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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Saying Life Fantastic is Man Man goes mainstream would be an overstatement (it’d be a nice headline though). However, Life Fantastic does have a rounder, brighter, sound than previous Man Man outings–it has catchy choruses and it uses major chords! Yet, it does this in a happily “Man Man” way. Honus Honus’ (lead singer) eclectic song writing makes him look like a faithful heir to The Great (and ANTI label-mate) Tom Waits. I’m sure this comparison’s been made before, but I don’t mean the obvious musical influence. I mean the “Waits-ian” musical ethos. Honus–in particular, but the rest of the band as well–show that they’re open to changing up their sound in dramatic ways.

Honus Honus has been busy lately. In addition to Man Man, his hipster-super group–featuring Nick Diamonds from The Unicorns, Modest Mouse’s second-drummer and Michael Cera on bass–Mr. Heavenly is putting out a CD this August. The music on Life Fantastic seems like something you’d expect from a Mr. Heavenly-minded Honus. Mike Mogis–the “not famous” guy from Monsters of Folk–produced Life Fantastic and perhaps this too explains the “expensive sounding,” more-accessible production on the album. Mogis lives in Omaha and is a friend to the Saddle Creek camp–Life Fantastic borrows the clean, “classic-rock-studio-technicality,” Bright Eyes-y sound and Man Man messes with it.

But like I said earlier, it’s still Man Man. It’s still the guys who put out the weirdo-freakout-classic Six Demon Bag. Let me give you some examples. “Piranhas Club” is a tongue-and-cheek 50’s doo-wop rock ‘n’ roll tune with the same macabre attitude as a Tim Burton movie. “Shameless” starts like a quite piano balad, but busts into a typical rip-roarin’ M Man Man song, complete with 8-bit synthesizers and sing along bridges. It can goes the other way too: “Eel Bros” is an instrumental in the vein of “Midtown [Instrumental]” from Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs; but here, Man Man adds some “pop-flavor” by playing with a silly lounge-music sound before climaxing to a theme fit for beating a video game. Its juxtapositions like these that keep Life Fantastic interesting. I found the album’s final song, “Oh La Brea” had the most surprising moment of the album: the song ends in a soft piano melody over a fully orchestrated instrumental (and a pretty violin melody!). The finale isn’t abrasive or crazy or “carnival-esque.” It’s just a nice, melodic end to an album. Even though that would be mainstream for some, Man Man hasn’t tried stuff like this before–and it turns out, they’re pretty good at it. Sound experimentation doesn’t always need to be loud and noisy.

Hear it; Steal it; Skip it: HEAR IT!

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Whenever I have a conversation with a boring old person (that is: people over 40) I’m always thankful Woody Allen exists. Most Americans are familiar with Allen’s films–even if they only know them as, “Those pretentious ‘Jew’ movies” (in the words of a particular uncle). I tell my family members my favorite movie is Annie Hall, so I don’t have to explain Paul Thomas Anderson.

Personal asides aside, Midnight In Paris may be the best Woody Allen movie so far this millennium. It’s a high-concept romantic comedy in the vein of 70’s Allen–yet it’s self-aware of its predecessors, rendering comparisons to Allen’s other films moot. Paris begins in typical Allen fashion. An opening photo-montage sets the scene–unsurprisingly, it’s Paris. Our protagonist, Gil (Owen Wilson), is a self-conscious screenwriter with high-brow aspirations; he thinks Paris will be the inspiration he needs to finish his first novel. Inez (Rachel McAdams), his fiance, is a haughty debutante more interested in French status than French culture; her “Tea Party” parents equal their daughter’s philistine taste and their contempt for Gil. And of course, there’s the “professorial” intellectual (Michael Sheen) that gives our nebbish protagonist a reason to anxious and filled with doubt. It’s the classic pseudo-slob vs. snob arechtype, but our slob is a sucessful screen-writer and the snob is only slightly snobbier than everyone else in the movie. Remember: it’s a Woody Allen.

Soon, things get quirky. Gil idolizes”The Lost Generation”–the post-WWI “art-movement” popularized by Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Picaso, Dali, and a sundry of flappers that you read about in high school English. While walking through the Parisian streets at midnight, Gil gets transported to the 1920s by an olde-timey car. He gets a chance to interact with his favorite authors while still trying to cooly hide his nerdiness. This should please most of Allen’s fans (read: Liberal Arts majors) because it’s an excuse to see what Papa would sound like if his terse writing was filtered through Woody Allen jokes.

