Monthly Archives: April 2009

Lollapalooza vs. Austin City Limits

Of the slew of outdoor music festivals every summer, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits seem to get the most hype. They both typically feature the biggest bands and best up-and-comers in the biz and are both located in hip musical cities. It might not be possible to make both events, so Sound Citizen presents to you: Lollapalooza vs. Austin City Limits – what’s your pick?

The Venues

Both festivals are located in hip music cities. Austin is known for its prolific indie music scene while Chicago, the birthplace of the blues is known for its diverse music offerings.

Lollapalooza, Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois

lollagrantparkChicago has some of the worst urban winters in the U.S., but come summertime, the city comes to life. Hundreds of street festivals can be found every weekend somewhere within the city limits, patio bars seem to never close and the lakefront is always buzzing. Grant Park (and neighboring Millenium Park) becomes the focus of many Chicago summer activities, including Lollapalooza.

Pros:

Getting to Grant Park is relatively easy. If you live in the city, there are plenty of options – public transportation abounds and a cab ride is fast and convenient. For those visiting Chicago for the festival, your best bet is to secure a hotel downtown. It wont’ be cheap, but walking to and from the park will provide the ultimate in convenience, as well as pleasant strolls through a beautiful city.

The park itself is situated right on the lakefront, so even in the heat of summer there’s often a nice, cool breeze. The views in and around Grant park are spectacular. Chicago’s skyline is one of the best in the world, Buckingham Fountain is a treasure and Lake Michigan provides a brilliant, sparkling contrast to the steel and concrete of the landscape to the east. Before and after the festival, there’s no shortage of things to do – world class museums and shopping are mere blocks away – and some of Chicago’s finest restaurants (not necessarily pricey) are just as close. Grant Park has some nice nooks where you can relax and catch a spot of shade.

Cons:

Grant Park is long. To get from one end of the park to the other it takes at least 10 minutes or more, depending on the crowd. This means you have to plan your shows carefully – you might have to leave one early to secure a decent view for the next.

Grant Park is narrow. It can get crowded quickly – if you’re going to wander around, it’s a good idea to have a couple friends secure a home base with a blanket and chairs. Otherwise, you’re going to have to constantly fight for a spot. It also results in some cramped conditions for the side stages. One is in a concrete-floored pavilion, another is on a street and a couple are crammed along walking routes.

Austin City Limits, Zilker Park, Austin, Texas

aclAustin is well-known for it’s music scene, hosting South by Southwest in addition to ACL. Stroll down Sixth Street and just about every bar will echo with quality music. Zilker Park hosts ACL, as well as an annual kite festival and is home to an expansive botanical garden.

Pros:

Zilker Park is huge. More than 351 acres huge. Of course, the festival doesn’t cover the entire park, but it sure feels that way. There’s more than enough room to set up a blanket and chairs, and wander around without bumping sweaty elbows. It also leaves room for many food and beverage stands and retail shacks, so long lines aren’t a big problem. The expanse also provides room for other extras like cooling areas and tents to play some cool guitars, or tinker with the latest gadgets from AT&T.

The stages are set far enough apart so the music does not compete, and the natural contours of the park usually means a good view is easy to find. Walking from stage to stage can take some time, but with all that room you’re not fighting crowds along the way.

Cons:

It’s hot as hell. You’re in Texas, mind you, and adding to that, there is almost no shade to be found. Make sure you bring chairs with some kind of umbrella or shade provider and drink gallons of water. Try the lemonade and iced tea, too.

There’s nearly nothing else around. Get ready for a lengthy hike back to your hotel, at least 20 minutes or more. Getting a cab or bus to get downtown after the shows has been known to include an hour wait. You can take a pedicab – for about $50. That said, there is one place on the walk back that’s worth a stop. Green Mesquite BBQ & More provides cold beer, good food and some great after-show live bluegrass.

Austin does provide a nice open atmosphere and a camping-like experience, and for travelers it’s more cost-effective. Despite what can be crowded conditions, Grant Park is beautiful and the city of Chicago offers so much outside the festival itself. Consider starting your trip a couple days early, or stay a few days late to really soak in the Chicago summer. They both offer unique experiences.

Edge: Lollapalooza – barely


The Lineups

Now to the meat of the issue, the performers. Of course, both offer an extraordinary amount of quality music but there are some key differences to explore.

