Favorited ex.fm Songs

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hey, don't forget... BB King

A combination of being busy, being lazy, and being forgetful have meant that I haven't posted in a little while. I've been spending a good chunk of time re-listening to a bunch of albums from the past three months for my quarterly roundup post. Rather than post about something that will show up there, I thought I'd try something different. I've been playing around with the idea for a while of having semi-regular posts in which I discuss older songs. I tend to get so consumed by trying to stay on top of what is currently coming out that I thought it would be a nice change of pace and a way to force me to not ONLY listen to new music. Thanks to finally reaching a bit of a break in the work I'm doing and to hearing a certain song an hour or so ago, tonight's the night to try it out.

I've got a bunch of artists I want to write about eventually, but BB King forced his way into the first installment of this series by writing a just fantastic blues (mostly) instrumental song called "If That Ain't It I Quit," which happened to come up on my iPod on my drive home from the office tonight. I remember hearing my parents play some BB King back in the day, but I never really connected with his stuff until a few years ago. Fortunately, when I finally did become interested in BB King a bit, I was able to mine my dad's music collection to find some of his stuff. The song for this post is from the exceptional "Blues on the Bayou" album, which BB recorded in 1998 at the ripe old age of 73. I'm always amazed by artists who can keep rocking out as they get older. Bob Dylan and Charles Bradley are two artists I can think of who I've seen recently that perform with more energy than plenty of people 30+ years younger than them. I don't know much about blues, and I've never seen BB King live, but he sure hadn't forgotten how to play guitar by the time he recorded this album. Considering he was #3 on Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists, this probably shouldn't come as any surprise.

I can't go too far beyond BB King in my blues knowledge, but fortunately I've got a cousin who can. If you're looking for more blues, I highly recommend checking out my cousin Ben's radio show on Kansas State's student radio station and his blog that goes along with it. He currently has a weekly show called Blues Power with Ben that airs 10 to midnight (central) on Sundays (here to listen live) and a blog here that posts his set lists, some videos, and other miscellanea.

Here is the song that inspired the post, "If That Ain't It I Quit." The first 99% or so is BB wailing on his guitar Lucille. It's pretty impossible not to have at least a couple of your limbs bobbing along with the beat while he does that, but I think the part that really seals the deal for me and the reason the song always sticks out in my mind is that last 1% at the end.

If That Ain't It I Quit by B.B. King on Grooveshark

And as a bonus, here is another of my favorite BB King tunes "Why I Sing The Blues":

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New (to me) Artist: Julia Stone

I love whenever I'm fortunate enough to discover a new (to me) artist that just clicks with me right away. It's plenty exciting hearing new music from bands you already know, but there is just something extra exhilarating about discovering an artist you've somehow missed. The artist's entire back catalog is suddenly new to you all at once. It's like having a favorite artist release several albums all at once.

Well somehow Australian singer Julia Stone has completely slipped under my radar these last few years. I've since learned that she is best known through Angus & Julia Stone, a folk duo with her brother. I feel like I have heard the name before, but I don't know their music. Well, fortunately I stumbled upon Julia Stone performing a cover of the song "Bloodbuzz Ohio" by The National on the music blog All Things Go (on a sidenote, I added a list of my favorite blogs on the sidebar for anyone who is interested). The original song was on 2010's "High Violet" album. It features The National's trademark deep baritone vocals and a persistent drum beat dominating much of the sound. Other instruments and noises fill in around the vocals and drums. Their version is a great song and one of my favorites from that album, but there is just something about Julia Stone's cover that I loved right away. She takes the drum beat a bit more into the background than on the original (although apparently borrows The National's drummer for the song). Instead the focus is more on the atmospheric noises around the drums and on her voice, which allows the lyrics to stick out a bit more. I'm not sure what it is about her voice, but there is something there that I just can't get enough of. Anyhow, here's her cover of the song along with the original by The National.

