Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009: Looking Back pt II

Yarn @ Tin Angel
Yarn is one of those bands that fires on all cylinders at every turn. Their recorded material is stellar but their live show, man, their live show is something to behold. I first heard them when they were slinking about the east coast playing teeny tiny back road venues; so, it was fitting that I saw them at the Tin Angel. (an excellent Philly venue at the smaller end of the spectrum). The entire crew filled the stage and proceeded to rock out. The bluegrass roots of their recorded material was recognizable but in the live format they carried a decidedly more southern rock edge. What really made this concert stand out however was its length and degree of sincere audience engagement. They played for two hours straight, taking requests and riffing off of feedback. Never once during the show was I bored or not blown away by the talent the gentlemen of Yarn possess. I am really looking forward to my next opportunity to see Brooklyn’s finest bluegrass band again.
Lies I've Told

Phoenix @ Monolith
Monolith Music Festival was hit by some unfortunate rains this year diluting the potential for greatness from a stellar line up of acts –including: Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs Rahzel, The Grates, Frightened Rabbit, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros etc.- in the beautiful Red Rocks ampitheater. The first full day of the festival was chilly and very very damp. Leaving indoor stages incredibly crowded, outdoor stages unbearably cold and putting folks in maj curmudgeon mode. Not surprisingly though there were some spectacular performances that kept it from being a total wash.

Thunderheist, The Twilight Sad, The Answering Machine, Love Language all put on great shows. But by far the greatest one of the entire weekend was Phoenix’s unanticipated main stage set. They were supposed to play a smaller stage but when MSTRKRFT canceled at the last minute Phoenix rose to the challenge. Without all the right equipment (they didn’t bother to bring everything to CO because the stage was supposed to be small) they went on and played a fantastic mix of new and old tunes. There wasn’t a person in that crowd that wasn’t dancing and a fair bit of folks were singing too. The prevalent vibe when they were done was widespread satisfaction.
1901 (Kolt13 remix)

When it comes to lyrics there are few bands that are capable of wrapping words around emotions that in their moment of origin are ethereal and difficult to describe, yet no less visceral. The Weakerthans are masters of doing just that; and, they do so in a way that avoids saccharine cliché. When I heard they were going to be playing NY this fall I immediately bought tickets. Hands down one of the best uses of my dollah bills this year.

The show at Bowery Ballroom was like a gathering of friends. Not enough people know about The Weakerthans but when you meet a fellow fan you just know they are “good people.” So, you can imagine, a concert is a whole mess of good people blissing out on the quirk and talent of one of Canada’s best musical acts. They don’t play very much these days so you could tell there was a higher than normal sense of fun on stage as they played a set that scratched pretty much every Weakerthans itch I went in with.

Weathervane Music 
Weathervane Music is the kind of project that gives me hope about the future of the music industry. It is a Philly based effort dedicated to building a community of music makers to support each other as well as the greater indie music scene. Each year there a few more established music heads curate a season. Each chooses a couple of acts who are then given time in the awesome Miner Street Studios. What goes on there is recorded both video and audio to share on line with other burgeoning acts wanting to see how a proper studio recording is done. This year saw the likes of BC Camplight & Danielson coming through the door and next year’s line up is equally exciting, Sharon Van Etten just spent some time in the studio recently.

The Weathervane fundraiser this fall was another night of truly likeminded music fans coming together to support a refreshing approach to fostering the future of the indie music recording. It is difficult to convey the quality of skill and passion behind this project and I am honored to be able to watch it  grow the its inevitable greatness.   

Free Energy Music Video
Last spring I got invited to a little get together by a college friend. A couple of the guys from Hockey Night (a great Minneapolis act that had begun at our school) were in a new band called Free Energy and a few other Carls were going to be recording them for their first music video. I went I saw a whole bunch of great and familiar faces and crammed myself into one of the hottest Northern Liberties basements for a fun set delivered amongst clouds of silver white balloons. It was a beautiful night all around that also included a fantastic bike ride and my friend’s rando kitten stalking.

In the weeks that followed Free Energy kept popping up on my radar and I fully enjoyed seeing the band start getting some much deserved rumblings. Then mid summer the video was dropped and it perfectly captured the essence of the band and that first superb night of summer. I'm expecting big things when their album is released next year.
Free Energy

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