StagePage And More Live Music Mobile Apps That Rock

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During this episode of Live Fix Radio, we’re diving deeper into our exploration of the best mobile apps for concert fans. Listen in to our chat with Alex Miller as she shares the story behind StagePage, her mission to improve how we remember our concert experiences and why she will never forget seeing the Rolling Stones live at Busch Stadium.

Subscribe via iTunes.

Show Notes:

Segment one: News and other cool stuff you should know about

Segment two (26:35): Interview with Alex Miller of StagePage and her favorite concert experiences

Segment three (56:39): Our favorite concert mobile apps

Music played during the show
  • The Rolling Stones – “Under My Thumb (Live)” – 1966
  • Chairlift – “Planet Health” Live at the Empty Bottle  –  2012
  • The Who – ” I Can See For Miles (Live)” – 1968

 

What Apps Are You Rockin’?

Have you used any of these mobile apps? What do you think of StagePage’s new approach to live music mobile apps? Got a question about concert fan apps or another topic we talked about during the show?

Share your concert experiences and thoughts about this podcast in the comments below, on Twitter @livefixmedia, on Facebook , Google Plus, or call the concert fan hotline at 773-609-4341, and we’ll include them in a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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Concert Preview: The Mesmerizing Polymedia Mythology of NewVillager

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Editorial note: Earlier this week our friend and Live Fix contributor Moira McCormick caught up with NewVillager before their gig in New York to talk about the story behind the band’s ambitiously esoteric and wonder-filled mythological live show — and what awaits Chicago fans tonight at the Empty Bottle

 

“What makes it exciting,” says Ross Simonini of his deliriously uncategorizable polymedia band NewVillager, “is that it’s pop music and esoteric ideas traveling together. Pop can hold esoteric ideas, and we like both – why can’t they be married?”

Simonini and musical partner/fellow visual and conceptual artist Ben Bromley, whose self-titled debut album arrived last month on the IAMSOUND label, are shortly appearing at downtown Manhattan’s snug, multicolored performance space Santos Party House, not quite a month into their North American tour – which brings them to the Empty Bottle tonight.

The Brooklyn-by-way-of-San Francisco duo, augmented live by drummer Collin Palmer and human sculpture Eric Lister, melds art (the visual and performance kind) with their rapturous pop-soul music, on scintillating display in the 10 tracks of NewVillager – easily one of the most jolt-you-out-of-your-complacency releases of this or any year.

Their press kit boasts as many features published in art publications as in music mags, and their performances are apt to take place in galleries – many of which involve actual art installations, such as the recently concluded “Temporary Culture” at Los Angeles’ Human Resources Gallery.

The 10-day exhibit centered on the band’s construction of a “shantytown” in which NewVillager lived, eating and sleeping and all; they ultimately performed in ten different constructed rooms, each room symbolizing a song from the 10-track album. The number ten figures prominently in NewVillager’s self-created mythology, a complex entity that, like Hindu, Greek, or any other cultural mythos, “can’t be summarized in two sentences,” as Simonini puts it: “Our mythology is not really a narrative. NewVillager’s mythology should be understood like art” – in that intuitive, gut-level, gestalt way that art is digested.

At the same time, Simonini acknowledges that serious art talk in the music world is often regarded as pretentious. And he notes with a laugh, “When people hear our ideas first, before our music, they think we must be a noise band, very abstract.”

Instead, NewVillager sculpts widescreen, kaleidoscopic, soul-infused pop – and if you listen to their album without knowing anything about them first, you’d swear you’re hearing a multi-vocalist, multi-instrument, multiracial ensemble. ‘We tried to make the album sound that way,” Simonini says modestly.

When you find out NewVillager is just two guys – two white guys – you’re impressed, if not incredulous. And you figure they must hire a phalanx of singers and musicians to recreate that sound in concert – or at least incorporate a whole lotta recorded tracks.

“No tracks,” says Simonini.

He does add that they’d like to tour with a populous ensemble some day, but that “financially and logistically” it’s not possible. Hiring drummer Palmer, however, made a significant difference in NewVillager’s live sound – and appearance.

“It used to be unruly,” says Simonini, “with just me and a guitar and a foot pedal, and Ben and keyboards and bass and a foot pedal.”

