Tuesday, July 29, 2008

T Minus 3 Days and Counting...

It's now just three days before Lolla kicks off and the excitement is damned near palpable here at Casa de Iris. The camera batteries are fully charged, the memory card has been cleared off, clean underpants have been packed...in short, we are SO ready to be rocked.

I've been keeping an eye on NIN.com which has resumed photoblogging from the road and what I've seen there has me seriously pumped up. The stage production looks fantastic! It seems as though we're going to get the setup that was lacking in Vienna last year. That's not to say that Trent and Co. didn't give it 110% with the performances we attended but the "Year Zero tour" took such a minimalist approach to stage aesthetics in the beginning. I suppose the idea was to echo the dystopian future laid out in the ARG storyline but damn man, a couple of swinging lamps does not a stage production make. Although...Cardboard_Trent was comedic gold.

So anyhow, I've been trying not to read too many concert reviews because I still want to be surprised at our show on Sunday but that's proving difficult since my curiosity is piqued. While poking around the Ninternets tonight I came across a radio interview Trent did recently for Q101 in Chicago.

For those who can't listen right off, Trent teases us about a possible collaboration between himself and Saul this weekend, hints at a secret project still in the works with Year Zero along the lines of a TV/internet series, and generally talks about his current situation as a free agent and what it's entailed for him thus far. He even cracks a joke about no longer needing sleep now that he's 70 years old after the interviewer brings up the fact that NIN is nearing its 20 year inception anniversary. Really? 20 years? I think that would bring him up in Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame eligibility age. But that's another story for another day.

If you're having trouble keeping up with the rapid fire, nightly photo updates you can check the unofficial NIN.com Blog & Media Archive. It can take a few hours from the time a picture is first posted on NIN.com but they usually have everything archived by the next morning.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Maise Fights the Power Backstage with Public Enemy at Pitchfork 2008...

(Note: JR, this is just going to be one big disappointment for you as I really don't have a ton to say about your favorite bands. When I was working, I couldn't really pay much attention to Sebadoh, and I don't know enough about Dinosaur Jr. to produce a competent review of their show. You're just going to have to get tickets next time your dream lineup all plays together, hon. Or you can check out Pitchfork to read about the festival from people who know what they're talking about.)

I wasn't even initially planning on attending the Pitchfork Music Festival this year. I had gone once before with a good friend and found the whole affair rather dull; they normally book obscure indie bands that I've never heard of before, and the whole park is filled with the world's most unfuckable male hipsters. Not that I need to fuck any male hipsters, as I'm married, but if I'm going to be outdoors on a hot summer day, exposed to the elements, in the middle of a large crowd, I'd rather look at fuckable people. Male hipsters seem to be purposely attempting to repel the opposite sex. They tend to have poor hygiene and bad facial hair, and half of them are skinnier than the average supermodel, and they're wearing girl jeans. Swear to God.

Earlier this spring, I received an email from a local pro-choice organization that offered members a chance to volunteer at Pitchfork. In return for my labor, the pro-choice organization would be able to staff a table at the festival and possibly get a donation. And volunteers would get free admission. So I thought, why not? I don't mind listening to obscure music if I don't have to pay for it, I generally enjoy hanging out at festivals, and I would be working for a good cause. I looked at the lineup and was excited to see that there were quite a few good acts playing this year. I mean, it was basically like JR's wet dream! And besides Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr. and Public Enemy, there was also Jarvis Cocker and Apples in Stereo (who I don't really know that well, except they do that cute Powerpuff Girls song) and,most exciting for me, Spoon.

So I arrived at the volunteer booth, despite the fact that the workweek had me really tired out and the weather was threatening. Fortunately, the skies cleared up and I gained my second wind as I donned my volunteer shirt. The volunteer coordinator asked who, among a group of us, would like to work the stage? "I like stages," I replied. So then I was told that I would be assigned to Public Enemy, which had me chuckling all evening, as I contemplated this highly acclaimed, controversial, pioneer hip-hop group relying on the least formidable white girl on the planet for protection.

I was stationed outside of the artist check-in area with two other security guards, "Michelle" and "Jason." It was a little lonely, as Michelle and Jason obviously knew each other very well and weren't terribly interested in getting to know me, this dorky older white woman. You see, I like to walk through life assuming that everyone is at least 30, but sometimes you meet actual 21-year-olds and discover that this isn't the case. And beyond some chit-chat about The Dark Knight, I felt really awkward until later on in the evening when we bonded over the free Chipotle I brought them with my volunteer privileges. (Apparently Chipotle fed volunteers for free, but not the security staff, which sucks, imo.)

