Chicago’s Empty Bottle is the quintessential venue that you catch a band in before they break out. It’s hot, dim and a little cramped, boasting a roughly 50-50 split between bar area and stage.
It’s also the kind of venue where a band can’t hide behind gimmicks. There’s no room for an elaborate light show or props. Either your music is up to par or the audience is in for a long night. Luckily, from the opening notes of their set it was clear Wet was up to the challenge.
The Brooklyn trio opened with “Deadwater,” the lead single off their long-awaited major label debut Don’t You, due out early next year.
“Deadwater” is one of Wet’s sweetest, warmest records, and it glistened in such an intimate setting. Joe Valle’s electronic drums boomed, serving as the exoskeleton for Marty Sulkow’s gooey, understated guitar.
Wet hasn’t released much music of late, but even the tracks off their 2013 eponymous EP sounded fresh and vibrant. While some synth pop and indie R&B groups get exposed in a live setting, the sheer talent of each of the band’s members was on full display.
Singer Kelly Zutrau shined particularly bright. Her soaring vocals are the band’s keystone, and she proved that she has the gravitas to lead a scintillating performance.
“Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” was a particular highlight. The song hinges on a sense of vulnerability and honesty that isn’t easy to convey, but Zutrau had the few hundred in attendance swaying in stunned silence.
Fan favorites “You’re the Best” and “No Lie” were equally impressive in their own right.
There wasn’t much in the way of stage banter from Zutrau and co., but that may’ve simply been in keeping with their aesthetic. A band like Wet can afford to let their music speak for itself. The set was crisp and efficient, but you got the undeniable sense the crowd would’ve just as happy to watch them run it back.
Nowadays, there are hundreds of bands out there vying for “next up” status, but Wet’s mesmerizing live show is another reason to consider them a cut above the rest of the SoundCloud darlings you see on your newsfeed.
You may not have seen Mike Posner around a lot lately, but his sound is still shaping pop radio nonetheless. Working behind the scenes and penning hit songs like Maroon 5′s “Sugar,” Posner has proven to be relevant even when his own music has been repeatedly shelved. Now, with a long-awaited sophomore album finally on the way, the Dukie who made it big off “Cooler Than Me” is staging a comeback.
As part of his rebirth, Posner has been hitting the road and holding surprise pop-up concerts across the U.S. affectionately called “Ninja Shows.” Last night, Mike made a pit stop in Chicago’s beautiful Lincoln Park, strumming new songs and old hits alike to one of the best views of the city’s skyline.
The set was extremely intimate (there were maybe just north of 100 in attendance) and a bit awkward (people jogging and doing lunges nearby), but you couldn’t help but get a taste of magic in the air. Mike was honest and authentic. He was was close enough to reach out and touch; close enough to hear without monitors or an amp. And whether he was doing a verse a capella or taking photos and giving out hugs after the show, Mike Posner was as entertaining and genuine as ever, as if he had never missed a beat.
Listen to four cuts from Posner’s upcoming album below.
Last night, Kanye took to Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to close the show with his Yeezus-standout track “Bound 2,” and he even brought Charlie Wilson to perform with him! As much as I love the studio version (closest thing we’ve gotten to The College Dropout-Kanye in a long time), this live-version is awesome. The Roots’ live backing and the backup-vocals just do it for me, man. Shots at Ray J are also always welcome, as well.
Give a band a symphonic accompaniment, and chances are I’ll fall in love. In this case, it was a dangerous addition, because I already had an undying love for The Avett Brothers. This nearly pushed me over the edge. Apologies for being a bit late on this, as their performance was on November 2nd on Jimmy Kimmel, but it came across my radar today and I had to share it. In addition to bringing the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra on stage, the Avett Brothers also wore impressive suits on stage. Bam. Love.
Oh Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in…
[via Fuel Friends]
There’s very little music I hear today that sounds legitimately different than most other songs on the market. One of the only bands I can name that can claim that their music is truly unique is Alabama Shakes. They’re a new(ish) band on the scene (they formed in 2009, but seemed to really rise to fame this year), and they have absolutely blown my mind. Here’s a video of them performing “Be Mine” on Jimmy Fallon last night. My good god, main singer Brittany Howard is just so damn good.
Everything that happened on June 19th was pretty fitting:
- Some of my friends finding themselves on stage pre-show because f**k rules.
- Opening DJ playing pre-recorded mixes and pressing buttons on his DJ-doohickey that didn’t actually do anything.
- A guy that may or may not have been my friend passing out because he may or may not have been doing something that may or may not be illegal to do.
