the black keys
The countdown is on for the inaugural Bottle Rock Music & Art Festival in Napa Valley, California. The festival begins tomorrow night, Wednesday May 8th, with a headlining performance by none other than Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Between Wednesday and Sunday, the show will feature over 60 bands on three different stages, top wineries from the region, the best of the local food, a slew of microbrews, and today’s top comedians (including my personal favorite, Rob Delaney).
The festival has made quite a splash in the Northern California social sphere, as thousands of people flocked to the website on the day tickets first went on sale. Since then, the buzz has built and the nascent festival has amassed over 50,000 fans on Facebook.
So what’s all the fuss about? Well, aside from the local flavor of the greatest vineyard-filled land in the country, the lineup is rather impressive. Here are my top three picks for each day of the festival:
Wednesday 5/8: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (there aren’t many other performers this day, so I stuck to one here)
Thursday 5/9: The Avett Brothers, Delta Spirit, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Friday 5/10: The Black Keys, The Shins, Blues Traveler
Saturday 5/11: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Iron & Wine, Sharon Van Etten
Sunday 5/12: Grouplove, Mavis Staples, Rogue Wave
If you’re going out to the festival (see you there!) and are concerned about how to get around the area, fear not! One of my personal favorite transportation companies, Uber, will be set up in Napa with easy ways to get from place to place. They’ll have a bunch of cars set up ready to take you to and from your destination.
Lastly, continue reading for a playlist I put together with the Best of Bottle Rock musical performers.
Holla Lolla! So, just like I did for Bonnaroo, I’ll be creating playlists and collecting video footage of this past weekend’s Lollapalooza–day by day–for you guys to relive (or discover for the first time.) This was my first Lollapalooza in 4 years, and I noticed a lot had changed since my initial footsteps onto Grant Park back when I was just in high school. So, that inspired me to do a little research and scribe a bit on on the festival’s transformation over the years in the context of music as a whole. Check out my insights below, or skip to the bottom for some music selections made up of acts I got the chance to see, as well as video of Friday’s headliner, The Black Keys, performing “Lonely Boy.”
THE EVOLUTION OF LOLLAPALOOZA
Since its inaugural notes hit the air in 1991, Perry Farrell’s Lollapalooza has had its ups and downs. The festival’s initial success was synonymous with the rise of alternative rock in the early 90s. So, when the alt scene began to lose steam later in the decade, Lolla did too.
But in 2003, Farrell’s festival was staging a comeback. After a lukewarm couple of years, Lollapalooza found a new home in Grant Park, Chicago and heated thangs up with expansive lineups that delivered tunes to casual listeners and rabid aficionados alike.
Today, Lollapalooza is a three-day, sun-soaked (well, most of the time) monster of a festival that hosts nearly 300,000 concertgoers in the heart of the concrete and steel jungle that is Chicago, Illinois. And, it’s only getting bigger. In recent years, the festival has landed on soils as far as Chile, Brazil and most recently, Israel.
I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that Lolla is a pretty big deal. Culturally, it represents a musical hotbed where up-and-comers and seasoned veterans can both share the spotlight (think Chief Keef and Black Sabbath.) And, I think in a lot of ways, big ticket music fests like Lollapalooza are great temperature readers for where music is at as a whole.
So, what is Lollapalooza saying about that “whole” of music today? The answer can be found at Perry’s Tent. That is, the honored stage which is named after the festival’s founder and also happens to be the lone platform at Lollapalooza completely dedicated to electronic dance music.
You see, Perry’s wasn’t always a stage. In 2008, when it first emerged, Perry’s Tent was literally a tent, and a relatively small one at that. Jump around to present time, and Perry’s has blown off the roof, laced the stage with sizzling LED lights and practically doubled its viewing capacity.
Yeah, I know. It’s not news that EDM’s popularity is booming in America. But, my real point is that big, institutionalized music festivals like Lollapalooza are an instrumental part of why dance music is becoming more and more mainstream (just like it helped the growth of alternative music in the 90s.)
