Austin City Limits Music Festival 2010 – DAY TWO

On day two of the Austin City Limits Music Festival we started the day at the Austin Ventures Stage with an electro-pop alternative/indie rock band from Northern Ireland called Two Door Cinema Club. The setlist included a hard-hitting barrage of tracks: “Cigarettes in the Theatre,” “Undercover Martyn,” “Do You Want It All?,” and the solid hit “Something Good Can Work.” The boys from Bangor, Northern Ireland played several tracks like “This Is Life,” “You’re Not Stuboorn,” “What You Know,” and “Eat That Up, It’s Good For You” from their new album Tourist History. And with the closers “Come Back Home” and especially the single “I Can Talk” the young rockers finished strong.

Tourist History

Following Two Door Cinema Club, Andrew Mayer Cohen aka Mayer Hawthorne representing Ann Arbor, Michigan brought the soul of the Motor City to Austin City Limits. The sweet sounding “Maybe So, Maybe No” set the vibe for the afternoon set. Mayer Hawthorne and the County then flipped the script playing the remixed versionGangsta Luv” recorded with the smooth rhyming rapper Snoop Doggy DoggThen he slowed down again for a chill version of “I Wish It Would Rain.”

His neo-soul sound flows in the same manner as the R&B and Soul revivalists: Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and Amy Winehouse. Not that Hawthorne sounds like these contemporaries but rather he sounds more like the classic crooners of old–Smokey Robinson and the Miracles or Marvin Gaye. The soul session then evolved into a sing along with a spot on cover version of the classic Doobie Brothers trackWhat A Fool Believes.” And, ultimately Mayer Hawthorne returned to his roots with the R&B jam ” Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out.”

I left the Austin Ventures stage for the Broken Bells. My family stayed behind for the Local Natives, which they reported were awesome ,especially since the 15-year old virtuoso fiddle player and singer-songwriter Ruby Jane joined the band for a musical ride. Unfortunately, this is the problem with Austin City Limits: there are too many bands at the same time to really see all the bands that you want to see.

I hated to miss the Local Natives, but the Broken Bells beckoned. Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse and James Mercer of the Oregon Indie Rock band The Shins align to make melodic space rock music like “Vaporize” andOctober.” And, I especially like the tracks “The Ghost Inside” andThe High Road.” Some tracks are more punchy like “The Mall & Misery,” but for the most part Broken Bells songs are spaced-out, well crafted, and textured rock songs. Danger Mouse adds layers of synths and keys atop the haunting vocals of James Mercer.

The Monsters Of Folk are a 2010 version of a folk-rock supergroup. They are our generation’s Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Combine the breathtaking vocals of  Yim Yames aka Jim James from My Morning Jacket with the rootsy vocals of Conor Oberst and the talents of multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes; then mix in the vocalist and music maker M. Ward, the genius behind groups like She & Him and you’ve got one hell of a supergroup.

The show opened with the harmonizing vocalists singing “hold out your hands” and “Say Please.”  Although festival organizers should have put this top notch band on a bigger stage, they still managed to put together a wonderful set, including songs from the album Monsters Of Folk. The set included: “The Right Place,”Man Named Truth,” “Ahead of the Curve,”Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.),” “Slow Down Jo,” “The Sandman, The Brakeman And Me,” and “Baby Boomer.”

But the band also played songs from other projects including the Bright Eyes tunes “Soul Singer in a Session Band,” ‘Hit the Switch,” “At the Bottom of Everything,” and “Another Travelin’ Song.” They also played a wonderful version of the M. Ward song “Vincent O’Brien” and the My Morning Jacket tracks “Golden” alongside a fantastic take on “Smokin from Shootin.” Although the guys covered material from other projects they stayed true to their collaborative material playing Monsters of Folk originals like “Whole Lotta Losin’,” “Temazcal,” and “Map Of The World.” And they closed with the haunting “His Master’s Voice.”

Matt & Kim provided a nice interlude between Monsters of Folk and M.I.A. I liked how the duo interlaced their indie dance rock with dance tracks. At one point, I heard a rip-roaring dancehall cut from Diplo’s Major Lazer album Gunz Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do called “Pon De Floor.” Plus there was a nice cover of the Biz Markie favorite “Just A Friend.” Essentially Matt & Kim threw a party on their stage playing their own stuff like “Daylight” alongside other great samples and beats.

Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam aka M.I.A. is a performing artists. For this show, we got up close and danced our assess off. From the slamming “Galang” to the hardcore “World Town” M.I.A. brought anarchy to ACL. I heard lots of complaints about M.I.A. from people near the back, but up front the sounds and sights elicited a punk electronica atmosphere. Of course she played the megahitPaper Planes.”  And she concluded with the noisy “Born Free” from her new loud album Maya. Also, we caught the end of a solid Muse show. Luckily, the science fiction rockers played “Starlight.”

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Austin City Limits Music Festival 2010 – DAY TWO

Phish 3D

Phish image

I got to see the Phish 3D movie this last Friday night in Dallas, Texas. The film captured the 2009 Halloween sets from the Live 8 Festival in Indio, California. This movie is not a documentary. When the film starts the music begins. It is simply Phish doing what they do best, making music. Trey Anastasio shreds his guitar, twisting the strings and producing electrifying wails. Page McConnell tickles the ivory, textures the jams, and takes off on his own solos. Mike Gordon, the soloing bassist, drops deep thudding bass lines while the drummer John Fishman wears a polka-dotted dress behind a drum set pounding out tight rhythms. All four musicians sing. Blending funk, bluegrass, rock, reggae, and jazz, Phish defies genres fusing all into a bag of joy.

This was my first 3D concert experience. And it was better than expected. The beach balls, glow sticks, and balloons fluttered through the crowd and seemingly throughout the movie theatre. It was like being at a live concert, but with better views. In fact, it might be better than an actual concert in terms of visibility. because you get to see so many different perspectives. Perhaps the live music concert is better because you get to experience the music in the moment, in the heat of the spontaneous jam sessions, and among the Phishhead culture, but in the movie theatre Trey leaps off the screen as I sit sipping a beer and eating nachos.

As the film begins Phish goes into one of their old school jams “AC/DC Bag.” Then the band plays a track from the new album Joy entitled “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan.” Next, I really liked the rockin’ version of “Undermind.” The light show was spectacular at this festival. Smoke floated by in 3D with lights piercing and slicing through the smoke into the movie theatre. As the song “Tweezer” started the lights turned a cold blue and Fishman donned a toboggan. We stepped inside a freezer and ceased her with a tweezer! From out of the freezer we emerged into the “Maze,” building and building until we eventually exploded out into space. Then we returned to earth with “Mike’s Song,” which rounded out a very strong night-time set.

The film then briefly shows some daytime scenes of the festival grounds, including the large piece of art known as the Squirming Coil. From there it cuts to the band taking to the stage with acoustic instruments. They embark on an acoustic jam that starts with “Back On The Train” from 2000’s release Farmhouse. From there the boys dig back into their catalog for a sweet version of “Strange Design.” Then Phish picks up the pace on “The Curtain With.” A trippy “Sleep Again” is followed by a sensational climaxing “Wilson.” The set concludes with “Train Song” from 1996’s release Billy Breathes.

In the third and final set Phish 3D explores a staple in the Phish phenomena, covering an album in its entirety. In this case Phish covers the legendary Rolling Stones album Exile on Main Street. Unfortunately there is not enough time for the film to cover the entire album or “musical costume”  in a short movie, but we do get to see some of the highlights. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings join the band for this wonderful set of music. First we see Phish playing “Loving Cup,” which must be one of their favorites. I actually saw Phish play this song in the 1990s at Southpark Meadows in Austin, Texas. The Exile on Main Street set also includes rollicking soulful versions of “Happy,” “Shine A Light,” and “Soul Survivor.” The film winds down with a fired up version of “Suzy Greenberg” anchored by the horns and electric voices of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. Phish’s big screen adventure concludes with the crowd pleasing “Tweezer Reprise.”

