Tag Archives: Gary Clark Jr.

Forecastle 2014, in review

The fellas from Reignwolf flat out shred.

The fellas from Reignwolf flat out shred.

Before I get to the music, I just want to say how much I appreciated the free valet bike parking the festival offered. Really enjoyed not having to get into my car or worrying about my bike being stolen while I took in the tunes. Thanks to the folks at Forecastle and MailChimp.

DAY 1

The Black Lips – They were fun to watch live and are good at what they do – a 1950s rockabilly-punk hybrid. Also the first time I’ve ever seen a member of a band periodically try to spit and catch it in his mouth.

Gary Clark Jr. – Please, Gary, don’t slow it down. The three slow songs really dragged the energy down. When Gary and his crew would kick it into high gear, and the intensity and energy would soar. Bright Lights, Big City, my favorite, got a makeover, with some heavy syncopation on the chorus that was a nice live change.

Spoon – These guys find a groove and ride it. I’ve enjoyed them on disc, particularly Kill the Moonlight and Gimme Fiction, but live they’re much more than the sum of their parts. Probably the first time I’ve seen a few thousand people simultaneously bob their heads for an hour.

OutKast – They’re not a rap group. They’re a damn funk band, and a fine one at that. They also played my favorite OutKast joint, Da Art of Storytellin’. My only issue was that they front-loaded all of the highest-energy tracks – B.O.B., etc. One or two of those toward the end would have been nice. Still, awesome to see Andre and Big Boi together. Record an album, please!

DAY 2

The Wans – Tight, young guitar rock crew. I’d see them again in a club or as an opener.

Jill Andrews – I saw her open for The Avett Brothers in early 2013 and absolutely loved her. Just her on acoustic guitar, with another guitarist in tow. However, I find her to be way too polished on disc, and that’s what I felt like when I saw her at Forecastle with a full band. Good for those of you into a more mainstream country sound, but just not my thing.

Spanish Gold – My biggest disappointment of the festival. I really, really like their latest release, South of Nowhere, and I was looking forward to the live show to see how they filled out their sound. And they pretty much sounded like they do on disc. They weren’t bad, but I was expecting some Santana-esque next level shit, and there was none.

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Sharon Jones is a badass. No further commentary necessary.

Johnnyswim – I went outside my comfort zone for this lovey-dovey duo. Solid performers, but a little soft for me. That said, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a prettier couple in person than Abner Ramirez and wife Amanda Sudano.

Slint – Hells yeah. I was hoping for sludgy 1990s punk metal, and Slint served it up. Also the first time I’ve ever seen a show underneath an interstate highway.

Jack White – White and his crew put on a clinic, blazing through country, punk, garage rock, rockabilly, metal and so on. They even threw in a theremin solo for good measure, as well as earning points for playing Blue Moon of Kentucky. It would have been the best performance of the weekend, except they got upstaged on Day 3 (see Reignwolf).

DAY 3

Sharon Van Etten – There’s something a bit mesmerizing about Van Etten. It was blazing hot, and she was cooler than the other side of the pillow, playing reserved, heartfelt, country-tinged cuts that kept the crowd’s attention. Her between song patter was a hoot, as well. Liked her enough that I’ll be re-visiting her new album, Are We There.

Trampled by Turtles

Dear Trampled By Turtles,

Have you ever noticed that when you play fast – sometimes even light-speed fast on tracks such as Wait So Long – the crowd is rowdy, energetic, dancing, yelling and loving every minute of it? And have you noticed that, when you start playing down-tempo songs that make up at least half the show, the crowd claps politely? I’ve seen you twice, and I’ve noticed it both times. Just something to think about.

Sincerely,

Adam

Jenny Lewis – Jenny was gorgeous (vocally and visually), the stage was awash in bright colors and the band – with some help from the Watson Twins – were dead on. I had to leave early to get to Reignwolf, but I will be seeing Ms. Lewis again at the end of July in Indianapolis, and I can’t wait.

Reignwolf – Oh. My. God. This trio, led by axman and singer Jordan Cook, are the balls (thank you, Ron Burgundy). Seriously, Cook was force of freakin’ nature, breaking string after string, taking the mic off the stand to sing and throwing it over his shoulder during solos, jumping all over while playing 95% of the set without a guitar strap and just flat-out shredding some amazing blues metal. As much as I loved headliners OutKast, Beck and Jack White and shows by other acts such as Spoon and Jenny Lewis, there’s no doubt in my mind that Reignwolf put on the best show of the weekend. I can’t wait to see them in action again.

