Thursday, December 3, 2009

Part 2: Aaaaand, I'm Back!

Bonus IM transcript from the other night:
(because it's fucking funny)


Maise: Holy shit...they put up a signed, smashed NIN guitar for charity, and the current bid is $2500!

Iris: Whoa!

Maise: Oh barf, I think Aaron North signed this one.

Iris: Meh

Maise: It's kind of adorable how Trent draws the little NIN logo. Like, "Yeah, it's still an awesome logo."

Iris: lol. Can I just say I hate how he does it though.

I know you're in a rush TR, but would it kill you to make the box a proper rectangle? What's this rounded edges and random line shooting off?

Maise: LOL. It would be like if I tried to do it.

Iris: Well but after thousands and thousands of autographs I'd think he'd have it down by now.

Draw an L, draw another L. BAM! Rectangle.

But I suppose even that would be hard since he holds his autographing pens like he's got a monkey fist.

Maise: LOLOLOLOL! I didn't notice.

Iris: Did you ever see the video of him signing the first Ghosts package?

Maise: That's right. I'm really unobservant.

Iris: Not me man. I watched that a bunch of times. Like "aww...look at him signing MY copy!" ;)


Iris: I wish you had sound on your computer because that sigh he does as he reaches for the first book is just so loaded with meaning.

"-sigh- It's going to be a long fucking day."

Maise: Who taught him how to hold a pen?

He wasn't taught by nuns, I'll tell you that much. LOL

Iris: I'm telling you! MONKEY FIST!

Maise: What a weird way to hold a pen!

Iris: He holds it between his first finger and middle finger instead of first finger and thumb. Try writing anything like that. It feels so weird!

Maise: But vertically too.

Iris: And explains his penmanship so much.

Maise: I'm trying to recreate how he does this. He doesn't use his index finger at all. He writes with his thumb only. With the pen resting on the middle finger, I think.

That is WEIRD! The index finger curls around and doesn't do anything.It kind of does make you write like him a bit.

I don't know how he doesn't wind up with the marker all over his hand

Iris: lol. How many extra views did we just add to that video watching how he holds a pen?

Maise: No more than the girls who watch it in order to lick the screen.

Aaaaand, I'm Back!

First off, no, I'm not dead. Just took a bit of extended leave. A girl's allowed a break every now and then. Hopefully this is the start of making my way back on here more regularly. I know I've still got a TON of videos and pictures to edit and a show review to write up, but I will get to them. Eventually.

Anyhow, what brings me out of the woodwork this evening, believe it or not, is Marilyn Manson. It started out innocently enough when Maise and I started talking about MM's recent revelation that he is dating Evan Rachel Wood again. And well it went downhill from there to the recent music video he released, but it was kind of funny so we decided to "live blog" it for our always patient readers.


Maise: OMFG! Marilyn Manson is claiming that he's back together with Evan Rachel Wood.

Iris: I saw that! WTF is she thinking?

Maise: She was rumored to be dating fucking TRUE BLOOD ERIC! How the fuck do you fuck that up and wind up back with Marilyn Manson?????

Iris: Or! (dunt-dunt-dunt!) Is he lying?

Maise: Perhaps. He is totally fucked in the head with drugs. I'm sure he lies all the time.

Iris: If she is back with him then she was probably all "...but he needs me. I can fix him."

Maise: And MM just made a video where he beats an Evan lookalike to death. Charming!

(Be warned. The end of the video is NSFW.)

Iris: Up to that point it's the most boring. video. ever. I heard about it and thought I'd check it out. I watched the first few minutes and I was like "okay...when's it happening, when's it happening?"

Maise: Yeah, I'm waiting to watch it now. [Note: Maise's computer has no sound currently]

You mean, that doesn't even happen in the beginning?

Iris: No, he doesn't really start getting her until the end. I skipped part of the middle though so she might appear earlier too.

Maise: Awwww, at 00:16, he's a sad, sad clown.

Wow, this is a boring ass video.

It's like 00:51, and he's just standing there.

Iris: Trust me. Even with music, it isn't much better.

Maise: Shockingly, he's kind of not super ugly in this. I mean, he's not good-looking by any means, but the makeup is a little more understated.

God, if I paused this video, it would be the same as watching it. 2:fucking 30, and he's still moping with the curtain.

Iris: You'll have to listen to it tomorrow at work. I don't know why he's constantly gotta have his vocals on wah-wah synth pitch.

Maise: LOL. Probably because he has a shitty singing voice.

Iris: Well if he really wants to shock me then he should do an acoustic number.

Maise: With no makeup.

Iris: steps, man, baby steps.

Maise: An acoustic number wherein he finds Jesus after all these years.

Iris: LOL

Maise: Okay...You weren't kidding about this being the most boring video ever.

Iris: And there's 6 minutes of it.

Maise: Must have been pretty cheap to make, at least.

Oh, now we're sort of getting to the ERW part.

Iris: I'll bet it was self-shot in his bathroom with his shower curtain and some black candles in the background ala Chris Crocker style.

Maise: LOLOLOL! OMG, he totally looks like Chris Crocker in his sad clown scenes.

Now we're in horror movie vision.

What's with the tie?

Actually, wardrobe wise, I think that's a good look.

Iris: Yeah, I like the leather glove when he signs his slam book.

Maise: Ugh, who would allow themselves to be beaten to death by that sad little mime?

Iris: "Dear diary, Evan Rachel Wood has RUINED my life."

Maise: LOL. Well, this video is both boring AND grody, but it wasn't quite as explicitly violent as I was expecting. Wouldn't have me running back to date him, though.

"I'm sorry, Alexander Skarsgaard, I must leave your HOT ass to return to Marilyn Manson who makes videos about murdering me."

Can you believe he's got both Twiggy AND Vrenna working with him?

OMG, this interview! Manson broke up with Interscope, isn't that a surprise?

Iris: “Yeah, I think it will be more badass , I think it’s going to be more romantic maybe. Self abusive.”


Maise: Okay, the only ones who think cutting is shocking any more are Manson and sixth-grade girls.

By means of comparison...

Now that is how you do the sexxxy violence.

Iris: Okay, GAWD DAMN!!! That grin! That is badass! Not "I'm a sad clown posing with my shower curtain and oh yeah, I beat up my ex girlfriend."

Maise: Exactly.

God I LOVE his character SO MUCH! There is this scene in the second series where he says "trust me" to Sookie, and it is the hottest thing EVER said on film.


From there it just digressed further into the hotness that is Alexander Skarsgaard as Eric Northman. I'll spare you for now but I can't guarantee the same for the comments section.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Overdue Review of Saul Williams and the Afro-Punk Tour, 10/27/09

Hello, friends! Thanksgiving approaches for those of us in the US, and I've got to say, it's a pretty awesome holiday. The main point of this holiday is to eat rich, homemade, slow-cooked comfort food made from recipes handed down from generation to generation and to eat in sufficient quantities so that you are too sleepy and contented to want to maim or kill your dysfunctional family. This year, Mr. Maise and I are hosting for the first time and will be roasting a dead turkey of our very own. In some ways, it will be nice not to have to cross state lines in order to get some lunch this Thursday, but it is also very intimidating and daunting, especially since we have approximately 5,000 hours of cleaning to do in our home in addition to all the food preparation.

So I figured it was definitely worth a look back at the Saul Williams show that Ro and I caught at the Double Door in October, especially since it was one of the strangest concert experiences I have had recently. I've got no audio-visual goodies for you for this one because that's normally Iris's area of expertise, plus venue security was being REALLY vigilant about cameras, so I wouldn't have gotten away with it anyway.

I will go to great lengths to see Saul Williams live. And when I say "great lengths," I mean staying out WAY too late on a weekday. I used to be quite the insomniac before I hit 30. Now I require a full 7-8 hours of sleep in order to feel remotely human the following morning. Yet when Saul performs in Chicago (with the exception of Lollapalooza), he tends to not take the stage earlier than 11:30 p.m. or midnight. By the time the show ends and I make it back to the 'burbs, it's usually around 1:30 or 2 in the morning, which means that I have to mainline caffeine to stay awake at my desk the following morning. (And I usually feel even MORE exhausted the morning after that, as my body tries to adjust to the violation of my circadian rhythms.) But Saul Williams is worth it. With his high energy level and his clear love for the music and the audience, he creates performances that always exhilarating and powerful and thought-provoking.

