San Diego Radio Sucks Quite A Bit

Saturday, March 11, 2017

34 Days 'til Coachella - Banks




Banks first played Coachella back in 2014 in support of her first album, Goddess. I can't remember how I heard about her, but I was curious to check her out.  I don't think I'd heard the album yet, but I wandered into the Mojave tent, sat down in the sweltering heat, and waited.

As the band started, I thought it didn't sound like what I expected.  By the time I realized that Banks was actually playing in the next tent over, it was three songs into Bombay Bicycle Club (who were mediocre at best) and I decided that maybe I should just go check out CHVRCHES instead.  Yeah, I was a little fucked up, and I missed out on what I heard was a pretty amazing performance.

Bitchfork panned the first album, which I couldn't understand, because once I got home from Coachella the first thing I did was order the 2xLP of Goddess, and it was on my turntable pretty much constantly for months after that.  When I heard she had a new one coming out (2016's The Altar), I was ecstatic.  I managed to download the video for the first single, Fuck With Myself, long before it was supposed to be available, and played it in my most important DJ set of the year.  Ears definitely pricked up when that one hit, some people knowing exactly what it was, others coming up to the decks to inquire.

When The Altar finally came out last September, I snapped up a copy, despite knowing it would be something else I'd have to pack for the move.  Once again, it's been on heavy rotation.  It's a much more focused effort than Goddess, and while it still covers a lot of territory and spans a dark rainbow of emotions, it's infinitely listenable, definitely danceable, and catchy as hell.

I have no idea why critics don't absolutely love her like I do, and I don't care.  Bitchfork gave it the lowest review (51/100) while Sputnikmusic gave it the highest (98/100).  Metacritic shows that the 17 critic reviews are "generally favorable" at a modest 70/100, the fan reviews put it at essentially 84/100, based on 113 reviews.

Add one more glowing review to that, mine:

A logical progression from Goddess, Banks' dark, mysterious and soulful style continues.  She still spans a lot of styles, sounding a little abstract like Bjork or FKA Twigs at times (Fuck With Myself, Poltergeist) and more like an old soul spilling her guts at others (Lovesick) but it's a roller coaster of emotion all the way through.  Those who say she hasn't grown or progressed as an artist aren't listening for growth.  If they're looking for flaws, they're not impossible to find, but why focus on minor imperfections when you really should just be dancing?

Banks plays Friday, April 14 and 21, like just about every other fucking great artist this year (and every other year, pretty much).  This will be the one must-see for me.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

45 Days 'til Coachella - Lady Gaga Replaces Beyonce at Coachella 2017

Well, I was right.  Again.  When will y'all learn?

Daft Punk would have been AMAZING, but let's face it.  We needed girl power this year.  If Beyonce couldn't bring it, I knew Gaga could.  And she will.  So sayeth the Innernets.


I'd never heard much by her until the time I unexpectedly had to drive several hundred miles for a family emergency.  A combination of circumstances that made me realize it was more than just a coincidence arose, and we were off, driving through shit weather in summer.  Before we left, I looked through my dad's CD collection (he was the one who played me Bjork's Medulla over the phone before I had the chance to tell him about it).  One of the CDs I grabbed was her 2009 album The Fame Monster.  Yeah, it's pop, but it's good pop.  There is such a thing, and that album helped take our minds off of the task at hand.

Truth be told, I'm totally stoked she's playing, and I think she's long overdue for a headlining set in the desert.  It will be interesting to see how everything else falls around this development but hey.  The show must go on.

And we must get fucked up.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Coachella 2017 - Beyonce Drops Out




Well, this is a first.  I think.  Or is it?  I know there was one year where someone pretty big dropped out late, and Beck came to save the day.  I also seem to remember that Goldenvoice was trying to get some major act as a headliner that fell through at the last minute, and had to go whining with their tails between their legs to Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it was BEFORE the poster came out.  Another shocker was Prince snagging the headlining spot from Portishead just days before the 2008 show (2008 was also just the second time the festival was a three-day affair).

But nothing this big has ever happened this late.

