It’s that time of the year again! The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival will be held from April 25-27, and after months of speculation, the official lineup has been released. Just as I did last year in preparation for Coachella, I will be reviewing some artists that will be at Coachella. Some of these artists I will be very familiar with, and others I will review after listening to them for the first time. To kick things off, here’s Portishead!
Hailing from Bristol, England, Portishead (pronounced with a hard “s”) has been pioneering the genre of trip-hop since the mid-90s when they released their first album “Dummy.” While comparisons of artists can sometimes degrade one’s opinion of them, I think that Portishead is a mashup of Massive Attack and Everything But the Girl (both of which I love).
Portishead’s most recent release, 1998’s Roseland NYC Live was published with a VHS (the DVD came in 2002). The video was (obviously) a live recording of material from “Dummy” and “Portishead” (their sophomore release) played by a massive orchestral enseamble plus drums, a turntable (possibly Geoff Barrow), and a Beth Gibbons. The shear size of the total number of musicians was astounding and created a sonic quality completely different than Portishead’s LPs.
While I love Portishead and am avidly awaiting their third album (titled “Third”), I can’t help but be apprehensive of their live performance. I doubt that they will put a full orchestra onstage, and downtempo probably don’t make for the best shows. Regardless, the sound will undoubtedly be incredible, and I fully plan on seeing them closing Saturday.
Everyone loves tons of taxidermies surrounding them when they go to shows, right? No? Oh well. Last night at the LA County Natural History Museum, Kid Sister & A-Trak put on a great show surrounded by deers, seals, and buffalo.
Because it was one of the museum’s First Fridays events, the night started with a presentation on the topic of elephant communication. Apparently, elephants have huge brains and are considered extremely intelligent mammals. They communicate not only through vocalizations, but also through vibrations transfered from the ground through their feet similar to how some insects do.
It was sometime during this presentation that I realized that this is how the government should fix the declining education levels in the US: have cheap concerts with up-and-coming indie artists at museums, and require kids to come to the museum an hour early to attend a session like this to get tickets. I really think that most people have a genuine interest in learning, but that school is so boring that learning is associated with a unidirectional lecture (and resultant sleep). But back to the music…
A-Trak came out around 8 and spun some hip hop while flaunting his amazing mixing skills here and there. For those who don’t know, A-Trak is Kanye West’s DJ, he won the DMC World DJ Championship in 1997 at the age of 15 (youngest ever & first Canadian), and he owns Fool’s Gold Records. While his first set was great, it was coming out of some crap speakers, which put a damper on things at first. After standing in front of those speakers (in the front row), my ears were kinda shot, so it didn’t really matter.
At around 8:40, Kid Sister came out and put on a great set. She did every song of hers that I know and more. Her songs are so perfect to sing along with because of the simplicity of the hook. After about a half hour set that consisted of Control, Damn Girl, Pro Nail, Beeper, Telephone and others, she finished with Switch Board. It’s neither here nor there, but during Control, she came off the stage, and I happened to hold her hand for a few seconds… That’s how you get fans.
After Kid Sis finished up, A-Trak kept the energy up with some great electro that included stuff by Simian Mobile Disco, The Prodigy, Justice, SebastiAn, Spank Rock, and some of his own remixes of Digitalism and Kanye West. He progressed back down into more hip hop, and ended on a solid note. I think of the DJ sets I’ve been to, I’d most liken A-Trak to Flosstradamous. Both spin electro and hip hop superbly.
It was a great night. While I paid a whopping $6.50 for my tickets, it turned out that USC students get into the museums for free, so a friend here paid nothing (I ordered mine early). It was a bargain either way.
I have never been to a concert/festival like the Neighborhood Festival, but I can assuredly say that I will go again next year. Here’s the premise: Steve Aoki puts together this indie festival of artists on his label and his friends who just put on amazing shows. I’ll just give a rundown of the artists I saw and listened/danced/rocked/jumped to.
Starting off the day (around 3:30) was Funeral Party. I’ve never heard of them before, but they are the epitome of an indie scene punk band, complete with synths and a great bassist. They have great style and put on a great show. For opener, they started things off on the right foot.
Next up were Andre Legacy and Dirt Nasty. Two rappers who couldn’t write a serious verse if their lives depended on it. Then again, no one was in the mood to listen to some hardcore deep rap, so they fit in perfectly. Hilarious and off-color.
I believe that Squeak E Clean followed. Again, an artist (actually a DJ) who I’ve never heard of. Simply stated, starting off with MIA is a sure way to my heart. Following with some Justice, Daft Punk, Klaxons, Hot Chip, and other great electro kept me all ears throughout his entire set. First real DJ set I’ve watched and paid attention to, it was a great mix.
It got confusing here because I thought that Guns ‘n Bombs was up next, but only Johnny Love came out and started to spin some heavy noise glitch stuff when something went wrong with the needles. They weren’t playing something right and when he’d fade to one of the tables, it’d cut out. Odd, annoying.