But this wasn't my favorite show of his, however.

He was headlining the Afro-Punk tour, which was playing at the Double Door, a lovely, intimate venue. Their audience was composed of 98% annoying white hipsters, which is an occupational hazard of performing in Wicker Park. Hollywood Holt performed first...he was a very entertaining rapper from Chicago, and I wish that he had had the more prominent set just before Saul Williams, as I much preferred him to American Fangs, which had a sort of generic rap/punk sound and seemed to be onstage for years.

Saul Williams appeared on stage around 11:00 or so in his typical warpaint and a turquoise-colored feather headdress. He opened the show with the same recitation of inspirational/revolutionary figures as he did at his Martyr's show back in 2008. This performance had a bit of a "been there, done that" feel to it, especially since he's not promoting a new album at this time. He played a lot of my favorites but didn't have as much energy as before, I thought. Maybe this particular tour is burning him out or he's getting bored with his first two albums, but the highlight of the show was clearly "Grippo," which he performed with his daughter Saturn, who appeared absolutely ecstatic to be onstage and to be up past her bedtime. He sang some of my favorites like "Black Stacey" and "Surrender (A Second to Think)" and "WTF" and "Skin of a Drum," but all I could think about, greedily, was what I was missing. Like "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Scared Money" and "NiggyTardust." He did play us a new song with much more intensity, and I was happy to hear that he's working on a new album.

I mean, don't get me wrong...even a "meh" Saul Williams performance is better than most other acts, but it's nothing compared to when he's at the top of his game. A perfect example is "Tr(n)igger," which was an absolute EXPLOSION at Martyr's but didn't have nearly the same urgency and joy at the Double Door.

Then the show just got bizarre. CX Kidtronik, Saul's DJ sidekick, took the stage with his solo rap act, Krak Attack, while Saul took an extended break. Krak Attack seems to be a very jovial act--playing with the irony of various cheesy hip-hop cliches. For example, Kidtronik and his bandmates brought the ladies up on stage to do some dancing during their set. I believe they had a song comparing the relative virtues of white girls and black girls...or was it skinny girls vs. big girls? I don't remember. The point is, while all this was going on for a good 20 minutes or so, all I could think was, "Et tu, Saul? What the hell is this opening act nonsense in the middle of the damn show?! It is midnight!!!" I probably would have more patience for Krak Attack if they had appeared after Hollywood Holt, but I did not have the patience for them at that point, as I pondered whether it would even be worth it to stick around for Saul's return. I was not the only one, as Krak Attack's impromptu performance caused a mass exodus. I decided to stick it out, thinking that perhaps Saul would make it up to us. When he finally did return, we got a lively rendition of "List of Demands." Then it appeared that there would be more...but there wasn't. Show over. Huh?

I must confess, therefore, that I was not the happiest of campers after this show ended. I felt a bit cheated--feeling that Saul hadn't been quite at 100 percent for whatever reason and then annoyed that he surrendered his stage to Kidtronik for an inordinate period of time. I would gladly lose more sleep over Saul Williams, but next time I hope he gives it his all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Overdue Review of Adult Swim Metalocalypse Tour: Dethklok and Mastodon, October 17, 2009

All righty, moving along with our overdue reviews. I'm working on Iris to do the Indigenous review because she knows a lot more about that band than I do. Come back, Iris!

So if you're familiar with Dethklok and Mastodon as well as opening bands High on Fire and Converge, you might be thinking, gee, Maise, that doesn't seem like your musical genre. You're right; it's not. I drag Mr. Maise to so many concerts and social events that every now and then I choose to do something that he would actually enjoy doing. Sometimes this means that I sit through Ozzfest in 118-degree heat or endure an evening of Godsmack. And he's been kind of going through a country music phase lately, so in comparison to some of the things he could drag me to, a Dethklok show is a piece of cake because I do enjoy the show Metalocalypse on Adult Swim. It's kind of a hard show to describe, but it involves the exploits of Dethklok, a metal band with endearingly stupid members. Somehow a sinister group of world leaders and religious figures fears the power that Dethklok has over its fans, so they always have some sort of plot to take down the oblivious members of this band. And their concerts are always extravagant, resulting in the gruesome deaths of audience I said, it's kind of hard to explain, but here's the theme song and a little clip, just to give you an idea, if you haven't seen it before:

In one of my favorite little scenes, bass player Murderface encounters the "rock and roll clown," Dr. Rockso:

So obviously since this is an animated band, I was expecting something along the line of the Gorillaz. Animation playing on the screen to a live accompaniment. Since death metal isn't really my thing, as I explained above, I figured that at least I would have something to look at. I wasn't expecting to enjoy the show as much as I did. However, there were some opening acts to endure first.

The first act, High on Fire, was actually pretty good. I certainly didn't hate them. It's not necessarily something I'd listen to on my own, and it kind of felt like A Day in the Life of Dan Angel, but considering it was a metal opening band that I've never heard before, I felt pretty fortunate. Their songs had some melody, which is optional when you're dealing with the "cookie monster metal" bands. Here's a general example.

Next up was Converge. You probably wouldn't peg the members of this band as death metal types. They are short-haired and look a little like frat boys (except with more tattoos). The lead singer's vocal stylings sound EXACTLY like my male dog barking. EXACTLY. It's a lot of "WOOFWOOFWOOFWOOFWOOF!!!!!" Needless to say, the lyrics of their songs are completely unintelligible, and I started to get bored with them very quickly.

Mastodon was up next, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. They sort of reminded me of Metallica, when Metallica was good. They played "Crack the Skye" for us, their concept album that is kind of about some guy in a coma and Rasputin. They had some cool imagery for us to look at...scenes that seemed to come out of an old B-movie, psychedelic pictures of Rasputin holding bears on leashes, interstellar travel, and other trippy stuff. But I could really only handle an hour of them. They played "Crack the Skye" all the way through, and then they started playing older stuff, I presume. But I needed to take a break in the lobby because I was starting to get antsy, and they were really LOUD. So loud. OMG. This concert had me feeling my age, that's for damn sure. I had forgotten ear plugs, which I normally don't have to wear at shows, but this was just way beyond my comfort level. I could have sworn that my ears were about to start bleeding at some point.

Here's a clip of Mastodon live, to give you the general idea:

With the surprisingly painless (well, except for my ears) opening bands out of the way, I was eagerly anticipating Dethklok. They opened, naturally, with the Dethklok theme. In this video, you can get a better look at the guys actually playing the music; they seem unlikely candidates for the creators of heavy metal:

Brendon Small, one of the series' creators, writes and performs all the music and does the voices for at least three of the Dethklok members. I have a hard time believing that the voice of Nathan Explosion, Dethklok's lead singer, comes out of his mouth. If you've ever seen Small's work on another animated series, "Home Movies," you'd probably find it even more surprising. He would occasionally banter with the crowd, using the different character voices. It always fascinates me to see a real live person talking in a famous cartoon voice...maybe that's just me.

They played a lot of songs from their first album, accompanied by videos, which were, like the show, grotesque and hilarious and kind of epic. I'll post a couple of my favorites here. These two had me laughing out loud while totally rocking out.

This one, in particular, is the perfect theme song for the health care debate. I'll post the lyrics below because I never have any idea what "Nathan" is saying:

Pull the plug
Pull the plug
Pull the plug
Pull the plug
Pull the plug
Pull the plug
Pull the plug
Pull the plug
Pull the plug

I drove my truck into a moving van
It was all filled up with jet fuel and
I crashed right in and explosion
Smash through the window and ripped off my hands

Medical team drove up and found me
Bleeding in pieces picked up off the street
Drove me into a filthy hospital
Horror experienced financially

Woke up in pain in a gown in bed
Internal hemorrhaging inside my head
I really think that I should be dead
I saw the bill and then I cry bled

To keep me alive it is costing me
National deficit times three
There is no way to avoid this fee
Please pull the plug and kill me

It's costing too much

Pull the plug plug

Pull the plug

Breath lighted
Heart attacks
Pull the plug

Pull the plug


Pull the plug

Pay you my life instead of life support
Harvest my plasma because it's worth more
Take all my blood and my organs
Sell them to buyers over in third worlds

Burn my cadaver for some energy
Charge the patients in their misery
Such a strong quarter for the industry
Pharmaceutical fucking victory

Can't pay the price
Pull the plug
Pay with my life
Pull the plug
Say my farewell
Pull the plug
See you in hell
Fucking pull the plug

So. Fucking. Brilliant.

