Saturday, May 24, 2008

Album Review: Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours

Australia’s Cut Copy is poised for Very Big Things. I say this not only after witnessing their sensational, jam-packed party of a set at Coachella, as well as two stellar, jam-packed parties of gigs in DC and Baltimore, but because their second album, In Ghost Colours, is insanely, freakishly, remarkably good. Almost frighteningly so.

To me, Cut Copy is very similar to mid-80s New Order, but instead of having the drizzly grey of Manchester (and the then-recent death of Ian Curtis) hanging over their sound and seeping somberly into the songs, Cut Copy have wide, sunny expanses of noise, full of love and hope. But the tight, taut electro stuff is very akin to one another, and at times the vocals tread the same territory as well. The sound is very mature and pulled together, despite Cut Copy’s fairly small back catalogue.

In Ghost Colours is the kind of album you can listen to for hours at a time, many days in a row. Trust me, I speak from experience. The fifteen songs fly by, even the shorter, purely instrumental tracks. Nothing feels like filler, and everything flows along nicely. It’s one hell of a party album, so you might want to prepare a dancefloor in your living room.

The loved-up “Feel the Love” starts things off, and the line “all the clouds have silver linings” is quite possibly an apt way to think of this album. Not the cloud part, of course. The knob-twiddling shimmers effortlessly along, and Dan Whitford’s 80s-esque vocals add to the overall good vibes. “Out There on the Ice” is all dance, all the time, bringing in some serious beats and the images of hordes of people flailing about to the music. One of my absolute favorites, “Unforgettable Season,” shines with Whitford’s empassioned vocals and building beats backed by Mitchell Scott’s deceptively simple drumming. And “Far Away,” the cream of the crop, is a delightful little love song that you can dance to.

All in all, Cut Copy came out of the gates at full speed, chomping at the bit, and with guns blazing. And their enthusiasm has been well worth it, since In Ghost Colours is a fine, foxy little album. If you’re into things like fun, dancing, fun, and oh yes, fun, you might want to check it out.

Meet Jimmy the Fingers

Crass lyrics. Big beats. Cheeky humor. What do these things have in common? Brighton's Jimmy the Fingers, that's what.

Mr. Fingers found me on Myspace recently, and I was instantly in smit. He's a one-man assault on the senses, mixing big, beaty samples with funny lyrics about cash machines and qualities he likes in the ladies. He does what he does very well, and definitely has a pervasive (and perverted) feeling of fun in his songs. Here's what Jimmy himself has to say about, well, himself:

"God damn it who is that guy? Jimmy what? Fingers? What's that all about, he likes fingering does he what kind of pervert is that guy? What? a collection of atoms? what the fuck are you talking about fella? he's just one guy... getting fatter and skinnier, happier and sadder by the day...he's not "a collection"... he's like a melon sort of shaped head, well ok then a hairy melon, with a moustache. you know? a must-ash?"

"Fk You" is probably my favorite of the songs he's got posted on Myspace, a downtempo ode to getting it on. And really, you've gotta admire a guy who just puts it out there, with "I just really wanna fuck you" being the refrain in this little party anthem. His cover of "Mrs. Robinson" is also a treat, and I love the way he flipped the script and slowed it down. It's a great interpretation.

Do I state the obvious, here? It's a party in Jimmy the Fingers' pants, and ladies, we're invited. Or maybe he looks at it more as there being a party the pants of others, and Jimmy wants in. Either way, give the gentleman a listen.

[Photo by Ali Tollervay]

Live Review: Black Keys @ 9:30 Club, May 12

I've said it before and I know I'll say it again: quite frankly, the Black Keys are the finest rock band touring today. For reasons I can't figure out, the White Stripes get far more love, but if you want a rocking good time that will blow your freaking doors off, look no further than the duo of Dan Auerbach (vox and guitar) and Patrick Carney (skins). These two will rock you harder in an hour than most bands can accomplish in a year.

I literally walked into the door of the 9:30 Club last night as the boys took the stage for what proved to be another scorcher, the first of a two night gig kicking off their East Coast tour. (And I've got tickets to night two, too. You can begin feeling jealous whenever you please). Playing in front of a vintage rock light show and an over sized, inflated rubber tire emblazoned with the band's name and Akron, Ohio, Auerbach quickly acknowledged the crowd and then launched into it.

The Keys played crowd favorites all night long, from their original album, The Big Come Up, (Busted) to their latest, Attack & Release (Strange Times). In between, the crowd was treated to such tracks as "10 A.M. Automatic", "Stack Shot Billy," "Set You Free" and "You're the One", pretty much hitting the high points of their entire catalogue. Personally, I would have loved to have heard "Grown So Ugly", but what can you do?

Now, for those of you that have never seen the Keys perform live before, Carney beats the drums like he walked in on them sleeping with his girlfriend. The man must go through a dozen drum sticks a night. He reminds me of a current day John Bonham, doing more with a small drum kit than most marching bands do with an entire percussion section. Auerbach looks more and more like Chris Robinson every time I see him, but he plays guitar like a blues master and has a voice that sounds roughly 40 years older than he is. Combined, the two create a scuzzy, garage-blues-rock sound that should be the envy of every kid interested in becoming a rock star. Again, screw the White Stripes, the Black Keys are where it's at.

The boys played for about an hour before taking a brief break and returning for a quick encore. While there was not a great deal of audience patter between songs, these guys let their instruments do the talking for them. And speak well they did.

As Auerbach pointed out about midway through the set, "We're going to play more songs tomorrow night, but we're going to play better this evening." I'll have to let you know how Night Two goes, but he wasn't messing around with his take on Night One's pyrotechnics.

For those of you that would like to hear for yourself the Black Keys' second night in DC, NPR has been kind enough to stream the show for your listening pleasure:

I'm the guy screaming. And one of the half naked fans he mentions. In case you were wondering.