As for the aforementioned human sculpture, that would be one Eric Lister, a friend of Simonini’s since his San Francisco childhood, who’s previously taken part in NewVillager’s art-music happenings. In their current show, Simonini describes, “Eric’s in the center [of the audience], in his ‘Cocoon House’ state” – “Cocoon House” being the leadoff track on NewVillager, whose physical imagery is meant to suggest the gestational phase of an idea.

In fact, as NewVillager’s set begins in the Day-Glo-daubed, patchouli-scented, and cheerfully diminutive music room of Santos Party House, Lister has encased himself in a womblike fabric contraption – “a quilt made of our childhood clothing,” according to Simonini.

When the human sculpture emerges later in NewVillager’s set, those concertgoers who are in the know, but who aren’t in the cocoon’s immediate area, can only imagine the give-and-take that’s surely taking place. Before the show, Simonini said that the addition of Eric the human sculpture gave audience members a chance to interact with “the art aspects of the show;” though the interaction isn’t visible to whole swathes of people.

But if some of NewVillager’s visual-art components worked better in theory than in concert – at least in a bite-sized venue like this – the band pulled off something even more rewarding: just these two guys (plus drummer) recreated every delicious texture and nuance of their sheerly edible album. Simonini and Bromley’s vocals particularly amazed, especially the latter’s supple swoops from baritone rumble to soul-sweet falsetto, as in the stop-start strut of “Rich Doors” – and their harmonies struck a rich and satisfying vein, time and time again.

The end came too soon, literally; New Villager were a few songs short of performing their whole album, ending with an encore rendition of the exhortatory “Lighthouse” – with a genius snippet of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” tossed in.

“We’re always trying new stuff out,” Simonini had said before the show, referring in particular to their live set, and for NewVillager, that includes delving deeper into ways of bringing their audience into the experience.

He noted that concertgoers have lately been showing up at their gigs dressed as characters from NewVillager’s wildly artful videos (viewable at newvillager.com.) At their Philadelphia gig earlier this month, Simonini says they asked the costumed fans to interact with Eric – which they did, leading the human sculpture out of his cocoon.

This got Simonini and Bromley thinking that the myth-clad devotees might be willing to arrange with the band, in advance of a particular concert, to wear certain costumes and perform certain actions in the audience, perhaps cued by verbal or visual signals from the band – so that a continuous action would flow around the room. And all of this would be coordinated by a website Simonini envisions them setting up.
After all, he says, why go to a pop concert – indeed, why listen to pop music at all – “and not want to go deeper?”

Were You There?

Were you at the NewVillager show in NYC? Have you experienced the wonder and pleasure of their live show before? Let us know what you think and we’ll share your story during a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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Concert Review: Freelance Whales Play Sweet and Strong For The Kids

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Lots of fun was had at that Eventbrite Confidential secret show at the Empty Bottle benefiting Rock for Kids.

We had such a blast soaking up the groovy and shimmering orch-pop and synthy-sounding tunes of the Freelance Whales that Colleen actually took some pictures for you during the show as evidence, just in case you thought we were lying or making all this up.

During their set, the band said that this would be their final Chicago show or any live concert for quite awhile, so it was cool to share the moment with them knowing that wouldn’t be doing something like this any time soon.

Were You Freelance Whaling For The Kids?

Were you one of the fans who made it to the secret show and were smiling non-stop in the front row? Did you feel great afterwards knowing that you just helped give a kid a chance to play live music? Let us know what you think and we’ll share your story during a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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RIP and Live Music Mourning: Remembering DJ Mehdi at Empty Bottle

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When I read the news that DJ Mehdi had died this week from a tragic fall from a rooftop at his home in Paris, I immediately thought back to when we saw him perform alongside DJ A-Trak at the Empty Bottle in 2007.

And what I remember the most about that show was having just as much fun dancing to DJ Mehdi’s beats and I did watching him get lost in the music and smiling constantly through his set. The guy was a blast to watch and the pleasure he had playing live was undeniable and infectious.

What I’m describing to you by looking back at DJ Mehdi Empty Bottle set is what I like to call live music mourning, which is the process of a concert fan grieving in the wake of an artist’s death who you saw perform live.

The grieving process happens in many ways in our lives when people or things we love to do die or cease to exist.

