...we've got the means to make amends. I am lost, I'm no guide, but I'm by your side. (Pearl Jam, Leash)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Free music from a leading purveyor of overpriced tongue-in-cheek fashion

Is it just me, or do you always kinda secretly begrudge how effortlessly you can be converted to commercial promotions when they include a free download of songs you like? Following that infectious Converse track and the Cartier compilation, the summer of free music continues with the folks wanting to outfit your urban experience.

It's okay to feel a little dirty.

Urban Outfitters' upbeat summer mixtape tracklist is pretty solid -- lots of bands on here to love, songs to rawk out to at full volume. Parts of this feel like playlist of bands I've been fortunate to catch in the last few months, from folks like Black Kids and Architecture in Helsinki at Coachella to King Khan and the Shrines a few weeks ago (at an off-the-hook craaaazy good show).

Okay, so rock on (while you shop?). It's free. After you spent $85 on those jeans, they owe you as much.

Lolita - Throw Me The Statue
I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You - Black Kids
Like It Or Not (Version 2) - Architecture in Helsinki
Woodfriend - Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
Hit The Wall - Broken Social Scene Presents Brendan Canning
Taking The Farm - War On Drugs
Furr - Blitzen Trapper
Red and Purple - The Dodos
The Old Days - Dr. Dog
Death To Los Campesinos! - Los Campesinos
Sore - Annuals
Horizons - Son Ambulance
Light of Love - Music Go Music
Do You Love Me? - The Explorers Club
The Blue Route - The Walkmen
GfC - Albert Hammond Jr.
Little Bit - Lykke Li
Boneless - The Notwist
Reservoir Park - The Duchess and The Duke
Outta Harms Way - King Khan and The Shrines
Willow Tree - Chad VanGaalen


[via: I totally go clothes shopping with Dodge, yo]

The SXSW of Denver is happening this weekend

This weekend brings a vibrant, can't-miss community festival to all the music loving denizens of Denver.

The Denver Post's Underground Music Showcase (UMS) is preparing to take over a walkable area of South Broadway (roughly between 3rd and Maple) and 20 venues -- including the sanctuary of a church, a Persian rug store, a custom print shop and a modern art gallery, as well as all the traditional clubs and music venues. Over 100 local bands will play on Friday evening and all day Saturday (and okay . . . probably on into Sunday).

In addition to artists I know I dig, like
Gregory Alan Isakov, Hearts of Palm, Young Coyotes, Born In The Flood etc, I am especially looking forward to the "wander around aimlessly and listen" plan of attack and discovering some unexpected new local sounds. And if the tunes aren't enough to lure you, there's also a photography exhibit presented by some of Denver's finest rock photographers (with free beer). If you live in Colorado and love music, come on out -- a pass for all the action will only set you back a Jackson, and that ain't bad.

In order to find more about how one nurtures and pulls off such a rad model for a local music festival, I checked in with one of the festival organizers, Ricardo Baca of the Denver Post. He tells Fuel/Friends why you should all come around to his little utopia this weekend.


1) When the Underground Music Showcase first began, what hopes and goals did you have for it?

In the beginning, we only wanted to celebrate Denver's local music community. It was five bands for $5, and the promoters told us we wouldn't make any money off local bands. We told them we didn't want to make the money - we wanted it all to go to the bands. (A very un-promoterly philosophy, apparently, given the looks of horror on their faces.) The Denver Post has never made money on any of the seven previous UMSs, nor have we, the organizers. But from the very beginning, the bands have always told us that they make more money at the UMS than any other show throughout the year - and since we believe that musicians deserve to make money, we've kept with that philosophy.

To this day, as we've expanded to two days and 100 bands and 20 venues and an outdoor stage this year - while still staying all-local, mind you - we still give 100 percent of the ticket sales to the artists who make the UMS what it is.

2) Name a few shows this year that you are anticipating - what's gonna be epic?

