Category Archives: MP3s

Lollapalooza 2013 Lineup (with mp3s)


Lollapalooza has announced its 2013 lineup and has already sold out of three-day passes, individual day passes, and VIP passes. I’ve gone every year since it settled in Chicago and have consistently had a good time. Some years have been more fun than other, but there are always bands I’m excited to see and there are always a few surprises.

It will be fun to see the Cure headline a big fest like this. I haven’t seen them since the Curiosa Festival came to Tinley Park. I’m also super excited about seeing Father John Misty, but — as always — it would probably be way better to see him in a smaller, darker venue. He’ll probably play at 2 o’clock as the sun beats us all into submission. But hey, that’s when the good stuff happens at Lollapalooza. Nobody goes to these things just to see the headliners, do they?


The Killers
Nine Inch Nails
New Order (soundcloud)
Queens of the Stone Age (soundcloud)
Steve Aoki (soundcloud)
Thievery Corporation (mp3)
Lana Del Rey (mp3)
Flux Pavilion (soundcloud)
Band of Horses (mp3)
Hot Chip (mp3)
Crystal Castles (mp3)
Imagine Dragons
Frightened Rabbit (mp3)
Dillon Francis
Smith Westerns (mp3)
Disclosure (soundcloud)
Father John Misty (mp3)
Ghost B.C.
Emeli Sande (soundcloud)
Jessie Ware (soundcloud)
Atlas Genius (soundcloud)
Timeflies (soundcloud)
Theophilus London (mp3)
Monsta (soundcloud)
IO Echo (soundcloud)
Icona Pop (soundcloud)
Chance the Rapper (mp3)
Lance Herbstrong
Robert DeLong (soundcloud)
Deap Vally (soundcloud)
Twenty One Pilots (soundcloud)
San Cisco (soundcloud)
Hey Marseilles (mp3)
Keys N Krates (soundcloud)
The Neighborhood (soundcloud)
Pacific Air (mp3)
American Authors (soundcloud)
Houndmouth (soundcloud)
Brick and Mortar (mp3)
Brite Lite Brite (soundcloud)


Mumford & Sons (soundcloud)
The Postal Service (mp3)
The National (mp3)
The Lumineers (soundcloud)
Kendrick Lamar (mp3)
Eric Church (soundcloud)
Steve Angello (soundcloud)
Ellie Goulding (mp3)
Azealia Banks (mp3)
Local Natives (mp3)
Dada Life (soundcloud)
Matt & Kim (mp3)
Foals (mp3)
Death Grips (mp3)
Court Yard Hounds (soundclouds)
Adventure Club
Ben Howard (mp3)
Griz (soundcloud)
Charles Bradley (mp3)
Heartless Bastards (mp3)
Baauer (soundcloud)
Haim (soundcloud)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra (mp3)
St. Lucia (mp3)
Shovels & Rope (soundcloud)
Little Green Cars (soundcloud)
Family of the Year (mp3)
The Bright Light Social Hour (soundcloud)
Pujol (mp3)
Planet Hemp
Cole Plante (soundcloud)
Lukas Nelson & P.O.T.R. (soundcloud)
Blondfire (soundcloud)
Frontier Ruckus (soundcloud)
Wheeler Brothers (soundcloud)
The Dunwells (soundcloud)
Supreme Cuts (mp3)
Wild Cub (mp3)
Brooke Waggoner (soundcloud)
Beast Patrol (soundcloud)


The Cure
Phoenix (mp3)
Vampire Weekend (mp3)
Knife Party (soundcloud)
Grizzly Bear (mp3)
Major Lazer (mp3)
Dog Blood
Two Door Cinema Club (mp3)
Tegan and Sara (mp3)
Beach House (mp3)
Cat Power (mp3)
2 Chainz (soundcloud)
Alt-J (mp3)
The Vaccines (mp3)
DIIV (soundcloud)
Alex Clare (mp3)
Baroness (soundcloud)
Lianne La Havas (mp3)
Wild Nothing (mp3)
Angel Haze (mp3)
Wavves (mp3)
Alvin Risk (soundcloud)
Jake Bugg (soundcloud)
Wild Belle (mp3)
Art Department (soundcloud)
MS MR (soundcloud)
Guards (mp3)
Kill the Noise (mp3)
Skaters (soundcloud)
The Orwells (mp3)
Palma Violets
Astro (soundcloud)
Machines Are People Too (soundcloud)
Yawn (mp3)
Half Moon Run (soundcloud)
The Mowgli’s (mp3)
Wake Owl (mp3)
Bear Mountain (mp3)
O’ Brother (soundcloud)
Makeshift Prodigy (soundcloud)

Photo by Alan M. Paterson.

