Broken Social Scene @ The Slowdown, Omaha

Legendary. That’s the only way to describe the last time Canadian collective Broken Social Scene‘s last show in Omaha, Nebraska. Last year the guys were just chilling at a local coffee shop without a booked show, when a native recognized the boys and insisted they play. Broken Social Scene agreed and quickly set up over at the Slowdown Jr. stage. There was no announcement or promotion, but word quickly spread and a decent sized crowd gathered in front of the stage for a free, intimate set by BSS. They closed down the bar and went on their merry way leaving those in attendance feeling blessed to have bragging rights that they were at this special show.

Cut to 2008 and the band’s current tour in support of Brendan Canning‘s solo album. Tickets cost a hefty $20 and the band had moved up onto Slowdown’s bigger stage. The ticket price, which the band joked about and said their agent made them charge to make up for last year’s free show, did not seem to hold back people from coming.

Not everybody was there for BSS. Many Omahaians (if that isn’t a word, I’m making it one) were curious to check out the band’s tour mates and Land of Talk who recently signed to Omaha label Saddle Creek Records. However, Land of Talk’s singer Lizzie Powell, was a little ill (I think bronchitis might be the culprit, but don’t quote me on that). To make up for their absence, Canning saved the day and played a special DJ set, borrowing vinyl from one of the venue’s bartenders. It wasn’t your usual oomp-oomp-oomp, let’s go clubbing, DJ mix. It was a more chill, oldies blend that allowed people the chance to just drink and talk, but they could still have danced if they had wanted.

After listening to Canning DJ for a good hour, he put on a final tune and jumped up on stage where he joined the rest of his BSS chums to seamlessly begin their set. They began with some mostly instrumental tracks, which sounded great, but didn’t immediately grab the audience’s attention. It wasn’t until about the third number that the crowd broke loose and started jumping and moving along.

Canning initially started off lead vocals, which isn’t that surprising considering his album was the focus of this tour. However, in true BSS fashion, frontman duties were constantly shuffled around and Kevin Drew was soon back at the helm.

The set list was a great mix of old and new BSS material. However, with Powell out of commission, many were curious what would happen to the band’s numbers that feature female vocals. These fortunately were not cut from the set and Omaha’s very own Orenda Fink stepped up and saved the day joining the group for numbers like “7/4 (Shoreline).” Never at a loss for guest musicians, in addition to Fink, BSS was also joined on trumpet by Nate Walcott, whom you may better know from one of Omaha’s biggest exports, Bright Eyes. Nothing like a brass section to make a show better.

About midway through the show, the kickdrum pedal gave out and as most of the band left to deal with the problem, Charles Spearin remained out on stage to entertain by presenting his “science experiment,” as Drew referred to it. Basically, he played a sample of his neighbor speaking about a subject such as love and then had a sax imitate the cadences of her voice. It was like the woman was right there on stage speaking back to us, the mimicry was that good. The audience was quite amused. The kickdrum problem not immediately resolved, Spearin started in on another voice sample, which the saxophonist tried to mimic by ear. He was shortly joined by Canning on cowbell and the rest of the band trickled back in.

It was kind of an intermission to the set and many more hits followed. My favorite number was when Drew had the audience scream their guts out on “Ibi Dreams of Pavement.” It was a nice catharsis after a long day.

An epic performance of “It’s All Gonna Break” seemed to end out the set, but Drew was not ready to quit. He looked around at the other guys and started talking to the crowd. As he talked, drummer Justin Peroff started to lay down a beat, which Canning quickly picked up on bass. The rest of the crew joined in and Drew sat down and let the boys just jam for a good 7 minutes.

Not being able to end on a freestyle, the band played another raucous tune that seemed to have  eight different endings. Seriously. It would start to end and Drew would get behind the mic where he’d say a rather circular speech that always ended, “And it goes/sounds like this” and the band would repeat the tune.

This seemed to complete the set, but Drew was still not done. Everybody walked off and the crowd started to leave. Drew and Peroff came back out to play a Guided By Voices cover before finally calling it a night.

Total set time: 2 hours, 45 minutes. It might not have been secret and free, but this show was legendary in its own right. BSS might arguably be Omaha’s favorite live band.

Broken Social Scene: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany
Photos by: Nick Davis


Low vs. Diamond, Mates of State and Santogold: Liberty Hall in Lawrence, Kansas

I’ve waited endlessly for it to happen; the sifting of the music genres through each respective time period, past the bands influenced by the 70s and 80s, kicking the door wide open for drop D tuning and other signature sounds of the 90s. Honestly, I have never really gotten a clearer glimpse of this in a music venue, as I did this night listening to Low vs. Diamond piece through their set, which anyone outside on the street could have easily mistaken for Our Lady Peace.

