AmericanaramA Festival of Music

Is it just me, or has the Bob Dylan + Wilco + My Morning Jacket summer concert tour, aka Americanarama, not gotten nearly the attention it deserves?

I think it's because Bob Dylan is on the top of the bill.

Don't get me wrong: Bob Dylan is a genius. In the 1960s, his music and lyrics were innovative and revolutionary. Amazingly, he's managed to remain culturally relevant for nearly 50 years.

That being said, Dylan isn't what he used to be. Honestly, I don't know how good the Bob Dylan live experience was before 1995, but I've seen him several times in the last 18 years and every show has left me wondering, "Why doesn't Bob Dylan want to entertain his fans?"

Ben Rayner's writes in the Toronto Star ("Bob Dylan clears crowd at Americanarama Festival"):
The Toronto chapter of the cult of Wilco was sufficiently numbered to fill the 2,750-seat Massey Hall for a couple of nights on the band’s tour behind The Whole Love in September of 2011, after all, and My Morning Jacket’s local following by now easily tests the bounds of a 2,000-plus venue such as Kool Haus.
A conservative estimate would, thus, peg the potential Toronto audience for Americanarama at least a good one-third of the amphitheatre’s 16,000-person capacity before Bob Dylan, the 72-year-old living legend and headliner around which the roving mini-festival is built, even entered into the picture. Dylan, one would think, should top that crowd up nicely.
Instead, he succeeded in thinning the ranks in much the same way he cleared out a substantial amount of the crowd at the Air Canada Centre during his last tour stop in Toronto last November — by bloody mindedly playing the crank and serving up an uncompromising mix of rambling recent numbers rendered in the jump-blues vein and thoroughly (read: almost unrecognizably) worked-over catalogue standards such as “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Blind Willie McTell” and a set-concluding grind on “Blowin’ In the Wind.”
Oh well, I can't say I'm surprised. Nevertheless, I'm excited about seeing Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Richard Thompson at Shoreline Amphitheatre this Sunday. Should be fun. But I can't guarantee that I'll stick around for all of Bob's set.

And who knows, maybe Bob Weir will make a guest appearance...

7 Awesome Yo Gabba Gabba Videos

Ok, confession time: I don't have kids and I've never seen an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, but I am a big fan of some of the bands who've performed on the show.

Here are a few of my favorite Yo Gabba Gabba videos:

Flaming Lips - "I Can Be a Frog"
 




Paul Williams - "Rainbow Connection"



MGMT - "Art is Everywhere"



 The Shins - "It's Ok Try Again"



The Roots - "Lovely, Love My Family"



Of Montreal - "Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast"



The Aggrolites - "Banana"

10 Must See Artists at 2013 Bonnaroo

This will be my sixth Bonnaroo and, honestly, I've never been more excited about the lineup in Manchester than I am this year.

I know, I know, I was there for Radiohead and Kanye West and Metallica and Pearl Jam. Yes, it's true, every Bonnaroo has been memorable, but like other elite, top-tier festivals, Bonnaroo can often suffer from an excess of riches. The lineups look great before the set times are released, when you realize that, unless you clone yourself, you're going to miss as much great music as you'll hear.

This year the promoters seem to have struck a perfect balance between genres (rock, rap and everything in between), seniority (grandmaster Paul McCartney alongside young prodigies like Kevin Parker) and timing.

Other sites and music mavens have published their lists of this year's must-see artists at Bonnaroo, so I might as well as publish mine.



10. Allen Stone - I caught Allen at Coachella in April and had the surreptitious pleasure of dancing next to him during Janelle Monae's late night set later that day. Stone may be white, but he channels all the best 60s and 70s r&b and soul performers. This kid is going to be big. See him now then see him again when he comes to your town.



9. Grizzly Bear - I'm prepared to be disappointed by the band's show at Bonnaroo. It's not because their music isn't great -- I had "Shields" on repeat for two weeks not long after it came out. They're serious about reproducing their studio sound in the live setting and their light show is something to behold, stunning in its simplicity. I'm prepared to be disappointed because I saw them play to an audience of about 200 people sitting under the redwood trees at Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur. There's no way they'll ever top that show, unless they play there again.

8. Calexico - The Tucson collective is huge in Europe, deservedly so. I can't quite fathom why they're not more popular here in the States. To my knowledge, no other band better interprets and re-interprets the tropes and motifs of rock, country, tejano, and conjunto and combines them into a distinct, aural soundscape. Attending a Calexico show feels like listening to the soundtrack of some Sergio Leone film you've never seen, but positively know you would love.