Har Mar Superstar. What a show. I’m not saying I liked it, I’m still not sure. It was outlandish to say the least. I’ll leave it at that.
Here’s where the good stuff comes in (read: the DJs/rappers/artists who I’m familiar with). Flosstradamus came out and the crowds gathered (it was around 5/6ish). How they mix electro with hip hop and mainstream tech house is beyond me, but it works perfectly and the crowd loves it. I forget what the mix was, but they just went straight into Big Pimpin’ from an electro song. WHO DOES THAT? Pure genius.
So J2K stayed on the decks and Autobot went out onstage to meet Kid Sister who put on an amazing performance. Kid Sister is an amazing rapper and she puts on an incredible show wherever she goes (at least thats what I’ve read and seen). Following in the footsteps of MIA (as many female rappers are right now), the energy in her shows is so high and she’s all over the whole stage the entire time.
Moving away from hip hop/rap, we go to Crystal Castles. I don’t know who did the lineup, but I guess they had to throw them in somewhere. This 8-bit massacre tore the crowd to shreds. Probably the most hardcore artist here, even though their genre/classification falls somewhere in-between electropop and 8-bit industrial.
Back to the DJs. Steve Aoki (the creator of all of this) was up next. Again, mixing the electro with mainstream tech and some Yo Majesty! (I’m pretty sure it was Aoki who threw them in there). Somewhere amid Daft Punk’s Television Rules the Nation and Steam Machine, Aoki become possesed by some DJ gods and decided to stage dive into the crowd, something I’ve never seen a DJ do. It was amazing, he got passed over me, and like a good crowd, we got him back up onstage just in time for the next song to come in. Incredible. And as a side note, it was pretty cool seeing all of the artists playing at the festival come onstage for Aoki just to show their support for him.
Wrapping up the DJ set was DJ AM who kept the electro going for his 40 minutes. Good mix, not too eventful though.
And the heavy hitters are now ready to perform. Chromeo was next to take the stage openning with the intro to their latest album, it was obvious that this would be the funkiest performance of the night. They kept the crowd dancing for their entire set and it was sweet when we all started chanting “2 step, 2 step, 2 step” for the best song: Fancy Footwork. It took a couple more songs to get there, but they finally closed with it, and every just went insane. I’ve never really been in a crowd where the intention is dancing, not moshing. It’s a nice change of pace.
Wrapping up my night (I left a bit early) was a knockout lineup of Spank Rock, Amanda Blank, and Santogold. Amanda Blank and Santogold are two girls who are also following in the path the MIA has laid down for indie female rappers. Spank Rock got big at the same time as MIA, so I figure that they are equals in terms of innovative sounds. Yet another great set that kept the crowd going until their 40 minutes were up.
Mickey Avalon took the stage next, but I had had enough. My feet were killing me, and Avalon isn’t really up my alley of musical tastes. I decided to call it a night, it was time.
I almost feel bad writing this, almost sorry for you. But I also feel that I would be doing you a disservice by not letting you in on the most revolutionary concert I have ever been to. I can honestly say that the full 5 hours that I (and a friend) spent at the LA Sports Arena were well spent. Here is a rundown of the experience (because it was an experience).
We arrived at the arena at around 6:15 pm, and we were definitely surprized by the number of people who were already in line. It seemed like we had shown up for the wrong concert. There was only about 20 people in the Loge/Concourse line (our line) and probably about 40 in the Floor line (not our line). I know that the show didn’t start until 8, but I honestly thought that there would be way more people.
So we go in around 7 when the doors opened and got prime seats in the Loge section with barely anyone around us. We sat around ’till 9:15 when SebastiAn and Kavinsky started spinning. There was a fair amount of people inside now, but it was clear that most people weren’t too interested in the openers. I need to say that I love SebastiAn, and I am glad that they played more of his material than Kavinsky’s (not my favorite).
Oddly, I noticed that I actually recognized a fair ammount of the songs that were mixed between their two sets (it was a DJ set to open and fill time between Ratatat and Daft Punk). Here’s what I recognized:
Justice – D.A.N.C.E., Waters of Nazareth (Justice Remix), Let There Be Light (DJ Funk’s Bounce Dat Ass Remix), Phantom Pt. II, and Genesis.
Uffie – Ready To Uff
The Prodigy – Smack My Bitch Up
SebastiAn – RossRossRoss, Head/Off, Walkman, Killing In The Name (SebastiAn Remix), Greel
Kavinsky – (I don’t know the song, but it was obviously his, he has a distinct style)
Busy P – Rainbow Man
Let me say that the music was up so loud that every one of SebastiAn’s songs hit like a knockout punch. His Killing In The Name remix was a song that my friend and I wanted to hear, and the crowd went insane when it was played near the end of the set (obviously Coachella kids in the crowd). Sadly, the remix ends before the “FUCK YOU, I WONT DO WHAT YOU TELL ME… MOTHERFUCKERRRRR!” part… I found the number of Justice songs being played to be kind of odd, but I love Justice, so it was welcome; I don’t have a problem with inter-label promotion at all.