So although this was an evening I originally thought that I was going to tolerate at best, I had a great time. Mr. Maise enjoyed himself too, and it was actually something that he wanted to do, for a change. I'd highly recommend checking out Dethklok, primarily for the experience of the animation + live music. Plus, if you don't already watch Metalocalypse and think that might be your absurdist cup of tea, I'd recommend that as well. I'm kind of hooked now, myself.

Any pleasant surprises in your lives lately?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Long Wave Goodbye--Overdue Review of NIN at the Aragon, 8/29/09

So I have to admit, for what should be obvious reasons to regular readers, I've been dreading writing this review. Here are some things, in no particular order, that I'd rather do than write up this overdue review:

--Go back in time to 8th grade and play a game of volleyball with the bitchy popular girls and their mile-high bangs
--Have braces installed on my teeth and continually tightened for no good reason
--Go to Walmart at 4:30 a.m. the morning after Thanksgiving
--Drive a great distance with my husband while a scoreless baseball game is being announced on the radio
--Actually do the office work that has been assigned to me

Some of you may be wondering why I'm so hesitant to revisit this experience, which at the time was an enjoyable one. It's not that it's the last NIN show I'll be writing about for the foreseeable future. I've written thousands upon thousands of words with regard to Mr. Reznor and his bandmates. I'm more than ready to move on and discuss other things. I suppose if I say that it's because I'm not looking forward to all the malicious, psychotic bullshit that is sure to follow, then I guess the terrorists will win.

Trent was right, though...the haters do suck the fun out of everything, even if you try your best to ignore them. However, we here at Places Parallel will persevere. We will continue to keep up with Trent and his music, once he's finished with his hiatus, but we also have a LOT of other concerts to discuss, and what's more, I'd like to see more interaction from you, the sane reader, about what's interesting in music and what good shows you've seen. I assure you that I have no intentions of abandoning this site, and I plan to make good use of the "delete" button when necessary to ensure that this is a welcoming place for all.

August 29, 2009 was my ninth NIN show. I figured that if Trent really does put his old hits out to pasture and retire from touring, that would be a nice number to close out that period of my life. (I only wish it could have taken place on 9/9/09. Not even in LA did he do a 9/9/09 show. Lame!) I was accompanied by my dearest friends and favorite concertgoing companions, Ro, Iris, and Mr. Iris. The show took place at precisely the sort of intimate venue at which I have always wanted to see NIN: the Aragon Theater. He may very well have played his first Chicago show at the Aragon, or a place like it (the Metro, the Double Door, the Riviera, etc.). The Aragon has always had a special place in my heart as it is where I saw my very first rock concert in the big, bad city when I was a teenager (the Violent Femmes). When you're young and hemmed in by curfews and rules and small allowances, a real honest-to-God dingy, urban concert hall--poorly lit and with sticky floors--represents danger and real freedom. You feel the tension build before the show even starts in this hot, crowded place with all these strange people. You're slightly nervous that you're going to lose your friends; some creepy guy offers you a beer, and you refuse. You cling to your $20 bill tightly. It's all the money you've got, and you're trying to decide which t-shirt to buy. I can still feel that electricity in the air when I see shows at the Aragon; maybe I steal the spark from all the young kids in the crowd. At any rate, it was the perfect place for a dedicated fan like me to see her favorite band.

I've written so much about the experience of seeing NIN live that it's hard to know what else there is left to say. Regular readers know that the music means a lot to me personally. That's probably true for most NIN fans. The music taps into emotions that can be difficult to express our daily lives--rage, lust, despair--but these emotions must be given voice sometimes, or a person can just lose it. The lyrics are confessional, yet it's easy for the rest of us to project our own feelings and experiences upon them. I could tell you how each and every song on "With Teeth" is about my personal problems circa 2005--forget all that stuff about some guy named Trent and rehab. I went to every show possible so that I could experience a sense of release and a sense of communion with the hundreds or thousands of people around me--all of us shouting out the same words that are so difficult to say at work, to our lovers, to our parents, to our friends, to ourselves. I could tell from the angry, impatient, excited buzz in the air that the audience of this show was hungry for that release.

Experimental indie Danish (more Scandinavians!) rock band Mew was the opener. I can't remember a lot about their set, other than the fact that their songs were accompanied by unsettling imagery. Their music was pleasant enough to listen to; I think they are often compared to Muse by people in the know. But the hungry, angry crowd was not to be satiated by them; plus, it was at this point in the show when we first encountered "Richard" and his unfortunate wife/girlfriend/date, "Amy." Richard was extremely intoxicated and was well on his way to becoming even more intoxicated. He had been at the show the night before; he wanted to make sure that everyone in the venue knew that. You're aware of that, right? Good. He seemed like a fairly knowledgeable fan in his early- to mid-30s, and perhaps if his blood-alcohol level were somewhere below 0.3, he would have been okay to talk to. We stayed in Richard and Amy's vicinity because it provided Iris with a central view of the stage for her video-recording, but we were soon to regret it.

Finally...the moment we've all been waiting for! NIN took the stage beginning with "Home," which is kind of a "meh" opening. They probably could have skipped it and gone straight to "The Beginning of the End," which would have been appropo.

The setlist, courtesy of Echoing the Sound:

The Beginning of the End
March of the Pigs
I'm Afraid of Americans
Gave Up
La Mer
The Frail
I Do Not Want This
Gone, Still
Right Where it Belongs (v2)
The Way Out is Through
Mr. Self Destruct
The Good Soldier
Dead Souls
Reptile(w/ Peter Murphy)
Strange Kind of Love (with Peter Murphy)
Final Solution (with Peter Murphy)
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole

As you can see, it was very heavy on "The Downward Spiral"--no complaints from me on that! It would have been cool had he chosen to do some kind of concept, like "Pretty Hate Machine" from beginning to end, but this was a nice mix of his work spanning his entire career. It wasn't too different from what I have heard at previous NIN shows, but I was particularly happy to hear "I'm Afraid of Americans," "Dead Souls," (which poor Ro had been waiting to hear live for the first time for like seven shows), and "Gone, Still" from "Still," which I've never heard live before. I'm going to be honest and admit that I didn't miss the obligatory "Ghost" instrumentals. Those never felt quite as powerful as, say, "La Mer" or "Just Like You Imagined."

One moment that was especially powerful to me was "Ruiner." I think it may have been the first time that I heard this song live, but what struck me this time was chanting the words, "You didn't hurt me, nothing can hurt me, you didn't hurt me, nothing can stop me now." I know, I know, it's Trent's oft-recycled "nothing can stop me!" But I happened to reflect on everything I've overcome in the past and personal problems I'm dealing with now, and it helps to be reminded that there is a rock-solid part of me that cannot be touched by these things, that will never be defeated. It kind of has nothing to do with the song, but it's an example of how we can take away different things from the music than perhaps what was originally intended.

So as you see, Peter Murphy was the special guest, as promised. Which was awesome. We have seen Peter and Trent collaborate onstage with these very songs in the past, however, when NIN toured with Bauhaus, so there was kind of a "been there, done that" feel to this portion of the show, although I am always happy to hear "Strange Kind of Love." Perhaps this could have been avoided by bringing Peter to back up Trent for different songs or by begging and pleading with Gary Numan to come to Chicago. I'm really jealous of the LA crowd getting to see that! Also, it would have been awesome if Trent could have brought on some local legend, like uh...I dunno. Cheap Trick? Just kidding! But seriously...I don't know whom Trent has totally pissed off over the years, but Chicago has brought the world Veruca Salt, Liz Phair, Ministry (yes, yes, I KNOW Al hates Trent), Local H, and of course, The Smashing Pumpkins, although the total weight of the egos of Trent Reznor and Billy Corgan on one stage would probably cause a tear in the time-space continuum and end all life as we know it. Any of those would have been mind-blowing. Seeing Peter Murphy is always welcome...just not mind-blowing.

Trent had a nice spoken interlude wherein he thanked all of his fans and talked about how much he loves Chicago. It was very heartfelt and sweet, and I can't remember a word of it, so we just have to wait until Iris returns with the video of his speech. Come back, Iris!

