Depeche Mode 9/9/17

(a) setlist

  1. Going Backwards
  2. So Much Love
  3. Barrel of a Gun
  4. A Pain That I’m Use To (Jacques Lu Cont remix)
  5. Corrupt
  6. In Your Room
  7. World in My Eyes
  8. Cover Me
  9. A Question of Lust (acoustic)
  10. Home
  11. Poison Heart
  12. Where’s the Revolution
  13. Wrong
  14. Everything Counts
  15. Stripped
  16. Enjoy the Silence
  17. Never Let Me Down Again

Encore:

  1. Somebody
  2. Walking in My Shoes
  3. Heroes (David Bowie cover)
  4. I Feel You
  5. Personal Jesus

(b) highlights

  • Depeche!!! Mode!!!! YESSSSS!
  • this was one of the best show I’ve seen in such a long time, probably the best performance of the year. I’m still buzzing about it, and I’m writing about this over a month and a half later.
  • this setlist was out of control, so tight, so measured, so so damn good.
  • I’ve heard roughly a dozen covers of “Heroes” over the last two years since Bowie’s death and this was the best without a doubt. hands down.
  • “In Your Room,” “Wrong,” and “Everything Counts” were phenomenal; don’t even get me started on “Enjoy the Silence” and “Personal Jesus.”
  • the high-class visuals of this show were probably the best I’ve ever seen since New Order and U2; the use of the screens and runways was made for massive arenas yet totally made Madison Square Garden feel small and intimate.
  • the perfect classics fit so perfectly along Depeche Mode’s new music and that is definitely something I can say about legacy acts.
  • this show was so good that it made me raise my personal bar for what determines a great show and performance; if you’ve been around for over a decade, have money, and claim to prioritize the necessity of showmanship, then you better see Depeche Mode and see how they’ve perfected it.

(c) lowlights

  • nothing. not a single thing.

(d) overall thoughts

I’ve been a fan of Depeche Mode since high school when I first discovered them. Like U2, The Smiths, The Cure, and other 80’s bands that I deeply treasure, Depeche Mode have always been artists that felt untouchable and unreal to me. And after seeing them at Madison Square Garden at this show, David Gahan, Andy Fletcher, and Martin Gore feel even more godly.

I think the reason this show felt so legendary to me was because I was expecting something else. It would’ve been so insanely easy for Depeche Mode to stroll out, play a couple of classics, maybe throw in a few new cuts, and most people probably still would’ve had a good time. But that’s not at all what they did. They didn’t settle whatsoever. Gahan came out with more star-power energy than guys half his age. But that’s exactly the point of what made this show next level: not a single moment was half-assed.

Even though I was sitting at the clear back of the venue in pretty good seats, and I’ve definitely had better seats at Madison Square Garden, I’ve never seen a crowd with more energy. And I have seen massive groups perform there. Radiohead, U2, Blur, The Cure and Morrissey all had notable, high-energy crowds, but none of them could touch this. At one point, I couldn’t even hear Gahan singing “Everything Counts,” but thousands upon thousands voices all chanting together. I felt like the walls of MSG were going to fall off.

I feel like I could talk endlessly about Gahan’s energy as a frontman, Martin Gore’s strength as a both a singer and guitarist, Andy Fletcher’s consistent purity, hit after hit shocking the audience with their perfection, and the unbelievable visuals, but I would much rather tell you to see Depeche Mode and see them as soon as you can. You will only regret missing them.

Bottom line: Depeche Mode have no interest in resting on their laurels as musicians and performers, and that’s just one more reason they’re incredible artists. I won’t forget this show and have no problem saying it’s probably the best performance I saw this year. This is one of those shows I’ll be thinking about and remember for years and years to come.

DIIV 8/17/17

(a) setlist

  1. (Drunn)
  2. Past Lives
  3. Human
  4. When You Sleep (My Bloody Valentine cover)
  5. Healthy Moon
  6. Dopamine
  7. Judge (Alex G cover)
  8. Summertime (Girls cover) (with Tommy Gardner)
  9. Needle in the Hay (Elliott Smith cover)
  10. Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime (Beck cover)
  11. Sometime
  12. Hollow (Alex G cover)
  13. Earthboy
  14. How Long Have You Known?
  15. Loose Ends
  16. Under the Sun
  17. Home
  18. Wait (with Tommy Gardner)

(b) highlights

  • this is the first time I’ve seen DIIV and given their sound a chance, and it was so cool
  • the intimacy of this performance at Murmrr was mindblowing; it truly felt like I was invited to someone’s apartment for an intimate, private acoustic gig
  • the art and visual component of this show was so incredible that the moment the show ended, I immediately found the artist in the balcony who was manipulating the ink and paint that was being projected on the sheet behind the performance. it was amazing.
  • lead singer Zachary Cole Smith was such a compelling figure during the show, opening up about his sobriety, recovery, and self-awareness in performing. it was quite refreshing.