Cat Power – Sun

Cat PowerSun (Matador)

The story goes that when Chan Marshall set off to begin the follow up to the very hard to follow up The Greatest, she presented her progress to a friend. She could tell that the new material didn’t grab her friend in quite the manner that she hoped, and after some additional probing, the friend declared that the new songs sounded pretty much like any other Car Power song.

And Chan Marshall was tired of sounding like the “old” Cat Power.

More power to her–pun intended–as the process of avoiding stagnation has given rock and roll some of its best moments.

It has also given it some of its worst, and the risk for epic failure gets greater when artists begin to incorporate other styles and genres that are way beyond their limits. For example: Bob Mould may be a fine dj on the weekends, but that doesn’t mean he makes a mean EDM record.

More to the point, it doesn’t mean that I want to hear a Bob Mould EDM album either. I want my musical heroes to be brave enough to listen to that bit of self-doubt in their heads that says, “Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this.”

Chan Marshall shouldn’t be making records like Sun, plain and simple. That’s my opinion, and it comes from the same one that thinks The Greatest was a risky album on its own. It, and to a lesser extent Jukebox, positioned Chan into promising new direction. Instead, she has now squandered that promise into a half-baked record of songs that seem to insinuate that the recording session for Sun was nothing more than one big distraction.

There are beats, rhythms, vocoders, beeps, and other creations that seem to be the result of a shopping spree in the electronics area of Guitar Center. There’s no rhyme or reason to when and why these sounds are introduced in a song, so you’re left to assume that shit just kept getting added on until Chan finally had the empathy to say “Stick a fork in it. It’s done.”

The nonsense starts early. The opener, “Cherokee,” gradually brings the listeners into Chan’s left turn, starting with a shimmering guitar before the manufactured beats make their entrance.

And you know what? It’s ok for a moment. When Chan mutters “Never knew love like this,” she sounds like she’s on the other end of a dial-up internet connection. Big beats come in and things get a little shaky, but again, Marshall hides it with a great chorus of repeated “Marry me to the sky,” bringing a bit of a lyrical connection with the song title.

Then, at exactly 3:05 into “Cherokee,” the sound of a fucking hawk or some other bird comes in. Immediately, I was like “What the fuck was that?!”

I quickly rewound and discovered the truth, and it was at that moment that I decided that I didn’t like the new Cat Power album.

The title track is just an overloaded mess of processed vocals and I’ve even started to lose interest into the briefly infectious lead-off single, “Ruin.”

My wife, who owns quite a large collection of Glee product, declares “3, 6, 9” as “strangely good” while it only makes me say, “I see what you did there!” What Marshall comes up with is a hooky bit of prose that repeats ad infinitum.

The darker moments are the best, and they will be the only moments that I’ll end up leaving in my playlist after this review posts. “Always On My Own” and “Human Being” are harrowing tales, but it’s “Manhattan” that serves as the best interpretation of Marshall’s desire to be different.

With it’s cheesy drum machine and simple, four-step piano phrase, Marshall double-tracks her voice with an emotive lead over her trademarked low-end mumble. “Don’t look at the moon tonight,” she warns “It will never be Manhattan.”

How can I stay mad at a line like that? I can’t, but I can leave off a good chunk of Sun and wonder if this is the work of a woman who’s heart isn’t in it anymore. Because Sun sounds more like an obligation, if you ask me, with each and every electronic addition seemingly introduced to cover up the fact that the album has very little heart behind it.

It is a record that began with a notion that it needed to be different, when it should have been looked at as a record that needed to be better than The Greatest.

Video: Cat Power – “Cherokee”

MP3: Cat Power – “Ruin”

Husky – Forever So

HuskyForever So (Sub Pop)

Our favorite Seattle label is now making its way down under to find the next big thing up here. Husky represents their first signing from Melbourne, with the moniker actually the first name of the band’s guitar and vocalist.

The only “Husky” I knew growing up was the name of a JC Penny clothing line for fat kids. It didn’t last; who wants a tag on your jeans that scream “Feel free to bully my fat ass.”

I don’t know Husky Gawenda’s waist size, but I do know the kind of music he creates because it’s the same kind of music that Sub Pop has been pushing ever since they banked on Fleet Foxes. Maybe Poneman related to such lines as “I went walking in the woods today/I found a path/It led me astray.” (“The Woods”), imagining the big continent of Australia resembled the redwoods of the Northwest.