Though poor sound qualitydue to an apathetic sound guy, not the band, seemed to hinder the quality of the band’s set, I was rather impressed by the hooks that managed to find their way out of the cloud of useless fuzz and bass distortion. The piano seemed to be the only instrument to really stand out and rising above a crowd who honestly couldn’t give a damn about this band’s opening set. This apathy seemed to carry over to the band as well. Their songs, seemingly angry and pointed, simply didn’t fluently display in the boys’ actions, who only seemed to half-heartedly want to be on stage.

Sadly, on this night, the energy of their album didn’t seem to make the trip to the stage. To be fair however, a number of the difficulties they had to overcome were placed in front of them by circumstances slightly out of their control. I honestly look forward to giving them another chance on another night.

Mates of State, the evening’s middle set, are no stranger to Lawrence, Kansas. Kori Gardner, lead vocalist of the group recalled to the crowd, “In case you didn’t know, this is where this band started. We went to school here, and we started the band here. It’s damn good to be back.”

And it was damn good to have them back. This husband and wife duo, packing great blended vocal patterns, progressive moog progressions and percussion big enough to fill the room, were at their best. Shooting smirks and flirtatious eye contact across the stage at one another, performing more of a love story than anything else.

Santogold, however, was something completely different, leaving the Lawrence hipsters slightly unsure of what the hell they were doing there. Though being compared to M.I.A. every time she turns around, Santogold actually brings a completely different, unique feel to her hip hop show. Joined on stage by a pair of matching dancers and a DJ, the four lit up the Liberty Hall stage, reflecting light from their gold jackets (or tights in Santogold’s case) and sporting 1980’s style fashion.

Unlike M.I.A., who played the same stage earlier that year, this show felt much more lighthearted, but just as dance friendly. Opening with “You’ll Find a Way,” a song that reminds me more of The Clash than NWA, Santogold stands tall in her punk rock roots as well as her hip hop desires.

My only complaint about her set falls with Santogold’s inability to include her audience in her art. Her relatively short set, consisting of about 40 minutes, was primarily used ignoring the half filled room. I’d go so far as to mention the lack of common hip hop show call-outs, like having the crowd lift their hands, or even make noise. It seemed that she was simply content to get through her set and go home.

But, then again, with sound problems muffling her voice, and the bass kicking me in the teeth, I must confess, I, too, wanted the same.

Low Vs. Diamond: website | myspace | Low vs. Diamond review | Interview
Mates of State: website | myspace | Re-Arrange Us review
Santogold: website | myspace


The Mountain Goats with Kaki King @ the Slowdown, Omaha

A busy test-filled week, a car that wouldn’t start, the weather getting cold and still being tired from a show the night before almost deterred me from going to this gem of a concert. But I toughed it out and ended up having a phenomenal time checking out lo-fi 90s act The Mountain Goats and guitar legend Kaki King.

I must admit that I mostly wanted to go to this show to check out opener Kaki King. I also must admit that I jumped on her bandwagon after learning about her creative guitar skills from the movie August Rush. All the tapping and percussive use of the guitar that kid does is modeled after her and it is her songs on the soundtrack. She didn’t play any of the songs from the movie, but she still had a solid set.

Not only does she have mad instrumental skills, she has a gorgeous voice to debut and hilarious commentary. The stuff she said in between songs had everybody in stitches. She talked about everything from pizza to hygiene.

Following Kaki King were The Mountain Goats, led by John Darnielle. I had mixed feelings about this band. Darnielle’s voice has a bit of a nasally quality, which can be a little much at times. Also, after the guitar styles of King, theirs didn’t quite compare. I think the Mountain Goats respected her superior skills and consequentially had her join them on several songs.

Nonetheless, they are commendable musicians and I recommend checking out them because they are fun rock and they have great lyrics about social and literary subjects. They just weren’t my cup of tea, but everybody else in the crowd got really into them. I respect what they were doing and loved their Morrissey covers, but I think Kaki King stole the show.

The Mountain Goats: website | myspace
Kaki King: website | myspace

Writing and Photos by: Bethany


Dead Confederate @ The Waiting Room, Omaha

There are times when I really wish that Omaha didn’t have a smoking ban let hazy lights and a deep, husky voice entrance me. The Dead Confederate show was one of those times.

