As my favorite time of year, winter, is upon us, that also means large cascades of dark and gloomy music start to fill my computer and inbox. Nothing in recent memory exemplifies this better than the A-side to Plastic Flower's newest single "Strange Neighbors". It's a sneaky little song, starting with a simple beat as Sean Earl Bread's monotone and distant lyrics slowly guide the song, accompanied by guitar lines so reverbed and effected that you can picture them curling into oblivion. By the time the song come to the climax, it almost seems like it hasn't changed at all, but it has. The drum beats come in ever so quicker and harder as Beard just repeats over and over "We won't be friends". A perfectly heartbreaking song for these cold December days.
There was an instant reflex in me to call Earthquake Party the best Times New Viking rip off ever and leave it at that. Scuzzy sounding instruments, boy/girl vocal trade offs, and songs about drugs and nonsense. But past all that, Earthquake Party are just as drawn to snotty pop punk as indie rock. How else would a less than a minute long mini spaz like "Nails & Hammers" exist next to a slow burner like "Brians"? It's the A-side "Pretty Little Hand" that steals the show though. I have not heard a songs so wonderfully additive in ages. It has just the perfect fuzz sound to buzz in a ear for years to come. Plus are there better lyrics than "All I want is a pretty little hand filled with drugs and candy!"? No there isn't. This is a proper cassingle (1 A-side, 2 B-sides) tailor made for that shitty boombox that you started using to play cassettes.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists set is one of those sets that will forever be spoken about in Fun Fun Fun Fest lore. Leo told everyone that he was filling sick and wouldn't be able to perform the best of sets, but that seemed like a lie as he ripped through cuts from The Brutalist Bricks. If this is Ted Leo at sub par, he most be a ball of pure energy in top form. He saved the great moment possible of the whole fest for the finale though. Danzig had on Friday completely fucked up his set, going on an hour late, cutting his set down and eliminating all the planned Misfits material, and then told the crowd to basically riot. Yes, he truly is as much of a douche as people say he is. However, Leo decided to repay Danzig's debt by dawning a black wife beater, bad wig, and launching into four Misfits songs. While this isn't out of character for Leo (see his TV Casualty project), it was just awesome to see him do it here. Needless to say a large chunk of the crowd went nuts for the songs, and Leo and co. cemented their reputation as some of the best guys in punk.
Architecture in Helsinki
Architecture in Helsinki's set was surreal in a number of ways. These were five, scientist looking and dressed Australians performing electro dance pop almost completely with electronic instruments (even the drums they had were more machine then kit). At certain points they even engaged in synchronized dance routines to some of their songs. The thing was, they were doing all of this to Slayer fans who had gotten there early for the band. It was miracle that they didn't get booed into oblivion. However, AIH managed to make it through their set unscathed, though not perfectly. All that electronic equipment backfired on them a lot, the drums in particular having to fiddled with practically between every song to get them working again. Still it was a fun set, made a lot more interesting from the circumstances around it.
Boris rocked. Flat out rocked. It was the most metal thing I have ever experienced in my life, just a barrage of ear splitting guitar riffs and skull crushing drums blasted out of six foot high amps. The all black attire, the smoke machine that pour out through out the set, the giant gong set behind the drum kit (that eventually made its way into the crowd); Boris love metal to their bone and embodies it so well. Equally impressive is how they take their new, catchier, and less metal material and live, manage to convert it into equally impressive feats of rock bravo. There was nothing brutal about the set, but there was an intensity to it that was ever present, and rose it proper heights. Shredding never sounded so good.
I think this was the proper way to end my Fun Fun Fun Fest experience. With the utter wonder and chaos that was the Black Lips. They literally started the show off with a bang by throwing lit firecrackers into the the crowd. From their it got as crazy as a Black Lips show gets, the crowd become a giant mass of colliding bodies and garage rock infuse octane. Toilet paper was thrown, light swords were waved and flung, and people drunkenly song along to the songs at the top of their songs. Black Lips on their part helped with the chaos, never slowing the set down for any of the slower or more psych tinged songs in their discography, and just transferring the energy of the crowd into more manic forms of "Short Fuse" and "Katerina". There were moments were you couldn't even see the stage because of everything that was going on, but it says too much that it was OK and the giant drunken, high, crazy crowd singing along was all you needed.
I was a little disappointed in Davila 666's set. Coming from Puerto Rico, with six members and very catchy garage-punk songs in tow, one would think it would all add up to a great set. Yet it never rose above standard garage rock standards. They lacked a certain energy to them that I had seen with other bands, like they were performing just due to commitment and couldn't wait to get off. At least they pulled off a great cover of "Hanging on the Telephone".
