On Monday night, odd-job psych-rockers Yeasayer got Manhattan's sold-out Bowery Ballroom bouncing in honor of the release of their sophomore record Odd Blood. The enthusiastic crowd enjoyed the sonic explorations and bigger beats the band chose for their new album and lost their minds during the record's sure-fire hits "O.N.E." and "Ambling Alp," the former of which feels like MGMT at their best.
And that's no coincidence, as the two bands have always shared links. Both released debut records back in October 2007 and brought a ton of attention to the Brooklyn area with their expertly-crafted psych gems. MGMT were just nominated for a Grammy for their effort, but Yeasayer's All Hour Cymbals was more of a critical darling (though it never matching the sales or cultural awareness of their poppier buds) with songs that skewed less poppy and instead more raw and tribal, fusing world sounds with layered harmonies.
The Yeasayer sound isn't too different now in 2010, but Odd Blood will definitely appeal to the more sugar-friendly MGMT fans this time around, especially in the live setting. Set opener "The Children" shone brightest amongst the new material at the Bowery Ballroom, turning the room into a dance party with it's rumbling base and robotic melodies. The synth build-up in "Love Me Girl"' kept that dancier spirit alive later in the set before morphing into a Timberlake-esque funk that had the crowd popping and clicking.
You can find Odd Blood in stores now (and hear snippets and catch a full track-by-track of the album right here). Now let's see how MGMT answer with their follow-up, Congratulations, which is due on April 13.
With the tragic news of the passing of Memphis' garage-punk Jay Reatard, the music world has lost one of the most prolific songwriters of the last decade. "With 22 full-length albums and over 100 releases, Jay dedicated his life to music," a statement on his website reads.
One could barely begin to digest the newest singles, EPs or full-lengths Reatard would release before something new would come dropping out of the sky. "Jay was what few people have the capacity to be. He was transgressive and honest. His flaws were something he focused on and overdubbed and distorted until they made you forget who he really was: A person with feelings and a good heart," Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox posted a lengthy tribute to Reatard on his band's blog.
Explaining his craft in an interview with MTV News at the 2007 South by Southwest Festival, Jay said, "I make it up on the spot, improvise lyrics, usually start with a drum beat, come up with a chord progression and then start layering melodies and pulling ones out that don't work. I end up with what I end up with. It's kind of like a Polaroid of your music. It's right then and there and I think that's how it should be."
But for all of his antagonistic punk sensibilities, Jay was always clear that his music was pop at it's core. "I'm still learning to play my instrument", he told us, even though he had been playing the guitar for 12 years. "It's easier to hear they're pop songs now.You can add anything you want to a pop song, but when you get away from that being a base, you kind of lose people."
In a final and fitting tribute to the fallen star, the guys in charge of Jay Reatard's site have also put up an unreleased song by the fallen punk hero: A cover of Nirvana's "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle." Rest in peace, Jay.
The Dirty Projectors' four-night run in the New York City area ended Sunday evening with some help from their Dark Was the Night compatriot David Byrne and new pals the Roots, who both joined the Brooklyn fivesome on-stage to help kick out some jams.
The Roots complemented the Projectors' sound nicely, lending hard grooves to the band's already large tendency to groove hard, adding some funk to DP's already-dense tracks. "No Intentions" included a long guitar solo by the Roots' "Captain" Kirk Douglas and ?uestlove added some awesome thump to crowd favorite "Stillness Is the Move."
But it was David Byrne's appearance on "Knotty Pine" that drew the largest chorus of praise (just like at Bonnaroo this past summer). The Dirty Projectors have always drawn some comparisons to the Talking Heads' appropriation of Afro-centric influences, and as such, Byrne's support of the Brooklyn natives has always seemed destined. The rusty "Knotty Pine" was a short and sweet way to finish the set which had the crowd losing their minds in the end. Their serendipitous show at the Bowery Ballroom put yet another feather in the cap of the Brooklyn up-and-comers who are already having one heck of a year.
CHICAGO -- It can't be easy going up against festival head honcho Perry Farrell and Jane's Addiction just across the park, but The Killers managed to put on a raucous show to close out Lollapalooza's South Main Stage Sunday night with a bit of swag.