Essentially, Midnight in Paris becomes fan fiction about fiction en general–or, fic-fan-fic. Allen’s screenplay osculates between nerdy trivia, loving homage, and Allen’s own literary analysis. My favorite quote: Hemmingway remarks that any story can be interesting as long as it has, “An honest truth, clean prose, and a moral that affirms courage in the face of hardship.” T.S. Eliot has a cameo. There’s a really fantastic joke about the Surrealists. If you’re a bookman, Midnight in Paris is for you.

But if you’re not a bookman (and you like Woody Allen movies for some reason) you’ll still enjoy MIP. Per usual, Allen makes great use of his ultra-famous cast. Owen Wilson tones down the “Look-at-My-Weird-Nose!” obnoxiousness from Marley and Me or You, Me, and Dupree and recalls his the Bottle Rocket/Royal Tenenbaums “Ignore-My-Weird-Nose-and-Watch-Me-Act” demeanor everyone wishes he’d employ more often. Rachel McAdams is perfectly despicable in her role of the “Female Lead/Antagonist” troupe that populates Allen’s cinematic universe. Allen also uses his cast of literary idols well, with particular mention made to Adrion Brody’s scene-stealing Salvador Dali. The cast is good, the screenplay’s tight, and Midnight in Paris, for all intents and purposes, is a really solid movie. Which leads me to my final point…

**The following paragraph might get spoiler-y, but it is this review’s most insightful paragraph–read at your own risk**

Midnight in Paris could be read as Allen’s response to critics who keep saying that “He doesn’t make them like he used to.” Gil’s novel is about a nostalgia shop and people stuck living in the past. The film’s overarching theme is both an exultation and gentle chiding of idolizing the past. Gil tells us that, “The present is a little unsatisfying… Because life is unsatisfying.” Screen writers can be just as smart as a lecturing professors; your idols may be geniuses or they may just be alcoholics; Paris can be a city of “magical inspiration” or it can be a place where you by overpriced antique furniture–everything’s realtive, it’s just kind of what you make of it. The film winds down with an exceptionally clever pun. Gil explains that he must “Get rid of my illusions” and start creating art strictly for himself–not for women, Papa, or anyone else. The pun–illusions/allusions–rings intentionally ironic. By amping allusions to his favorite authors, Allen has reclaimed his status as one of America’s favorite auteurs (meta-punning: a pun commenting on puns). Whether or not Allen makes films like he used to is up to debate, but I think he’s still making satisfying movies–the kind of satisfaction you’d get from walking the streets of Paris in the rain.

See it? Steal it? Skip it?: SEE IT!

The first time I saw the Black Keys was in 2005; I’ve seen them five times since. I would gladly see them six times again. They’re a reliable festival show, and a great headlining act. When I’m listening to the Keys play, I try and figure out what is it in their essence that’s so compelling. Why are they so fun to watch? What makes so many different types of people like these guys? What makes them so successful? Howare they so fucking cool?! Watch out! Things are about to get gushy!

So I have a theory: Even though Pat and Dan met sort of on accident they quickly realized that they’re playing styles meshed together well. They started writing a distinct, yet accessible type of music and combined the old school musical dedication with a progressive attitude toward 21st century media technologies. Ok, now here me out!

Let’s talk about the music first. Auerbach and Carney like blues music and rock music; fortunately, the two have gone together well in the past. I think that’s why when you watch Dan play guitar you can hear some Hendrix, some Page, old blues greats, and even that fuzzy-80s-alternative/90s-grunge feel. He has an esoteric knowledge of blues (evidence: Chulahoma) and a loving admiration of American rock music (evidence: Magic Potion): then, he combines the two. Dan’s guitar playing could be a textbook for History of American Rock Music 101–Dads like it just as much as sons do; bros like it just as much as hipsters! That’s because guitar rock will always be in style!

So, that’s the old; Pat’s the new! Whenever someone talks about the Keys live show they eventually say, “Man, that dude’s a hell of a drummer.” Indeed: Pat Carney is a hell of a drummer. He hits the drums so intensely; he concentrates so closely; he sweats and perspires so liberally! It’s uncanny. I used to think Pat was played so intensely because when you’re a guitar/drums duo there’s something the drummer must keep in mind at all times: “If the drummer screws up, everything is going to sound terrible.” And that’s true. But I think there’s more to Pat’s drum playing than fear. His live intensity is, I bet at least somewhat, stemming from a need to be a good performer. Both Pat and Dan seem to get that: they sound good, but they look cool too. They look like they’re trying to put on a good show because… Well because they are. But even in the studio, Carney seems like a very forward thinking musician. He’s certainly versed in 4/4 rock playing, but also bouncy jazz, tumbling blues, and syncopated funk/hip-hop. The latter has been in close focus on the Keys most recent records, but it’s been evident since The Big Come Up (seriously, go listen to “Breaks”). Carney can genre-mash with the best of them (take that Dave Byrne!). But the coolest part is the synthesis of the two: even though the Keys had a sound everybody could be into, they in no way sounded like anybody else–well, except that one band.

