September 19, 2007

Photos from Monolith, Day Two

In addition to the independent acts I profiled on Monday and the big names from Friday at the Monolith Festival this past weekend, I enjoyed an absolutely packed lineup on Saturday and some gorgeous weather. I was wishing all afternoon that I had worn shorts instead of jeans, and in September in Colorado, that’s a good day when it’s that warm and delicious.

Okay, so even though I’ve had the DiG documentary (about the BJM, eccentric frontman Anton Newcombe, and their love/hate relationship with the Dandy Warhols) sitting in its pert little red Netflix envelope staring at me from the kitchen counter for about a week before Monolith, I didn’t get the chance to watch it until Monday. I sooo would have appreciated this performance more if I had.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre was more influential and buzzworthy in the mid-90s than I previously knew, mixing psychedelica guitar rock, Britpop, and shoegaze into a unique San Francisco-grown blend. This concert represented at least a partial reunion of original members of a band that dissolved several times, actually, as Anton Newcombe is surly, egotistical and notoriously hard to work with (verbally destroying and punching out members of his own band on stage, kicking audience members in the head, and basically thinking he’s some kind of son of God). We were marvelling a bit about his diatribes even during the Monolith set (“How about you give me a F*CKING D?“) and now, oh now it’s all clear. If you were at all wondering during the set who this guy thought he was, rent the documentary and it will all make sense exactly who he thinks he is.

There he is, looking like Neil Young off to the left, with original tambourine man Joel Gion front and center again. Joel says he’s quit the band dozens of times, and he retains that same odd panache of years past, that blase smirk on his face as he jangles his stuff – not bad, just kind of looks like a monkey. Or a Gallagher brother.

Not to let the personalities obscure the music – I thought they were really good and I seriously need to check out a few of their back catalog albums. They have a retrospective called Tepid Peppermint Wonderland out now, and also have a new album called We Are The Radio available on TeePee Records.

Wisdom – Brian Jonestown Massacre

London’s Art Brut played as the sun was starting to set, and they put on a fun show with lead singer Eddie Argos’s spoken/sung lyrics in the Streets-meets-Sex Pistols vein, and general frolickery, all running out into the crowd. They were another one that I thought I might have appreciated more in a smaller venue where the energy would have been more concentrated and refracted.

Moving To L.A. – Art Brut

I was anticipating this set, and Earl Greyhound from NYC didn’t disappoint. We saw this threesome walking around during the day and man alive they just carry themselves like rockstars. I mean seriously – those are some pink velvet pants. We had it stuck in our minds that Earl Greyhound had said about themselves that they were “as heavy as Led Zeppelin, but way less obnoxious,” but in reality, SPIN wrote that, so now I feel relieved that I can like them without secretly holding that statement against them. They were blistering, just oozing confidence and rock ‘n’ roll strut with a lush heavy sound. I also loved what Kamara Thomas brought to the band with her intense basslines and vocals that perfectly complemented Matt Whyte. I didn’t get any pictures of drummer Ricc Sheridan, but he was unrelenting.

S.O.S. – Earl Greyhound



Spoon was fantastic, absolutely one of my favorite acts that I saw all weekend. I love their varied and soulful rhythms, the howling lyrics, the general cleverness of their music. You can see how they rocked “The Way We Get By,” as well as my favorite song on the new album “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” (when was the last time you heard a modern day lyric reference a dressing gown? Here, that’s where), and “I Turn My Camera On.” I love you Britt Daniel.

I Turn My Camera On – Spoon

Merry Swankster has also written some commentary on the fest and, although the overall review from those shores is positive, the writer said, “However excellent the lineup was, nothing about Monolith conveyed the feeling of a real ‘festival’. If the long term goal of Monolith includes efforts in making it a destination festival which attracts audiences located outside immediate driving areas, organizers will need to seriously think how something unique can added to the experience. . . I don’t know if kettle corn, funnel cakes, and hippie knick knacks (none available at Monolith) change things, but slapping the word festival on all day music concerts doesn’t either.”

My personal opinion of Monolith would be completely different — I thought it was top notch, and I got what I came for. What else should be added? It had a fantastic, formidable lineup of artists to both rival other fests last weekend like Austin City Limits and Treasure Island Music Festival (in fact, there were a lot of overlapping appearances). As a Colorado festival, it also set itself apart with roughly fifteen acts hailing from our own great state. I loved the blending of the hot indie buzz bands along with a very solid sampling of our own finest. There were some cool diversions — local artists . . .

An interactive music exhibit in the Visitor’s Center (congas and keyboards; we saw all of Earl Greyhound playing around on it before their set) . . .