[Photo by Todd M. Duym]

Friday, May 23, 2008

Live Review: Flight of the Conchords @ Lisner Auditorium, May 9

I don't have HBO, so for a long while I was immune to the charms of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, otherwise known as Flight of the Conchords. Thanks to the due diligence of my friend Laura, however, I was soon a Conchords devotee. I'm even writing this review while wearing my "Redheads not Warheads" tee, bought at the Lisner Auditorium show. But enough about me.

Not ones to shirk the responsibility brought on by fame and fortune, Jemaine and Bret had scheduled not one but two gigs at Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University's event space. The hall was stuffed to the gills, all of us waiting with baited breath to see New Zealand's current favorite sons get their comedy-parody-rock on. And comedy-parody-rock they did, for close to two hours.

The stage was simply set with two stools and an assortment of instruments. Arj Barker, himself on the Conchord's HBO series, opened the show, and got the masses good and warmed up with his jokes about Manassas, having kids (or not, as the case may be), and the perils of modern technology. And then, ladies and gentlemen, it was time for...Flight of the Conchords!

With Barker's introduction, the place erupted into hoots and hollers and shrieks, and the two unassuming Kiwis strolled to their seats with unassuming nonchalance. For the next two hours the duo had the place in stitches, pretty much non-stop. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard, and by the end of the night my face hurt from so much unabated grinning. Affable and eager to please, Clement and McKenzie powered through extended and adapted versions of songs from both the HBO series and the songs pulled therein from the series onto their first CD with Sub Pop. To my chagrin, the delightfully camp Serge Gainsbourg-esque "Foux de Fa Fa" didn't make the cut, but I was appeased with a stellar version of "Bowie," the duo's homage to the many different sounds and visions of David Bowie (and his pointy nipples). Clement's Bowie voice was even more freakishly dead on live, and the song made the crowd go nuts. The biggest ovation came for arguably the biggest hit of the Conchord's television/music career, "Business Time." The bedroom ode to "sweet weekly love" was as saucy and hilarious as can be. At one point the pair abandoned their perches to sit at the lip of the stage, a move that caused a great deal of squealing from the ladies in the audience. There was a good deal of both audience "participation" and crowd banter, which added to the overall joviality of the evening.

Clement and McKenzie could do no wrong on this night, and the laughs kept coming. They showed DC just why HBO gave them their own show, and why Sub Pop inked them to a deal. They are intensely funny, but more than that they are ridiculously likable. The success of the Conchords has as much to do with their material as it does their personalities, and if the show at Lisner was any indication, this pair of (pretty foxy) Kiwis has a long, glorious career in front of them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Happy Mudhoney Day!

Oh Subpop, I do love you so...

If you're like me, you were unaware that today, May 20th, is officially Mudhoney Day. To celebrate, Subpop is throwing a little party in Seattle. Which, naturally, kinda sucks for everyone not in Seattle, but don't fret, non-Seattleite Mudhoney fans. Subpop has thought of everything. From the email that just popped into my inbox:

"And, in celebration of MUDHONEY DAY, we are hereby inviting you to come out to Easy Street Records in Seattle's Lower Queen Anne neighborhood for a FREE IN-STORE PERFORMANCE TONIGHT AT 7PM! Even better: this free in-store performance at 7pm will be performed by the actual Mudhoney!
What's more, if you are unable to attend this evening's FREE Mudhoney in-store performance because you live in some other city, or have plans or family members you cannot neglect, or have been committed of and incarcerated for a crime you did/did not commit, or have discovered far too late that those pot cookies are way, WAY stronger than you anticipated, you can watch this FREE Mudhoney in-store performance on your computer! The fine people at Easy Street have set up a live webcast of this evening's FREE Mudhoney in-store performance which you can access at 7pm PST right here."

We here at Les Enfants Terribles would like to wish a very happy Mudhoney Day to one and all!

Oh, and the good folks at Subpop have several Mudhoney downloads available at the Mudhoney site, so get over there and get clicking.

[Photo by Steve Dewall]

Album Review: Islands – Arm’s Way

It’s a beautiful day in my neighborhood, friends, and should be so in yours, too. Why, you might ask? Well, it is a happy day indeed, for there is a new Islands album to relish and rejoice in! And I tell you what, it’s pretty darned good.

You might recall that Islands rose, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the sublimely weird, wonderfully oddball, yet sadly short-lived Unicorns. Happily, that pervading sense of sonic strangeness has been kept alive, and once more rears its many heads on Arm’s Way. It’s a cacophony of noise, a mash-up of melody, a yummy swirl of freaky off-kilterness, though deep down at the roots it's only rock’n’roll. If you’re down with musical schizophrenia, then this could just be something you’ll like quite a bit.

It’s a great listen from its head down to its toes, every song enchanting and endearing in its own special way. I must confess, I dig it even more than its predecessor, Return to the Sea. As quirky as it is, it feels like less of a ramble and more pulled-together. It’s a study in controlled chaos, randomness with restraint. Great lines abound, as you might expect, including “if you wanna be a shark/you better learn to stay awake,” from “Life in Jail.”

There are several standout tracks for me; the bouncy “Pieces of You,” Sasquatch ode “Abominable Snow,” the very possibly addictive “Creeper,” and the absolutely wonderful “I Feel Evil Creeping In,” a devilishly good song I had heard live years ago and am thrilled to see on the new album.

I’ve read a couple not-so-hot reviews of Arms Way, and I don’t get it. Sure, it sounds a little darker than their debut, but it’s a fine album all the way through. So pay no heed to those other reviews, I highly recommend you give Islands a shot.

Oh, Canada, I like you for many reasons, and today I thank you for Islands.

And for those in the DC area, go and listen to the good word of Islands at the Black Cat this Thursday. See you there!

Birthday Presents

Dear friends,

As you may or may not know, on June 15th I shall be one year closer to 30. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I have one thing I would like for my birthday: a date with Scottish dance-disco sensation, Calvin Harris.