Let’s take a quick break and talk about the White Stripes. It segues nicely into the most important question of my generation: “Who’s better, The White Stripes or The Black Keys?” Sure, the Keys have lasted longer, but good-gosh-darn if the White Stripes (ok, specifically Jack) isn’t still one of the most important bands in contemporary rock music. Based on sheer subjective preference, I like the Keys. Obviously, there is no objective winner–but the guy who just drank his 8th PBR at your loft party will certainly say otherwise. I think the contrast between the two bands, however, further proves my point about the success of the Keys. Jack White has said that he works best with creative parameters. Parameters like, “Only two people in the band: drums and guitar” or, “Only two colors: red and white” or, “Weird mythos and backstory and keep in mind strange art  movements from the first half of the 20th c. (De Sijil)” or, “Look toward out-of-fashion genres and music that represents my Tennessee heritage for inspiration.” I remember watching an interview with White (which was almost certainly on Under Northern Lights) where he said limitations and perimeters gets his juices flowing–but eventually it becomes creatively stifling. So, in a way, The White Stripes were a “project” (perhaps an oversimplification) whereas the Keys are a “band.” I like all the “project-y” stuff about the White Stripes: the wife/husband/brother/sister/candy-stripe/duo-blues-rock is totally awesome. Plus, the proof is in the sonic pudding: White is one of the best songwriters (as in: combination of music and lyrics) and he made some absolutely perfect songs–regardless of their complicated back story. However, the Keys couldn’t be any more the opposite to this creative ethos. I’ve never read any interviews where Pat and Dan pontificate upon lofty artistic aspirations for what they want their band to sound like. They’re just dudes who enjoy making music; they’re music is the result of two dudes who enjoy making music making music together. It’s so much simpler this way. Longevity is not supremacy:  the reason Keys lasted longer is because they were always open to experimentation, while Jack White founded the White Stripes in jarringly specific traditionalism. He realized that he could then establish different perimeters with different projects and keep the White Stripes legacy separate to the rest of his career.

Now that that’s settled! Let me finish explaining why The Black Keys are the savviest band in America. They figure out they both know how to play and that they like playing with each other. The next logical step is to write a collection of  songs that feels like 13 Billboard singles from 1960-2002 (heck, one song actually was: remember that great “She Said, She Said” cover?). The Big Come Up is an album of songs that will always be fun to play live, songs that show off the eclectic musical knowledge and playing style of both band members, and–while certainly low-fi–a fine testament to what Carney and Auerbach can do in the studio. It’s probably why Pat and Dan named the thing The Big Come Up–they must have known they had a good idea and they must have known that one day they’d be famous! Or maybe they were just being snotty-ironic 20-somethings. I don’t know.  But I do still think that The Big Come Up is the Keys best album because of how perfectly the songs sound in sequence (this is also why I think Brothers is their second best record). Ok, you have the perfect touring album: now tour the ever loving shit out of it. That’s what the Keys did and it’s a primary reason why I’ve seen them so many times. They tour all the time. I saw them open for Radiohead (not a bad gig), at like three Lollapaloozas (since 2005) and two different solo gigs! But I didn’t even see them every time they play Chicago! They play constantly! It’s probably easier with just two guys: not a lot of gear, not a lot of schedules to work with. But now they have more band members and they still tour all the time! How do they do it? Constantly touring is how musicians have been making it forever–literally. The Keys know that, and I think that old-school mentality makes up a lot of their dedication.

Plus, the Keys knew how to take advantage of 21st century musical opportunities. They had blog buzz and plenty of celebrities name dropped them sound cool. They’ve licensed their music out to tons of products: they say, “Who cares. We just want to keep making music, and we’ll use that money to keep making music.” And that they do: working with expensive producers like Dangermouse and making cool corporate-sponsored hip-hop genre-smash records is expensive, but the Keys have the money to do it. Even though the Keys’ are channeling the spirit of age-old blues music, they could never have been so successful without the internet. Again new meets old! They combine a bunch of good things, and not coincidentally, it ends up being a great thing.  Of course, my argument is merely speculation. I make no claim that the Keys had intended all of this stuff to happen–don’t you try and trap me into your intentional fallacy bullshit! I merely think all these factors have culminated into one of the most popular, most innovative, and most reliable rock bands of my generation. And regardless of all my pontifications, shortly after I start daydreaming while watching the Keys, I’m quickly snapped back to reality to remember: “Holy shit. This is fucking cool.” If the Keys come to town this fall, you better believe I’m buying a ticket.