And as a concert fan, I’ve realized that live music mourning is a unique kind of grieving that I’ve learned a lot from by reflecting on what’s going on in my mind and heart before, during and after the show.

For me the live music mourning process is defined by the build up, feeling and the processing of emotions associated with that live music moment.

It’s also the process of feeling and sorting through all the thoughts and emotions associated with the music that artist created on album. And just like other grieving moments, live music mourning isn’t just a one time event, it’s an ongoing process and can last for a long time, and it can be triggered by a song, photo, a word, a sense or anything associated with that moment or artist.

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For me, when I heard about DJ Mehdi’s death I thought back to the Empty Bottle show and I found myself reminiscing about everything I saw, heard, smelled and felt.

I felt big sense of sadness about his death because I felt that he had a lot more music to share with the world, and I was sad that other fans wouldn’t be able to experience the same thing I felt that night at the Empty Bottle.

I felt happy and joyful this past week too because it was a pleasure to voyage back to that concert where I had such a great time.

I’ve also found myself thinking about all the other artist we’ve seen live who’ve died. I’ve thought about Amy Winehouse, Sparklehorse, Michael Jackson, Jay Raetard and Mike “Eyedea” Larsen.

And I’ve been thinking about my Dad’s death last year and his love for Neil Diamond live.

And I’ve been thinking about fellow concert fans who’ve died and their favorite concert experiences, and fans who’ve experienced traumatic events like the Sugarland tragedy.

UPDATE 9/23:

As a tribute to DJ Mehdi we shared one of our favorite tracks “I am Somebody”  on the latest episode of Live Fix Radio.

 

What’s on Your Mind?

Do you have a DJ Medhi concert memory? Have you experienced live music mourning? Let us know what’s on your mind and we’ll share your story during a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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What’s Better: Live Music Or Reading Your Favorite Book?

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Empty Bottle Book Bike

As we told you before during the Open Book Blogathon, we LOVE books. And reading them is a major source of inspiration that fuels the ideas and concert experiments we do on Live Fix. So here’s how you can enjoy a live show with a great line-up at the Empty Bottle and support Chicago organization Book Bike.

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Concert Preview: The Fiery Furnaces Return For Two In Chicago

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The Fiery FurnacesEver wonder what goes through a band’s mind while they’re playing on stage? Do they think about the crowd in front of them? Do past shows musically or psychologically impact future shows? Or is each show it’s own unique journey of new sounds, senses and experiences? For Brooklyn-based indie rock band The Fiery Furnaces it’s a little bit of everything. And as they return to Chicago this weekend we’ll take an inside look into one of the band member’s live show prep, concert memories and influences.
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Are You In Tune With The Touring Mind of Solo Artists?

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What goes on inside the mind of a solo artist when they’re on stage? Do they struggle to connect with the crowd? Or is their show more personal and palpable? Is there something about the live music experience that convinces solo artists to tour when their heart and mind are divided? 

 

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Don’t Do This at Your Next Concert

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Live Fix Experiment Results: Miike Snow &  The Tapping-On-My-Notepad Lady

These are no ordinary Live Fix Experiment results.

What I’m going to share with you is both rare and crucial to every fan’s live music experience.

It happened to me at the Miike Snow concert on Sept 25th. 

It was something that has never happened to me before.

It was something that I must share with you because the interaction I had with a fellow fan taught me a lesson that is of critical importance if we are to truly appreciate and respect the amazing diversity of our live music experiences.

During this Miike Snow concert at the Empty Bottle, I was conducting another Live Fix Experiment using Twitter, my Blackberry Storm and my Moleskine. 

I was loving the show and caught up in the wonderful throbing electronic pulse and frenzy vibe inside the Empty Bottle. 

Jumping back and forth from my Moleskine and Blackberry I was simultaneously sending out a flurry of tweets and scribbling down notes for later examination and recap. On the outside it might’ve seemed like a distraction to my enjoyment of the show, but actually it enhanced it.  Scribbling and tweeting are just a few of the ways that I enjoy the show.

And in the climax of Miike Snow’s hit anthem “Animal” a female fan reaches over and pokes me in the stomach and taps down hard on my Moleskin almost knocking it from my hand. And she says to me shaking her head and sipping her beer, “Just stop taking notes and enjoy the show.” 

Enjoy this!

Now,  let me say this first.