Sure, he lives in Scotland and I live in Richmond. Sure, he's an international rising star in the comedy-dance-disco-whatever circuit, and I am but a humble music blogger. Sure, he probably doesn't have love for me because I wasn't born in the 80s.

What are birthdays for, if not to have outrageous (and humorous) delusions of present grandeur?

But foorsoth, readers, in the spirit of shameless self-promotion we are fond of here at Les Enfants Terribles, my birthday is coming up. It's never to early to start shopping.

Live Review: British Sea Power @ Satellite Ballroom, May 7

I have to admit, in a way I take it for granted that a British Sea Power show will be ridiculously good. Having already seen the thinking person's indie band several times before, I wasn't concerned in the least about being entertained. After all, even if the music wasn't delightfully thought-provoking and charmingly quirky, how could you not love a band who brings foliage and stuffed owls on tour with them? True, neither foliage nor taxidermy was featured on this tour, but nevertheless, the show was as solid as I expected, and perhaps even better than I had hoped.

There was a bittersweet feel to the show, as the tragic and outrageous closure of the Satellite Ballroom in favor of yet another CVS at the end of May hung heavily in the air. But once British Sea Power took to the stage, all was well, if only for a little while.

BSP took to the stage to the strains of the opening track from their most recent album, Do You Like Rock Music?, "All In It." The band opted for a more modern sartorial look than I had seen them in before, mixing their traditional turn-of-the-century peasant garb with contemporary pieces like a defaced Spongebob Squarepants tee (as seen on Yan), and a nurses' top (as modeled by Hamilton). As the tour was in promotion of the latest record, the setlist pulled heavily from there, but included some older treats such as the early, non-album track "The Spirit of St. Louis."

Not only is this a truly smart band, they're also rather good at the whole playing music thing. Song after song the band showed their adeptness at their respective instruments, with Yan and Hamilton switching off on bass anf guitar with great dexterity, and many a song being extended with mini-jam sessions and much rocking out. And, as is the mark of a great band, British Sea Power sound even better live than on record. I found it hard to believe it had been over two years since my last BSP show, yet they took up where we left off, which is being one of the most special live acts around today.

They sing of sea birds, social issues, and obscure historical events otherwise long-forgotten. They are a band of a different horse, a band from another planet, and a band like no other. I love them for being such smartypantses, and for rocking out with their brains out. British Sea Power is a treasure, but don't take my word for it. Go see them for yourself, and let me know how much you loved it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Album Review: The Black Angels - Directions to See a Ghost

I first heard the new Black Angels album, Directions to See a Ghost, about a week before I left for Coachella. Since then, it’s pretty much been the only thing I’ve been listening to. I’ve woken up with the Black Angels, gone to work with the Black Angels, fallen asleep with the Black Angels, and flown to California with them. And guess what? I’m listening to them at this very moment, too. If you’re not already as in love with them as I am, prepare yourself, because you soon will be.

The Austinian band made quite an impression with their debut Passover, a swirling, pulsating mess of 60s psych-rock drenched in drone and resonating with reverb and political themes. It was almost too good to be true, and my thoughts wandered immediately to how they could possibly follow up such a good LP. My fears were put to rest as soon as I heard the first few notes of opening track “You on the Run.” The sound and the fury of their nouveau psychedelia is very much present and accounted for. Second song “Doves” is rapidly becoming one of my favorite Black Angels songs, with waves of guitar effects and a powerfully hypnotic beat. Singer Alex Maas shines on this (and well, every other) song, his brassy, slightly off-kilter howl adding to the unmistakable sound of the Black Angels.

It took me a few listens to make it past the fifth track, “18 Years,” because I was seduced by that damned fine bassline. This is sex in song form, and it’s completely and utterly intoxicating. It’s astonishingly good, and for days I listened to it repeatedly. “Deer-Ree-Shee” is next, heavy with sitar and laden with complexity. The band gets all political again, especially on songs like “Vikings,” one of the most haunting tracks on the album. Maas’ flat delivery is backed by mesmerizing, throbbing drumming, and spouts forth lyrics about German warships and bombing you “til tomorrow.”

I cannot possibly endorse Directions to See a Ghost enough. It’s one of those rare albums where nothing anyone can say about it could even begin to do it justice. You just have to bite the bullet, buy it, and experience it for yourself. It is, thus far, my album of the year. It’s a full-scale assault on the senses. In the aftermath, you won’t know which way is up, what year it is, and quite possibly what your name is. And let me tell you, you’re gonna love every single second of it.

Album Review: Nine Inch Nails - The Slip

Somebody should probably tell Trent Reznor that it's OK for him to take a break every now and again. Right on the heels of his multi-disc Ghosts opus, he's decided to give another freebie to the fans with The Slip. Oh yeah, and he's about to start a summer tour in the near future. He'll be hitting the Virgin Fest for those of us in the DC metro area on August 10. It wouldn't surprise me if the guy also is working on a perpetual motion device, world peace, and a better way to cross-breed ducks, chickens and turkeys for the perfect Turducken experience for the holidays. We've voiced our love for both Trent's music and the direction he's headed with distribution and fan interaction here at LET. I do not, however, want the guy to have a heart attack from overworking himself, so I'm just suggesting you might want to take a breather when you get the chance, big guy.

The Slip can fairly easily be broken into two distinct portions. Fortunately for our purposes, that would be the opening half and the closing half of the CD. Opening with the spacey instrumental "999,999", the album then throttles into ass kicking overdrive for the next four tracks. For those of you that weren't in love with the completely instrumental Ghosts, you won't have that problem here. Reznor is just as frantic and powerful as ever on tracks like "1,000,000" and "Letting You". "Discipline" and "Echoplex" follow, which begin to slow the pace, but continue with the same spastic urgency that Reznor does so well, before he kicks things back up a notch with "Head Down". From there, however, things make an abrupt about-face. "Lights in the Sky" is a piano dirge, plain and simple, with Reznor's vocals barely audible in the background. "Corona Radiata" clocks in at over seven and a half minutes of essentially low key keyboard noises. This one was for fans of Ghosts, I guess, as the vocals are absent here. "The Four of Us Are Dying" maintains the chill pacing and then Reznor ups the ante on the earlier frenetic note of "Demon Seed".