And so the rumor mill starts up, slinging shit full steam ahead like some mixed metaphor dopeman working at a McDonalds in Gary, Indiana.  Here's our take on the rumors:

Daft Punk - Never gonna happen.  For all the whining pussies who lament Daft Punk "never" playing Coachella, YOU MISSED THEM.  They packed the Sahara tent in 2006 and THEY WERE AMAZING.  And you missed them.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - I pray to GOD, ALLAH, BUDDAH, MOHAMMED, and THE FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER that this won't happen.  Coachella finally stepped out of the box just a tiny bit this year with Beyonce, and it would suck the biggest balls available to backslide to these guys just because they're convenient and could be there quicker than many other choices.  I'd rather watch Kurt Cobain's hologram bugger Sly Stone for 80 minutes than have to sit through an RHCP set at this stage in their "career."

Rhianna - Now we're talkin'.  Not only is she the rumored artist closest in many ways to Queen Bey, she's pants-soakingly smoking hot.  She was rumored to headline before B's name was printed on the flyer, but one can only hope she's available and willing to step in and make things suck less for everyone who really, really wanted to see Mrs. Knowles this year (she's headlining 2018, which makes this the earliest we've ever known about a headliner for the festy).

Katy Perry - She would also be awesome.  And is hot.  Plus, she wrote like 9 out of every 10 songs you've heard for like the last 50 years, so you can sing along (or preferably, shut the fuck up and watch her in silence).

Justin Timberlake - I used to think I hated this guy, until I listened to him.  Turns out I love him.  My main problem with him for this spot is that he's got a penis.

Adele - Who doesn't love Adele?  She sells out every show she does, her tickets are on the order of several hundred dollars and a testicle, and she's one of the biggest stars and best singers out there.  Which is why it's not going to happen.  Too bad, I'd love to see her if I could keep my Benjamins (and my boys) in tact.

Lady Gaga - Wow, this would be something, wouldn't it?  Hopefully she won't do too much country shit, but if they wanted to, GV could just book her the following weekend for Stagecoach too, and let her go whole hog with that.  Actually, the one song I heard didn't suck too much, so overall I'd much prefer her to a lot of Paul Tollett potential picks that would portray a poking of my pee-pee with a pine cone.

Jay Z - Oh, come the fuck on.  Just because he's her husband?  Really??  Totally unimaginative idea, and if it actually goes through would at least mean we could go back to the hotel and start drinking earlier on Saturday night / Sunday morning, so it wouldn't be all bad.

Kanye West - I really liked My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and I kinda liked 808s and Heartbreak.  But Kanye West is one of the most disgusting, idiotic, ridiculous pieces of shit that ever tried to pass for a human being in the history of time.  And that includes Shit Man.

There are a few other rumors out there, but really, the fact that just about every single site out there (including this shitty one) is talking about the same 5-10 artists shows you how truly awful the state of music is these days.  At least at the top.  Coachella hasn't been about the headliners for me for quite some time, so if you're pissed off about this situation, just listen to some of the undercard acts and discover some new music.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Coachella 2016 Review (Weekend 1)



I say this every year and I write this every year:  I can't believe it's over.  Again.

Like sand falling through the hourglass, Coachella has expired for another year.

No, it's not like that.  It's more like sand blowing at you from every direction, constantly, for three days... slowly but surely filling up every orifice, scar, pock mark and divot in your formerly-clean body.

In reality, it's only disappeared until next weekend, where festivalgoers will be treated to a moderately soiled polo field, and of course some great entertainment.



So overall, Friday was the strongest day, Saturday was decent, and Sunday turned out to be way above expectations.

In the interest of actually posting something this year (I haven't made the time to do a thorough review in years), I thought I'd go back to a format I did once before.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Coachella 2016 Awards!



Biggest Disappointment (No Show): Lush
Lush are one of the best, most overlooked and underrated bands from the shoegaze era.  I had the luck / pleasure to see them once as the first band on the bill for Lollapalooza 2 in Chicago at The World theater.  Few people seemed to care that they were on, but I was mesmerized by the jangly Rickenbacker guitars and Miki and Emma's amazing harmonies had me hooked from the start.  If they'd shown, this would probably a love letter to the band rather than starting of with a sincere "How could you???"  They're playing weekend 2, so I hope you lucky bastards make it to check them out.