I appreciated the fellow fan interaction–and I always love when fans take the risk to reach out to perfect strangers at shows just for the sake of spreading the love and sharing the moment– but I have to be honest with you. I was pissed when she did that. It was really frickin’ annoying. 

But at the same time I felt sad for this confused and misguided fan.

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my post tap tweet

Because she, though she probably had good intentions, had failed to see beyond her near-sighted concert enjoyment perspective. And she probably thinks that the only way to enjoy the show was in the same way she was. 

So I smiled at her and just let her speak her peace. And we went our separate ways of enjoying the rest of the show. 

But you know what? 

I regret that I didn’t have the chance to tell her that she had sadly misjudge me and my note-taking.  I’d really like the chance to ask her a few questions. Why did she do this?  Does she normally do this at concerts to other fans?  Or was this a case of chemicals lowering her inhibitions to the point where she felt comfortable telling me how I should be enjoying Miike Snow?

I’m not sure how she would have answered those questions. But I can confidently say that this particular fan was, on some level, very aware and capable. And she knew exactly what she was doing. 

Because when she tapped on my Moleskine and gave me her misguided advice, she proudly smiled at me like she was doing me some great favor of a lifetime.  Like she was some sort of  live music do-gooder  protecting the live music experience from being tarnish by note-taking-social-media-texting-tweeting freaks like me. 

But, sadly, she only rippd me right out of my zone of pleasure and flung me into a moment of annoyance and displeasure. Which, I’m sure, was actually the opposite of what she hoped to do.

This Just In:  Every Fan Has Their Own Way of Enjoying a Concert

I tell you this story because you need to know this about your fellow fans.  And I tell you this as a friendly and sincere word of caution. I tell you this because I care about you and your concert experiences. 

We all enjoy live music in different ways.  Some of us write or tweet. Some of us tap our feet and let the inner-mind do the dancing and wiggling. Some of us let loose in all directions and dance, sing or shout to abandon.  And some of us have no idea at all how to handle the social anxieties and rush of excitement that live music creates in us.

Yes, we all need to have our boundaries and comfort zones extended. But let’s not mistake a helping hand tapping on someone’s notepad for a misguiding missile destroying someone else’s enjoyment.  

Again, by all means, talk to your fellow fan, give them a fist bump during a great riff moment, toss them the devil horns when the band is killing it during your favorite song. 

Share a hearty WOOT with everyone else in the venue. Concerts are suppose to places for deep emotional connection with others. It’s why we spend our hard earn cash to see a show. 

But PLEASE don’t push another fan out of their own moment of enjoyment just because it’s not exactly what you think they should be doing.  Because when you do, you’re actually ruining the moment for them. It’s a fine line to walk. I know. 

How are you suppose to know when to say hello or interact with a fellow fan during a concert? 

Well, there are ways. 

I’ve had the pleasure of being asked what I was writing on my notepad by a fan once during a Wilco show and I found out right at that moment that when this fan looked at my notepad it was a life-changing experience for him.  I was honored to be a part of such a sacred moment for a fellow fan (I’m still amazed that my notepad scribblings can have such an impact on someone).

So when I think of how to interact with fellow fans I think of moments like that. So though it may seem hard and difficult to know when we should tap a fellow friend on the shoulder and “interrupt” their moment of pleasure.  But I know we can do it.  It really just takes what I call “common concert sense.”  I know we may not all have the same amount of “common concert sense” but I’d like to believe that we all have enough to know what to do when we see a fellow fan enjoying the show in a different way than us.

Silly actions couldn’t steal this show

Luckily, the Tapping-On-My-Notepad-Lady didn’t ruin the whole show.  It only caused a brief moment of fan-to-fan frustration that quickly passed once I moved away from the fan. And I was able to purge some of my frustration by tweeting this fan’s silly actions. 

Then I relied on Miike Snow  to take care of the rest.  And they did by putting on a great show that was a fabulous mix of terror and ecstasy.

Check out the videos below on the Live Fix YouTube Channel to see how it went. I did some experiments with light, sound and pleasure.  You’ll also see how I was part of a pre-Halloween fright rock intro.

Download Miike Snow via Miike

Where you at this Miike Snow show? 

Has a fellow fan ever ripped you from a moment of pleasure?