As you know, Heather, The Knew is a fiery live act that isn't to be missed. And they really step it up at festivals. I really love it how bands often utilize festivals - SXSW or Coachella or the UMS - as a time to step things up, to put on a show. And everybody treats it as an event - including the solo artists.

One of my favorite aspects of the UMS plucks artists out of bands and drops them on a solo stage. We try and pick musicians who aren't really known for their solo work, too, because it makes things more interesting. Last year, everybody showed up when Bright Channel's Jeff Suthers (now of Moonspeed) played an intense solo set at a little paper shop. He's playing again this year, and now there are others who don't play out alone much - Pee Pee's Doo Crowder, Widowers' Mike Marchant, Cat-A-Tac's Jim McTurnan and Ghost Buffalo's Marie Litton just to name a few - who are stepping out at this year's UMS.

More bands people should be aware of: Born in the Flood won our Underground Music Poll last year, and Hearts of Palm won it this year. They're both playing. Some smaller musicians and bands: Mark Darling dazzled me at last year's festival; The Beebs make lovely music; Roger Green and Dang Head and Joe Sampson and Chris Adolf are all tremendous talents in our community; and then there's Chewbacca Bukkake - and with a band name like that, how can you not go and hear what they sound like?

3) Looking back at the UMS, what are some memorably fantastic shows that stick out in your mind?

At last year's UMS, one of our featured solo performers was Patrick Meese. His band, Meese, was about to sign to Atlantic, but we didn't know that. They were still "underground" enough for us. Turns out some of Patrick's buddies showed up for his solo set - including Isaac Slade of The Fray. Isaac later sang a tune with Patrick, and then one by himself, and it was all very lovely and memorable.

I'll also never forget the time Josh Taylor's band Friends Forever got manic with a tarp, a fan and some other materials when we were at the Gothic Theatre that one year. Wovenhand put on a pretty amazing show at the UMS a couple years ago at the Bluebird Theater, and there was also the year when winning band Munly And The Lee Lewis Harlots got up from their seats at the Irish Rover (he'd requested to play the smallest venue at the festival) and walked out to the back patio, where they finished their set under the stars.

I could go on and on, seriously. Recounting the festivals over the years is like going through a history of Denver's indie rock/metal/alt-country/punk scenes.

4) How do you think that technology has changed the independent music scene since the inception of the UMS, and related to that, your job as a music reviewer and festival organizer?

Up until this year, we tabulated votes for the Underground Music Poll by hand. That's 100-plus voters, and each ballot has 20 band names on it. It was mad. This year, our tech guru Sean Porter was kind enough to build us a program that made things easy for everybody - voters included.

Speaking of Sean, he and his colleagues have made an incredible impact throughout the state --all very quietly, mind you-- by designing/running most of the major rock club websites and starting his own genius creation, Gigbot. He and his buddies created websites for many of the major music venues and festivals in the city, and their program Gigbot spiders all of those sites and blogs and MySpace pages and brings that data into one place. Who's playing tonight? Go to Gigbot. That makes my job - and my live music habit - a lot easier.. In the spirit of being forward, Gigbot is the presenting sponsor of this year's UMS. But still. They were my favorite website long before they were associated with the UMS.

5) In talking about a future vision, what would you like to add to the Underground Music Showcase in future years?

We do like growth at the UMS. Right now we're an all-volunteer shop. Even our lead booker, designer, sponsorship director and web developer are volunteers. I'd like to imagine a day where those are paid positions, even if it's just a bonus. These people give so much. They deserve it.

Other than that, I love what the UMS stands for. I hope to keep that pro-artist, pro-fan vision and continue to grow with the booming Colorado music scene.

Thanks Ricardo, for the thoughts shared and for helping (with your crew) to organize such a relevant, viable, 'music-friendly-first' local festival! The posters are printed, the bands are ready. I'm in!