On to the actual live performances. Ratatat obviously had less stage space than Daft did (that pyramid doesn’t appear out of thin air), but they don’t really need much of a stage. Their music is amazing at that high of a volume. The bass really hits and the guitars whine all night long. Their DVD playing behind them was kind of cool, but their music is so unique that it blows me away every time I hear it. Great set. SebastiAn and Kavinsky spun again, and our attention was split between the DJs and the flashing test lights emmitting from behind the huge curtain pulled around the pyramid.
Finally the lights went out and the place erupted. Daft Punk opened just as they did in Coachella two years ago with the “HHUUMMAANN RROOBBOOTT” slowly gaining pace to preface Robot Rock. Much of what they did was the same as their recent concerts pertaining to the progression of songs and eventual introduction to different uses for their lights.
The first major change came came at Around the World (Harder Better Faster Stronger Remix) when the first “around the world” came and the entire floor lit up with the lights that were placed encircling the entire arena! It was amazing how perfect it seemed. The lights seemed to be the same kind of lights they have as the grid on either side of the pyramid. Watch the video at the end of the post and you will see what I mean. They look white in the video, but the can do every color just as the grid can.
From there on, it was nonstop dancing and French Touch killing everyone’s preconceived notions about what a “show” should be. Because of the extended set time, Daft Punk played (what seemed to me to be, but wasn’t…) an extended version of Too Long. Maybe they didn’t, but I thought it was longer than the Coachella set (I have the full audio on my computer, it was normal). Oh yeah, there was one other reason why it was longer…
The encore. It was amazing. I didn’t think that there would be an encore, and boy was I wrong. For a while, it seemed pointless standing there shouting for what seemed forever, but when the lights never came on, it was apparent that something was going to happen. Eventually they came back on stage and played what people have said was a remix of Music Sound Better With You. Then the new suits came out. They were amazing, and so was the way that they presented them (with the red light leading up to them through the stage. That topped it all off. If there was a question that Daft Punk is the best, there is no such question anymore.
Please, everyone, if you get the chance to see Daft Punk, do not pass it up. It will be an event that you will never forget. Also, if you were there, or have anything to say, leave a comment!
Update: I added a few songs I remembered (re-recognized) were played during the SebastiAn/Kavinsky set.
In case you don’t get it (I don’t expect you to), the title is to be translated to be Daft Punk/SebastiAn/Kavinsky/Ratatat Concert. This is the concert a friend and I will be going to on July 21 in LA. Words cannot really express how excited I am about this.
I will start with Daft Punk. I really do love their music. As much as it pains me that they are very close to stealing material and slapping their name on it, I feel that they are innovative in their sampling ways and deserve as much praise as they get. They have succeeded at not disappearing as so many electronic fad artists do. Why? Because they are more than their music.
Daft Punk has become a level of quality in persona and live shows on top of their amazing music that other artists can only strive for. One of the big reasons that electronic music isn’t big in the States is because of the difficulties of putting together entertaining live sets with real visuals. Just watch a YouTube video of a recent Daft Punk concert and you will see that this isn’t a problem for them.
SebastiAn is my favorite electronic artist in terms of music right now. Everything of his, from his albums to his remixes, blows me away. Just read my latest assessment of the Ed Banger crew for more on SebastiAn.
Kavinsky is still a bit mysterious to me. He is the artist who’s music I have heard the least of. I have his two EPs but I don’t feel that they do him justice. His sound is a retro-house electro type thing. Old 80s synths are all over the place in his songs. I like it, but I hope there’s something more for me to grasp at the concert.
Ratatat is the ugly duckling of this group. Not because I don’t like them (I LOVE them) but because they actually play instruments. I’m really looking forward to hearing their very unique sound blasted at me through a huge sound system. To me, Ratatat is a sort of a Dueling Banjos funneled through the electronica scene with a drum machine thrown in for size. I have never heard anything like them, and I love it.
So there you have it, a short assessment of the artists I will see on Saturday, July 21, 2007 at about 9pm. Jealous?
Now that you have been blown away by yet another artist signed by Ed Banger Records, let me elaborate on my feelings/reactions to the song. Let me begin by saying that I love Rage Against the Machine (RATM). You probably know this if you have read any other stories here about RATM (notably at Coachella). Secondly, I love SebastiAn. Ross Ross Ross is a record that I can listen to start to finish and love every track on it.
In no way, shape, or form is turning a funk metal track into a dirty electro track an easy task. But somehow, SebastiAn does exactly that without compromising the track’s original style or his goal of making an amazing electro song. Even though the lyrics are replaced by different sources (there are only 6 lines of lyrics in the original song anyways), the sources he uses are very fitting, complementing the track throughout. The distortion is appropriate and calculated. Thank you SebastiAn for making one of my favorite metal rebellion songs into a great electro track. I hope to hear it played at the Daft Punk/SebastiAn/Kavinsky concert I will be going to in LA next month.