Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Orbital Encounter at the Asheville Airport

Paul, Paul, Me & Phil
Back home après Sandy without power in CT for two days now.  But things could be much worse of course, as tales of loss of home, business and even life are recounted on the news.  Thankful for our neighbors with generators and one house at the other end of the road has electricity so I went there to finish my extensive Moogfest write up and get it off to PopMatters. 

La Guardia Airport is under water, so if we didn’t rent a car to drive back we’d still be in Charlotte.  We had tried to change our tickets to an earlier flight on Sunday when it looked like the hurricane would mess things up in NYC, but that would have thwarted our latest encounter at the Asheville Regional Airport.  This small hub never disappoints us after a weekend of Moogfest revelry.  Our first year we traveled with members of Neon Indian and last year we were asked to vouch for Brian Eno to help him through security. This time we sat down for some lunch in the one and only restaurant, and spied Phil and Paul Hartnoll of Orbital across the way with their own entourage. 

It always seems that Paul Seymour, being a musician, always says the right thing with a cool vibe.  I am “just a fan” and get very star struck, running at the mouth with stream of consciousness ramblings that rarely have anything to do with anything.  (For interviews I write all my questions down after careful research, so that experience doesn’t count!)  So I let Paul go over and say hello, as we’d probably be going to be on the same small plane later anyway.  I could tell the guys were smiling at each other and conversation flowed as Paul introduced himself and I tried not to stare.  Paul came back to report that indeed we’d be on going to the same gate and they’d be happy to take a photo with us there. 

At first I took a picture of Paul with Paul and Phil but then Phil called over one of their traveling buddies to take a photo of all four of us and I could hand over my phone as well.  Can hardly remember what I said but it was something about the great show the night before and how we went to the top row of back bleachers and could see that absolutely everyone in the packed arena was dancing along, including us. And how the impromptu jam during the "Shaping Hits With Moog Hits" panel earlier in the day was inspired fun (video below or on Youtube here).

As we were going through the line to show our boarding passes, they were both asked if they were “willing and able” to assist as they were seated in the emergency exit row.  Phil joked that he was hiding under a jacket but lifted it up and thrust his hips forward to show that he was ready for action.  When asked the same question, Paul said quietly how he was a good screamer, ah that wickedly good British wit. Our little plane went up into the heavy layer of black clouds buzzing big time with propellers working overtime.  I could see some rain drops coming down between bits of white flakes, as the mountains grew smaller and another adventure laid before us.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Moogfest 2012 Day 2 Highlights

Divine Fits
The second night of Moogfest 2012 started in the arena with a rockin' solid set by Divine Fits, the new band started by Britt Daniels of Spoon and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs.  I was tempted to see them in NYC early in their tour but waiting made it all the more sweeter.  We jumped over to see The Magnetic Field's folky chamber ballads going on in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium (TWA) before going back to the arena for Santigold.  Santi White was pleasantly surprised by all the early Halloween costumes in the crowd while she and her dancers went through their many costume changes. (There were no political costumes which I found strange for a swing state but plenty of Sesame Street characters, although no Big Bird. And note to self, in my next life come back as a Santigold dancer!)

I made sure to catch the beginning of the Thomas Dolby set back in the TWA to see the iconic synth entrepreneur receive the Moog Innovation Award of 2012.  As the third winner of the award (joining Brian Eno last year and Mark Mothersbaugh in 2010) Dolby received a custom Minimoog Voyager, revealed dramatically on stage from under wraps but then it was all about the music.  Dolby rolled out the hits as well as some new songs, saying with a sly smile how he likes to put out albums "every twenty years."

Next up, Electronic Dance Music pioneers Orbital took to the arena stage with their mega act of lights and pulsing beats spanning twenty two years.  Earlier in the day we caught the duo, Paul and Phil Hartnoll, discussing their career at a panel on "Shaping Hits with Moog Synths."  The two bantered like the brothers they are, finishing each other sentences with that British wit.  (There was even an impromtu jam with Chad Hugo of The Neptunes, video here.)  The headlining set pleased the packed crowd, thrilled to be dancing away during this only East Coast stop on the Orbital tour.  Four Tet represented the next generation back in the TWA to close out the night.

Now it's time to figure out a way home with Hurricane Sandy looming large... Crowd photos and video highlights on our Youtube channel here or below.

Peewee & Jambi checking their phones
View at the line at the concession stand
Bob Ross!
P with head Resident
Yip, Yip, Yip, Yip, Yip, Yip, Yip, Yip, family!
One of the many robots in the lobby
Gnomes with lighted hats dancing outside at the end of the night
Moog sign in front of venue

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Moogfest 2012 Day 1 Highlights

Our night began with a walk downtown to find VIP Moogfest pals Terri and Will, a festival friendship rekindled annually.  We caught a bit of the experimental duo Buke & Gase at the Diana Wortham Theatre, but scooted out after few songs in order to catch the entire set of new fave band Bear In Heaven. (Anyone wondering why I'm so enamored with them can just listen their lyrics about dancing in the video highlights on Youtube here or after photos below.)