(c) lowlights

  • there was nothing I really disliked about the performance, other than maybe Murmrr is basically in the middle of nowhere Brooklyn

 

(d) overall thoughts

I ended up going to this show because a friend of mine is a huge DIIV fan. I really like walking into shows blind, especially when I’m with a friend who loves the artist. It makes me excited to experience the show through my friend’s eyes.

Without a doubt, the best part of this performance was the overwhelming intimacy of the space and sound. The acoustic softness partnered with the beautiful live art projecting on the stage made the overall stage design so unique and momentous. Layers of carpets, dimly-lit lamps, and a messy coffee table with personal items and trinkets created the perfect stage – as if the show was a living play.

When Zachary softly sang his personal songs – and even threw in a couple of favorites from songwriters Alex G and Elliott Smith – I felt like I could feel every emotion pour out of him. Every couple of songs, he would whisper into the mic, “God I’m so nervous” and it instantly endeared him to everyone. Despite the heavy subject matter of many of the lyrics, the band kept it light by joking together and bringing up that reality show staple Big Brother. It was hard not to smile that night.

Whoever’s idea it was to include a few artists up in the balcony, dripping and manipulating color and paint on screens and canvases that would reflect on a screen behind the stage – please know that you’re a genius. Every song felt like it had even more meaning and weight when it was coupled with swirling colors telling their own story.

Bottom line: DIIV is such a unique group of people willing to open up and bare their souls in a way that felt refreshing and off-the-cuff without the hint of calculation. The artistry of combining colorful visuals with a personalized stage design and acoustic takes on songs created a beautiful space and unforgettable night.

Andrew Bird 7/28/17

(a) setlist

  1. Hole in the Ocean Floor
  2. Fiery Crash
  3. A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left
  4. Tenuousness
  5. Why?
  6. Capsized
  7. Truth Lies Low
  8. Roma Fade
  9. My Sister’s Tiny Hands
  10. Give It Away
  11. Orpheo
  12. Three White Horses
  13. Are You Serious
  14. Valleys of the Young
  15. Pulaski at Night
  16. Darkmatter

Encore:

  1. Caravan (Duke Ellington cover with Esperanza Spalding)
  2. Fake Palindromes
  3. Tables and Chairs

(b) highlights

  • Andrew Biiiiirrddddd, I love this man
  • I only stayed for the first couple of songs and was grateful to catch “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” – one of my all-time favorite songs
  • the Prospect Park Bandshell is so beautiful and cool, I hope I can go back there for a show

(c) lowlights

  • I didn’t get to stay for the whole show, but I enjoyed the little bit I saw
  • this show was packkkkeddd. like too many people were filling the space, and it bummed me out that tickets were free, but that meant you had to sit behind dozens of rows of rich people who regularly give money to Prospect Park.

 

(d) overall thoughts

Andrew Bird is an artist I’ve loved for years and I was super psyched for this show. Even though several things went wrong and I couldn’t stay for the whole gig, I loved every moment I got to see.

The Prospect Park Bandshell is a huge and beautiful venue that I can’t believe I haven’t visited before. It was a warm Friday night and the grass was full of families, friends, and food, not to mention, sweet-sounding strings echoing in the night. Andrew Bird’s impeccable whistling, measured violin playing, and ethereal voice lifting through the crowd was enough to give me chills and remind me of all the reasons why I love him.

“A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” and “Tenuousness” are some of my all-time favorite Andrew Bird songs and they sounded just as beautiful as I imagined they be. The stage was sparse, but thoughtful lighting, and a giant, rotating gramophone beside Andrew set the scene well. I’m disappointed to have missed “Darkmatter” and “Fake Palindromes” – other favorite tracks of mine – but I’m eager to check out Andrew again in a more traditional theatre setting.

 

Bottom line: Andrew Bird is nothing short of an artist. The subtlety of his art through strings, voice, and whistling deserves an appropriate stage and I look forward to one day seeing him on one.

Muse 7/24/17

(a) setlist

  1. Dig Down
  2. Psycho
  3. Interlude
  4. Hysteria
  5. Map of the Problematique
  6. Bliss
  7. The 2nd Law: Isolated System
  8. The Handler
  9. Supermassive Black Hole
  10. New Kind Of Kick (The Cramps cover)
  11. Madness
  12. Undisclosed Desires
  13. Starlight
  14. Time Is Running Out
  15. Mercy

Encore:

  1. Uprising
  2. Knights of Cydonia

 

(b) highlights

  • this was my first time officially shooting a show for a real publication!!! and it was shooting MUUUUSSSEEE. literal dream come true. (you can check out some of my shots at The Pop Break – I have more below here, as well.)
  • this show was for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City, which is cool af; Muse always knows what’s up
  • setlist was fire – into all the songs here, don’t care what haters say
  • Map of the Problematique!!!!
  • for real, getting to shoot this – even though it was a complex layout – was exciting and thrilling and scary and freaking awesome

(c) lowlights

  • I was originally supposed to shoot right in front of the stage, but then it was switched to just in front of the tech booth. eeek.
  • it rained before the show and for the the first couple of songs. not the end of the world, but I had a brand new lens on my camera and that was….stressful.
  • nothing else because Muse is flawless; Matt and Chris and Dom for life.

