Monday, June 29, 2009

Won Back by a Music Video - Story of my Life

Okay, Cobra Starship. Okay. You've got me back. We were a little rocky there for a few weeks, and I'm still waiting to see how "Hot Mess" turns out, but I get it. I'm back on the bus.

You see I wasn't very happy with "Good Girls Go Bad." It's too poppy, too average, too regular. It's what's playing on every radio station right now, and that's not what I turn to Cobra for. But on the other hand, it's exactly what's playing on the radio right now, and a band needs to sell albums to stay afloat. And as pop songs go, it's not bad. I was still a little wary, still a little scared, but the video premiered today and it is so perfectly Cobra Starship. They're running a club out of a deli, with people only getting in if they but the right pack of beer. They make a kick back to their video for "The City Is at War" by hitting Guy Ripley in the face with a pie, and the illegal gambling that occurred in "The Church of Hot Addiction". The Butcher of The Academy Is... makes an appearance (as is only appropriate in the deli). There are illegal shenanigans, and a spirit of not giving a fuck. They get caught by the police. Sure, there's a very long section of Leighton Meester singing in front of a fan with club lighting behind her, but hopefully that'll make channel surfers stop and watch. And she actually holds her own on camera next to the very large personality of Gabe Saporta - props to her.

I give in Cobra. Everything you do is just plain awesome.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

No matter how he died, and no matter how he conducted his personal life, he was the King of Pop, and influenced the music and culture of our generation in unimaginable ways. Everyone knows his music, everyone has a favorite song. Rest in peace.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Things I Love and Things I Hate Today

Thing I Love: Regina Spektor's new song "Laughing With." I'm not usually a Regina Spektor fan, I think mainly because "Fidelity" was everywhere for a while and started to drive me nuts, but this song is pretty and light and the vocals are gorgeous. Also, the idea of an artist singing about God outside of country music and not making fun of religion the entire time is refreshing.


Thing I Hate: The video for it. It is very random, very scattered. And while this can sometimes be good, I feel that it is so off base that when she pulls off her own head it actually takes away from the song listening experience, something a music video should never do. It doesn't have to match up with the song, but it should never detract and distract from it.



Thing I Love: Up! I went to see this with one of my best friends last night. It wasn't the best Pixar movie ever, but it was full of great detail and cute jokes, like everything Pixar turns out. As a warning though, the first twenty minutes are filled with much heavier stuff than most Disney movies, above and beyond their usual maternal death (Bambi, Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, and about every other Disney movie ever). But it made up for it with great colors (balloons and birds and paintings), a hilarious elderly protagonist, and talking dogs.

Thing I Hate: The album art for Cobra Starship's new album, "Hot Mess." It's sleazy. And the pastel colors make me feel like it was designed by someone just playing around with photoshop for the first time. Which is why at first I thought it was a joke, but now I'm not so sure. Not only has Cobra Starship done the "portrait with cut off eyes" cover before, but the water, stringy hair, and shiny skin take it from cheap joke to gross. They are one of my favorite bands, and I'm so so proud that they've just made it into the Top 40, but I just don't get what they're doing lately. I like where they're going with "Pete Wentz is the Only Reason We're Famous" but not so much with "Good Girls Go Bad." I'll see what happens when they're new video comes out next week.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

No Doubt at the Comcast Center (aka one of my all time favorite shows)

No Doubt and Paramore at the Comcast Center, June 20, 2009. That's one of those date's that's going to stick in my head for a while, just like January 20, 2008 (Cobra Starship at the Middle East) and September 23, 2008 (Weezer at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell). It was that good.

It started out slightly sad. After waiting in line and fearing the impending forecasts of rain, the lady checking bags threw away my umbrella. Apparently they're not allowed. I was a little perplexed (what am I going to do with a mini, fold up umbrella?) but rules are rules and I should have checked ahead. Meh. After chatting with a couple in front of me in line (who were in their late 20s, early 30s, and could not for the life of them understand the scary scary things that were happening with scene kids in zebra print leggings) I entered through my spiffy Tour Club entrance and got inside early. I met up with a friend who works there, only to find out that he had met Adrien Young about 20 minutes before. I was beyond jealous, but he snagged me some earplugs (I had forgotten mine) for which I was eternally grateful, and I headed down to my seat. Section 2, Row Q, Seat 41. It was only 5 rows behind the pit and I was beyond excited. I chatted with a girl who had just spent 8 hours driving up from Virginia to see the show, and was going to have to spend the 8 hours right after the show driving back so that she could get to work the next morning. She had seen No Doubt before, and swore that it was worth it. Little did I know how absolutely correct she was.