COMEDY DAZE

The League Live: I fucking hate sports, but I adore The League.   I set my DVR when a cast member is going to be on a late night talk show. These guys are hysterical. I’d only know them from TV until Bonnaroo, but their live set exceeded expectations. For the confused: The League is made up from comedians Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, Steve Rannazzisi, Jon LaJoie (and Mark Duplass, but he wasn’t there). Good? Cool. The guys came out and did some crowd work and made fun of audience members (Kroll mumbled a hilarious joke that nobody heard: “Did you have to piss all over Wiz Khalifa while he kept shouting ‘Black and yellow! Black and yellow!'”). Then, the guys came out for solo sets. Kroll was first and funny; he didn’t do any characters, but he told the bit about his first time on stage. Scheer was next: also funny, and made my favorite Taco Bell joke of the day. Most surprising was Steve Rannazzisi; I didn’t know Rannazzisi’s stand-up until now, but I assumed he’d talk about sports. Instead, he talked about weed and Bonnaroo fucking loved it. Finally, Jon LaJoie came out and played some songs. Honestly, I don’t like musical comedy (look at what I say about the Gregory Brothers), but LaJoie’s songs were pretty funny. One was about imagining your parents boning–so standard musical comedy fair. Overall, awesome set and I can’t wait for League Season 3!

John Waters, Tig Notaro, and The Gregory Brothers: What a strange bill. Let me figure out the logic here: both John Waters and The Gregory Brothers revel in tacky, disposable entertainment. Waters and Notaro are both gay. All mentioned performers are white. Otherwise, this line-up is fucking nonsense. I’m getting ahead of myself: I’ve got a lot to say, so let’s go in order of performance!

The Gregory Brothers are the kids responsible for Autotune the News, and more specifically, “Bed Intruder” (that quirky “street” boy who flamboyantly sang about his sister’s attempted sexual assult). I’m certain there are people that would enjoy this very broad type of humor–unfortunately, it’s not the same people who go to Bonnaroo. The crowd was silent throughout The Gregory Brother’s set; I’m going to guess nobody knew what was going on because I heard so many people say, “What the fuck is going on?”. Perhaps no one laughed because, come Sunday, Bonnaroo-ers boarder upon physical exhaustion. Then again, perhaps no one laughed because Autotune the News is pretty hard to follow without the accompanying video montages (either I couldn’t see the screen, or, if I remember correctly, there was no screen)–especially when you’re unfamiliar with the lyrics. Plus, every Autotune the News song is inspired by a jarringly specific event political/pop-culture event that’s so esoteric, it’s hard to laugh at the source material (one song was a refference to one misspeak a Senator said once–I think. It seemed like it was about that). So yeah: this set was pretty terrible. When The Gregory Brother played “Bed Intruder,” people finally realized who they were. And, since I have a reason, let me give you my opinions on “Bed Intruder”: it’s racist and homophobic. Everyone’s laughing because that gay guy is all worked up (the reason he’s all worked up, is because his fucking sister almost got raped). Even though Dodson sanctioned the song, it still makes me uncomfortable. Did they ever catch that rapist? Does anyone know? Not to sound like Britta from Community, but: YOU’RE LAUGHING AT THE FACT THAT AN AREA OF INTENSE POVERTY SUFFERS FROM ROAMING RAPISTS! IT’S NOT FUNNY!

At least Tig Nataro is awesome. Tig is one of the best comedians you probably haven’t heard of. She’s got a record coming out soon, so hopefully that’s rectified. I’ve seen Tig interviewed in a bunch of trendy places, so it makes sense that she’d be at Bonnaroo. Her style is subdued, but perfect for a tired Sunday. She had the crowd laughing at the places they were supposed to be laughing even though we were all sitting in an echo-y tent. Essentially: she did what she intended to do. Seriously though, single reader (if that many), check out Tig. She’s great.

Then, we have John Waters. Wow. This was neat. John Waters is a personal hero. He’s managed to push the limits of freedom of speech (not to mention, good taste) in long cinematic career; he’s respected across generations in multiple circles (garnering both the respect of somebody like Divine, and, according to a new story, Justin Beiber); he’s got a fast wit and good literary taste (he wrote book reviews for Vogue); and finally, his awesome pencil thin mustache (this is what garnered Beiber’s respect). He sort of reminds me of a really vulgar, wonderful child. For one of the oldest people at Bonnaroo, he was still one of the funniest. He told old movie stories, his thoughts on various pop-culture minutia, and he also talked liberally about weird gross shit. There were a few things in his act that I was completely unfamiliar with–however, I promptly forgot them because one had something to do with making your scrotum transparent. It was gross. Waters isn’t a stand-up so much as a monologist. Someone like Tig would be more reactionary to the crowd–bantering with them–Waters acknowledged his audience only occasionally. Waters’ performance was just that: a stage performance. It’s more like theater, really. If you’re interested to check it out, his one man show is streaming on Netflix.