 

(d) overall thoughts

 

Getting to see Muse during this little summer tour has been one of my favorite things. To see a band that normally goes all in, puts out, and brings things to the next level with every performance, it’s so refreshing to see them in another light. Relatively stripped back stage design, level lights, and nothing but pure tunes in Central Park is alllll you need.

Matt, Chris, and Dom sounded fierce as usual, and everything was glowing as the sun set over the river to the west. The crowd was a bit wet and I had snuck up on the left side after shooting in the back to find a tucked-away corner of the pit. To hear songs I’ve loved for over a decade in Central Park surrounded by friends gave me such a warm feeling inside. Dusk quickly became night and the setlist quickly evolved into older classics like “Hysteria” and “Map of the Problematique.”

Even though the setlist was nearly identical to the previous show only two nights earlier, everything felt familiar and unique in the new setting. The Central Park crowd was in high spirits, tightly packed into each other. I saw older fans and even kids lining some of the barricade, everyone joyful and glowing under the soft light. I’ll never forget this show, and not just because I got to shoot one of my favorite bands. I’ll always love Muse because they always remain themselves; they transform with every new album and a lot of people give them shit, but I get what they’re doing. They’re just Matt, Chris, and Dom. They’re having a good time, entertaining the crowd, and never fail to forget how a single song can completely turn everything around.

Bottom line: This show was iconic. The intimacy of everyone jam-packed into pockets of jumping masses made this night in the park so memorable. Moving throughout the back of the pit to capture great shots, as well as moving up close to feel myself in the music only proved that – no matter the setting – Muse shows up. And while not every band can say that, Muse can.

Muse, 30 Seconds To Mars 7/22/17

(i) lineup

1a. 30 Seconds To Mars
2b. Muse

(1a) (30 Seconds To Mars’s) setlist

    1. Up in the Air
    2. Conquistador
    3. This Is War
    4. Kings and Queens
    5. Alibi
    6. The Kill (Bury Me)
    7. City of Angels
    8. Do or Die
    9. The Ocean (Led Zeppelin cover)
    10. Closer to the Edge

(1b) highlights

  • 30 Seconds to Mars are off their rockers, but they’re definitely not boring, that’s for sure
  • Jared Leto is a Character – for lack of better phrasing – and honestly, he was so entertaining despite looking like a hot mess

(1c) lowlights

  • even though there are 10 songs on the setlist…I am nearly positive at least 3-4 of those songs were not played in full; Jared Leto would rather prognosticate and preach for 5 minutes than simply sing his song. “The Kill,” which is normally maybe 4 minutes long, turned into a 12 minute affair of him climbing through the crowd, giving speeches, slowing the melody, turning it acoustic, and basically rewriting it live? Jared, what are you doing bb, what is happening
  • it rained a bit at the show, so there’s quite a bit of sloshing happening in the pit. While it was significantly worse during Muse, it started picking up during 30 STM and it was def too much

(1d) overall thoughts

30 Seconds to Mars came on the scene sometime in 2005 and made very distinctly 2005 music at the time. So, I’m honestly a bit surprised to say these guys are not only still around, but creating work that feels new.

Surprisingly, I’d actually seen 30 STM once before, at Weenie Roast in May 2007. I had enjoyed their debut album enough and was eager to see them join the lineup of great people at the time. Even then, I remembered thinking that their performance was over the top and a bit exaggerated, so there’s so reason why I should’ve assumed they’d be different this time. Because they weren’t.

Jared Leto is such a caricature of a rock star, as opposed to an actual rock star, that his performance comes across as hysterical to me. I actually enjoy him as an actor and don’t mind 30’s music (though I probably wouldn’t purposely seek it out, to be honest), but man, his stage persona brings things to another realm. An…unreal realm. He was wearing bright blue track pants underneath an Asian-inspired, floral Grandma-esque muumuu, a bright silver leather jacket, ridiculous high tops sneakers, orange huge sunglasses, a camo hat, and Jesus beard…need I go on? I appreciate that the dude, as he explains, is at “level 17 of I don’t give a fuck” – but I think it’s pretty notable that I remember more of what Jared Leto was wearing than the music.

Bottom line: 30 Seconds To Mars are never boring, but as a group, they’re a bit bogged down by Jared Leto’s self-admitted antics. I was certainly entertained, but in the same way I’m entertained by a bad movie that I can’t stop watching because it’s so bad.

(2a) (Muse’s) setlist

    1. Dig Down
    2. Psycho
    3. Interlude
    4. Hysteria
    5. Resistance
    6. Plug in Baby
    7. The 2nd Law: Isolated System
    8. Stockholm Syndrome
    9. Supermassive Black Hole
    10. New Kind Of Kick
    11. Madness
    12. Dead Inside
    13. Munich Jam
    14. Starlight
    15. Time is Running Out
    16. Mercy
    17. The Globalist

Encore:

  1. Uprising
  2. Knights of Cydonia

(2b) highlights

  • Muse is fiiiiiiiiireeeeeee, and I will gladly fight anyone who disagrees with me whatsoever.
  • the energy of the crowd, the band, the sound, the lights – everything was so heightened and immersive. Even with Muse holding back from their usual overwhelming set design, I felt their power through this performance
  • setlist was flawless from beginning to end, not a single bad song in there and every moment that needed to feel long and meaningful was certainly so
  • Matt going into the audience in the rain during “Starlight” and having the entire venue sing along was magical

(2c) lowlights

  • did you know that when it rains at Jones Beach, the surrounding water line rises? And then pours over into the GA pit at the amphitheater? We were standing in 8 inches of water for most of the show while it was also raining, so that was….an experience.