The Waiting Room isn’t a particularly large venue, nuzzled between a row of bars in the Benson neighborhood of Omaha. However, the crowd on this particular Wednesday night was unusually sparse, a pity because these bands deserved a much a larger audience and perhaps the next time they cycle through town, the crowd size will increase considerably.

Awesome Color started things off with intensely fast drum beats juxtaposed with the singer’s slow growl. The voice effects made it difficult to understand the singer, but I was to engulfed in highly energetic drummer to even care. The drums teetered between a constant fast rhythm and accented bursts like on “Eyes of Light.”

Next up, was my favorite band of the night, Catfish Haven. “Are you ready?” they asked the crowd and thundered into the opening song off their latest album. The guys in this group were a blast to watch, but they were even more fun to watch in between songs, when they would say the most hilarious things. I loved lead singer George Hunter‘s deep, rich voice and the fact that the guy is a bit of a romantic. He dedicated several ballads to a couple in the front.

Headliners Dead Confederate sounded fantastic and I got some Nirvana vibes from their southern grunge, soul rock. The guys appeared in shadow as they were back lit by white lights, which perfectly added to their moody tunes like single “The Rat.” However, after the carefree set of Catfish Haven, it was a little hard to transition into music this dark and moody. A broken string gave me my favorite song of their as lead singer Hardy was forced into playing a solo piece, while the other guys dealt with the issue of the string. The more open exposure of a solo piece brought out some of Hardy’s most powerful vocals. The broken string also helped break some of the tension and the rest of the guys joined back with a more relaxed feeling.

Dead Confederate: website | myspace
Catfish Haven: website | myspace
Awesome Color: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany


Talking Mountain @ Urban Outfitters, Omaha

Omaha’s Urban Outfitters is officially a year old: commence the singing. Don’t worry if you aren’t feeling up to singing the tune yourself, Urban brought in their own bands for the occasion. To celebrate they had a sidewalk sale, cake and free performances by Tim Perkins, Honeybee and Talking Mountain. Urban knows how to celebrate in style.

Tim Perkins kicked off the music festivities, unfortunately, I arrived as he was wrapping up his set. So I instead I browsed the shelves while the adorable ladies (and the two gents) in Honeybee set up. With the lovely harmonies and fun instrumentation (ukulele! accordion!), this is one of my favorite Omaha acts, but alas, they are hidden away in the Midwest when they should be touring the world. As their set at Urban proved, they just get sweeter with time.

The three guys in Talking Mountain are quite interesting indeed. The are well known for always wearing masks. The stage set-up they had was intense and colorful with big bones in the back and store mannequins dressed in their merchandise. Since the event was about Urban, they featured a different Urban shirt for each song that they felt captured the mood of the song. Not always an easy task as the sing about such an odd variety of things like wrists and wizards. During their set they sang happy birthday to Urban while a cake was brought out. I love Talking Mountain and think they are a blast, but I should warn that they are an acquired taste because they do border a bit on the bizarre.

Tim Perkins: myspace
Honeybee: myspace
Talking Mountain: myspace

Written by: Bethany


NY Magazine’s Highbrow BBQ @ Solar One Complex, NYC

NY Magazine sponsored the Highbrow BBQ at Solar One Complex, a solar-powered, “green energy” arts and education center along the East River. “Top Chef” fans of the indie rock persuasion flocked to the event in the name of a 2-year subscription to NY Mag, free food and beer, a chance to witness “Top Chef: Season 3” contestant Chris “CJ” Jacobson take on grillmaster duties and a full set by indie rock darlings Islands (all for 25 bucks!). All in all, it was your not-so-average rock n’ roll beer-b-q along the NYC waterfront with awesome food and a kickass band.

The crowd was a mix of “Top Chef” fans, Islands fans, foodies, hip New Yorkers and “free beer” fans alike. While pale emo boys worked on their sun tans, some celeb-crazy individuals were able to coax uber-friendly CJ into posing for a photo as other fanboys and fangirls edged closer to the stage hoping to catch glimpses of Islands’ band members. The funniest part was the hordes of people zig-zagging the outdoor space, hopping from one line to the next. There were lines for food, the bathrooms, to win prizes/free stuff at the Saucony [Ed. Note: best shoes ever!] booth, and of course, the massive line for free beer. All these lines and the inevitable squabble with the occasional line-cutter, yet, sadly, no line dancing!

