Concert News Round-up: Chuck Berry, The Black Keys, Girl Talk, Lauryn Hill, Yeasayer, Gogol Bordello

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Goodbye 2010…Hello 2011!

It’s been a busy last week for concert fans and bands, and in case you missed any of the action, here’s a quick tour through top stories and reviews featuring exciting and crazy news about Chuck Berry, The Black Keys, Lauryn Hill, Girl Talk and a great set of hilarious touring tips from Gogol Bordello.
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Why It’s Good To Wait In Line All Day For New Girl Talk Album

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Girl Talk all day download frontcover
One of the things I love about going to concerts is waiting in line outside the venue. Sure, it does suck to wait forever. But one of the benefits of a well-timed wait is that it allows the perfect amount of tension, curiosity and anticipation to build up in our brains and bodies.

And as thousands of other hungry Girl Talk fans rush to get in line, waiting is probably what you’ll do while as you try to download the new free album All Day.

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Live Fix Featured In The Wall Street Journal’s Live Music “Field Guide”

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Wall Street Journal field guide to live music Sean McCabe

Hi Everybody! I have some great news! Today John Jurgensen of the Wall Street Journal featured Live Fix in “A Field Guide To Live Music Online” and in his “Is Video Killing the Concert Vibe” article.
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Girl Talk NYE 2009 Concert Movie Released On YouTube Today

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We’ve been waiting several months to see it and today via YouTube the Girl Talk concert movie was finally released. The documentary short-film tells the story behind the massive shindig that went down during the NYE 2009 celebration in Chicago at the Congress Theatre last year. So let’s see if it reveals any of the details we’ve been looking for.

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Will The Girl Talk 2009 NYE Concert Film Reveal All The Details?

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Back in January, we explored the mystery of Girl Talk’s 2009 NYE Chicago show and the Giant House Stage. Well, I’m excited to share this news about the documentary’s release this coming Tuesday. So will we finally get our questions answered?
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Girl Talk New Years Eve 2009: More Than A Mashup

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 girltalkHouse_small

 

Mashup phenom Gregg Gillis Girl Talk continues to amaze me.

The madness started with his breakthrough album Night Ripper in 2007 and continued with a chaotically joyous concert at Pitchfork that overflowed onto the street.

Next came the anticipated follow up Feed the Animals
in 2008 capped off by a performance on a bigger mainstream stage at Lollapalooza follow by even more constant touring.

And as the touring increased, the intensity and crowd size of each Girl Talk show continued to grow culminating with his New Years 2009 concert; his longest set, largest crowd and most elaborate performance to date. 
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Can Animated Sketch Comedy Enhance Live Concert Reviews?

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I came across something the other day that made me wonder if the live music review was beginning its next comedic metamorphosis. Because I know the art of the live review is always evolving as there’s always more than one way to capture the live music experience.

Snap Reviews of Complex Performances, a live music comedy experiment of sorts by Ryan McKee (of Modest Proposal comedy troupe), made me stop and think about what impact he could have on live concert reviews.  Would his Snap Reviews changed how and why live reviews are written? Was he progressing the art of the live concert review or sending it backwards? Or did his approach just need a bit of fine-tuning to make what he was doing progressive instead of regressive?

In short, what Ryan did in his brief experiment was take pictures (left) during a concert, and then afterwards, add a few snarky remarks and commentary about the fans and artists. He then used arrows to point to the unsuspecting subject’s of his highlighted funny moments frozen in time. 

 

 Here’s his apparel-focused review of a recent Girl Talk show.

“American Apparel created this Laptop Frankenstein in their Los Angeles sweatshop-free factory to DJ their events. He’s broken free and now breaks the hearts of scenester teens. God damn, he puts on a fun show though.”

It’s good to see someone attempt to add humour to live music reviewing. Because we don’t want to take ourselves too seriously.

When I first came across Ryan’s Snap Reviews I dug the idea and concept and expected to see the work of a like-minded live music fan. Because, at first glance, the Snap Reviews reminded me of my recent John Legend & The Screaming Lady Experiment.

But when I finished reading I was disappointed. Because it wasn’t quite what I hoped it would be. Though I applaud Ryan in his comical efforts, I think his idea fell short in his attempt to poke fun at hipster parents and guys with pink pimples and glasses. 

And failing is fine with me.  I’ve been there before when I’ve explored something new.  It’s what experimenting is all about.

 To make Snap Reviews better what I’d like to see Ryan do is use his comical and animation skills (see his YouTube skit approach)  to tell animated vignettes of live music culture or tell short live concert stories.  Now that would be something! 

What do you think of Snap Reviews of Complex Performances? Have you ever done one, or been the unfortunate subject of one?

What role do you think comedians play in capturing and reflecting live music culture? 

Do you think animation can enhance the live music experience?

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Concert Review: Lollapalooza Music Festival 2008

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This review originally appeared in Popmatters.

They say that being in a band is like being married. Well, in the case of Lollapalooza and the City of Chicago, I would say the same goes for the relationship between a city and festival promoters, especially when they look in each other’s eyes and sign a 5-year, multi-million dollar deal to show how committed both sides are. And like a gradually growing relationship, where two partners begin to feel each other out, Lollapalooza and Chicago have grown more comfortable together with each passing year since the festival situated itself in Chicago’s Grant Park in 2005.