Meanwhile, during all of these proceedings, Richard managed to make an enemy of every single person around him--from the man whom he spilled a beer on, to me and Iris because he was standing in front of my 4'10" self and talking loudly to the embarrassed Amy throughout the ENTIRE show, to Mr. Iris because he had no respect for anyone around him, to the guy who just finally snapped at the end of the show and shouted, "You were here last night? Good for you! The rest of us weren't, and we'd like to experience the show! SHUT THE FUCK UP!" He managed to commit every possible concert foul, and it's amazing that he didn't get involved in a fistfight. With his nonstop drunken chatter, it was hard for me to get in my zone during the show, so that was unfortunate. It was also unfortunate that so many of us had to waste so much time and energy being pissed off at him rather than enjoying the show. He really detracted from the entire experience. So let this be a lesson to all can pre-party, just don't overdo it! And to all enabling girlfriends/wives, please remove your drunken man from an area before someone punches him in the fucking mouth, as he clearly deserved. So that was kind of a sour note on a great evening, but it can't be helped. As we have all learned recently, a lot of NIN "fans" are total assholes.

And that, I think, is that! * know, it was actually kind of cathartic getting through this. I think I'm enjoying catching up on all my overdue reviews as opposed to having that nagging voice running through my brain: "You're ignoring Places're ignoring Places Parallel..."

Stay tuned, more reviews to come!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And Finally--the Long-Awaited Conclusion to Lolla-freaking-palooza 2009!

Is it November already? Must be time for another post! As I've said countless times, I just want to keep the promises I made to you guys months and months ago, and then hopefully we can all move on and maintain a more regular publishing schedule, etc. Oh my God, when I get through this last Lolla review, I will feel SO relieved! At least I've gotten this written before Lollapalooza 2010!

My husband was eager to get to Grant Park somewhat early that last day to see Cage the Elephant, who have since become much more ubiquitous on the radio and in commercials than they were earlier this summer. They do happen to have the most interesting backstory of any act at Lollapalooza last summer (paraphrased from Lolla marketing). Apparently, the band was founded by two brothers--Matt and Brad Schultz--from Kentucky whose parents were former hippies turned Jesus freaks and lived on a Christian commune. Rock music was forbidden, until their parents were divorced, and then they immersed themselves in all kinds of good stuff like classic rock and grunge. Just like all those kids whose minds were blown by the first Velvet Underground record and had to create their own band, the Brothers Schultz grabbed some friends and made their own record in like 10 days and became a big success in the UK before anyone had ever heard of them here. By now you've probably heard the infectious "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" and perhaps even "Back Against the Wall." They were brand-new to me that day, but I noticed that Cage the Elephant brought good old-fashioned blues-inspired rock to an enthusiastic crowd on a very hot day indeed. The first band I think of when I hear them is the Rolling Stones; they have a classic sound with something raw, sexy, and a little dangerous lurking in the lead singer's voice. After all, we all know what happens to the kids with super-religious, strict parents once those kids get a taste of freedom...unbridled, awesome hedonism! There's also a purity in their garage band sound, reminiscent of the White Stripes before they got all pretentious and discordant with the godawful "Icky Thump." As I recall, their live show was energetic, but it was hard to dance and "whoo" at 100 percent when we all just felt like passing out from the heat. (Paramedics with stretchers passed us at one point to rescue an overheated floozy in a sundress.) I'd definitely recommend catching one of their live shows if you get the chance. I think they were back in Chicago this past weekend, but I was too busy paying tribute to the Angelcat in Los Angeles at the time.

We managed to catch the latter half of the The Airborne Toxic Event's set, as they overlapped with Cage the Elephant, and Mr. Maise was definitely more interested in seeing CTE. We did manage to see TATE's big hit "Somewhere Around Midnight," which always makes me feel melancholy when I hear it because I never have anyone drunkenly chasing me around after glimpsing me at a bar because he's THAT in love with me. I mean, my husband loves me, but he's home and we eat dinner and fall asleep on the couch it's just not the same! "Somewhere Around Midnight" was probably the big highlight of this abbreviated set for us, as I'm otherwise not terribly familiar with this band. I was also a little distracted because it was at this point that my husband disappeared for 15 minutes to get a beer and Ro and Iris disappeared for 20 minutes to re-fill their water bottles. It's sometimes hard to wrangle a whole group at these large outdoor festivals.

Okay, so I admit that I don't know the first thing about Neko Case other than the fact that she is a fellow admirer of greyhounds. She was also playing on the side of the park where we eventually wanted to end up at the end of the night, so we decided to establish a "base camp" of blankets and Neat Sheets on the west side of the park by the Budweiser stage in a shady area that was near (but not *too* near) the port-a-potties and a bar. It was really the perfect location for our group. Those who were tired and hot could lie back on the blankets and absorb the music. If someone wanted to get some food or drinks or take a closer look at the band, the rest of us were easy to locate. Iris and I did leave for a while to get a better look at Neko Case and her lovely fiery red hair. She kind of reminded me of Tori Amos, with a gentler sound that seemed more inspired by country and folk music (although I guess she's also a member of the New Pornographers, so she can do indie rock as well). She genuinely seemed to be having a good time on stage with her bandmates and interacted warmly with the audience. She's just a little too mellow for me, but I appreciated her as an artist, and I can see why her fans are so devoted to her. And any friend of retired racing greyhounds is a friend of mine!

We sort of half-listened to the next act, Dan Auerbach, and I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. After all, if you see a guy who looks like this onstage in 2009, you might suspect that you'll be hearing something like Bon Iver...slow, acoustic, ballads about isolation and heartbreak. Dan Auerbach. But as I recall, his music was uptempo and blues-influenced. I really can't tell you anything substantial about Dan Auerbach unless I plagiarized Wikipedia or some such, so I'll just tell you about the human drama that we witnessed at this time. Ro noticed that a large number of people were jumping the fence to get into Grant Park. If they weren't jumping the fence, they were leaping over the row of port-a-potties. Which, frankly, was alarming to me. No one loves hanging out in those little blue outhouses, but could you imagine if you were in there, and someone came crashing down on top of you because he/she misjudged how far he/she had to jump? Horrifying! My favorite port-a-potty leaper was a guy who made the jump, then starting running immediately as he hit the ground, but simultaneously attempted to disguise himself by ripping off his shirt and his glasses. You know, like Clark Kent. Sort of. He assumed that no one could possibly recognize him as an unticketed individual, as we all laughed loudly and pointed.

Anyway, once these people crashed Lolla, as it were, they would then all take off running towards the field in front of the Budweiser stage. But Ro noticed that a couple of guys who were working at the bar would stop these individuals, lead them back to the port-a-potties, and then the gate-crashers would go inside and calmly walk out and be on their way. Then the guys working at the bar would go inside the port-a-potties, presumably to collect the bribes that had been left for them there. They probably made quite a bit of money! We noticed that occasionally they would have discussions with these gate-crashers and then lead said jumpers to an ATM so that they could procure the cash needed for the bribe. These two enterprising men did have a little competition as police were also on the lookout for fence-jumpers, and if the police caught them, they would wind up in handcuffs and (if they were lucky) merely escorted out of the park or perhaps arrested. So my recommendation to you, dear readers, is to a) just pay for the ticket to avoid looking like a chump and b) if you do want to crash, then have some extra cash on you for bribery or bail-posting purposes.

After Dan Auerbach, Lou Reed was scheduled to play. This particular slot of time was the most agonizing decision for me of Lollapalooza 2009. It was Snoop Dogg vs. Lou Reed, and they were at opposite ends of Grant Park, so it was impossible to see both. On the one hand, you have a rap icon who has pretty much become a pop culture punchline and who isn't terribly relevant in the world of hip-hop but who would be a hell of a lot of fun to see. On the other hand, you have a rock icon who is apt to be temperamental and who would probably avoid playing all your favorite songs just to be spiteful. We decided to go with Lou Reed, to see a legend in the flesh and in the hopes that he would play "A Perfect Day" Looking back, I feel that this was probably a mistake. First of all, he came onstage probably about 15-20 minutes late, which caused all kinds of chaos later in the night, as I shall explain. His setlist was all right, I suppose...I'm only the most casual Lou Reed fan, so I wasn't expecting to know every song by heart. We did get "Sweet Jane," "Waiting for the Man," and "Walk on the Wild Side." Lou seemed to be having a good time on stage but didn't really interact with the audience. That may be par for the course with him. So it wasn't a bad show, but I probably would have had much more fun singing along to "Gin and Juice" with all the other white hipsters in the crowd.