Did I mention the free beer? The Sugar Hill Harlem Brewing Company purveyed the alcohol and remained a hit with the crowd, until they ran out of beer for about 30 minutes. They eventually secured more and the crowd cheered like a bunch of frat boys. Running out of stuff seemed to be the theme for the event because even CJ’s culinary creations ran short and some people weren’t able to partake in the delectable goodies of the event’s menu:

* Moroccan BBQ pork tortillas with coriander citrus cabbage
* Vegetarian tortillas with grilled Moroccan eggplant, apples and dates
* Watermelon, chili and radish salad
* Grilled corn on the cobb sprinkled with cotija cheese
* Ginger peach cobbler
* Assortment of ice cream treats

The masses were forgiving because as soon as CJ hopped on stage to announce the Islands’ set, people forgot about the food/beer shortage and rocked the F out. Islands really got the crowd revved up with their brand of inventive indie pop. Super fun and super nice, they played many tracks off their latest release Arm’s Way and took requests from the crowd. They truly served as another reminder that Canadian indie rock never fails to please.

(For “Top Chef” fanatics, man, oh, man! is CJ tall: all 6 foot 8 inches of him! I chatted him up about “Top Chef: Chicago” and learned we share a mutual love of Richard Blaise, yet both agreed Stephanie Izzard deserved to win. We also laughed over Marcel Vigneron’s (Season 2) antics and he didn’t even mind when I gushed over the hotness that is Sam Talbot (Season 2). I jokingly asked him if he had his phone number, to which he smiled and said, “Unfortunately, no.”)

Islands: website | myspace

Written by: Mona Sheikh


Monolith Music Festival @ Red Rocks, Denver – Sunday, Sept. 14

Monolith Music Festival was just as busy and just as good on the second day, Sunday, Sept. 14. People started to come out a lot earlier for these acts. I had a long drive ahead of me, so I didn’t make it as late as the headliner Justice, but I still managed to catch a lot. Check out my pictures and reviews below. If you missed it, here is what I had to say about Saturday’s line-up: pt. I and pt. II.

2:00 P.M. to 2:30 P.M. Rosewood Thieves – Esurance Main Stage

I got to the venue in time to catch some of the Rosewood Thieves as they were finishing up their Dylan-esque folk rock set. I enjoyed the laid back jams I heard and wouldn’t mind giving trying to check them out another time.

2:45 P.M. to 3:15 P.M. Snowden – New Belgium Stage

After making the long trek up the stairs from the Esurance Main Stage to the New Belgium, I had the chance to catch my breath during Snowden‘s chill rock set. I really enjoyed grooving to their experimental rock, but what really caught my interest were the amazing bass lines and soulful harmonies of Corinne Lee.

3:00 P.M. to 3:45 P.M. Tokyo Police Club – Esurance Main Stage

Of all the bands at the festival, I must admit that Tokyo Police Club was the band I was most excited to see. This was partly because I really like their music, but also partly because they’ve canceled three shows that I’ve tried to see them at and I was finally getting to see them play live. The boys did not disappoint and put on an energetic set that had the audience clapping along. They all seemed genuinely pleased to be playing for the crowd and their enthusiasm was well-expressed in their music.

3:45 P.M. to 4:30 P.M. The Handsome Furs – New Belgium Stage

The Handsome Furs were one of those bands that I thought was really good, but maybe not as great as people are making them out to be. Denver was excited for this band because they’re not getting a visit from Wolf Parade on their upcoming tour, so I suppose this spin-off group sufficed. However, while they rocked musically, their stage show was a little dry.

4:30 P.M. to 5:10 P.M. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Stage

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson has been well-supported on this site by the other editors and writers and now I finally saw what the party was all about. MBAR and his supporting crew excellently swelled from mellow acoustic melodies to exploding indie rock anthems supported with big bass drums and guitar solos. MBAR treated the audience to a few new songs, which indicate the upcoming album should be amazing.

5:00 P.M. to 5:45 P.M. Tilly and The Wall – New Belgium Stage

Omaha represent! Tilly and the Wall are one of the best live groups you could possibly see. They play a series of songs that has everybody dancing whether they tap or not. One Omaha guy loves them so much he follows them around in fun outfits and Tilly even let him join them on stage. This was the first time I got to hear songs from O live and they sounded much better when accompanied by their live stage show than the recording was able to capture. My only regret about Tilly and the Wall was that I didn’t plan ahead and try to carpool to Monolith with them.

5:50 P.M. to 6:30 P.M. The Whigs – Stage

When I heard the Whigs on the radio, I wasn’t blown away. For the first song of their set, I still had yet to be blown away, but once the guys loosened up their Nirvana meets The Beatles music finally caught my attention. I especially loved when lead singer Parker Gispert kicked along with every clash of the cymbal.