The Slip does not have the overall cohesive feel of Year Zero, but that's not to say it's bad by any stretch of the imagination. I liken it more to With Teeth; a bunch of great tracks, even if they seem slightly disjointed in their grouping.

I'm really digging the James Brown-sian pace NIN is maintaining since abandoning the big label in favor for putting things out at their own pace. I just don't want that pace to result in a high speed chase with the cops, wife beating or an appearance in Rocky 47 (coming soon to a theater near you, I'm sure). I'm just saying.

To get your free copy of The Slip, check out the NIN site. If you're too damn lazy for that, here's a little sumthin' sumthin' to feed your fix.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Untitled Interview #4 – Coachella Edition: Starring Graham Walsh (Holy Fuck)

Holy Fuck: not only a band with a delightful name to say, but a band with a fiery electrotrainwreck of a sound that’ll get your body rockin’ and blood flowing in no time flat. I can say that with authority, you know, having had the pleasure of seeing them live a few times. Seriously, just try to listen to their LP and not dance. Impossible. As luck would have it, the devilishly smooth Canadian noise-art-rock collective happened to be at Coachella, taking the stage after some actor dude named Sean Penn. I’m sure they were entirely more danceable. Read on to see what Mister Graham Walsh had to say about his expectations for Coachella 2008.

Les Enfants Terribles: How are you getting to Coachella: plane, train, or automobile?
Graham Walsh: We're flying there. Our European tour ends a couple days before Coachella, so we have to fly. Otherwise, we might have driven.

LET: Inevitably, you will forget to pack:
GW: My bathing suit...actually, I might remember it now because you asked me that question. Usually, I'm always forgetting my bathing suit.

LET: Band you're most looking forward to seeing at the festival?
GW: Dwight Yoakam or Kraftwerk. Seriously, I'm not being sarcastic. I hear Dwight is amazing live!

LET: To camp or not to camp?
GW: It's always fun to camp at a music festival... unless it rains. I think this time we'll get a hotel room, though!

LET: What was the first festival you ever attended, either as a musician or member of the general public?
GW: The first music festival I attended was Lollapalooza 1993 in Barrie, Ontario. We missed all the headlining acts because I was there with my friend who's mom made us come home for supper!

LET: The California desert in late April: friend or foe?
GW: We live in Toronto, Canada. I think that most types of weather associated with the state of California would have to be my friend.

LET: Favorite thing about festivals?
GW: Seeing bands you normally wouldn't see.

Coachella: Day 3

Ah, the bittersweet feelings of arriving at the Empire Polo Field, knowing it was the final day of the beauteous Coachella. The day itself was much more tolerable, thanks to some clouds taking some of the sting away from that fiery sun. Coachella 2008 was very good to me, and I’m happy to have taken the California plunge.

We walked in and immediately noticed that the place seemed much less crowded than it had Friday and Saturday. I’m pretty sure Sunday was considered the least exciting day of the festival by a lot of people, but even so. Stars was playing on the Coachella Stage when we arrived, and they sounded lovely.

First band of the day was Autolux, and I’ve gotta say I was disappointed. They sounded good, it wasn’t anything technical. But they just didn’t seem that into it. We’ve all seen shows where the band just goes through the motions, and that felt like what was going on with Autolux. Maybe the heat was getting to them, but then again, I hadn’t seen such lack of enthusiasm all weekend. And it was hotter the previous two days. Whatever it was, I was a little let down. They're so good on record...

Next was the set I had probably been looking forward to more than any band save for the Verve: Spiritualized. Main man Jason Pierce had been deathly ill in recent years (I do believe it was double pneumonia), and I was thrilled to learn that he had recovered and was gigging again. For those of you less familiar with Spiritualized, it’s pretty much the brainchild of Pierce, with a rotating cast of musicians helping him as he decides he needs them. For Coachella, he brought his own Robert Palmer girls; a black-clad string section and black-clad backup singers, along with another token male on keyboard duties. The set was initially plagued by the sound guy from hell, who messed up the sound on the first three songs, prompting one member of the crowd to yell “fire the sound guy,” a plea that was emphatically cheered by the rest of us. But things got sorted out, and the show went on, and it was beautiful. It was a very pretty, gentle set, the first time I’ve seen a stripped-down Spiritualized show. I did miss the full fury of a typical show, but the closing cover of Edwin Hawkins’ “Oh Happy Day” was magnificent, and the whole set, sound issues and all, was the best of the day for me.

After the transcendent Spiritualized set, we took in a little My Morning Jacket, over at the Coachella Stage. They sounded glorious, which I guess is par for the course for them. They had a rather large crowd hanging on their every note.

We sat ourselves down on the grass for some of the Love and Rockets set. I’ve never been a big fan, but they were really, really good. Very much rock, and very enjoyable indeed. I felt inspired to perhaps give them some room in my iPod.

Next up was nearly two hours dancing up a storm in the Sahara tent, first for the raucous and humorous Modeselektor, and then for dastardly duo Simian Mobile Disco. The crowd was insane for both groups, and it was all sorts of over the top and crazy in the tent. The lighting was intense, best light effects of the weekend by far. Modeselektor and Simian Mobile Disco were in top form, and people were dancing up a storm. I soon left the fray and headed to the calmer back end of the tent to sit down, but the tent was absolutely throbbing.

The night finished up with a trip to the Mojave tent, for that Canadian psych-rock juggernaut Black Mountain. Hot damn they were good. So heavy, so swirly, so intensely rock’n’roll. If you haven’t seen Black Mountain live yet, make sure you do, because they are pretty much one of the best bands out there. Everything was coated with the 60s and 70s, and several of the band members even looked like they took a wrong turn at 1969. It was sheer retro-rific bliss. Vive le Black Mountain!