Julia Stone's cover is on her album "By The Way," which just came out about three weeks ago. It's one thing to be able to handle a good cover song, but another to be able to write your own. I was a bit wary of the rest of the album going into it, but the lead track "Let's Forget All The Things That We Say" is great as well and immediately alleviated my fears. Again, the focuses of that song is mostly on her voice, which is OK with me. After the two songs I've discussed, the rest of the album is similarly strong and didn't disappoint. I've listened to it several times over now, and "By The Horns" will definitely show up in my "Favorite Albums from April - June" post at the end of the month. Once I'm able to listen to this album enough times, I'll have to move on to her first solo record and also check out Angus & Julia Stone's stuff as well. Needless to say, I've got plenty to keep me busy for a while now!

Here's the lead track that I mentioned, and if you enjoy it, you can grab the album from Amazon, iTunes, or eMusic (which is the cheapest if you're a member). If anyone knows Angus & Julia and wants to tell me the best place to start with their music, let me know!

Friday, June 15, 2012

This week in music (Week of 6/12/2012)

Due to a busy schedule some weeks and nothing jumping out at me other weeks, it has been about a month since I've done one of these posts. I'm going to see if I can make this one quick because I'm hitting the road in about an hour to head to the Twin Cities for the Twins-Brewers game tonight, but short and quick posts aren't my forte.

I'm always a fan of labels and artists finding new ways to get people to hear their music, and it seems like Domino Records has done just that. Sometime within the last couple weeks, they announced a monthly subscription program called Drip.fm. For $10 a month, they guarantee two albums (usually at least one new release) and various other bonus material here and there. I signed up a few days ago and was immediately able to download Wild Beasts' 2011 album "Smother," Lower Dens' "Nootropics" album from earlier this year, and Hot Chip's album "In Our Heads," which just came out on Tuesday. I can't say I'm a regular listener of any of these artists (although I've heard at least some stuff by each), but I just loved the concept too much not to give it a try for at least a while. I've listened to each of the albums since I got them, and while they aren't my normal fare, they were all enjoyable, and I'm sure I'll spend a good chunk of time listening to them just because I love the idea so much. The label also has a Dirty Projectors album coming out in July and the much anticipated new Animal Collective album coming out in September. Anyhow, on to the regular "This week in music post."

New release of the week - There's No Leaving Now by The Tallest Man On Earth

I'm a huge Tallest Man On Earth fan, so this was one of my most anticipated albums of the year. This album has really tough shoes to fill because "The Wild Hunt" was my favorite album of 2010. Upon my first several listens, it doesn't quite live up to that incredibly lofty standard, but I don't think just a few listens is enough to know how I'll end up feeling about it. I loved "Shallow Grave" from 2008 and was actually kind of disappointed the first few times I listened to "The Wild Hunt," which is now one of my favorite records, so I think I'll give this one some time. Even just a few listens in, I can tell it is growing on me more and more each time I hear it, and I already like it quite a bit. I already wrote about the track "1904" when he released it a month or so ago and posted a live video of "Little Brother". So for the sake of not being redundant, here's the title track from the album. In it, he strays from his typical guitar for piano instead. Just listening to it now is already making me fall more in love with the album. I fully expect it to end right up near the top of my favorite albums of the year list just like every other time he releases new music.

Other notable releases

I haven't spent a ton of time with the other albums released this week, but Metric's "Synthetica" is the one that I imagine will get the most plays from me in the future. I was a big fan of their last album "Fantasies," and while I'm not sure I hear anything as immediately catchy as "Gimme Sympathy" or "Help, I'm Alive," I'm sure I'll enjoy the album. It actually looks like you can stream almost all of their stuff including the new album here on Soundcloud. For a taste of the new album, here's the video for "Youth Without Youth."

Miscellaneous Links, News, and Notes

* Apparently Explosions in the Sky are set to score an upcoming film that will star Paul Rudd. This is something I will definitely see.