Enjoying "Synthesizers" at Curate with Will and Terri
Most of the night was then spent hopscotching between the adjoining Civic Center venues with the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and Arena for Miike Snow, Nars, Primus, and Squarepusher.  We set out on a jaunt to the smaller Orange Peel venue for Black Moth Super Rainbow, thankfully bypassing the extremely long line outside with our press credentials.  On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Civic Center to check out Richie Hawtin and Explosions in the Sky.  Got that?  Round two tonight...

This year's wristbands
Miike Snow
Santigold & dancer

Friday, October 26, 2012

Moogfest 2012 Kicks Off

Reviewing the Moogfest handout at Early Girl Eatery
Hello from fantastically funky Asheville, NC for coverage of Moogfest 2012 -- our third venture in such devotion of new music to this weekend festival dedicated to the memory of synth pioneer Robert Moog.  It's sunny and warm here as people are arriving in town, although talk about the weather is all centered on hurricane Sandy churning up the coast.  Last year a freak snow storm hit our hometown, now we're trying not to worry about getting back on Sunday.

After an early arrival yesterday, we returned to Tupelo Honey Café for an all sides dinner of updated classic Southern fare.  Today I was able to keep up the grits every day mantra with lunch at Early Girls Eatery, before a press conference at the Moog Music Factory.  Representatives from Moog Music and AC Entertainment (charged with booking and producing the event) were there along with designers of the Google Doodle in honor of Bob Moog's birthday last May, which is one of the most popular ever.  I noticed lots more merch to shop there this year, always a bonus of a robust marketing effort and a fun way to shop in support of the place.
Paul by Moog Factory
Other changes: I have a festival app on my phone and online you can build a personal schedule to share (ours has lots of cross over, at least there are two of us!)  No more computer chip on wristbands and Paul is sporting an old school laminate to get into the photo pit... here we go!
Guys checking out Google Doodle
Panel at Press Conference
Another shopper...
of merch galore!

LOVE this quote...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Artist Discovery: Sun Airway

Sun Airway (Photo via Dead Oceans)
Here's a simple rule -- when you hear that a new band is on tour with a group you already like, it's a wise move to check them out.  When I read that Sun Airway was traveling with M83, it made me want to delve deeper.  By embracing all things synths with a pop sensibility, M83 has moved on from their solid but small opening festival slot during last year's Moogfest into headlining bigger arenas, with like minded Sun Airway in tow.

Sun Airway's recent release Soft Fall was featured on MTV Hive with an interview with Jon Bauthmus, the Phili-based singer/songwriter who is behind these "electro-acoustic pop productions." As a graphic designer, Bauthmus approaches composition with an artistic eye for chopping up classical music samples. He records them live with the help of an arranger, Joshua Stamper, who would "try and rebuild them into sheet music" (according to Bauthmus). Quite the musical experiment, rendering an unusual sound structure for incorporating strings into the songs.

Take a listen on the MTV Hive webpage or in the mixtape from the Sun Airway Soundcloud page here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dan Croll's "From Nowhere" -- New Song for Next Playlist

Dan Croll's "From Nowhere" caught my ear a while back on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" and I was instantly hooked.  From the opening Casio beat to the melodic, sweetly sung though buried vocals by Croll, it was destined for my next playlist -- opening track in fact.  This debut single from a Liverpudlian barely out of his teens is available on iTunes or other digital outlets.  It's also featured along with some remix treatments on Croll's soundcloud page here.

The official video below shows a group of serious musicians not really taking themselves that seriously, a playful introduction to the sound and the group (it was "captured and cut" by Jack Whiteley). "From Nowhere" makes me want to hear more from the guy, that's for sure.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stereophonics Release Video for New Song "Violins and Tambourines"

There is something about Kelly Jones, lead vocalist and guitarist for the U.K. band Stereophonics.  His singing is both rough and warmly rustic, with a laid back delivery of lyrics yet confidently steadfast in regards to the melody.  I picked a favorite song, "Have a Nice Day," for opening up my Romantic Songs playlist (as a fun project for last Valentine's Day, check out a nice live version on YouTube).  It has such an easy, heartfelt delivery by Jones that captivates me every time.  