And so ended the final day of Coachella. We scurried out to avoid all the Roger Waters fans, and made it out of the parking lot before the masses.

In conclusion, it was the craziest weekend I’ve had in quite some time, and I loved every sweat-soaked, sun-drenched minute of it. If you’ve ever thought about going to a huge festival, I highly recommend Coachella. It has the great bands, the amazing scenery, and the mystique. What more could you possibly ask for?

Live Review: The Kills @ Black Cat, May 2

The Kills blew into town this past weekend for I believe their second ever gig at the Black Cat (at least, it was my second time seeing them there), and I have to say, they've greatly improved their stage presence from that first time a few years back. Alison "VV" Mosshart and Jamie "Hotel" Hince have come a long way since then, really learning how to own the stage and make their presence felt. They gyrated, grinded and went through most of the other necessary punk posturing that the crowd seemed to love, at least at first (more on that later).

While I was ever so slightly miffed that the show started a half hour later than the Cat claimed it would, once those two ragamuffins took the stage, all was forgiven. Performing against a backdrop of simply weird videos, they kicked off the show with their latest single, URA Fever, from the new album, Midnight Boom. They played liberally from all three of their ablums, but the audience obviously was happiest when tunes from their debut, Keep On Your Mean Side, were played. I'd wager "Kissy Kissy" was the crowd favorite, though "Fried My Little Brain" seemed a close second.

The show seemed overly long to the audience, however, as there was a noticeable filtering towards the door as the evening waned. Perhaps the overwhelming guitar pyrotechnics wore thin on some folks. It's funny, Hotel took time to tune his guitar between each song, which seemed somewhat pointless, as his finger work seemed intent on banging and shredding, not playing anything resembling scales or the like. It also would have been nice for a bit of audience interaction, particularly with the frequent pauses between songs. While there were a few "thank yous" here and there, the only true audience interaction occurred near the very end of the set when Hince commented on people not being allowed to smoke and do other bad things in bars anymore.

Two other things I'd like to comment upon before I close. When the hell did 80s fashion make such a strong come back? Well over half the audience looked like they had raided my high school class' wardrobes. As someone who lived through the era, kids, please, that stuff looked like shit back then. Do us all a favor and let it stay dead. Those really ugly, grand dad, striped hats should not only be burned, but the folks that wear them probably need to be slapped, too. I'm just looking out for you people here. Also, and I say this in all honesty, the opening act may well have been the worst band I've ever seen in my life. I'll admit, I (fortunately) only saw the last couple of songs and not the whole set, but Sweet Jebus, they sucked on ice. Playing some form of wanna-be Nouveau New Wave, they were just bad, plain and simple. I've erased their name from my memory, so you'll have to do some web detective work on your own if you're that interested. This is particulary disheartening in light of the fact that the Kills' last opener was Scout Niblett and she pretty much rocks my world.

Oh well, there's always the next tour, I suppose.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Friend in Need

You might remember a little while back when LET posted about Billy from Pela sustaining some serious injuries to his hand at a gig in Chicago. The short version can be summed up in the following equation: hand + broken bottle = sliced tendons. Well, as you know, medical bills ain't cheap. If you're feeling some love in your heart and have a little greenery to spare, may I bring your attention to the following:

"Many people now know about Billy cutting tendons in his hand while at a show last month in Chicago. All of you will be happy to hear that Billy is on the path to recovery and he has begun physical therapy that will continue for the next 6 weeks.

Now that the dust has settled it brings to light the reality of medical and life expenses. It also outlines the healthcare system and how unforgiving it is.

Billy's had help from a great organization called MusiCares. While MusicCares are helping where they can, there is a growing amount of bills that cannot be covered. And the fact that only one arm is fully functioning means that Billy has no way to go to work and pay any of these bills that are adding up to thousands and thousands of dollars.

So we've decided to set up a PayPal account for donations.

For everyone wondering how they can help, this is the best way we've figured out to make that happen. Thanks again to everyone that has been supportive during this time period.



You can get your donation on here. And if you're in the D.C. metro area, check out Pela's triumphant return to D.C. on May 19th, at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. I'll see you there.

Live Review: Calvin Harris @ Coachella, April 26

There are multitudinous reasons why I love my roommate Max, one of them being that he’s the one who introduced me to the impossibly appealing, delightfully cheeky music of Scotland’s tongue-in-cheek dance enfant terrible Calvin Harris. Without Max, I wouldn’t have been so giggly and giddy in the front row of the Gobi Tent, waiting for Harris to hurry up and get on stage. So Max, thank you, I love you, and you’re a doll.

Happily, Max’s recommendation just so happened to be on the bill for Coachella. Color me pleased as punch that I was there to see Calvin Harris launch his American takeover bid in the somewhat cool desert evening. What initially looked like a thin crowd (Harris was on at the same time as bigger draws Portishead and Flogging Molly) filled out just in time to see Calvin and his four merry men assume their respective positions. But wait, you say, I had no idea Calvin Harris had a traveling band. Nor did I. But there they were, mighty cute boys on guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. And yes, everything was plugged in. Let the merrymaking begin!

Harris made an absolutely charming head honcho, thanking the crowd profusely and throwing in little witticisms here and there. The boy also knows how to cut a rug. And the guitar player knows how to bounce around like a cracked-out kangaroo, which isn’t nearly as frightening as it might sound. You’ll have to pardon me, because I didn’t get a chance to make note of the setlist as I was too busy dancing, following the lead of the parties on stage and in the VIP section just off the stage. It must be said that Calvin elicited one of the largest VIP followings I noticed over the course of the weekend. Could it be that some of the famous folks actually have good taste in music?