* Field Report, who I previously wrote about, announced a release date for their debut album along with some tour dates.

* And last but not least, I can't really describe how much I love this video of Of Monsters and Men performing a stripped down version of "Mountain Sound" in front of the gorge backstage at Sasquatch.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

You Will Find True Love On Flag Day

The internet tells me that today is Flag Day, which means I can't help but think of The Simpsons. Although, to be fair, there are a lot of things in life that make me think of The Simpsons. In this particular case, it is because they had an episode ("A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love" from season 13) in which Homer briefly worked as a fortune cookie writer. One of his fortunes that he wrote was the oddly specific "You will find true love on Flag Day." This fortune happens to find its way into Mr. Burns' hands on Flag Day of all days and leads to all sorts of hi-jinx and shenanigans.

I thought I'd include a couple songs with this short post, but I ran into a problem when I noticed I have 5 versions of Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You In The End" (the original and four covers). After careful listening, I decided to include the Hey Marseilles version. This was partly based on the decision that they allow you to download the track below and partly because I'm being nostalgic about seeing them at Sasquatch. You may want to check out the original and the Mates of State cover as well.

And from Deer Tick's Born On Flag Day album, here is "The Ghost"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sasquatch Review: Day Four

Here we are at my final Sasquatch recap. I've already spilled far more words on this than I planned, but if you feel like catching up, click the following for day one, day two, and day three.

We started off the final day of the festival by heading over to the main stage and lounging on the hill overlooking the gorge one final time before it got too packed again. The first band of the day on the main stage was The Sheepdogs. To be honest, I know nothing about the band, and I wasn't really paying much attention during their set. Instead I just enjoyed the general environment.

Before The Sheepdogs finished up, we headed over to another stage to see Walk The Moon. I know that I listened to some of their stuff before Sasquatch, but I really didn't remember them all that well. Fortunately, Carly was more familiar with their stuff and made the decision to go see them because their music is quite a bit of fun. The band puts paint on their faces before their shows and has someone bring some out to fans who want to join in as well. All craziness aside though, their songs are really solid and the band packs a lot of energy into their shows. To date, they only have a 3-song EP available, but they have a full-length due out one week from today (June 19). The song "Anna Sun" appears on both of those, and apparently has already generated some buzz last summer when Esquire called it the song of the summer. Now I can't vouch for Esquire's taste in music, but you could do a lot worse than soundtracking your summer with "Anna Sun."

After Walk The Moon, I tried to stick around for the beginning of Ben Howard's set because he was another artist I discovered through Sasquatch's lineup announcement before the festival. Unfortunately, they were running behind, so I didn't get to catch any. Frankly, it's pretty impressive that this was the only case all weekend of things running behind schedule (that I remember encountering anyway). Instead of seeing Ben Howard, I headed over to see a stand-up comedy block of Chelsea Peretti, John Mulaney, and Nick Kroll. I had never seen any of the three perform stand-up, but Chelsea Peretti writes for Parks and Recreation (one of my favorite shows) and is entertaining on Twitter, Nick Kroll is funny on The League, and John Mulaney had the distinct attribute of performing between them (I had never heard of him before). I wasn't too sure what to expect from any of them, but I'm glad I chose to stick around for the unknown (to me) John Mulaney in the middle of the other two because he was my favorite of the bunch. I feel like I don't find new stand-ups I really like very often. I've already made a point of looking for other material by him since Sasquatch, and it has been just as good as his set there was. Chelsea Peretti was also entertaining before John Mulaney. I'll have to find some of her other stuff too at some point. On the other hand, Nick Kroll just really wasn't my cup of tea. Like I said, I really enjoy him in The League, but his stand-up wasn't doing it for me. The comedy block as a whole was definitely a success though.

After the comedy break, it was back to music with fun. performing on one of the side stages. If they perform at Sasquatch again, they may have to move to the main stage though because it was PACKED. I absolutely loved the two full-length The Format albums (the lead singer's previous band) and fun.'s first album, but for whatever reason their album earlier this year didn't really hook me. I may have to go back and give it another try though because at least being performed live, it was pretty fantastic.