The Headliners

Both Lolla and ACL will see the Beastie Boys and Kings of Leon – two bands who are sure to put on excellent performances. Lollapalooza will also feature Depeche Mode, Tool, The Killers and Jane’s Addiction to round out the top tier, while ACL will host Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews Band. Out of those differences, Pearl Jam trumps all of them. They are becoming one of rock’s legendary bands before our very eyes and ears and every opportunity should be taken to see them live.

Edge: Austin City Limits

The Supporting Cast

Several bands will be playing both festivals this year, including Ben Harper and Relentless7, Thievery Corporation, The Decemberists, Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Dan Auerbach, The Raveonettes, Arctic Monkeys, Heartless Bastards, and Coheed and Cambria. These are all quality bands and it might make the final decision a little easier. Or at least less painful.

Then there are the bands that will only play at one or the other, and these make all the difference. Below are 10 bands who will be at Lolla and not ACL (as of this writing):

bohblackRa Ra Riot
Band of Horses (pictured)
Silversun Pickups
Cold War Kids
Of Montreal
Animal Collective
TV on the Radio
Rise Against
Fleet Foxes
Neko Case

Now, 10 bands that will be at ACL and not Lolla (as of this writing):

The Walkmen
ghostlandThe Dead Weather
John Legend
Ghostland Observatory (pictured)
Lily Allen
Medeski, Martin & Wood
Dr. Dog
Todd Snider
Asleep at the Wheel
Citizen Cope

In defense of ACL, Jack White’s new band The Dead Weather is attractive, The Walkmen are solid, Ghostland Observatory puts on a show to experience and Medeski, Martin & Wood never disappoint.

In Lolla’s corner, Ra Ra Riot has a host of catchy tunes, Band of Horses can stir a soul, Silversun Pickups are gaining momentum fast and Animal Collective is getting early votes for album of the year.

Edge: Lollapalooza

So what’s it going to be? Where will I put my money (and lots of it) this year?

In the end, the pre-performance title goes to Lollapalooza in 2009. Both have very strong lineups and the shared bands are top-notch. Although I will miss Pearl Jam, I could care less about Dave Matthews Band, while at Lolla, Band of Horses and Silversun Pickups hold particular sway with me, and I’m excited to experience Ra Ra Riot, Animal Collective and TV on the Radio. Combined with the city of Chicago and all it has to offer, I’ll be at Grant Park this summer.

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below.

Northwestern’s Music Marathon

Northwestern University’s music program will be putting on a 26-hour benefit concert in Regenstein Recital hall (50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, IL) to raise funds for The People’s Music School. This wonderful charity is a non-profit community music school in Chicago that provides free music lessons and instruction to low-income children.

Students and faculty raise $100 for a 15-minute set during the performance, which starts on May 1, at 8 p.m. Headliners The Gentlemen of NUCO will open up the marathon – they are a student strings and percussion ensemble who perform original Radiohead transcriptions (see video below). Also performing will be Chicago-based Howard Levy, a founding member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, pianist Anthony Molinaro and new jazz faculty member Victor Goines.

This one-of-a-kind event hopes to raise enough money for more than over 1,000 music lessons to the under-priveleged. Clearly, there are plenty of opportunities to catch a few sets, but if you can’t make it, consider a donation at http://musicmarathonconcert.org/donate.html, and visit the website where the entire concert will be webcast live.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5Td-0h4uF4[/youtube]

Official Lollapalooza 2009 Lineup

Rumors were enough to secure tickets, but now the 2009 Lollapalooza lineup is official. There are few surprises with the headliners, as Depeche Mode, The Killers, Jane’s Addiction, Beastie Boys, Kings of Leon and Tool are all included.

But some of the unconfirmed rumors held true with Band of Horses, Animal Collective, Ben Harper, Vampire Weekend, Bon Iver, TV on the Radio, Andrew Bird and The Decemberists all set to play.

Some other bands to get excited about include Thievery Corporation, Snoop, Silversun Pickups, Arctic Monkeys, Ra Ra Riot, Dan Auerbach and Sam Roberts Band.

This is as strong a starting lineup as I’ve seen in recent years at Lollapalooza, but not because of the headliners. It’s the smaller bands that will set this year’s Lolla apart from the others. It’s a great mix of established indie rock, along with some up-and-comers. If you don’t know many of the bands mentioned above, it’s an excellent opportunity to get exposed to some new talent. The good news is that they’re not done. Expect more bands, and possibly another strong headliner to announce their appearance in the coming weeks and months.

