitely cool, and was one of the renditions that probably came close to replicating studio sound. “Only Shallow” delivered, as Debbie just pummeled her bass throughout that one. I thought all the m b v songs sounded great; I was very happy to hear my favorite song from the album, “wonder 2,” and came away loving “only tomorrow” even more after hearing it live. That’s something that deserves mention: the new songs all sounded GREAT live. Really, there wasn’t a bum song in the whole bunch, and as you might note from the pictures, the visuals projected on and all around them were a nice complement to the performance. I especially loved the look during “To Here Knows When,” which you can watch below.

About the only thing that was a bit unpleasant was the way the crowd would become restless between songs. To be fair, there were noticeable gaps between songs as they prepared for each tune, but not everyone was equipped to handle the “uncomfortable silences.” In the video below you can see what I mean in terms of gaps; I hit record about the time I figured the song was about to start, yet I end up with 30-some seconds of nothing as my intro.

But let’s get to the finale, “You Made Me Realise,” infamous for “the Holocaust section” at song’s middle. When you hear the studio version of this song, there is a nice guitar riff intro and a harmonizing verse, a return to the riff, a second verse, the riff, a brief solo of sorts, and then about 45 seconds of repetitive guitar distortion and static and whatever else that builds and builds and then releases back into the standard riff, a final verse, the riff, and a crashing halt.

So live it’s pretty much the same thing, except that intense noise section builds and builds and builds for 10 minutes or so. For economic/fiscal nerds out there, think of the guitar/feedback/white noise in terms of compounding interest: each minute, it earns interest, with the interest earning interest and that interest earning interest, and so on. And while there’s nothing musically impressive about it, from a sonic standpoint it’s quite the experience. It becomes completely physical. (As Denise put it afterward, “I’m pretty sure that last song rearranged my internal organs. All of them.”) I wasn’t dancing by any means but I was grooving to it. The visceral response I had was impressive…almost as impressive as Kory eschewing the earplugs for the experience.

Eventually they crashed back into the main hook of the song, finished it out, and that was that. A band I feared would eternally remain on my bucket list, alongside the likes of Nirvana (argh) and the Beatles (born too late, of course), could now be written in “strikethrough” typeface. And it wasn’t a giant fail. At all.

2013 in live music is rivaling 2013 in record releases. Check back with Todd and me in December, when we tackle the impossible: cutting our favorite album list down to 20, and then ranking those 20 stellar albums. That’s a good problem to have.

From the MoSS? Pit: Vampire Weekend

So my son is in second grade. In many ways, he’s ahead of the curve: he’s a great reader, he makes friends easily, he has a scary good memory for detail, and he’s handsome like his dad.

boy with vampire weekend posterTo prove he’s human, he waited until just the other day to figure out how to ride a bicycle on his own. It was a lot like his learning to walk a few years ago: didn’t seem interested or able, and then suddenly there he goes.

Had he waited just a little bit longer to get the hang of the non-motorized, two-wheeled mode of transportation, he could have achieved immortal hipsterdom by going to his first concert before learning to ride a bike.

As odd as it seems, he’s been waiting nearly half his life to see these guys. Back in 2010, I was going to a conference in Toronto. I brought one of the work iPads home to take with me for the trip. I decided to get the hang of it by watching YouTube videos. My son, ever fascinated with electronics (like his devastating good looks, he gets that from his dad), wanted to see what I was doing. So I showed him some dumb viral videos. “Epic Sax Guy.” “Russian Newt Gingrich sings ‘Let It Be.'” “Kung Fu Hillbilly (Judy Chop!)” And, of course, “TROLOLOLOLO.”

Realizing the harm I was doing, I decided to show him some music videos. Vampire Weekend’s “A-Punk” came to mind.

“Whoa…cool! What else do they sing?”

So I ran through much of the videography: “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (they become werewolves or somethin’!), “Cousins” (they’re all going crazy!), “Giving Up the Gun” (which might have sparked his interest in tennis), and “Holiday” (they wanted a piece of those surfers!).

A fan was created. We watched the videos time and again over the ensuing months. Last year when the band played Pitchfork, the boy and I watched the live stream on the web. When they released the lyric video for “Step” earlier this year, we watched it over and over and over again (that might explain how he can recite much of the first verse, despite challenging lyrics such as “Angkor Wat” and “Dar Es Salaam” and “Communist reader”).