(2d) overall thoughts

For me, there’s no band quite like Muse. They elevate everything, everything they do feels richer and livelier, and they’re unabashedly over the top while still remaining themselves. People knock them for seeing inauthentic, unnecessarily garish, and a big cheesy, but I honestly never feel that way experiencing Muse. It’s a sensory experience, yes, but when Matt Bellamy stands onstage in bright red pants and a silk blue bomber jacket, I believe him. (This is the exact opposite feeling I have toward Jared Leto, if that reveals anything.)

Matt, Chris Wolstenholme, and Dom Howard all blend together to create a perfect cacophony; together, they’re true melodic. Their high energy and general happiness onstage together is honestly refreshing and uplifting. Few bands I see nowadays have an unspoken language between the members in such an obvious way.

This show was wet, hot wild, and fun down in the pit, and even though Muse wasn’t playing a new album (only “Dig Down” and their “Some Kind Of Kick” cover were new additions), you never have the feeling like they’re going through the motions. You can tell that each of them enjoy their work and care for each song – it’s refreshing when every member of a band actually gives a shit.

 

Bottom line: Muse stands out as a band for me not only because of their unique voice and all-encompassing performances that feel intentional, precise, and emotional, but their energy and dedication to the crowd and each song is remarkable. How many other bands can say that?

7/12/17 Echo & The Bunnymen, Violent Femmes

(i) lineup

1a. Echo & The Bunnymen
2b. Violent Femmes

(1a) (Echo & The Bunnymen’s) setlist

    1. Rescue
    2. Villiers Terrace
    3. All That Jazz
    4. Seven Seas
    5. Bedbugs And Ballyhoo
    6. Over The Wall
    7. Never Stop
    8. Bring On The Dancing Horses
    9. Nothing Lasts Forever
    10. The Killing Moon
    11. The Cutter

Encore:

  1. Lips Like Sugar

(1b) highlights

  • Echo & The Bunnymen! Love these guys and this was my first time seeing them live
  • Not many groups that formed over 30 years ago can still sound good today – the Bunnymen are one of them
  • if you claim to be a fan of the Bunnymen, but have never cried in a dark room to “The Killing Moon,” then you’re a liar
  • the chorus of “Lips Like Sugar” is one of the greatest choruses ever written, please fight me on this, I love a good squabble over the important things in life
  • the Ford Amphitheater on the Coney Island is pretty freaking cool – the idea of seeing a show right on the boardwalk with all the rides and games just behind the stage is so charming

(1c) lowlights

  • our seats were pretty far away and the Bunnymen didn’t have a screen or anything to watch, so they were very small; their moodiness and goth aesthetic was still evident from the high seats though, thank god
  • the band was billed as the headliner, yet they performed first for this co-headline tour and I was anticipating them closing. I wish their set was longer, but can’t complain much for the great performance they put on.

(1d) overall thoughts

Like most of the music I listen to, I first discovered Echo & The Bunnymen back in high school. Around 14, I got really into The Smiths, The Cure, U2, Joy Division and similar 80’s groups, so it wasn’t long before I discovered Ian McCulloch and his moody tunes. Sophomore year of high school, we actually had to take a required religion course for a semester, so I ended up in a class called Hebrew Scriptures. Miraculously, the teacher of that class was not only a big 80’s music buff, but mentioned in passing that before he considered entering the seminary, he was a touring roadie for Echo & the Bunnymen for several years. Naturally, I was in awe.

Some of my earliest memories with EATB music is riding in the back of my parents’ car with my headphones on (back when you would put headphones on instead of in, what a time to be alive), wearing all black, and feeling emo af listening to the dark, sexy sounds of men from the 80’s who emotional and wore makeup because being different is being cool. I probably listened to “Lips Like Sugar” hundreds of times on a playlist stuck between The Cure’s “Disintegration” and New Order’s “Ceremony.”

Seeing EATB at Coney Island very much reminded me of that time in my life, and by the looks of the crowd, that music transported others too. Everyone was in their late 30’s to mid 40’s, mostly tattooed, and felt like they were from a different time. It’s not difficult to allow yourself to be carried away by the music when you remember how, in some form or another, it was there for you when no one else was.

Bottom line: Whether it’s 1984 or 2017, Echo & The Bunnymen are moody, broody artists who know exactly how to tap into just that perfect realm of Sadness. But that doesn’t mean they won’t also make you dance with lips like sugar kisses.