7. Mumford & Sons - I was late to the Mumford party, even after seeing their breakout show at Bonnaroo in 2008 and their headlining the Railroad Revival Tour. I guess I had a hard time seeing a British band play Americana and bluegrass, since there are so many bands in Western North Carolina, Southern Virginia and Eastern Tennessee who can play circles around these poseurs. No matter. Mumford and crew know how to fire up a crowd and get people's feet moving. It will be interesting to see how they handle Ted's brain blood clot.



6. Bjork - I don't care what you think about Bjork, or what you think you know about Bjork. She is a genius. She is a one-of-a-kind performer. If you've never seen her live, you may not know what to think about this show, but I can guarantee you will be thinking about it for weeks and months afterwards, asking yourself, what WAS that?




5. Father John Misty - If Gram Parsons had lived, I think he'd dig Father John Misty. You may recall that Father John, aka Joshua, aka Jake, was the drummer for Fleet Foxes. If you liked that band, you may or may not like Father John Misty. If you like country and psychedelic music and getting stoned while watching David Lynch movies, you'll get Misty.



4. Tame Impala - Kevin Parker has set an embarrassingly high bar for the musicians he employs to perform the two albums he's recorded under the moniker Tame Impala. If you don't already own Innerspeaker and Lonerism, do yourself a favor and get them immediately. Please, pay for the music, don't steal it. And see them on Sunday night. Their set at Coachella this year was one of the highlights. This will be the third time I've seen the Australian crew in three months. I'm not kidding. These guys will melt your face.



3. Wilco - What can I say about Jeff Tweedy and one of the greatest live rock 'n roll bands on the planet that hasn't already been said? That they started out as a No Depression alt-country band then weirdly became the nearest thing we have to an American Radiohead? That at times they can play so soft and sweet that you're Grandma would dig them, then so loud and cacophonous that you're cat would howl at the sound? That "Handshake Drugs" is the best song ever written about trying to hook up with your dealer? That Tweedy is a damn funny dude?

2. Rock 'n Soul Dance Party Superjam featuring Jim James, John Oates, Zigaboo Modeliste, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and more - For those in the know, the Superjam is ALWAYS one of the best parts of Bonnaroo, and this year will be no different. Last year Questlove curated, treated us to to the re-emergence of D'Angelo and took us through a sprawling set covering Hendrix and Zeppelin. This year, Jim James of My Morning Jacket takes the reins and brings along half of Hall & Oates and some of New Orleans greatest funk and jazz musicians. Who knows what they'll play? Who cares? It will be a hoot.



1. Paul McCartney. Come on. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either an idiot or thinks it's cool to be contrarian. I mean, he's a fucking Beatle. He's never played Bonnaroo. He's 70 years old and still plays epic 30-song sets. This show will be one for the ages. Do NOT miss it, because you'll only regret it if you do.

Postscript: Okay, there are no real big surprises on my list, unless you're too old to be hip to the genius of Tame Impala or too young to grok the brilliance of Calexico. If you're looking for some off-the-radar bands, follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Coachella 2013 First Weekend Video Highlights

Blur




Modest Mouse



Local Natives



Hot Chip



Spiritualized



Allen Stone



Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds



Tame Impala



Janelle Monae



Moby



Father John Misty



Jessie Ware




You'll find more videos on the Coachella YouTube channel.

Coachella: A Condensed Schedule

Too much good music to humanly enjoy, and inevitable schedule conflicts, are marks of a great festival. This year Coachella has plenty of both, so I've condensed the three-day, six-stage, 179-band lineup into three manageable chunks.

The One Music App/Service Every Festival Freak Should Use

I've tried all the streaming music services at one time or another, beginning with Rhapsody in 2002.

My all-time favorite music service was Lala, which was purchased by Apple in December 2009 and shortly thereafter shut down. So much for competition.

I'm a daily user of MOG (the better, American answer to Spotify), Pandora a lot less often than I used to, and Tune In when I'm looking for terrestrial radio.

Of course, I also use my phone and various iPods to listen to music I've purchased from Apple, eMusic and Amazon.

No matter how I listen to my music, there is one music app/service that is always at work, always running in the background.

It's been around for 11 years, has over 50 million users worldwide, yet commands just 2% of music streaming usage according to a recent study, which is a real shame.

I often mention this app to friends, and I'm still amazed how many have either: 1) never heard of it, or 2) know of it, but not what it does.

If you haven't guessed yet, I'm speaking of Last.fm, THE one music app+service every music lover and festival freak should be using.
Last.fm is streaming radio, like Pandora, only better.