It’s not that I don’t subscribe to this kind of music. In fact, I’ve got a soft spot for anything remotely beautiful and sensitive within the confines of a folk-rock structure. Which is exactly what Husky delivers on Forever So. And depending on how cold and hard your own heart is, the results of Gawenda’s breathy croon can be a hit or miss affair.

“Hey man, do you want to hear a story about me?” begins “Animals & Freaks,” and before you’re given a chance to respond with the affirmative, Gawenda has already declared “Fuck you, I’m telling you my story anyway.” He’s assumed the role of an old man, telling you the tale of a chance encounter with a woman who he’s spent “three weeks in a cheap motel” before watching her depart with an eagle to go catch snakes in Mexico.

I swear to God I’m not making this up.

Yes, it’s the endlessly romantic and utterly unbelievable lyrics that make Forever So such an acquired taste. If only there were more moments like the wonderful opening “Tidal Wave,” which paints an account of a relationship within the claustrophobic cityscapes while Gawenda dreams of the day when it will all come tumbling down, leaving only him and his beau to enjoy the serenity of their love within the uncluttered landscape of natural beauty.

Now that’s more like it!

Sure, it’s a dynamic that may work better with members of the fairer sex, but it also demonstrates that there’s still a large proportion of empathetic types in this world that can relate to the sticky-sweet feelings that love provides. Forever So also shows that we’re still struggling to come up with the words to adequately describe those feelings.

Video: Husky – “The Woods”

MP3: Husky – “Tidal Wave”

MP3: Husky – “History’s Door”

Audio: Husky – Forever So [FULL ALBUM STREAM]

The Chuck Dukowski Sextet – Haunted; OFF! – Off!

The Chuck Dukowski SextetHaunted (Org Music)

OFF!Off! (Vice)

The importance of L.A.’s punk pioneers Black Flag cannot be understated. Even if history only confirms one album, Damaged, as the band’s crowning achievement, you have to consider the band beyond anything committed to magnetic tape. From their grueling tour schedule, to the D.I.Y. ethos of their label SST Records, to their dangerous encounters with the Los Angeles Police Department, Black Flag is a band that could never be duplicated in today’s world. Not that you’d want to, based on their numerous war stories.

Because of this, the members of Black Flag’s continual line-up changes deserve a bit of respect in their post Flag offerings, regardless of how important their career changes were.

For Black Flag’s first vocalist, Keith Morris, that respect was secured with the Circle Jerks, another prominent SoCal punk rock band that continues to inspire and be revered even in the new century.

For Black Flag’s original bassist and occasional wordsmith Chuck Dukowski, the ability to say something nice about his work after Flag becomes a bit of a stretch. After researching and re-listening to Duke’s work in such forgotten SST releases by SWA and October Faction, the best thing that can be said is to leave well enough alone.

It may surprise some that we can now consider both of these alumni as legitimate members of the post-millennium music scene, not just card-carrying SST members looking to cash in on a bit of nostalgia, although both men have participated in at least some kind of reunion effort of their former glories.

Dukowski’s current gig centers around a band that bares his name: the Chuck Dukowski Sextet. The CD6 features Chuck’s wife Lora on vocals, an artist who not only delivers stunning visual pieces (check out the band’s album covers) but also a surprisingly awesome vocal take on the Dukowski penned Flag classic “My War” from the band’s debut album, Eat My Life.

They included the cover on a split 7” they did with Mike Watt’s Missingmen project last Spring. The effort was released on their new record label Org Records as a way to remind listeners of Dukowski’s lineage, a promotional tactic that must have worked since it certainly put the CD6 on my radar.

Keith Morris’ latest band, OFF!, also took flight after a bit of reminiscing and the subsequent falling out between band members trying to revisit old tunes while trying to ignore old personality clashes.

When Morris’ Circle Jerks decided to give it another go, the members found a huge gulf between the idea to make the band just another nostalgia act or to take things a step further by incorporating new songs into the mix. When some members were unable to devote the time necessary to work on new material and when some voiced concern over producer Dimitri Coats’ own work demands, Morris put the Circle Jerks on hiatus and continued to work on the songs that he and Coats had started.

Off! just released their debut album over the summer, and it’s hard to find fault with Morris’ decision or with Coats work ethic and guitar work either.