Photo by Colleen Catania

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Concert Review: Miike Snow at Empty Bottle in Chicago

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Miike Snow @ Empty Bottle

It was horrifying at first. Not the intro I expected at all. It was like a slasher film, or an early Halloween treat that was playing tricks on my expectations. Strobe lights flickered and camera flashes popped as all the members of Miike Snow came onstage wearing Michael Myers masks adding more terror and intensity to the opening song “Burial,” a track with lyrics that poetically use a “serial killer” metaphor to explore the disappointment of love and relationships. “Misery is all we know lately/Saturday’s are all the same/Sympathy is overrated/Like a snapshot when you’ve lost the game/Now it’s the funeral I become the serial killer of us all.”

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Colleen Catania
Miike Snow

The song’s shimmering dance-pop sonic covers up the lyrical sadness and dreary subtext — just like the masks covered up the faces of the band members before they removed them and forged onward into the rest of the set.

The crescendo of “Burial” cranked up the crowd’s intensity. And more invisible (but felt) resounding ripples of bliss and ecstasy rushed over a crop of outstretched arms and flickering camera phones held high in the air. With a shifting but lock-step mix of drums, beat machines, bass, piano and guitar, the Scandinavian sextet filled up the Empty Bottle with an electronic pulsing current. Then like resounding waves, fans let out a roar and began to throb in deeper sync with Miike Snow’s onslaught of dance anthems one after another.

As the show continued, it was terror vs. ecstasy. The creepy Michael Myers image stuck in my mind for much of the set. But the trance and rave rhythms reigned supreme and poured more joy and ecstasy that washed away the frightening images.

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Colleen Catania

But those Michael Myers masks were more than just a live show costume gimmick. Those masks deftly represented a side of Miike Snow’s songs that you don’t necessarily get when you just listen to the song and the sadness and fear lurking in the lyrics slides by you because lead singer/songwriter Andrew Wyatt sings in a happy, upbeat and gleeful falsetto. And you can thank (and blame) the rest of the band, too. Because the near perfect percussion of the rhythm section puts the focus on your hips and not your mind, or what the lyrics are actually saying. In total trust, we followed and they led us like an army of happy “Animals,” with one fan even waving a Miike Snow mascot — a bunny/antelope creature with antlers — high in the air at the foot of the stage.

From the mysteriously self-disclosing hit single “Animal” to the serial killer motif of “Burial,” songs from Miike Snow’s self-titled debut are double-sided: cathartic and catchy. And as I joyfully danced and scribbled notes during the concert, I looked around me at the glowing faces and swaying bodies of fellow fans and wondered what it was about these songs that everyone was so inspired by? What was it about Miike Snow singing about such sad and depressing topics that was so fun to dance to? I watched inches from the stage, as Andrew Wyatt moved from guitar to piano and sang from a deeply emotional place and shared what he might consider intimate parts of his life, sharing his darkest moments with complete strangers. Maybe it’s easier to sing about what troubles you most when you’re in front of strangers? Maybe it’s more freeing because we don’t know him and won’t judge him? After all we’ve come to dance and celebrate and escape, not cast judgment or look for a deeper meaning. But surely the subtext was there.

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Colleen Catania

Miike Snow’s received comparisons to electro-psychedelic jammers Animal Collective. I’ve seen Animal Collective live before and felt detached and lost each time. Though the bands have similar electro-pop elements, Miike Snow has much more muscle, depth and charisma during their live show. And if you come to their show looking to feel, embrace and discover something deeper than just a catchy pop song, Miike Snow delivers the goods. And that’s what made the show strong and powerful.

I came with an urge to dance that was satisfied but left with much more. This band of Swedes put on a barrier-free show and beautifully transformed perfect strangers into close friends for 60 minutes on a Friday night.

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Live Preview: Miike Snow, Bell X1 in Chicago

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It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for live music!

Well, tonight will be quite the night (should everything go as planned) because we’ll be heading to review both Bell X1 and Miike Snow  in the same night. How exactly are we going to accomplish this?  That’s a good question. I’m not quite sure but I know that we’ll figure it out and enjoy ourselves in the process and, hopefully,  avoid any physiological  burnout.

Bell X1

Earlier I shared with you how the lyrics to Bell X1’s “How Your Heart Is Wired” does a beautiful job of illustrating lyrically how our minds and hearts work together to impact our emotions.  I’ve loved Bell x1’s latest album Blue Lights on the Runway and I’m hoping that tonight will add even more emotional depth and meaning to the songs as I soak up the songs in a live setting. 