Quick thoughts on the Comedy Tent: Awesome. Really made the hot days bearable. Honestly, it was my favorite part of the festival. Thanks Bonnaroo Comedy Tent!

MUSIC

Robyn: It kinda seems like Robyn could tour on Body Talk forever. Every song sounds like a hit and any song could be a single. It’s a pretty awesome record. Robyn tours with a band, so her live set is fun to watch/hear/dance to. It was Robyn’s birthday, so she seemed to have a ton of energy. Unfortunately, it was Sunday, the sun was still up, and the crowd looked like zombies. It would have been nice to see Robyn at night, but she still sounded great in the day time. I also saw the first few songs from Beriut: I’m unfamiliar with their music, but it was a cool set nonetheless.

Superjam ft. Dan Auerbach and Dr. John!  The Superjam was strangely absent from 2010’s Bonnaroo; thankfully, it’s back. Some of the festival’s best musicians form temporary collaborating bands to make cool music. Superjam is a pretty self-explanatory name. I was extra psyched to check this out because of how great Dr. John and the Black Keys had been separately the night before. The crowd was small–perhaps people were watching the Strokes or Explosions in the Sky or maybe they’d already left to go home. Regardless, it was easy to see and hear the whole show. The music was really cool: a mix of blues, R&B, soul, funk, other genres from before 1980. Allegedly, Dan Auerbach and Dr. John are in the studio collaborating. If it’s as good as this set, then I’m really psyched to hear it.

Quick concluding thoughts: If you’re reading, this is the end. I’ve learned a few things: I’m better at writing about comedy than music; I need to get better at deadlines. Thanks for putting up with me regardless! And thanks Bonnaroo for letting me see you for free! Bye!

COMEDY DAZE

Donald Glover and Bill Bailey: Bill Bailey is a comedy legend in the UK; Donald Glover is perhaps the “coolest” comedian in America right now starring in the ultra-hip Community, pursuing a successful rap career (Childish Gambino [Glover’s MC alias] played at the same time as Deerhunter, so I missed it unfortunately) and selling out auditoriums. Why the hell Bonnaroo put them on the same bill–with a 20 something opening for a man in his fifties–is anybody’s guess. Regardless, I was both surprised and disappointed–what a tension filled paradox!

I’d like Bill Bailey better if I grew up in Britain. A lot of his jokes were very cultural specific, and he referenced stuff that happened before I was born. Otherwise, Bailey has a wry wit and a good vocabulary–a comparison to Carlin seems apt, yet perhaps hyperbolic. My biggest problem with Bailey’s set was his songs. The crowd was on his side the whole show–even if some jokes were esoteric–but when he played the songs… My goodness they were not funny. The lyrics were particularly hard to decipher with Bailey’s accent, but seriously… I wish I could remember a few lyrics to demonstrate how easy and base every single lyric sounded–unfortunately, they were so forgettable that I completely forgot them. Bailey subjected the audience to THREE awful, awful songs. Each worse than the last. Man, I’m getting too negative. I hate musical comedy–especially bad musical comedy. But Bailey’s cool; I’ll just move on.

Donald Glover is nothing like the cute black kid you see on TV. He’s in your face, controversial, and not nearly as polished as you might expect. He’s raw, but in an Eddie Murphy way. A lot of Glover’s jokes are about being black, or more specifically, the word nigger and all its baggage and contradictions. He also tells sex jokes. Some of his jokes are mean–vicious even. It’s awesome. He’s not the guy from TV; thankfully, he’s much funnier than that guy. Glover just perspires confidence. It’s not cocky–cocky implies false bravado. He’s clearly gifted in the skill of being funny. He knows it, and he’s able to channel that on stage. His act reminds me of Chris Rock–that’s a pretty big complement but it seems fitting (especially considering his Chris Rock “Vampires” joke). However, there are a lot of places in Glover’s set that a more experienced comedian could probably do better. Granted, they couldn’t have done it better at Glover’s age–but he certainly has room to improve. That’s fine: he’s one of the youngest, hippest, and most talented comedic performers/stand-ups currently touring. It will be exciting to watch his career get even more impressive than it already is.