(2a) (Violent Femmes’) setlist

    1. I’m Nothing
    2. Memory
    3. Good For/At Nothing
    4. Love Love Love Love Love
    5. Blister in the Sun
    6. Kiss Off
    7. Country Death Song
    8. Waiting For the Bus
    9. Jesus Walking on the Water
    10. I Held Her in My Arms
    11. Gimme The Car
    12. Gone Daddy Gone
    13. Black Girls
    14. Add It Up
    15. American Music

(2b) highlights

  • Fun Fact: it’s impossible to dislike Violent Femmes, and if you say you do, then by God you cannot be helped
  • Violent Femmes feel like a true phenomenon – they tore through the alternative scene for a solid as all hell 7 years in the 80’s, took some time off, then came right back for another solid 11 years and it feels like no one noticed
  • I feel like most of life can be broken into two parts: the very brief window of time before having heard “Blister in the Sun” and then the rest of your life after hearing it
  • Not many bands can start a song, then completely stop singing and playing their instruments so the audience can finish an entire verse and chorus, but the Femmes can
  • If you think because VF mostly sang “coming-of-age” DIY Midwestern garage alternative rock when they were young so their high-level energy must be behind them…you’d be wrong. These guys are still killing it
  • There was what can only be described as a 10-foot tall brass saxophone onstage the whole show that was played maybe 3 times, amazing
  • Amanda Palmer randomly showed up to join the band on a few songs; as a Dresden Dolls fan, that was pretty cool
  • The drummer, who is currently John Sparrow, played drums standing up, oh and his “drums” were a single snare drum, a giant gong, and a genuine backyard BBQ grill on wheels – need I say more

(2c) lowlights

  • again, our seats were far, but Violent Femmes actually had a screen to watch and the crowd was pretty into it, so not too many complaints here

(2d) overall thoughts

Violent Femmes are a band with music so specifically iconic that I struggle to remember the first time I even heard them. They’ve always existed in culture and the zeitgeist for me in a strong visceral way. To put it super crudely, there’s something about VF that feels so youthful, fun, and particularly DIY that I imagine discovering them as a weird kid in the 80’s is how alternative 90’s kids felt discovering Blink 182. The songs are kind of dumb but speak so specifically and strangely to that audience. (Violent Femmes have a thick layer of authenticity that Blink is lacking, but there’s an analogy somewhere there.)

With probably one of the most fully-realized debut albums ever, VF had and still have some of the most iconic singalong songs I can think of. Even after hearing “Kiss Off” and “American Music” one time, you feel like you know the words. Every song feels familiar and intimate, and I really think that punky garage band quality of their sound convinces people that they could’ve written “Blister in the Sun” or “Good Feeling” too. Like, do you even remember the first time you heard “Gone Daddy Gone”? It feels like it’s always been in the air, in the back of your head, on the tip of your tongue.

The guys are older now, decidedly less punk with their t-shirts tucked into their jeans, but damn, they can still jam. Name another band who can bring a 10-foot tall brass sax and BBQ grill onstage and use them as instruments. Who else would have the guts? They still sound great, they still have that wink, wink-nudge, nudge attitude, and they still want everyone to singalong. By the looks of this show, everyone is still willing to join in and everyone sure likes American music.

Bottom line: Gordon Gano might be the original Rivers Cuomo; only the best of the best can make authentic dorkiness genuinely cool. Violent Femmes started out by speaking for the weirdos, so I only hope they continue being a mouthpiece for those not afraid enough to be different.

Bonus Material!

Clip of “Blister in the Sun”:

Franz Ferdinand 6/5/17

(a) setlist

    1. Jacqueline
    2. No You Girls
    3. The Dark of the Matinee
    4. Paper Cages
    5. Do You Want To
    6. Walk Away
    7. Stand on the Horizon
    8. Lazy Boy
    9. The Fallen
    10. Michael
    11. Huck & Jim
    12. Take Me Out
    13. Ulysses

Encore:

  1. Always Ascending
  2. Darts of Pleasure
  3. Love Illumination
  4. This Fire

(b) highlights

  • Franz. motherflipping. Ferd. i. nand.
  • “Stand on the Horizon”! “Darts of Pleasure”!!!! Also, every other song.
  • Warsaw is kind of a fantastic venue and slowly become a favorite of mine
  • The crowd was a joy for the most part; awesome Franz fans were surrounding us with only one sour grape and everyone was so, so happy to be seeing these guys for the first non-festival real show since late 2013. That is way too long to go without them
  • Let’s all use this opportunity to give Bob Hardy a shoutout – what a bass player, what a gem, what a guy
  • throwback to that brief month in mid-2013 when I sang that bit from “Ulysses” every day: “laaaa la la la la, Ulysseeeeees” – what a time
  • Alex ripped his shirt sometime before the encore and like, just kept playing and his entire right side was exposed and it was so punk rock, but in a Scottish art school kind of way.

(c) lowlights

  • one crappy person in the crowd and that’s it; this show was a gem

(d) overall thoughts

I will never as long as I live not love Franz Ferdinand. Even when they’ve put out music I wasn’t crazy about, I still liked it and respected it more than other groups I like. Everything Franz has ever done has been deliberate, artful, and with joy – what more could a fan ask for?