Off! screams by at barely a quarter-hour, with every second sounding like it’s the most important thing in the world, even when the subject matter obviously isn’t.

Don’t think that Off! is riddled with greasy kid stuff, but there are moments where Morris is able to channel his younger angst. Most notable is “I Got News For You” where the Keith takes a haymaker towards Black Flag and SST founder Greg Ginn. Ginn is pretty notorious for questionable payment practices, and Morris may be the first SST alumni to publicly call him out via a 45-second song, even one that hijacks a line or two from Flag’s “You Bet I’ve Got Something Against You.” “We trudged through sludge and piss/Were never paid for this!” he screams, while Coats does an incredible job of being able to alternate between Ginn’s free jazz chaos and punchy Stooge riffs.

Haunted is the latest offering from the Chuck Dukowski Sextet, and while it’s nowhere near the intensity level of Off’s pace, it’s closer to SST Record’s spirit with its unpredictable tangents.

As with the band’s previous records, the weakest link is vocalist Lora Norton who struggles with pitch, delivery, and a general sense of identity. Usually, she remains in a comfort range of a slow burn stoner, somewhat resembling Opal’s Kendra Smith, without the mystery or consistency.

It’s a family affair for the CD6, and thankfully Norton’s son Milo Gonzalez has shaped up to be a pretty passionate guitarist, giving Haunted its moments of much needed power. With a bit more work and a bit more attention at figuring out exactly what kind of band they want to be, the CD6 remain in this weird purgatory of notable potential with some members clearly dragging their feet on the band’s overall forward movement.

Gonzalez seems stifled with his mother on board as he conjures up visions of Witch Mountain with his axe and wah-wah pedal while Nora plays passive/aggressive with her delivery, stubbornly  keeping Haunted tethered to the ground while the kid sounds like he’s ready to take off.

The worst offender is the eight-minute (that’s half of Off’s entire total time, if you’re keeping track) “A Thing,” which drags on and on like it’s trying to compete as some weak V.U. cover, complete with the obligatory drone violin.

For now, the CD6’s best work remains confined to that out-of-this world “My War” cover, which is unfortunately ironic as the band is clearly trying to branch out from Dukowski’s own past.

And maybe that’s the problem: the CD6 are simply thinking too hard at trying to find themselves, when all they need to do is to try and find the same kind of passion that Morris was clearly able to conjure up in short order with Off!

Audio: Chuck Dukowski Sextet — “All Is One”

Video: OFF! – “Wiped Out”

MP3: OFF! – “King Kong Brigade” (via Magnet)

Five From the Archive: Smashing Pumpkins in 2011

The Smashing Pumpkins at Le Grand Rex in Paris, France. May 22, 2007

Rolling Stone recently ran a Readers’ Poll of The Best Smashing Pumpkins Songs, as selected by their readers. The response was so large and varied that they decided to make it a Top 20 list instead of the regular Top 10 with Rolling Stone Readers’ Polls. I had been planning on running a Five From the Archive piece on the Smashing Pumpkins anyway, and when I read this, I thought it afforded the perfect opportunity. Here’s what I’ve done.

Last fall, the new Smashing Pumpkins lineup – Jimmy Chamberlin is out on drums – did a short tour of the states in October, and a quick jaunt into Europe in November. So I chose five songs from those shows that were also included in the Reader’s Poll. All but one of the selections are from Siamese Dreams, for two reasons. First, the album dominates the Readers’ Poll. Second, I have a special attachment to the record. I was a bit obsessed with it when it came out. I went on and on about what a brilliant set of songs I thought it was, to anyone who would listen. Including some GloNo colleagues I knew back then.

1. Smashing Pumpkins – “Starla”.  This epic length track, from Siamese Dream days, came in at Number 2o in the Readers’ Poll. I remember “Starla” from one of the many CD singles they were releasing at that time. I’m going to be honest with you. Some of my college buddies and I enjoyed sparking up to this one at the time. Full show: October 7, 2011 – Fox Theater, Oakland, CA

2. Smashing Pumpkins – “Geek U.S.A.”. This one of my favorite tracks from Siamese Dream.  I loved the three song sequence on the album of “Geek U.S.A.”, “Mayonaise”, and “Spaceboy”. I thought it represented some pretty innovative rock and roll at the time. It came in at Number 13 in the Reader’s Poll. Full show: October 14, 2011 – Riviera Theater, Chicago, IL

3. Smashing Pumpkins – “Zero”. This is the one not on Siamese Dreams. If you guessed that, give yourself a gold star. Full show: November 13, 2011 – 02 Academy, Glasgow, Scotland came in at Number 12 in the Reader’s Poll.