Next up was Feist back on the main stage. Feist is one of those artists that I feel like I should enjoy more than I do based on what other people with similar tastes say about her (Radiohead is another example). I'll listen to her stuff, and I like it, but it is never one of my favorites. Maybe one day it'll click with me, and I'll see what I've been missing out on. We were pretty far back on the hill for her set, so we didn't hear it super well. We were also getting to the point in the weekend where I was just too tired and worn down to function very well once I sat down. I've read other reviews that said she put on a great show, so you should probably just listen to them because I don't think I was all there for it.

Since the weekend was wearing on us, lack of sleep was catching up to us, and I had about 2000 miles to drive over the next three days, we had decided earlier that morning that we would cut the weekend just a little short. We caught a little bit of The Cave Singers, and then drove to Spokane so that we could sleep on a real bed and rest up for the long drives ahead. Because of this, we missed seeing Beck Monday night. I'm sure he would have been a lot of fun, but using a shower and a real bed won out.

All in all though, the festival was everything I had hoped it would be and very few of the things I worried it might be. I hadn't been to a festival since Warped Tour like 8 years ago, and I had never been to a multi-day one. I left thinking it would be fun to try to do Sasquatch or some other festival once a year if possible. We got to see dozens of artists (with more that we missed because they played when we were watching other bands). I was able to see Bon Iver and Explosions in the Sky, two artists near the top of my list of artists to see live (Tom Waits, Frightened Rabbit, and First Aid Kit are near the top now). I got to drive 3,600 miles and visit Montana, Idaho (just the northern part, which was surprisingly beautiful), Wyoming, and Colorado for the first time in my life (although none of them for terribly long). I was fortunately able to catch a Rockies game in Denver on the way back to Iowa, which was a lot of fun. After toying around with the idea of taking a long road trip to a music festival in the past, I'm glad I finally pulled the trigger and went for it, and I'm glad I chose Sasquatch because it was a great experience.


Artists I saw: The Sheepdogs, Walk The Moon, Chelsea Peretti, John Mulaney, Nick Kroll, fun., Feist, The Cave Singers

Favorite sets: Walk The Moon and John Mulaney

You can listen to a song by Walk The Moon higher up in the post. As for John Mulaney, here is an absolutely fantastic bit about his best meal ever (which has nothing at all to do with the food). He didn't perform this one at Sasquatch, but my friend Karl shared it with me after I mentioned seeing John Mulaney. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sasquatch Review: Day Three

If you missed my reviews of day one and day two, you can see them here and here.

We kicked off Sunday by checking out the Seattle indie folk/pop band Hey Marseilles. Hey Marseilles is probably my favorite band that I discovered prior to the festival by listening to performing artists I was unfamiliar with. Their album "To Travels & Trunks" from 2008 has some insanely catchy songs. If you're unfamiliar with the band, I recommend checking out "Rio" (below) and "Cannonballs."

After Hey Marseilles, we stuck around and saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. on the main stage. Then, I had one of the tougher decisions of the weekend with Hospitality and Trampled by Turtles performing at the same time. Since Hospitality has released one of my favorite albums so far this year, I headed over to another stage to catch the first 2/3's or so of their set. They put on a fun show that I was glad I was able to catch. I made sure to head back to the main stage to see at least a bit of Trampled by Turtles, and I was pleased to be reminded of home by the Minnesota bluegrass band.