[poster photo credit Todd Roeth]

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Last night :: The Faint and the sweaty, sweaty kids at the Ogden Theatre

Last night at The Faint was a hot show in every sense of the word. It was frenzied and frantic, all sweaty moshing all-ages and pulsing, pounding, electronic/new-wave indie rock. I needed that.

All my pictures are up on Facebook, shot tentatively on my handy dandy new Canon Rebel XTi, a humblingly-tremendous early birthday present from my family. Watch out! I plan on having fun with this thing.

I Disappear - The Faint

CONTEST UPDATE: The new album also came out yesterday, and the randomly selected winner of The Faint vinyl contest is Josh -- Josh, let me know where to have it sent!

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

So this has been one of the busiest weekends in recent memory 'round these parts, leaving me exhausted, depleted, physically sore. I'm packing up the house I've lived in for three years, heading for hopefully greener pastures closer to downtown and the lovely neighborhood where I work. This entails slogging through a lot of crap, selling off everything that's not bolted down, and getting ready for this stager lady that my realtor provides to come in on Thursday while I am at work and move all my furniture around and decorate in ways unknown to me. So when I come home it will be just like Trading Spaces except no Ty Pennington and no blindfold reveal.

In order to make the undesirable things (like bleaching the bathroom grout and polishing those hardwood floors) more palatable these days, I've been listening to some of these songs and albums. And I feel better.

Last November
Drummer Danny Seim from Menomena (rhymes with phenomena, now I know) has a bedroom side-project called Lackthereof that actually predates his more well-known endeavors. In this ongoing project he plumbs some wonderfully moody, melodic, and obviously rhythmic depths. "Last November" is good for night-driving home from concerts, for that Lost Highway atmosphere as you watch the lines flick past. It starts with brooding clash and moves into something fairly soaring and surreptitiously suggestive on the choruses, part of an album chock full of rich moments. Your Anchor is out now on Barsuk Records.

Everybody Say
Takka Takka
No, funny you should ask, they're not from Sweden or Iceland or anything like that. Despite sounding like a lost Sigur Ros cut, Takka Takka is actually a snappily-named quintet from Brooklyn. Their sophomore album Migration is out tomorrow on Ernest Jenning Recording Co, and was "lovingly produced" by Sean Greenhalgh of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah drumming fame. It was recorded in Brooklyn and features performances by Bryan Devendorf of The National and Lee Sargent of CYHSY. Friend Bruce hears Lou Reed and the Modern Lovers, while I'd cite a definite "Could You Be Loved" on that intro. So yeah, we can agree that it's eclectic (and intelligent and ear-pleasing).

Danny Callahan
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
I have a strong suspicion that behind the cleanscrubbed 17-year-old impression that meets the eye, Conor Oberst is just an old folkie at heart with a backporch fiddle, great stories, and a rambling beard. Maybe the kind with birds living in it. We all knew that it was just a matter of time before he ran off to Mexico with his Mystic Valley Band. This cut from the upcoming self-titled album was recorded in Tepoztlán, Morelos earlier this year and possesses many of the same loosely rollicking, great storytelling airs that I like from the most alt-countrified of his back catalog ... but this time with astral plains, choloroform, and dying children. Spooky. The album is out August 4th on Merge Records, and they've got five in-store performances in independent record shops to celebrate over the next two weeks.

Remembering to blog this song is one of the greatest aha! moments I've had in the last few months. I had listened to this particular tune from L.A.'s Everest on serious repeat in May and heavily dug the muted Buddy Holly classic pop-song vibe with autumnal colors. And then it got lost like a leaf on a fast-moving torrent of my iTunes library, so I've been singing unrecognizable parts of the song to myself (mumbling through words I don't know), Googling desperately trying to find out what it was, and sending myself text reminders late at night when I felt like I'd had a breakthrough on a new relevant detail. Here it is! It's here and it's so lovely. The aptly named Ghost Notes is out now on Vapor Records, and the band hits Outside Lands in SF in mere weeks.