4. Smashing Pumpkins – “Soma” Apparently, this is also the brand name of a drug called Carisoprodol. It’s a muscle relaxant. “Soma” came in at Number 4 in the Reader’s Poll. Full show: November 11, 2011 – Manchester Apollo, Manchester, UK

5. Smashing Pumpkins – “Cherub Rock”. The recording for this one isn’t as hi fi as the others, or something. It’s quieter, anyway. Good rocker. “Cherub Rock” came in at Number 3 in the Reader’s Poll. That’s the closet we got to the number one song. Full show: October 17, 2011 – 930 Club, Washington, DC

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and the author, Matthew F.

Beachwood Sparks – The Tarnished Gold

Beachwood SparksThe Tarnished Gold (Sub Pop)

After a decade long hiatus between studio albums, Beachwood Sparks returns with The Tarnished Gold, their latest attempt at channeling the ghosts of Laurel Canyon. Their country rock is tightly packaged through campfire picked guitars and a slue of pedal steels, just the way it should be. The arrangements are stacked on a wide pallet of psychedelic parlor tricks to make everything sound like it’s passed through a lysergic filter. The Tarnished Gold also features Beachwood Sparks’ most endearing feature: highly articulate harmonies that are a welcome addition when they’re presented.

It’s intriguing enough to warrant another listen, but the longer I spent in the band’s high altitude, the more I kept wondering if there was anything more to Beachwood Sparks than feeling lightheaded.

Those aforementioned harmonies are plenty nifty, but with lines like “A honeybee in a field of flower/Came to me in my darkest hour” (“Talk About Lonesome”) you have to wonder, “It took a decade to come up with that?” The lazy songwriting gets to the point where there are moments of unintentional parody, and it’s at this point that I gave up on trying to piece together anything more than “talented musicians” to Beachwood Sparks’ redeeming values.

Beyond the musical chops, I can’t tell you many other reasons why we needed to wait ten years for this understated yawner or why this band’s reunion is anything beyond the kick of confidence that came from having one of their songs featured on the cult hit, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

“Forget the song/That I’ve been singing” they sing on the opening track, and before the end of The Tarnished Gold, you’ve done exactly that.

Video: Beachwood Sparks – “Forget The Song”

MP3: Beachwood Sparks – “Forget The Song”

MP3: Beachwood Sparks – “Sparks Fly Again”

Five From the Archive: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals Play Songs From Their New Album

Grace Potter

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals released a new record earlier this year, The Lion The Beast The Beat. I was a big fan of the first single, “Never Go Back” when it came out, and what I’ve heard of the new record is also great. Her songwriting continues to mature, and I swear I notice some prog rock influence in a few of these songs. Or that may just be wishful thinking on my part.

They played five tracks off the new album at this show in late April. The band is tight and enaged. Go see them if you can.

Full Show: April 25, 2012 – The Blue Note, Columbia, MO

1. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – “The Divide”. The first song of the evening, but the last track on the album (excluding bonus tracks).

2. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – “Turntable”. The first time they played this one live. “I fell in love with a beautiful sound…” Me, too.

3. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – “The Lion The Beast The Beat”. The title track. Some cool guitar riffs here.

4. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – “Never Go Back”. This was the first single, which got lots of early exposure. They played this when they were on Ellen.

5. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – “Timekeeper”. Starts out with just Grace on the piano. Then some drums, a little bass. Later, guitar. But for most of the song, the focus is on the piano. I like the epic flavor of this track.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals served as one of the earliest bands featured in Five From the Archive. Check out her covers of Bob Dylan, Otis Redding and others.

Photo courtesy of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals.

Five From the Archive: Elliott Smith in 2003

Elliott Smith is giving Warren Zevon a run for his money. Or is this just the second time I’m highlighting work by Elliott Smith? Either way, you can expect more. This one will be the most painful. The year was 2003. I had just arrived at my hotel in York, England (business trip). I called my then wife to check in now that I was at my destination. She told me Elliott Smith had killed himself. Stabbed himself – twice – in the chest. I distinctly remember having a physical reaction to this. I was lying on the hotel bed, with my legs hanging over the edge, my feet on the ground (bed was low, I know). I felt like my heart skipped a beat, and had a sudden rush of… adrenaline or something.