First up was Janelle Monae. I started off bouncing my toe along with the beat. And then the bouncing stopped. And then an eyebrow went up. It was... it was a whole lot of crazy. I hate saying bad things about performers and bands. I do. I'm not a hardcore music critic, just some girl with a blog, and if they've got the balls to get up there on stage and sing and dance and open themselves up for all of us to see, then who am I to knock them down for it? But this was just weird. She was singing about being an alien, and people were coming to get her. Her dancing was a combination of the robot and a teenage girl singing into a hairbrush. Her hair was flying everywhere, she was making strange faces at the crowd, and no one around me got it. This video is a pretty accurate representation of the performance, except the crowd was confused, not screaming along in joy. This all could have been ignored, however, if her voice had blown me away. It didn't. It was good, she had a good voice, but not enough to compensate for the atrocity that was that performance. Also, there was a backing track of her own voice to fill in the parts where she's singing two things at once. And I completely understand that it is physically impossible to sing two parts at once, but either get a backup vocalist or leave it out. Don't put prerecorded sounds into a live show. It's a huge pet peeve of mine. She ended her set by stage diving, throwing down her microphone, and storming off stage.

Next up was Paramore. I have heard a lot of Paramore's music, as they're on the same label as a lot of the bands I listen to, and they're really big in the scene, but I'd never had any really strong feelings towards them one way or another. They rocked. Really rocked. The crowd was screaming along, the band was playing great and having fun. One of the guitarists looked a little stoic and angry (bad night? sick? tired? I'll give him the benefit of the doubt) but the other four were putting on a great show. They played almost all of their big hits ("Misery Business," 'That's What You Get," "Crush," "Decode," etc) as well as a few new songs from their upcoming album, to be released at the end of the summer. One of them, which I think was called "Ignorance," was pretty good. The lead singer, Hayley Williams, is just a little ball of orange haired energy, and she raced back and forth across the stage while belting out all of their songs. I took a few good photos (though as usual most of my time was spent taking video instead):

Paramore

Paramore
(I think this might be my favorite concert picture that I've taken. Not because there's anything super spectacular going on, and there's no dramatic lighting or weird angles, but it's just a good picture, what with the stripes and the angles and the color of her hair. I like it)

Next up was No Doubt. I have been a No Doubt fan for about six years. They were one of my absolute favorite bands early on in high school, when I was just beginning to form my taste in music. They really did help shape my musical life. I've been waiting for this concert since the day I bought Rock Steady. So when their images were projected on the huge white screen, dark silhouettes that towered over the crowd, I couldn't believe that it was finally here.

But then the curtain dropped and they started to play, firing full speed ahead into "Spiderwebs." I love "Spiderwebs," and had been hoping that the increased radio play it had been getting was surreptitious preshow marketing (if you can get the crowd amped up for the first song, one they've been hearing a lot lately, you can hook them into the rest of the show.) They were amazing. They were dressed in all white, matching their all white, futuristic looking stage set. A giant screen in the back projected films and clips of the band, each tailored to the different songs that they played. It was a bigger production than anything I have ever seen, and I was blown away.

No Doubt

The band was full of energy, and poured every ounce of themselves into the show. Gwen has more energy and more stage presence than anyone I have ever seen, and filled up the whole space with her tiny body, clad in a classic No Doubt outfit of a cut off white tank and pants with glittering, rhinestone studded falls of fabric off the back. After the first song, Adrian too returned to his more classic look, pulling off his outfit to spend the rest of his time drumming in underwear, checked thigh highs, a mohawk, and lipstick. I was on Tom's side of the stage and he spent the entire night looking ecstatic, strumming along on at least three different guitars and even a keytar during "Hey Baby." Tony pulled out a wicked pink and yellow bass at one point, and spent the entire night looking like he was having more fun than anyone else. They danced, they jumped, they bounced, they laughed, and they made the crowd feel like we were at some sort of awesome party with one of the best bands.

They played through almost all of the songs on their singles album, as well as "Tragic Kingdom" which Gwen said they had not played in twelve years. Everything was awesome and amazing, from "Hella Good" to "Just a Girl." At one point Gwen pulled a fan who was covered in No Doubt tattoos up on stage. She dropped down to do push ups before "Just a Girl." She made the crowd scream along. There was also a wardrobe change at one point, to a very cool, sparkling checkered outfit.

