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

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Austin City Limits, Day 1

Arriving in Austin to sun and 90 degrees was only the beginning of an amazing weekend after leaving a gray and blustery Philadelphia behind. I stepped out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, soaking in the sun and admiring the native cacti growing freely, not a sight I’m used to. I soaked in the city’s sights via the 350 and 331 buses (oh yeah) and was beyond stoked for kicking off Austin City Limits with the Paste pre-party at Emo’s.

media wristband

media wristband

After partying into the early hours with other media people, music lovers, and PopWreckoning staff, I headed back to Driver F’s pad to catch some sleep before heading to the bus station to pick up Editor Joshua at 6am (ugh, so early!). After some nappage upon returning from the bus station, Josh and I prepared ourselves for the promising first day of Austin City Limits. We scored some breakfast at Mr. Natural, a delicious 100% vegetarian ‘fast food’ restaurant on South Lamar Boulevard before walking the couple miles to Zilker Park.

Once we’d arrived at the park, Josh and I stopped by Press Check-In to get our wristbands for the weekend and headed into the park to catch some music we loved and some music we’d never heard of. There was a bit of a snafu with photo passes, so we don’t have great photos, but we’ve hooked up with new friends at Quiet Color to use some of their shots.

1:30-2:30 // Yeasayer // Dell Stage
Yeasayer was awesome. These experimental Brooklyn kids know how to put on a show. They definitely set the mood for the weekend, which is why I’d planned on catching them first. Their energy grew with each song, in turn pumping up the crowd for a rowdy weekend of music amongst the masses.

Having seen Vampire Weekend at Popped! Philadelphia and not having been super impressed with them there, Josh and I made our way to the media tent for some cold beverages and exited the park to a soundtrack of “Oxford Comma,” which sounded great, but not enough to deter us from our quest of Mango Green Tea Sweet Tea and XXX Vitamin Water.

2:30-3:30 // Jakob Dylan & the Gold Mountain Rebels // AT&T Stage
We happened back into the park as Jakob Dylan and the Gold Mountain Rebels were owning the AT&T Stage. Dylan, straying from success maker The Wallflowers‘ path, sounds strikingly like his famous father. Both Josh and I were absolutely impressed with the folksy tunes that flowed from the stage across Zilker Park.

3:30-4:30 // Del Tha Funkee Homosapien // AT&T Blue Room Stage
Nee Teren Delvon Jones, this man kept it old school and breathed new life into the air as one of the few hip hop acts on the festival’s 130 band roster. Admittedly new to loving hip hop, it wasn’t until Gorillaz‘s “Clint Eastwood” back in 2001 that I first heard his rhymes. As recently as a few months ago, I scored Delton 3030 and knew that Del tha Funkee Homosapien was not to be missed.

Later in the day, I happened to be hanging out in the media area while Del was being interviewed. He is a very cool guy. Following Del’s interview, Gogol Bordello was had a photo shoot at the Paste tent, so Josh snapped some pictures while I sipped on a Tito’s and Red Bull.

4:30-5:15 // M. Ward // WaMu Stage
Matt Ward was born to play the guitar. While it was nothing short of having seen him play twice previously this summer at Virgin Mobile and in Philadelphia, it was nice to see Ward shine on his own without the beautiful distraction that is Zooey Deschanel, the She to his Him.

M. Ward, Photo: Jessica McGinley

5:15-6:00 // Mates of State // Austin Ventures Stage
Having seen them the previous night, I was more excited to hang in the media tent for happy hour, but lingered long enough to hear this duo’s delicious pop sounds.

5:45-6:45 // Jenny Lewis // WaMu Stage
Ms. Rilo Kiley herself played a strikingly beautiful set aided by friends such as Jonathan Rice as her backing band. Jenny belted with an enviable set of pipes as she played mostly songs from her recently released sophomore solo album Acid Tongue. Notables from the performance include the album’s title track, “Carpetbaggers” and “Fernando,” but then I also find those to be album highlights.

Zander, Quiet Color

Photo: Zander, Quiet Color

The crowd, not surprisingly, adored her. While it’s come to my attention that there are two camps of Jenny fans, those who praise her solo efforts and those who believe she’s only great with fellow Rilo Kiley band mate Blake Sennett, I can only say that her live performance is dynamic and should not be missed regardless of your thoughts on her albums.

Jenny Lewis

Photo: Jenny Lewis

6:30-7:30 // N.E.R.D. // AMD Stage
Following the lovely Ms. Lewis, I wandered past the Austin Ventures to catch a quick listen of Eli Young Band as I headed over to the AMD Stage for N.E.R.D.  who were just amazing! Pharrell, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley killed. The crowd was totally into it both on and off stage, as Pharell invited some ladies on stage to dance.