The crowd and band both seemed to be loving the music and atmosphere. The band really seemed to be able to command the large crowd of the main stage better than almost any other early afternoon band all weekend. After Trampled By Turtles, Blind Pilot slowed things down on the main stage. Their album was a pleasant surprise to me last year, and while the energy was lower than that of Trampled by Turtles, the songs were great. Next, we headed over to another stage to see The War On Drugs on a side stage before returning to the main stage for the rest of the night. I didn't know any music by The War On Drugs, but I really enjoyed their set, and I plan on checking out more of their music now.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while or knows me well probably knows that M. Ward is my favorite artist (and it's not all that close). So I'm probably not coming at this in the most unbiased manner, but I thought M. Ward killed it in his set. It was the first set on the main stage that we decided to actually get close to the stage rather than remaining on the hill. As M. Ward tends to do at shows, the talking between songs was minimal and instead his set was just packed full of songs. Considering the shorter set times at a festival, I love this approach, and he was able to pack a ton of songs into his allotted time. He also seemed to cater to the festival atmosphere by focusing on more of his upbeat tunes and on those that allowed him to really rock out on guitar (which he is fantastic at doing). Another thing I love about M. Ward is how much he shows his appreciation for other artists, and during his set I counted 5 covers (including John Fahey's "Bean Vine Blues No. 2," Daniel Johnston's "To Go Home," and Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven"). This was my third time seeing M. Ward live (fourth if you count with Monsters of Folk), and each time he has really delivered.

After M. Ward, we stayed down by the stage for Seattle indie folk band The Head and the Heart. I really enjoyed their debut album, which was re-released on Sub Pop last year, so I was looking forward to seeing them. However, I had no idea how lucky I'd be to see them at Sasquatch as opposed to another venue. There was such an incredible mutual love and appreciation going back and forth between the band and the crowd the whole set. It was obvious that the band loved being able to play before such a huge and affectionate audience in their home state. They played a great set made all the better by enjoying it in that specific environment. Violinist / sometimes vocalist Charity Rose Thielen was actually moved to tears saying thank you for everyone's support at the end of the set.

After the excitement of M. Ward and The Head and the Heart sets was Beirut. I think Beirut could put on a really fun show, but unfortunately it just seemed like the wrong time and wrong place for me. Between being a bit tired and people talking over the sound of the music, the set just didn't work for me. However, it wouldn't deter me from going to see Beirut another time. One of the people behind me was actually saying that Beirut played one of his favorite shows ever at real small and intimate venue but that he wasn't too into the set going on at the time.

However, after Beirut's set was one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend, Bon Iver's. Extremely long time readers of the blog may remember that my very first post was inspired by Bon Iver. While the setting didn't seem to work to Beirut's advantage, it was perfect for Bon Iver. The sun had gone down, creating a perfect darkness to accentuate the lights on stage and draw all focus there. Where people had talked over Beirut, Bon Iver played louder and people talked less. I know there is a lot of backlash to Bon Iver's music and Justin Vernon's quick rise in popularity, but I love the way he has chosen to handle his new found fame and how humble he seems to remain about all of it. Justin Vernon many times mentioned how humbling it was to be playing in such a gorgeous place in front of such a large crowd. In terms of the actual music, I'm not a good enough writer to really do it justice, but if you think you might want to see Bon Iver perform live, all I can do is urge you to act on that. I had sky-high expectations for seeing Bon Iver, and every single one of them was met. It was an absolutely wonderful way to cap off the third night of the festival.


Artists I saw: Hey Marseilles, Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr, Hospitality, Trampled By Turtles, Blind Pilot, The War On Drugs, M. Ward, The Head & The Heart, Beirut, and Bon Iver

Favorite sets: M. Ward and Bon Iver

Below is "I Get Ideas", one of my favorite tracks from M. Ward's new album. It's a cover song that has been done by many people, but I was most familiar with Louis Armstrong's version. If you haven't heard the full album yet, it looks like you can stream the whole thing here.

Bon Iver released my second favorite album last year, and in that post, I included the beautiful video for "Holocene," which features a little boy walking through picturesque Iceland. Since I already posted that one, here's the track "Towers," which follows someone on the opposite end of the life spectrum doing... I have no idea.