So when I saw VW was coming to Kansas City, I made the executive decision: the boy is ready for his first show.

We had to wait a few months for the show, primarily because it got delayed from May to October (possibly a Saturday Night Live conflict or something). But spending an autumn day in the BBQ capital was a nice reward for the delay.

We ate Jack Stack brisket and ribs and chicken. We hit up the toy store Zoom on the Plaza. We chilled out by a large fountain that was spraying pink water in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We ate the most decadent slice of Cheesecake Factory yumminess, the “Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake.”

I started to worry the concert was going to play second fiddle to Kansas City.

Anyway, we headed north to Midland, found our seats, listened to some hipster douchebag (my son’s words, not mine…kidding) say utterly insipid things while also commenting on my son’s attendance at the concert (“What is this, fuckin’ Kidz Bop?”), listened to opening band the Olms (who provided the boy with his introduction to live music volume), and then settled in for the headliner.

The band recreates their sound well. They came out of the gate with “Cousins,” “White Sky,” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” before running out the big songs from the latest album. People were having fun. The boy sang along to a good number of the songs, bouncing around on his seat and my lap, depending on the song (even with theater seating, he sometimes needed the booster seat of Dad’s lap to see it all). Atop this post was a video of “Unbelievers”; below you’ll see/hear a good portion of “Diane Young”:

So before I started typing this, I had a short bedtime conversation with The Next Generation to get his take on it all. (This is verbatim.)

First things first: did you enjoy your first concert?

Yes! I really liked “Giving Up the Gun.”

What others did you like the best?

I liked “Step,” “Unbelievers,” and “Diane Young” for new ones. Oh yeah! “Kwassa Kwassa.”

Do you know any words to that song?

Is your bed made? Is you sweater on? Do you want to? Like you know I do?

Did you like singing along with the songs?

Yes! It was awesome.

What surprised you most about the concert?

On “Giving Up the Gun,” all the red, flashing lights and stuff.

What about the volume?

It was really loud.

Too loud?

Mmmm, no. (Atta boy.)

What did you think of the opening act, the Olms?

They were OK.

What did you think of the nerds sitting behind us?

Blaaaaaaaaaaah. They just kept talking.

Do you want to go to another concert soon? Who do you want to see?

Yes! The Cure or Crystal Castles or Sleigh Bells.

Blech.

Why “blech” for Sleigh Bells?

Because the new album is @#^@%^@%##

What does that mean?

Never mind. What bands would you like to see that you can’t see these days?

The Beatles!

You said you liked the Midland Theatre. What did you like about it?

The chandelier. And there were pictures on the ceiling.

Do you have a favorite member of Vampire Weekend?

The singer (Ezra Koenig).

I think this interview is over.

Waaah. (rolls around on the bed) “Is your bed made…”

So yeah, this was a lot of fun for both of us. Hopefully it will be some time before the boy thinks Music or Space Shuttle? and the guys who maintain it are totally lame.

From the MoSS? Pit: Wild Belle

wild belle

I’m not a wrestler, but I pretended to be one from a high school existing only on TV.

Yes, taking on the persona of a past-his-prime grappler was just one element of a fun night out to see the sibling sensation Wild Belle.

My fellow MoSS? man Todd and I cruised down to Iowa City on Sept. 6 to catch the show, meeting up with charter members of the MoSS? Fan Club (that’s how I like to think of Travis, Annie, Brittany Jade). It was just what the doctor ordered after a strenuous morning on the golf course and lunch eating parmesan garlic flavored wings and an afternoon watching 42 with the kiddo. (Charmed life, I tell ya.)

We didn’t expect a really long show, given that Wild Belle only has one album to its name, and the band was going on around midnight. But quantity was never a concern once we experienced the quality of the show. Natalie Bergman’s smoky voice was in top form, and she was quite easy on the eyes. At one point, Todd and I broke up with all our other indie-rock girlfriends and worked out custody details involving the fetching Ms. Bergman. (Or we just drunkenly blabbed about how hot she was or something like that.)