5:45 P.M. to 6:45 P.M. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – Esurance Main Stage

I just caught a few songs of soulful singer Sharon Jones‘ set, but she definitely has a powerful voice that will get people grooving along. The highlight of her show was when she spotted Tilly and the Wall’s number one fan in the crowd and had security bring him on stage to dance with her.

6:30 P.M. to 7:15 P.M. The Kills – New Belgium Stage

There are just two members in the Kills, but they produce a sound as full as any band. This UK group is getting a lot of deserved buzz, but I suggest you catch them now before Alison Mosshart destroys her voice with her chain smoking.

7:15 P.M. to 8:15 P.M. Band of Horses – Esurance Main Stage

Band of Horses took to the main stage to play their easy rock tunes to a packed crowd that I was glad to see actually knew the words to more of their songs than what was in commercials like “Is There a Ghost.” I saw these guys a few years and loved the vocals, but was kind of bored by the stage show, which offered little more than what you could hear on a CD. However, these guys have come into their own and feel a lot more comfortable being on stage and it shows on their songs. This was a much improved set.

7:10 P.M. to 7:50 P.M. Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Stage

I wish I had gotten to this party sooner because I was forced to listen to the electronica songs of Does It Offend You, Yeah? from the hall as the played to an overflowing room of dancing bodies. Even from the hallway, they were a fun show to listen in on.

7:50 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. The Airborne Toxic Event – Gigbot Stage

So, you might have noticed that The Airborne Toxic Event‘s album’s reviews are slightly mixed, though we love it. However, one thing is for sure and that is that their stage show is phenomenal. While all the musicians are quite skilled, keyboardist and violinist Anna Bulbrook especially shined on stage as she climbed on amps and rocks, while playing the violin.

8:15 P.M. to 8:45 P.M. Paper Bird – Acoustic Stage

Up in the rocky mountains, Colorado has been keeping a little secret, but I doubt they’ll be able to keep septet Paper Bird secret much longer. With bass, banjo, trombone and some of the prettiest harmonies of the weekend, it was hard to not to become endeared with this sweet group.

8:45 P.M. to 10:00 P.M. TV on the Radio – Esurance Main Stage

They almost didn’t make it. Van troubles in Utah threatened to keep the boys in TV on the Radio away. Rumors the entire day were that they were not going to make it, but TV on the Radio insisted they wouldn’t miss it for the world and the rented cars to speed through the mountains in. You have to admire a band that determined to not let their fans down. They barely got to the venue in time, but the drama of their drive and the lack of a warm-up did not seem to phase these boys as the ripped through a set of old and new material. The new album held up quite well next to the older songs.

Monolith Music Festival put together a great line-up of the finest indie acts. With five stages hosting one fine group after another, it is very hard to criticize any aspect of the festival. Although I wish more people had come for the entire weekend. In the future, a weekend with this solid of a line-up should be a sell out.

Monolith Music Festival: website | Sunday line-up | Saturday review pt. I | Saturday review pt. II

Photos and writing by: Bethany


Rock the Vote featuring Ludo @ KCP&L, Kansas City MO

Kansas City’s 96.5 the Buzz and Rock the Vote recently teamed up to put on a special Rock the Vote event to get Kansas and Missouri voters registered, inform them about local politicians’ stance on the issues and to provide some great musical entertainment.

Politicians from both states were given a few minutes to speak in between performances by the bands. For a full list of politicians in attendance look here. I was more so interested in the bands, so I’ll be brief about the political stuff.

Some were better than others. There was a crazy libertarian who was all about the legalization of pot and an adorable, elderly Missourian named Dennis Moore who performed “This Land is Your Land.” Oh, and the biggest news of the day was that presidential candidate John McCain was staying at a hotel (The President Hotel, funnily enough), which was only a block away and he happened to have a free schedule that day.

Discovering this turn of events, those in charge of the concert gave information about the event to the hotel’s front desk and attached information to his bus. Alas, he was a no-show. Pity, too, because he really could have used the opportunity to reach out to the younger voters, especially when said voters live in a swing state like Missouri. Not wise, McCain, not wise. But enough about politics and on to the real reason you would check a music site: the music!

3:15-3:50 // The Belated
The Belated, a local Kansas City band, started off the show with a rocking set that showed them to be one of the better KC groups and sadly one of the more underrated ones. They even had the added draw that one of the sponsoring radio station’s DJs, Jason Ulanet, is a member of the band. Despite the quality rock present in their set, the audience didn’t give the band the warm reception they deserved. Regrettably, I believe the early set time left them with a smaller audience than what was present for the other bands when they easily deserved to have a crowd as large as the headliners.