This night at the Warsaw was just fantastic, even including the fact that there were two openers. Alex Kapranos, forever a joyful and hammy frontman, was quick on his toes and jacknifed more than a few scissor kicks while playing guitar. His hair is long and his face looks a bit older than we remember him, but the whole package is still there. You can tell that he’s still revitalized by the music they play and really enjoys himself up there. Bob Hardy on bass is the textbook definition of solid bassist – not very quick to take to the spotlight but whose presence would be immediately noticeable if he were gone. He has an air of Mark Stoermer in his playing, but with a bit more of a smile and I love it.

The obvious standouts in the set – “Do You Want To,” “The Fallen,” and “Michael,” to name a few – don’t make the tracks before and after pale in comparison, but instead bolster the performance. With red shoes tapping on hardwood floor, Alex remained spry even through the unbearably fast songs and thoughtfully measured during the ballads. I could’t help but let my mind wander during their performance, asking myself what could’ve and might’ve been if America had embraced this band in the same way they took to Arctic Monkeys in the last decade. As I mentioned after seeing Franz at Gov Ball, their influence is still resonating throughout the indie genre to this day; Franz might suitably be the grandfathers of the modern new wave genre, but how many people actually acknowledge that?

In a world where The Strokes are somehow worshipped for creating the post-punk revival, I constantly ask myself where Franz Ferdinand sits. Even if they never quite get the recognition they deserve in their own musical lifetimes, I have no doubt that their forebears will remember their lasting effect. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard an audience sing guitar riffs aloud and two of those times were when Franz played “Take Me Out.” That means something. this band means something, their music means something, and the memories they forge with every performance of their timeless songs will forever mean something, if only to me.

 

Bottom line: Franz Ferdinand are nothing but treasures. If I could ever in some way make a mark on how we conceive of new wave alternative music, or the post-punk revival of the 21st century, I will be the first pallbearer and light to illuminate the works of Franz. I might hope that they forever live on, but, luckily, I know their music always will.

Franz Ferdinand, Zane Lowe 6/4/17

(i) lineup

1a. Zane Lowe
2b. Franz Ferdinand

(1a) (Zane Lowe) setlist

    1. To quote Zane, “I’m doing 80 songs in 40 minutes, so let’s get it, New York!!!”
    2. does it matter what the songs were?

(1b) highlights

  • Zane Lowe indirectly helped shape my entire music taste and he certainly has no idea

(1c) lowlights

  • Zane Lowe indirectly helped shape my entire music taste and he certainly has no idea

(1d) overall thoughts

  • This image below includes the only important takeaways from the performance

IMG_20170617_004929

Bottom line: Zane Lowe was a Radio 1 DJ and legendary host of MTV’s Gonzo hour interviewing people I loved, and now resides at Apple Music interviewing dumb people I hate. He made me dance at Gov Ball, even when I thought he looked dumb. Good guy. Dumb banter, but good guy.

 

(2a) (Franz Ferdinand’s) setlist

    1. Jacqueline
    2. No You Girls
    3. The Dark of the Matinee
    4. Paper Cages
    5. Do You Want To
    6. The Fallen
    7. Walk Away
    8. Love Illumination
    9. Michael
    10. Always Ascending
    11. Take Me Out
    12. Ulysses
    13. This Fire

(2b) highlights

  • FRANZ!!!!!!
  • but but FRANZ!!!!
  • that setlist. like. what. Jacqueline. Dark of the Matinee. Michael. Ulysses. All of it.
  • Hit after hit after hit after hit, this band NEVER QUIT.
  • if you’ve never seen or heard a festival crowd sing along to probably one of the greatest guitar riffs of the last 30 years in a huge festival crowd, then you’ve never seen “Take Me Out” and you’ve never LIVED

(2c) lowlights

  • the first three rows of people were all there for some tool ass DJ named Logic and every bro in his crowd made me wanna commit suicide; none of them deserved to even be in Franz’s presence

(2d) overall thoughts

 

Franz Ferdinand were one of the first bands I ever listened to and truly loved. I remember having their debut Franz Ferdinand and 2005 hit You Could Have It So Much Better rotating in my CD player, along with Hot Fuss and the Hot Hot Heat album that came out that year. Their first two albums were so incredibly formative for me that it’s entirely possible my life would’ve gone a different direction had I not discovered them. That’s powerful.

Despite being a huge fan since Day 1, this show was only my second time seeing Franz. For some reason, they tend not to make it out to NYC – or American in general – all that often. The first time I saw them was only in 2013 and I still think that performance is one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. At Governor’s Ball, my friends and I were close to the stage, but trapped in a sea of non-Franz fans. I later learned that nearly everyone behind us, going back nearly 40 rows – which is notable considering they weren’t on a main stage – were there to see them, but at the time…it really felt like an intimate concert just for us. And I swear I’ll never forget it.

