I was rather absent from this blog a few weeks back. I hope to make amends for this egregious error in presence over the coming days and weeks. I did well last week to post five times. So far, this week has been more of the same.
The funny thing was that during my brief hiatus, I tried to write several times. However, I just couldn’t muster the ideas or time to finish my thinking. Below are snippets from a few of those lost posts…
I actually didn’t write a thing for this post. I just remember sitting around, waiting for a shipment from LetsPour after receiving several packages from Insound. When one lives in a smallish city, two hours from any major (or mid-sized) city, mail and UPS often provide a respite from small-town drudgery. I may still write this post as I get at least one Insound shipment every-other week and am always contemplating another order from LetsPour.
[untitled] – I thought for sure I published this, but a quick search of my archives suggests otherwise. Here’s what I had…
No, this isn’t about the nostalgia drummed up by Pitchfork TV’s documentary about Modest Mouse’s 1997 album The Lonesome Crowded West. Rather this is a bit o’ nostalgia over the West Coast IPA, the style of beer arguably most responsible for starting this whole American craft beer boom than any other. IPA’s alone are quickly taking the place of pale ales and lagers as craft brewery flagship beers, but the West Coast IPA set the standard. It took me a while to come back to these beers. Before “getting into craft beer”, I was drinking quite a few IPA’s. Then, I discovered the DIPA/Imperial IPA and I was blown away. Boundaries were pushed. If a beer wasn’t approaching double-digits in ABV and triple digits in IBU’s, it didn’t interest me. From there it was sours, imperial stouts, numerous Belgian styles, and so on. The more “extreme” the better. Somehow the unbalanced West Coast IPA was too ordinary, almost a session beer. Then, Missouri saw an influx of West Coast breweries enter the state. Lagunitas, Stone, Green Flash, Deschutes, Caldera, etc. all came to the Show-Me state with IPA’s in tow. So, our shelves and taps…
Summer Melts Pretentiousness Away
Something happens every summer where all the normal stresses are lifted. The world feels fresh and new again. Of course, having worked in education for 15 years means that summer is vacation time or at least a slower work time. Still, the summer seems to melt away all those things we are typically preoccupied with that don’t really matter.
Beer and rock ‘n roll are two of those things that lose a lot of pretentiousness when warmer weather rolls around. Beer somehow becomes lighter and colder, often consumed straight from the can or bottle. Rock music becomes less complex and…
Explaining I Have to Do
There are good reasons for my absence. – That’s where it ended.
Imperialist Pale Ale
The legend of the IPA has been told and retold and corrected and told again. So, I won’t go there. Instead, I’ll write a bit about a favorite beer and a nice meal prepared by a friend.
I mention imperialism in the title ’cause it’s on my mind. I posted this link making fun of British athletic prowess or, more specifically, their lack of athletic prowess. I directed the jab at some British friends who quickly came to the Queen’s jocks’ defense, but I countered by pointing out their imperialist history. Long story short, the thread fizzled from there.
This evening, our friend Srirupa prepared a wonderful Indian feast for us. I chose to pair the meal with…well, what else? An India Pale Ale. – I honestly can’t remember which IPA I had that night.
My beer club met Sunday afternoon to sample some lambics, sours, and a few fruit beers. I can only assume the inclusion of “fruit beers” was to give our tongues a break and to hopefully not scare away those who feel intimidated by sour beer.
I’ve Got Style, Miles and Miles
So much style that it’s wasted.
A nice discussion happened on Twitter and was picked up at A Good Beer Blog over style and whether or not it even matters. It seems the limitations of textbook style can be frustrating. Either we’re disregarding entire collections of beers that don’t match our own style preferences or we’re left with beers we don’t know what to do with because it doesn’t fit a particular style. Either way, style can be limiting.
Beer styles are like musical genres. They are both based on key characteristics that make it easy to categorize a beer or band, respectively. However, beer and music rarely stick to prescribed style and genre guidelines. You pigeonhole something so that you either limit its uses or never even give it a try in the first place.
There’s one thing we should all remember in the instance where style or genre stops all thinking: Constructs were built to be torn down.
That’s not to say that style doesn’t serve a purpose. It’s a neat compartment which one can place a beer. It’s shorthand for describing what you like (or dislike). Genre does the same for music…
So, what do you think? Are any of these worth revisiting?
I had a lot of ideas for blogging post-Pitchfork, but figured most of you would just want a rundown of the bands. Included are a few of the pictures that actually turned out. I’m decent with close-up angles and whatnot, but I can’t get the hang of the zoom, holding still, or context from a distance. So, there are very few good pictures to share .
So, without further ado, here’s my take on this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival…
The train actually arrived somewhat on time for me to catch a cab to my hotel and make the Metro with enough of a window to make The Tallest Man on Earth’s set (or at least part of it). However, I soon realized my ticket was still in my hotel room. So, I missed the first performer on my list to see. No worries as it gave me time to figure out the festival layout, grab some food, drink a beer, and buy a Pitchfork t-shirt for my child.