By Yourself
The Knew

I had the pleasure of seeing this Denver band explode at the Hi-Dive Saturday night at the record release party for their new Boom Bust EP. The crowd was jumping and dancing to their somewhat unclassifiable blend of sounds - the Denver Post tried to nail it down with "punk, alt- country, classic rock, British dance-punk and garage rock." Either way, these songs rock in concert and as a bonus their lead singer looks like a slender Will Ferrell. I am looking forward to seeing them again at the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase this weekend. If you live in Colorado, you should be too.

And look! Who's your daddy?! Thanks, makeout club.

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Kings of Leon say "Crawl," I say "alright"

Because I love their sound, and also partly because I could watch these boys all day long (and yes, I know that is shallow and inappropriate but come on):

KINGS OF LEON: "Only By The Night"
home movies/album preview

Oh, Followills, showcased in their natural footloose environment -- cavorting, making music, riding small scooters. The new KOL album Only By The Night will be out September 23rd. As of this morning, you can download their churning new song "Crawl" for free on Spin.com:

Crawl - Kings of Leon

Monday Music coming later today . . .


Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Faint fasciinate (and you can win the vinyl)

[they brought back the Soul Coughing guy from retirement!]

On August 5th, Nebraska dance-punk band The Faint will return with a new self-released album, Fasciinatiion (on their own blank.wav label). They'll be kicking off a tour in support of it, and I'm looking forward to catching them towards the opening end at Denver's Ogden Theatre on Tuesday night, for what is sure to be a rad show.

I've not seen The Faint in concert before but friends who've gone cite the live action as simultaneously a huge amount of fun with perhaps a thread of dark fear running through it (stay out of the daylight!). This is not a bad combination, but hopefully the ratio of fun to fear will be proportionately higher than that time I saw Marilyn Manson in 1995 at now-defunct Edge nightclub in Palo Alto -- still scarred from that one. Anyways . . . I woefully digress.

NEW CONTEST! Thanks to the folks at blank.wav, I have one double gatefold 180-gram vinyl of the new album Fasciinatiion to give away to one lucky winner. Please leave a comment if you'd like to win -- and if you've seen 'em live, tell me what I have in store for me. Posed to death!

Fasciinatiion Track List:
1) Get Seduced
2) The Geeks Were Right
3) Machine in the Ghost
4) Fulcrum and Lever
5) Psycho
6) Mirror Error
7) I Treat You Wrong
8) Forever Growing Centipedes
9) Fish in a Womb
10) A Battle Hymn for Children

The Geeks Were Right - The Faint

And the tour starts tomorrow night, rocking Des Moines:

July 27 Des Moines, IA - Peoples Court
July 28 Sioux Falls, SD - Ramkota Annex
July 29 Denver, CO - Ogden Theatre
July 30 Salt Lake City, UT - In the Venue
July 31 Boise, ID - Big Easy Boise
Aug 01 Vancouver, British Columbia - Commodore
Aug 02 Seattle, WA - Showbox at the Market
Aug 03 Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom
Aug 04 San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
Aug 05 San Francisco, CA - Grand Ballroom
Aug 07 Los Angeles, CA - Henry Fonda Theatre
Aug 08 Los Angeles, CA - Henry Fonda Theatre
Aug 09 San Diego, CA - Soma
Aug 11 Austin, TX - La Zona Rosa
Aug 12 Dallas, TX - Palladium
Aug 14 Atlanta, GA - Variety Playhouse
Aug 15 Carrboro, NC - Cats Cradle
Aug 16 Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
Aug 17 Philadelphia, PA - Trocadero
Aug 18 New York, NY - Terminal 5
Aug 20 Worcester, MA - Palladium
Aug 21 Toronto, Ontario - Opera House
Aug 22 Chicago, IL - Vic Theatre
Aug 23 Omaha, NE - Sokol Auditorium