MUSIC

Mumford and Sons: Who the hell are these guys? I went into the show thinking I was seeing a family act (perhaps not a father and son, but I assumed they were brothers). They’re not. I’ve heard their single–the name escapes me, but I bet you know what it’s called, reader–but not the album. Honestly, this isn’t my kind of music, and I’m not going to tear it apart because that’d be pretentious and easy. But, TONS of people were at this show (in fact, it was the first obnoxiously crowded show on a day of crowded shows). Overall: I’m not impressed by this band but I guess everyone else is.

The Black Keys: I accidentally wrote a 1500 word essay about this. It’s over here.

Eminem: Since I was seven, I’ve wanted to see Eminem live. While I’ve pretty much stopped listening to his music, his concert didn’t disappoint–it was awesome. Essentially Eminem is a mix of pure ID (in psychoanalysis terms) and gushing catharsis. This dude is seriously self-centered, but he has a lot of shit to get off his chest. Ol’ Marshal has changed from a controversial, handsome-yet-poor white rapper that acted out for attention, to confused sad man brimming with hate and rage, then into a full-blown, drugged-up celebrity who couldn’t handle his shit, and currently the back-from-rehab-and-I’m-clean-for-good curmudgeon we have today. He’s like a tougher Madonna. Regardless, his live show is awesome. Eminem played at least 30 seconds of all his hits plus a lot of new ones that took advantage of his live band. He bantered with the crowd and kept saying “Bonnaroo!” He wore a lot of layers, but eventually he took them all off. Eminem is exactly what you’d expect: Eminem. He is whatever you say he is: if he wasn’t, then why would he say he is? Seriously. Why the hell would he do that? What good would it do him? That’s right: none. So go buy his new record, Recovery, in stores today!

Dr. John with the Original Meters and Allen Toussaint: It seems like every music festival tries to be a reclaim the heritage of Woodstock–every festival tries to be a once in a lifetime event. Pitchfork acted like last year’s Pavement reunion was going to be a huge deal (it was meh); Lollapalooza did the same thing with Soundgarden (meh) Rage Against The Machine (ok, this was awesome) and this year, DFA1979 (even though they’re playing an after-show too). By selling a special, once in a lifetime performance, festivals can make more money. That’s just how it works. Bonnaroo sure did plan an awesome capitalist ploy though, didn’t they. For the tenth anniversery, Bonnaroo called the guy who made the album the whole shindig is named after. Dr. John’s record, Desitively Bonnaroo is a damn-hip record, man. And it was a trip seeing it live, in its entirety. Even though the people playing the music were older than my parents, they were without a doubt some of the most talented musicians I watched throughout the whole festival. Crazy good, man! This show was just as good as the first time I heard this record, on vinyl, with my cousin, in his basement. I wish I could review this in more detail but… They played an album; it sounded like the album. Here, I’ll review the album really quick: it’s fucking great. Go download it and be jealous you won’t ever get to see it played live again–which made it strange that this show was so sparsely attended. Guess the people who remember The Meters wanted to go to bed. Whatever. This show alone was totally worth the ticket price. Damn, Dr. John is a cool-ass dude.

Photo by Jason Merritt

 

The Tennessee sun is too hot. Someone should fix it. Thankfully, Bonnaroo realizes it’s fucking miserable outside from the hours of 9AM until 8PM, so there’s plenty of air-conditioned tents. Since I’m a stand-up efficinato, I kicked it in the comedy tent whenever the sun was out. It’s big, air-conditioned, easy to see, and easy to hear. If I had to some it up in two words: fucking awesome. It was my favorite part about the festival. So, I’ll mark all comedy reviews as COMEDY DAZE for the rest of these reviews (get it?). Music to follow!

COMEDY DAZE

END OF Lewis Black and Eugene Mirman: Unfortunately, I only saw a little of these sets. I saw the tail-end of Eugene Mirman’s (he mostly told jokes from God Is A Twelve Year Old Boy With Asperger’s) and it was predictably funny. At the end of his set, Mirman brought out H. Jon Benjamin (of the new Jon Benjamin Has A Van; Archer; Bob’s Burger’s; general alternative comedy legend) and unfortunately…it was kind of lame. Benjamin didn’t prepare any jokes, and he sort of just got in Mirman’s way. The guys kept commenting on how they weren’t being very funny (they really weren’t, suprisingly!) Benjamin just kind of meandered around stage. There’s a good chance that Benjamin was acting this way because he thought it was funny and he wanted to make himself laugh–alright, I can kind of respect that. I’m an asshole too. Mirman and Benjamin eventually left, and Black came back and told a lame iPhone joke (I think he’s best when he’s political). So, what I saw of this set was a little…shitty. But, I know these guys are funnier at other places.