Digressions aside, this very well could have been the most fun set of the entire festival, in my humble opinion. Harris and his boys beamed throughout the entire set, bouncing and posing and rock star posturing with endless enthusiasm and energy. The Gobi tent was transformed into a giant party, Calvin being the host with the most. The band didn’t let up for a moment; whether launching into the ridiculous lothario anthem “The Girls,” grooving out to “Merrymaking at My Place,” or jumping all over the stage to “Vegas,” Harris and co. gave the impression that they couldn’t have been happier to be there. And we the adoring public lapped it up. As good as these songs are coming through my headphones right now, it doesn’t begin to compare with the fantasticality of the songs as performed at Coachella.

Now, I love bands with more “depth” as much as the next girl, but it sure does feel good to drop the pretension and dance like an idiot to absolute ridiculous fluff sometimes. My only question is this: Calvin, do you still have love for me, though I was born in the 70s? ‘Cause I got love for you, babe.

Coachella: Day 2

Despite all the par excellence on display on the first day of Coachella, there was still much more to come. After a visit to the unbelievable Joshua Tree National Park, my partner in crime and I went back to the oasis of the Empire Polo Field for what ended up being another splendid day of music.

First up was MGMT, orchestrators of one of my favorite albums of the past few months (that being the already-gushed about Oracular Spectacular). The middle child Mojave tent was once again brimming with lusty, sweaty festival folk, so I didn’t “see” much of the lads. However, they sounded fantastic. The standouts were “Pieces of What,” “Electric Feel” (which featured a lovely little audience sing-along), “Time to Pretend” (which garnered the loudest hoots and hollers), and the closing track “Kids.” They sounded punchy and full of sunshine, the perfect band to hear while dripping sweat all over the place.

It was right before MGMT went on that I saw four dudes wandering around, dressed in campy, Native American style. They were utterly resplendent in their gigantic headdresses and face paint, not to mention the fringed pants and vests. And they were only a few of the festivalgoers who made, shall we say, interesting fashion choices over the course of the weekend.

The next band, Boyz Noize, was kind of a happy accident. We got our tents confused, and instead of seeing Bonde Do Role we heard some pretty wicked beats. I knew, and still know, nothing about them, but I can tell you they can kick it. Yes they can.

Kate Nash, bless her heart, was one of the few disappointments of the weekend. I had been totally excited to see how her Lily Allen-but-cooler songs would translate live, and instead of the brilliant set I had envisioned, she sounded rushed, nervous, and just a tad off, be it key or pitch I’m not sure. Whatever it was, it wasn’t working. She opened with my favorite songs of hers, “Pumpkin Soup,” but it was done way too fast. Instead of sass, we got nerves. Which is understandable, but it was still kind of a bummer. Moved on after just a couple songs. Oh Kate, I wanted to love you...but she's still awesome, and her record is great, so I'm sure this was just a one-off. A fluke, if you will.

After the Kate debacle, we switched tents and snagged some front row space for St. Vincent. She and her white-clad band were really, really, really, really good. The girl can wail, and shred on a guitar to boot. I liked her album, but after having seen St. Vincent live I would highly recommend both the record and her live show. You won’t be sorry.

Next up was one of the most highly anticipated bands of the weekend for me, Hot Chip. It had been a very long year since I saw them at the 9:30 Club, and I was like a kid on Christmas morning waiting to hear the new songs live. We got pretty close to the stage after hanging out for a couple Erol Alkan songs, and then some balloons were released and it was party time. Angelic singer Alexis Taylor even donned some seersucker for the occasion, and all I can say is nice blazer, sir. Trés dapper. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, they killed it live. As expected. Happily, there was a lot more instrumentation and movement (i.e. bouncing around) in this set than the last time I saw them. They were more of a band and less pure knob-twiddlers. The irrepressible “Over and Over” whipped the crowd into an absolute frenzy, and I was delighted with how divine “One Pure Thought” sounded live, and “Hold On” was a joy. Though, really, with lines like, “I’m only going to Heaven/ if it feels like Hell,” how can you go wrong? Hot Chip was one of the best bands of the weekend, bar none.

During a break for some (expensive) dinner, we could hear the sounds of Death Cab for Cutie wafting over from the Coachella stage. I have to admit, I’ve never been much of a Death Cab fan, but they sounded pretty good.

It was then time to bask in the presence of bona fide legends (for the first time that day), when we pulled up some polo field and sat immersing ourselves in some Krautrock courtesy of the monumentally important Kraftwerk. There’s really nothing else to say, really, apart from sweet Jesus they’re good. Insert Wayne & Garth’s “we’re not worthy” homage to Alice Cooper here, because Kraftwerk was unreal.

I went from legends to a new kid on the block, as I got myself up front for Mister Calvin Harris’ set. You already know I’m a pretty big fan, and not just because he’s absolutely adorable. He and his band (yeah, I didn’t know he had one, either) were so delightful to be around, as excited as they were to be playing. I was there for the entire set, which was nearly an hour but absolutely flew by. It was even better than I had hoped, as the band brought added levels of cheekiness to songs that were already pretty sassy on record. Another of my favorite sets of the festival.

So then this older guy played. He was kind of a big deal in the 80s. Loves the color purple, evidently. Sadly, I only stuck around for a few songs (unless you’ve been there, you have no idea of how that desert sun can suck the life out of you), but this did include “Glamorous Life,” and we were serenaded by the delightfully nostalgic strains of “1999” walking the interminable distance to the parking lot. He’s still got it, that guy. He’s still very purple and very fabulous.

Second day same as the first: fucking fantastic.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Live Review: The Verve @ Coachella, April 25

Pardon me for just a second while I remove my jaw from the ground and wipe these tears of joy from my eyes. For you see, I have witnessed what I can only describe as a miracle, friends. Hallelujah, I have seen the reformation of the once and always glorious Verve, and it was Great. It's the closest thing to a religious experience I quite possibly have ever had. Holy, holy, holy, they have risen from the dead to save us all.

As soon as I knew the Verve were going to be at Coachella, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I had to be there. After all, it had been over ten achingly long years since I saw them in Atlanta for the first and only time, months before their heartbreaking disbanding. So ardently do we fans love our band that I saw a girl at that show with a large, blue tattoo of our fearless Captain Rock, Richard Ashcroft. And while inking permanent devotion isn't my scene, I find it perfectly within the realms of reality to hop on a plane to see them perform thousands of miles from home.