But I didn't have a lot of time to contemplate my lack of charisma because even though we were stationed away from the main entrance, we still had a lot of people to direct. People looking for Will Call, people looking for the press entrance, people who paid extra for their tickets looking for the VIP entrance, people looking for the vendor entrance...I cheerfully guided them all, except for the vendors...I still don't really know where the hell they were supposed to go. (Training for this event consisted mostly of "Stand over there by those security guards.") So that's what I was doing when Mission of Burma and Sebadoh was playing: "No, you can't come in this way; go around the corner to Ashland and Lake...Nope, you have to go to Ashland...the VIP entrance is at the end of the block to your left...I don't know where you're supposed to go, sir, but it's not here..." I just couldn't really concentrate on the music that much. But apparently Mission of Burma played "VS" in its entirety, and Sebadoh played all of "Bubble and Scrape."

As far as people who actually wanted to enter the artist check-in, they were supposed to have a laminated pass and matching wristband, which I was prepared to enforce in a brutal totalitarian manner. However, security is a more subtle business. Consider, for example, the crewmember who says, "But my pass is inside"? I would look helplessly at my security guard companions, and a lot of times, they would just let the person through. Other times, they were ready to tackle the person. Basically, whatever I was doing was wrong. If I was giving a person the third degree, then that was typically someone very important who was personal friends with _____ and should be let in immediately without question. If I was ready to wave someone through, Michelle and Jason were at Defcon 1. I felt rather incompetent at moments like these and turned to what I knew best. "The main entrance is on Ashland...the press entrance is by the volunteer booth on Ashland and Lake..."

So that aspect of the job was all very tedious, but what made it worth it was being told by Mike, whose precise title I don't know but he was very busy and carried a clipboard so I think he was really important to the festival, that the artists would be driven through our area to the check-in. We were expecting to see Public Enemy (of course), Sebadoh (who I never saw...sorry, JR!), Animal Collective (whom I've never heard of), and Spoon (who was scheduled to play on Sunday but just wanted to watch Public Enemy that evening). The artists were driven in by staff members either in large blue vans with tinted windows or little Zip cars (cars that you can easily rent in the city).

Public Enemy arrived with about 7,000 people in their entourage. Seeing Chuck D left me with a sense of "Eeeeeee!" They were too far away to actually speak to, but I totally gawked. I saw an impossibly tall and skinny blonde guy getting out of another van and realized that this was Britt Daniel, the lead singer of Spoon, whom I have a mild crush on. I cursed my inherent frumpiness and the unflattering bright yellow t-shirt I had to wear.

Flavor Flav arrived separately, as he was getting mobbed in his hotel lobby. Flavor Flav does not travel incognito, btw. I was informed that Flavor always travels with a driver and a personal assistant, and festival organizers seemed concerned that he would show up with other random individuals, a fear that was not totally unreasonable, as I found.

I've decided that Flavor Flav is my new favorite celebrity. You know why? He's not the kind of person who attains wealth and fame and then bitches about how miserable he is and how he wishes everyone would just leave him alone. No, Flavor was BORN to be a star. He clearly loves all of the attention, and more power to him. He was dressed in a loud shirt and of course had the clock around his neck, but no Viking helmet, I'm afraid. My security guard companions were completely starstruck. "I have loved that man since I was born!" cried Michelle. At one point, Flavor left the festival grounds to walk down the block and returned with an even larger entourage than the one he arrived with. I know this because part of his entourage emerged from the artist check-in area giggling and looking at the pictures they had taken. So clearly Flavor just picked these girls up off the street. Anyone can hang out with Flavor Flav!

And I do mean anyone. The highlight of the evening for me was being approached by an older white gentleman, who appeared to be in his 70s or so. He was dressed in a yellow leisure suit and was covered in bling. Platinum and gold rings on every finger...an enormous gold "LA" pendant around his neck. He tells Jason and me, "I need to get in there. I'm a good friend of Flavor's. I've known him for years." Of course, he didn't have a pass. But I looked at him and thought, "He probably DOES know Flavor Flav." Jason took him to the Artist Check-In Table, and apparently he got through. Huh.

After all this, Public Enemy finally took the stage. It was my first time...um...hearing them live (I couldn't see a thing from where I was standing), and I wasn't disappointed. They brought incredible energy to Union Park, energy that never flagged even though their set lasted 40 minutes longer than planned. I suspected they were waiting for the police to dramatically shut them down, but that never really materialized. They apparently played all of "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" and more.

