Port O’Brien is from Oakland, CA, and they are riotously full of joy and good tunes. They brought a wooden box full of pots and pan lids to their show on Saturday and invited the audience to come up on stage in a collaborative percussion-and-yelling celebration. It was just fantastic.
We survived Monolith, and will be reporting more soon.
Although I’ve been a fan of the rootsy folk-rock throwback sounds of New York’s Rosewood Thieves for sometimenow, I’ve been completely remiss in mentioning their new LP Rise & Shine until I was reminded of it just now while pondering my schedule for the Monolith Festival this weekend.
Released back in May, their first full-length album touches on the same well-crafted, rollicking pop songs hazed with a golden psychedelica that made me love their EPs in the first place. Rosewood Thieves were previously signed to V2 Records, but that didn’t fare so well for them when the label folded. They are currently unsigned and bursting with talent.
Of the trippy album art, they write:
Rummaging around a used book store, Erick found a copy of Psychedelic Art by Robert E.L. Masters and Jean Houston and bought it specially because of the cover. On it was the painting All Things Are One Thing, 1967 by Isaac Abrams, and he decided that it had to be the cover for their album. “I researched him and found out that he was a part of the New York City acid tests in the 60′s and now lived in Woodstock,” says Erick. They called him up and found him to be very kind, and when they sent him mixes of the record, he agreed to let them use his painting on the cover.
“It fit well with the title of the album,” says Erick, “Most of the songs came from dreams and nightmares, so we wanted the title to be about waking up.”
After missing them at the great little 3 Kings Tavern in Denver in May, I’m looking forward to seeing them this weekend. If you’re in for the fest (and can weather one more trip down the billion stairs) they are playing 2pm Sunday on the main stage.
Because they love you, Cloud Cult has given Fuel/Friends one VIP pass to the entire Monolith weekend for a lucky reader to win!
So this VIP pass gets ya: - into both days of the fest - premium reserved soundboard seating - VIP Parking in Red Rocks upper North parking lot - access to Monolith VIP Lounge w/ private bar - Monolith 2008 limited edition CD sampler & poster - access to Exclusive VIP Afterparty 9/13/08 at Red Rocks with special performances from The Hood Internet, Passion Pit, White Williams, Candy Coated Killahz, Boyhollow, and Jackola - limited edition Monolith Eco-Tote Bag from Trek Light Gear - unlimited use of the Oxygen Bar in the Red Rocks Underground (weak out-of-towners!)
Cloud Cult has been making sweepingly gorgeous, thoughtfully incisive music since 1995, and their most recent album Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-partying Through Tornadoes) is out now on Earthology Records. The winner of the contest will also get a copy of the album. Seeing them Friday will be my first experience face-to-face with the group (I missed their second-stage headlining set at Monolith last year for reasons we don’t remember).
What do I have to look forward to? “[A band of six] waving their stringed instruments about while wailing in unison in support of the lead singer. Songs that give you goosebumps, and shows that make you happy to be alive and breathing air and listening to music that is played with the same kind of passion that it was written with.”
Okay, yes. I’m in. I also hear that they paint live artwork on stage at their shows, shaped by the music, and that’s just beautiful.
TO ENTER THE VIP PASS CONTEST: EMAIL ME WITH “MONOLITH/CLOUD CULT” IN THE SUBJECT HEADER. I will pick one random winner from all entries received by Thursday at 9pm. You may also want to include your phone number in the email.
Please note — obviously if you want to win this you have to either be in the general Colorado area or be able to get yourself here by Friday (or Saturday morning). The pass will get you into all the festivities starting Friday night at the Bluebird. The contest will end in t-minus 24 hours.
Cloud Cult will also play tomorrow (Thursday, 9/11) at 11:30am for 600 kids at Cerebral Palsy of Colorado during the Monolith Festival Reforestation Project, then at the Aggie in Fort Collins tomorrow night. Aaaand they’re also on Carson Daly tomorrow if you are sitting at home.
* Final caveat: Cloud Cult may not actually want to party with you, per se, but the part about you being a VIP rockstar is totally true.