And so it was that I found myself, after a splendid first day of Coachella, in the second row of a crowd that hummed with anticipation, waiting for the great and powerful Verve to appear. And then, finally, after a gospel-tastic intro, the moment over ten years in the making finally arrived. Richard Ashcroft, Simon Jones, Nick McCabe, and Pete Salisbury swaggered back into view, and picked up exactly where they left off. In my notes from the Coachella weekend, right above the setlist, I have the words "The Verve = perfect." And apart from a couple things that could have happened to make them even more spectacular (more on that later), that's the truth.

The kicker is this: I can tell you what they played, I can tell you how I felt, but the most important thing about that whole set was that they looked so happy to be on that stage. They looked like they felt the music running through their veins and it made them blissfully happy. And they sounded like they'd never stopped being the Verve.

They opened their 11-song set with one of my favorite Verve songs, "This is Music." It was as heady and weighty as ever, the line "if love is a drug than it ain't for me" as powerful today as it was when I first heard it some eleven years ago. One of the things I would have loved to see was less of a reliance on the material from Urban Hymns. Seven of the songs in the set came from their final album, and I think the inclusion of Storm in Heaven's "Slide Away" or "Blue" would have been dynamite, instead of, say, "Space and Time."

The band steamrolled through, playing each track with love and care. Ashcroft politely introduced every single song, and repeatedly thanked the crowd for being there with them. As he had done when I saw them many years ago, he removed his shoes about halfway through the set. Richard also played a lot more guitar than I remember him doing before, and it added depth to their already full sound. And then there was Nick McCabe, and really what else can you say about McCabe other than the man's a genius? Guitars are putty in his hands. The crowd erupted when "Bittersweet Symphony" was introduced, and they played it to perfection. I know many people see that nicked loop of Andrew Loog Oldham's as the best part of that song, but it's a fine song in its own right. The band played two new tracks, "Sit and Wonder" and the closing song "There is Love." Both sounded like a natural progression from the Urban Hymns sessions, but with just a hint of A Northern Soul lurking underneath. The only other thing I would have changed about their set would be to have closed with "Bittersweet Symphony," instead of "There is Love." But the idea of them making new music together makes me immensely happy.

Unfortunately, there was one more act to go on, and so after what seemed like an unfairly short set (though in reality it had been over an hour), the foursome bid us farewell, and I left to revel in the memories of what had just transpired. I felt like I had dreamed it all, it was so good. Here's the setlist, and an urgent plea to go and see the Verve live whenever you get the chance. You might just fall in love all over again.

This is Music
Space and Time
Life's an Ocean
Weeping Willow
Sit and Wonder
Rolling People
The Drugs Don't Work
Lucky Man
Bittersweet Symphony
There is Love

The Untitled Interview #3 - Coachella Edition: Starring Jaren Johnston (American Bang)

To play Coachella is kind of a Big Deal. To be the first band to play and open up the three-day festival of musical mayhem is quite possibly huge. Nashville’s American Bang brought their home-fried raucous, rebellious, southern rock to the middle of the Southern California desert, and having seen them once before I have no doubt they made quite an impression. I would have been there, but I was somewhere in Palm Springs, guzzling gallons of pre-festival bottled water. Naturally, I wanted to know what mouthpiece Jaren Johnston had to say about all things Coachella. In addition to possessing some pretty fierce vocal chords, he’s a man of discerning taste. Included below is American Bang’s feisty cover of T. Rex’s classic “Jeepster.” Enjoy, my lovelies.

Les Enfants Terribles: How are you getting to Coachella: plane, train, or automobile?
Jaren Johnston: Well, I think we will be flying in to L.A., mixing the record, then I guess the label will rent us a van or something. Hahaha, I'm usually the last one to know these things.

LET: Inevitably, you will forget to pack:
JJ: My freakin’ tooth brush! And tooth paste, always!!! I have to use the other guy's paste, and they hate me for it!

LET: Band you're most looking forward to seeing at the festival?
JJ: Well, we’re friends with the Raconteurs guys, so it will be fun to see them. Also I really wanna see the Verve! Oh yeah, and Jack Johnson, NOT!!!!!! Puke, hahaha.

LET: To camp or not to camp?
JJ: I think Warner is renting a house out there for us and Tegan and Sara to stay at, but i'm not sure! I'm not really into the camping thing if we have to play. Too hard!

LET: What was the first festival you ever attended, either as a musician or member of the general public?
JJ: I think it was Bonnaroo. We played it last year as well as Lollapalooza and I can't remember which was first!

LET: The California desert in late April: friend or foe?
JJ: I hope friend, I would hate to be attacked by the damn desert, in any month! ; )

LET: Favorite thing about festivals?
JJ: All the different food and swag venders, as well as the crazy parties that usually go down! Also we get to see all the hyped bands that everyone is talkin’ ‘bout! Really interested to see this Vampire Weekend band. They got more buzz than a freakin’ neon light! They better be good or else! Haha.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Coachella: Day 1

For those of you who might not know, yours truly went to her first Coachella this year. I say first because, frankly, after the fun I had this year I can't imagine not going back repeatedly. It was one of the most insanely wonderful things I've ever done. It was three days of blinding sunshine, searing heat, and rubbing elbows with over 100,000 people on a polo field in the middle of the Southern California desert. Oh, and there were some pretty good bands there, too, as you can see from the poster on the left. I'd like to go through and give you some general impressions from each day of the festival, as well as post some more in depth reviews from the sets I spent the most time checking out. I hope to see you out there for Coachella 2009...