Miike Snow

Animal.  Dancing. My wife. Colleen has been playing Miike Snow’s  “Animal” nonstop for weeks and I know she’s looking forward to photographing Miike Snow’s live show tonight. 

I’m pumped too because I know the urge to dance should be tops on the fan’s list of urges once the music starts. And it seems that other Chicagoans are pumped too because both shows at the Empty Bottle (we’re catching the late show) are sold out.  Will I be influenced by others?  Will there be one dancing  guy who starts it all?

Live Fix Experiment

I’ll be doing another intense exciting super duper fantastic and amazing Live Fix Experiment tonight, so be sure to tweet in during the show at @chriscatania 

And please use the hashtag #LFEXP if you plan on tweeting along.

Well, kids.  It’s time for the weekend.   And if you’re at either show be sure to stop and say hello.  I’d love to chat with you.

 

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Lady Sovereign? Where? Who Moved The Venue?

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With a new album due this spring and an apparent change in look (or she’s putting a new spin on her mockery m.o.) I was looking forward to Lady Sovereign’s show this past Wednesday at the Empty Bottle.

But I got an email from the ticket service last week telling me that due to unforeseen circumstances the show was moved to the Logan Square Auditorium on February 4th.

I’m cool with that as I haven’t seen a show there before. And I’ve dealt with this kind of situation before as Chicago independent promoters have a close knit community and have juggled venues at the last minute many times before.

But, really, I was looking forward to experiencing Lady Sovereign at the close-quartered Empty Bottle.

This situation also makes me think about how promoters sometimes change venues due to “unforeseen circumstances”. Sometimes it’s because of a conflict of schedule, other times it’s an undisclosed promoter-related issue.

But in either case, I wondering how the last minute change in venue impacts the fan’s anticipation and expectations when the surroundings they paid for are suddenly changed.

What do you think?

I’ll be sure to let you know after the show next week.

Enjoy the weekend!

Lady Sovereign – I Got You Dancing

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The Live Looping of Lau Nau

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Have you ever been surprised by a band that went on before the band you were there to see?

During The Wire’s Adventures in Modern Music Festival I was presented with a moment where my eyes were dazzled just as much as my ears.

While waiting for Japanese singer songwriter Shugo Tokumaru’s debut U.S. show earlier this month at the Empty Bottle, I was ambushed by Finnish folk duo Lau Nau.

But the awe began even before Lau Nau took the stage.

I was enthralled as I studied the tray of small trinket-like instruments that were on a table between two chairs on stage.

I began to wonder what was going to happen and how these little toyish objects were going to fit into their set.

I love it when a band reveals a bit of their musical character before they take the stage, creating, as this did, much curiosity and allure, roping me in even before the music started.

As Lau Nau played, I watched them perform. And I was captivated, to say the least, by their deft ability to work live real-time magic with the loop machine and a table full of toys that when they started playing them turned into agile and wonderful wood wind instruments.

Mixing in some delicate and amusing conversation about getting their instruments through customs, for the entire set, the duo transfixed the crowd into a sublime hush of amazement with percussive loops of hypnotic rhythms.

Giving even more credit to their magical playing, they managed to silence a sold out crowd and the proverbial idle chatters in the background at the bar who quickly shut their yaps when they got a look and heard what the duo was doing on stage.

My second point that I wanted to bring up was this recent spotting of expert use of live looping that I’ve seen play a huge role in my last few shows.

I saw Andrew Bird work his magic the first week of September at the Pritzker Pavilion.

I’ve seen other bands use the loop machine in different ways to create certain elements live that you usually can only hear on the album.

And that’s what it felt like during Lau Nau’s set.

I felt as if I was in the studio with them as they were building the tracks.

It felt so intimate and so fresh and the sense of innocence permeating from the music was enhanced as we all watched Laura Naukkarinen whistle, warble and lightly croon different versions of her voice into a live multi-layered tapestry of percussive folk and entrancing electronica.

It was a beautifully primitive set that captivated and inspired me.

And most importantly it showed, again, how artists are still continuing to experiment with the dynamics of a live show, mixing studio elements with live show elements and coming up with an experience that is truly unique and fresh via the looping machine.