Henson Alternative’s “Stuffed and Unstrung”: This was really weird; however, totally awesome. The people actually associated with Jim Henson are making raunchy improv comedy under the name, Henson Alternative (HA). Essentially, Stuffed and Unstrung was typical short-form improv–except with puppets. So, all the challenges of thinking up jokes on the fly, projecting vocal inflection and body language, and interacting with the audience were still there–except they were amplified because everyone was using puppets! All sorts of puppets! Monster puppets; animal puppets; person puppets; hot dog puppets… Are there other kinds? They most stuck to those. Since it’s improv comedy, the performers were stuck with some really-raunchy-yet-unfunny suggestions. Again, since its improv, they dealt with lame suggestions well. All in all, this was a totally refreshing show. It’s nice to see someone keep alive the art of puppetry, but still understand that puppets deserve to be offensive because in a way they’re… Vaguely erotic?

MUSIC

My Morning Jacket: Again, I’m unfamiliar with MMJ. I’d heard that they were an “indie-jam-band” and that’s not really my thing. Thankfully, that’s not what they are. They’re, according to the guy I stood next to, “The best live act currently preforming in America.” MMJ was loud, colorful, and lots of fun.  A Tennessee horn ensemble accompanied the MMJ guys and they played a good mix of stuff off their new album, and hits off their other records (again, this is what the guy I was standing by told me). Overall: great opener for Arcade Fire. Unfortunately, I only managed to see one Primus song–it was long and improvised. Read that as you will.

Arcade Fire: Does Arcade Fire have any competitors for biggest band in the world right now? Maybe Kings of Leon? Do they count? There could be a non-Western band more popular, but I’m an American! I don’t care about that!  Seriously, Arcade Fire’s doing pretty good for themselves. Grammies, Billboard Charts, movie trailers, etc. You can hear Arcade Fire playing in everything!  Arcade Fire is fucking huge! And they try to recreate this grandiosity with their live shows. Look at the above picture: over ten people are seen roaming around the stage at any given song. Art cinema plays on the giant projection screen behind the band. Every song the Win and Regina sing, the audience sings along with them. When introducing “Wake Up,” Win said that it used to be a song played only for rooms of less than twenty people. Now, crowds of thousands sing ever “oooo” and “whoaaaa” right in tune. Arcade Fire always puts on a great show: see them as soon as you can.

Bassnectar: Well this was a surprise. Before Bonnaroo, I was unfamiliar with Bassnectar’s music, but I was familiar with the “type of person” who listened to Bassnectar. I assued BN was dubstep–I HATE dubstep. Whenever I hear it at a party, I become like an old man shaking his fist to get rowdy kids off the lawn. Thankfully, Bassnectar is NOT dubstep. He’s an ecclectic DJ who knows a TON of styles of music. Pop songs/techno/trance/club you name it! Bassnectar’s Yeah, there’s some dubstep–but he uses it the way it should be used. Instead of breakdown after breakdown (what a lot of the dub DJs I’ve heard seem to favor), BN uses his breakdowns sparsely–that’s what makes them cool. Lorin Ashton (real name) is clearly just making music that he likes: you can tell by the energy he brings to live shows. Coincidentally, plenty of other people like his music too. Before the show, I had stupid preconceptions of Bassnectar’s music; after the show, I vowed to never miss him when he comes to town.

Ratatat: Before Ratatat’s set, the PA was strangely playing Insane Clown Posse (they really do sound like Odd Future!). Regardless, I was half asleep for Ratatat’s set. That’s a shame, because it sounded awesome. The guys came out and played instrumental beats music like it was nobody’s business (when in fact, it’s merely a few people’s business to play such music). They had effect pedels, fog, a video screen. The works! One video in particular had a lot of birds in it. The music sounded very trance-like, and I think that’s one reason I had a hard time staying awake (it was also 3AM and I’d been up since 9AM). Cool show; wish I could have stayed awake until the end.

Most of Day 2’s morning was spent writing in the press tent and preparing for an interview.Let me list off a few unfortunate misses: Big Boi would have been awesome; I hear he brought a live band; I only got to see one song by the Flecktones–boy was it hot; Opeth would have been too face-melting for such a hot day; I don’t listen to Matt & Kim, but I do watch Community–I should check them out.  I happened to overheard a press conference, featuring Hannibal Burress and various musicians. Hannibal Burress had a really great joke:  “Bonnaroo is like an Asian guy with a white baby on his chest.”

For the daily recaps, I’m just going to talk about stuff I saw. I’ll talk about stuff I “observed” in a very masturbatory, Klosterman-esque (God, I’m a douche) follow up essay.