[top photo credit Scott West, live photo credit Laurie Scavo]
I had so many intriguing options to choose from in my contest to give away two Monolith weekend passes. To differentiate the contest entries from the rest of my emails I get in a day, I asked folks to consider using the title, “Hey Heather, I Want To Buy You A Beer At Monolith.” I got those, and more.
There were the offers to buy me a beer, buy me several beers, buy me an unspecified mind-altering substance, buy me an overpriced hot dog, and do a kegstand. The latter two may be better suited for other venues, but we can try. The randomly-selected winners of the Monolith passes are Cass (from Wyoming!) and Jill (from Austin, TX!). Thanks to all who played, and I sincerely hope all the entrants will still come to the fest — and make good on their promises to me. It should be a fantastic weekend.
News this fine Monday morning from the craggy hills of Red Rocks — the 2008 Monolith Festival just added twenty-two hot new acts to an already airtight lineup.
New Monolith additions include: Atmosphere, Hercules and Love Affair, Foals, Does it Offend You, Yeah? Port O’Brien, Pomegranates, Colour Revolt, KaiserCartel, Candy Coated Killahz, Jukebox the Ghost, American Bang, The Chain Gang of 1974, Joshua Novak, Erin Ivey, The Wheel, Paperbird, Noah Harris, Lynsey Smith, Scratch Track, David Moore, LoveLikeFire, and Dave Beegle.
Now each of us Hot Freaks partner blogs is getting a chance to give away some passes to the festival, in addition to our work in helping curate the lineup! So I’ve got a new contest that starts today and runs for ONE WEEK (til May 26).
Two lucky Fuel/Friends readers will each win a weekend pass for the Monolith 2008 Festival (a $110 value)! To enter, you must do a little clickety-click research and find out what the original purchase price of the Red Rocks land cost the city of Denver back in 1927.
EMAIL ME your answer with a subject line of “Hey Heather, I Wanna Buy You A Beer At Monolith” (or something to that effect, that’d be grand). Don’t leave it in the comments, please, or you’ll wreck the whole illustrious trivia vision.
I’ll pick two readers randomly from all the correct answers received. For those that won’t get the passes (but you’re all winners in my book), tickets are onsale now.
One band added to the lineup today is Sub Pop-signed Oxford art school dropouts the Foals, who we’ve mentioned before because they get us movin. One of the Monolith organizers DJ Hot To Death (I call him Fecher) worked up a special remix of the Foals song “Electric Bloom” in honor of the occasion today. The world premiere:
The lineup for the 2008 Monolith Festival at Red Rocks was announced this morning, and it is sizzling hot. Since I am just home from Coachella (more coming today on that!), I’m excited to see a few of the hottest names from that fest doing a reprisal at Monolith this September, plus all kinds of other goodness.
Lastyear’s debut Monolith was a picture-perfect weekend of fresh indie sounds on multiple stages, and this year’s sophomore effort looks like it will cement the fest as a can’t-miss annual occurrence in Colorado. Red Rocks is a relatively intimate venue with superb sight lines and a warmly unique feel to it.
Since this is the premier Colorado indie music festival, it’s refreshing that they are bringing Denver favorites Devotchkato headline the first night. I saw their exciting live show a few days ago in the desert and they definitely can pull it off. I regrettably missed French dance duo Justiceat Coachella (again, more on that later but it involved crushing levels of exhaustion by Sunday night and a weak will for fighting against immense hot sweaty crowds again), so their headlining spot in the open air with the huge crimson rocks all around will be hotly anticipated. Bring it on, Monolith!
So the story goes that a pair of Harvard boys get bored and decide to record an album in their dorm basement. A lot of things happened in my various dorm basements but nothing that sounded this good; I think it was too dark with those half-lit humming fluorescent lights, the broken foosball tables, and slightly dodgy-looking couches that you knew had some sketch tales to tell.
So what did Chester French conjure up there instead? Think robust strings over crisp and sexy beats, some chiming mid ’60s guitar . . . and they get all Zombies here at the beginning of this track. What’s your name / who’s your daddy?
Go traipse on over to their MySpace now and listen to “People” . . . then try and tell me that doesn’t make your day significantly better. So pleasing that I’ve already used it on a mix. Chester French’s debut album Love the Future is forthcoming in 2008 on Pharrell Williams’ Star Trak label.