Biggest Disappointment (Did Show): Guns N' Roses
I had high hopes for G&R's reunion, but I was wary at the same time.  I decided not to get pinned in trying to get a good place to see them, so I just sort of cruised by every half hour or so.  I got to see Sweet Child O' Mine, Paradise City and the AC/DC cover of Let There Be Rock with Angus Young, so I feel like I made a decent choice.  In a word, they just didn't have the intensity that they did when they were literally starving heroin addicts in LA (Axl is no longer starving, he's actually very well-fed).

One of the worst pictures of one of the best bands - Parov Stelar


The "I Knew They Were Going To Fucking Rock That Set!" Award: Parov Stelar
Parov Stelar was booked a few years back, and was scheduled to perform during the great dust bowl of Sunday night that year.  They actually had to cancel at the last minute due to illness.  Probably just as well - Coachella looked like a ghost town, hardly anyone was left to check them out.  So it's doubly amazing that they got a decent time slot, showed up, and blew minds for a respectably-sized crowd.  Think of a fantastic jazz combo performing swing tunes with a sexy, old soul kind of singer, with drums and electronic kick in the background.  You can't even think about standing still when this band is ripping it up.



Most Heartbreaking Choice:  M83 vs. St. Germain vs. Underworld
This was the closest thing to a tragedy schedule-wise, and it's a wonder it was only this.  Friday had so many amazing acts I was certain I'd be crying tears of sand and mud over missing more bands.  We ended up doing St. Germain, and from the beginning it was clear that we were there until the bitter end.  I can't say enough good things about St. Germain, but I'll say a few other things about them later.  We actually only missed maybe five minutes of Underworld because I think they started late, so it all worked out.  It was just really sad that we had to miss M83, one of my all-time favorite bands.



Reunion That Most Lived Up To the Hype:  LCD Soundsystem
While the LA Times wrote that Jack U "won," a reference to the ridiculousness of the crowd and the large attendance), LCD Soundsystem came out and did exactly what everyone expected them to do.  A fantastic set, with songs spanning all three albums, opening with the so-appropriate "Us V Them" (The time has come / The time has come / The time has come today), and closing with the festival-defining "moment" - All My Friends.  They even did true fan test song Yeah (Pretentious Version) and other deep cuts including Someone Great, also from Sound of Silver.  They played pretty much right up until just before they would have cut the power, so it was a pretty epic set.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise: Miami Horror (Friday), Cloves (Saturday), Meg Myers (Sunday)
Three bands I found on Spotify literally hours before we hit the road, and all very different.  Miami Horror is a dance band that smacks of Cut Copy, and had the crowd into it the whole time.  The singer actually climbed up the scaffolding in the Mojave tent and danced on one of the speakers.  Then he dangled, legs free, from the scaffolding on the way down for a few breathtaking seconds.  He made it back down, safe and sound, and they kept blowing us away with disco-inspired beats and hooks that could catch any dance-loving listeners within earshot of the tent.

Cloves at Coachella 2016


Cloves probably also got the Least Attended award, but undeservingly.  She's got an absolutely angelic voice, a fantastic register and is absolutely gorgeous.  If you haven't heard of her, you probably will soon, so go out and buy some of her stuff.  If you like the sound of female vocalists who can make you swoon, you'll love Cloves.

Meg Myers was one, I'll admit, that I wanted to see even before I heard her music.  Another gorgeous female vocalist, but with a much different approach.  While Cloves is more subdued and sad, Meg Myers is just batshit crazy.  She can go from a sultry whisper to a melodic scream without taking a breath, and she has the most emotive face of any other singer I saw this weekend.  Pick up something from her while you're at it, chick needs therapy and it ain't cheap.  Amazon Prime members take note: Her album Sorry is available to stream on Prime Music right now.

Band That Stuck With Me Even Though I Wish They Hadn't: The Front Bottoms
The Front Bottoms sound like a cross between Violent Femmes and a stool softener.  In a good way, if that's possible.  They didn't make me go, they just made it easier to go.  I figured from the name they might be kind of a joke band, and I think I'd have to say I was right to think that.  Still, if you're not doing anything else, check them out.  They might be just quirky enough to love.