First up for me was Liars. Something can be said for a man in a sleeveless Men At Work t-shirt providing deep, foreboding vocals over a dark, punk rawk onslaught. Well, the t-shirt was a one-time thing, me thinks, but the rest of it was all Liars. They absolutely assaulted the crowd with their uneasy, tension-heavy, Slint-like dirges. I don’t know what it is, but dark, ominous bands like this work for outdoor summer music festivals. The contrast is striking. They don’t give a shit as their pale skin burns in the sun and the band expects nothing less than for the audience to pay attention, bobbing heads to the beat of their somber message. To say the least, it was a quite a start to the weekend.
For something lighter, I headed to the Balance stage for the comedic stylings of Wyatt Cenac – yes, that Wyatt Cenac. Before the Daily Show correspondent came on, Hannibal Burress was wrapping up. He was comfortable and fluid, even at ease with the crowd of music fans and hipsters. Then, Cenac came out. He started slow and built some momentum before he completely flopped. Something changed. I don’t know whether a joke missed or what, but Cenac just sort of stuttered through the rest of his bit. I chose to move on instead of watching this sinking ship.
I opted to skip Robyn and wait over at the Connector stage for Broken Social Scene to commence. And commence they did as the current line-up bounced around their catalog seamlessly. They were much more focused than the last time I caught them. Of course, the set times at a festival such as Pitchfork mean more concise setlists. Still, BSS were a lot of fun. That was apparent as they started with new rocker “World Sick” but followed it with the BSS classic “Stars and Sons”. The set was about as perfect as could be expected.
Modest Mouse closed out the first day on the main stage, also known as the Aluminum. I was beat from the day’s travel, so I hung back to for the set. As I wore a 13-year-old Modest Mouse t-shirt, I remembered the days of seeing this band in small clubs. I appreciate those opportunities so much more now as Modest Mouse has long ago made the transition to this sort of stage and spot in a festival lineup. Funny, the one song that probably put them in that position (“Float On”) was not a part of the setlist, but “Dramamine” was and I was taken back to the show where I bought that t-shirt in a club with washing machines in Cincinnati. It reminded me that I still like Modest Mouse, possibly more out of a feeling of nostalgia than anything they record these days. Either way, it was a nice way to close out the evening.
I beat the crowd and searched out a bar with a nice tap and bottle list. I sipped a Two Brothers Hop Juice which was the perfect antidote for a road-weary traveler. I liked the beer so much that I made a point to bring a bomber home, among several other select brews. More on all that in a future post.
This was my first full day in the city, so I intended to take advantage. Near Union Park where the festival was being held, there was a restaurant/bar called Twisted Spoke. A graveyard of motorcycles sat out front, but inside was an impressive bar with even a more impressive beer selection. The list was so good that I contemplated hanging around for a late morning beer or at least a return for beers in the evening. However, it was not in the cards. Instead, I loaded up on calories with a passable breakfast burrito. Still, the Twisted Spoke will be on the list for my next Chicago trip, whenever that is.
There were a lot of early performers on Saturday’s lineup I wanted to at least catch a glance so as to form a more complete opinion of their work. First up was Netherfriends, a Chicago band whose releases are put out on the Columbia, MO label Emergency Umbrella. They were much sharper in my opinion than last summer’s EU showcase. I made sure to catch Free Energy over on the Aluminum stage and just couldn’t get into the cheesy hippie vibe they were selling. Think of every cheesy pop-rock hit of the 70’s and 80’s and there you have Free Energy. It’s funny how recycled sounds in music are often confused for innovation.
Real Estate took over Connector. What came out was a pleasant surprise as they recalled my entire college years of going to see bands trying to emulate Pavement with their oddly hooky melodies and odder guitar tunings. They were good enough to make my list of bands with LP’s to purchase. Part way through, I caught a moment or two of Sonny & the Sunsets at Balance…but I really don’t remember much. They were poppy, entertaining, sort of doo-wop retro or something. They weren’t as annoying as Free Energy, but they also weren’t as memorable either. So, I returned for the rest of Real Estate’s stellar set.
I watched a couple of pointless minutes of Delorean before heading to Balance for Kurt Vile. Where Real Estate reminded me of the local bands I used to see and love, Vile reminded me of many of my nineties heroes. With his long hair in his face, shoegazing, I was reminded on several occasions of another Kurt. His form of garage rock made me think of everything from the hinted-at Nirvana to Guided By Voices to Dinosaur Jr. Kurt Vile’s catalog certainly deserves a closer listen than the one EP I currently own.