No Doubt
(I love this picture too. I almost never get anything this good with my little camera, but the lighting was perfect.)

They left to a chorus of screams before the encore, changed outfits, and came back out. This time, Adrian had added a tutu to his ensemble. They played "Rock Steady" and at one point Gwen pulled a flag out of the crowd that read "Boston's Love is Rock Steady." It really was. They ended the night by pulling a bunch of huge drums out onto the stage, and banging away. Adrian got a set on a marching band harness, and bounced and pranced and danced around the stage while they played their version of "Stand and Deliver" which they recently released for Gossip Girl. It's actually pretty catchy, and hopefully indicative of what is to come. They ended the night with bows and love to the crowd, and just about made my summer in an hour and a half. They were amazing. Absolutely amazing. This is the show that a little ska band in Anaheim dreams of playing one day.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Amanda Fucking Palmer

Who says Twitter isn't good for anything? Twitter won me 2 of only 200 tickets to the "secret" Amanda Palmer show in Cambridge last night. And damn, was it awesome.

It wasn't at a club or normal venue, but rather at a recording studio. Which meant that the directions they gave out were a little sketchy ("Continue to walk west on the bike path until you cross Mass Ave. Rejoin the bike path for 20 more yards until the white fence ends. Enter packing [sic] lot on the right") but just made it feel like a treasure hunt, with AFP at the end. We were a little early when we arrived, and the venue (The Bridge) was worried we might annoy the neighbors, so we were shuffled into the back parking lot. No one minded, and everyone was really quiet and respectful of the area... we all just wanted to see the show.

It was, of course, a rent party. You see, Amanda needed to pay her rent, but didn't have the money. So she decided to play a show and not charge for tickets, and throw a grand old party. Instead, after having our names checked at the door, one of her friends (Beth, I think) sat with a large bowl, taking donations, thriving off of the tip based music world that Amanda feels is coming, with fans paying to keep the music coming, and donating for the common good of the art world. Once completely inside, I was in a completely different music world than I had ever entered.

If they were shooting for punk cabaret, they got it. There were girls in fishnets and hoop skirts, burlesque inspired outfits and a man in a rabbit head. There was a girl in the crowd with a nose ring working on her needlepoint, and many many people had bubbles. Barely half of the room had naturally colored hair, and the other half was in mismatched stockings and puffy skirts. It was amazing. These are the people that your parents tell you not to be, the ones that get strange looks and shoved into lockers. But they are absolutely the nicest, most accepting, most welcoming people ever. I know the looks people get when they have weird hair (mine has a propensity for being purple) and I know the looks that striped thigh highs will garner. And sometimes it makes you want to roll your eyes right back at the girls with hollister tops and highlights. But this was the nicest, most assorted, calmest and most respectful crowd I've ever seen. No pushing, no shoving, no hair pulling, no drooling, and not one mean word all night. Three cheers to AFP fans.

Besides the awesome crowd, the first band up was entertaining. I'm not sure "band" is the right was to describe them though. Sure, there were instruments and singers, but Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys also contained a burlesque poetess, a dancer, a man who played with his makeup on the side of the stage, a maid who made tea for the band, and a man in a bowler hat who stood disapprovingly at the edge of the stage. One woman danced through the crowd with a toy accordion, a tiny pillbox hat glittering on her head. They were a motley bunch, complete with lace and lacings and crowd involvement, and they sent me back and forth from swaying in the crowd to screaming at the tops of my lungs.

After a brief interlude of Amanda Palmer arranging herself and some fans on stage, which included a four year old girl (who later danced on stage for part of the show) helping her tape flowers to her keyboard, she answered some Ask Amanda questions. They ranged from questions about her relationship with Neil Gaiman to what she would be if she wasn't in the music business. She is a funny, genuine person and I wouldn't have minded just listening to her talk all night and not hearing one song. But then she did begin to play, first on the ukulele, and then on the piano. And it was gorgeous. All of it. She sang old songs and new, from "Ampersand" to "Trout Hearts" which came with an adorable story of its origin. She is great live, better than great, and watching her perform changed even songs that I wasn't enamored of before ("Guitar Hero") into instant favorites, because the passion and stories and life behind these songs come alive when you see her sing them.