Moment Where I thought I Actually Might Lose My Fucking Mind:  Grimes
I got to Grimes early enough to get about 15 rows back, and it was pretty chill until the music started, when she decided to try to destroy her fans' bodies with the loudest, thickest kick drums and the shrillest screeches of entire weekend when she performed SCREAM (yes, that's the title, all caps) with Aristophanes.  The two of them together let out this shriek that would have made a ghost shit its pants.  They say she's a cross between EDM and punk music, but she's better than that comparison.  Despite the poppiness of her new album, her caffeinated performance proved he to be capable of running at 150% for the full 45-minute set.  I didn't even take pictures I was so stunned.

Best Old Punk Reunion: The Damned
In other years, they might have been the only punk band reunited for the festival, but I didn't see Rancid so The Damned get this one by default.  Great energy and I liked the music, probably wouldn't buy anything though.


Most Pitch-Perfect Vocalist: Bat For Lashes
We'd gone out to the car to have a few beers and grab our night wear (hoodies) and from the length of the line, I thought I might have to miss her set in favor of Courtney Barnett (who was also excellent, from what I saw, and a highlight for some others in the crew), I made it in just enough time to get about ten rows from the stage.  I always forget how much I absolutely ADORE this band until I hear or see them.  Her haunting voice had me at the edge of tears for the entire set.  Although the reaction from others in the group wasn't as positive.  Rick's interpretation was, "Can you imagine how many times someone's played that song just before shooting their lover between the eyes while they're sleeping?"

Best Old-School DJ: John Digweed
Dude's still got it.  But then again, was he spinning records?  Does anyone anymore?  Whatever he was doing, he was projecting some deep, thumpy progressive house, and had the crowd moving.  Mostly an older crowd, but some musically enlightened millennials in there as well.  They've also nearly doubled the size of the Yuma tent, and have added a chill room and giant chill mattresses along some of the walls.

Best Show By Something Other Than the Artist: Sia
I don't know what I was expecting with Sia, I hadn't seen her since I saw her (two nights in a row, once at Coachella and then the next night at the now-defunct 'Cane's in San Diego), and I hadn't really followed her music much.  I liked her, but just never took the time.  She never moved during the entire set, and her bisected bangs (one half black, the other bleach blonde) hid her eyes for the entire performance.  She had several different dancers on stage with her, doing contemporary dances while Sia belted it out.  Her voice was narrowly edged out for the next award though...



Best Music For the Sunshine: Kamasi Washington
As I didn't see any of the reggae offerings (there were at least three by my count), Kamasi Washington had the music that best seemed to fit the sunshine.  He and his band recorded eight other albums while they were recording his three-CD epic, The Epic, one of which comes out soon.  Acoustic Bassist Miles Mosley led the group singing Abraham from this one, which really got the crowd stirred up.

Most Guest Stars: Disclosure
I didn't know it was Lorde who came out to sing with them, and I didn't know Lion Babe.  I didn't stick around for Kwebs (who I don't know either) or Sam Smith (who I do), but Lorde did a great job with her song, and Disclosure was solid.  I couldn't get too close, but where I was it was a nonstop party the entire time, including a circle people cleared so one guy could do ballet moves to the music.

No More Awards To Give But Wanted to Mention:  Autolux, Bob Moses, CHVRCHES, Dubfire, HÆLOS, Silversun Pickups, Wolf Alice
Autolux are sort of a cross between shoegaze and noise, and they're good.  I liked their set, didn't love it but wasn't disappointed.  Bob Moses is someone I want to check out more, they sound a lot like Trent Reznor singing over a house / progressive house kick drum.  I only caught three songs from CHVRCHES, two from the new album and the closer, The Mother We Share.  The two from the new album were really good.  I wasn't immediately struck with their latest album, Every Open Eye, but I'm going to listen with new ears and an open mind.  I only saw bits and pieces of Dubfire (Live), but I think it's got potential.  Super, super minimal techno, but it had a warmth to it somehow.   HÆLOS could have won the First Big Nice Surprise award, as they were the second full act we saw Friday, and rocked. Silversun Pickups were pretty good, they didn't do a lot I knew but I liked most of their songs.  Wolf Alice sounded great, especially their first song (which reminded me of Star Sail from the first Verve album, you know, the one when they were fucking phenomenal) and their last song, Moaning Lisa Smile, kicked ass more than most bands' entire sets.  Listening to them now on Spotify makes me like them even more.