I predict that, at the end, a lot of buzz will be circulating about how bands like Band of Horses, Silversun Pickups, Dan Auerbach and The Decemberists stole the festival from the likes of Depeche Mode, Tool and The Killers. That said, don’t underestimate Jane’s Addiciton.

The full lineup can be found here.

Death Cab for Cutie Rocks the Aragon

gibbard(Video and tour dates included) I was first exposed to Death Cab for Cutie through a friend some six years ago. And I didn’t like them for the exact reason why I now find them so appealing – Ben Gibbard. It was his voice that first turned me off because it was something I immediately associated with bubble gum girl rock. Thankfully, I kept an open mind.

Gibbard grew on me. His soothing, but tense and enduring tone tells a story throughout every song. It’s the kind of sound that forces your own emotions, even without knowing a single word.

Death Cab came to Chicago with two solid opening acts in Ra Ra Riot and Cold War Kids. Unfortunately, we missed Ra Ra Riot. It turns out they played for all of 20 minutes. Cold War Kids quickly followed and also played an abbreviated set. But they were good, and displayed the talent that keeps them touring.

Death Cab took to the stage in their normal, unassuming manner and broke into a tour-de-force of some of the best they have to offer. They band played free but tight through a set that included “The New Year,” “My Mirror Speaks,” “I Will Possess Your Heart,” “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” “The Sound of Settling,” and my personal favorite, “Cath.” There were few lulls, and for fans of the band, it’s hard to imagine that any of them left disappointed.

I found that after a packed set, the encore ended up in a minor disappointment. Maybe it was because I had just heard my favorite Death Cab songs and was quite satisfied, but I felt that maybe some of the earlier songs would have been better as closing material. And, as always, the Aragon Ballroom claimed another victim to its cavernous sound.

But nothing could keep this from being an early 2009 highlight show. Death Cab for Cutie has cemented their status as a premier indie-type band, and one of those music acts that sounds better live than they ever could on record.

They continue to tour this summer, and will play with some other great talents including Ra Ra Riot, Andrew Bird, The New Pornographers, Matt Costa and Tegan & Sara.

Below is a video from the show of “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” And below that are upcoming tour dates.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlcNrwHVEBU[/youtube]

Apr 22 2009    Mount Baker Theatre (SOLD OUT)    Bellingham, Washington
Apr 24 2009    McCarthey Athletic Center                Spokane, Washington
Apr 25 2009    The Morrison Center (SOLD OUT)     Boise, Idaho
Apr 27 2009    Memorial Auditorium                       Sacramento, California
Apr 29 2009    RIMAC Arena (SOLD OUT)               La Jolla, California
May 1 2009     Austin Music Hall (SOLD OUT)          Ausitn, Texas
May 2 2009     Contemporary Arts Center               New Orleans, Louisiana
May 3 2009     Ryman Auditorium                         Nashville, Tennessee
May 4 2009     Ryman Auditorium (SOLD OUT)       Nashville, Tennessee
May 5 2009     BJCC Concert Hall                          Birmingham, Alabama
May 6 2009     Fox Theatre (SOLD OUT)                Atlanta, Georgia
May 7 2009     Hard Rock Live (SOLD OUT)            Orlando, Florida
Jul 5 2009       Hollywood Bowl                              Los Angeles, California
Jul 11 2009     Greek Theatre Berkeley                  Berkeley, California
Jul 13 2009     Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre      Salt Lake City, Utah
Jul 14 2009     Red Rocks Amphitheatre                Morrison, Colorado
Jul 16 2009     Pacific Coliseum                            Vancouver, British Columbia
Jul 17 2009     Edgefield Amphitheatre                  Troutdale
Jul 18 2009     Marymoor Park (SOLD OUT)            Redmond, Washington
Jul 19 2009     Marymoor Park                              Redmond, Washington

Sunbears!, Black Kids, Mates of State, Chicago

Guest writer Josh Kay recaps his night at Chicago’s Metro with three up-and-coming bands. Thanks Josh!

I kept reading about how Black Kids are the latest MySpace hype and how they’ll probably die a quick and ugly death. Some magazine articles further taught me that they hail from Jacksonville, Florida, and got their start in Christian Rock. All I know is that they write a damn good pop song. It’s genuine, and makes you want to shake your booty.

