Infinite Shuffle

August 29, 2011

LouFest 2011: Take 2 in The Lou

Filed under: LouFest, St. Louis — assman41 @ 2:01 pm

In case you hadn’t noticed, the indie music scene is alive and well.

Formerly “obscure” bands can be heard all over the place in movies, television shows and commercials. Arcade Fire, a band still considered by many to be outside of the mainstream, took home the biggest prize at this year’s Grammys. And, most promising, the indie music festival schedule is thriving.

Case in point, LouFest, which just wrapped up its second year of catering to the musical needs of hipsters in the middle of St. Louis’ Forest Park.

I first heard about LouFest a year ago when I was in town for the Moonlight Ramble — an annual, family-friendly midnight bicycle ride around Forest Park. I had read in the newspaper that a local music promoter had put together a music festival that would take place the following weekend.

The inaugural event included the likes of Jeff Tweedy (doing a solo set), Built To Spill, Broken Social Scene and She & Him.

This year’s lineup brought in even more heavy hitters, such as TV on the Radio, The Hold Steady, Cat Power, Deerhunter, !!! and The Low Anthem.

As with Bonnaroo, I attended the festivities with my good friend, Drew. Originally, I was pretty psyched about the festival. But, in the months leading up to it, I tried to get out of it. I realized that I really didn’t care about any of the bands on the bill. I knew a lot of the groups had strong followings and made decent music, but none of them really got my juices flowing.

Eventually, I relented and agreed to join Drew for a weekend in the Gateway City.

We arrived at our hotel — located very close to the Arch — in the middle of the afternoon, hopped on the Metrolink and found a shuttle that dropped us a short walk from the entrance to the festival grounds.

We picked up our wristbands, waltzed easily through the main gate and made our way to within a cozy distance of the Orange Stage, where Surfer Blood had just started their set.

While we’re both fans of the Florida quartet, the music didn’t keep our rapt attention, so we moseyed around the grounds, checking things out and perusing the Nosh Pit (which was full of quality cuisine).

Next up was supposed to be The Hold Steady, but they were pushed into the final slot of the night after originally scheduled headliner The Roots wound up stuck on the East Coast because of Hurricane Irene.

The Roots’ drummer ?uestlove had made it to town and ended up playing a DJ set — which Drew and I found rather boring. After that came our top draw of the night, Deerhunter. We had seen Brandon Cox & Co. at Bonnaroo — actually, Drew saw them, while I sat off to the side not paying much attention — and were looking forward to another killer set.

I’ll admit that I’ve always had a disdain for Deerhunter; their music just didn’t do it for me. But this weekend’s set may have officially turned me. Standing 20-30 feet from the stage, I found myself grooving out to most of the band’s tunes — even though I wasn’t familiar with any of them.

The most enjoyable part of the show was watching the bassist play. He rarely looked down at his fingers as he strummed his guitar, and he was wearing a perpetual shit-eating grin on his face. As Drew put it, “He looks like he’s dreaming of kiddie porn.”

It's hard to tell in this photo, but Deerhunter bassist Joshua Fauver is recalling that one time he was a department store Santa.

While I wasn’t having a bad time, my feet were getting tired, so, about 40 minutes into the set, I parted ways with Drew and headed for the picnic table area. It turned out to be a wise decision as the band played more than an hour then played a few songs in an encore.

By the time Drew joined me at the tables, we were both pretty worn out. But we decided to stick it out for a little while to listen to The Hold Steady. Having enjoyed several of their mid-career albums, I was looking forward to the set, while the uninformed Drew had very little interest in the group.

As it turned out, Drew’s pessimism was contagious and we just made fun of the first half of the uninspiring set before deciding to leave and find a place to dine.

When Sunday rolled around, we were in no hurry to get to the festival too early. We met up with one of Drew’s old friends for lunch before heading to The Loop neighborhood for a couple of hours of dawdling.

By the time we reached the park, Das Racist was on, and we chose to just lied on the grass outside the fences and listen to our iPods for a while before heading in to check out !!!. I had no real interest in seeing the confusingly named group and just relaxed in various spots far from the stage.

Drew found a spot relatively close to the stage and apparently had a gay ole time.

After re-convening, we both noted that we had very little interest in Cat Power. So we decided to load up on supplies (i.e. food and beer) and stake out a spot for the closing act, TV on the Radio.

We ended up getting a great vantage point — about 12-15 rows deep, directly in line with lead singer Tunde Adebimpe.

I was finally able to snap a decent pic during one of the show's few mellow moments.