Elliott Smith!? Dead!? He’d barely just begun. One of the greatest songwriting voices around at that time. At least I’d gotten to see him a handful of times in New York, and was able to appreciate his talent before he died. Thankfully for all of us, there are about 95 Elliott Smith shows currently available on the Live Music Archive. What follows is a selection of tracks from his final year, 2003. What a loss.

1. Elliott Smith – “Rose Parade”. Just Smith on the acoustic guitar as accompaniment. Lo-fi audience recording, but it captures the song pretty well. Just don’t play it loud at a party. Full show: September 19, 2003 – Redfest, Salt Lake City, UT

2. Elliott Smith – “Coast to Coast”. This is one of my favorite songs from Basement on the Hill. Fucking awesome. It’s a lo-fi audience recording, too, but it’s a full band this time. This particular show has been downloaded over 19,000 times. Full show: May 28, 2003 – The Derby, Los Angeles, CA

3. Elliott Smith – “A Distorted Reality Is Know A Necessity To Be Free”. Demonstrates how vulnerable he was at this time. The audience is deadly quiet (after the banter and a few false starts at the beginning, anyway). Full show: May 22, 2003 – Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA

4. Elliott Smith – “King’s Crossing”. Favorite track from Basement. Acoustic version. Full show: January 31, 2003 – Henry Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

5. Elliott Smith – “Pretty (Ugly Before)”. Full show: May 3, 2003 – The Steamboat, Austin, TX

You can find earlier coverage of Elliott Smith’s work on Five For the Archive here.

Image of Elliott Smith courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.


Summer Camp Music Festival 2012: Musical Highlights

Summer Camp 2012

This was our first year at Summer Camp, and there were a bunch of bands I was excited to see. So my expectations were high. I got to see most of the bands on my list, and all that I did see were as good or better than I was expecting. But, Christ… the heat? Almost unbearable. It practically drained the life from me. But, once again, I was saved by rock n roll… plus some new strategies for staying cool when you’re spending entire days out in unshaded, 90+ degree heat. Here are some of the bands and artists that made Summer Camp a special musical experience for me.

Keller Williams, Friday, May 25, Moonshine Stage, 2:45 – 3:45
Keller Williams Summer Camp 2012

Keller Williams is a one man show, like no other. He plays guitar, bass, and brings digital programming and loops into the mix, including layers of harmony vocals he’s built in advance. I’ve enjoyed every show I’ve seen him play. He’s incredibly interesting to watch – especially considering it’s just one dude, and he doesn’t even bite a bat’s head off or anything to keep the crowd entertained.

You can listen to the whole set over at the Live Music Archive by clicking the link above. My two personal favorites were “Freaker By The Speaker” and “Doobie In My Pocket”, both of which I’ve seen him play before. They both brought smiles to my face.

It was during Keller’s set that our strategy for staying cool and properly enjoying the festival came together. Which is odd, because we’ve done this before. My theory is that the sheer number of stages threw us off. There were just so many fuckin’ stages at this festival. In fact, it’s one of the things Summer Camp promotes – how many bands and how many stages they have. It was a little overwhelming, to be honest. Way too much movement required.

In any event, our strategy became: Whenever we decamped and headed for a stage, we brought our lawn chairs, a small cooler, our camera gear, and set up camp at every stage, before the show we were there to see. Then I would head up to the photo pit, take a few shots, while Sab kept the new base camp under control. So we didn’t exactly do this for Keller, but we found the shadiest spot to kick it, far back from the stage, but still with good sight lines and audio coverage. [More photos of Keller Williams at Summer Camp]

Weir, Robinson, Greene Acoustic Trio, Friday, May 25, Sunshine Stage, 5:00 – 6:15
Weir, Robinson, Greene Trio at Summer Camp 2012

Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead. Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes. And the should-be-more-famous Jackie Greene. Now touring together as an acoustic trio. I hadn’t seen them together before, so they were high on my list of bands to see. They started things off with “Truckin'”, a common and loved show starter for the Grateful Dead and the bands that have come after – Furthur, RatDog, Phil and Friends, etc.

The rest of the set – all hour and a half – was a mix of songs that I would have killed to see at a Ratdog or Furthur. “West LA Fadeaway” was one of the highlights for me. They creep into the song. On “When I Paint My Masterpiece”,  Greene plays mandolin. Outstanding.

