The Tallest Man on Earth put on an incredible performance that will be very difficult to put into words, at Newport Folk Festival on Sunday. Being about the third to last artist of the festival, his set ran into Jackson Browne’s headlining performance; Kristian Matsson performed on perhaps one of the smallest stages and brought a crowd far too large for the small stage to handle. As Tune-Yards was finishing her set (where Kristian could be spotted watching secretly on the sidelines) crowds were already beginning to push their way in. Crowds got so large that state police were brought in to keep the fire lanes open, and unfortunately had to aggressively force many people trying to catch a desperate glimpse of Kristian, out from the lanes and into the rainy uncovered crowds surrounding the tent.
If you have not witnessed Kristian in action, it is something that stays in one’s mind forever. His presence is unchallenged. He pounds through each song, making it seem effortless to play such beautiful music as he switches between at least 5 guitars and a piano.
At Newport he chose mainly from his newest piece of (phenomenal) work, There’s No Leaving Now, but also a few songs from his EP, Sometimes The Blues is Just a Passing Bird, one from his first album (“Where Do My Bluebirds Fly” from Shallow Graves) as well as his theme song of sorts ”The King of Spain” off of The Wild Hunt during which Kristian paused to let the whole crowd sing a long for a verse or two. An intense moment- the rain pattering on the tent combined with the crowd singing loudly as if to assure Kristian that they knew each word to “The King of Spain” was something every person present would never forget.
Although a Tallest Man on Earth performance is difficult to describe, it is as you would dream it do be when listening to his music. Kristian is perfection, in his music and in his total presence.
Iron & Wine put on a surprising set at Newport Folk Festival yesterday. It was amazing to see Sam Beam so close up on stage. Sam had 5 guys behind him including a saxophone-ist that altogether culminated into perhaps the loudest set of the day at the Quad stage (previous acts that day: Deer Tick, Johnny Corndawg, Robbert Ellis).
When I think Iron & Wine I mainly think of a quiet, acoustic set with Sam singing quietly. This was definitely the opposite. The band rocked out and even when playing songs off of old albums that typically just feature Sam and his guitar, the whole band played along, transforming once strictly acoustic tracks into full-band material. It was a pleasant surprise.
Sam was glowing- he continued to ask the crowd how we were and what we had been up to since he was at the festival last, explaining how grateful he was to be back. Sam has a knack at making you wish you could sit down and talk about the world together, while only using the most beautiful words in the English language to speak poetically to each other.
So after seeing the majority of The Shins set, I hopped in a cab back to the Oxford Art Factory to catch the Brooklyn-based Friends (I missed Zulu Winter and Howler). As we speak, Splendour In The Grass is going on - basically the Australian Coachella up in Byron Bay. Because so many bands travel so far for this festival, they do these sideshows throughout Oz the weeks before and after, which is why this was such an incredible week for music here. Anyway.
Relying solely on their debut (and only) album, Manifest!, the Brooklynites totally rocked their 45-minute set. About four songs in, super congested lead singer Samantha Urbani explained that she had a terrible cold, which only got worse on the flight over from the States. Talking to us, Samantha sounded so sick, that you’d wonder why she was singing in front of a packed crowd instead of lying in bed with some hot tea and chicken soup. Even so, she sounded spot-on throughout the show and wowed the crowd with her unique blend of r&b-tinged rock vocals. No one’s ever made being sick sound this good.
This was the band’s third sideshow down under, also marking their third show as a four-piece, as guitarist/keyboardist Matthew Molnar quit the band right before they headed to Australia, leaving very little time to reconfigure and rehearse. Even with yet another strike against them, the band gave the packed crowd a superb, tight performance. I don’t think anyone even realized that there used to be a fifth member.
These guys just blew me away, even with the odds against them, as their unique blend of indie pop, electronic, and r&b translated very well in a live setting. Singles “Friend Crush” and “I’m His Girl” were definitely notable, as the latter had the crowd singing “when you see me walking around with him I’m not just another chick I’m… his… girl!” These guys killed it, and I look forward to hearing more from them in the near future!
[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”600”] Mila Matveeva[/caption]
LA’s The Henry Clay People played Brooklyn Bowl in New York a couple weeks back, riding high on the release of their latest full-length, “Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives”, which came out on June 26th via TBD Records (and which you can purchase here). The band has been around for about seven years now, but still may be fresh on some ears (I only got turned onto them this past year thanks to Zach over at We Listen For You). Ever-elusive bassist Harris (what is your last name?) joins the band’s original line-up on this record, as original drummer Eric Scott returns to the fold, led by brothers Andy and Joey Siara (above).
Punky, catchy and packed with heart-on-your-sleeve sing-a-longs, according to Joey the band wanted this to be ”the record that our sixteen year old selves would have been excited about”. Amen, Joey. Off I go to bask in the glory of my quarter-life crisis.
Listen to the eponymous single and “Hide” below, buy the record and go see these guys live. They kick ass. Check out more photos from last week’s show below.
Last year Daughter left us in awe with the incredible “Youth,” check out this solid live take on it.
From what I’ve heard Counting Crows are putting on one hell of tour this year with The Outlaw Roadshow, nothing against Adam Duritz and company but I’ve had my doubts until the videos started rolling in which have made me a believer. This live take of “From The Lake To The Land” from Foreign Fields is solid example of what I’m talking about.
This was my second time seeing Cults, and again, although their music was basically made for a sunny Sunday afternoon, their show managed to be just all right.