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Young Coyotes show update

I featured Denver's Young Coyotes on the Monday Music Roundup a few weeks ago, and at the time they had no shows scheduled. Several of you wrote to me to say how much you loved the summery-sweet fantastic sounds of their "Momentary Drowning," so I am happy to report that they now have THREE shows scheduled for us lucky locals. Catch them here:

August 1 @ The Marquis with Son Ambulance
August 2 as part of the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase (Indy Ink, 3pm)
August 13 @ The Hi-Dive with Langhorne Slim

Momentary Drowning - Young Coyotes

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Black Keys live from Abbey Road

The Sundance Channel original series Live From Abbey Road featured Akron dirty-blues-rock duo The Black Keys this week. Dudes are currently gearing up for their Fall tour promoting their Danger Mouse-produced sickass album Attack and Release (they'll be at Red Rocks August 21!).

Upcoming episodes in the Sundance series from the famed studio will feature artists such as MGMT (August 7), The Kills (August 14), Brian Wilson and Martha Wainwright (Sept 4), and Bryan-not-Ryan Adams on August 28.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Can you DiG! it?

Don't tell your boss, but you can totally watch free movies at work and other places where you don't have your Netflix now, using this new SnagFilms action. (I mean, on your lunch break, clearly).

Streaming artsy/indie flicks for free with no login, they've got everything from Gonzo Music Diaries NYC, Duke basketball, summer camp with the Flaming Lips, and Super Size Me (which I actually just watched for the first time the other night and ewww).

That full film embedded above is a delightfully contentious movie that you must see if you never have (about Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols and their mid-90s music feud and friendship). It's also loaded with great music. I can dig it.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

she says i wanna do right, but not right now

The New Frontiers from Dallas dropped their spacious and glowing cover of the Gillian Welch song "Look At Miss Ohio" into my inbox today, like a little gift. That aching original has been one of my favorite songs to attempt harmony with on the chorus for a few years now, but where Gillian's voice often takes on that haunted and weary edge, this version burns a little with spreading warmth -- like a good glass of whiskey. It sounds like roadtrips that start at 4am after too much talking and dreaming about the wanderlust.

Look At Miss Ohio (Gillian Welch cover) - The New Frontiers

The New Frontiers have a new album called Mending out on The Militia Group label, and check the Daytrotter session they did to hear two songs from the album and two unreleased tunes.

They are on tour now, hitting Denver's Cervantes Ballroom on Monday night.

LOOSELY RELATED UPDATE (because it was playing in my head all night long): My favorite cover that Gillian Welch does, of a Radiohead tune. Gutting.

Black Star (Radiohead cover) - Gillian Welch

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Last night :: Fleet Foxes at the Hi-Dive

I've finagled, bargained, wheedled, and slunk my way into some pretty tough shows over the years, but let me tell you: Denver's Hi-Dive was no country for procrastinators last night at the Fleet Foxes show.

I'd waited too long to secure a spot to review this scruffy Seattle quintet, shortsightedly not expecting a rare total sell-out crowd at the intimate Hi-Dive. I don't know if I've ever seen such a crowd looking for spare tickets outside that venue, and it was only through a stroke of sheer last-minute luck, a guy named Kevin, and his Austrian exchange-student friend that I managed to get into this show. I was surprised but pleased at how hotly anticipated the Fleet Foxes' Denver stop was last night -- and how it lived up to the hype.

Once inside the humid oven of the club, the air was saturated with their gorgeous golden harmonies and near-ethereal shimmering songs, firmly rooted in a sort of Appalachian wilderness. I wish that they'd played longer, but with only one EP and a recently released full-length to pull from, they seemed to be climbing down off the stage way sooner than I would have liked. I was reminded of a sentiment in the Pitchfork review of their album when they wrote that "[the last song] doesn't shoo you out the door. Instead, Fleet Foxes let you linger for a few more bars, leaning forward to catch Pecknold's last syllable as it fades into the air. They don't seem to want the record to end any more than you will." I felt the same way at the end of this show.