The idea for the trio likely grew out of the Furthur and Friends show for Phil’s 70th birthday, which saw Greene and Robinson joining Furthur to amp up the celebration. In fact, I saw them do New Speedway Boogie at both shows. An acoustic Boogie was a treat. Jackie Greene is the multi instrumentalist in the band. In addition to rhythm and lead guitar, he plays mandolin and the occasional harmonica. Weir and Robinson stick to acoustic guitar. And, obviously, they all do vocals – harmonies on the choruses, and they mostly take turns on singing the verses. This one is also available on the Live Music Archive (link above). [More photos of Weir, Robinson, Greene Acoustic Trio at Summer Camp]

MathGames, Saturday, May 26, Starshine Stage, 12:00 – 1:00
MathGames at Summer Camp 2012

I’d seen MathGames once before. The first time was at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. They had Ray White with them then, and they covered Frank Zappa’s “City of Tiny Lights”. They had the same uniforms on – some sort of white coveralls that couldn’t have been comfortable to be playing in the Chillicothe heat. My son had his tonsils out the other day, and now I’m pretty sure they’re wearing the same thing my son’s mom wore to observe the beginning of the surgery – at least until the boy was sedated. Anyway, maybe one of them is a surgeon in his day job?

I don’t know quite how to classify MathGames’ music. There’s jazz in there, a hefty dose of progressive rock, minus the choruses and verses.  Space age jazz rock? No, four words is too many… Space jazz? Not quite right, either. I give up. For now, I’ll just describe the band. Fareed Haque is the driving force behind the band. He’s a unique and respected jazz guitar player, steeped in the 80s jazz fusion, and now a music professor in Illinois. Two younger Chicago musicians making up the rhythm section – Alex Austin on bass, and Greg Fundis on drums. And a new, permanent (?) addition to the band, Jesse Clayton on keyboards, coming to the band from Ann Arbor’s own Macpodz.

The good news is that I found a video of MathGames at Summer Camp. Prepare yourself for some, um, space prog…? Yeah, that doesn’t work either. Just watch the video!

[More photos of MathGames at Summer Camp]

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Saturday, May 26, Starshine Stage, 1:30 – 2:30
JC Brooks at Summer Camp 2012

For both MathGames and JC Brooks, we managed to score the best seats in the house. A gracious beer vendor had set up a sun shelter, and since no one was using it, we set up camp there for a couple of hours. The chairs, the beer cooler, etc. Plus shade in the noonday sun. Which was brutal! Brutal, I say!

But it was all worth it. Brooks is a charismatic frontman, and The Uptown Sound is a tight, accomplished band. Brooks has some stories to tell, and he weaves them through the songs in their set list. “I Got High”, for example.

Their Wilco cover – “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” is outstanding. They turn the song in a completely different direction.  And it was the song I was really looking forward to hearing (we highlighted a version in our Summer Camp Music Sampler, you might recall). JC and the band funk it up a bit, and JC pulls the heartache in the song fully to the surface (the Wilco version hides it behind a lot of thrashing guitar riffs and noise).

Unfortunately, I can’t find a recording of their set, which is very frustrating. They have a liberal taping policy, so I kind of expected it out there. No YouTube videos, either! They are a band you’ll want to see if they come to your neck of the woods. [More photos of JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound at Summer Camp]

Common, Saturday, May 26, Sunshine Stage, 4:15 – 5:15
Common at Summer Camp 2012

Common was at the top of my list of bands to see. I don’t get to see enough live hip hop, and I thought a festival would be the perfect environment for it. And I’ve been a huge fan of Common’s since I saw him with Kanye West on the Dave Chappelle show. His new record, The Believer/The Dreamer, is great. He played a few songs from that, but otherwise wove through catalogue highlights from the last 10 years or so of his work. He had a drummer, a keyboard player, and a DJ on stage with him.

Common used the length of the stage to engage the audience and drive his verses home. And the crowd loved him! There were enough hardcore Common fans to pack the stage area, from the soundboard forward. I was amazed at all the people spitting out the verses with Common, too. I mean, I know parts of verses from the Common records I have. But even if I knew them by heart, I don’t think I could get my mouth to move that fast, and if I did, I’d run out of breath before I got through a single verse. But it was really cool to see the crowd rocking with Common like that. I vote for more hip hop artists at festivals.

PS: Towards the end of the set, he said “lookout for the new album, coming soon” and he rattles off some of the people involved, starting off with Kanye West. Which could be good.

Another bonus from the YouTubes. Here’s Common doing a freestyle over a slice of the beat for “Otis” from Watch The Throne.