I'll be back in a day or two with the final Sasquatch post from the weekend.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sasquatch Review: Day Two

If you missed my review of day one, you can check it out by clicking here. Otherwise, onto day two!

We kicked off Saturday by checking out Reptar, whose album I previously mentioned really enjoying. Their music, which just seems perfect for careless summer fun, was a great way to kick off the second day of the festival. After that, we headed over to the main stage to see Charles Bradley perform. Charles Bradley is a 60+ year old soul/r&b singer who released his debut album last year. It was one of my favorite albums of the year for all of the soul and emotion that he can squeeze out when he sings. His live set was a real joy too as he danced around the stage and routinely told the crowd how happy he was to be performing and how much he loved everyone there. It may have been a bit sappy, but after how far he had come to finally achieve his dream, sappy fit.

After sticking around to see Blitzen Trapper, I headed over to one of the smaller stages to see Alabama Shakes, one of the bands I was most looking forward to this festival. Their debut full length, which came out in April, is one of those albums that has a mysterious power of making the volume dial on my car stereo or headphones just creep further and further up while it plays. I'm not sure I can listen to the song "Hold On" at anything approaching a normal volume. I had heard plenty of people say that they put on a rockin' show, and their set at Sasquatch did not disappoint in the least. Lead singer Brittany Howard has a great voice, which I knew from the album, but she does a great job commanding the stage as well, and the whole band feeds off that. I was really hoping their set wouldn't have to end, but everyone watching got to enjoy plenty of rocking out while they were on stage.

After Alabama Shakes, I returned to the main stage and watched as country singer Jamey Johnson managed to show as close to no emotion as seems humanly possible. That said, he was still entertaining, but really I was waiting to see Childish Gambino (aka Community actor Donald Glover's hip-hop alter ego). My big takeaway from his set is that Donald Glover must be in ridiculously good shape. The whole time, he was running back and forth around the stage furiously spitting out his lines, barely taking time to breath it seemed. Despite not listening to much hip-hop, I really enjoyed his album "Camp" last year, and he brought a lot of energy to the stage and put on a really good live show as well.

After Childish Gambino, we saw The Helio Sequence on a smaller stage and then the end of Metric's set back on the main stage. The Helio Sequence were one of the first bands that I discovered by just listening to Sasquatch artists I have never heard before. They put on a good set, and I'm looking forward to their new album later this year. I absolutely loved Metric's "Fantasies" album from 2009. Despite that, I've still never managed to spend the time to get into their older stuff. Their newest album will be released on Tuesday, so I'm sure I'll at least spend a good chunk of time with that. They closed their set with lead singer Emily Haines performing an acoustic version of "Gimme Sympathy," which was one of my favorite tracks of 2009.

After Metric, we headed over to see tUnE-yArDs on a side stage. I still know very little about the band, but they put on one of the more unique shows you are going to see. A lot of the sound the band creates comes from layered drum and vocal loops created by the lead singer. I'd love to see how she goes about creating new music because it seems like a complex but fun process. Also on stage were two saxophone players, which for a former horn player in a ska band in high school, is always a plus. I was actually surprised by how many bands over the course of the weekend incorporated horns in some form.

After tUnE-yArDs, we returned to the main stage for The Shins. I was a big fan of The Shins albums "Oh, Inverted World" and "Chutes Too Narrow" in late high school and early college, but I've sort of drifted from the band since then. I enjoyed hearing some of the older songs, but their set wasn't grabbing me. I feel like this was the start of a longer weekend-long trend though. The weekend was a ton of fun, but being outside and being generally short on sleep most of the time meant I was routinely sort of exhausted, so some bands that I'm sure I otherwise would have enjoyed more just sort of blew by without making much of an impression. Also, while the huge stage and the giant gorge behind it did wonders for some sets, other artists just seemed to get lost in it. I'm sure a lot of this was just me and that many, many other people really enjoyed the sets though, so I wouldn't put too much stock in any artist that I wasn't enamored with.