I had no idea about Ceremony's reputation when I saw them, but I learned it fast when they started playing. Immediately setting the tone when their guitarist came out in Prince like attire, their lead singer proceed to climb the stage, singing from the banner that hung on the side as if it were completely normal. He then spent the rest of the stage stocking the stage or jumping into the crowd, always bring this intense insanity to the band's performance, which went well with the fractured hardcore that was being produced by the rest of the band. Ceremony's performance was probably the most intense thing I saw during the whole fest; ugly yet creative hardcore matched by the band members' commitment to their sound.
I have waited ages to finally see Nobunny in person and his Sunday set was everything I had hoped it would be. He came out in his underwear and proceeded to get more perverted from there, making constant remarks for his need for "bunny love" and sticking the mic down his underwear at one moment as well. Still, as wrapped up as Nobunny is in his own devious little world, he never forgets about the songs and he played a garage set as good as a garage set could be when you're front man is wearing a bunny mask. The crowd was just as wild as Nobunny was onstage, thrashing and dancing around to songs in a less than adorable, but still enjoyable manner. It was a wild, slightly surreal, garage rock set. It was Nobunny in person, and it was great.
The Zero Boys might be old, they might be out of shape, but it was awesome to see them perform on Sunday. Truly under appreciated hardcore legends that deserved more than what they got in punk history, their reunion show proves they deserve their place in the hardcore legacy halls. Paul-Z still had the same sense of energy and humor he had as a 16 year old making those songs, and it came out in the set. Paul-Z even jumped into the circle pit during the last song (how rare is it for a band to even engage with the crowd at all). It didn't feel like nostalgia, but like a great punk band playing all their old hits. The Zero Boys may be under appreciated, but for the 40 minutes they were on stage, they were the heroes they were always destined to be.
I was beyond excited about The Year of Hibernation. After being exposed to the tear jerking beauty of "Montana" (more on that song in a second), I jumped on my computer as quickly as possible to pre-order it. When The Year of Hibernation finally arrived, I tour into the packaging as quickly as possible and threw it on my turntable. As the album began to engulf me I noticed something old. For some reason there were no lyrics to be found anywhere within the packaging, surprising due to Youth Lagoon's Trevor Powers' singing style leads to an obscured sense to what is being sung. Normally this isn't a problem for me; as the large connoisseur of lo-fi pop it's just another wonderful quality and characteristic. But I did something out of character. I jumped on my computer, found all the lyrics, and compiled my own personal lyric book to accompany my listening of the album.
That I feel speaks volumes about the music we are dealing with here. In a time when it takes monumental effort to just listen to 4 song EP all the way through, to be willing (me at least) to want to engage with every aspect of the music is saying something. In this case, how utterly emotionally beautiful this album is. I know that is probably the biggest thing whenever Youth Lagoon is brought up, but that's because of how good they are at it. I think that's mostly to their ability to sidestep nostalgia in the traditional sense, and the way a lot of modern bands trigger it. This is an album completely built around keys and synth, possibly the most used instrument in modern indie music, yet manages to be so much more original with it than others. This is especially true in the way all the songs build to big, cinematic endings. From the moment "Posters" evolves from simple piano tinkering toward beat blasts and perfectly placed guitar work, it's obvious The Year of Hibernation is bigger than just the eight songs contained would have you think. By the time the album reaches it's climax with "Montana", a song so powerful and beyond words that morphs from haunting piano lines toward thunderous piano lines that sound like Powers' might wind up destroying his instrument, the entire magic of the album has sunk in.
Equal parts beautiful and dark, The Year of Hibernation is one the best records, never mind debuts, of the the year. It's subtly majestic in all the right ways, quite when it needs to be, and loud and bombastic when it needs to be as well. It engulf your body for 35 minutes once it starts, and lasts for days after. And you will appreciate every moment of it.
Oh Cold Cave. What happened? To be completely fare, it really wasn't Cold Cave's fault that they had a terrible show. They were set in the mid afternoon, which was discovered to be a terrible time for them because they can't use lights or even the dark to amplify the mood of their songs. So instead it just looked liked three guys standing there making moody synthy music. To be fare Wesley Eisold and Dominick Fernow played with passion, especially Fernow who played his synth more lively aggressively then I think I've ever seen anyone play it. Still, it wasn't enough, and I left early...