Phish 3D

TOP 20 ALBUMS OF JUNE 2009 – BEST OF 2009 SUMMER MUSIC

Top 20 Albums of June 2009

  1. Bob Marley and the Wailers B Is For Bob [Tuff Gong/Def Jam/Island Records 2009]
  2. Various Artists Dark Was The Night (Red Hot Compilation) [The Red Hot Organization/4AD 2009]
  3. N.A.S.A. – The Spirit Of Apollo [Anti/Epitaph 2009]
  4. AlborosieEscape From Babylon [Greensleeves 2009]
  5. Dave Matthews BandBig Whiskey And The GrooGrux King [Bama Rags 2009]
  6. The ItalsLet Dem Talk [Ital Records 2009]
  7. Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley BandOuter South [Merge 2009]
  8. DJ JS-1 No Sellout [Ground Original 2009]
  9. The Dub MachinistWorldwide Dub [Control Tower France 2009]
  10. Various Artists Reggae Gold 2009 [VP Records 2009]
  11. Ini Kamoze 5150 Rule [Hottis 2009]
  12. Amadou & MariamWelcome to Mali [Nonesuch 2009]
  13. Los Granadian del Espacio Exterior Donde Ningun Hombre Ha Llegado Jamas [Liquidator Spain 2009]
  14. Method Man & RedmanBlackout! 2 [Explicit] [Island/Def Jam 2009]
  15. Regina SpektorFar [Sire 2009]
  16. Black Eyed PeasThe E.N.D. (The Energy Never Dies) [Interscope 2009]
  17. 311Uplifter [RCA/Jive 2009]
  18. The Dirty ProjectorsBitte Orca[Domino Recording 2009]
  19. Natural BlackGuardian Angel [Zion Roots Music 2009]
  20. Sonic Youth The Eternal [Matador 2009]
  21. Paul WallFast Life [Explicit] [Asylum/WB 2009]

“Life is one big road with lots of signs,” Bob sings “So when your riding through the ruts don’t you complicate your mind.” On this album we see why Bob Marley and the Wailers ruled the world of reggae music, especially with roots reggae tracks like “Wake Up And Live – Pt. 1.”  On the new album B Is For Bob executive producer Ziggy Marley reworked some of the Bob Marley classics giving them a kid friendly edge. The album pulsates with positive vibrations. A stripped down acoustic version of “Three Little Birds” leads off the album followed by a classic acoustic version of “Redemption Song.” These two songs make for fun summer road trip  sing-a-longs. I found the version of “Satisfy My Soul” to be very sensual and in my opinion this song could be one of the best lovers’ rock tracks ever cut. A bongo almost-dancehall infused “Jamming” and new takes on “Small Axe,” “Bend Down Low” and “Stir It Up” fill out this nice addition to the Bob Marley discography. “Could You Be Loved” and “One Love / People Get Ready” also fit perfect with the kid album theme. “High Tide Or Low Tide” excellently caps off the work.

Finding their way to the top of the Jam-Tex music charts this June are a cadre of Indie-rockers and rappers. The benefit album and compilation Dark Was The Night (Red Hot Compilation) and the N.A.S.A. hip-hop project The Spirit Of Apollo. Dark Was The Night (Red Hot Compilation) includes indie rockers collaborating to make wonderful music and really this album needs to be listened to in its entirety for the best effect. The Dirty Projectors team up with David Byrne on “Knotty Pine,” while Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings provide some soulful “Inspiration Information.” The Decemberists perform “Sleepless,” while Feist and Ben Gibbard team up on “Train Song.” Iron & Wine, Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, and Arcade Fire all appear on the album.

On N.A.S.A.’s The Spirit Of Apollo George Clinton and Chali 2na Fish rock “There’s A Party (Feat. George Clinton & Chali 2na)” and dancheall wonder Sizzla joins Lovefoxxx, and the nasty female rapper Amanda Blank on the track “A Volta (Feat. Sizzla, Amanda Blank & Lovefoxxx).” My favorite duo on any of these indie compilations appears on the N.A.S.A. album when Tom Waits and Kool Keith collaborate on “Spacious Thoughts (Feat. Tom Waits & Kool Keith)”. M.I.A., Santogold, Nick Zinner, and Spank Rock drive the electro-rap jam “Whachadoin? (Feat. Spank Rock, M.I.A., Santogold & Nick Zinner)“. The N.A.S.A. album certainly contains the most interesting lineup of artists, including David Byrne, Gift of Gab, Chuck D, DJ Z-Trip, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, KRS-One, Seu Jorge, Ras Congo, and Scarface on tracks like  “Money (Feat. David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge & Z-Trip),” “The People Tree (Feat. David Byrne, Chali 2na, Gift Of Gab & Z-Trip),” “Hip Hop (Feat. KRS-One, Fatlip & Slim Kid Tre),” “Strange Enough (Feat. Karen O, Ol’ Dirty Bastard & Fatlip),” and “The Mayor (Feat. The Cool Kids, Ghostface Killah, Scarface & DJ AM).”

Alborosie, Ini Kamoze, the Itals, and Reggae Gold 2009 provide this year’s sweltering summer reggae soundtrack. On the new Dave Matthews Band album Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King the track “Funny The Way It Is” proves the band is still putting out quality music. DJ JS-1 gathers some talented indie rappers on No Sellout, for example, Aesop Rock and C Ray Wallz rock the mics on “Karma Killerz.”

TOP 20 ALBUMS OF JUNE 2009 – BEST OF 2009 SUMMER MUSIC