Kicking off the set with "Human," the Vegas four-piece immediately got the massive crowd jumping and for the first time all festival, the females outnumbered the men for a South Stage headliner ... and boy, did they scream and sing along! An early-set "Somebody Told Me" had the women going wild for that familiar feather jacket-clad singer Brandon Flowers, and he seemed to smile like he meant it all night long. During "Bones," Flowers played up the theatrics like a pitch-perfect "American Idol" performance.
"I know this is a Sunday Night," said Flowers, "but this is the Killers! Let's turn this into a dancefloor!" he encouraged the massive crowd while introducing "Joyride." The live horn blasts really added to the one-two punch of "Joyride" and "Bones" and helped keep the crowd moving.
Before "Mr. Brightside," Flowers told a story about how the riff was the first demo he ever got from guitarist Dave Keuning - and how far the Killers have come. Just five years ago they were playing the early-afternoon slot at the Coachella Festival in the California desert and now in 2009 they were rocking out a proper headlining slot at Lollapalooza, closing things out with "When We Were Young."
CHICAGO -- Los Angeles' The Airborne Toxic Event played to a small crowd of fans willing to rock and roll as the sweltering heat continued into a second day at Lollapalooza, but despite the misery index, Toxic's brand of bouncy emo-rock was very well-received by the head nodding crowd.
Dressed all in black, ATE's set kicked off with "Wishing Well," driven by riffs that'd make U2 guitarist The Edge proud. The band skirts a musical line that makes them easily accessible to modern rock fans, with songs that pulsate with a driving beat, steadily building to quick and tight explosions of energy on each song.
It's easy to say that violinist Anna Burbrook is the band's secret weapon, but it's the energy she brings to the stage that perfectly balances out frontman Mikel Jollett's steady nature. She constanly alternates between her synths and violins, dancing around stage at every opportunity.
Her face-off on violin with guitarist Steven Chen was one of the highlights of "Gasoline", and her vocals on the band's cover of obscure singer Q-Lazzarus' 1988 hit "Goodbye Horses" were pitch-perfect.
Airborne's crowd grew throughout their set and fans were jumping around despite the heat during the finale.
CHICAGO -- This is one of the weirdest shows," said an atypically sedentary Randy Randall, one-half of Los Angeles rock duo No Age on Saturday afternoon at Lollapalooza. The normally physically active guitarist had his arm in a sling due to a dislocated shoulder sustained the previous evening at No Age's round-robin tour with Deerhunter and Dan Deacon -- he got hurt during an over-zealous dance-off against Deacon. Fortunately, Dean Spunt seemed to hit the drums twice as hard to compensate, driving fans into a frenzy during the band's daytime set.
The crowd was mostly made up of younger kids seemingly eager to let loose under the hot afternoon sun and from opening the track, "Every Artist Needs a Tragedy," the relatively small audience immediately set to push and shove to the noise raging from the stage. The band really shines when they're playing small, enclosed spaces where the noise can blow out your ears, but they worked surprisingly well outside on one of Lolla's smaller stages.
There was even a crowd surfer or two that went up during "Sleeper Hold" and "Teen Creeps" really seemed to win over new fans standing idly around in the back of the scrum. The boys mostly stuck to tracks from the first two discs, Weirdo Rippers and Nouns, but also played a handful of new ones. The few fresh tracks sounded typical for the duo, but with denser songwriting and more frequent tempo changes. It's nice to hear the guys evolving and growing together and surely a positive sign of things to come. They're about to release a great new four-song EP called Losing Feeling, but are also hard at work on their next LP, due out sometime in 2010.
We went for a ride with the band and they told us what the pros and cons of playing a festival versus a typical club show.
Capping off their North American tour in epic fashion, England's Arctic Monkeys played to a sprawling crowd at Lollapalooza as the brutally hot afternoon turned cool; perfect timing for those pogo-ing super-fans lucky enough to be down front. Arctic Monkeys have been hoping for that sort of enthusiasm in America ever since they hit the scene in 2006, and finally, on the verge of their third album Humbug, they finally might be rewarded with the superstar status they’ve been courting in the United States since day one.