My first band of Day 1 was Architecture in Helsinki, who played the Outdoor Theatre (yes, all of the other stages were technically outdoors as well, not sure why this one was nominally recognized as such). They were really good, a lot bubblier and bouncier and poppier than I remembered them being. At one point in the set, we were told that it had been their dream for ages to play Coachella, and if they got here it means dreams really do come true. Aww. It warmed the cockles of my heart to see them do their thing. After seeing them in the sweltering desert I can heartily recommend their live show. They covered the song "Guy" by Matthew Williams, you'd know it if you heard it. It was big in the 80s.

It was after the AIH set that I began to notice many people walking around with incredibly painful looking sunburns. I thank my lucky stars that I liberally applied my SPF 55 lotion all weekend.

Next up was another band from Down Under, Cut Copy. They played in the smallest of the three tents, the Gobi tent, and it was absolutely packed. We couldn't actually see them, but the sound was excellent and what I heard was fantastic. They remind me a little of New Order, very electric but with some pop sensibilities. Another highly recommended live act (hey D.C.-ers, catch CC live on May 15th @ the Black Cat!).

After Cut Copy, it was back to the Outdoor Theatre to check out buzz band du jour Vampire Weekend. They were...ok. Not bad, not good. Definitely not exciting enough to stick around for more than a couple songs. They promised a new album, since as of now they have but one. Since it's a slippery slope for bands that rise so meteorically, I am unsure as to whether I think they'll make it to album no. 2. For now, they were my least favorite band of Day 1.

Next up was a duo I had been really excited to see, Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip. I'm a big fan, and you might remember the video for "Thou Shalt Always Kill" was one of our Video Vixen selections a while back. Live, the two are simply fabulous. Dan le Sac brought his big beats with him from Blighty, and Scroobius Pip's rhyming was deliriously delightful. They had the crowd in the Gobi tent eating out of their hands with their combination of speaker-shaking noise and whip-smart lyrics. A highlight of the festival for me, for sure.

Continuing on a steady march, it was over to the mid-sized Mojave tent for some Goldfrapp action. This was an idea had by many, as the tent was overflowing out onto the surrounding green grass for their set. One of the only bands I saw to start late, after ten minutes of intro music Goldfrapp finally took the stage. In sharp contrast to the last time I saw them live, when she was decked out in dominatrix black leather, Alison Goldfrapp donned a loose, flowy pink tunic dress, more in keeping with the spirit of their latest album. The best moment of their set for me was "Utopia," when Alison showed she can still hit those falsetto notes with no problem. She really does have one of the most beautiful voices in the world today, and I got chills during that song. Consider them a can't-miss when it comes to live shows.

Took in a couple Aphex Twin songs in the huge Sahara tent, but I didn't even try to squeeze into the pulsating insanity of the crowd. The strobes were intense, the beats were massive. I'm not a big Aphex Twin fan, but it sounded good enough to me.

And then it was time for the main event, one of my main impetuses for going to Coachella in the first place: The Verve. I'd been waiting for this moment for what seemed like ages, and after some strategic maneuvers, we managed to get to the second row of the crowd. I was giddy with excitement, and the band didn't disappoint. I thought I was going to pass out from sheer bliss during their set. It was the perfect way to cap off the first day of Coachella, and indeed they were my band of the entire weekend. It felt so good hearing their songs live again (though I do wish they had dipped into the older stuff more than they did, most of the set came from Urban Hymns), and they looked so happy to be together again, performing. It was a glorious set indeed.

All in all, my first day at Coachella was great. Despite my favorite band playing on the first day, it somehow managed to get even better.

Live Review: Kimya Dawson @ the Black Cat, April 3

Ah, Kimya Dawson, she of the quiet speaking voice, subdued presence and delightful personality. Her show at the Black Cat showed off all of these qualities, plus a wonderful sense of humor. The only negative was the damn disrespectful audience, but more on that in a bit.

Ms. Dawson took the stage a bit after 10:30 and played for just over an hour. The Cat was packed and since I was with my under four foot fiancée, we tried taking a position to the side of the stage on the risers so she could see. With Kimya seated for the entire show, that didn't work out so well for either of us, hence no pictures of the show. Dawson entered to great applause, though she remained largely silent with the audience through the first few songs, opting instead to speak essentially off-mic to her accompanist, the esteemed Mike Toby. She kept referring to Toby as a wee babe, but since I couldn't see him at all, I'll have to take her word for it. After those first few songs, though, Kimya really opened up, starting with an attempt to return a missing ID for someone named Burke. Apparently, it was a military ID, though Dawson admitted she originally misread it, thinking it was for Uninformed Services, not Uniformed. Through the remainder of the show, she gave numerous speeches on positive body image, her daughter, Panda, the joys of having friends on the road and the D.C. Girls Rock Camp.

She ran through most of her solo stuff, including "Heroes," "The Beer," "Fire," "I Like Giants," "Tire Swing" and "My Mom," amongst others. Dawson also previewed a few songs from her upcoming children's album, Alpha Butt. These were perhaps the cutest of the evening and quite possibly the highlight of the show. She also had Toby sing a couple of songs. Toby apparently is with a band called the Good Lucks and I thought he was pretty good. Certainly the funniest point of the evening was the second to last song, a love song written by her brother to the Macho Man Randy Savage.

Back to the ass hats in the audience. Look, far be it from me to cast aspersions on people drinking too much. Hell, I've got a guilty liver myself. However, if you're going to do nothing but yap and make an ass out of yourself, god damn it, go to the bar downstairs at the Cat. Dawson has an unassuming, very quiet voice and trying to listen to her while I've got to deal with drunks pisses me off to no end. I wasn't the only one, as I heard a few people yelling at others to shut up. Sorry about the soap box rant here, but it's one of my biggest pet peeves as a concert-goer.

As far as Kimya and Toby, though, they put on one hell of a show and I look forward to their return to town.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Back from Coachella/the Brink

My, what a strange few weeks it's been...but I'm back from sunny Southern California with boatloads of Coachella stuff to report, as well as the promise to get things back to normal around here. Expect Les Enfants to be back in business this week, resuming our regularly scheduled awesomeness. Kisses!