In the wake of these two shows, I’ve begun to dig deeper to see the history behind this live looping craft to see how it’s evolved and what other artist are doing with it. I’ll be sharing what I find with you in future posts.

If you have seen Lau Nau or Andrew Bird before or have wondered about the craft of live looping or do it in your live set, let me know what you think…

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Concert Review: DJ A-Trak, Cool Kids, Kid Sister, DJ Mehdi at Empty Bottle

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There’s been much local Chicago hype surrounding two acts on this night’s bill. As the crowd piled into the Empty Bottle, I wondered if this second dose of Kid Sister and Cool Kids would be better in a club setting, supported by a pair of French DJs and grounded by turntablist phenom DJ A-Trak.

Fools Gold label co-founder and Canadian-native Alan Macklovitch (aka DJ A-Trak) got started rocking club crowds with his mix of turntablism and dance beats at a very early age. In 1997, at 15, he won DMC’s World DJ Championship and after Kayne West discovered him in a French nightclub, he later found himself anchoring Kayne West’s 2004 Late Registration tour. A-Trak is part businessman, DJ and producer and at any given moment during the show any one of those roles can take control. He scurried back and forth from the stage to the back of the house as he sat behind the DJ table during the Cool Kids set prepping himself to provide the beats for girlfriend and Fools Gold artist Kid Sister.

Watching the business/label-owner side of DJ A-Trak meander around the venue in his tilted zebra-striped baseball cap was interesting to watch but I came to see him work the decks and the crowd and experience what he’s like in a live setting. When he jumped on the controls of his laptop and turntables all my questions were answered and few new ones arose.

Certain acts and music go over better when experienced in the right surroundings. The beats of a live DJ usually feel, sound and absorb better into your eyes and ears when it’s dark and the club’s capacity is kept to a tightly packed 200 people who have come to dance and be swept away in a communal expression created by a building buzz and hype that’s all brought to a peak by the melodic alchemy of the DJ. Having seen both female rapper Kid Sister and hip-hop duo Cool Kids at the Pitchfork Music festival and Lollapalooza earlier this summer I wasn’t completely blown away by what I saw. But I simply checked it off as a case of location, not lack of talent.

When I soaked up the Cool Kids’ mix of chop n’ screwed meets crunk-filtered Beastie Boys back in July I was split down the middle. I had a hard time seeing what new slant they were bringing to the hip hop game even though the duo is definitely the start of something fresh and creative. But unfortunately as this set rolled on, the beats got repetitive and predictable and fell flat and awkward. Moments of spontaneity experienced at Pitchfork were few during this set. Although it was a raucous set, it felt out of synch and lacked the same block rocking energy, not because of lack of style but it seemed like the guys were tour weary. Prior to this show they had just completed a string of shows at the CMJ musical festival in New York in addition to other Fools Gold stops.

Mikey rapped with a sly tongue-in-cheek manner, admitting their music is the “new black version of the Beastie Boys.” The ability to laugh at themselves makes the Cool Kids more than just a novelty act and their songs are a potent and playful poetic journey through a cartoonized and humorized version of an inner city ghetto.

They dropped the hit track “Gold and a Pager” and a new track that Mikey was busting at the seams to share so much that he halted the previous song just so he could squeeze it in before the set wrapped up.

Fighting off apparent tour exhaustion, the Kids dug deep and gave the hometown crowd a chance to escape into a welcomed moment of cathartic silliness and then tossed the mic to tourmate Kid Sister.
“I’m sorry guys, I just realized most of my songs are for girls. But that’s okay because girls gotta party too.” Kids Sister knows her target audience very well as most of her songs are about the trials and tribulations of wooing (or dissing) the boyfriend and she deals with the issue of superficial bling by empowering herself with a dose of glamorized girl power on “Pro Nails” and “Control.”

dj Mehdi

The DJ ruled the night as the tunes poured out of the laptops, onto the spinning decks and out of the speakers as French DJ Mehdi and DJ Kavinsky took the show deeper into early Monday morning.
A-Trak has Fools Gold on the right path and some of the hype is warranted. Future gems are lurking just under the surface and if they’re mined from bedrock in just the right way they could shimmer and sparkle in the sunlight beyond the subterranean soil of the nightclub.

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