After the success in 2006, festival organizer Perry Ferrell and event promoters C3 Present’s promoters signed the 5-year deal with the City of Chicago, reserving the right to rock historic Grant Park for three days in August. And judging by the first ever sell-out crowd (75,000 per day), the relationship seems to be progressing nicely.

Though it was a much more crowded Lollapalooza this year, it was also by far the most solid bill with 120-plus artists from around the globe, including underground artists and established superstars, as well as some of Chicago’s independent bands mixed in to add some hometown cred. On the surface it was all about the music and the usual corporate sponsorship, but one stroll through the grounds made it clear that, with all eyes focused on Beijing, China this month for the Summer Olympics, Lolla also doubled as a showpiece for Chicago, a hopeful contender to host the 2016 games.

The backdrop of Chicago’s historically beautiful city setting also allows Lollapalooza to separate itself from other festival’s based on setting alone. And in a saturated summer music festival industry, where the similar bills don’t make a festival unique anymore, a setting like Chicago gives the promoters a valuable geographic and aesthetic benefit for fans.

By the end of the first day, Radiohead filled up Grant Park with sweet stretches of In Rainbows, as the euphoric croon of front man Thom Yorke allowed the band to pick up right where they left off when they filled Grant Park back in 2001 with the same symphonic wonder. Fans stood awestruck as fireworks blasted above while down below Radiohead merged melodic force with gentle whispers, covering a massive range of emotions. The band also made full use of their giant LED color screen towers that flashed a hypnotic kaleidoscope of reds, greens, and blues, punctuating each emotive lyrical turn.

The rest of the weekend felt like I was running through a large old school-style radio AM/FM tuner dial. As I journeyed back and forth across the grounds from the North and South main stages, tuning in to a few preset favorites—Gnarls Barkley, Brazilian Girls, Bloc Party, Battles—I also came across unexpected frequency pleasures at the middle-of-the-dial side-stages where a few bands tuned me in and took me for a ride.

It was sunny shoegazing in the park as Austin’s Explosions In The Sky tossed out an expansive picnic blanket for fans to chill out on that was threaded with thundering fuzzy noise rock and soft and subtle murmurs. Local DJ Bald Eagle kept the Saturday-afternoon-in-the-park vibe going by dropping banging beats of house and funk, and kept everyone moving by splicing in an appropriate sample of Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park”.
Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco has come a long way from the backpack-rapper, skateboard labeling prior to his “Kick, Push” hit single from his debut Food & Liquor.

The Fiasco that took the stage here has fully transformed into a compelling performer that seamlessly blends hip-hop, soul, and rock. Decked out in a gleaming white vested suit and tie, Fiasco glided through several tracks from his latest effort, the stellar and ambitious concept album The Cool, while dropping two Food & Liquor hits, “Daydreamin’” and “Kick, Push” as well. With a polished soulful swagger and deftly orchestrating a full band behind him, Fiasco answered the call of his own song and proved that the time is here for him to be a “Superstar”.

On the other side of the career trail, though, nostalgia can certainly make fans want to rock, so hard in fact that the hedonism turns to mosh-pit masochism.

There’s no denying the influential rhythmic force of Rage Against the Machine, but it’s that same awesome feeling of being devoured by one of their songs that kept the show from being a nice controlled glimpse into the glory days of rap-rock’s early days.

Three separate times, front man Zach De La Rocha pleaded with the crowd to stop crushing each other at the front of the stage. It was a nasty sight as fans in the front row passed out and the music became secondary.

At the south end of the site Wilco, yet again, played a near flawless set, complete with slick, yet quirky, matching Spanish-Tex-Mex suits that made them look like extras in the last scene of Three Amigos. Nonetheless, with the city skyline twinkling behind them, the alt-rock quintet went about their business with a superb set that dipped into Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Summer Teeth, and Sky Blue Sky, and I think a heard a new one in there as well.

In order to enjoy the festival, though, you have to take a break. And Lollapalooza offers one of the best chances to rest, educate, and entertain in the shade via a movie theatre (playing The Flaming Lips’ Christmas on Mars), and the environmentally focused Green Street’s row of booths.

But it was the entertaining jaunt through Kidzapalooza, a Lolla staple where kids (and their rock-focused-parents) could learn the chords and rhymes schemes of hip-hop via workshops and demonstrations that actually prepared me for what followed.

Poet/actor/emcee Saul Williams—with a swath of blue war paint across his face—dropped feathers upon the heads of those crammed into the narrow confines of the Citi stage. As he’s done before, Williams unleashed lyrical fire and volcanic rhythms, coupled with earth-quaking tempos.