Last.fm has a social component, like Spotify, only it's not tied to Facebook.

Last.fm tracks the live shows you attend and suggests upcoming ones, like Songkick and Bandsintown.

But the best, killer feature of Last.fm is scrobbling, a made-up word that means whenever and however you listen to music, it's added to your Last.fm library.
Your Last.fm Library is something like your personal music collection on Last.fm – this is where you can view and manage all artists, albums and tracks you have ever added to your profile, as well as your loved tracks, any playlists you have created and all the tags you have used.

Items are automatically added to your Library when you scrobble, love or tag them, or add them to any of your playlists. Alternatively, you can also add items manually by clicking on the "+" button on artist, album, or track pages (next to Play Radio) where available on the website.
Here's my advice to start taking advantage of Last.fm in three easy steps:
  1. Register with Last.fm
  2. Add me, Festival Freak aka GreenDan, as a friend
  3. Seed your Last.fm account with artists and tracks you love.
Bonus: If you're going to the Coachella Festival next week, like me, here are two more steps you'll want to take:
  1. Start listening to Coachella Radio on Last.fm 
  2. Add Coachella to your upcoming events, then see which artists Last.fm recommends.



Foals - Holy Fire singles (VIDEO)



It took three studio albums and a scheduled appearance at the 2013 Coachella Festival for British band Foals to get my attention.

Take elements of Talking Heads, Bloc Party and U2, mixed with a little King Crimson and Battles, and you'll get something that sounds like Foals.

Here are live videos for the three singles off their latest disc, "Holy Fire." Based on what I've seen and heard so far, I expect they'll be one of the standout performers at Coachella this year.







2013 Noise Pop Festival (VIDEO)

"Since its inception in 1993, San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival has grown into one of the most respected indie rock extravaganza’s in the country." --Pitchfork
Now in its 21st year, the 2013 Noise Pop Festival kicks off at 5pm today with one of my favorite events, the FREE Noise Pop Happy Hour at Bender's Bar & Grill on South Van Ness at 19th Street. This event happens daily, 5-8pm, from Tuesday to Saturday. It gets crowded, so plan on getting there early to order a Pliny and grab a spot near the stage before the noise begins.

I've been attending Noise Pop since 1997. Every year I drag my friends to shows and every year they resist: "But I don't recognize any of these bands!" Then I remind them: "Remember when we saw Spoon at Noise Pop in 1997? Apples in Stereo and Modest Mouse in 1998? Death Cab for Cutie in 1999? This year won't be any different. You'll end up seeing bands that you've never heard of. Then, a few years from now, you'll be able to say that you saw so-and-so back in the day... at Noise Pop."

Below is a video playlist featuring some of the bands playing this year, including Ramona Falls, R. Stevie Moore, Comadre, The Fresh & Onlys, Great White Buffalo and Jason Lyttle.

Check back later for updates, reviews and tips. You can also follow me, @festivalfreak on Twitter and Instagram.

The Church - Live at Enmore Theatre, Sydney 2011

Watch The Church and other great gigs on Moshcam.

The Church have been around forever, at least in rock 'n roll terms. In 32 years the Australian psychedelic rock band has recorded 20+ albums. Their most recent, 2009's Untitled #23, is in my opinion one of The Church's best.

In 2011 I was fortunate enough to see The Church perform Starfish, Priest=Aura and Untitled #23 in their entirety, on their 30th Anniversary "Future, Past, Perfect Tour."

If you enjoy psychedelic rock and hearing rock musicians at the top of their game, you'll enjoy this live recording.

Supergrass - Richard III

Since reading this morning that the skeleton of English King Richard III had been dug up beneath a Leicester car park, I haven't been able to get this song out of my head, off of Supergrass' second and arguably best record, "In It For the Money." According to Wikipedia:

In 1998, Q readers voted it the 68th greatest album of all time, while in 2000 the same magazine placed it at number 57 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.

What is this song about? Does the title refer to the man or the play by Shakespeare? Again, Wikipedia:

The song's name comes from the band's method of creating working titles for songs - giving them people's names. This was the third called "Richard" and the band liked the reference to the king Richard III and the Shakespeare play Richard III in which the king is depicted as a dark and evil character, as it matched the menacing tone of the song. Neither the king, nor the play are mentioned in the song.
No matter. It's a great song by a great rock band in their prime. Btw, if you're a fan of Supergrass, I recommend getting Gaz Coombe's solo album, Here Come the Bombs.