Of course, blogger Bryon Crawford has a dramatically different take on the show than me, but he seems to know a lot more about Public Enemy than I do and could actually see what was going on. And Flavor, you fame whore, I still love you.

As Public Enemy finished up their set, Spoon decided to check out a bit early. I was inches--MERE INCHES--from the entire band as they walked past me. I smiled at them, but they didn't notice me. Alas. But they seemed to be in a good mood and my God, they're all really skinny. Like their legs are skinnier than my arm. It's kind of depressing.

I was really exhausted standing for 6+ hours in the heat, so I took Saturday off. Even though that was technically my "free" day. And by the time I made it to the festival on Sunday (I had some previous plans to attend to), I really just had the chance to see Dinosaur Jr. and Spoon. Like I said, I don't know enough about Dinosaur Jr. to provide a decent review. (I really am the worst Pitchfork correspondent ever.) And when they were on, I was meeting up with friends, trying to hydrate, etc.

Spoon put on an excellent--but SHORT--show. "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" is my favorite album of theirs, and I was happy to hear "Don't Make Me a Target," "You Got Your Cherry Bomb," "The Underdog," "The Ghost of You Lingers" and "Rhthm and Soul" (my personal favorite). Unfortunately they could only play an hour, explaining that other bands had played longer, but Pitchfork was kind of getting in trouble for it. I kind of wish they had been scheduled to start at 8:30, but on the other hand, I didn't mind getting home a little early since I had work the next morning.

So Pitchfork 2008 was pretty much the same as I had previously experienced--a lot of bands I had never heard of before and completely unfuckable men. But I had a wonderful time seeing things from behind the scenes, and I would work as a volunteer again in a heartbeat.

Now that I read this over, I realize that this is the shittiest review ever...but just you wait til Lollapalooza 2008! Not only do I actually know many of the bands, but Iris will be accompanying me and providing us with her fantastic pics and vids, as usual. We'll try to live-blog as much as possible, depending on who's hogging the computers in their air conditioned high-tech tent.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen?

As longtime readers of Places Parallel may know, I have a love/hate relationship with Billy Corgan.

Love, because the Smashing Pumpkins dominated the soundtrack of my college youth, and the undeniable power and genius of Siamese Dream as well as the giddy creativity of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness have long outlived the flannel shirts and professional angst of other '90s acts. (And for the record, Adore was extremely underrated, imo.) Billy Corgan was also important to me as a local boy made good. When Billy hit the pinnacle of his fame, I was trapped in the blue collar, closed-minded region of Northwest Indiana. It was so close to Chicago, geographically and mentally, that you could go to one of the beaches in Gary, not too far from the smokestacks of the steel mills and oil refineries, and just across Lake Michigan, you could make out the lights of the Chicago skyline...so close, you could almost touch it, and then it was curfew time. Bah! It was easy to think of Billy as one of us...an artist, sensitive, misunderstood, who clawed his way to the top--not just in Chicago, but all over the world.

Hate, because since the breakup of the Pumpkins, Billy has seemed more of an infomercial charlatan with a lot of product to push than the silver-pants-clad rock god of my not-so-distant memory. After a forgettable little project with ugly cover art called Zwan and some disappointing solo efforts (some bad poetry, an album that no one bought), Billy "reunited" (a term I take strong issue with, considering that no one named James Iha or D'arcy Wretzky is involved) the Smashing Pumpkins and proceeded with Project "Exploit the Die-Hard Fans." You can read my prior complaints here, but mostly I was dismayed at Billy releasing about 7,000 versions of the same goddamn album, with one track available at Target and one track available at Best Buy and another track available in a limited edition Happy Meal at McDonald's. Just kidding about the latter, but maybe Billy is kicking himself for not thinking of that.

Also, I was pissed because the Pumpkins really seemed to go out of their way to avoid Chicago, their home town. Remember, Billy, how "the embers never fade, in the city by the lake"? My previous post was written in June 2007, and as of nearly August 2008, the Smashing Pumpkins have STILL not deigned to visit the Windy City.

But according to an email message I recently received, they will be visiting the city of MY birth, Hammond, Indiana. On Saturday, August 9, they will be playing at The Venue at the Horseshoe Casino. They're opening their tour...at a Northwest Indiana...casino? Unless one is playing Vegas, performing at a casino smacks of a lack of dignity. However, Mr. Maise did point out that I was being a snob. The newly built Venue appears to have cost an awful lot of money and is supposed to be a state-of-the-art...um, venue. And maybe Mr. Maise is right. Maybe I *am* being a snob. After all, the Stone Temple Pilots aren't too good for The Venue. Neither is Bette Midler. Or Lynryd Skynyrd. Or Billy Idol.