Chester French is performing at Red Rocks on Sunday, September 14th at the Monolith Festival.
It is fixin’ to be a hootenanny of sorts at the Larimer Lounge tonight. The Monolith Festival peeps never sleep; even in the festival off-season here they are tirelessly working to bring good music to the fine denizens of Denver.
Come on out and join us tonight for UK band of brothers (and January NME cover-mentioned boys) The Cribs, with support being provided by the classy and melodic indierock of Ra Ra Riot out of Syracuse, New York.
You can tell their passion for music by seeing them play, and know that they are good with words from listening to their lyrics. But just passing them on a city street, you’d never know from their dark sunglasses and, yes, ubiquitous black leather jackets that the guys of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are thoughtful, well-spoken and articulate, and also some of the best interviewees that I’ve yet had the pleasure of chatting with.
Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been were friends as teenagers in the San Francisco Bay Area (yay!). Robert is from the Boulder Creek/Felton area as a kid, and Peter spent his teenage years all over the East Bay – Concord, Daly City, Oakland, Lafayette. The guys met in high school, shortly after Peter had just gotten out of the morale-shattering tumult of the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Along with drummer Nick Jago, a transplanted Brit, they decided to form a band and first played together in 1998. Their original name was The Elements, but after a few months they changed their name to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, taking the moniker from Marlon Brando’s group of young ruffians in the 1953 movie The Wild One.
The nascent BRMC recorded a demo album independently in 1999 which quickly circulated and generated a buzz at home and abroad. Owing to the energy of their live shows, the quality of their songwriting and perhaps the impressive range of influences that echoed some of the best sounds of decades past, they were signed by Virgin and their self-titled debut album was released in 2001. After their Screaming Gun EP of b-sides that same year, they’ve been pretty regular in offering a release every two years — Take Them, On Your Own in 2003, the folk/blues/acoustica of Howlin 2005, and the anthemic haze of this year’s Baby 81.
Before they rocked the Monolith Festival last weekend, Peter [guitar/vocals] and Robert [bass/vocals] took a good chunk of time from their grueling pre-show demands (mostly drinking Red Bull I think, and doing other interviews) to sit down at a little table backstage at Red Rocks with me to talk, in-depth and from the heart, about music.
BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB INTERVIEW I’d be remiss to not note your awesome roots in the Bay Area. As a San Jose girl myself, I have to ask — do you ever miss things about the Bay Area now that you’ve left for the shining shores of LA? Those great venues like The Fillmore or the Purple Onion â€¦
Robert: Purple Onion! Yeah, we played the Purple Onion lots of times. You know Tom? That crazy fucker? He was that eccentric owner. He’d introduce the bands, and he called us the Black Leather Jacket Gang when we first played there. Couldn’t get the name right. Or he didn’t wanna get the name right.
Peter: (in a nasally voice) “You’ve got the coolest name ever man! Black Leather Jacket Gang, that’s awesome!“
Robert: I think it was the first time we were ever announced . . . we were called The Elements for about nine months and then we changed it. And that was like our first gig as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and aw, they just took a piss with it. Definitely it was a scary name to try and introduce.
It helps to have a good name, a lot, but that’s all stuff you’ve probably read about. There’s just a lot of great history with that film that we kind of ended up learning later. I mean, it was the first real [depiction of] what rock and roll took, like kind of the spirit of it and the imagery. I mean The Beatles got their name from it –maybe– and Elvis took, you know, his whole look from a lot of it. It’s a kind of campy film, but in its time it was a really edgy cool thing.
Since you are here in Colorado, I wanted to ask you about an article I read that cited the “beat poet scene of Denver” as one of your influences. Now, other than sharing the title of an album with the Allen Ginsberg poem (Howl), is there a direct influence of his work in your music?
Peter: As far as the beat poets themselves and all that â€“ I’m not real schooled on that stuff and we don’t have a whole lot of knowledge of who lived where. But from my understanding –could be absolutely wrong– the beat generation (even though they didn’t want that label, just as the label of rock and roll isn’t something you necessarily want or look for), they were talking out and speaking against things that they felt the need to speak out against and speak up.