[More photos of Common at Summer Camp]

Anders Osborne, Saturday, May 26, Campfire Stage, 5:00 – 6:00
Anders Osborne at Summer Camp 2012

I’d only heard of Anders Osborne recently, via Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and their work together recreating The Rolling Stones‘ Sticky Fingers. So I didn’t know any of his solo work going in, but the Sticky Fingers work impressed me enough that I circled him on my festival schedule. I’m glad I did, because he was the best discovery of the festival for me.

Osborne played right after Common over at the Campfire Stage, so we had to decamp and move quickly to catch his set. What we heard was just great rock n roll. Well crafted songs writ large by a three piece band, with extended soloing over a rugged rock n roll terrain. Neil Young through the filter of New Orleans. Sort of. What was interesting is that he just released a new album at the beginning of May – Black Eye Galaxy – and he didn’t play a single song from it. Just one song from his album before that, American Patchwork. The song was “I Got Your Heart”, my personal favorite from that album (which I bought, along with the new one, when I got back from Summer Camp). He introduced it this way:

“Alright. Here’s a little song I wrote for my wife when I was in rehab last.”

Lucky for us, someone captured a few songs from their set on video, and posted it to YouTube. Here’s one, for the song “Burning On The Inside”. About 4:20 into the clip, Osborne starts playing this riff that builds into a nice solo, with good support from Eric Bolivar (drums) and Carl Dufrene (bass).

[More photos of Anders Osborne at Summer Camp]

King Tuff – King Tuff

King TuffKing Tuff (Sub Pop)

Surely, after Witch, Happy Birthday, and now King Tuff, one of Kyle Thomas’ projects will take hold and turn him into Sub Pop’s latest hot commodity. Lord knows they seem to release every single fart that this guy lets go of and they leave it to me to pin the tail on the moniker.

King Tuff may be the first Kyle Thomas project that actually contributes to his billing as a scuzz rock royalty, as his self-titled sophomore effort seems to suggest. Suddenly, all of the concerns of his white underbelly schtick get overlooked under a barrage of memorable power chords and the occasional Bolan Boogie.

He’s hinted at all of this before, but King Tuff actually overcomes all of the complaints that I had with Thomas’ Happy Birthday and with his catalog in general. With King Tuff, Thomas seems like he’s put in long hours working on nearly every aspect of the songs. From those aforementioned guitar highlights, to the intriguing lyrical perspective, and down to the scrapped together mix job which turned an abandoned school into what sounds like an inviting sonic Pepperland.

“Someone told me long ago/Baby, just break the rules” he declares on “Baby Just Break,” and the press release for King Tuff likes to refer to that freak flag quite often. But King Tuff shows us that Thomas cleans up nicely, making the story of how he’s been living out of his shoes a bit more palatable and, more importantly, believable. This record sounds as though he’s putting forth a greater effort in getting out of his squatter motif, heading to a point where his music actually may provide enough bread to devote all of his energy into making more songs as memorable as he has here.

“Hangin’ with my crew/At Loser’s Wall” tells the story of the social outcast’s turf, eerily mirroring my own reality growing up in a small Iowa river town.

Cruising Main Street was the norm on Saturday night, but there was a spot called “The Wall” where the carless, the rideless, and sometimes the friendless would congregate. It was a cement wall in front of a shuttered Buick dealership where the weekend crew would sit, and the outcasts would endure the shouts of passersby, safe in their Daddy’s cars with some of the more cruel passengers armed with water balloons for added emphasis.

Occasionally, a car would stop a pick someone up from the Wall, and they would suddenly be transformed from “losers” to people actually in motion.

King Tuff is where Thomas catches a lift, but it’s good enough that he actually steers the vehicle somewhere beyond the endless asphalt circle. He drags us down to the “Swamp of Love,” deeper to the “Unusual World” and even past the old drive-in where the creature-feature infection of “Bad Thing” blasts like a bit of transistor garage rock.

Ultimately, all of King Tuff represents some kind of sound from our past, but it maintains the optimism that most of us tend to lose by our early twenties. It is nice to be reminded of that forgotten optimism, and King Tuff provides it within its forty minutes, without irony, and without a hint of regret.

None of it may be life-changing, but it’s certainly life-affirming, prompting King Tuff to be the first itchy chigger bite of this summer that you’ll want to keep scratching all season long.

Video: King Tuff – “Bad Thing”

MP3: King Tuff – “Bad Thing”

MP3: King Tuff – “Keep On Movin'”

Full Album Stream: King Tuff – King Tuff