What’s so great about the duo is their penchant for the cutesiest music possible, as their songs are adorn with adorable vocals and lyrics, infectious hooks, and the occasional glokenshpiel in the seasonally appropriate “Go Outside”. Their signature brand of the most charming indie-pop has a similar vibe as Best Coast and Tennis, but lead singer Madeline Follin definitely out-cutes the other frontwomen.
They sounded good live – don’t get me wrong – but their live show didn’t add anything that the record doesn’t already have. “You Know What I Mean”, “Abducted”, “Oh My God”, and of course my personal song of summer 2011“Go Outside” were perfect soundtracks to Sunday at Governors Ball – but then again, a soundtrack isn’t really what you’re looking for at a festival. Cults is a fabulous, unique band whose self-titled release was most definitely the soundtrack to last summer, but their live shows aren’t really anything special.
Right before seeing them back at the final installation of All Points West Festival in 2009, Cage The Elephant was my favorite band, and after seeing their one-of-a-kind set, they remained my favorite band for some time after. Their debut self-titled album is an indie rock, punk-tinged masterpiece, but even so, I found their sophomore release “Thank You Happy Birthday” to be sort of a flop in the sense that it seemed to be more overproduced (what I love about them is how raw their sound is), and they didn’t really seem to make any progress anywhere from the last album.
Anyway, even though their studio work may have regressed, their live show definitely showed progress: tortured lead singer Matt Schultz managed to get even more punk in the three years I didn’t see them. Their overproduced studio work transformed into story time with the crazed frontman in the sense that I’ve never seen such raw, genuine emotion in a performance as I did that day. Schultz was running around the stage frantically throughout the set, even accusing the crowd of trying to steal his wallet, and proving that it’s his derangement that really adds to his charm. His music is real and portrays real emotion as he isn’t hiding behind any loops or production.
Cage The Elephant provided to be the most punk set of the weekend and one of the most exciting to watch, and when they played “Back Against The Wall” from their debut, I lost it, and tried (and failed) to rock as hard as Schultz. Even if you aren’t into their studio work, Cage The Elephant is a must-see, as their only seem to be improving their live shows.
If Governors Ball Saturday’s theme was electronic music, then Sunday’s was 90’s nostalgia, which officially began when indie rock heroes Built To Spill took the stage (followed by the rest of the best of the 90’s with Fiona Apple, Modest Mouse, and Beck - Explosions In The Sky got together in 1999, so I guess they can be thrown in there as well).
Being the oldest artists of the weekend, Built To Spill proved that you don’t need to be young to be able to rock out. Their sound was so raw and genuine - with no loops or knob-twiddling as was seen all weekend. They weren’t afraid to jam, rock, and show the rest of the festival why they influenced so much of today’s lo-fi. With tracks like “Distopian Dream Girl”, “Stab”, and “Broken Chair” (but to the woman-standing-behind-me-who-was-yelling-for-her-favorite-song’s dismay, they didn’t play their most popular track, “Car”), the guys illustrated the power of straight-up rock, and gave the second most punk set of the weekend. Along with cult-favorites Pavement and Guided By Voices, these guys paved the way for modern indie rock.
Explosions In The Sky have been a favorite of mine since I was introduced to them by a good friend of mine back in 2010, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing them ever since. When they were announced on last year’s Bonnaroo lineup, I was beyond thrilled, but when the schedule came out and I discovered that they were playing at the exact same time as The Strokes (to understand the severity of this matter, might I add that this time was also shared with Robert Plant, Superjam featuring Dr. John and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys with members of My Morning Jacket and The Preservation Jazz Hall Band, as well as Beirut). I had to make a tough call and choose The Strokes, because seriously - when else can you see The Strokes?
This was finally the time I was able to see them and even with all of that hype, they still managed to amaze me beyond anything I was expecting. The post-rockers performed with such technical preciseness, while maintaining genuine emotion in their playing. They tore through some of my favorites - one of my favorite albums of all-time, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place’s “The Only Moment We Were Alone” and closer “Your Hand In Mind” along with “Postcard From 1952”, “Catastrophe And The Cure”, “The Birth And Death Of A Day”, and “Let Me Back In”.
Post-rock isn’t for everyone, which was noticeable with all of the talking throughout the set from the audience, but even so, I was able to fully focus on the instrumentalists as they took me to a different place and created one of the most beautiful musical landscapes with layers upon layers of exceptional guitar work. As on record, the melodies were spectacular and provided the same sort of quality that vocals provide in a song.
Throughout the day, my friends and I were discussing how certain band names don’t really suit the band’s music (for starters, Built To Spill sounds like a shitty emo band, Cults sounds like a hardcore punk outfit - and don’t even get me started on Duck Sauce), but Explosions In The Sky’s moniker suits the band to a T - their 8+ -minute tracks rely on a gradual buildup throughout the song, which end in some of the most beautiful crescendos and climaxes in modern music - in sort of an explosion, hence their name.
Maybe it’s because of the lack of distraction of a vocalist, but these guys can really take you on a journey with their sound unlike anyone else I can think of, and they play with such emotion that takes to a different world and provide you with an almost out-of-body experience. It’s hard to put into words, but they’re one of the few bands that if you really let go of yourself and lose yourself in the music, the possibilities are endless, and let you use your own imagination (again, no lyrics to illustrate the feelings being conveyed) to guide you throughout the songs however you would like. And the fact that the sun was setting just as these guys were reaching their climax made their set that much better and was the perfect almost-closure to an incredible weekend.