The transformation of Perry’s Tent—and the evolution of Lollapalooza in general—is ironic in many ways. Perry Farrel’s Lollapalooza of the 90s stood for all things indie—not mainstream. Yet today, Lolla represents a diverse palate of music, from relaxing indie folk to heart-throbbing dubstep.
A lot of people might tell you that Farrel compromised Lollapalooza’s former integrity by opening the flood gates to mainstream music, but you know what? I say it’s a beautiful thing. Where else can you mosh to At The Drive-In, chill out to Florence and the Machine and get your rageface on to Bassnectar?
Not at Lollapalooza 1991.
Porter Robinson – Language
Nero – Promises
Bassnectar – Vava Voom (ft. Lupe Fiasco) (Vinyl Version)
The Black Keys – Lonely Boy (Live)
Let’s just say that the day didn’t get off to an auspicious start. The forecast said 100% showers throughout the day, and walking to the subway station, it had already begun to drizzle. When we got out at the 125th Street station, it seemed like it had cleared up for a second, and as we rode the bus over to Randall’s Island to catch the early bands at Catalpa, an inkling of false optimism wiggled its way into my mind.
When we arrived at the field grounds around 3, the festival was pretty mellow yet. There was a ton of tantalizing food from local NYC venues–a necessity for the several hours we were about to spend there. For about half an hour, as really dark clouds started to roll in overhead, I hoped against hope that the rain might just miss us. It didn’t. A steady drizzle quickly turned into torrential downpour for a solid 30 or 40 minutes, and the soggy ground became a muddy swamp. The lumpy poncho I was wearing kept me only slightly dry. My Converses are probably damaged for good.
Luckily, the sun came out for a glorious 5 minutes as we headed over to watch The Sheepdogs’ hour-long set. Maybe it was relief that we weren’t wading through a lake of water anymore and were finally beginning to dry off, but they sounded damnnnn good and had great energy considering the circumstances. “The Way It Is,” “Southern Dreaming,” and “I Don’t Know” sounded even bluesier and more rousing live, and they hit their harmonies and guitar riffs with such precision, which was impressive since the band and their instruments had apparently also gotten soaked in the showers. And their shaggy-haired look was freaking great.
Another pleasant surprise was the silent disco tent. I wasn’t sure I really “got” the concept (people listening to the same electro music through separate headphones to avoid the music playing out loud) or the appeal, and from the outside, it certainly looks strange–basically a bunch of people flailing their arms in silence. But once you put on the headphones and step into the tent, it would be hard to tell that you weren’t in a raging club…despite, of course, the gawks of confused passersby.
TV on the Radio’s performance was real raw. Tunde Adebimpe offered up some sweet moves on stage, but their music was so powerful and soulful that they didn’t need many onstage antics to captivate the festival goers jamming out in front of them. Is it weird to say that their music scares me a little? In, like, the best way possible. It’s just that their background vocals, keyboards, and bass parts are so dark and dangerous on a track like “Staring at the Sun” that it’s almost frightening.
After TV, there was a short lull before Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach hit the stage to an overwhelming, ecstatic reception. True to their onstage habits, they pretty much just sat down and started to play, with little showy material besides their fantastically epic closing number.
I saw The Black Keys at Madison Square Garden a few months ago, and they played a very similar set at Catalpa: a killer combination of tracks off El Camino and some of their best “oldies but goodies,” as Dan Auerbach introduced them. They especially slayed “Thickfreakness,” “Gold on the Ceiling,” “I Got Mine,” and “Little Black Submarine.” I really can’t think of a group that has better on-stage chemistry and ability; their backup band is clearly talented, but the sound that just the two of them can produce is so beautifully simple yet so unbelievably explosive. They lived up to the hype and the pre-show anticipation; I can say confidently that waiting through the downpour was worth it.
What’s left: 351 Days. 95 Bands.
Band #5: The Black Keys
When/Where: September 13th at Time Warner Pavilion, Raleigh, NC
Expectations: Even though The Black Keys are opening for Kings of Leon, I expect people to be just as excited for the opener as the headliner.
