Deerhunter opened their fall tour at Cat’s Cradle Saturday night. The tour promotes their new album Halcyon Digest, released just two weeks ago on September 28th.
The welcome from the eclectic Cradle crowd was almost as warm as the distorted melodies to come. The group methodically made their way through the set, while frontman Bradford Cox kept the mood relaxed by joking with the crowd between songs. (He jokingly claimed one of his guitars was hand made by his friend’s dad. If it’s true – thank you, Bradford Cox’s friend’s dad!)
Deerhunter’s music has been described as “ambient punk” which is a pretty spot on description. It’s not as sleepy as ambient, nor is it as jarring as punk. It sits confidently in the middle.
All in all the show gave me a much-welcomed sense of both excitement and relaxation. To me, Deerhunter is the musical equivalent to “Icy Hot” – Distorted noise to dull the pain, warm melodies to relax it away.
Due out this November is A Grave With No Noise‘s first ever full length record, Mountain Debris. These London noise makers ride on waves made of white noise and processed beats. The mates, Alex Shields, (bassist) Tom King and (guitarist) Anupa Madawela make tunes that push the boundaries of what is to be considered music.
Leaving on a MayDay’s tone from the very beginning is deep and heavy, “what have I done to fall so hard for you.” It is Anna Ternheim’s keen sense of putting words to the most human of moments that set her apart from the rest. The album is beautifully done, but boarders on a depressing breakup album. Perhaps the most appropriate timing for a dark, love obsessed, slower album to be released is not when everyone is cramming in their beach time.
Summer has been upon us and how better to watch it fly by then running around in the muck and mud of our nations beloved music festivals.
All Points West has come and gone with well over fifty bands performing on three separate stages in Jersey’s breathtaking Liberty State Park. The grounds were adorned with several artwork installations including tiki huts to lounge in and strings of numerous balloons floating through the sky. And what a sky it was with Manhattan’s skyscrapers just on the other side of the Hudson river and Lady Liberty’s outstretched arm urging all us fellow festival lovers to “rock on”. Rock on we did. Friday night, despite the thunder and lightning and delicious downpours, was a great way to begin the festival.
Fleet Foxes brought out the folk in all of us and as they started the third song from their set, English House (from the Sun Giant EP), it was as if by sound alone they controlled the winds, ushering in a sprinkling breeze that rose and fell with each “whoa my love”.
Ra Ra Riot was popping away on the bullet stage setting the mood for dancing. The strings really give this group the extra dynamic to set them apart. They are like the heart. There is always a constant and solidly strong beat while the strings of emotion play through it.
If you wanted your heart strings pulled, The National was the group to see Friday night. Matt Berninger’s voice is deep and mysterious and on the live stage sang so intensely from the depths of his soul that you held your breath and yes, even tears would form. ”Walk away now, you’re gonna start a war.”
By Saturday afternoon the rains had died and the clouds had moved on yet the grounds were still sopping wet with muck and mud.
St. Vincent, perhaps the best performance of the weekend, almost made you forget where you were. Her short curls and red lips lured you in visually and her raw ingenious talent pulled you in aurally. Laughing with a Mouth of Blood has such an intense build starting with the flutes and ebbing with the violins that slowly grow more violent while Anne Clark sings “You’ll Have to Shout Even Louder”. Suddenly it stops.
Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek’s style is wacky and adorable and she has one of the best singing shrieks. Her presence is undeniable on stage and with Aaron Pfenning they together write some beautifully catchy songs, both unbeat and down.
A running animation video of elephants and cars played on the screens while Neko Case performed her set. ”It’s all quite satisfying”, she said, “I hope it was satisfying for you too.” She was a refreshing act, one to relax and allow yourself to be somewhat nostalgic for a moment in time.
Just when you started to feel the coming down from the days events Crystal Castles took the stage and revived all who were within ear shot making us all feel like this was where we belonged. The tent was packed and it didn’t matter whether you were standing front row or hanging out in the back, you still couldn’t help but move it, move it. Alice Glass held a microphone in one hand and a strobe light in the other while exclaiming from the stage that we all looked “like a garden of hands”!
Sunday started out quite stormy but mother nature was kind and let up just before Elbow took to the big Blue comet stage. Guy Garvey was so tender with the crowd and really pulled you in from the start with his gentle ballads. The way I felt about elbow can be best described by the lyrics they themselves sing. “You are the only thing in any room you’re ever in.” He goes “straight to my head like the first cigarette of the day”. The group was real with us, like we were all just hanging out in his back yard in Manchester. The band took a shot of whiskey on stage and continued on graciously thanking and encouraging the fans to “fall in love, fall in love, FALL IN LOVE.”
Lykke Li dance, dance, danced the crowd right through her set. Punching the air and waving her hips, she just wanted to have a good time with everyone else. I enjoyed her closing song, “Tonight”, which brought the audience in and quietly pleaded, “don’t you let me go tonight, let me go tonight.”
The moon had been settled in the sky for hours at this point and the VIP ticket holders were piling in to the packed bleachers while the rest of us crowded in on the grounds waiting for a moment that doesn’t come around every day, a moment that one would like to say they were there for, even just once. Coldplay. Chris Martin was funnier than I expected and they played the hits that would surely please the ultimate fan.
