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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Warped Tour 2008 Rundown – Kansas City (Part One)

As a journalist, Warped Tour is something for which you have to train. With a set up structured to featured as many as 100 bands spread across as many as 10 stages, you simply have to have your ass in shape to maximize your ability to catch as many acts as possible. I often found myself running the entire length of Capitol Federal Sandstone Amphitheater to get shots of a band we had interviewed. While the bands themselves only play for up to 30 minutes, the schedule of 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. is unreal. Couple this with raging heat and limited resources for comfort, the day borders on over stimulation to the max. Furthermore, often times a band’s set will overlap other band’s, making it absolutely impossible to cover every act. The start of the day consists of picking and choosing which acts to cover and which acts will be shunned.

Below, I have listed the schedule of events from my Warped Tour and the notes taken throughout the day. While slightly informal, I hope you enjoy.

10:35 A.M. – Sign In, Set up Interview

After receiving credentials that allowed me to enter the venue, Bethany and I wandered back to the press room to check the list of bands that would be doing interviews throughout the day. After a long discussion of who we should pick, the Popwreckoning team narrowed it down to the following list: Beat Union, The Color Fred, Norma Jean, Cobra Starship, The Academy Is, Jack’s Mannequin, Story of the Year and We the Kings. We also learned that our interview with Gym Class Heroes had been canceled due to an incident the previous evening in St. Louis.

11:20 A.M. to 11:50 A.M. The Academy Is – Route 66 Stage

The Academy Is

I saw these kids years ago opening for Midtown and Fall Out Boy on a Fueled by Ramen tour showcase. At the time I have to say that I left the venue relatively unimpressed by their performance. But the thing about music is that bands very seldom stay the same. Lineup changes and years of practice can make a fairly ignorable outfit become a pretty big deal on stage. With tight and catchy guitar riffs over very infectious vocals from the the band’s ridiculously charming front man, William Beckett, The Academy Is not only did a splendid job opening Kansas City’s Warped Tour, they bordered on being one of the best bands to watch. Those of you who were stuck in line or just decided to come late, you missed one hell of a set.

Grade: A-

11:50 A.M. to 12:20 P.M Story of the Year – Highway 1 Stage

Story of the year

No lie, Story of the Year is the hardest band I have ever photographed in my life. Their movements are extremely quick and their set consists of a ton of jumps and spins. Keeping them in your lens is no small feat. The band puts on a fairly entertaining show for those who like to watch a lot of stage antics. I must confess that I was less than impressed with their musicianship, however. There simply seemed to be a lot of dropped notes and vocals slightly to extremely out of key. To me, it is very important to be able to play first, move later, and not the other way around. I was extremely disappointed and ended up leaving this band’s set early to steal a hot dog from the press room.

Grade: D+

12:45 P.M. to 1:15 P.M. Beat Union – Hurley.com Stage

Beat UnionBeat Union was the first band of the day that I had seen that I would willingly classify as a “punk” band. Their sound reminded me of a mixture between The Clash and Elvis Costello. More than likely this familiarity had a lot to do with the group hailing from the United Kindom. With a slight feel of dirty rock surrounding them, this group seems to me to be the ideal band to catch in a dive bar like the now defunct CBGBs. Sadly, I only caught roughly a song and a half of what I imagine would have been an extremely entertaining set before having to rush over to snag an interview in the press room.

Grade: B+

1:15 P.M. to 1:45 P.M. The Maine – Smartpunk Stage

The Maine

Combining the sounds of power pop and arena rock, The Maine has a pretty nice set up going for them. Hell, my biggest complaint from their set was nothing more than the fact that two members of the group were sporting the same shirt on stage. Tacky! Thankfully, we were covering Warped Tour and not “America’s Next Top Model.”

While I only got to see four songs by The Maine before sprinting across the venue to catch The Briggs’ first three songs, their set left me wanting to see a lot more of them. Their vocals are quite catchy and the band hangs on the hooks they have constructed. This is the type of band that gets stuck in your head for days. I will be doing my best to catch them in the future.

Grade: B

The Academy Is: website | myspace
Story of the Year: website | myspace
Beat Union: myspace
The Maine: myspace