After The Shins, Jack White played, and it had gotten dark, and I experienced just how cold it can get when the sun goes down and you haven't planned appropriately. I haven't listened to much of Jack White's music, and I'm not entirely sure most of it is my cup of tea. That being said, he put on a pretty fun show, and it's pretty clear that he's a really good musician. His newest album has started to grow on me as I listen to it more, and after seeing him live, I think I'll have to make sure to give it several listens.

The last performer of the night was The Roots. They've been a band for a while that I've admired (I love what they're doing on Jimmy Fallon's show) but that I've never been able to get into (like I said, I don't listen to much hip-hop). Now that that's out of the way though, their live set was FANTASTIC! It was absolutely one of the highlights of the weekend. We planned to just swing by for a song or two and then head back to sleep (because lack of sleep was already catching up with us), but I found I was having a really hard time tearing myself away. They started out by paying tribute to MCA (the Beastie Boys rapper who passed away recently) by performing "Paul Revere." A good chunk of Saturday was a lot more low-key than Friday because I think a lot of people burned themselves out too quickly, but while The Roots were playing, everybody's energy seemed to come back and then some. I would absolutely go see them perform again and recommend anybody else who gets a chance do the same. I think I may have to dig into their recorded stuff a bit more too. Any suggestions on where to start from anyone who listens to them?


Artists I saw: Reptar, Charles Bradley, Blitzen Trapper, Alabama Shakes, Jamey Johnson, Childish Gambino, The Helio Sequence, Metric, tUnE-yArDs, The Shins, Jack White, The Roots

Favorite sets: Alabama Shakes and The Roots

I can't believe I haven't posted about Alabama Shakes yet (although they'll definitely be on my top albums of April-June). Since that's the case though, here is "Hold On," which is one of my absolute favorite songs of the year. It looks like the widget below will actually play the full album if you so choose after hearing "Hold On."

You can download "Hold On" for free along with several tracks by other bands on their label for the price of an email address here.

Like I said before, I don't know much about The Roots, so I can't really draw on a wide body of music to pick a song for them. However, I do know that one of the singles from their 2010 album was a remake of the Monsters of Folk song "Dear God," so enjoy the music video for "Dear God 2.0" below featuring Jim James himself:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sasquatch Review: Day One

Late Thursday night, I completed my 3,600 mile trek to and from Sasquatch Music Festival, which took place over the Friday through Monday of Memorial Day weekend. Since returning home, I've helped a friend move, entertained my parents who visited, and worked on decompressing and unwinding from such an intense trip. I think now I'm getting back into enough of a normal rhythm that I can get back to writing a few posts.

Over the course of the four days in the wonderfully named George, Washington and at the breathtakingly gorgeous Gorge Amphitheater, I managed to take in sets from almost 40 bands. In the interest of not leaving anyone out and of being able to highlight some of my favorite sets in more detail, I'm breaking my recap of the festival into four posts, one post for each day I was at the festival.

I arrived at the festival on Friday afternoon after picking up Carly, a friend from undergrad who had taken a bus into nearby Quincy, Washington. Our first exposure to the size and scale of the festival was in the form of a between two and three hour line of cars just to get into the campground. Once we made it into the camp site, we wanted to quick set up our tent before dark and then rush into the venue to catch Of Monsters and Men performing. Little did we know, the tent had other plans for us. After struggling with setting it up for 15 or 20 minutes, a couple guys from Calgary came over from a neighboring tent and offered to help us out. Another 15 to 20 minutes later and with the full help of four people, we were able to get the tent set up. We thanked them and rushed to the venue, which was about a mile walk. After exchanging our tickets for wristbands and going through a security check on the way in, we were into the festival grounds.