While I’ve listened to the band’s last three albums and liked them for the most part, I’m admittedly not a big TVOTR fan. However, I recognize a handful of their songs and I knew they’d put on a great show, so I was pretty pumped.

I wasn’t disappointed. As the rest of the band members played their instruments expertly, Adebimpe was full of energy and had the crowd bouncing from the opening number — “The Wrong Way”.

While “Will Do” was the first song I recognized, it wasn’t until “Young Liars” that they had totally pulled me in. About halfway through the set, guitarist David Andrew Sitek had attached a chime to his axe — something I’d never before seen, nor imagined.

It was also about this time that I turned around to discover that many of the beach balls that had been flying around the crowd had been deposited directly behind me. I took a quick count and saw eight or nine of them lying between me and some attractive lass.

Her response to the collection: “Those balls were all in my face, and I’m sick of it. I didn’t come here to play volleyball.”

Back to the music, the band closed with a rousing rendition of “Wolf Like Me”. They returned quickly for a four-song encore that included such solid numbers as “DLZ” and “Dancing Choose”. My only gripe was that they didn’t close the encore with a well-known song and they didn’t even perform “Golden Age”, the first single from their penultimate album, Dear Science.

But as Drew tweeted at one point, “TV on the Radio is making every other band seem completely pointless.” And the show definitely made the entire weekend totally worthwhile.

As for the festival itself, I think it has a great future. Set in a gem of a park, it was totally low-key and relaxing. The lineup was solid, and the price of admission was relatively cheap. And the way things were arranged, a person could easily set up camp just outside of the fenced-in grounds and get nearly the same experience.

I’d love to see the event continue to grow and prosper. I only hope it does so organically and doesn’t become too big for its own good.

One of my favorite things about the festival was this nifty can cozy with a handle that I purchased for $3. Totally worth it.

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August 26, 2011

81 – The Phoenix Foundation

Filed under: New Zealand, P — assman41 @ 2:42 pm

With a name like The Phoenix Foundation, it doesn’t matter how good or bad your music is, you’re assured of maintaining at least a moderate level of indie cred.

As it turns out, this four-piece from Wellington, New Zealand, just happens to make some pretty catchy progressive indie-rock.

Formed in 1997 while the core members were still in high school, The Phoenix Foundation take their name from cult-favorite TV show, “MacGyver” – it’s the name of the mysterious organization that employs the title character.

Starting with three members and doubling in size a few years later, the band put out its first full-length album, Horsepower, in 2003. It included such singles as “This Charming Van” and “Let Me Die a Woman”.

Two years later came Pegasus, which went gold in New Zealand. By 2007, with their popularity growing, The Phoenix Foundation had signed with a U.S. label and released Happy Ending. Its big single is “Bright Grey” — which is a very solid song — but my favorite is, by far, “40 Years”.

The Phoenix Foundation – 40 Years

This paved the way for what is easily the band’s best album to date, 2010’s Buffalo. It’s loaded with great songs from all sorts of influences. Some of the top tracks are “Pot” and “Bitte Bitte”. But they pale in comparison to the title track.

The Phoenix Foundation – Buffalo

Another great song on the disc is “Orange & Mango”, which displays a totally different version of the band’s sound that can be heard on a few of its songs. It harkens back to the days of ’70s AM radio.

The Phoenix Foundation – Orange & Mango

In addition to the albums and three EP releases, The Phoenix Foundation have provided original soundtracks to two different New Zealand-based movies — 2007’s Eagle Vs. Shark and 2010’s Boy.

It doesn’t seem as if they have ever toured the United States. But if they ever do make their way over here, I’ll be sure to snatch up some tickets.

August 17, 2011

80 – Pete and The Pirates

Filed under: England, P — assman41 @ 6:33 pm

80 – Pete and the Pirates

Sounding like any number of indie-rock/pop bands from across the pond, Pete & The Pirates aren’t necessarily going to be winning any awards for originality. But that doesn’t make their music any less enjoyable.

The five-piece from Reading formed in 2006, releasing their first single the next year and their first album, Little Death, in February 2008. The disc is full of decent tracks, as well as a few standouts, including “Knots” and “Mr. Understanding” — the latter can be heard prominently during the first few seasons of the hilarious British comedy, The Inbetweeners.

Pete & The Pirates – Mr. Understanding

While most bands today seem to put out a new album every couple of years, P&TP waited a little longer, not releasing their follow-up until May of this year. During its hiatus, the band, apparently, did some experimenting with its sound.