The mood in the air was at once vibrating with a sort of CSNY-tinged nostalgia while also bringing to mind obvious contemporaries like Band of Horses. I'd rank their performance as nothing short of mesmerizing, the weight of it seeming to push back against the space in the room in almost palpable ways. Fleet Foxes also apparently liked Denver so much that they decided to stay with us an extra day today (sorry, SLC!).

OH! If you want to see some real-deal gorgeous pictures from last night, please check the fabulous Laurie Scavo's shots. Even though I usually tend to think of Fleet Foxes' music in shades of golden, all the reds and purples that she captures in her pictures seem so fitting to how it all felt last night.

For listening, I particularly love both of these songs:

Sun Giant - Fleet Foxes
White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes are currently on tour (catch them! do it! buy in advance!), including some shows with Wilco. Their MySpace page adds a wonderful bit of their inner-monologue detail to these dates:

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Wilco plays someone else's songs, Part II

Hey do you like Wilco? Of course you do. And most everyone likes covers (especially me). This is part two of a jawdropping treasure trove of lovingly-assembled covers that Wilco has performed in concert over the years.

In this batch, you get covers of everyone from Neutral Milk Hotel (!!) to Herman's Hermits, an even better version of that lovely lovely "Be Not So Fearful" song that I posted a while back, and you also get to hear Tweedy's improvisational singsong verse about Grateful Dead fans ("You're scaring me very much now / I always suspected that a lot of this crowd smoked a lot of pot, and dropped a lot of acid back in the hippy days / Oh, it's so so sad that you're Wilco fans.")

Give Back the Key to My Heart (11/22/99): Doug Sahm

Kingsport Town (1/4/00): Bob Dylan

Lookin' for a Love (1/4/00): Neil Young

King of Carrot Flowers, Part 1 (1/9/00): Neutral Milk Hotel

Rock Salt and Nails (5/14/00): Bob Dylan

Organ Blues (5/14/00): T. Rex

Reflections in a Crystal Wind (9/12/00): Richard & Mimi Farina

I'm Into Something Good (9/13/00): Herman's Hermits

Colon song (11/16/00)

Stairway to Heaven (12/20/00): Led Zeppelin - (Golden Smog)

Ripple (2/25/01): Grateful Dead

I Wish I Was Your Mother (9/15/01): Mott The Hoople

No Depression (11/18/01): The Carter Family

It's Alright to Cry (2/17/02): Rosie Grier

Three Is a Magic Number (2/17/02): Schoolhouse Rock

Yellow Submarine (2/17/02): The Beatles

We Will Rock You (2/17/02): Queen

Be Not So Fearful (4/6/02): Bill Fay

TV Eye (5/26/02): The Stooges

Henry & the H-Bombs (6/10/02): Mott The Hoople


[photo from Louisville Slugger Field, credit Richie Wireman]

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wilco plays someone else's songs

Hey do you like Wilco? Of course you do. And most everyone likes covers (especially me). This is a jawdropping treasure trove of lovingly-assembled covers that Wilco has performed in concert over the years.

In this batch, you get covers of everyone from Bob Dylan to the Replacements to The Stooges. Oh, and a sweet hip-hop version of She's A Jar, bitch.