Tune-Yards – I’ve listened to them on disc, and while they are unique and interesting, they’re not my thing. That said, I really enjoyed the live show and would definitely be interested in seeing them again. I hesitate to say much more because I only caught their last 2-3 songs after the Reignwolf set.

Ray LaMontagne – I’m not huge on LaMontagne, but I enjoy the new album, Supernova, quite a bit and was looking forward to his set. But live … snooze. Maybe it was just too hot for music that mellow, I don’t know. But I left early to get up close for Beck.

Beck – What can I say? This guy puts on a show, working Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean and Busta Rhymes’ Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See seamlessly into the middle of his own songs. The high point: Debra. My favorite slow jam, and he milked it for all it was worth. Maybe not as good as the time I saw him at Bonnaroo in 2006, but still terrific.

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Just do it … right

“To put it country simple …” – William S. Burroughs

When my brother, a musician, introduced me to the above Gary Clark Jr. performance, we talked a bit about the blues. Clark’s Bright Lights, Big City is nice, but the performance is what really elevates it. Or, as my brother put it, “The blues isn’t about re-inventing the wheel. It’s just about doing it right.”

I thought of my brother’s comment when I read a recent blog post by Margaret Atwood. The post itself is about dreams, but at one point Atwood mulls whether or not you should allow your characters dream. She notes it’s somewhat forbidden, or at least frowned upon, and that you can’t necessarily control the interpretations of the readers. But her final line in that brief section of the post is what nails it for me: “As in so many things, it’s not whether, but how well.”

I’m a fan of the CW’s Nikita. It’s something of a guilty pleasure. Lots of gorgeous women – Maggie Q., Lindsay Fonseca, Lyndie Greenwood, Melinda Clarke – as well as more than its fair share of explosions and fights. It’s a guilty pleasure because the relationship stuff is incredibly soapy, so much so, in fact, that I’ll be disappointed if Susan Lucci doesn’t make a guest appearance at some point. And Nikita definitely isn’t re-inventing the wheel. It’s pretty similar to what you’d find in the Mission Impossible and James Bond movies, as well as Alias.

But I’m not looking for the same depth of engagement I get from critically acclaimed shows such as The Walking Dead, Fringe or The Wire when I watch Nikita. I’m looking for pure escapism, where a tiny, beautiful women in shoes so ridiculous you wonder if they might actually be instruments of torture takes a piece of pipe and beats the living snot out of half a dozen, roided-out giants whose lunch weighs more than Maggie Q does, probably while she’s holding a 10-pound bar bell. I’m looking for a race against the clock, a hero to save the day, over-the-top villainy, subterfuge, seduction, laughs, bullets flying, cars exploding and, if I’m lucky, the occasional surprise.

What I guess I’m saying is, they’re “getting right.” Nikita has figured out “how well” to do what they do, and they do it. Fulfillment of potential. As writers and as fans, can we really ask for anything more?

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Favorite 12 songs of 2012

Adele, Set Fire to the Rain – If you don’t sing along with this, you have no soul.

Fiona Apple, Hot Knife – She’s great on the piano, and just as great without it.

Azealia Banks, 212 – An ass-shaking track from the Missy Elliott tradition.

Gary Clark Jr., Bright Lights – Probably my favorite song of the year. Blues done right.

Divine Fits, Shivers – This is the one track where this indie “supergroup” really comes together.

The Flaming Lips feat. Ke$ha and Biz Markie, 2012 [You Must Be Upgraded] – Classic Lips weirdness with a pair of superfreaks contributing to the fun.

Japandroids, The Nights of Wine and Roses – It rawks, plain and simple.

Alicia Keys, Tears Always Win – This could have been a Motown hit in the 1960s.

The Lumineers, Dead Sea – Cool and soulful.

Frank Ocean feat. Andre 3000, Pink Matter – Deceptively mellow, until you get into the lyrics, and the intensity kicks up a notch.

Old Crowe Medicine Show, We Don’t Grow Tobacco – An old-school, bluegrass stomper.

Tame Impala, Elephant – Groovy as hell.

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