4:30-5:10 // Waiting For Signal
Waiting For Signal was the other local musical representation. They had a harder sound than the other bands present and would have been better at an event for brother radio station, 98.9 The Rock, instead of 96.5 The Buzz. As much as I love seeing local bands supporting national acts at an event like this, Waiting For Signal seemed out of place…and this was not in a stand out, this-band-is-so-interesting-and-unique, way.

5:45-6:30 // Wombats
Liverpoolians The Wombats aren’t American and probably don’t really care too much about getting American voters registered, however, I am so glad this group was at this event because they stole the show. The threesome started off with an endearing a capella rendition of “Tales of Girls, Boys & Marsupials” and jumped right into a set filled with fun numbers that had people dancing to more than just their current single, “Let’s Dance to Joy Divison.” The band also kept the audience interested with more than just their tunes, but with fun stage banter as well. About midway through their set they took notice of a large screen that people were sending text messages to and the group started to make witty comments about the texts, saying things like, “George Bush doesn’t like Wombats, eh? Well the feeling is mutual.”

Set List:
Tales of Girls, Boys & Marsupials
Kill the Director
Lost in the Post
Party in a Forest (Where’s Laura?)
Here Comes the Anxiety
Moving to New York
Patricia the Stripper
Little Miss Pipedream
Let’s Dance to Joy Division
Backfire at the Disco

7:15-8:00 // Carolina Liar
I’m so over Carolina Liar, especially their overplayed unimaginative radio single “I’m Not Over.” Maybe if they weren’t so pitchy I could forgive this group getting such a prime set time and give them a better review, but I guess asking for correct intonation is too much to ask. They keyboardist came close to redeeming the band with some interesting riffs that were very Cure-esque.

8:50-9:40 // Ludo
St. Louis group Ludo headlined the event and they got really into the Rock the Vote theme of the night, constantly asking the audience if they felt they were rocking the vote and also declaring, “Ludo is America!” A bold claim.
Their set featured many of their more quirky tunes “Love Me Dead,” “In Space” and “Lake Pontchartrain,” but still had a nice balance of sweeter songs like “Topeka,” which turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser, especially because there were some Topekans in the audience. I have to give this band credit for being one of the more entertaining stage shows I have seen in awhile. Lead singer Andrew Volpe had hilarious facial expressions and gestures. I am pretty sure the guy was doing the splits for a majority of the set. I especially could not stop laughing when the band covered Faith No More‘s “Epic.” I would recommend checking them out live just to see what Volpe does on stage.

The Belated: website | myspace
Waiting For Signal: website | myspace
The Wombats: website | myspace
Carolina Liar: website | myspace
Ludo: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany
Photos by: Joshua


Hollapalooza @ Copaken Stage, Kansas City

After listening to everybody singing that obnoxious Soulja Boy song and getting over the shock of seeing little kids dancing to the inappropriate lyrics, I must admit, that I’ve been a little leery of modern hip hop. However, when PopWreckoning’s very own Ace Fadal suggested attending a showcase featuring Kansas City’s hip hop scene, I decided to give hip hop another chance and I am really glad I did.

I arrived at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s Copaken Stage not really knowing what to expect and consequently I was really pleasantly surprised by all the cool things happening at Hollapalooza. The purpose of the showcase was to promote a new hip hop musical Clay and to represent the four aspects of hip hop: graffiti, djing, b-boying and emceeing. Hollapalooza pulled this off in an inventive way that kept the audience involved. This wasn’t your usual concert because you didn’t just get to listen to hip hop, but you truly experienced it. The audience was completely immersed in hip hop.

Breakdown of the Four Aspects:
Graffiti: The stage was set up so that there were four easels along the back wall where four artists, in a demonstration of graffiti, were painting pieces representing the four aspects. One of the artists even pulled double duty and took a break from his b-boy painting to perform under his moniker Lucid. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the showcase because it was completely unexpected and it was really fun to watch the pieces develop throughout the day.

DJ/Turntablism: In between the rappers and sometimes in concurrence, DJs would set up on one of the two tables on either side of the stage. They had a difficult task because their sets could go one of two ways: they could end up as just background music as the audience took a little break due, as the day was quite lengthy, or they could end up starting a big dance party. The truly successful DJs like Sike Style had members of the crowd hopping up to center stage. During Sike Style’s set, a group of guys even started a back and forth freestyling rap off.