There were five stages throughout the weekend performing music (and some comedy). We made our way to the main stage, which resulted in our first view of what makes this venue just so great. After you walk over a hill, the main stage is situated at the bottom of the hill, with the gorge and the Columbia River behind it. We went to shows for four days, and each day when I first made that trip over the hill, I was amazed at just how beautiful the location was. I have no idea how long it would have taken for me to stop being dumbfounded by the beauty, but it's much longer than four days. Unfortunately, pictures taken by me can't do it justice, but here is one taken on my phone anyway.

We were able to make it in time to see the last 15 or 20 minutes of Of Monsters and Men's set including the song "Little Talks", which may be my favorite song of 2012. I just cannot get enough of it. The set was a great way to kick off the weekend, and I'm glad we were able to catch at least some of it.

Over the next couple hours, we went and saw Minnesota's own Polica over on another stage. I haven't spent much time listening to the band, but after watching their set I plan to fix that in the not too distant future. After that, we checked out Santigold back on the main stage. I can't say that it is my favorite music, but the performance was something else with backup dancers that never stopped throughout the whole set. I was impressed by their memory, endurance, and number of costume changes. Santigold has certainly figured out how to keep people entertained even if they aren't already into your music. After that, we stuck around to see the beginning of Girl Talk's set. I'm very intrigued by Girl Talk. It isn't really my thing, but they excitement that he can generate in his fans is really impressive, and I can see how his live shows would be a lot of fun. This was our first look at one of the massive trends of the weekend, which was people who seemed to have an infinite number of glow sticks. During several of the more dance-y artists, people would throw dozens of glow sticks at a time into the air, only to repeat the process again over and over. I would love it if there was a way to know just how many glow sticks were brought into the festival. I can get whoever is figuring it out started: it was A LOT!

We cut short our stay at the Girl Talk set to go get a spot for Explosions in the Sky on another stage. This was one of the sets I was most looking forward to before the festival. I have steadily fallen more and more in love with Explosions in the Sky over the last year or so. That combined with the fact that I heard they put on a great live show and that I had yet to see them set the bar pretty high. Throughout the first few sets we watched, Carly had remarked how it was a little weird that a lot of the time you could hear noise coming over from other stages while bands were playing. This was not even close to an issue for Explosions in the Sky because they play LOUD. With some bands, I may consider it too loud (and if I listened to them for too long, I may go deaf), but it was perfect. One of the things I love about their music is the way it can just envelope you and make it seem like everything else goes away. I don't listen to a ton of purely instrumental music, and I've wondered why I love Explosions in the Sky despite this fact. Throughout their set, I realized that I think a lot of it is the way that they can play with your expectations and ears by transitioning so quickly from ear busting noise (and seeming chaos) to a relatively quiet and lovely guitar riff that pulls you out of the noise and transfixes your attention to the next part of the song. Or maybe all of this is just an attempt to rationalize and the music should just be enjoyed and appreciated without a reason for it. Regardless, they more than lived up to the hype and expectations I had for them. You can always tell a band/set is something special when you walk away feeling like it wouldn't feel right to listen to any other music ever again. If they ever feel like just following me around and soundtracking my life, I'm up for it. Their set was the clear highlight to day one for me and is up their with some of my favorite shows I've ever experienced. I would absolutely love to get a chance to see them headline at their own show sometime.

We finished off the night by going back over to the main stage for a little bit to see Pretty Lights perform. I knew nothing about who Pretty Lights was, and I still don't really, but he/they lived up to their name. The stage was a spectacle of lights, and the glow sticks really came alive for this set. We only stayed for a few songs, but the crowd down by the stage was whipped up into a frenzy with glow sticks flying everywhere, people dancing like it would be their last chance to do so, and everyone capping off the first night of the festival with a ton of excitement.


Artist I saw: Of Monsters and Men, Polica, Santigold, Girl Talk, Explosions in the Sky, Pretty Lights

Favorite set: Explosions in the Sky

Since Explosions in the Sky was my clear favorite show of the day, here is their song "Your Hand In Mine"

I realize this was super long, so kudos to anyone who actually made it through. Hopefully I'll be back in the next day or two with Saturday's recap.