7:30-8:30 // The Swell Season // AT&T Blue Room Stage
I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about The Swell Season, but actually found them to be quite boring at Austin City Limits. The audience was massive and the light show was fantastic, but I just never got into the music. I’d try my hand at an indoor Swell Season show, but I was left unimpressed.

Neither Josh nor I had any interest in The Mars Volta or Manu Chao, and though I was urged by a cab driver earlier that morning to check out Alejandro Escovedo, we split. A hot and dusty day in Zilker Park required showering and dolling up before we could hit downtown Austin for after parties galore.

9:00-11:59 // Gnarls Barkley // Stubb’s BBQ
On our way to the Antics after party at 508 House, featuring a DJ set by CSS, we stopped at Stubb’s to catch a brief chunk of Gnarls Barkley’s set. Josh and I knew we’d catch them Sunday, so we didn’t stick around long, preferring to hit up the Antics party instead.

10:00-?? // Antics After Party feat. CSS // 508 House
Kickin’ it to 508 House was so worth every single second spent there. The line was around the corner for a good part of the night and with good reason. We hadn’t realized that “House” in the name was so apt — we were literally at a house party. Tito’s had some handmade vodka free-flowing, Antics/Toyota were set up making shirts on the far and of the yard, chicks were hanging out of windows, CSS was DJing as kids danced madly and Wayne Coyne (yeah, that guy from The Flaming Lips) sat in a patio chair sipping a drink and casually chatting.

Following CSS’ sweet DJ set, we were treated to a new set which include cheesy dance jams “Vogue” and “Bootylicious.” Once we’d danced our faces out, we hit the streets of downtown again, wandering 6th Street in hopes of a new form of entertainment, but were mostly surprised to find a lot of bros and hos. Bored and slightly annoyed at the bro/ho-deo, we high-tailed it back to chez Driver F for some sleep to prepare for day 2!

Austin City Limits: website

Up next: Day 2

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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

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Popped! Music Festival – Philadelphia, PA – Photos

Hoots & Hellmouth

Dan Deacon:

Gogol Bordello:

Crystal Castles:

Mates of State:

Vampire Weekend:

words to follow.

Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us

Mates of State’s sixth album, Re-Arrange Us, which hit stores May 20th, is not what I would describe as a disappointment, but certainly not what I’d call a masterpiece either. Kori Gardner, one half of the married couple that forms the band, decided to give up her signature 70s Electrone organ for a piano and the change is definitely notable. Some of it isn’t the greatest sound, but there’s no shortage of pros regarding that decision either.

Some of the instrumentals seem absolutely flat; check out the tune “My Only Offer” and you’ll see. Some of the songs just lack the certain tanginess, and even that trademark sugariness, of their previous songs. They have subdued themselves in this album in a way they never have before and occasionally it sounds like they’re not sure about how they think it’s going, which just further disorients the big fans of their previous albums, especially the exquisite Bring it Back.

They are still solid and will be enjoyable to any sweet summer backdrop that you happen to find yourself in. Some of the lyrical content leaves a little bit to be desired (see: “You are Free”) but they do go well with the music they’re put to, and aren’t ever really terrible. If you stay away from “Jigsaw” you won’t be missing out on a whole lot though, I must say.

Don’t get me wrong, Re-Arrange Us is not bad, and there are some real gems on it. For instance, “Blue and Gold Print” will break through those summer backdrop songs that Mates of State have relegated them to. The lyrics are intricate and sensitive and the instrumentals behind it compliment the song almost perfectly. It’s definitely a song to savor.

“Help Help” will get you moving if you are a person with arms and legs, no matter how cool you’re trying to be. Title track “Re-Arrange Us” is, if just a tiny bit weak, an undoubtable anthem that you’ll be singing in your head all day. Jason Hammel, the band’s other half, still pulls me in with his melodic “everything-is-okay-now-I’m-here” voice. And, as always, they never once become pretentious or drown us with ignorable cuteness.

They’re still a refreshing mix in the increasingly carbon-copied indie music scene. They are still those originators of delicious sounds they proved themselves to be years ago when they were still learning. The best thing about this album is the newer, more grown-up direction, though a bit hesitant at points, is definitely a direction that they chose and went ahead with. The best thing about Mates of State as a whole is their ability to include you in the songs they’re singing without being overly blunt or inarticulate. And that presence is still felt all over this album.

Re-Arrange Us is worth the buy, they still put their all into performing and are awesome to see live, but just listen to it a little warily at first, you’ll accept it and love it before you even realize.

Mates of State: website | myspace | live review

by: Jimmy

Mates of States on Conan, Tour Dates

Duo Mates of State will be releasing their latest offering and fifth full length studio release Re-Arrange Us next week on Barsuk Records. The pair will mark the occasion by appearing on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” that night.

Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, aka Mates of State, have just launched the “Most Mates” online game on their official website and the new album’s official website. The rules are fairly self-explanatory: Create your own version of the already customizable Re-Arrange Us artwork with as many “Mates” as possible. The winning entry with the “Most Mates” will have his or her version featured on MatesofState.com, Mates of State’s myspace page and Barsuk Records’ homepage.

You can catch Mates of State on tour starting tonight through next month (dates below & tickets available now!) with Headlights opening. Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears will also be on the bill for the Texas dates.

Tour Dates:
05/16 – New Haven, CT – Toad’s Place
05/22 – San Francisco, CA – Slim’s
05/24 – Bend, OR – Les Schwab Amphitheater
05/25 – Sasquatch Festival, Washington – Gorge Amphitheater
05/28 – Los Angeles, CA – Henry Fonda Theater
06/06 – Lawrence, KS – Wakarusa Music Festival
06/07 – Omaha, NE – The Slowdown
06/08 – St. Louis, MO – The Bluebird
06/10 – Oklahoma City, OK – Bricktown Ballroom
06/11 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theatre
06/13 – Austin, TX – Emo’s Alternative Lounge
06/14 – Little Rock, AR – Rev Room
06/15 – Memphis, TN – Hi-Tone
06/17 – Newport, KY – Southgate House
06/18 – Pittsburgh, PA – Mr.Small’s Theatre
06/21 – Philadelphia, PA – Popped! Music Festival
07/25 – Pemberton, BC – Pemberton Festival
08/01 – Chicago, IL – Lollapalooza-Grant Park
08/08 – Liberty State Park, NJ – All Points West Festival
09/26 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Festival

Mates of State: website | myspace | Re-Arrange Us | Record Store Day live review

Mates of State – Newbury Comics, Boston Ma.

Mates of State (a.k.a. married parents of two, Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel) has been one of my all time favorites for years now. So it’s only appropriate that my first piece for PopWreck(oning) is about them.

April 19th was National Record Store Day, a nationwide event where artists showed up to local record stores across the country to show their support for the businesses that fight to keep the music scene alive and non-generic. I had the pleasure of seeing Mates of State perform a short set at Newbury Comics, a definite Boston institution. And if anyone can get a bunch of college students up for a performance at noon on a Saturday, it’s the upbeat and never pretentious Mates of State.

I stood in anticipation of the show (this was my eighth time seeing them live) while bleary eyed but excited kids gathered around as Mates of State set up their equipment in front of a wall of t-shirts from The Goonies, Reservoir Dogs and the like.

As they test the instruments, Kori tentatively asks “Should we turn the organ up?” and, as if everyone wakes up at once, there is a resounding “Yes!” from the crowd. Someone shouts, “Is that even a question?” And with that they are ready and they start into “Fraud in the 80s,” the first single from their last album Bring it Back. They follow “Fraud” with “Beautiful Dreamer” and everyone cranes forward for a good video or picture. Honestly, I wish that people would go back to just watching shows with their own two eyes, as some had their cameras out the entire set.

The third song they play is new, but one that a few recognize, having heard it on their last tour. YouTube videographers and message board participants often call the song “Now Now,” and it was truly delightful in the classic Mates of State style. They ended up playing “Goods,” “Like You Crazy,” “For The Actor” and two other new songs from their upcoming album Re-Arrange Us (out May 20th on Barsuk). I was really stoked for the new material and I wasn’t disappointed. “Get Better” sounds much more….Mates of Statesy live than it does recorded. It looks like they’ve definitely stuck to what makes them so fantastic – sweet melodies, pleasant voices and quirky lyrics – but also added a little more traditional indie rock beats and tones to their songs as well. It makes sense since they worked with talents like Jim Eno and Chris Walla for the new album.

It was most certainly an awesome set and it’s great to see that they always keep the energy up and perform with the same light heartedness and enthusiasm that they did back in their days as openers in small clubs and I can’t wait to hear all of Re-Arrange Us.

You can check out the new video for single “Get Better” from the upcoming Re-Arrange Us.

Tour Dates:
May 16 – Toad’s Place/New Haven, Connecticut
May 22 – Slims/San Francisco, California
May 24 – Les Schwab Amphitheater/Bend, Oregon
May 25 – Sasquatch Festival/Quincy, Washington
May 28 – Henry Fonda Theater/Los Angeles, California
Jun 06 – Wakarusa Festival/Lawrence, Kansas
Jul 25 – Pemberton Festival/Pemberton, British Columbia
Aug 01 – Lollapalooza/Chicago, Illinois
Aug 08 – All Points West Festival/Liberty State Park, New Jersey
Sep 26 – Austin City Limits Festival/Austin, Texas

Mates of State: website | myspace
Newbury Comics: website

-Jimmy