I know what you’re asking yourself. “Does this have anything to do with the show you’re reviewing?” And my answer to you is, “Shut up. I’m writing the review, I ask the questions around here.” But in all seriousness, they have everything to do with the show, because I had no idea what to expect coming into this performance. I did not expect any of those things to happen, and I certainly didn’t expect it to end up being the best live show I’ve ever seen.
Abel Tesfaye, dubbed the Songbird of Our Generation by a guy I talked to once, is one mysterious dude. We know he’s 22 years old and that he’s tight with Drake, but that’s about it. Wiki says he’s signed to Cash Money, but I doubt that that is true. His three critically acclaimed mixtapes (House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence) include a whole lot of sex, drugs, and RnB. And a little bit more sex and drugs. All three of his projects are great, but if you’ve listened to his music you realize why I had a hard time figuring out how the hell he was going to create a performance that would be anything but forgettable. His recorded music is just about anything but exciting, leaving me skeptical that he would be able to pull off that good of a live show.
Like I noted earlier, the opener was laughably bad. A hipster-DJ wearing a beret and cargos was not something I expected to witness in the flesh in my life, but #YOLO right? Wrong. He played mixes that he obviously made beforehand, including a track from Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album and the edited version of Wiz Khalifa’s “Say Yeah.” So you could say that I wasn’t in the highest of spirits immediately before Abel’s set.
It didn’t take long for me to get excited, though. The Weeknd’s live band strutted out to their instruments, and as soon as they started “High For This” the energy in the theater exploded. I was extremely impressed with the way that Abel was able to interact with the crowd without connecting with them too much, being consistent with his ruse of anonymity. He came strolling out onto the stage with an ear-to-ear grin on his face, getting crazy close to the fans but not close enough for the crazy white girls up front, as you can see in the video I took, below.
Speaking of the white girls, I’m not sure you can fathom the amount of thirst in that theater. Every single female that was their was ready and willing to poke a hole in a condom, from the 45 year old black woman next to me to the high school-age white girls in their homemade XO shirts in the front row. There were baby momma’s mommas in attendance that were ready to get down at the drop of a proverbial hat. Did I mention that the stereotype of white girls yelling the n-word during The Weeknd’s performance of “Crew Love” is absolutely true? None of them seemed to have a problem with it. But I digress.
That energy and excitement was consistent for the rest of the concert. The band and lightshow remained phenomenal throughout the show, exponentially adding to the energy of the show. Abel barely stayed still, hitting his falsettos and dampening women with a mere look. His voice was just as immaculate as I’d been skeptical that it was; it was really hard for me to believe that his vocals on The Trilogy weren’t adjusted in some way, but trust me they are not. His voice was near-perfect, and I only say “near” because calling it perfect is going to turn my ass to grass because someone will have a problem with that.
TL;DR? Fine. Just know that you don’t have to listen to The Weeknd to go to his concert and have a great time. The atmosphere that he creates makes it impossible to not enjoy yourself at least a little bit. Let me know how yours goes.
So Big, Push, and 2 Chainz took the stage together at Hot97 Summer Jam to perform their hit “Mercy.” Damn, I wish I had been there. Mercy’s easily one of my favorite jams right now.
What surprised me about this, though, is how Sean was completely put to shame, at least in my mind, by Pusha and 2 Chainz. Sean seems awkward, forced, and robotic up there–he barely seems into the performance. Pusha and Chainz, on the other hand, really seem to be giving it their all, and that comes through in their performance.
Pusha, especially, unloads on this. Overall really solid performance, its unfortunate Kanye wasn’t able to attend but he was in Paris performing Niggas in Paris over, and over, and over…….and over again.
Kishi Bashi is one of my favorite new artists. I have to thank Arjun for introducing me to his mastery of music. I believe Arjun had to work at convincing me that Kishi Bashi is actually an artist, not a type of cereal. It’s whatever, he got the job done, and now I’m obsessed.
Here’s a clip of Kishi Bashi performing at NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. This song is mostly an improvisation, and as you’ll see as you watch the performance, Kishi Bashi is a one-man show, combining his violin loops with layered vocals and even some beatboxing. With this much talent and such a beautiful voice, this is how you make a name for yourself these days.
A friend of mine just introduced me to the folk rock band She’s a Keeper, and I’m really excited about them.
They’ve got a sound very reminiscent to Mumford & Sons, but they have a little more country twang in their tunes. They describe themselves as “Americana pop from the middle of the map,” and that explanation is pretty much on point.
I’m posting both the SoundCloud stream of their newest release, Live at Midwestern, and also a video to “Stupid Heart,” which appears on the live release.
I’ve been on a Kings of Leon binge recently and this music works perfectly with it, in a strange kind of way.
I suggest listening to Live at Midwestern once through without repeating or skipping any songs, just soaking in the music, listening to the nuances of the banjo, violin, cello, and other various stringed instruments. They’ve got something unique and great and I’m excited to hear more out of them.