The new album, One Thousand Pictures, ventures into several different genres. The opening track, “Can’t Fish”, has a psychedelic feel, and, vocally, it’s one of several songs on the disc that has a slight She Wants Revenge vibe.

A lot of the songs are slower than the first album, including “Cold Black Kitty”, “Washing Powder”, “Blood Gets Thin” and “Shotgun”.

While this disc is a little harder to get into, a lot of the songs are decent, including “Come To the Bar” — which has a bit of a Devo quality to it but is mildly catchy — and the closing track, “Half Moon Street” — easily the tightest song on the album, it almost sounds like it’s performed by a totally different band.

Pete & The Pirates – Come To the Bar

Pete & The Pirates – Half Moon Street

August 11, 2011

79 – Little Brazil

Filed under: L, Omaha Neb. — assman41 @ 4:44 pm

Try finding information on the band Little Brazil, and the results are spotty at best. Wikipedia has a brief entry on the group, with nearly as much red text as black. Amazon. com will try to sell you their albums, but it doesn’t give you many details about the band or its work.

As far as Metacritic is concerned, the band doesn’t even exist.

The fact that this four-piece from Omaha, Neb., is so unknown should be criminal. It’s as good as any indie-rock/emo band on the charts today.

Little Brazil – Brighton Beach

According to Wikipedia, the group formed in 2002. It was created by lead singer Landon Hedges — formerly of The Good Life and Desaparecidos — as an outlet for his solo work. He eventually recorded some other Omaha-based musicians and put out a self-title EP in 2004.

They followed that with their first full-length, You and Me, in 2005. I was only able to listen to a few briefs snippets, but it sounded pretty solid. According to the iTunes review, it’s like a brighter version of Sebadoh.

On Tighten the Noose, the band’s 2007 sophomore release, Little Brazil have a very rockish-emo sound. They are similar to Jimmy Eat World — in style, not sound — and they occasionally display influences from early ’90s shoegazers such as Dinosaur Jr.

Little Brazil – Last Night

Their most recent release, 2009’s Son, Hedges takes his storytelling to a new level as he chronicles the rise and fall of a marriage.

The album’s opener, the above-linked “Brighton Beach”, includes a guitar solo that conjures up thoughts of VHS or Beta. It’s followed by a pair of solid tunes, “Whats the Problem” and the title track.

All of the songs on the album are quality, but another standout toward the end is the annoyingly spelled “Seperated”, which has a twang to it that gives it a slight Wilco vibe.

Little Brazil – Seperated

It’s too bad this album came out two years ago — it’d be a shoe-in for my best of ’11 list. According to the band’s MySpace page, it is testing out some new stuff in concert, which hopefully means a new release isn’t far off.

August 5, 2011

78 – The Head and The Heart

Filed under: H, Seattle — assman41 @ 3:26 pm

From time to time, I will attend a concert in which I’m looking forward to the opening act more than the headliner.

In fact, it just happened a few months ago when I saw Yuck precede Tame Impala at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. I only made it through a couple of songs before I walked out on the headliner.

But no matter how much I liked the “smaller” band, I can, at the very least, always remember the main act.

That wasn’t the case when I saw The Head and The Heart last year. During a free show under the Space Needle in their hometown of Seattle, THATH so overshadowed the other groups, that I had no recollection who they were opening for. (As it turns out, the headliner was Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band.)

The Head and The Heart – Down In the Valley

The six-piece has drawn a lot of comparisons to bands such as Fleet Foxes, The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons. But I think their most similar contemporary might be Dawes.

THATH released their self-produced, self-titled debut in 2010. Then, after a heated battle for their services, they signed with Sub Pop Records, which remastered and re-released the album in April of this year.

The Head and The Heart – Lost In My Mind

One of the notable things about THATH’s best songs is the way they slowly unfold. About halfway through the 5-minute-long “Down In the Valley”, the song changes course, picks up the pace and gets really good.  (Sidenote: Considering my current profession in the newspaper business, I particularly like the line “… wish I was a slave to an age-old trade.”)

“Lost In My Mind” doesn’t pick up until the 1:30 mark. And in another strong ditty, “Sounds Like Hallelujah”, it isn’t until the 1:40 mark that the song alters course and becomes more enjoyable.

The Head and The Heart – Sounds Like Hallelujah

They’ve been in Chicago a couple of times this summer, and I just missed seeing them when they opened for The Decemberists. But they’ll be back in town in October, so I may have to make a special trip over to the Windy City.

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