Sadly, I had to leave Vile’s set early in order to catch the opening of Titus Andronicus’ Connector performance. Although leaving before Vile completed was unfortunate, it was well-worth it as Titus put on one of the more impassioned sets of the festival. I knew they would be a great live band, but it was even better than expected. Luckily, the next act on Connector was another rawk outfit in The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. JSBX was in mid-nineties form and quite possibly was the best-dressed act of the weekend. The band ripped through a mixture of the old and newish, showing the kids what rock ‘n roll is all about. The last two times I had seen them, they played too little (about 10 minutes) and way too much (somewhere in the ballpark of 2.5 hours). So, it was great to hear/see a blistering sub-hour-long set from the old men of rawk.
I quickly made it over to a rather crowded Aluminum stage for Wolf Parade’s turn. I’ve loved this band for a while and have greatly anticipated seeing them. Keeping the pace set by Titus and JSBX (sans a brief and awkward interruption from former Wu Tanger Raekwon), Wolf Parade did not disappoint, opting for little banter and preferring to just play. The cool synth sounds of Spencer Krug balanced perfectly with Dan Boeckner’s rock licks. This was something I’ve always known, but it actually translated live in the early evening sun.
Originally, my plan at this point was to skip the last two acts and hit a brewery, but the long day took it’s toll. I opted instead to stay for Panda Bear and LCD Soundsystem. Panda Bear was interesting, even somewhat enjoyable. However, it was a bit of a snore for an outdoor music festival. LCD Soundsystem, on the other hand, were really pretty good, revealing to me their appeal. LCD is a rock band making dance music or DJ’s making rock music or something like that. Anyway, I enjoyed much of their set, but had to sneak out early in preparation for day 3.
Day 3 was easily the best day of the festival. Besides the headliner, the day was loaded with the best buzz bands and most eclectic mix. I spent more time at the Balance stage than the first two days as its lineup was packed with interesting bands all day long. At some point, sacrifices had to be made.
I saw very little of CAVE, a Chicago band with Columbia connections, due to a 20 minute thunderstorm which wreaked havoc on the stage’s sound system. The stage was running behind for the rest of the day. With CAVE’s late start, I decided to head over to see Allá. Despite the Latin flair in their promotional material, I didn’t catch much of a Latin presence aside from three of the band member’s perceived ethnicity. What I did detect is some good, old-fashioned grunge. This band would have thrived circa 1992. Sunday, they were good enough to demand some attention. I later returned to see CAVE’s rather impressive finale.
At this point, the dance between stages had only begun. I moved between sets by Cass McCombs (think Elvis Costello pop sensibility in front of a garage band), Best Coast (surprisingly great), Girls (infinitely better than the last time I saw them), Local Natives (White Rabbits with more punch and harmonizing, if that’s possible), Beach House (more below), Lightning Bolt (freakishly entertaining), and Surfer Blood (also see below).
I bought the first Beach House record and haven’t really gone back for more. The record was good, but I didn’t really grasp what they were doing that was so great. This year’s release was getting a fair amount of pub, so I made a point to check them out on Sunday. I’m glad I did as their sets was easily one of the top five of the festival. The music reminded me of Cat Power, pre-R&B obsession and without all the crazy. I get their appeal now. Beach House won me over this weekend.
Another band I was not sold on was Surfer Blood. Their debut was fine enough, but I wasn’t sure what it was doing. Was it alt.country? Was it straight-up rock similar to Soft Pack? Was it bland adult-alternative crap? Their live show cleared up the confusion. More than almost any other band in this year’s lineup (along with Real Estate), Surfer Blood reminded me of Pavement. The vocals were more American-meets-Manchester and the musicianship may have been better, but it was very Pavement-esque. They’re not a Pavement clone, but they’ve gleaned enough to make some pretty compelling rock music.
This was the point in the day I made a decision. I didn’t need to see any other band besides Pavement. I skipped out on Here We Go Magic, a band I was really wanting to see. I did this just so I could set up shop 10-15 feet from the Aluminum stage where Pavement would play three hours later. From this spot, I “watched” St. Vincent tear up the Connector stage. She was really impressive, much more so than when I saw her open for Andrew Bird, but I didn’t leave my spot. I survived Major Lazer and waited through Big Boi just to stay near the stage.
Before moving on, I have to write something about Major Lazer. Major Lazer is a DJ, hype man, and various dancers. That hype man and the two featured female dancers simulated sex on stage while downing copious amounts of alcohol. I’m no prude, but this was some raunchy-ass shit. We’re talking doggy-style, legs wrapped around waists, and even sexual acts involving one participant launching himself from a ladder onto his “dance partner”. Of course, the music is sexually charged as anything I’ve heard. Whatever. It was highly entertaining. I can’t say that I’m a Major Lazer fan, but it could have been worse.