Lou Reed's tardiness meant that the next band, indie darlings Band of Horses, wound up starting about 15-20 minutes late. I don't have a ton to say about them except that, like Animal Collective, they chose to continue their set well after Jane's Addiction began. I realize that it wasn't their fault that they had to start late, but they knew they were going on right before the final headlining act of the festival--and not just any ol' headliner, like Kings of Leon, but the original lineup of Jane's Addiction. Now, while Jane's Addiction isn't exactly tapping into the rock zeitgeist as they once did, I feel that they deserve a modicum of respect for inventing the very concept of Lollapalooza. When Jane's Addiction came on, starting with "Up the Beach" and leading to my favorite "Mountain Song," I couldn't even hear it from all the sound being generated by Band of Horses on the other side of the field. And I want to say that they continued until 10-15 minutes into Jane's Addiction's set, even though Jane's Addiction delayed their entrance about 10-15 minutes. What a clusterfuck! Therefore, I propose again that no matter what the circumstances, festival organizers pull the plug on bands at their scheduled ending times. Because I don't care how great the end of someone's set is, it's usually not worth ruining the beginning of someone else's act.

And FINALLY, we come to Jane's Addiction. When Jane's Addiction were at the forefront of the alternative music scene, I was a mere impoverished teenager and had no pocket money to attend any of their shows. When Jane's Addiction was touring with NIN last spring, they did not appear at the Chicago show, probably because they had signed on to headline Lollapalooza. So this was my first (and possibly last) opportunity to see the original lineup of Jane's Addiction. Although it was ever so slightly anticlimactic, as I had seen Perry Farrell and various backing bands several times in the past, and he was always eager to play all the old Jane's Addiction hits. So there wasn't really a sense of "omg omg omg, I've finally heard 'Stop' live!!!"

When their set opened (annoyingly drowned out by Band of Horses, of course), they played "Up the Beach" as a helicopter flew low overhead and shined a spotlight on the crowd. Very dramatic and over the top, but also kind of awesome. I noticed people aiming their laser pointers at the helicopter. Smart move, assholes! I thought as I waited for the pilot to be blinded and crash into the crowd below.

Here is the setlist, courtesy of

1. Up the Beach (w/ helicopter entrance)
2. Mountain Song
3. Ain't No Right
4. Three Days
5. Whores
6. Been Caught Stealing
7. Then She Did
8. Ocean Size
9. Ted, Just Admit It
10. Summertime Rolls
11. Stop!
12. Jane Says (w/ Joe Perry)

Hmm...let's see, what do I remember about the show? Good production value, Perry's weird, yet strangely literal segues into songs...I'm pretty sure at one point he called us all "sluts" before beginning "Whores," for example. At one point the first few rows of the audience were given huge lengths of fabric to wave over their heads in order to simulate an ocean--presumably for "Ocean Size" because like I said, Perry can be awfully literal in his interpretation of song titles--and Perry ran in front of the crowd like the happiest dork, pretending to swim and dive. At one point Perry pointed out that their drummer, Stephen Perkins, was performing for us against doctor's orders, and thank God too, as it would have been a real bummer to lose both Jane's and the Beasties as Lolla headliners. As you can see in the setlist above, Joe Perry showed up for a special guest appearance. At the time, Steven Tyler had just fallen off a stage in South Dakota, so Aerosmith didn't have much to do with themselves. So Joe Perry helped out with "Jane Says." Perry asked the crowd if they wanted to see Aerosmith at Lollapalooza next year. Well, of course not, but no one wants to be rude to Joe Perry, so everyone cheered in the affirmative. Anyway, it might not be much of an issue if rumors of Aerosmith's inner turmoil are true. And then a very lucky Jane's Addiction fan was allowed to propose to his girlfriend onstage, and she said yes! (Not that there was any pressure on her or anything). And that's about all I have to say about that. Like I said, it felt a little redundant after all the other times I've seen Perry perform at Lollapalooza, but it was nice to see the original lineup of Jane's Addiction play together again, and they were in fine form, as you can see here.

And so that is FINALLY that. Once again, my apologies for all the long delays; real life occasionally gets in the way of my ghost life, but there is more to come!

Oh, and in all your comments, even the mean ones, I think you should include the sentence "Iris, come back!!!!" She's not dead or anything, but it sure isn't the same without her around here...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Long Overdue Lollapallooza Review--Day 2

Okay, so this is so overdue, it's basically irrelevant, but basically, I need to clear my conscience of these missing reviews before I move on to cool new things like Saul Williams on October 27th! Thank God for schedules and setlists posted online because Christ knows I wouldn't remember any of this off the top of my head...

So let's take a look back at Day 2 of Lollapalooza, shall we? The lineup that day was kind of "meh," compared to Day 1, especially because the Beastie Boys were forced to cancel and were replaced as the headliner by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. (To which we said, "No no no.") So there will likely be less rhapsodizing in this recap, but I shall do my best.

On Day 2, we replaced the constant rain with blistering heat and dehyradation. At least we knew it was coming. The weatherman was predicting inferno-like conditions for that Saturday and Sunday. In fact, as I positively shivered with cold during Depeche Mode, due to being drenched for hours and cooler temperatures, I reminded myself that the following two days, I would surely miss the rain and wind. Paramedics seemed busy with those who do not understand the dehydrating effects of alcohol on the human body, but for the most part, I must say the crowd seemed slightly better behaved than in years past. We encountered much less unconsciousness, vomiting and oblivious nudity this year, and since I'm not 19 years old, I certainly didn't miss it.

We were able to catch the end of thenewno2's set, and it was unfortunate that we couldn't have seen more, but they had a super-early set beginning at noon, and we were exhausted from the night before and traffic, yadda yadda. Hey, if a professional publication wants to pay us so we could stay in a nearby hotel in order to provide a fuller, more detailed review, we won't say no! Anyway, as you may already know, thenewno2 (a reference to the British TV show "The Prisoner," I am told) is led by George Harrison's hottie son, Dhani. Dhani may look and sound exactly like his father, but that doesn't mean that you'll be seeing a Beatles cover band. You'll hear the '60s British invasion blues-y influences in his music, but who *isn't* influenced by the Beatles, let alone actual progeny of the Beatles? But there's also a significant nod to Massive Attack and a certain cool, electronica sound. I think we came in somewhere around "Out of Mind" and we stuck with them til the end of their last song, "Choose What You're Watching." But we definitely liked what we heard, and the good news is that we will be seeing thenewno2 once again when they open for Wolfmother on November 13th. (Note: I have absolutely no interest in Wolfmother, so here's hoping we get to the show on time!)

Here's thenewno2 singing "Choose What You're Watching." Don't you just want to chase Dhani in a madcap manner around the streets of London with a group of screaming girls? Maybe that's just me...

We had some free time after thenewno2, so we had the opportunity to experience some new bands. Iris was particularly taken with Dirty Sweet, a bluesy rock band from San Diego whose members do not appear to wash their long, greasy hair. Ever. Still, they were a great band for an outdoor festival on a hot summer day. They've got a sort of a Southern classic rock sound. The vocals are very reminiscent of Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, and there's even a touch of the Pete Townshend to be found in the guitar riffs of this song, "Baby Come Home."

Dirty Sweet would be, in my opinion, the perfect band for a dive bar at midnight. Not that that is the only venue where they belong; they would just really fit the atmosphere.

After Dirty Sweet, we sat for a while in the makeshift beer garden, watching the technophiles dancing to the stylings of DJs Moneypenney and then Kaskade. You know, the usual "oonce oonce oonce." Although I don't understand who could dance around in a huge crowd in that heat. We took the opportunity to pow-wow about who we would see next. No one had any burning desires, so I suggested Ida Maria. There was quite the Scandinavian invasion this year with Peter Bjorn and John, Ida Maria, and Lykke Li, so I wanted to get in on the Lingonberry Revolution if that's going to be the huge new thing. Then I could say that I coined the term "Lingonberry Revolution," for one thing.