The interesting thing about desperately loving music that was popular over a decade ago is recognizing when that music, and the people that create them, start to feel their age. Franz Ferdinand absolutely captured a musical moment in time when they hit the scene in the early 2000s. Some people might even say that they created the scene, and I wouldn’t disagree with that. A bunch of art school kids, Franz transformed the post-punk revival into something that was dirty and gritty and from New York (a la Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Strokes) and made it something cool, slick, arty, dance-y, and fun. 90% of indie alternative bands out today would not exist if it weren’t for Franz Ferdinand and I will fight anyone who says different.

Opening with “Jacqueline,” “No You Girls,” and “Dark of the Matinee” perfectly reveals how resonating this band’s influence has been not only on music, but for fans. Even without having heard “Jacqueline” in years, aside from occasionally coming up on shuffle, I didn’t hesitate in the slightest when it was time to scream-sing, “It’s always better on holiday, so much better on holiday, that’s why we only work when we need the money.” I was back in my parents car with my CD player and headphones wrapped over my ears with those orange and brown, cracked CD cases.

Bottom line: Franz Ferdinand is iconic, not simply in what they did for music and the genre, but for their undeniable ability to bring joy and showmanship to performance. When other bands have found it easy to play their back catalog straightforwardly, Franz elevates their songs to classic status by throwing themselves completely into the sound. I pray this band never goes away, but if they do, their music will live on and there’s nothing more comforting than that.

Phoenix, Local Natives 6/3/17

(i) lineup

1a. Local Natives
2b. Phoenix

(1a) (Local Natives) setlist

    1. Jellyfish
    2. Wide Eyes
    3. You and I
    4. Airplanes
    5. Colombia
    6. I Saw You Close Your Eyes
    7. Ultralight Beam (Kanye West cover)
    8. Past Lives
    9. Fountain of Youth
    10. Dark Days
    11. Who Knows, Who Cares
    12. Sun Hands

(1b) highlights

  • first time seeing Local Natives who I’ve casually enjoyed since around 2010 when they first hit the scene and man, they were great
  • unexpectedly surprised by not only their stage presence but ability to keep such intimate tracks feel lively and awake in a festival format
  • normally I get annoyed when lead singers decide to crowd surf solely for the sake of making a set suddenly more interesting, but when Taylor Rice came into the crowd twice during the set, it felt so deliberate and genuinely fun
  • their lighting and simply yet pretty stage production was beautiful; it perfectly set the scene for these fellow Angelenos
  • the sun setting around the time their set was ending, and the dust was picking up at their stage – it reminded me of my home in LA in the best way

(1c) lowlights

  • nothing comes to mind – they came out and did exactly what they needed to

(1d) overall thoughts

Local Natives popped up in my life when I was having a difficult time a little less than a decade ago. I always liked them even though they were a bunch of hipsters from Silver Lake. They had goofy mustaches and their music videos looked like Urban Outfitters, sure. But unlike the usual pack of hacks out there, Local Natives also had the tunes.

And after this performance, I realized that they have the presence and performing chops too. Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer take turns on lead vocals, guitar, and keyboards, harmonizing in that sweet spot of Beach Boys-inspired and pre-folk explosion that happened because of half-ass bands like Lumineers and Mumford and Sons. Local Natives’ songs are sweet and floaty and fit right in around the Coachella Valley, sure, but they have a lasting effect because they come from some place real. “You and I” practically floats across the stage and dances in the light, and is there a sweeter sunset-y singalong than “Who Knows, Who Cares”? You don’t want to miss these guys live.

 

Bottom line: To the uncultured eye, Local Natives might get lost in the sea of same-y folksy LA-transplants, but they’re so much more than that. Their stage presence, resonating harmonies, and purposeful guitar work really makes them memorable and standout.

 

(2a) (Phoenix’s) setlist

    1. Ti Amo
    2. Lasso
    3. Entertainment
    4. Lisztomania
    5. J-Boy
    6. Long Distance Call
    7. Fences
    8. Try To Be Cool / Drakkar Noir
    9. Lovelife
    10. S.O.S. In Bel Air
    11. Role Model
    12. Girlfriend
    13. Love Like A Sunset Part 1 / Bankrupt! / Love Like A Sunset Part 2
    14. If I Ever Feel Better / Funky Squaredance
    15. Armistice
    16. Rome
    17. Fior di Latte
    18. Meant
    19. 1901
    20. Ti Amo Di Piu

(2b) highlights

  • Phoenix!!!! Those dudes have such class, style, and grace – so damn French
  • yo, I don’t know if Warren Fu is the man responsible, but Phoenix have the dopest stage set-up I’ve seen in recently memory. A giant panel of mirrors is all you need for endless joy and entertainment
  • everyone in Phoenix feels so refined and older than their contemporaries, and I’m so into it
  • have you ever heard a band write so many catchy earworms that don’t make you wanna die? me either.
  • Love. Like. A. Sunset. enough said.

(2c) lowlights

  • they could’ve played for another hour and I would’ve been into it
  • the crowd could’ve and should’ve been bigger – I blame the fact that Childish Gambino was playing the opposite stage at the same time

(2d) overall thoughts

I first encountered Phoenix sometime in late 2005, early 2006. I undoubtedly saw their name in fine print somewhere in NME or Uncut or Mojo or Spin, and wrote their name down as a band to not forget. To me, they were always that “fun, French band,” and then somehow, just when I forgot about them, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix dropped into the world and every car commercial ever was never the same.