The quartet played some fresh cuts from Humbug, a disc that finds the Monkeys going down a darker, more psychedelic path. "There’s a bit more musicianship … I think on this third album. It’s more of a musical evolvement than the first two," bassist Nick O’Malley told MTV News. They credit the producing duties of Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme for much of that evolution in sound. "He was encouraging across everywhere. But really for us - playing guitar," front-man Alex Turner told us of Homme's influence. "He was very motivational because you think it’s Josh Homme so I don’t want him to know how terrible I am. I think having him on board made you want to be better on your instrument," added O’Malley.
Whatever it was they did in the past months, the Monkeys sure are growing up fast. The new cuts stood up well against the band’s older hits during their set, and the boys (Alex just turned 23 this year) seemed to have a great time onstage at their Lolla debut.
"Everyone wants to have a good time, but it seems a lot more constrained rules wise," O’Malley said of the Lolla atmosphere. "But let’s not get down about that. Forget about the rules. Break them."
It’s a good mentality for a band that wants to have any sort of longevity.
CHICAGO -- "They don't grow groups like they used to," Lollapalooza co-founder and creative mastermind Perry Farrell told us backstage on Saturday about the current musical climate. Kings of Leon may be a new-found exception, but Farrell said we’re stuck in a period where musical acts never seem to make it to the coveted headliner status, which makes his job all that much harder every summer. Luckily, for him, he’s got plenty of big name trailblazers to choose from, including his own Jane’s Addiction, who will return to the fest with their original lineup on Sunday night for the first time since the inaugural fest way back in 1991.
With scenes built around niche music the latest trend - how does Lollapalooza's head-honcho program a festival in today’s environment?
"You have to be thinking in the future, thinking in the past and thinking in the present,” he said, standing in front of a giant inflatable jumpy set up outside his trailer for his kids. “We have to mix in new groups with the classic groups. It's more important today to be (more) widespread on your musical taste than ever before … you have to go back deep into your treasure chest of knowledge and musical vocabulary.”
CHICAGO -- The fans in the front of the line at Lollapalooza's official start came from far and wide to land a choice spot for their favorite artists at one of North America's premiere music festivals. Oregon, Maine, London, Texas, Ontario, and France were just a few of the locales we saw represented up front, but the very front of the line was manned by two Depeche Mode superfans who came three hundred miles in order to stake out a spot right up front and they didn't plan on moving away from the main stage where DM was set to play all day long.
But they weren't the only pair brought to Grant Park by their love of the famous goth-rockers; just a little further back in line, a coed duo had just made acquaintances over their love of '80s legends Depeche Mode (and fellow '80s stalwarts Morrissey and The Cure), and they planned to buddy up in order to make it through their whole day parked in front of the main stage waiting for their faves to close out the night's festivities.
Kings of Leon proved to be the other crowd favorite in Friday's line-up, with every non-Depeche Mode fan in the crowd citing the now-superstar rockers as the band to see (DM and KOL play head to head against each other tonight on separate stages - should be interesting to see who draws the bigger crowd). Hipstery bands were also represented by the more fashionable types - with Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and The Decemberists all getting call-outs from the crowd.
Unfortunately, as the fans rushed in, so did the bad weather. It got dreary right as the music got right underway, and has been raining steadily since - setting up for a cool and relaxing day in front of the Chicago skyline.
So we've been busy as heck down here in Austin this week, shooting tons of interviews all around town for SXSW, but unfortunately, I still haven't had much time to see many shows.
Luckily, the clouds are clearing and the stars are aligning and it seems like today just might be the day where I get to see actual music (not only that, but if all goes according to plan, I'm gonna see some-odd sixteen bands and full sets to boot, scattered at 5 or 6 different venues around town.
You can follow all my progress live throughout the day as I run my butt around town too. Red Bull and sunscreen will surely be my best friends.
What's my schedule looking like? There's not many major artists on today's SXSW schedule (other than Rick Ross and the rumored Kanye West performance - which the rest of our team will be rockin') - so I'm gonna be checking out a lot of great stuff bubblin' around the underground.