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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Beastie Boys Swing State Voter Awareness Tour

Jennifer Hall

Photo: Jennifer Hall

New York rappers the Beastie Boys will hit the road on performing shows in crucial swing states for the upcoming Presidential election. So far, shows have been announced in Virginia, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Joining the band in various markets will be Sheryl Crow, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, Crosby & Nash, Santogold, Tenacious D, and special guests, as well as representatives from the Rock The Vote, who will be on hand to distribute information on local polling sites, including early voting locations where available.

The first three shows to be announced are:

Oct. 28 – Richmond, VA – Richmond Coliseum
Beastie Boys/Jack Johnson/Norah Jones/Santogold

Nov. 01 –  St. Paul, MN – Roy Wilkins Auditorium
Beastie Boys/Ben Harper/Tenacious D
Presale begins: Thu, 10/16/08 at 10:00 AM

Nov. 02 – Milwaukee, WI – U.S. Cellular Arena
Beastie Boys/Ben Harper/Crosby & Nash/Tenacious D

Remaining shows will be announced shortly. Check back for details.

Beastie Boys: website | myspace

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Interview with: Emily Whitehurst of The Action Design

You may know her better as “Agent M” from the modern legendary punk outfit Tsunami Bomb, but Emily Whitehurst hasn’t slowed down despite the demise of her first act in 2005. Fellow ex-Tsunami Bomber Matt Mckenzie joined Whitehurst in the 2006 creation of The Action Design, which nods to the pair’s punk rock roots but infuses hooky bass lines and powerful rhythms to create a catchy dance rock sound.

Editor in Chief Jessica caught up with Emily prior to the Philadelphia leg of their national tour with friends Killola. Rather discuss Whitehurst’s previous outfit, they talked about touring, tribute albums and Santogold.

Jessica, PopWreckoning: I can’t believe it’s already almost September 23rd! Your album comes out next week.
Emily Whitehurst, The Action Design: Yeah.
PW: That’s exciting. Would you talk about it a little bit. What went into making your debut album?
EW: We would come to practice with a basic guitar part or a bass part and then we all build on it from there, basically. Then I take the song home and work on it as far as vocals and melody. Then we get back together again and rearrange it. We do it over and over again as far as arranging goes, so each song is really process. We want to make sure that we’re happy with everything about it. And we are.

: How long did it take to actually get the album to where you were happy with it?
EW: I think we started writing the songs maybe 6 months in advance. We weren’t on a super strict schedule so we just wrote when we felt like it. We didn’t have the contrary much which was good.
The recording, I believe, it was kind of sporadic, too. It was recorded by the label owner; he owns his own studio as well. It wasn’t super spread out, but I think it took longer than it normally would have. Overall was the mixing and everything that took six weeks or so.
PW: How did The Action Design get involved with Pop Smear?
EW: We released our first EP (listen) with them before this, which was an introduction to The Action Design in the summer of 2007.

: You guys are part of a Seaweed compilation called Hours and Hours. How did you get involved with that?
EW: Some of the guys in the band love Seaweed and are really influence by them. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. I mean, I like Seaweed, but a couple of our guys are in love with Seaweed. Our bass player Matt [Mckenzie] heard about the comp and wrote to the label that was putting it out, KOI Records, and said, “We wanna be on this comp. We love Seaweed! Please let us be on it!” They said OK so we did the cover of “Kid Candy” and we were really happy with that. It’s really different from the original, which is what we wanted.
PW: So you guys got to choose that song or did they ask you to do something that hadn’t already been taken?
EW: Well, they told us what was already taken and then we went through the whole catalog and figured out which song we could translate best. And “Kid Candy” wasn’t taken, so it worked out.

: In support of the album that comes out next week, you are currently co-headlining a tour with Killola.
EW: Killola, yeah.
PW: How long have you been on the road already?
EW: I guess about two weeks.
PW: How has the tour been?
EW: It’s going great! We’re heading to Vienna, Virginia right now.
PW: What’s been the best stop on the tour so far?
EW: The show was surprisingly good in Baton Rouge. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to because of the hurricane and neither band had ever played there before. It was a really great crowd that just danced all night. It was pretty awesome. The show in Atlanta was in a really cool spot. It looked like Georgia architecture is a lot of brick buildings, it was a really cool area.
PW: Yeah, Atlanta is cool. The tour goes through the beginning of October, which is rapidly approaching, I’ll see the Philadelphia show on Friday. What can the crowd expect?
EW: Well every night we try and put all of our energy into the show, and we haven’t gotten tired yet. So hopefully we’ll still have that energy at the end of the tour.
PW: I’m sure you will. It’s a really cool place that you guys are going to playing. They have a really great sound system. It’s a bar so you think it’s going to be bar acoustics, but they have a really great sound system.
EW: Nice.

: Over the summer, you played on a bunch of Warped Tour dates. What was it like playing at Warped?
EW: It was really hot! [laughs] Our air conditioner broke in our van, so it was a very hot tour. Aside from that, it was pretty cool. There are like a 100 bands on everyday at Warped Tour, so we got to see a bunch of really cool bands and meet some great people. We made some good friends.

: How did you end up on Warped Tour?
EW: We played 5 dates last year, so this year. We were on the Kevin Says Stage. You submit for it through Kevin [Lyman] and he picks the bands. We were received pretty well last year so he gave us more dates this year.