Wavves: One of the first shows on Thursday, but definitely a great way to kick off a music festival. The band played most of last year’s King of the Beach as the sun dropped and cool night started setting. Highlights: Wavves sounds just as “chill” live as they do on CD, and Bonnaroo’s soundstage is able to handle their pounding lows, distorted mids, and shimmering highs. The crowd was grooving to Wavves, and I realized they’re a pretty hard band not to be “into” They play with a “I’m-fucking-cool-and-I-know-it” attitude (‘tude perhaps?) that only young bands can pull off. For a Bonnaroo treat, Wavves played an Aerosmith cover: I don’t like Aerosmith, but I’ve ridden the the Aerosmith Rollercoaster at Disneyworld in Florida–this song was better.

The Knux/Band of Skulls/Dinner: I’m not familiar with either of these bands, but I am familiar with passing out–so I caught some of these sets and I ate a deliciously over-priced meal. The Knux sounded like an eclectic mix of rap/dance/club/regge. It seemed like a really high energy set, and I noticed an atypical amount of cursing. Band of Skulls reminded me of a really spunky Wolfmother–it was loud and it sounded like Zepplin–and I enjoyed what I heard.

Tiny Food Review! For dinner, I ate at the Siri Lanka tent: it’s a staple at festivals because it’s easy to cook a whole bunch of chicken sticks at once. What it is: Curry Chicken on a Plate of Rice. One stick of chicken, one plate of rice (either a vegetable blend or red beans and ricce–I picked the latter) It’s really easy to eat/claw at the chicken stick/shovel the rice in one’s mouth. The plate was really hot and seemed unstable, so it was hard to eat standing up (but Bonnaroo has neat little food bars).How it tastes: Just spicy enough. It’s not bland, but its not going to make you sick on a 110 degree day. I’d recommend it to anyone, despite its $10 price tag (I’m positive you can get it at Pitchfork and Lollapalooza too)

The Walkmen: Before 2010 I hadn’t heard much Walkmen; I filed them in my brain as a Strokes-clone with a better drummer. Then, someone showed me Lisbon, and I completely changed my mind. Granted, I didn’t listen to much of their older stuff, but Lisbon’s awesome dynamic range–be it in Hamilton Leithauser’s bellowing vocals, or Paul Maroon plucking guitar parts, or (like I said earlier) Matt Barrick pounding drum playing sperate these guys from their New York rock collegues. The band played a bunch of tracks off of Lisbon, as well as some songs off their old records. You could tell which songs were pre-Lisbon, but they’re still alright. Essentially: The Walkmen are not The Strokes (duh). TW is more focused on sound experimentation than hooks or image and The Walkmen’s song writing seems to be getting better as they mature (whereas with the Strokes…). Glad I got to know these guys better because they made a great opening act for…

Deerhunter: Branford Cox is a strange character. He’s an indie music-auteur a la Tom Waits or John Darnielle–making and releasing the music he wants to make and release (frequently for free) just because he seems fascinated by composition. Yet at the same time, he flurishes in a band setting–unlike his solo project, Atlas Sound (the only way I’d seen Cox before Bonnaroo) Deerhunter allows for improvise in a  group setting. Deerhunter lets Cox bring theatrics to indie-rock; like his Bonnaroo-Bowie inspired costume and stage banter. Deerhunter’s 2010, Halcyon Digest was the primary source of last night’s set, yet every song sounded distinctly different from the LP. Instead of bombastic carnival guitar-sounds, “Memory Boy” was drenched in distortion–like a Nirvana song. “Helicopter” was slowed to half its tempo; “Don’t Cry” was mostly just power chords and sounded like a shoegaze Buddy Holly song (if only!). The band distilled the songs to their most essential elements so a strange, minimalistic improvisation allows the band’s extensive in-song-jam-sessions. Perhaps the highlight of last night’s set was “He Would Have Laughed,” or as Cox introduced it, “This one’s for a boy from Memphis!” Deerhunter’s tribute to Jay Raetard is one of the best tribute songs I’ve ever heard. The music–with its low-fi, shoegaze, fuzz, glimmering guitar solos, and head-bobbing climax–shows that Deerhutner really understood Jay Raetard’s musically. During the song’s final refrain, the band almost sounded like Reatard ghost was coming through the soundsystem. Cox’s lyrics, “I get bored as I get older/find new ways to spend my time” capture Raetard’s spirit and personality–a tragic case of terminal boredom. The song lasted, what felt like, 15 minutes and the crowd went wild. “I bet a lot of you haven’t heard us before,” Cox told the crowd, “I’m glad you came to check us out.” After releasing, by my count four perfect albums, it’s hard to believe people aren’t paying more attention to Deerhunter/Atlas Sound. I bet they’re going to blow up in an Arcade Fire kind of way. As I was walking out, the band encored with “Octet” off of Cryptograms–a great song for reflecting on a great first day.