Frankly, I kinda think adding more festivally “fun things” (whatever those may be) would just distract me even further from my goal of seeing as much great music as possible. I am looking forward to seeing how the festival will grow in future years as word gets out about this little gem. I think this guy (Matt Fecher) did a top notch job in bringing a classy festival experience to one of the most stunning venues in the U.S.

I’d like to thank the folks who decided to give me a photo pass for the Monolith Festival. I have a secret desire to be a rock photographer (now I just need a better camera for low light) and so I had a ton of fun taking some halfway decent shots this past weekend, having time to compose what I wanted, and passing the joy on to you.

Y’all come next year!

September 10, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

I was so happy to finally seize summer by the . . . horns (I started a metaphor I can’t finish) this weekend and go camping out in the Colorado wild. Well, as wild as you can get being twenty minutes from downtown Denver, but still — camping is something I’ve been meaning to do the last few summers and it just never seemed to happen until now. There were actual tents and campfires involved, and I couldn’t be happier. And really who knew that s’mores and beer went so well together?

So much awesomeness in less than 24 hours (ah yes, the short, wimpy kind of camping): I inadvertently melted the soles of my black flipflops by resting my feet on the firepit all night, got to see a gorgeously unobstructed sunset, and I’m not even kidding our tent got loosely surrounded by a yipping pack of passing coyotes around 3am — a bit eerie, but rad.

We didn’t try to bring any tunes camping, but if we had we would have first and foremost listened to Creedence (my favorite camping music) and secondly perhaps to some of these fine selections for the week:

Earl Greyhound

This was another must-see recommendation to me from several different folks who caught blistering Brooklyn trio Earl Greyhound at the XPoNential Music Fest in Philly this past summer. Their influences range from the immediate swagger of Led Zeppelin (you can certainly hear the “Black Dog” echoes here) to The Beatles (on gentler songs like “Good”) and all kinds of Seventies jams in between. Guitarist Matt Whyte yowls and howls, sharing vocal duties with foxy lady bassist Kamara Thomas, while Ricc Sheridan kills it on the drums. They are coming to Monolith this weekend at Red Rocks — sign me up for a good seat Saturday night. Their album Soft Targets is available now.

The Girl (Beck remix)
Dr. Dog

Speaking of Philly, Dr. Dog is currently one of the absolute finest exports of the city of brotherly love. Their MySpace says they are “interested in three-part harmonies, the out-of-doors, soya rotis, baking bread and diminished chords.” Sounds good to me, as does their 2007 album We All Belong. This is a remix from the upcoming single of “The Girl” — Some Velvet Blog loves Dr. Dog and has the original tune here, if you are interested in hearing what it sounded like before Tiny Beck got his wildly creative hands on it. The Girl 7″ will be released in limited quantities in October and will be free at independent record stores when you buy Easy Beat or We All Belong. The flip side will feature their ace remix of “Heart it Races” by Architecture in Helsinki (go listen on their MySpace). Dr. Dog are currently on tour with and without Wilco.

Riot Radio
Dead 60s

I first posted this machine-gun dancehall punk delight waaaay back when I had 12 readers, after seeing The Dead 60s open for Social Distortion at the Gothic Theatre in November 2005. They put on a great, energetic show and I can definitely hear that someone has been listening to a lot of The Clash and The Specials, which aren’t bad influences to have. This bright-eyed foursome from Liverpool is back with some new stuff this week (check it out on their MySpace), and they just announced that they’ll be supporting Ash (is this the end of the world?) on their upcoming Fall tour.

You Don’t Wanna Leave
Mike Mangione

This warm and rootsy song from Chicago+Milwaukee singer/songwriter Mike Mangione could be the perfect tune for the impending autumn weather. Its honey richness sticks in your head, and made me smile from the moment I first heard the opening melody. The acoustic playfulness reminds me a bit of Van Morrison, and is recommended for fans of the literate alt-county of Rocky Votolato, or even the catchy pop hooks of Rob Thomas, believe it or not. Tenebrae is the Latin word for darkness, and it’s also the title of his newest release, which can be streamed in full over on his website.

The Beat That My Heart Skipped
Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip
This is the song I am most giddy about today, because it’s so much fun. I’ve written about this Essex, England duo with the odd name before – remember that fantastic video for “Thou Shalt Always Kill”? Yeah, I watched that about a dozen times in one day; I find the contrast of the literate words, the hip-propelling beats, surreal video art direction, and the appearance that the guy could possibly be a traditional old-school Hasidic Jewish man (he’s not, he’s just rockin the beard as far as I know) to be irresistibly interesting. This new song starts out like something Ben Harper would conjure up, and sounds even better while watching the video:

[UK download]

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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