Sneaking away from Coldplay (although no one really seemed to notice) was a great choice. MGMT was on at the Bullet stage and they were playing some of their new works that will be on their upcoming album “Congratulations”, expected out sometime in early 2010.
One of the best new bands to watch and listen to this season is Sleepy Sun, the sextet from San Francisco. The musicians, friends, and lovers have come out with their first album entitled Embrace and have been met with exultations, especially after SXSW. Their psychedelic styled rock and roll tracks pull you in from the start of the album all the way through the finish. Even “White Dove”, a 9:23 minute song, is compatible with the ADHD in all of us.
With an album this high energy, I can’t wait to see what they do live. God, I love the harmonica.
Sitting in the back of B-Cup Cafe in the East Village I was anxiously anticipating the entrance of Elizabeth Ziman, the lead singer from Elizabeth and the Catapult. After waiting 10 minutes past our scheduled meeting time, a scowl from Elizabeth before she entered the bathroom and after she declared it the “the windiest day of summer” our interview was underway. The night before Elizabeth attended Story Book Pirates to support one of her friends and was relying on coffee and a morning listen to Beyonce to wake up for this Sunday afternoon. We both agreed the interview experience is very much like a blind date, and in order to preserve the awkward feelings a blind date invokes (after confessing I was in love with “Rainiest Day In Summer”) I dove right into the questioning.
Fend: What is the writing process like for you guys?
Emily: I write the songs, call Danny’s phone sing it on his answering machine and get to a piano and try and finish it. The best time to write is when I am doing anything that gets me in a non selfconcious mode, or someone says something hilarious in a cafe, I’ll jot it down and try to finish it on the train.
Fend: What are the guys like?
Emily: ”Steve is amazing. He is really into metal (Fend: Metal objects or music?)Oh music. He is also a cartoonist and enjoys long walks on the beach… he adds a grit to our band, that grit-dark aspect to what we do. Danny is awesome, the more the two of them spend together the more they morph into the same person.”
Fend: Is it true you were dating one of them?
Emily: “Uh…umm… I learned that I open my mouth too much and so I am working on that.”
(some awkward laughter…and then we quickly move on)
Fend: How would you describe your sound?
Emily: “Well we are described as ‘barogque pop’
Fend: Right, I have read what others describe your music, but I want to know how you would describe it.
Emily: I like to think of us as an old, worn out teddy bear with patches that you want to take to bed with you. We are eclectic-all kinds of styles, we are ambiguous.
Fend: Do you have a favorite song to play? I know artists usually have a difficult time saying which song they enjoy playing over the others, but if you had to choose.
Emily: Out of everything we are doing right now? ”Taller Children” There are 5 songs I would push and if any of them caught on I would be honored.
Fend: Who were you talking about in “The Hang Up?” Emily: Umm…
Fend: Oh, ha… should we go back to the are you dating anyone in the band?
Emily: (laughs) I am not at liberty to say. You know I really like the fuck you very much, the passive aggressive. What I really like about that song is it turns into a sing-a-long at shows. Its the happiest break up song.
Fend: I happen to agree, I think its my favorite off the new album.
Emily: I’m really glad you like it, it almost didn’t make the album.
Fend: Yea, I read you had to leave some songs behind, how do you choose which songs?
Emily: They said we need 12 songs on the album, why this is the rule I don’t know, but we followed the rules.
Emily: Is this your full time job? You have a sweet job, this is what I do I turn things around on people. I go into a business meeting where I am supposed to show case a few songs and end up making the people attending the meeting entertain me instead.
(We quickly discuss random things like people that look like their dogs, her pet bunny rabbit named Patty, and she continues to ask me questions like the best show I have been to, and who else I have interviewed)
Fend: Can you think of the worst compliment anyone has ever given the band?
Elizabeth: You guys are so freakin tight, so jazzy, funky, fresh. If you are taken on a journey and taken out of yourself, then you experienced what I wanted you to but when people say “you are super tight,” then you didnt get the experience I want you to have.
Fend: Is it true you put cookies out at your last show at Southpaw?
Elizabeth: I did, I put them on the bar, I love baking.
Fend: Do you have a favorite place to play?
Elizabeth: Recently, I really like the Mercury Lounge. People have room to stand up and move around. Also, Rockwood Music Hall. Its a tiny glorified Pub…we basically developed our New York audience there. The owner is like our father, he does the sound in this spotlight-its adorable.
Fend: Sounds like a religious experience.
Elizabeth: Its true, its a cult. The last time we played there I dedicated a song to Ken, the owner, and sang it to him and I think the audience was a a little weirded out by it.
Fend: Do you guys have any pre-show routine?
Elizabeth: We throw water all over each other. No, theres usually no place to do a routine, I usually sit in the car.
The new album, Taller Children hit stores today and the band is playing at Joe’s Pub this Thursday for their album release party. If you don’t get tickets to this show, keep your eyes out for Elizabeth and The Catapults at Housing Works on June 24th.
The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival begins next Thursday, June 11th in Manchester, Tennessee. The lineup is vast and is sure to include at least one band you enjoy, in an attempt to preview the event we have picked out a few of the great bands playing on each day, for a complete lineup and schedule check out Bonaroo’s site.