B-boying: This was the coolest aspect to see come together. While the stage was prepared for it, there wasn’t a set performance planned. It was audience dependent, so it was really cool to see members of the crowd hop up on stage and start dancing. Skill levels ranged, but everybody was really supportive of the other dancers. I was especially impressed by this guy in the purple pants who adapted to the DJs changing beats really well. Another person who impressed me was this little kid (under the age of ten) who hopped up there with all the older guys to show them how it should be done.

Emceeing/Rapping: This was the aspect of hip hop I think most are familiar with and it was the only aspect I had expected to see. It was also the aspect I was most nervous of because the lyrics of these can range from really vulgar sexual references like the aforementioned Soulja Boy song to actually having lyrics with deeper meanings. I must say I was quite impressed with the lyrics I heard from these rappers. On occasion, a performer would curse prompting an audience member to shout out, “There are little kids in here!” but for the most part, the performers were really good and had lyrics talking about things that deal with in their day to day lives. They all had really great audience interaction that had some of them like Kloudi out in the seats or a sing along like Milkdrop‘s and Reach‘s duet, “If the soul keeps rocking, the streets will keep rocking.” Milkdrop was probably one of my favorite sets and he had it right when he rapped a capella style, “I’m a hard act to follow.”

Overall, this was a really impressive day that surpassed all my expectations. If you live in the KC area I strongly recommend checking out Clay, the musical in which this was produced in conjunction. Clay hits the Copaken stage September 6-28, 2008.

KC Repertory Theatre: website | Hollapalooza | Clay | buy tickets for Clay

Written by: Bethany


Lollapalooza @ Grant Park, Chicago

Despite some rain late Thursday night, the weather in Chicago’s Grant Park was perfect for this year’s 2008 Lollapalooza festival. A nice breeze off the lake made this the perfect weekend to host the excellent and diverse lineup of music. The park was kept in pristine conditions as crews constantly walked around encouraging recycling and a cleaner environment. This festival knows what it’s doing and is one of the best organized and most considerate (they even had lots vegetarian options at the food booths!) shows in the business.

Lollapalooza by Jeff Gentner

Lollapalooza by Jeff Gentner

The whole weekend was sold out for the first time in the history of the festival. Friday had a record-breaking turnout as headliners Radiohead drew a sold out crowd of 75,000. Although, the earlier portion of the day wasn’t quite as packed, a solid crowd showed up to see the fine bands performing at the different stages leading up to Radiohead.

Starting off my day was Butch Walker on the PlayStation 3 Stage. Walker started his set solo with some fun loops on two new songs off his highly anticipated new album Sycamore Meadows before his band joined him on “State Line.” Walker performed a solid set showing that he is just as good an artist as he is a producer. If the new songs from his set are any indication of his new album, it is going to be phenomenal.

Butch Walker by Adam Bielawski

Butch Walker by Adam Bielawski

Any act following up the strong set by Walker would have a hard time not falling a little flat. Sure enough, the next act on the Bud Light Stage The Go! Team did just that. Maybe it is all that jumping around, but just because you want to be energetic in your presence doesn’t mean you should let the vocals suffer. Instrumental tracks like “Junior Kickstart” were just fine, but anytime Ninja would open her mouth I kind of wanted to go ninja and karate chop her throat.

Ninja of the Go! Team by Alberto Trevino

Ninja of the Go! Team by Alberto Trevino

After the poor pitches of the Go! Team, Welsh singer Duffy‘s soulful vocals were a welcome refreshment at the PlayStation 3 Stage. The young singer definitely has some pipes, but her stage presence could use a little work. Her hand motions quickly got repetitive, but maybe with a little experience, her set will get a little fresher.

Following Duffy, I caught a few songs by rockers Louis XIV over on the Citi Stage. Despite a few technical difficulties, the crowd went wild over radio single “Finding Out True Love Is Blind.” I didn’t stick around too long for Louis XIV because I didn’t want to miss a second of gypsy punk group Gogol Bordello over on the AT&T Stage and this was definitely not the set to miss. This raucous set was exactly what the crowd needed as an energy boost to get through the rest of the day. After walking around all morning in the sun, Gogol Bordello brought the crowd back to their feet for a big dance party as the band played through their accordion rock set.

Gogol Bordello by Chase Agnello-Dean

Gogol Bordello by Chase Agnello-Dean

Next up was Lawrence, Kansas indie rockers Mates of State. Their gentler set on the MySpace Stage was beautiful and it was a nice touch when the couple was joined by some strings. The crowd loved them, but it was hard to settle into their set after jumping around with Gogol Bordello.

Playing at the same time as Mates of State across the venue at the PlayStation 3 Stage was songstress Cat Power. Cat’s voice was just as great live as it is recorded. It is a shame that her set had to be the same time as Mates of State because they attract the same crowd.