So that's pretty much it for this year.  I finally got another review up, hooray!  I think I've earned myself a cookie.  Did I miss anything?  Oh yeah, Mbongwa Star.  They're really good as well, go check them out.

Now go get ready, presale for Coachella 2017 should be in about a month.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

So Professional - FocalPrice.com


Welcome to a new series where I point out how awfully stupid people are on the Innernets.

I found this on focalprice.com, June 16, 2014.

Really?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Coachella 2016 Poster - v 1.0




Here 'tis.  A few thoughts:

Friday

  • LCD Soundsystem.  Wow, wow, wow.
  • Underworld.  Saw them once and they were amazing until the last track, which sucked.  I'd love to see them again.
  • Sufjan Stevens.  Awesome, never seen 'em.
  • M83.  Always amazing, though last time they weren't loud enough.
  • St. Germain.  Haven't seen them since my first Coachella in 2000.  Looking forward to it.
  • Parov Stelar.  Really bummed he didn't make it a few years back, so great to see he's booked.
  • Nora En Pure.  Oh man, love me some Nora En Pure, at least the production work.

Saturday


  • Guns 'n Roses.  I'd see 'em.
  • Grimes.  Fuck yeah Grimes.
  • CHVRCHES.  I kinda burned out on them, but I'll see if I can burn back in.
  • Lush.  LUSH. OH MY GOD.  LUSH.  WOW. L-U-S-H.
  • Bat For Lashes.  My highlight of the day she played a few years back, possibly my highlight of the festival.
  • The Damned.  I'd see 'em.

Sunday


  • John Digweed.  After Nick Warren, probably my favorite DJ of all time.
  • TOKiMONSTA.  Loved her before, anything on Brainfeeder.
  • Nosaj Thing.  I've heard good things.

Fuck yeah, Coachella.  Overall, nice work.  A little light on Sunday and I'm sure I'll be transformed into a stream of profanity Friday, but yeah.

It's Coachella season again.  The happiest time of the year.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Coachella 2015 Review (Weekend 2)



















This year went faster than ever before. I'm never sure how we let it slip away so quickly, but somehow making it through Coachella number 15 without the usual nightly cramps and other assorted sore muscles made the time speed by even more quickly.  It's almost anticlimactic, usually I feel like I left it all out there, but this year I'm not so sure.  I've decided to put my public service announcement warning about the evils of Holiday Motel Indio in another post to keep this review relatively positive (for this site at least), but please, DO NOT BOOK THE HOLIDAY MOTEL IN INDIO!  You'll thank me later.

Friday

On the bright side, Friday and Saturday were chock full of fantastic music.  We stuck pretty much to the original plan on day one, Checking out The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger on the Outdoor Theatre first thing. This is Sean Lennon's band, and man does the kid look like dad.  Turns out they almost didn't make their set time and started the set pretty jittery, explaining that they had a hard time convincing the security guard that they actually were legit.  They drew a good sized crowd for as early as they were on, and sounded sort of like an early 60's psychedelic throwback band.

Haerts were up next in Mojave, and that's the way they spell their name.  A decent poppy band led by a female singer with a decent voice.  Not sure what else to say about them but I figured we were pretty much two for two so far at that point.

Stayed in Mojave for The Reverend Horton Heat, where we witnessed the first of the earmarked of this year's festival, the mosh pit.  Yes kids, it's back. Get all that sexual frustration. You feel out by shoving and knocking around a gaggle of your fellow repressed knuckleheads.  Rev even commented, "you know, sometimes I feel like the ritual of the mosh pit is a bit passé... That is, until I see a crowd like you."  The Rev hasn't lost a thing, and between his rockabilly prowess and his snarky wit, put on a hell of a good show.

We walked around for a bit after that and found ourselves in the unfortunate position of being between Action Bronson and Allah-Las.  By that I mean we could hear them both, and there were no winners.  "Let's get the hell away from this," Mike suggested, and we found somewhere to be where we weren't forced to ear-smell this musical sewage.

Yuma Tent in the Afternoon

Well, sort of. We actually ended up sitting before Ab-Soul, a hip hop act. So when he started up, we bailed, preferring to sit in the hot sun and wait for Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires.  Bradley might have been the second oldest performer of the weekend (other than Micharl Gira from Swans), but if I look and move as well as he does when I'm 67, sign me up.  This guy brought the house down with his gospely, anmes Brownesque voice and commanding stage presence.  His band, The Extrordinaires, were killing it as well. A two piece horn section that sounds like four is enough to sell these guys, and speaks to the talent of the ensemble overall.


Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires


Headed over to Gobi next and caught the last couple of songs by Kimbra of Gotye / Somebody I Used To Know fame.  A great performer and the music didn't offend.  Ride was our destination though, and as predicted, there were virtually no hangers-out from her show to Ride.  While this wasn't one of the better-attended performances of the weekend, it was definitely one of those core choices of lineup that keep people like me coming back every year.  Ride were a seminal shoegaze band back in the early 1990's, and one of those bands I never thought I'd see live.  It's been a great six years or so of the revival of the genre, with My Bloody Valentine's reunion, album MBV and tour, and finally their Coachella debut kicking off the whole thing.  Since then we've seen Swervedriver come out of hiding and even Slowdive do a reunion tour last fall.  Ride sounds pretty much exactly like they did back when they recorded tracks like Vapour Trail and Leave Them All Behind (both played in their Friday set as well), so if you get the chance, for god's sake check them out.

Ride


We managed to catch the tail end of The War On Drugs on the Coachella stage, which was great since we weren't going to miss Ride for anything.  As I learned last weekend watching the stream, TWOD is a fantastic live rock band, just don't try to listen to them at the gym.  Alabama Shakes on the Outdoor Theatre was what we were heading to, another find from the weekend 1 stream.  This lady is one of the greatest gospelesque voices to come out of popular music in the last ten years, so pay attention.  Songs like Don't Wanna Fight remind one of the greats of soul (think Aretha), and Be Mine reaches a state of almost Baptist church revival-like intensity.  Awesome backup singers as well, not to mention the musicians.

The last part of Friday for me was a little schizophrenic.  Headed to Gorgon City, yet another find from the YouTube stream from seven days prior.  Lesson learned for next year:  Keep doing the research!  These guys are billed as UK Garage (rhymes with "carriage") but it's still house music to me.  One male and one female singer for the most part, and each did their part to create an irresistible atmosphere for dancing.  Although they didn't bring out Jennifer Hudson for the closer, Keep On Dancin', the female singer did come out in a pretty revealing get up and melted the hearts and ears of the crowd, so that was pretty cool too.  I cannot stress this enough.  If you're into live dance music with a serious hit of soul, this is your new favorite band.

 After Gorgon City I headed over to catch what was left of Caribou.  Dan Snaith's electronic dancey project has changed a lot since I saw them at The Casbah on The Milk Of Human Kindness tour back in 2005/'06, and I have to say I love what he's done with the place.  Apparently, so did the crowd.  It was a huge, pulsating one (that's what she said) that moved in time with the music like it was its shadow.

Next up was Flying Lotus (or as we call him FlyLo), but as soon as I realized this set was going to give a serious nod to the rap genre, I knew it was time to look for another tent.  I really wish I'd checked him out on Until the Quiet Comes, but this isn't the tour (or possibly the album) for me to get more into him.  So I headed over to see Todd Terje and the Olsens, who were doing a pretty phenomenal job in Gobi.  Not a huge crowd, but great music, and the dedicated fans and lucky curious folk like me were treated to a pretty original experience.  I also caught a little bit of Porter Robinson from the very very back of the Sahara tent, but they're reconfigured Sahara so there are no speakers in the back anymore, which really sucked.  However, I think the reason they did that was because they moved The Do Lab over by Sahara, which I think was high time they did.  Why the fuck would you put The Do Lab smack-dab in the middle of everything for so many years?  It's cool to look at, the music is usually good, and it's an institution, admittedly, but it should never be in danger of drowning out one of the other stages.  Anyway, as a result of this, I couldn't hear Porter Robinson and that was too bad.



For my final planned show of the night, I checked out Squarepusher, who seemed to dare people to stick around to listen to him.  Coming out in something that looked like a beekeeper's outfit (if there were bees on other planets) and working a mixer and two laptops, the techno legend treated us to a bevvy of what I can only describe as drum and bass and tech.  Maybe a little backwash from the dubstep era was in there, but I'd say he influenced that genre, definitely not the other way around.