I like to think of Ida Maria as Norway's answer to Blondie. She's got a garage band sound with sweet, slightly accented vocals, as exemplified in this song, "Louie."

It's kind of like if Bjork actually sang rock songs, as opposed to her usual artistic yodeling. (And don't get me wrong--I love Bjork.) Apparently she had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction (her dress popped open, exposing a pink bra), and she doused herself with water while twirling and singing songs like, "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked."

So it was an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes, especially when you're listening to a brand new band for the first time. In order to catch Care Bears on Fire, we left as she sang a rousing cover of the Stooges, "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

Wow, man, Care Bears on Fire. Despite the fact that the band members have just started high school (Jena, the oldest member, is now in 10th grade) and were playing the "Kidzapalooza" stage, we were intrigued by the hilariously violent imagery suggested by their band name and wanted to check them out. They have a cute, kid-friendly and very catchy punk sound, but these girls are also rather terrifying. When bantering with the "Kidzapalooza" emcee, they kind of sounded like Dakota Fanning giving an interview--you know, just professional beyond their years. Indeed, they already have two full-length albums, a record deal, television appearances, a Lollapalooza gig, and have collaborated with Adam Schlesinger from The Fountains of Wayne. One of the members complained onstage about the microphone volume with just the right amount of rock star petulance. These are girls who most likely know what label of bottled water they prefer and precisely what temperature it should be at. If you suffer from any kind of self-doubt, ennui, or a sense that life hasn't really gone the way you've planned, by all means, avoid Care Bears on Fire. On the other hand, their punk cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears was kinda brilliant. Totally calculated and contrived, but brilliant nonetheless. I mean, they're just teenage girls and should by all means be encouraged to rock, but they are also extremely intimidating. I'm just saying.

We headed over to the Chicago 2016 (a lost cause...alas!) stage to stake out a spot on the hill, as we would eventually be watching Tool later that evening. It was just really hot and exhausting this year...we didn't have the stamina to cross Grant Park multiple times to catch individual acts, like the Arctic Monkeys or TV on the Radio, so we settled for what was around us.

God, Coheed and Cambria. They seem to be at Lollapalooza just about every year. They've got a throwback classic hard rock sound reminiscent of Rush or Dio. Personally, I prefer Tenacious D, but Coheed and Cambria does have a lot of very loyal fans. They're just not my genre *at all*. Their set seemed to last years. Years! I lay back on our Neat Sheet and closed my eyes and tried to endure.

Next, there was no way in hell I was going to sit through Rise Against, so I took a chance on Lykke Li, and this was probably the most pleasant surprise of the entire day. A member of the "Lingonberry Revolution" ( was coined here first, folks!), the Swedish singer is an adorable blonde with a high voice reminiscent of anime characters who does dancey-pop songs with an otherworldly indie sensibility. If it sounds a little like Peter Bjorn and John to you, that's probably because her debut album "Youth Novels" was produced by PB&J's Bjorn Yttling. I feel kind of bad calling her "adorable," but oh my God, just look at her! Plus, isn't this the best song you've ever heard?

"Youth Novels" is a worthwhile investment, and I felt bad being so behind the curve...her many enthusiastic fans knew all the words to every song, and here I was listening to her just for the first time.

Animal Collective was next, and I guess to appreciate/understand them, you have to be the kind of person who writes for Pitchfork. All I know is that this artsy group from Baltimore with weird stage names like "Panda Bear" and "The Geologist" was the absolute worst act I've ever been subjected to at Lollapalooza, bar none. I'm not very motivated to check out their albums, but I know that their setlist involved making the same screechy noise repeatedly for like an hour and 10 minutes straight. And the worst part? Their set went over egregiously, to the point where they were drowning out Tool. This was a big problem at this year's Lollapalooza...when bands reach the end of their scheduled time, someone needs to pull the plug because there's a BIG problem with acoustics when the stages are right across from each other. It's really disrespectful to other bands and their fans. I mean, honestly, did we really need an extra 10 minutes of "Screeeeech, beep, Screeeech, beep, Screeech!!!"? Ugh!

And finally, we get to the headliner of day 2: Tool. I'm really not the most qualified person to review them because I've never had much interest in them, to be honest. They were definitely more appealing than the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but if the Beastie Boys hadn't been forced to cancel, I would be reviewing them instead, for sure. It's not that I'm particularly opposed to their style of music or Maynard's singing voice...although I find their songs sort of monotone and indistinguishable from each other and the lyrics undecipherable. They did have a very impressive stage show with their dark and slightly disturbing videos. And apparently, Iris got some good pics of Maynard basically stripping down to his skivvies gradually during the show (it's hot up there with the stage lights!), but I was unaware of any onstage antics because we were sitting off to the side up on a hill, so I could really only get a good look at the screens displaying the videos.

This is their setlist, according to Lollapalooza's website, if you're curious:

1. Jambi
2. Stinkfist
3. Forty-Six & Two
4. Schism
5. Rosetta Stoned
6. Flood
7. ├ćnema
8. Lateralus
9. Vicarious

Wow, their songs must be really long! My husband informs me that these are their more recent works and not from the earlier albums that he used to subject me to when we would drive back and forth from our hometown to college.

Sorry about this non-review of Tool...they're really not my thing. If our long-lost Iris ever returns to us, hopefully she can give you a much more thorough look back at this show!

Oh, but the best part of the entire show! We witnessed an EXTREMELY drunk woman dragging an EXTREMELY drunk male companion up the hill. She had a death grip on his arm, and he was stumbling trying to keep up with her. They were so drunk that everything they did appeared to be in slow motion. He apparently did not enjoy being dragged like a mule, so he grabbed her by the ponytail. This enraged her, so she kicked him square in the balls, then dragged him away. All this was accomplished, as I said, very slowly and with no words whatsoever. Although I was momentarily afraid that they were going to puke and/or fall on me, it really was the most amazing piece of theater I've ever witnessed.

And that, my friends, was Day 2. Hopefully this week I can finish off Lollapalooza 2009, the bane of my existence, and then we can MOVE ON. However, I am going to warn you that I think I'm catching the swine flu.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Can I Come Out of Hiding?

Okay, I'm SO guilt-ridden for not delivering on various concert reviews and not having enough time to post anything else (I really have been a miserable ghost bitch all month) that I've been actively avoiding this place, and that's just silly because a) I'm the cofounder of this freaking blog and b) I love you all, especially because we've been too boring for the Trolls lately.

So I'm just going to put up something quick til I can deal with all the shit that's been haunting me for MONTHS now, and I just want to let you know that my concert-going days are not over! I've got Dethklok this Saturday (definitely not my genre, but I do enjoy "Metalocalypse" on Adult Swim). Then on October 27th, Iris and Ro and I will be enjoying Saul Williams once again at a lovely intimate venue called the Double Door. Then on November 13th, Ro and I will be seeing Dhani Harrison's band, thenewno2, again (oh yeah, that's right...we saw them once at Lollapalooza, which I have yet to review...sigh), but crazy-haired Wolfmother will actually be the headliner at that show.

Anyway, I just wanted to report to you on my musical guilty pleasures because I've really been indulging them lately. Instead of my usual gothy moodiness, I've been turning to the most ridiculous pop music to motivate myself to work out and drive to the office without attempting suicide on the way and to generally crack myself up with all of these songs about "the dance floor." Dudes, I am never in clubs or on dance floors in my 30s, but apparently, I'm missing a LOT.

(gag reflex alert: Chris Brown is featured on this otherwise kick-ass song)

Okay, so she never wears pants, and she kind of looks like Marilyn Manson from some angles, but I've got to admit, I officially like Lady Gaga. She's not half as avant-garde as she thinks, or maybe she doesn't even really think she's avant-garde, but I do appreciate her humor and self-deprecation and shameless pop hooks. This video really won me over with its wacked-out medical couture and uh...a starring role by Alexander Skarsgard. The Minnie Mouse outfit at the end kind of has to be seen to be believed.

Finally, in my guilty pleasures du jour, is this, "Crazy Possessive" by Kaci Battaglia. The first time I heard this chorus, I laughed out loud. Plus, Kaci totally has a "Real Housewives of New Jersey" thing going on, so it's all priceless:

So yeah, this is what happens when Trent "retires." Places Parallel collects dust, and I start singing along to Flo Rida.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rest in Peace, Patrick Swayze...