It was as if they had never left. The band, somehow frozen in time, took the stage in their customary positions – SM on the left, Ibold center-stage, Spiral Stairs on the right, Nasty & West in the back – and promptly false-started their first song. The second try at “Cut Your Hair” went much smoother. This was exactly as I remember my favorite band even after eleven years of silence. They were perfectly imperfect from the beginning. There’s so much more for me to say about Pavement that won’t fit in this post. I’ll do another just on their set later this week. Just know that it was as good as advertised. I can’t wait to see them again in September.
That was my weekend. I had some time on Monday to wander Chicago and grab some more beer to take home. The train was over an hour behind schedule, but that didn’t dampen my mood. There will be more on Pavement and Chicago’s status as a beer destination later this week. So, stay tuned. In the meantime, read through the footnotes.
1And I use the term “good pictures” rather loosely.
2This is where I am in my life now. I buy rock concert t-shirts for my kid. It’s no longer about me proving to everyone how rock ‘n roll I am. It’s now about proving to everyone how rock ‘n roll my kid is. I don’t know whether it’s pathetic or sweet.
3He claimed to have a gig with Saturday Night Live. I believed him, but I thought for sure Lorne Michaels had a one-black-dude limit. I could be wrong though.
4I think it had to do with the noise from the other stages.
5If I want pop, I’ll go to a Brittney concert. Seriously, from what I could hear, it was downright awful. Of course, I know some dudes who would disagree.
6Although, Brendan Canning looked like a middle-aged woman with his slightly over-sized glasses, bright tank top, and feathered hairdo. Kevin Drew looked like a skinnier, younger Jeff Tweedy in his panama and sunglasses. Still, they were quite excellent musically.
7This breaks maybe the biggest rule in my concert-going rulebook. You should never be that guy who wears a band t-shirt for the band you are seeing. However, I considered two facts as exceptions to the rule. First, this t-shirt, along with JSBX and Pavement t-shirts worn the next two days, is more than a decade old, featuring bands from my college days. Second, outdoor summer festivals have different rules in general regarding such things. I believe I was well-within my right to wear these t-shirts.
8I will not lose any sleep over this fact.
9It’s called Sudsy Malones. I had a beard and wore a thrift store sweater like every day back then. We actually got to meet Isaac Brock that night. He offered us beers, giving three of us one and keeping one for himself as he hit on a female companion of ours and our brother’s roommate who had similar Buddhist-inspired tattoos as Brock.
10Encores were put in place for old people like myself to slip out before the kids clog the exits.
11My beer adventures were not that impressive on this trip, but I do have an impression as to what kind of beer city Chicago is.
12I really wanted a Founders Cerise, but figured 11:00 am was too early for a beer. And with the temperatures expected in the 90’s, getting an early start with the alcohol was not the best of ideas.
13Yes, I do recognize that many of the bands I praise on this blog do the same thing. However, they often emulate bands I also like. So, reinvention is great when it’s something worth recycling.
14Mentioning this band will undoubtedly get me some SPAM comments from real estate agents. I was able to Tweet one thing about Real Estate and I now have real estate agents from all over the country following me.
15In all fairness, Delorean played really hard. They just aren’t my cup of tea. I’m OK with synth music and music intended for dance clubs. I just don’t like a lot of it disguised as an indie band. Is that close-minded? Probably. Do I care? Not really.
16I realized that Vile toured with Dinosaur Jr upon purchasing a concert poster in the fest’s gallery of poster makers. It’s a Dinosaur Jr poster featuring a wine bottle just before it is de-corked. Kurt Vile is listed as an opener.
17The EP isn’t terrible. It’s just full of a tracks that sound like he’s fucking around. Vile’s live show is way more compelling than fucking around.
18Although I am not anti-keyboards, I grow weary of them after a while. Just play some guitar, dammit.
19I am particularly talking about Jon’s pants. He wore black vinyl with neon green stitching and he owned those pants.
20Oddly enough, that show was also a summer festival in a major city, sponsored by an entertainment rag. It was the inaugural Village Voice Siren Festival on Coney Island.
21OK. I am also not anti-hip hop. I love the Wu and a lot of other hip hop acts. I just often have a hard time with alt rock festivals throwing some hip hop acts into the lineup and then watching a bunch of middle-class white kids getting all gangsta for an hour. It’s fine if it’s your thing. I’m just not that into it.
22But it allowed me to check out some of the vendors a little more closely. I picked up the 33⅓ take on Wowee Zowee which I digested on the train ride back to Missouri.
23Lightning Bolt is two dudes. One plays bass. The other plays drums with some sort of mask. There’s a mic inside the mask which muffles everything the drumming screamed over their music. Oh, and they played ridiculously fast. If you ever get a chance to see them live, do it.
25Almost to the point that he was by himself, playing toward his band mates.
26I suspect this was a lot easier to read than past posts, given that I now have added anchored footnotes. Thanks David for the idea.