Category Archives: music

Concert reviews, albums, artists, and music events.

Okkervil River @ ASU

People crowd the stage in the warm night.

People crowd the stage in the warm night.

Last night Okkervil River played a free show for Arizona State University students. Getting to see a band voted high on the best new music for free doesn’t get much sweeter.

I only saw the second opening band, a local group called Austin Gibbs — named for the lead singer. Gibbs was plesent enough and a good chillout before the main attraction, but his songs struck me as accutely two-dimensional. Most of them were love-related, cliche songs that really didn’t push the envelope lyrically or musically. Still, it was good to lie in the grass and just bob heads to.

Okkervil River, however, was amazing. This band has garnered a lot of attention from music critics and, while I can’t say I love every song, the live set was great. Their music has a surpising amount of intrumental depth that I never noticed until actually seeing all the intruments.

The crowd enthusiasm added to the experience too. Unlike most free concerts, which tend to attract a mostly apathetic crowd, people showed some real following for the band, belting out lyrics and clapping along through the entire show.

Okkervil River @ ASU

Okkervil River @ ASU

The set was shorter than most concerts — only a bit over an hour for the headliner. But the length seemed fine, and Okkervil played their most recognizable collection. Also, an encore was guarunteed — as my friend pointed out, “you know they’re coming back out; they haven’t used their mandolin yet!”

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McDowell Mountain Music Fesitval = The Flaming Lips

The Love Blisters cover "Flight Test." (Photo by Phoenix New Times)

The Love Blisters cover "Flight Test." (Photo by Phoenix New Times)

I just saw The Love Blisters play The Flaming Lips’s “Flight Test” for the Phx New Times.

Now I’m beyond excited for the McDowell Mountain Music Festival!

The Flaming Lips: paragons of showmanship.

The Flaming Lips: paragons of showmanship.

I’ll admit, The Flaming Lips are the majority of my reason for going (please let Wayne Coyne dress as either an alien or a bunny rabbit). But the whole festival seemed a bit expensive: “$50 for tickets to a music festival when I only want to see one band.” After pondering the lineup a bit longer, I’ve assured myself this will be a solid day of music — including rumors of a drum circle.

For those not acquainted with The Flaming Lips, GET ACQUAINTED! I say this mostly because I’ve tried before to describe the sonic gestalt that is The Flaming Lips and failed miserably. Suffice it to say, if you’re into anything from dream-poppy bliss to obscurely happy punk-rock, this band could be for you. They’ve been around for 25+ years; background shouldn’t be required at this point.

They seem to like orbs a lot.

They seem to like orbs a lot.

Afro-Cuban All-Stars @ MAC

The Afro-Cuban All-Stars: jazz meets polyrhythms...and has a beautiful child.

The Afro-Cuban All-Stars: jazz meets polyrhythms...and has a beautiful child.

The Afro-Cuban All-Stars, an amazing afro-jazz band led by the Juan de Marcos, vocalist and member of the Buena Vista Social Club, are playing at Mesa Arts Center TONIGHT!!!

I can’t make it out, but anyone with $27 burning a hole in their pocket would be well served to spend it now. If you’re into anything jazzy, funky, or ethnic-y, go for it.

Also, if anyone grabs photos or would like to contribute with a review/story, e-mail me and we’ll post it!

Tera Melos and The Wizards of Time — the goldilocks effect

Last night, Tera Melos, a band arguably on the bleeding edge of experimental rock music, played a show at Modified Arts in Phoenix.  I was there to experience the proto-melody madness, but found myself preferring a local opening band more.

I always enjoy Modified Arts as a venue—intimate, urban and distinctly artsy (this is an art gallery after all).  I’ve had good luck with band here too.  Two years ago, I was part of a crowd of about 15 people who came to Modified for Vampire Weekend.  They even invited a member of the crowd, which turned out to be me, to come up on stage and play the congas with them.  Not more than six months later, Vampire Weekend became overnight hit.  They appeared on every prominent blog and music chart, topping out with the release of their first, critically acclaimed album last year.

Now whenever I go for a under-ten-bucks show, I expect something big.  Tera Melos was definitely big with experimental elements—maybe too big.  While they set up, the three band members hauled out wooden boards filled with 10 or more loop peddles and effects boxes on each—impressive but excessive.

I don’t doubt the skill involved in managing so many peddles, but Tera Melos’s no-holds-barred style was too much.  They alternated between random, hard-to-hear samples and oppressive walls of noise.  Just when you thought you’d found the rhythm, they would take it away with a blast of screeching sound.

how many peddles are too many?

how many peddles are too many?

As for the crowd, a small group used the chaotic chorus to demonstrate a new type of moshing I’ve seen at a few shows lately.  It involves simply flailing around.  I’ll call it spaz-moshing.

I’ve been to experimental concerts before and I find the trick to a well executed set is control.  Deerhoof, for example, was an awesome show.  They came to the Clubhouse last semester.  They balance their technical and experimental themes with tight coordination and control.  Perhaps this comes with being a more established and longer-lived.

more peddles?

more peddles?

In retrospect, the band before Tera Melos saved the show for me.  The Wizards of Time, a local band that sounded nothing like Tera Melos, excited me from the start.  During their setup, they brought a homely lamp out on the stage.  Questions abounded.  Would they use it as an instrument?  Was it some kind of gimmick?  Could this be the pioneer group for lamp-rock?!

lamp-rock?!

lamp-rock?!

As it turned out, the lamp was simply aethetic, but The Wizards of Time held their own musically, blending folky themes and eccentric elements like kazoo interludes.  It was as much fun to watch as listen.