: Cool. Were there any bands that you played Warped with last year that you got to see or hang with again?
EW: I think for the most part it was all different bands. Usually they switch it up every year, so I don’t think there were any bands that we played with both years.

: Do you like shows like Warped Tour, big festivals or do you prefer what you’re doing right now with headlining a show in smaller clubs?
EW: I think there are advantages of both types of touring. I think festival shows are really good for the band as a method of gaining new fans since the draw is not primarily The Action Design. We meet a lot of new people, which is really great.
When we’re on our own, regular tour, the attention is a lot more focused. At Warped Tour it’s hard because there are a hundred bands playing so it’s difficult to obtain those new fans. It’s like a double-sided thing.
PW: Festivals can definitely be overwhelming with so much going on at once. A lot of festivals now have competition from non-musical acts, too, so even for the music lovers in attendance, it’s hard to try to fit everything in. And the schedule always overlaps so you can never see a full set of half the bands you’re there for.

PW: If you and the guys were able to set up your dream tour, you could share the stage with anybody you wanted, who would you want to play on the same bill with?
EW: Oh, that’s one of the hardest questions ever!
PW: It’s become one of PopWreckoning‘s signature questions and everyone says that. [laughs] It doesn’t even have to make sense as far as a cohesive tour, though. It could totally be crazy. Just whomever you want to play with.
EW: We all have really different tastes in the band as far as our favorite bands. One favorite band that we all have in common is Bloc Party. Who are still around, so it could be possible! Maybe Ween or somebody like that. Yeah, why not? Oh, and then a band that we met on Warped Tour that we’re all super good friends with now and that we hope we can play with again is called Beat Union.
PW: Where are they from?
EW: The UK.
PW: Sweet, I’ll have to check them out.
EW: Yeah, they’re really good!

: What kind of music are you listening to now?
EW: Well, Beat Union, for one. [laughs] I’ve also been listening to Santogold a lot. Have you heard of her?
PW: Yeah, absolutely, she’s great! Totally blowing up all over the place in TV and film and commercials.
EW: She’s just now starting to reach the West Coast.
PW: Oh, OK. Well she’s originally from Philadelphia, which is where I’m from, and she was in a punk band around her for a while. Now she’s off doing this totally different thing with is taking off like crazy.
EW: Oh, that’s awesome. I just heard about her a few months ago and I love it. So I guess maybe I don’t have anything new to tell you about. [laughs]
PW: Oh, no, that’s cool. Sorry to burst your bubble! [laughs] Beat Union is new to me, though, so they’re new to me.
EW: Phew!

PW: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I’m looking forward to the show on Friday!
EW: Yeah, we have you on our list so you should come up and say hi!
PW: Absolutely! Thanks again, see you soon.

The Action Design: website | myspace | live review

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Rock The Vote Hits The Road

Rock the Vote, already successful in registering 1.5 million people this year alone through the organization’s website, hope to build on this number as they put on some concerts with the likes of Talib Kweli, Santogold, Hawthorne Heights and more.

Having achieved strong registration results through visits across Tennessee and Virginia, the stage has been set for the upcoming stops:

Sep 19 – Philadelphia, PA
Sep 20 – State College, PA
Sep 21 – Pittsburgh, PA
Sep 23 – Youngstown, OH
Sep 24 – Akron, OH
Sep 25 – Cleveland, OH
Sep 26 – Kent, OH
Sep 27 – Columbus, OH
Sep 28 – Cincinnati, OH
Sep 29 – Bloomington, IN
Oct 02 – St. Louis, MO
Oct 04 – Iowa City, IA
Oct 06 – Minneapolis, MN

Details of specific artist performances, registration details and running updates from the tour can be found at: www.RockTheVote.com

As always, PopWreckoning encourages you to exercise your right vote. If you’re not already, register to vote today!

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Santogold To Join Coldplay Tour

In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Philadelphia native Santogold will support Coldplay on part of their North American arena tour this summer (dates below). These will be the first Santogold live dates in the US since SXSW and Coachella where her performances became highlights of the festivals. She will also perform at this year’s Lollapalooza and Central Park SummerStage.

Downtown/Lizard King released Santogold’s self-titled debut album in April and it instantly became one of 2008’s most acclaimed albums with Rolling Stone declaring her “The future of music, today” due to the album’s genre-defying sound. Critics and radio have championed the record’s first single “L.E.S. Artistes” and the video became an online sensation.

Tour Dates:
Jul 20 – New York, NY @ Central Park SummerStage
Jul 23 – Chicago, IL
@ United Center *
Jul 25 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wachovia Center *
Jul 29 – Montreal
@ Bell Center *
Jul 30 – Toronto
@ Air Canada Center *
Aug 02 – Hartford, CT
@ XL Center *
Aug 03 – Washington DC
@ Verizon Center*
Aug 04 – Boston, MA
@ TB Banknorth Garden *

*supporting Coldplay

Santogold: website | myspace | download “Your Voice”

Santogold Behind the Scenes

Take a behind the scenes look video at Santogold‘s “L.E.S. Artistes” music video:

Santogold: myspace | youtube

Santogold MP3, Videos

The wonderful internet institution known as RCRD LBL has a free and exclusive download of Santogold‘s song”Your Voice” here. You can also watch the video for “LES Artistes” below:

Be sure to check out Santogold’s Backstage Pass mtvU video here and her performance at The Fader 51 here. And if that’s still not enough Santogold for you (of course it’s not!) you can stream the song “Creator” in real or win.

Santogold: website | myspace