So I read with interest that Jones makes his directorial debut with a video for their new song from the upcoming album by the band (their eighth since 1992). "Violins and Tambourines," has an extremely slow build that might seem twice as long without a visual to keep your interest.  But Jones took to the project eagerly, saying how he's loved film and music ever since he was young.  "When I first started writing songs I realized they could paint pictures in your mind, which inevitably leads to telling stories," says Jones. "I've always wanted to combine them both."  Check out his vision and music below.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Grizzly Bear Live Session on

KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" hosted Grizzly Bear recently in a live session and even though there's no video recording, it's still easy to get a sense of how this group collaborates with every song.  During an interview with co-songwriters Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen, KCRW Musical Director Jason Bentley called them "one of the most important bands out there."  It's hard to quibble with that, seeing how their album Shields is climbing all kinds of charts plus the group's lengthy cover story profile in New York Magazine

The members of Grizzly Bear (left to right):
Christopher Bear, Edward Droste, Daniel Rossen and Chris Taylor, photo courtesy of KCRW

The band began with "Sleeping Ute," the expansive composition which confidently serves the role of single for their new album.  Listening to the broadcast brings a new appreciation of how hard each individual musician is working to create their uniquely multi layered indie music. Each instrument has plenty of room to breathe within the arrangements and vocals seem more impassioned in their delivery. Next up was "Half Gate" without barely a pause, a song that builds into a frenzy of electronics until a final buzz.  Drum sticks counted off the beat for "Gun Shy," a laid back tune of intertwining melodies.

During the interview, it was revealed that there's actually quite a surplus of Grizzly Bear songs after allowing extra time between albums.  After solo projects by band members and much deserved downtime, Droste and Rossen showed up with demos to work together again.  Apparently, the group dynamic still reigns as evidenced by ample references of "synergy."

The chugging beat of "A Simple Answer" starts off the second set, with echoing backup vocals adding to the emotional weight of the song.  "Yet Again" concludes the session, with intro chords that sound more fluid than the produced version, allowing an easy approach right to the end.

Listen to the session on KCRW's website here.  Other sessions by Grizzly Bear exist in the archives as well for those who would like to check out their visits back in February 2008 or August 2009.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Freelance Whales Stream New Album on NPR

I've given the new Freelance Whales songs a few listens and the whole collection is really growing on me.  I always thought of the band as a little too indie for even my taste, venturing into outer regions of musical composition as only multi-instrumentalists could do. Their likable song "Kilojoules" was featured in HBO's Bored to Death as the group made the rounds on tour after releasing their debut album, Weathervanes. I simply found them a bit too organic in their approach.

The new songs have a broader appeal with more layers of sound and solid percussive backbone. Choruses build with abandon amid harmonies of instruments and like minded voices. It's a pleasing journey through various musical approaches, all worth a trip.

NPR is streaming the sophomore album, Diluvia, as part of their First Listen program until the release date next Tuesday, October 9.  The band is also offering a stream of Weathervanes on their website here for those who'd like to visit (or revisit) that one.  They are currently on tour -- for a complete listing of dates see below.  

Freelance Whales Tour Dates:
10/04 - Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
10/05 – Minneapolis, MI @ 7th St Entry
10/06 – Madison, WI @ Redamte
10/07 – Iowa City @ Maintenance Shop
10/10 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
10/11- Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
10/13 – Mexico City, MX @ Capital Corona Festival
10/14 – Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits
10/16 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey
10/18 – San Francisco, CA @ Mezzanine
10/20 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
10/21 – Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
10/23 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
10/24 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird
10/26 – St. Louis, MO @ Firebird
10/27 – Nashville, TN @ The End
10/28 – Atlanta, GA @ The Loft
10/30 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
10/31 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
11/01 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
11/02 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
11/03 – Boston, MA @ Paradise

Monday, October 1, 2012

iTunes Ping Is Not Dead -- Yet

Earlier this month, Apple announced that the next version of iTunes will offer the Facebook and Twitter integrations that Ping was supposed to provide on its own. Ping would no longer accept members and a simple statement was posted on the site, "Ping will no longer be available as of September 30." (It still appears along the bottom of the webpage today, see screenshots below.) Introduced in September 2010, Steve Jobs had hoped this "all about music" social networking "recommender system" would catch on as wildly as fans hopped on iTunes.  But Facebook originally blocked access, and things never quite took off.

TechCrunch declared "Nobody was using Ping anyway" so to remove it would erase any memory of "one of Apple's rare flops."  I actually embraced it over a year ago as a way for people to easily purchase my new music playlists, and add them to their iTunes catalogue by posting a link to my Ping profile. I didn't spend much time on my profile, not loving how it chose genres for me according to my purchases (Alternative, Electric, Rock) and listed my purchases. (Although I could go in and remove them afterwards if I only remembered to do so!)

A few months ago, I was having issues with the site when a playlist would not "publish" on Ping (usually a simple click would make this happen, plus I'd run into this problem before).  I emailed Apple support and by the time I heard back, the situation had righted itself.  Then there was a follow up email wondering if the techie had competently answered my questions.  Well, I had also asked if Ping was headed for the trash heap -- not in those words perhaps -- but of course that was not addressed.  I have to say, I will miss being able to provide this option for my readers.

iTunes 11 due later this month will eliminate the static entry page, allowing artists to post photos, followers and concert listings. But it will also display Facebook friends who liked each entry and Facebook/Twitter sharing for purchases, which just sounds like unnecessary clutter.  With a successful redesign of and subscription based sites such as Spotify coming into their own, music fans will have options galore anyway.  Besides there's nothing wrong with reading blogs, other pubs or good ol' fashioned word of mouth when courting new music discovery!

"Still available" as of October 1