...and went straight to see M83 pull it off right. Of course M83 is much better suited for big, wide open festival crowds and doesn't need a certain atmosphere to work like Cold Cave's. Still, it was impressive to go see a band truly pull off a festival show. And pull off a show they did. While I'm sure their set would have been even more impressive if their lights would have been working, they still manged to bring their songs to life. All of M83's songs are really anthems, but their scope is sometimes forgotten until they are placed in a live setting. It was big and audacious, and just what I need after Cold Cave's set.
If Community ever gets cancelled (and let us pray that never happens), Donald Glover can look forward to a process career in hip-hop. It felt like Fun Fun Fun Fest was his coming out party. Augmented by a four piece band rather than his usual laptop, Glover/Childish Gambino was in full force all throughout the set. Cycling through his old indie rock mixtape stuff to his newer, more focused material, Childish Gambino never lost a beat. He let the emotions and humor of the songs pour out, but never treated the set like a joke. Near the end of the set he crawled on top of the amplifiers and just glazed intensely into the crowd as the band played on, both saying “I can’t believe this is happening” and “Damn right this is happening”. And that moment, more than anything sums up everything Childish Gambino was about during his set.
What do I need to say? The best show of Fun Fun Fun Fest, hands down. Spoon's slightly small touring schedule these days can make people forget that what a force they are live, but no one leaving their show that Saturday night would be forgetting that fact anytime soon. Decking the stage in genius lighting via strings of light bulbs, Spoon proceeded to rock harder than those bulbs could ever glow. It was one classic song after another; the likes "Got Nuffin", "Don't You Evah", "The Way We Get By" all played with the same vigor as the other. They even pulled in a horn section (which frontman Britt Daniel announced with glee) for the likes of "The Underdog" and "Jonathan Fisk". They were just stupendous, pulling off a fierecness that was equally dazzling. Midway through their five (!) song encore, Daniel's declared "We don't know what song to play, we didn't think we would play this much". Of course Spoon was giving more than they had planned. It wouldn't have been Fun Fun Fun Fest, and they wouldn't be Spoon if they hadn't.
How does a band that has barely any songs, which are also more suited for an atmospheric night club perform an early slot in the middle of the day? By being super impressive of course. I am kicking myself for missing most of their set, but am more than happy to have caught the few bits that I did. Somehow they managed to turn the Blue stage into an intimate setting, drawing the crowd into their hypnotic, electronic world. As a finale the band played their last songs on a pipe system they had miked up to produce the songs' beats. It was astonishing and something that truly needed to be seen to believe. One can only guess if Purity Ring's buzz will hold, but from the moments I saw, it only looks bright for the duo.
The Joy Formidable
The Joy Formidable will never be big. Not in the indie Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective sort of way. They will always be a little too unhip for all the cool kids to like with wild abandonment like they do with other bands. Which is a shame because as The Joy Formidable proved with their wind filled set, they are fucking great. They rage with the intensity of the greatest shoegaze bands but throw in genuine, indie rock hooks that rise the songs to thunderous, anthem like levels. Ritzy Bryan is an incredible frontwoman, creating explosions from her vocals and guitar. They tipped of their set with the inflation of two giant, black cats that felt out of place, but for a band this grand, they deserve rock star moments like this.
Coming off that guitar filled high, tUnE-yArDs' was there to deconstruct it all for me. Seeing Merrill Garbus put together her songs piece by piece is really an experience, one that manages to be so much more captivating than one would think. The chants, the fragments, the tribe like garbs to a certain extent all draw you in so slowly that you don't notice as you are yelping along with Garbus without knowing it. The compete minimalism that tUnE-yArDs didn't transfer completely off the stage and into the crowd (the far too few songs they were able to play made the end feel sudden as well), but the band still made deconstructed, off-kilter, jazz horn filled, Afro-pop groove filled with bright, neon colors as captivating as they could.
Dan Deacon's live shows aren't about the music so much as they are about the experience. While usually this a backhanded way of saying "this band sucks live" with Dan Deacon that not at all true. Deacon is a master of the live form, using his music to soundtrack wild/insane dance parties. Discarding the stage to set up in the crowd, he orchestrated the crowd to have a dance competition, and managed to get some fans to walk on the crowd, Iggy Pop style. It's a pity half the set was devoted to Deacon dealing with audio problems and trying to fix them, otherwise this would have been a incredible set. But that never stopped him trying to give the crowd everything, so I don't think he'll mind settling for "pretty good".
The Creative Intersection is an Austin based music blog, dedicated to the music I discover and love. Feel free to email me about bands I should cover and your band's mp3 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also feel free to use the same email to contact me about sending me your CD, vinyl, cassette, 8-Track, or zine for review. Long live the physical format!
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