Hey everyone, sad celebrity news. I'm sure you've all heard it by now, but Patrick Swayze passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer. From all accounts, he was a super-nice guy, so let's relive our junior high days and have a Patrick Swayze retrospective, shall we?

(That's the best version I could find of the SNL "Chippendales" skit)

And the tearjerker clip:

Any other favorite Patrick Swayze moments?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Long Overdue Lollapalooza Review--Day 1

Okay, so here's what we decided to do. You see, folks, Iris has some important stuff going on in real life that is preventing her from slaving away on pics and videos. So for a while, we'll have pics and video in separate posts, just so we can let you know what all went on at Lollapalooza and NIN. This way, I can write it all up before I forget everything that happened, and I don't have to feel like a jerk asking Iris about the AV stuff. She'll get to it when she gets to it.

The disadvantage of not doing this "live blogging" style is that now I have to try to remember all sorts of details from about a month ago. Unfortunately, there was no large air conditioned, AT&T-sponsored tent with computers this year, and because I am old, I was too exhausted upon returning home each night to write anything up. But I shall do my best with my fading memories.

So, Day One. A poncho was a must because for the first time since I started attending Lollapalooza, it rained on us just about all day. However, Friday had my favorite lineup of the entire weekend, so we weren't about to let a little rain stop us. On a side note, I really think they need some sort of rule prohibiting umbrellas. They did nothing to enhance the view, and people are never good at walking in large crowds with umbrellas. Someone is bound to gouge out an eye. Ponchos are much safer (if not terribly fashion-forward) and do not obstruct views of the stage or screens.

We made it to Grant Park just in time to catch The Builders and the Butchers' set. I was instantly converted to this band when we saw them opening for Amanda Palmer, and I was certainly not disappointed here. I've described them before as Flogging Molly meets Modest Mouse. They've also been compared to Tom Waites. They boast an impressive array of obscure folk instruments, and their themes are generally dark. When I listen to their music, I get a somewhat eerie feeling, like when I'm driving in some deep backwoods area at night, and it feels like just about anything could jump out at me--deer, bear, werewolves, crazed rednecks. At the same time, their music grabs you immediately; these are not the kind of songs you have to "get used to" or know the lyrics to in order to appreciate. Their music is melodic, beautiful, primal. When they have two drummers flailing against their instruments at the same time, there is something ancient and uncivilized in me that responds. I feel at home in the strange country landscapes that they create, where branches are like arms and hands are like gnarled roots.

I bought their album, "Salvation is a Deep Dark Well," and if you ever take my advice about anything, buy this album. Especially if you're road-tripping out in the woods before summer dies. The song "Vampire Lake" is probably my favorite on this album, and it was my favorite at the show. It totally sounds like the perfect song to play over the closing credits of an episode of True Blood. (I have so many awesome ideas for that show, I know.)

I'm probably not going to get that lyrical over every band I describe, so don't get too worked up now.

While we were getting some food, we happened to catch a tiny bit of The Gaslight Anthem's set. This was a band that my husband had wanted to see (but he unfortunately was scheduled to work on Day 1 of Lolla). In addition, their set began about halfway through The Builders and the Butchers, so there was no way we could have seen enough of them to appreciate them. But listening to them in the background, I had two thoughts: 1) Who invited the Cure this year? and 2) I like what I'm hearing so far. So they will have to be a band that I explore further.

While waiting for Ben Folds, we listened to Bon Iver for a while. A lot longer than I ever would have wanted to. Now there's a certain style of indie music that I just can't deal with. Fine, grow a beard and play folk music if that's what you're called to do, but for God's sake, make it interesting. I'm no expert on this guy's music, but it was a lot of acoustic, falsetto warbling. According to Wikipedia, his latest album was written after he spent three months in isolation in some cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin. And what we heard is exactly what you would imagine would be produced by someone going slowly insane in the middle of nowhere. Not like, "shrieking and running naked in the woods" insane. More like "melancholy staring out the window from the bed you haven't left in 12 days" insane. I dunno, I'm sure it's all very intelligent and thoughtful and heart-rending if you pay attention to the lyrics, but that's more attention than I'll ever devote to a guy with an acoustic guitar and a beard singing in falsetto.

Ben Folds was next! He still has quite the devoted fanbase, as this was probably the only show of the day where I felt uncomfortably hemmed in by the crowd and suggested to the group that we move back a bit. I was a big fan of the Ben Folds Five breakout hit album, Whatever and Ever Amen, with its witty lyrics and Gen-X angst--so perfect for me in that stage of my college career. After that, I kind of lost touch for some unknown reason, although I did happen to catch him live at the Guiness Oyster Fest one year, and since he spent a lot of time playing slow, ponderous tunes that night, I figured that his career was kind of heading in that direction. If you goth and punk cabaret kids aren't familiar with Ben Folds, you might know him as the producer of Amanda Palmer's solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, and I feel as though his influence is particularly strong on a song like "Astronaut"--big, crashing piano with a touch of heartbreak.

I am pleased to announce that Ben Folds kept his Lolla set up-tempo. It's really the only way to go if you're playing a large outdoor festival, where all the kiddies are on drugs, and everyone is sweaty and gross (or drenched with rain), and people are generally coming and going throughout the performance. I was happy to hear "Rockin' the Suburbs" and "Kate," an old favorite, although I would have paid him cash money to play "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces," as I always felt it was rather a personal anthem for me.

We took a bit of a break after Ben Folds, having a nice sit on a wet bench in front of Buckingham Fountain and doing some people-watching, but we headed back to the north side of Grant Park for a bit of the Decemberists. People who talk about these sorts of things on the Internets were wondering aloud whether the Decemberists would play their latest concept album, "The Hazards of Love" in its entirety. I guess they did, but we didn't stick around for the whole performance. It's not that I don't like the music, but it really wasn't the best venue for long, flowing dresses and quiet songs about "My love rode off into the woods today," or whatever the hell they were singing about. I once read the Wikipedia entry for this album to try to understand what the whole "story" of it was, and you can find that information here, but this is how I explained it to my companions: "Um, so there's like this woman, and she's riding off in the woods, and she falls in love with some elf or demon guy or whatever, and he's got a mother who's magical, and then the girl gets kidnapped by this evil guy...uh..." So, yeah, I'm kind of torn on it all. The music is much catchier than you would think, especially "The Rake's Song," which is rather disturbing, but it still is pretty pretentious. But at the same time, you have to give Colin Meloy credit for doing something very different from the mainstream. It was not engaging us at all during Lolla, unfortunately, and I think the music started to pick up in general as we were on the way out, but by that time, we were heading to the other side of the park for Of Montreal.

Oh God, what to say about Of Montreal without sounding like the world's crankiest old fogey...hmm.

Musically, I have no objection; pleasingly, they remind me of the Scissor Sisters. So you know, upbeat, oonce-oonce, good to dance to, good for outdoor music festivals where all the kiddies are on drugs, and everyone is sweaty and gross (or drenched with rain), and people are generally coming and going throughout the performance. Except the stage show...dear Lord. I couldn't really see it all very well from my vantage point, but it involved unnerving animation on the screen, approximately 5,000 people onstage in all sorts of costumes, ranging from alien heads to one-armed, one-legged unitard things. Were there people dressed as nuns and gorillas? I don't remember, but there might as well have been. Oh, who am I to piss on someone's enjoyable acid trip? I'm just a miserable goth at heart, so I just feel that sometimes, a LOT less is more. I do want to give Of Montreal credit, however, for ending on time, which is more than I can say for certain OTHER acts on subsequent days, but we'll get to that later.

Fortunately, it was at this point that the rain FINALLY stopped, and I felt brave enough to remove my poncho (as I had superstitiously felt during any other break in the precipitation that if I took off the poncho, I would bring on a torrential downpour and electrical storm that would shut everything down). It had been a long, rain-soaked day, but we were all eagerly awaiting Depeche Mode (well, I don't know how "eager" Mr. Iris was to see Depeche Mode, but I'm sure he was certainly eager to bring this soggy day to a close). Barring any sudden catastrophe, it looked as though the Ro Curse would finally be broken! And, shockingly, they took the stage, right on time, and Ro finally had the chance to see one of her favorite bands of all time. Well, Depeche Mode should be among everyone's favorite bands of all time, right? I've spent quite a bit of this summer listening to the old hits as well as the new album. There's something about Depeche Mode that speaks to my personal life situation as I savor my 30s--the yearning for pure love coupled with a certain knowing cynicism. Not believing in the fairy tale is not the same as not wanting the fairy tale; Martin Gore knows that, and that's what has always made Depeche Mode so resonant and heartbreaking.