But what really gets me is the fact that to see this half-ass reunion of the Smashing Pumpkins at a Northwest Indiana casino will cost one $83/ticket (not including Ticketmaster fees). Oh, Billy, really?!! The people of Northwest Indiana (or as we affectionately refer to ourselves, the "Region rats") are, by necessity, extremely thrifty. I really can't imagine, in a recession, people in NWI lining up to pay $83/person to hear half of a famous band from the '90s play a lot of tracks from an album that no one bought (or maybe a few people bought 10 times each). Hell, I'm no laid-off steel mill worker, but I don't spend $83 per ticket on a show unless it's really fucking good. I think the last time I paid that much was for the Police, and shit, I waited like 25 years for that show and got all three of them!

I guess there will be some sort of 20th Anniversary show scheduled in Chicago--finally! No one yet knows what that will entail...a sold-out crowd at a teeny-tiny venue, like the Metro? Bombastic arena rock, like in the Mellon Collie days? But is it too little, too late after all of the missteps of the previous year?

Maybe I'm the only one troubled by these issues in the first place. The thing is, as much as I'm hating, I do kind of want to see the Smashing Pumpkins again. I can forgive. But there would have to be a lot more rock and a lot less exploitation of the common fan.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lollapalooza Dreams

Okay, so my big secret project...drumroll please...Lollapallooza is running a photo contest searching for three fans to act as official photographers for this year's music festival.
From June 30 through July 15, 2008, you’re invited to submit your most awesome, sweat soaked, ringing-in-your-ears photos you’ve taken at all the live shows you go to. If we like your pictures, you’ll be selected to be an “official photographer” at this summer’s Lollapalooza, where you and a friend will receive VIP passes, airfare, and a hotel for the duration of the festival - courtesy of C3. Your photos must be submitted online through Photoshop Express and winners’ photos will be displayed on Lollapalooza.com. Might want to start bringing a camera to shows with you from now on.
OMFG! How AMAZING would this be if I won? OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPER! Pretty 'effing fantastic I'd say. So for two nights now I've been crawling through all the pictures and videos of shows I've taken over the past 2 YEARS. That's a TON of stuff, folks.

So here's where the "audience participation" part comes into play. The contest winners are vote based, meaning the Lolla people will pick the three pictures with the highest votes on the 15th. That doesn't give me a lot of time but I'm hoping to pull out a win. I'm still working out the process of how I'm able to get you guys to the section where you vote but I believe you have to register an account with them first. Right now you can see my entry under "Gallery, Sort By: Date Added."

For you guys to be able to vote you'll need to register an account with PSX Rock Shots. After you verify your email address you now vote on pictures. There is still no way I've found to direct link to my photo for you to be able to vote so I'm going to try and keep a link here updated to where I'm currently listed. SEE PAGE 13

See everytime someone else adds a photo mine gets pushed back and the page number changes. I'm not sure this is the best tatical plan on Lollapalooza's behalf but I'm willing to make the most of it and keep trying. The prize is certainly worth some hard work to earn.

I'm putting all the pressure on Mr. Brian Viglione of the Dresden Dolls. Fingers crossed that this is the right choice.

I apologize if this post is a little anticlimactic but my perception on this contest has changed as I start reading the fine print. Isn't that the way it goes? I'll continue to work on this so check back here for updates. A huge thank you goes out to everyone who votes for me. You can check out the rest of my photo gallery here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Lazerfest 2.0

Okay, so I had some other ideas for a new post but those will simply have to sit tight for now because I saw one hell of a show on Saturday. A local radio station in Des Moines, Lazer 103.3, puts on a summer music fest every year. A couple of months ago, I avoided it because I couldn't imagine anything that boasts Kid Rock as the headliner to be a good thing. To everyone's surprise though, the same station decided to put up for another round of acts with Lazerfest 2.0 and the headliners were the Stone Temple Pilots! Hellz yeah!

I got there around 4:30 and met up with some friends who had already worked their way to the front of the pit area for a band called Five Finger Death Punch who were all about "our metal is heavier than that other pussy metal band." That's damned near a direct quote, folks, I kid you not. If death pseudo-metal is your thing, then I suppose they were alright, although, to me the lead singer resembled a pissed off leprechaun with a bleach-blonde Mohawk. I would have recorded some footage, but I found myself in a sea of angry mosher boys and topless chickies. Oh dear! Not exactly video-friendly.