So yeah, we’re fans of that. Not sure if they were the first â€“ you know there were other people before that . . . I mean you can even call Jesus a rebel and a revolutionary. But we’re into that thought, and getting back to that idea and ideal of living.
So the title of your album was a direct nod to that?
Peter: It was a direct nod to that idea, which is speaking out against whatever you feel the need to speak out against.
Robert: And also that album is heavier on the lyrical side and poetry side. Some of the songs were poems before they were songs, and then they were . . . that thing of hoping that poetry could be more present in rock and roll music, and just the fantasy that there’s something more to say than what maybe it’s being used for a lot of the time.
I find it interesting how a lot of critics couldn’t seem to conceptualize how Howl fit in with your “sound.” There was all this commotion about how different it was from your first two albums. Was that hard for you guys why people couldn’t just, I don’t know, allow different kinds of music to come out of you without having to extrapolate out what this meant for your sound or your career?
Robert: I like the tug and the pull, and I like that that was put on the table, because it’s something that people should talk about, you know, why musicians and bands aren’t more free to be musicians and to experiment and do more, and just the fact that it was a shocking thing to discuss, “Who wants this sound? Who wants that?” I think it’s good to have that example for other bands to push things, but it’s also a shame.
We were nervous about it for sure because we knew the reality of the music business today; it’s about repeating one thing over and over again, and make as much money doing it as possible. We weren’t sure of the fans who loved us would want anything to do with us after Howl. Turns out that wasn’t the case, there was really strong support for the most part. That was a really, really nice feeling after being nervous for such a long time. Before we even started recording it, it was in the back of our mind, you now, just because we love it doesn’t mean anyone else will love it. But it ended up working out really well in the end. It was a good reminder to trust the passion of music.
Peter: It was a surprise and it is a sign that the state of things is not good, it’s a sad thing that it was even such an issue. It should be kind of obvious for anyone, we all want to express our freedom, and that’s all it should be taken as. If you like it or don’t like it, so be it.
Robert: We had to be really honest with ourselves though â€“ there’s a lot of bands I love that had done the kinda “different” record, the experimental record, where you could tell that the band loved that sound or that style, but that they couldn’t quite make it work or pull it off. So their heart kind of got in front of their ability to actually really make something worthwhile. So, I think that’s why we waited so long â€“ that record wouldn’t have been so good if it came out as our first or second album, we needed time to grow up and write better. I think if we’d gotten too excited and wanted to do something free and different without any holding ourselves accountable . . . I think we really needed to hold ourselves accountable.
Robert, you’ve said “People forget that the ‘roll’ is as important as the ‘rock’” and Peter, you’ve said that you are continuing to write a growing stash of new acoustic tunes. Do you think you’ll do another full album in the Howl vein, or integrate the folksy, bluesier stuff along with the rockers next time around?
Peter: I don’t know if this is possible, but when I think of albums, I think of a soundtrack, where you create a work with, say, an acoustic song next to a wall of guitars, just noise, no singing at all, next to a song that’s punky, whatever you want to call it. That to me is what makes sense. We’ve always been tryin to dodge the “Well, they sound like that . . . they sound like this,” â€“ I want to be able to include all those types of music on an album and have that make sense. I think that would make sense to our fans. But I don’t really know! It’s hard to really talk about because to each his own, really.
I mean, a lot of people don’t like Howl. A lot of our fans didn’t like Howl. A lot of our fans really loved it. A lot of people got really turned on by it, a lot of people got turned off. A lot of people hate this one because they loved Howl. But what’s amazing is that we’ve made music that has turned people off and turned people on and we’re the same fuckin band. You know what I mean? That’s cool. We haven’t grabbed one big huge chunk of people that want that one sound â€“ that to me is great. It’s up to the listener to be open to it, it’s not our job. Our job is just to do what the fuck we want in playing music, and it’s up to people to have ears to listen and be open to new things. It’s not our job to tell people how to hear.