The Setlist (a respectable collection of new songs and greatest hits...most likely much shorter than on other stops of their tour because at Lolla, the plug gets pulled on *everything* at 10:00 p.m.):

In Chains
Hole to Feed
Walking in My Shoes
It's No Good
A Question of Time
Fly on the Windscreen
Come Back
Policy of Truth
In Your Room
I Feel You
Enjoy the Silence
Never Let Me Down Again
Personal Jesus

So, if you like the new album, then you'll probably think they started off strong with "In Chains" and "Wrong." (The only problem with "Wrong" is that the beginning always reminds me of the SNL parody of The McLaughlin Group)

"Hole to Feed," eh. I really would much rather have heard "In Sympathy," my favorite song from Sounds of the Universe. But at least it's better than "Peace," with the gayest of all gay DM lyrics: "It's an INEVITABILITY!!!!" That line snaps me out of whatever musical trance I happen to be in, as I think, "Ugh." Probably the most pleasant surprise of the evening was "Come Back," which was truly hypnotic, especially with the deep space imagery, although it also kind of resembles that old "Starfield" screensaver.

I certainly can't take issue with any of their other selections, although I missed "Master and Servant," "Somebody," "A Pain that I'm Used to," "A Question of Lust," "Shake the Disease," "It's No Good," "Everything Counts,"--oh, who am I kidding? I'd really have loved to see the show go on for two more hours than it did.

Dave Gahan's voice seemed a little strained and off-key, but hell, with tumors and gastrointestinal problems and leg injuries, I'm just happy he was alive and able to take the stage. Of course, he did his skeevy sexy dancing and strip show. To those who say tattoos look gross when one reaches a certain age, you couldn't prove it with Dave Gahan's upper body...yum! He wanted the crowd to do a lot of his singing for him, which is fine if he's asking us to do the chorus of "Enjoy the Silence," but he really should keep in mind that most Lolla attendees weren't even twinkles in their parents' respective eyes when "A Question of Time" came out.

Martin Gore looked fetching in a shiny silver suit and sounded pitch perfect on "Home." I wish we could have had more of those moments...what a gorgeous, gorgeous mind and voice that man has.

The highlight of the evening was "Enjoy the Silence" for me, which may not be obscure enough for some diehard Depeche Mode fans, but that song taught me at the tender age of 14 that music can make you feel funny...down there. The lyrics represented everything that I ever wanted a lover to say to me, but of course, it's so fucking romantic, it would never happen in real life, with a real average guy, if he had to come up with it on his own. The disappointment of reality is never denied, but the dream isn't surrendered. That's Depeche Mode in a nutshell for me.

And that's Day 1 of Lolla. More to come!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Modest Mouse, Live at the Aragon 8/25/09

Omg, yo. You know what I think about when I think about Places Parallel? I think of Lucy Ricardo, working at the candy factory, unable to keep up with the assembly line, stuffing chocolates in her cheeks like a squirrel. There is *so much shit* we have to cover from this summer: the last of the last NIN shows (until Trent and Mariqueen and their eight kids tour America like the Von Trapp family), which I know is the only thing you're really interested in reading about, but Iris and I feel compelled to cover Lollapalooza (which is like 50 concerts all in one) and anything else we happen to see because we are Places Parallel, and that is the sort of thing we set out to do here.

The problem is that in addition to the 150,000 words I have to write, we have TONS of awesome photos and video footage, and ideally we'd have both available at the same time, but the fact of the matter is, Iris and I are both very busy people living in two different states, so the coordination of all this material is difficult. And sadly, I am NOT spending all this time sucking Trent Reznor's physical cock, as alleged. Though I wish I were! I mean, honestly, is that supposed to be some sort of insult? I hope our Anonymi curse me with a lottery win as well!

Anyway, an easy show for me to cover is the recent Modest Mouse concert that I attended with Ro and Mr. Maise and another friend (name withheld to protect the innocent). I wasn't sure of the camera policy, so I have no AV goodies for you, and it was a short, shitty performance anyway.

I think what may be difficult for the Anonymi to grasp is that I am not a professional concert reviewer. I am not forced to attend all shows in my area, good and bad. I generally buy tickets for acts that I enjoy, so probably about 90% of the time, I enjoy what I see. If I get cranky and dissatisfied, it's usually in regard to whatever opening acts imposed upon us, the audience. So it's somewhat of a novelty to me to give a negative review to a show.

Not that I would give Modest Mouse a negative review in general. I love their pessimistic outlook paired with infectious melodies. No one sings, warbles, and roars quite like Isaac Brock, and what I think I love about this band is that they are distinctly American. This band is not trying to be the 10,000th rip-off of Joy Division. Their sound originates in dark pine forests and mountains of the Pacific Northwest. The songs acknowledge the dangerous wild places of the world and of our minds with a resigned shrug. It's like those frenzied seconds in the middle of a car accident, when you realize what's going on, recognize that you're flying through the windshield, and then you think, "Well, this is exactly what I expected would happen."

There is something very cathartic about giving in to Isaac Brock's passions, thinking about someone who has fucked you over by being absent and withholding, and singing, "Are you dead or are you sleeping? Are you dead or are you sleeping? Are you dead or are you sleeping? God, I sure hope you are dead." The only problem with this show was, was Isaac Brock dead or sleeping himself?

Modest Mouse was preceded onstage by The Duchess and the Duke, but I can't tell you a word about them because this show started at 6:30, and us hard-working 30-somethings who are stuck working in the burbs have to commute in and grab a bite to eat. In fact, Modest Mouse themselves took the stage earlier than we had anticipated (between 7:45-8 p.m.), so we missed the first song getting our tickets scanned and receiving the usual strip-search from venue staff. Here's the setlist (via the Modest Mouse website):

King Rat
3rd Planet
Black Cadillacs
Gravity Rides Everything
Shit Luck
Satellite Skin
Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes
Baby Blue Sedan
Life Like Weeds (Lyric Tease)
Guilty Cocker Spaniels
Blame It On The Tetons
Wild Packs Of Family Dogs
The View
Satin In A Coffin


Paper Thin Walls
Parting Of The Sensory

Well, it wasn't all bad. Highlights of the show for me included the following:
--"Shit Luck," a hard-hitting, bleak song that really wouldn't be out of place in Trent's catalogue;
--The radio-friendly (but not dumbed down) and energetic "Dashboard";

(credit must go to Rockerachick88 on YouTube for the video)

--"The View" which features this chorus, which will resonate with anyone who's lived through tough times, "As life gets longer, awful feels softer/Well it feels pretty soft to me/And if it takes shit to make bliss, then I feel pretty blissfully."

(credit must to go tkreuser on YouTube for the video)

--"Satin in a Coffin," the menacing chorus of which I quoted above

(credit must to go tkreuser on YouTube for the video)

--"Parting of the Sensory" with its unforgettable, hypnotic primal ending: "Well some day you will die somehow/And something's going to steal your carbon."

So looking at that list of highlights, it's going to be hard for me convey what exactly was wrong. I think the problem was not what was there, but what was missing. I've seen Modest Mouse twice before, and on those previous occasions, they had a lot more energy and verve. You know how at an awesome show, you totally lose yourself in the music and the joyful vibe of the crowd around you? Instead, my friends and I felt oddly disengaged. My friend, a true blue Modest Mouse fan *long* before I had ever heard of them, turned to me and asked me my opinion about tattoos during the proceedings. We just couldn't get in the zone.

Perhaps it had something to do with the inside temperature being somewhere around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Perhaps the heat led to the concert's end time of 9:15p.m. A band of their caliber and extensive catalogue could have done a lot least throw us newbie fans a bone with "Float On" or something. Maybe if the show itself had been more intense, we wouldn't have felt let down. As it was, it felt like an hour of foreplay with nothing really happening. Should I blame it on the Tetons?