The last two songs of the night were particularly special. The first was what she called "The Bed Song." It is unfinished, or unperfected, and it took her one false start to get going. But it tells the story of lovers falling apart as their lives step upwards, being the perfect couple in a dirty sleeping bag but unhappy and distant in a king size bed. It was gorgeous lyrically and musically, being backed by intertwining piano notes that pulled everything together. The second was "Girl Anachronism," a Dresden Dolls song that has always struck a chord somewhere inside me. "If I were any older I would act my age, but I don't think that you'd believe me."

After the show she stayed and hung out with fans, giving hugs and autographs and memories. And not in some quick "thanks for coming" kind of way either, but in way where we all got to sit beside her on the stairs for a minute or two and talk about what was on our minds. It was great and it provided this momentary connection to the person and voice behind the music.

Who Killed Amanda Palmer? I don't know. But what I do know is that her spirit is one of the most amazing I've ever met.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Confessions

I was raised on country music. As a kid, my dad's car played oldies, and my mom's car played country. I grew up with Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, and Shania Twain. My first big concert was Rascal Flatts at Great Woods with my Mom. But at 13, I started buying my own CDs, I found Alt Rock, and I never looked back.

Except sometimes, flipping through radio stations, I stop on a song that I remember, sing along for a few minutes because country gets ground into your soul and it doesn't matter how long ago it was, those words and those lines will always come back to you.

Confession: I think Taylor Swift is awesome.

I don't own anything by her, and I only know her radio singles, but she's just about my age, has hit records, and sings about teenage hearts. She is one of the few female artists of my age bracket that doesn't run around town without panties on, and she has an adorable crush on Justin Timberlake. She is the kind of girl that I want to sit down and chat with, about boys and movies and whatever she's read lately.

She also just put out a great video, directed by Roman White:



It disappoints me a little that nothing ever happens this way (the hot cheerleader always wins, no matter what teen movies and pop culture try and tell you. True fact.) But Taylor Swift, if you want someone to follow you around with a camera on tour and make web videos and document your travels, I've got a camera and a restless itch that makes me want to travel around to crazy cities and film everything around me. Just call me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Been There, Felt That

This video is exactly what going to an All American Rejects concert is like. Except with a little more car sex. Okay, a lot more car sex. But the performance part, with crazy Tyson falling on the ground and being generally crazy while the rest of the band rocks in the background? That part is spot on.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Too Good For You - Ian Crawford

I've seen The Cab live... twice? They opened at a few shows I've been too. I've always marveled at their fans - they're some of the most ferocious and dedicated fans ever, completely obsessed with the music and the band members. I never felt that The Cab was anything too special. "I'll Run" was alright, but that was really the only song I liked.

There was, however, one portion of the band that blew me away - Guitarist Ian Crawford. He wasn't an original portion of the band. When they needed a new guitarist, he came in as a friend of a friend to fill the slot (if I'm correct, he's the cousin of Shane Valdez, a friend/videographer of Panic at the Disco). And he was amazing. There are very few guitarists who really blow me away live, but he was one of them. He was amazing. Example with FOB (Crawford comes in around 2:00 and plays the solo) and another as a demo for a guitar company. The second is wicked impressive. Watch it. I'm not kidding. He has such an impressive range of abilities. You'd be hard pressed to find something this kid couldn't play.

And now, he's leaving the band, according to a blog by The Cab's lead singer Alex Deleon. I want to know where he's going. I want to know what he's doing next. I want to follow whatever he does because, seriously, it will be good.

(PS - a side note of bitchiness - in Deleon's blog, he extols his love of Crawford, but makes the comment that Crawford's "heart was simply not in this genre of music. He didn’t want to play pop or music suitable for the radio." Not suitable for the radio? Ouch, dude. Harsh. In his own blog, Crawford parried with the statement: "it is not necessarily that I don't want to make radio-friendly music, this band just wasn't for me." Good for him.)

Things That Make Me Smile

1. Pretty Boston weather.

2. The video for "Ice" by Lights. According to her vlogs, she did the illustrations herself, which means that not only does she have a great voice, a great sense of music, and a keytar, she is also artistic and totally adorable. Everything she does makes me smile.

Lights "Ice"


3. This bag by Gama Go. I love it, and saw in in the Hootenanny in Harvard Square about 2 months ago. I didn't buy it, and kicked myself for it, but went back last weekend to see if it was still there. It wasn't, sadly, but I've found it online and this makes me immensely happy. I love messenger bags, I'm quite fond of owls, and I love weird metal notions. It's a fabulous combination.