Listen to Her Heart (9/10/95): Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Peace, Love and Understanding (4/17/96): Nick Lowe - (Golden Smog)

Love & Mercy (4/17/96): Brian Wilson - (Golden Smog)

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (1/11/97): Jane Taylor

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (2/15/97): Carole King

Color Me Impressed (5/10/97): The Replacements

I Wanna Be Sedated (5/10/97): The Ramones

Drown (5/23/97): Son Volt

True Love Will Find You in the End (9/4/97): Daniel Johnston

Ever Fallen in Love (10/30/97): The Buzzcocks

Sunday Bloody Sunday (11/4/97): U2

Sugar Baby (11/7/97): Doc Boggs

Tear Stained Eye (11/7/97): Son Volt

If It Makes You Happy (11/7/97): Sheryl Crow

Won't Get Fooled Again (11/7/97): The Who

Ingrid Bergman (3/26/98 ): Woody Guthrie/Billy Bragg

John Wesley Harding (3/26/98): Bob Dylan

100 Years from Now (6/12/98): Gram Parsons

James Alley Blues (8/30/98): Richard "Rabbit" Brown

A Fool Such As I (10/19/98): Elvis Presley

I'm Only Sleeping (11/12/98): The Beatles

Yesterday (11/15/98): The Beatles

Rainbow Connection (12/30/98): Kermit The Frog

She's a Jar, hip-hop version (6/15/99): Wilco

Oklahoma USA (10/20/99): The Kinks
Thirteen (10/20/99): Big Star

Dreaming (10/21/99): Blondie

Any Major Dude (11/5/99): Steely Dan

Cock in My Pocket (11/5/99): The Stooges


Stay tuned for Part 2!

[image from St. Louis, credit Charles Harris]

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Mile High Music Festival - Sunday

Sunday dawned even hotter than Saturday at the Mile High Music Festival (we didn't think it was possible after the sweat and simmer of Saturday). In Colorado we usually get a rocky mountain high of mid 80s, with a rare foray into the 90s. So when the mercury hit 100+, it felt like a wave from an oven to this California girl who has forgotten what it means to perspire like that. The crowds were also more intense on Sunday, with several thousand more hardy souls fortifying themselves in the beer garden, filling up their water bottles, and slathering on the sunscreen.

The musical lineup Sunday was also more consistently solid, other than a lull right in the middle of the afternoon, when I was hard-pressed to find a single band that was worth peeling myself off the lawn for. This was one of the only downfalls of the MHMF -- the bands were spaced out so that there was sometimes no choice #2 running simultaneously with the band you had no interest in seeing.

After regrettably missing The Whigs and Ingrid Michaelson (who I hear both turned in excellent performances), the first act I saw was the gypsy-flamenco sounds of former thrash-metal bandmates from Mexico City, Rodrigo y Gabriela. I was mightily impressed by this pair and the pulsing, ebbing, wildly romantic sounds that they coaxed from their pair of guitars. Through a combination of finger-picking, fierce strumming, and thumping a variety of beats on the wooden guitar bodies, this duo wove a rich set of moving music. They were also statuesque to photograph, especially the truly lovely Gabriela who evinced strength and grace like a piece of (really talented) artwork.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals knocked the crowd (and all the photographers) flat with her soulful wails and gorgeous confidence that reminded me of Janis Joplin. After starting her set with two songs seated behind a keyboard, writhing on the seat and tossing her head back in near-orgasmic ecstasy, Grace stood up, grabbed a flying-V guitar and rocked out with her bespectacled guitarist to the sounds of the turbulent "Stop The Bus" from her latest album. I was singing that song all the rest of the day (and on the long drive home to keep myself awake).

Stop The Bus - Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

Is it Grace Potter or is it a Vidal Sassoon commercial?

I got sidetracked by a wild concert promoter on my way to catch Denver's own Flobots, and then couldn't fight my way into the photographers pit (but Julio did). After watching their genre-melding set of politically-charged rap, alt-rock, and string instruments, I decided to hoof it over and find out how long John Mayer will, in fact, wait for the world to change.

Next up was a funk-laden, wild set from Philadelphia's The Roots. The seven members were all over the stage, strutting and writhing their way through lengthy improvisations and a cover of Dylan's "Masters of War" that clocked in at over ten minutes. The guitarist jumped out of his shoes at one point, and if I had to blow breath like that tuba player for an hour I think I'd pass out. They were absolutely awesome (?uestloooove!) and one of the clear highlights of the festival. The tent was packed to bursting, with the crowds spilling out dozens of feet onto the surrounding lawn.