After about 30 minutes of Squarepusher I felt like my insides had been rearranged, so I stepped out of the tent to try to squish them back into place.  Texting Mike revealed what I'd figured / feared, he and Dave were packed in at AC/DC and were loving it.  They got lucky enough to get pairs of the flashing, glowing horns they'd passed out at the start of the show and were wearing them proudly when I finally caught up with them around 12:30 AM.  While they were thoroughly impressed by the whole thing, I would have preferred leaving my experiences with the band back in 1989 when I saw them.  Angus was great, but Brian Jones' voice sounds like shaggy ass singing through static.  Not in a good way.  Points for trying, but between the vocals and the flaccid cannon fires during For Those About To Rock, I gotta say their best days are long behind them.  Sorry, true fans, but you know it's the truth.  Bon Scott era is greater than Brian Jones Era, and early BJ is greater than late BJ.  It's simple math.


Saturday

I felt a lot more human waking up for day 2 of the festy, and after the usual breakfast at Denny's with the unusually long wait, we were back on the polo field by 12:30.  The funny thing about Denny's is that the manager that's always there is so zen about everything.  He and our waitress did their best to keep our coffee cups filled while we waited 30 minutes for our food (after waiting almost 20 to order), and when we mentioned it seemed to be taking a really long time for the food to come out, he only replied, "Yeah, well..." and walked away.


I checked out Bixel Boys long enough to realize that they probably should have been murdered at birth.  Acapella sample from Don't Look Back In Anger by Oaisis?  Guy yelling, "Yeah!  Yeah!" up on stage to pump up the crowd?  Annoying EDM quirky repetative samples?  Check all three boxes.  The perfect shitstorm in Sahara.

Tourist
I checked out Tourist as well, caught the tail end of their set and thought they had promise, but once again, the lack of real singers left something to be desired.  Still, they're good, so check 'em out if you like the dancey-dancey.

Mike's first pick of the day was Parquet Courts.  He said they sounded nothing like their album, but these guys were one of the most creative, original bands I heard/saw all weekend.  The best way to describe them is to say they sound like Talking Heads, if Talking Heads had been dropped as a baby.  On its head.  They also had this great range, everything from spoken word to New York City pit-inspiring punk.  I'd see them live again but I'm scared to listen to their album.

After this, we had the amazingly good fortune to hear another live house music act ripping it up on the main stage, but we didn't head over just yet.  I'd previously said I wanted to see Lights because the singer was hot.  I will now make the first retraction ever on San Diego Radio Sucks : The chick from Lights is not hot.  About two minutes into the first song, I turned to Mike and said, "OK, so this music's kinda crap.  Let's go somewhere else."  Dave asked Mike, "Where are we going?"  To which Mike replied, "Anywhere but here."  Well said, Mike.

It was because of this excellent choice in a weekend of excellently poor choices that led us to Clean Bandit, yet another live house music band.  This one's a bit twisted though.  In addition to live musicians and singers, they've got live strings.  At one point, they broke into something fit for a French king's dinner service, and Mike's jaw dropped.  "That's HAYDN."  Pretty impressive, to say the least, and the singers hold their end of the bargain as well.  I hope one of these days we get a stage with nothing but bands like Clean Bandit and Gorgon City.

I caught enough of Cashmere Cat to wish I was deaf before heading over to Carl Craig.  The legendary Detroit techno icon opened his set with Fly Like An Eagle by Steve Miller Band, which sounds weird.  However, if you listen to that song in this type of context, you realize just how soulful that song is.  After that, it was a relentless four by four booty shakin' good time.  While I was bummed to have to miss Jungle, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see one of the guys who started an entire genre of music, and from my hometown, no less.

Carl Craig



I saw enough of Belle and Sebastian to confirm my belief that they haven't put out anything good since Fold Your Hands Child... and headed over to alt-J on the main stage.  Sadly, I couldn't get very close, and I was around enough assholes who just wanted to talk loudly over the music that I split after half the set was over.  This was just after Father John Misty took the stage at Outdoor, and I was pleasantly surprised to be a part of that crowd.