Robert: I’m surprised more people don’t go along with the ride, as it should be. They’re very judgmental, quick to decide. I hear a lot of people talking and ranking, you know, “I like this one better than this one, which isn’t quite as good as that one.” But they’re all coming from the same place? So I don’t know why it’s . . . I mean they’re all good and bad for different reasons, but they’re all The Ride. Why not just enjoy the ride? It’s like being all uptight during the ride, like [scrunches up shoulders] “I don’t like this dip in the road right now.” But no, there’s this really cool turn coming right in a few seconds.
I agree with everything Pete is saying, especially the soundtrack idea as being the highest thing to achieve, something that emotionally can go from one extreme to the next, but kind of not be too tied down to one thing. That’s the only way you can keep a consistent kind of forward motion. But then again I don’t want to say what the next one’s gonna be because I don’t want to have that much control over it. I mean, whatever’s gonna come is not going to be really up to me so much, or Pete, or Nick, individually, but we all kinda let go of the wheel.
With Baby 81, if we thought about it too much we would have probably gone crazy: “What are we gonna do after this record that was so different?” And then thankfully Nick came back and we did “Took Out A Loan” and “666″ in one day, one take. No one was talking, sayin a fuckin word, it just happened. We followed that and made ten more songs like it. I don’t know — that’s the most natural and innocent the music can be, and that’s our job to let the music be that. It can be a natural extension, something that’s not too conceptualized or pulled in one direction because your head wants it to go there and your heart wants it to go someplace else. And we’re the only ones that can get in the way of that, you can blame other people, but it’s you allowing it or not.
Like the next record, I was actually thinking . . . I’m curious to hear what we’d sound like if we took a little time to let things evolve because we haven’t done that for awhile. We’ve done all records pretty fast, just kinda pushing to finish the next one and the next one. So I’m just curious to hear what we’d sound like with time to let things breathe and kind of come around in their own time.
I wanted to talk a little bit about your perceptions of the British media feeding frenzy throughout your career, and specifically the early buzz Noel Gallagher generated for you when he told MOJO magazine that you guys were his favorite band, and he wanted to sign you guys to his own [Brother Records] label. That must have been a bit crazy for you. Did you ever consider taking him up on it?
Peter: We considered it only to the point that we didn’t want to be anybody’s band. We didn’t want to be a record company’s band, or a guy at the record company’s band. That was the only reason we didn’t follow that up because we wanted to stand on our own. We don’t belong to Virgin [who they eventually signed with] and we don’t belong to who we’re with now. They don’t own us. Record companies make your lives a little bit easier, as far as, you know, you’ve got your rent paid. They make your art a little bit harder, but they make your life a little bit easier. [laughs heartily]
None of that really sunk in for me with though [with Noel Gallagher]. I was never that big of a fan — I became a bigger fan, but at first I didn’t understand it, it’s not for me. But then I went over there and I saw that it was for a huge amount of people, a lot of people loved it. So I give them respect, it touched the people somehow, I’ll give that to them absolutely. I respect that.
And it was nice of him, you know, him saying that? A lot of people would come to us and say, “I heard about you through Noel Gallagher,” and that’s amazing, that’s lovely to have. That feels like a community of artists, as far as someone who is at that level saying, “Check these guys out, I like this” â€“ Having that is great, we try to do the same thing now for bands that we like. So that, in itself, that is how it’s supposed to be.
Robert: Music just carries a bigger weight in [British] society or culture, at least for the time being, and it has for awhile. It’s the good and bad that come with that. You know, people’s voices are heard and the media is stronger, and it’s a community that’s actually . . . can be inspiring and infuriating at the same time. But I’d rather have that than just a kind of place that doesn’t care so much, where music doesn’t really matter so much. The States kind of feel like that — there’s lots of places that have it a lot worse, but music’s not as built in to the [U.S.] network as far as the culture. They’ve got a ton of, say, television shows over there [in the UK] that are constantly showing different bands playing and there’s only a few over here.
Peter: It’s amazing, they have so much crap over there, and you know, they gave us a lot of their crap, as far as “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” or “Who Wants To Be The Next Pop Idol.” That all started over there â€¦ but it’s all bullshit! But it seems like our filter in America is just like, “Oh let’s just take the shit. The nonsense.” But over there they also have another side of it, that they have a good side too, they have both sides. Over here it’s weird how we siphon out the good stuff and just go for the shit. I don’t know why we do that.