Cat Power by Alberto Trevino

Cat Power by Alberto Trevino

Toward the end of Cat Power, the crowd quickly scrambled for a place to see The Raconteurs perform on the Bud Light Stage. Jack White and crew sounded great, but there was something a little off about their set. It could have been that they weren’t in their usual uniform, but street clothes or it could have been the technical difficulties causing Brendan Benson to drop out during the vocals of “Level,” but it just wasn’t as tight as their club performances.

Jack White of the Raconteurs by Stephanie Janisch

Jack White of the Raconteurs by Stephanie Janisch

I stopped at the Citi Stage for a few songs from Brazilian electro group CSS. Lovefoxxx must be tired of looking sexy because she sported a bright red spandex outfit with ruffles wrapping around it. CSS sounded a lot better live than their recording, surprisingly, and the crowd loved dancing around to their beats.

CSS by Abbey Braden

CSS by Abbey Braden

Radiohead closed out Friday on the AT&T stage. Thom Yorke and the rest of the guys thrilled the crowd by combining their tight instrumental skills with an amazing light show and fireworks as they performed songs like “Airbag,” “Fake Plastic Trees” and “There, There.” Friday’s crowd went home pleased after Radiohead’s double encore.

The crowd during Radiohead by Alberto Trevino

The crowd during Radiohead by Alberto Trevino

Radiohead by Alberto Trevino

Radiohead by Alberto Trevino

Radiohead wasn’t the only reason to attend this festival and Saturday looked just as packed. British group The Ting Tings was the perfect start to the day. Katie White (Interview at Diesel U Music Lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel) easily draws the eyes of the crowd as she energetically moves around singing their hits, but Jules de Martino should not be overlooked as he plays and sings with precision.

The Ting Tings by Alberto Trevino

The Ting Tings by Alberto Trevino

There was a little lag after the Ting Tings. Dr. Dog took to the MySpace stage, but was unmemorable. Foals played some fun dance songs over at the Citi Stage, but didn’t stand up to the high standard for other electro dance groups set by the Ting Tings. MGMT sounded phenomenal live, but their disinterest in a majority of their own set detracted from the performance. They finally loosened up and started bantering by the end of their set.

MGMT by Abbey Braden

MGMT by Abbey Braden

Brand New was the band to beat for best performance of the day, although Jesse Lacey‘s attitude may have detracted from the musical experience causing many to quickly forget just how good this performance was in actuality. Joined by Kevin Devine for their first song, they took to the AT&T Stage and put on the most powerful performance of the day. Jesse Lacey’s performance is better than ever, but he appears just as moody.
He seemed to be in a good mood at first as he seemingly jokingly told the crowd, “You should all be at Explosions in the Sky. You’re all fools.” But as the set progressed through “Sowing Season,” “Sic Transit Gloria,” “Jesus Christ” and a new song (tentatively called “Bride”), Lacey grew more and more frustrated with a pocket of disinterested crowd members before finally climaxing and throwing his guitar into the drum set and leaving the stage a full fifteen minutes before the set was meant to end. Despite this mishap, this was still one of the best performances of the day and the part of the crowd that was interested was left confused and chanting for an encore.

After Brand New, I caught some of Okkervil River‘s set across the venue at the PlayStation 3 Stage and their sweet indie rock was a nice respite. They were followed by Broken Social Scene over on the Bud Light Stage, but BSS is more suited for a smaller setting where their fun instrumentations can completely engulf the listener. As great as Okkervil and Broken were, they just couldn’t match the amphitheatric power of Brand New’s set.

Okkervil River by Amrit Singh

Okkervil River by Amrit Singh

To be quite honest, the crowd gathering for Saturday’s headliners Rage Against the Machine didn’t really appeal to us and we headed out early to get a head start home, which is lucky we did because the Chicago Transit system got backed up by three hours from the large crowd leaving Lollapalooza.

Lollapalooza continued on to Sunday and featured the usual buzz acts like Black Kids, but the real buzz swarming the venue all weekend was the suspected appearance of democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Unfortunately, Obama didn’t put in an appearance, but there were still plenty of special guests present at the festival. While Stars member Amy Millan joined the boys in Broken Social Scene on the Bud Light Stage, guitarist Slash joined festival co-founder Perry Farrell for a few songs. Plus, there were plenty of celebrities to spot like Lindsay Lohan and the Wentzes if you just kept your eyes open. This festival was filled with fun surprises and definitely not a weekend to miss.

Lollapalooza: website | schedule | setlists

Written by: Bethany