Up next was Filter, who looked and sounded great. They stuck with a few of their hits, including "Welcome to the Fold," Take A Picture," and "Hey Man, Nice Shot," all of which I sang along with or, when I was recording, just mouthed the words. They also played their new single, "Soldiers of Misfortune," a nice tune, but a bit on the nose with the anti-war slant. I don't know that I would have chosen the same black on black, long-sleeve ensemble as Richard Patrick, seeing as how it was hovering around 100 degrees outside that day without a twig of shade in sight but, hey, that's just me.

Hinder was next in the lineup, and if you'd asked me to name one of their tunes before the show, I couldn't have answered you. This generally registers a look of disbelief from co-workers and friends when it's come up. After seeing their set, there are a few songs I've heard in passing on the radio and I suppose you could say that "Get Stoned" is a guilty pleasure, although I thought it was by Buck Cherry. I may get flamed by some passersby, but, honestly, these guys are forgettable. Their look and their sound may be fun for the moment, but it's not distinct enough to really stand out in the long run. Of course I invite them to prove me wrong, but I feel I have a pretty safe bet here. I'm a little concerned that if the singer carries on with the screaming/singing as he does that he'll blow his voice in a few years time. If nothing else can be learned from Axl Rose, it's that you need to conserve your pipes, man.

We sought out some shade behind a refreshment booth while Drowning Pool played the other stage and watched the roadies set up for Staind. Staind is another one of those bands like Filter that take me back to that summer just after my senior year of high school when "Outside" was hitting it big on the Family Values tour. I was glad to hear them play it, but something was definitely off. Aaron missed a few lines here and there, and the crowd drew a disappointing blank when he asked them to sing along. Afterward, Aaron said that he wasn't feeling well, which had become obvious. He stuck with it through the rest of their setlist, which included their new single, "Believe," "Right Here," and "Price to Play." I've not seen them live before so I don't know if they were lacking their normal intensity level, but under the circumstances I think they did pretty well.

Now onto the main attraction: Stone Temple Pilots. By this point I was dying to see their set and OMFG! They were so worth the wait! This was my first STP show, and I was a little nervous because, I mean, who hasn't heard the stories of the cancellations or other inflated ego disasters Scott Weiland has contributed to? But the whole lot of them were on top of their game. If there was note missed or a vocal out of tune, I didn't notice because they had such great energy all throughout. When they first took the stage I was a little confused with Scott's outfit. He looked like a deranged pilgrim with that hat, but he was in fine spirits. There was even a point where he seemed humble to the crowd.
"Rock and roll lives right here. It's not about the West Coast or the East Coast or the South or all those places where everyone is trying to prove they're hipper than you. No. Rock and roll is alive and thriving in the Midwest. You guys are what keeps it going."
Okay, so he may have been pandering to us, but I'm willing to accept that. This little speech was even after getting showered with a beer someone in the front threw onstage. Scott just laughed it off and told us how hops are actually really good for your hair, and I'm inclined to believe him. Scott Weiland wouldn't lie about haircare. I don't even know what that means, but "Scott Weiland wouldn't lie about _____" became the running joke of the evening.

Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the stage yet, which was absolutely fantastic! There was a HUGE LED screen that stretched the entire length of the stage, and the resolution on that thing was incredible. Check out this video of "Wicked Garden."

Even that doesn't really do this screen justice. Everything was so crisp and vibrant.

I staked out a place to sit on the rail in front of the soundbooth and was able to video most of the show which I will probably be watching over and over for a while. I am so glad I upgraded my memory card to an 8GB. They broke out most of their big hits, but with a catalog like theirs, there was no way they'd hit them all. "Big Empty," "Vasoline," "Crackerman,"Sour Girl," "Creep," "Plush," "Interstate Love Song," "Sex Type Thing," "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart." All of them were fantastic. They finally wrapped things up around midnight with an encore performance of "Dead & Bloated."

I hope they're able to maintain whatever balance they found in sobriety or moderation. As long as they have that, I would so So SO recommend you catch them this summer if they haven't already passed you by.

I think I just about linked up to every video, but you can always check them out on our YouTube account. I'm not overly satisfied with the quality there right now, so I may be seeking another site that hosts videos. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know. You can also see the stills from the festival on our Photobucket.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Happy 4th of July, everyone!

For our friends across the pond who don't
celebrate this holiday, here are some flowers.

Oh no...wait...Rollo! Get out of the way!
-sigh- Well, I tried.

Enjoy the three day weekend, everyone, and be safe.