The Concert: I hadn’t been to this venue in a while. It’s a huge outdoor stage with covered seats and a large lawn where people bring blankets and towels to sit on and enjoy the show. Typically, people don’t get too excited for the opener, but they really bring it for the headliner. There were a few other people out there who seemed, like me, to like The Black Keys more than Kings of Leon. But we were few and far between. Most people listened to the music while remaining seated and talking to their friends. I couldn’t believe that I was one of the few people who was up and dancing for The Black Keys.
Continue Reading for the remainder of the review and a free MP3 link
The music was spectacular. I am still in disbelief that Dan Auerbach can maintain his voice while being on tour. He really seemed to give the singing all he had. I loved that. The set was really minimal – the props pretty much consisted of the drums and a microphone. This didn’t seem to work well on such a large stage. I understand that The Black Keys are very DIY-based. But if you’re going to go on tour with Kings of Leon and perform on such large stages, you should probably do something about seeming so small on stage. They just seemed like two little dots up there. Perhaps it’s because I was seated out in the lawn, but I think it really had something to do with the fact that it’s not in The Black Keys’ plan to really have a decked-out set. If that’s the case, I think they should make a plan to have Auerbach move around a bit more to really create a bigger stage presence.
They brought on two others to play some of their newer songs, and it was wonderful. The keys player was very talented. The music, like I said, was just as I had hoped. One other thing that I was left longing for, though, was more interactivity with the crowd. We heard little more from Dan Auerbach than an introduction and and a goodbye.
Concert Afterglow: Phenomenal music. Sound wonderful live. Cannot get over how amazing Auerbach’s voice is. Wish the visual side of things was more thrilling, though.
Recommendation: The lack of stage presence is a bummer, but the music is worth it. Go see The Black Keys live.
Song: “The Only One” – The Black Keys | Download
The talk of the first day—if not the festival itself—was Lady Gaga.
I realized this as soon as I got to the main stage, which was surrounded by people waiting to see what the megastar was going to pull out of her leotard. After playing at this festival as an unknown artist, the Lady took the main stage by storm and introduced everyone in Chicago to The Monster Ball. Opening up with “Just Dance” was a fantastic choice, and the entire crowd did just that. It was an amazing show. I’m fairly certain that she changed costume four times within the first 15 minutes of her set. What made it so great, however, was the fact that Lady Gaga herself seemed to be having so much fun. Multiple times throughout her set she expressed how happy she was to be back and to have finally made it. Calling us her “little monsters,” she spoke of dreams delivered and the importance of staying true to yourself and being proud of who you are. Whether you were there for the music, to see the stunts, or because you love you some Lady, it was hard not to be moved by her joy.
Just before Lady Gaga, I gave The Black Keys the opportunity to invade my life with awesomeness. Stupidly, I discovered my love for this band just over a week ago. I’ve expressed my shame to several individuals since then, and made it a point to see them live while I was here. They put on an absolutely FANTASTIC show, revealing to the audience why they are one of the most talked about bands in music right now. (I even overheard one father telling his kids that they might be joining the ranks of the musicians in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.) Playing a mix of their older songs with those off ofAttack and Release and Brothers, the Akron, OH band pretty much had me spellbound. While I was forced to head out before the band finished up, I can say that I was wildly impressed with both their sound and their set. I simply wish they’d played “Never Gonna Give You Up.” I’ll have to ask them to play that at my wedding.
Wish I’d Seen of the Day: The Strokes. Unfortunately, their set and Lady Gaga’s occurred at the same time. They were also on completely opposite sides of the park, and going from one to the other in a timely fashion and not wanting to cry because you could hear what you were walking away from in that moment, made it really difficult to fit both in. I do know that Ashley got to see a bit of their performance. I’ve heard from several people she and I have met over the course of our stay that they played THE perfect festival set.
Other Notables: The Walkmen, The Constellations (who performed at a Rock and Wrap It Up! fundraiser recently), B.o.B (who again shocked the crowd with his MGMT tribute during his encore), Semi Precious Weapons, and The New Pornographers.
Purchase Music by Lady Gaga and The Black Keys:
Coverage written by Taina Thermidor, Music Program Director at Rock and Wrap It Up!