When Phoenix got huge, I had no idea how to respond. What happens when a bunch of older dudes finally hit it off with their fifth album? Luckily, Phoenix didn’t completely lose their minds and instead decided to put out pure joy with Ti Amo, and brought all that passion to the stage. Words can’t do their production justice; few bands can so easily meld sound, aesthetics, and production into such a complete package. You watch Phoenix perform one live song on their stage and you suddenly feel like you understand them as a band. New Order is another band that comes to mind that really nails this combination of performance and art, but no one’s doing it like Phoenix today.

There’s few things I respect more than when big bands headline at festivals and skip over the obvious tracks to play deep cuts and objectively “unsuitable” tracks. “Love Like A Sunset” doesn’t belong at any festival but a song never felt so appropriate for a summer night on Randall’s Island than that one. The reds, oranges, and yellows washed over the crowd in real-time and in the reflection of the giant mirror that framed the performers. Yeah, everyone danced when “Lisztomonia” started, but everyone felt when “Love Like A Sunset” hit like a sonic boom.

 

Bottom line: Phoenix are not only clearly impeccable songwriters, but they’ve manage to create the perfect marriage of sound, aesthetic, and art that elevates every performance to another place. Their contemporaries better recognize what Phoenix brings to the world, because – from where I’m sitting – it’s nothing but light.

Lorde 6/2/17

(a) setlist

    1. Tennis Court
    2. Magnets (Disclosure cover)
    3. 400 Lux
    4. Buzzcut Season
    5. Ribs
    6. Sober
    7. Sober II (Melodrama)
    8. Hang With Me (Robyn Cover) (Feat. Jack Antonoff)
    9. Liability (Feat. Jack Antonoff)
    10. Royals
    11. Perfect Places (Feat. Jack Antonoff)
    12. Team
    13. Green Light

(b) highlights

  • LORDE!!!!! This. girl. is. FAB.U.LOUS.
  • Seriously, can I be friends with Lorde. I know she has several posses and what not, but like…I can contribute.
  • First time seeing with witchy girl and I am SO on board with everything
  • The clear, glass shipping container that was the focus of her stage production was so oddly unique and clever. The dancers, the lights, how she interacted with the stage – whoever’s job it is to conceive of that stuff needs a raise
  • looking back on the setlist right now, I can’t believe she only played 13 tracks – I felt like we spent the whole weekend together; everything was perfectly paced and I totally loved how many new tracks she threw in. I’m not here for singles-only sets and neither is Lorde
  • there was a group of young 20-somethings/late teens standing near me and my friends and they were low-key crying throughout the set and even though I felt a lot older than them that night, I just wanna say “same”
  • this completely accidental and beautiful moment during the final bridge of “Team” when all the lights were flashing, the sun was finally setting over the horizon, Lorde is singing “we’re on each other’s team,” and then I look up into the sky and this perfect pack of ducks are flying in a V formation right over the stage. it was so bizarre and beautiful and oddly perfect.

(c) lowlights

  • I’m not exactly a fan of Jack Antonoff so I thought his presence was a bit much, but honestly, Lorde loves him and he didn’t really talk, so he was the perfect accessory to her fantastic performance

(d) overall thoughts

Like most people, I discovered Lorde after “Royals” dropped out of practically the sky above. But it wasn’t until I heard a few years ago that David Bowie was a fan before he died, so I knew it was time to start paying attention. I never watch the Grammy’s or generally acknowledge its presence, but for some reason, I really remember the year that Lorde won and how she so awkwardly accepted her award, all dressed in black, her hair long and curly, and sort of ran off-stage. Her inherent authenticity – a word I dislike and rarely use – totally killed me.

A bit after, I got into Pure Heroine and realized that this chick was special and couldn’t miss her at Gov Ball. She walked out wearing a lace veil over her face slowly singing the refrain to “Green Light” and pretty much the rest is history. Dressed in black and lace and heels I would’ve died in, she danced across the stage like she owned it and everyone was at her whim. She opened with my favorite song “Tennis Court,” which I still feel like is such a bizarre song for a pop singer to have as a single off their first album. The melody is so unusual, the imagery is almost mismatched with Lorde’s aesthetic, yet everything about it works so well. It’s the interesting contradictions that make Lorde so special. What even is this girl? She’s herself.

Her banter in-between songs was so genuine and authentic, I swore that we were old friends. The stage and festival grounds became a very, very large bed where we all chatted at the largest and most intimate pajama party ever. And I mean that in the least condescending way possible. Lorde is ethereal, young, fresh, weird, and everything you wish you were at her age. The tracks she played from her new album feel powerful, meaningful, and I won’t be one bit surprised when Melodrama completely blows up the world.

Bottom line: Lorde is one of the most authentic performers in recent memory; her unique vulnerability and fresh perspective almost makes me wish I could relive my high school years if only so she could be there to guide me.