The next act we had to see was FKA Twigs in Gobi, and I got a text from Mike that he was already there.  "Help," it read, "I'm being violated by The Gaslamp Killer."  What I saw of this dude was actually pretty inspiring and original.  When I first got there, he was introducing the band and ranting in the most energizing way I've ever heard.  "Every single one of you motherfuckers was born for a reason!  Don't ever let any other person define your destiny!  When I was in school, my teachers told me that I was a waste.  They told me I'd never amount to anything.  Well look at me now, motherfuckers!"  The 15-piece band played one more quick song, sounding a lot like something out of a John Zorn project with TGK scribbling at the turntables the whole time and looking like an escaped mental patient.  The Gaslamp Killer Experience delivered what it promised, I'll say.  An experience.
FKA Twigs


I have to say FKA Twigs is about the best new music I've heard in as long as I can remember, and she didn't disappoint live.  My expectations were about as unrealistically high for her as they were for Portishead, and they were exceeded in a similar manner.  An apt comparison, as their music isn't so different in many ways, but the performance was night and day.  She contorts herself in the sexiest way while she's hitting Every.  Single.  Note.  Perfectly.  Her voice is an instrument, and to compare her to Beth Gibbons or Bjork isn't out of the question.  It was literally so good I had tears streaming down my face.  If you haven't checked out the new empress of trip-hop, please do yourself a favor and buy everything she's ever done.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.

FKA Twigs
FKA Twigs (photo by Mike)

FKA Twigs (photo by Mike)

FKA Twigs (photo by Mike)

FKA Twigs (photo by Mike)

FKA Twigs (photo by Mike)


Mike stayed for Drive Like Jehu, who he said were one of his favorites on the day, while I bopped over to Mojave to see SBTRKT.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was more of this semi-live dance music that's permeated the festival this year in the most wonderful way.  SBTRKT was really, really good, great even, but the one thing I'd like to see from him would be live singers.  You add live singers to that act, and SBTRKT is going to be a real contender for the highlight of the day in the future.

Drive Like Jehu (photo by Mike)

Drive Like Jehu (photo by Mike)


After that, headed back to Gobi for Swans.  Michael Gira is like 70 years old, and most of the people in Swans look like they're gnarled up like a beef jerky dog toy, but these guys are not your father's or grandfather's 70.  If you like drone music, these guys pretty much invented it.  Or at least they're the oldest still-performing pioneers of the genre.  Although they seemed to mostly play a single chord the entire performance, I can't make the joke that the show was a little "one-note." ;)

Swans
Swans (photo by Mike)

Swans (photo by Mike)

Swans (photo by Mike)

Swans (photo by Mike)

Swans (photo by Mike)

Swans (photo by Mike)

Sunday

Sadly, all good things must end, and this year I felt that the greatest things ended on Saturday.  Sorry, Sunday lovers, there just wasn't much for me.  tINI was throwing down some great minimal house vinyl in Yuma, and that was pretty much exactly what I expected in the best possible way.  M∅ was really, really good, possibly even great.  I didn't see that being the highlight until the day was over though, and I'd seen the second half of Panda Bear (which was actually really cool and trippy), and parts of Built To Spill (not my style) Marina and the Diamonds (really good but not quite great), Madeon (who actually was amazing but I couldn't get out of the entryway to Sahara, and it was a big pain in the ass to have people passing by me the whole time), Philip Selway (drummer for Radiohead, who played very quiet music while very loud music spewed in from every direction) Florence and the Machine (a predictably subdued set given her broken foot and scant 30-minute time slot, even though it ended with a duet with Father John Misty) and ODESZA (sounded great but couldn't get close enough to even get into the back of the tent).

M∅

Panda Bear
Philip Selway


The only act I'm conflicted about from Sunday is St. Vincent.  There were  a couple of songs I really, really liked, and when I heard her back at the motel, I liked what I heard, but overall her show just didn't click with me.  I watched the whole thing, so there's something there for sure, but I'll have to return to that at another time.  She's a great performer, but not being familiar with her music I've been told is to not really get it.  She's a grower, not a shower, as an artist.

And that's pretty much everything.  We got back to the motel in record time, and were even allowed to turn up streets we couldn't on Friday and Saturday because the traffic was so light.  Sunday's crowd seemed like about half the size of Friday and Saturday, so that was too bad as well.  However, it sort of confirms my statement that the great acts were spread very thinly, if at all, on Sunday this year.