Yasiin Bey Mos Def recently made a stop at Parisian radio station Nova Radio to promote his upcoming show with Talib Kweli in Paris.
I’ve never seen Mos Def live, but he is easily one of my favorite emcees and it is clear from these videos that his live shows must be amazing. Just look at how he rocks “Sunshine Screwface” over a beautiful Dilla beat…the guys personality and charisma ooze through that fat red microphone. Plus the man just has indubitable style, almost Kanye level on that tweed jacket.
But I digress. Below are three videos of him performing at Nova, first Sunshine Screwface, then a “Quiet Dog” freestyle, and finally Niggas in Poorest.
Yasiin goes hard. That name though? Not sure it’s gonna stick. Sorry Mos.
Not a lot of time to write today, so this week’s TT is gonna by live. WE’LL DO IT LIVE. Well, sort of. Actually, not really, but as close as I can get.
If you’ve ever been to a concert, you know that no live recording can ever capture the experience of actually being there, in the thick of it. The crowds, the screaming, the picnics, the weather, the little jokes by the band. Not to mention the glorious sound and thunderous acoustics. Just like no picture can truly ever capture everything about a moment, neither can a live recording at a concert. But pictures are awesome, and so are live recordings. QED.
But really. There are some bands out there that are no longer, and it makes me sad to think that they’ll never make another song. And that’s where live music comes in. Even if they’re singing a song you know, live recordings always have-a-somethin shiny and new about them. They’re never quite like the original, and sometimes I’ll find myself playing the live version over the mastered version. It’s nice hearing the applause, the foot thumping, and the occasional (one-sided) conversation between the artist and the audience. Check out some of my favorite live recordings:
ZIP or individually below:
MP3: “Welcome (#7)” – Wynton Marsalis Septet
MP3: “In The Sweet Embrace of Life” – Wynton Marsalis Septet (62 mb, 54:43)
[^^These two go together, the first is the introduction to the song that follows. Listen for the coughs and tinkling of wine glasses.]
MP3: “The Dangling Conversation (live)” – Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Desperado (live)” – Eagles
MP3: “Knife (live)” – Grizzly Bear
MP3: “No Woman No Cry (live) – Bob Marley
MP3: “Dark Matter (live)” – Andrew Bird
MP3: “Love of My Life (live)” – Queen [listen for the audience singing a verse]
MP3: “”39 (live)” – Queen [fun fact: this song is about time dilation]
MP3: “Familiar Terrain (live)” – Bobby Birdman
Also, check out this awesome NPR recording of Chris Thile and Michael Daves that one of my friends showed me. Be warned, it’s bluegrass, and it’s awesome. Chris Daves (with glasses) looks the part of a bluegrass fella, but he can wail on guitar. And I have it on good word that Chris Thile is the greatest mandolin player ever:
What’s Left: 35 Days. 32 Bands.
Band #68: Dispatch
Expectations: Going into it, I was unsure exactly what to expect. I’d seen State Radio (lead singer Chad Urmston’s other band) live a few times, and they were always great. I had heard good things about Dispatch’s live show (quasi-legendary things, actually) so my expectations were rather inflated. Chad’s voice was really awesome each time I saw State Radio live, and I was excited to hear him singing with the rest of the guys in Dispatch. The show was outside at Chicago’s Millenium Park (AWESOME VENUE) so that added another element to the show. Perfect summer mood, perfect summer night.
Pre-Show: Just included this to inform you how I was feeling going into the show–the weather was perfect, it was a straight up majestic day in Chicago, and we were pre-gaming the concert on my buddy’s 40 foot, wooden, OG sailboat. So I mean, the concert kind of had to be amazing for everything to live up to my expectations/the glorious afternoon leading into the show.
Concert: I used the term majestic in my last paragraph. Majestic would be an understatement. Not only was Dispatch completely in tune and on point with each other as a band, but you could really feel an awesome connection between the audience and the crowd. A feeling like that really elevates any concert experience, and there was something truly tangible in the air that night between the crowd and the band. They played all of their classics and left nobody (at least none of my friends, who are all very big Dispatch fans) wishing they had played a different set. They did some awesome covers, and it was easy to tell how much fun the band was having onstage. They had a pretty big band, and some of the percussion instruments especially were pretty cool. Rain sticks, big African drums, etc…all of the guys were adding their own unique sound to every jam.
Concert Afterglow: One of my favorite summer nights to date. This is exactly what makes Chicago my favorite city in the summer. It is absolutely beautiful–just ask ‘Ye how he feels about summertime Chi. If Dispatch ever plays in your area code, or even somewhere remotely close to you, it is a necessity in my mind that you see them. Don’t pass the opportunity up.
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