I had to go all Prefontaine to hustle it over to see The Black Crowes strut, swagger, and wail their Southern rock. Through the haze of what obviously must have been incense, Chris and Rich Robinson + band (including a pair of gospel-singing ladies) wove a tight web of tunes for an enthusiastic crowd. The field erupted in a wave of hippie dances to the sound of gems like "Remedy" and "Soul Singing," with plenty of guitar noodling and swinging hips on stage.

Dave Matthews Band turned in the most visually impressive set of the fest as the closer, with a curtain of lights obscuring the stage that slowly raised during the first song (the slow build and crest of "Don't Drink The Water"), as a montage of images flashed between circus-bright bulbs. I had many interesting conversations throughout the weekend with friends, trying to guess who liked DMB at one time. A lot of us actually did (some refused to admit it, or claimed to like them for "about one minute" or "back in 1992 when they were so unknown"). I'll admit to liking quite a few of the tunes off their first records -- okay and by that I mean knowing them by heart. I'll cop to it. DMB is nothing if not enthusiastic performers, and I pleased with their extended version of "Two Step" and loved #41 (now how about "Lie In Our Graves" or "Pay For What You Get"?). They were joined on stage by friend of the band Tim Reynolds, and played long into the night (closing with a Sly Stone cover) for the satisfied and damn sweaty attendees.

Finally, a few other parting shots: Great t-shirts...

...public art, lit on fire at sunset...

...and the enthusiastic crowds glowing the twilight.

[full pics from Sunday can be seen here, read my favorite review of the weekend here]

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Mile High Music Festival - Saturday

The inaugural Mile High Music Festival brought massive-scale concert enjoyment to Colorado this weekend. An estimated 80,000 festival attendees from all over the nation and beyond (Canada?) descended on the endlessly stretching, sun-baked green of the fields at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on the eastern outskirts of Denver.

My hundred-degree Saturday started a bit belatedly (pitchers of cider called to me on a shady patio and I missed a few early day bands) with my favorite performance. The astoundingly rich Josh Ritter exploded through the more "rocking" of his folk songs (this meant no Thin Blue Flame, No Temptation of Adam sadly) and wowed the crowd with his incisive lyricism and ebullient joy in performance.

Oh, I heart you Josh Ritter.

Andrew Bird was next up, with his elegant orchestral pop songs that swirl around the otherworldly sound of his trademark whistling. My friend perceptively noted that this "instrument" of Bird's whistle actually sounds a lot like a theremin, something I'd not previously realized but is absolutely true. Under the shade of the Bison Tent stage, Bird kicked off his blue shoes and strutted his tiny wiry frame around in multicolored striped socks. The silver double-head phonograph spun, dizzily. The crowd shouted their approval.

Spoon sounded excellent to these ears, making all the kids dance with the fantastic funk falsetto of "I Turn My Camera On" and the Paul Simon cover of "Peace Like A River," a real treat.

Spoon photo by the awesome Julio

Lupe Fiasco
knows what's up.

And finally Tom Petty swooped in with his embroidered jacket and dozens of songs you forgot you knew every word to by heart. He finished off night one in grand style.

Festivalgoers shuffled exhausted out to our cars to get ready for day two . . .

[All my pics can be seen here for Day 1]

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Friday, July 18, 2008

49 minutes of new Paul Westerberg coming tomorrow?!

Here's some news out of nowhere (thanks Gregg!):

Tomorrow Paul Westerberg will be releasing "49 minutes of music for 49 cents" on his website (yes, that does actually still direct you to an AOL page, don't hold it against him). I believe this is the first new solo material from the former Replacements frontman since 2006's Open Season soundtrack. Curious!

LISTEN: Lots of Westerberg/Mats tracks

UPDATE: Buy it here - sounds pretty good!

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