We’ll make the last question massive. Do you see art and commercialism as being fundamentally at odds?
Robert: Oh, God. Well the question isn’t that hard to answer. We’d all want to live in a place where it wasn’t a music business, it wasn’t a film business, it was just people making music, making films, and it was their art form and it wasn’t controlled and tampered with by all these other elements. But the long answer to your question is how do you blend the two together in a world where you have to. We could be here for a while. [both laugh]
Peter: Your question is, are they fundamentally at odds? Fundamentally, yes. Money gets in the way of all of it. They don’t belong together . . . [pauses] . . . but it’s okay? I think it’s okay that it does? Kind of? [laughs] Because good things can come from money, I guess, because the world has decided to live that way.
Robert: It is kind of that ‘asleep at the wheel’ mentality. It’s not the industry itself, but the bigger society around it that’s â€“ it’s the byproduct of society, not the other way around. It’s a Catch-22. No one really knows why some people settle for just sleepwalking, but it affects music and everything else.
I’ve always been kind of naÃ¯ve or youthfully angry and rebellious against the music industry. You know, all those beginning thoughts you have when you’re like, “Fuck corporations, capitalism,” all that. But then T Bone Burnett was talking to us and he’s a good guy with a good heart. He was talking to us about trying to buy Sun Records and relaunch it and do it the right way and get the right people behind it, and for one glimpse I was truly inspired by that idea of that record label. We were just finishing Howl and he wanted to bring us on if it went through.
I was really excited about getting behind a brand that meant something. My imagination started sparking as far as I would want to make different great music and videos to represent this label and help it become what it would want to become, for the albums to have the same strength.
When you sign to a major label, the mentality can just kind of be “I wanna get mine, and get out,” in a way. It’s a survivalism thing that has nothing to do with connection to other people. But talking to him, I just got this vision that a label could be a beautiful, inspiring thing and I never even had a glimpse that that could be a reality, kind of growing up with labels that were always deemed the enemy or the devil, something you constantly had to fight against to keep your sanity and your art intact. That’s not the way it should be, and it doesn’t have to be. You realize, wow, we’re a long way from what could be, and yeah the music suffers from there on.
Peter: What’s frustrating is that you make a record –tons of bands do, you make art in a way you consider to be art of some sort– and you put it out and if it doesn’t do well, all of a sudden there’s no longer any support for you. And that’s a shame. I think government should be funding the arts â€“ I guess Canada does it a bit, they cherish and take care of art and nurture it in a way. That’s unbelievably cool. Here we nourish those who’ve made it, and if you can’t be proven to have made it, you’re left by the wayside. So that’s wrong. That’s just wrong, that’s destruction of our culture.
And by following what you love, what you believe in, you have to be careful because your love can change. Next thing you know, your love turns into money. You know, this “I love what my music can get me.” Almost to a point of self-destruction, we’re so afraid of turning into that little asshole, you know? We’re like, is there money involved? Well make that go away. Make sure that goes somewhere else.
Robert: Just to finish that thought, it’s similar to what I was saying earlier about the label. It’s kind of trying to get away from self and not having it just be about ourselves and making money, but about the bigger community. Even when I’ve looked at, okay, you could make an indie label, stand for something new, get a bunch of great bands together and go really far. But you just know in the back of your mind, if you actually do make enough money it’s bound that it’s gonna be sold out from under you because someday it’s just gonna be an offer someone can’t refuse. You can’t even follow that dream because you know how it ends. . .
* * * * * Pete pulls out a lighter from Cleveland brandished with ‘Rock N Roll’ and a red electric guitar on the front. With a self-effacing laugh, he points it out, and says, “See? Put a little stamp on a lighter. And that’s rock and roll.”
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.
BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE 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 Radioavailable on TeePee Records.
ART BRUT 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.
EARL GREYHOUND I was anticipating this set, andEarl 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
VIDEO: THE WAY WE GET BY (LIVE AT MONOLITH)
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.
THE FESTIVAL “SCENE” 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.
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
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