So, as soon as I found out the Black Kids were co-headlining a Chicago show with Mates of State, I had to buy tickets right away. Even though it was all-ages and I expected a teeny-bopper crowd, I wasn’t going to miss this show.

I got to the Metro an hour before doors opened and headed straight to the Gingerman for a pre-show cocktail. On the way, I walked right past lead singer Reggie Youngblood and drummer Kevin Snow. They smiled and said thanks when I told them I was looking forward to the show tonight. What a cool city. What a cool scene. Just a casual run-in on the sidewalk with a couple of rock stars. On to the show…

Sunbears!
The Sunbears!, a drummer and keyboardist duo also from Jacksonville, came on to a stage that seemed to explode with confetti and video. I remember jamming to the music, but I was really struck by the stage entertainment including a projection screen that played computer-generated images of the band. The feel of the performance was a couple of kids who were just in love with the music and were enjoying their road trip. They weren’t taking anything for granted. I liked that. I’ll keep my eye out for their record to see if they were actually any good.

youngbloodBlack Kids
As the Black Kids are a new, young band with only one major record out, I pretty much knew what I was going to hear from them. I absolutely love about half their album, while the other half I could do without. They started out with “Listen To Your Body Tonight.” Typically, this song will get you moving. But seeing them live, I realized that this is not a very good show opener. That’s because Youngblood (pictured) – the star of the stage with his defining voice and stage presence – really only sings the chorus with the girls. Don’t get me wrong, the girls were great too. Dawn Watley’s energy moved me throughout the night. But like I said, Youngblood is the star, the one people pay money to see. The next few songs were mellow, and although it was a good crowd at the Metro, the band just wasn’t able to get us moving. But then they started to turn it up with “Love Me Already” and “I’ve Underestimated My Charm.” When they played “Hurricane Jane,” I knew they were building to a great close. It’s such an awesome song to hear live. It starts out slow and mellow, but explodes into an anthem. The crowd knew it, and was waiting for the surge. The band hit it perfectly – we followed by singing along, dancing like kids, and pumping our hands in the air.

By the time they came to their last song, crowd had transformed. “I’m Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” was as big of a pop hit as I’ve ever seen live. I’m happy I brought a female friend with me – by the end, my masculinity was buried under a thick layer of 80′s pop-inspired dancing glee. But I don’t care, it was a great time.

matesofstateMates of State
I was first introduced to Mates of State at Lollapalooza 2008. I remember they came on right before the Kills, whom I was excited to see. As it turns out, Mates of State caught me off guard with great music, while The Kills were just not good. I left after two songs and went out to pick up Mates of State’s new album Re-Arrange Us. It’s one of those albums that doesn’t sound groundbreaking until about the third time you hear it, once those hooks get stuck in your head.

Mates of State hails from San Francisco and consists of husband and wife duo Jason Hammel (drums) and Kori Gardner (keys and vocals). They were joined on stage at the Metro by two other musicians who played a litany if instruments; including stand-up bass, trumpet, drums, guitars and hand-held percussions. But the show is really centered on the connection between Jason and Kori. And that connection is strong. My friend had never heard them before and left as a new fan, and the rest of the crowd seemed enamored. For a while, however, I was a little unimpressed. I thought it was more of a sit-down show than stand-in-a-crowd show. That said, one of the added musicians was really active and good at pumping up the crowd, filling the rock-star role.

While there was no encore, Mates of State did a damn good job of closing out the set. Both members of Sunbears! and the extra musicians all grabbed a drum and came towards the front of the stage. With a total of five drummers on stage, they played a mesmerizing beat along to Kori’s vocals. The best use of multiple drums since Bon Iver played on Letterman, it blew me away.

Overall, this was the best show I’ve seen in 2009 so far. A little slow and underwhelming at times, but a solid performance by three talented bands.

- Josh Kay

Below is some archival footage of Black Kids’ “Hurricane Jane.”

Want to write a review for Sound Citizen? Send an email to reviews@soundcitizen.com.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So3uYu1U5f0[/youtube]

Ben Kweller Tour Dates – Summer 2009

kwellerCountry/rock musician Ben Kweller is about to tour in the United States. He’ll be playing his new album, Changing Horses, a decidedly more country-sounding record than his previous releases. On first listen, it’s a good one – featuring some steel guitar, Dobro and much more. Continue reading