Those new to Williams watched on the fringes in eye-popping curiosity as fans pumped their arms to the punk, hip-hop, funk hybrid, filling up the street and rocking the concrete via cuts from Williams’ Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust. The set climaxed as Williams beckoned the crowd, “Do you realize that the power is in our heart and hands? Are you with me?” The crowd raised their fists and roared. “Ya’ll just don’t understand,” he responded. “That means everything!” It wasn’t his best show as he took a few creative risks with the set list, but it converted the curious as well as those politely waiting for the pop-splicing biochemist phenom Girl Talk who followed Williams’ set.

Like a human beat accordion, Greg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) went right into the lead track from this year’s Feed the Animals. Hungry fans jumped up on the stage.

The stage tech fired streams of toilet paper from shotgun shooters and the crowd space grew denser and denser as the beats got faster and faster, with Gilllis turning up the intensity and cranking out a set that mixed the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimmie Some Lovin’”, with southern crunk and Soulja Boy.

Back on the AT&T stage Gnarls Barkley—the duo of crooner Cee-Lo and Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse)—slowly pulled the curtain off a much-subdued yet soulful, slow-burning set. Much different from the massive surge they created in 2006 with the psycho-soul hit “Crazy”, the set was more lilting, disappointing fans who hoped for a booty shot of neo-Motown adrenaline.

With the hype of a possible appearance and introduction by Senator Obama, Kanye West’s set was dripping with anticipation. On top of that, West also faced the challenge of erasing the backlash of his delayed Bonnaroo set a few month ago. Several “Kanye Sucks”(front) / “Bonaroo ’08”(back) t-shirts were spotted Sunday afternoon and most haters went to see Trent Reznor as Nine Inch Nails played opposite of West Sunday night.

But while it’s easy to hate Kanye West, the things that provoke such ire are the same things that make him a star. He is a true performer and a gifted songwriter and producer, and his non-musical antics emanate from that same unashamed lyrical impulse to express whatever he is feeling in his heart. In turn, this transformed his set into a hometown shout-out spectacle that could’ve alienated (as we know was West is capable of) but did the complete opposite.

From the show stopping dedication to his late mom to the stripped-down version of the current stage prop-heavy Glow in the Dark tour, West put the weight of the show on his own shoulders. His own ability to freestyle elevated the show to a place beyond the temporal flashing lights of celebrity glitz.

He delivered the goods like an artist who has the right to boast and song for song, lyric to lyric, was digging for the center of each heart connected to each set of arms that were slicing the air on beat.

It’s validated boasting. Haters can’t deny it and fans want more of it. Most of all, it was startling to see how much West has grown as a performer from when I last saw him during the Late Registration tour, which was musically stunning but fell short because of his defensive performance and full-blown arrogant attitude and swagger.

But this show revealed a transformation. He somehow found a way to channel all the sadness, grief, and sorrow following the loss of his mother and combined that emotive power with the pride of playing in front of a hometown crowd (Grant Park is just a few miles from where he grew up).

Taking full advantage of those two emotional allies West put on a show that soaked the crowd in pure cathartic emotion.

West’s set was a fantastic end to a festival that was one of the few major summer festivals, so far, to actually increase ticket sales. If they have a bill of similar stature next year they’ll need to expand. Here’s my suggestion (if they’re not already in the works): Extend south and rent out Solider Field, go east and create a floating venue over Lake Michigan, and build a Lolla CTA-sponsored monorail to transport fans around the venue. I’m sure all those will work well with the Olympic foresight.

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Correction to Girl Talk post

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Hey there, I have to make things right.

First, thanks to whoever it was that dropped a comment on yesterday’s Lolla Day Three post and rightfully corrected me on my facts. I used Ableton to describe Girl Talk’s (aka Greg Gillis) way of mixing the music and this was incorrect; he uses Adobe Audition and Audio Mulch to work his magic. I hope you can all forgive me for this mistep and by all means if you ever see something that isn’t right, call me on it. I never want to mislead you and I count on you all to keep me honest in this “Ongoing Experiment.”

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Lollapalooza: Day Three

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Well, Live Exhausters, it’s over and I’m a bit exhausted…in a good way, though. Lolla ‘08 was by far the most crowded Lollapalooza since the festival came to Chicago and the increase in attendance numbers from around 65,000 in 2006 to a sellout 75,000 each day this year was very much felt as I fought for position at nearly every headliner and several side stage sets.

To create more breathing room and if he plans on expanding the Lolla empire( and putting Girl Talk on a side stage, again) Perry Ferrell might have to start talking with Mayor Daily about renting Solider Field or a portion of Lake Shore Drive or creating a floating venue over Lake Michigan for next year. But the music or the overall experience didn’t suffer because of the larger crowd; it was a year packed with outstanding performances on all six stages; and all the rumors about Senator Obama making a visit was just that, all talk, fitting for the Windy City, right?

The best moments came from biochemist turned pop-collagist Girl Talk who bounced an overflowing crowd into a silly frenzy on the Citi stage, just after Saul Williams christened hundreds with his volcanic hybrid of hip hop funk and punk rock onslaught. Kayne West picked up the Chi-town torch from Lupe Fiasco and carried thousands into his fully accredited maximum force display of emotion, lyric and eye-dazzling showmanship.

Look for The Radiohead Experiment Final Notes to follow later this week. And if you were at Lolla this year, I’d like to know what you thought.

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