But it was more than just eye candy that made the show so great. The elements of reggae and jazz and ska and soul and whatever else was mixed in there provided a soundtrack that was equal parts cool, fun, and sensual. It certainly had an effect on me; I found myself dancing freely among a crowd that was feeling that same vibe.

And how cool was it to see Gabes rather full. The live music scene hasn’t always been kind to bands in recent years. I remember being in Gabes a few years ago as shoegazers Film School and Airiel played to a rather empty room. Our friend Sam described going to a Heartless Bastards show in Iowa City and being one of 10 people in the crowd. Heartless Bastards! Not my cup of tea, but a pretty well-respected name. (To the band’s credit, Sam said the show was full of energy and effort.)

On this night, it wasn’t filled all the way to the back, I don’t believe. But all the same, everyone was moving and having a hell of a time. See evidence of that in this shaky video I shot of “Keep You.” (The parts where I don’t have my finger over the lens, anyway.)

I missed Wild Belle at Lolla on purpose, knowing that this show was in my future. I kinda wish now that I’d seen them twice in a five-week period after all.

We missed the opening acts, as the evening provided equal amounts of awesome, some in surprising ways:

  • New Belgium Ranger on tap
  • The Bushwick Bill moment
  • HMB crashes the party
  • Bayside Tiger

Mmmmmm…Ranger

No need to say much more. I should add, Golden Nugget after the show at Deadwood. Mmmmm-mmmmm-mmmmm. Toppling Goliath rules.

The spirit of Bushwick Bill invades Gabe’s

So we got to Gabe’s well in advance of the show, so we set up camp in the beer garden. A DJ was out back, providing an”interesting” potpourri of tunes. At one point, one of the masterful songs by Geto Boys filled the air. Todd quickly attributed the song to the GBs, and started reciting the lyrics along with the beats. And just as he rapped along with dwarf Geto Boy Bushwick Bill (“This year Halloween fell on the weekend / Me and Geto Boys are trick-or-treatin’ / Robbin’ little kids for bags”)…

…in walked a dude who couldn’t have stood more than 3’2″.

OK, so this guy was white and didn’t seem to know the words to “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.” But still, it felt like stars were aligning in our bizarre pop culture universe. Seriously, what are the odds?

March(ing Band) Madness

We expected to hear some brass at Gabe’s, but not quite to the extreme experienced when members of the Hawkeye Marching Band took over the beer garden. Don’t roll your eyes and groan “Band geeks!” It was fun. Sure, the fight song and all that was to be expected, but then they busted out the songs mocking Ohio State (saying unkind things about Mrs. Urban Meyer) and Michigan (“Hail to you motherfuckers”) and Indiana (“Indiana, Indiana, Indiana, Indiana, Indiana, Indiana, Indiana, fuck you!”)

And even though you can’t really see shit in the above video, you can’t go wrong with the Hawkeye Victory Polka.

Ever heard of A.C. Slater’s high school? No? Well, let’s have fun with this

So after Wild Belle finished their show, we retreated back to the beer garden. While there, some dude named Alex struck up a conversation with Todd and me. He noticed my Bayside Tigers shirt but didn’t seem familiar with the incredible fictional high school boasting Zack Morris, Kelly Kapowski, and A.C. Slater as alumni.

So Todd started in: “Hey bro, you’re talking to a former state champion wrestler. From his days at Bayside.”

Alex: “Oh yeah?”

Me: “Yep. Two-time champ in my division.”

Alex: “Wow! Where’s Bayside? Around here?”

Me: “California, dude.”

Todd: “He was so good, he was offered a full ride to wrestle here at Iowa.”

Alex: “Whoa!”

Me (gesturing at my out-of-shape physique): “Some time ago, obviously.”

Alex: “Well, OK!”

Me: “It was so great, coming here. In California, wrestlers played second fiddle. Then I came to Iowa, as a wrestler, and I was gettin’ all kinds of play.”

Alex: “Yeah!”

Todd: “My boy called me up–I was going to tech school out in California at the time–he says, ‘You gotta come to Iowa!’ So I moved out here right away. We’ve never left!”

Alex: “#1 party school!!!!”

Me and Todd (nodding): “#1 party school.”

We are easily entertained.

I’ll leave you with video footage of one of Bayside’s greatest wrestlers not named Albert Clifford.