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Riot Fest 2018: Whole Lotta Shakin’

I’ve been attending big music festivals in Chicago every summer since 2005, but it’s been many many years since I arrived anywhere near early enough to see the opening wave of bands. There’s always bands I’d kinda like to see who play before 2:30pm but 3-day music festivals are work and you have to make sacrifices for your health and sanity.

Riot Fest scheduled Liz Phair to play at 2:10 on Friday this year. That’s early. Especially for a Friday. And even more so since I no longer live in Chicago. But I love Liz Phair, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen her in concert. In fact, I had tickets to see her in Detroit on Thursday but once the Riot Fest lineup was released, I decided to skip it. But that made it mandatory to arrive in Douglas Park in time.

I didn’t need to worry. Getting in to the park this year was easier than ever before. In fact, we made it inside with plenty of time to see festival opener Speedy Ortiz, who coincidentally is opening up for Liz Phair on her current tour. They were fun and cool. And their 30-minute set flew by.

The best thing about Riot Fest is that it’s got a small enough footprint that you can run around from stage to stage in no time. Five or ten minutes is all you need to get from one to the another. Unfortunately, this also means there’s soundbleed from other bands if you’re not standing directly in front of the stage. But it’s great to be able to skip around and get a sampler platter of everything that’s happening.

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Live: Regina Spektor in Grand Rapids

The show was billed as “A Very Special Solo Performance” by Regina Spektor. And it certainly felt special. She was chatty and giggly between songs and seemed to sincerely appreciate the enthusiastic adoration of her fans at the sold out 20 Monroe Live. I’ve never been to a concert where the fans whiplashed between shouts of obnoxious requests and exclamations of love to complete silence and reverence as soon as the next song began.

Spektor took it all in. She spent most of the time seated at her Steinway grand, but played a couple songs on her blue Epiphone Royale, and a few on an electric piano. She even sang a capella, including the charming rarity, “Reginasaurus.”

Her songs are written from a unique perspective. She’s sometimes lumped in with the antifolkies of New York from the turn of the millennium, but I dunno. Her music sounds more like Stravinsky than the Moldy Peaches. Her classical piano training is obvious, although she clearly relishes subverting that by playing with one hand and beating on stuff with a drumstick in the other. Or making trumpet sounds with her mouth. Or beatboxing. Or singing about bobbing for apples in Somalia while “someone next door’s fucking to one of my songs.” At one point she explained why she doesn’t like people to clap along with her songs: “It’s nice, but I actually stretch time.”

Continue reading Live: Regina Spektor in Grand Rapids

Riot Fest 2017: No Dicks on the Dancefloor

Riot Fest once again proved itself to be the music fest for grownups. Grownups in black t-shirts.

While all the other big festivals rotate the same dozen headliners, it’s great that Riot Fest has retained its punk rock focus. Maybe not as strictly as during its first several years as a multi-venue festival, but most of the performers still fall somewhere along the punk rock spectrum. And even the ones who don’t play distorted guitars could be said to have a punk rock attitude. Gotta respect that.

Riot Fest sometimes gets accused of cashing in on nostalgia. Sure, a lot of the bands peaked 20 or 30 years ago (or more). But the fact that they’re still around and kicking ass is a testament not only to their survival but to our own. We should all hope we age as gracefully as the most of these artists (Al Jourgensen excepted).

Headliners this year were Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, and a reunited Jawbreaker, playing their first full show in 21 years (other than a couple warm up gigs around San Francisco last month). The headliners get the big font on the poster, but fest diehards know that the undercard is always where the action is.

It was hot and sunny when we got to the park on Friday. You never know what you’re going to get in September in Chicago, but you can usually count on at least some rain. The line to get in was down the block and security was being thorough. I heard one guy complaining that they had opened his cardboard cigarette case the wrong way and wrecked it. A woman behind me was worried she was going to miss X, who she had last seen in 1983 with the Replacements opening up for them! Don’t worry, she made it in with time to spare.

Continue reading Riot Fest 2017: No Dicks on the Dancefloor

Photos: Father John Misty at Lollapalooza 2015

Father John Misty is one of my favorite artists of the past several years. His two albums are both awesome, and he played my favorite set at Lollapalooza 2013. I already bought my tickets to (finally) see him in a non-festival environment in September. So I was definitely excited for his set this year. But he was in a foul mood and I left disappointed.

In 2013 he was mean but funny, making fun of meatheads in the back of the crowd as well as the douchebags in the VIP sections. This year his shtick was more of a whiny crybaby, bitching about his lousy time slot (Friday at 2:30, an hour earlier than in 2013 and on a crappier stage — the Petrillo shell has no jumbotrons) and griping about how he doesn’t sell a lot of albums. He just seemed grouchy. And we knew he had abandoned “the demonic clown thing” but it was a bummer to watch him half-ass his way around some ironic “robot” moves. He just didn’t appear to be having any fun.

You used to be able to watch three songs from the livestream, but those have been unceremoniously yanked. No idea why. Maybe because he was such a grumpalumpagus.

I’m hoping he’s in a better mood on his tour in September. In the meanwhile, check out some of GLONO photographer Jolie Brown’s pictures of the set.

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Continue reading Photos: Father John Misty at Lollapalooza 2015

Photos: Charli XCX at Lollapalooza 2015

Charli XCX is a rock star. Or at least she should be. She’s got a badass all-girl band who stole their look from the Runaways and play crunchy power pop to match. Charli looks and acts like a snotty club kid. Her records have the glossy sheen to sneak into mainstream pop radio, but live in concert, her sound is way more tough. Either way, I love it. Her music is rebellious and dangerous in the classic way that makes parents shudder but is ultimately harmless. “Oh dad, it’s just a song.” Whatever kid, just stick to the Kidz Bop version.

She played Schubas in 2013 (capacity: ~165), which would have been great to see. But even in the bright daylight of a packed Lollapalooza field she controlled the crowd, demanding more people up on shoulders. The crowd complied. It was awesome.

You can watch a couple of songs from the official livestream:

Video: Charli XCX – “I Love It” (live at Lollapalooza)

Video: Charli XCX – “Break the Rules” (live at Lollapalooza)

GLONO photographer Jolie Brown got a bunch of great pictures of the set. Here are some of the best.

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Continue reading Photos: Charli XCX at Lollapalooza 2015

Photos: Gogol Bordello at Lollapalooza 2015

Gogol Bordello is a fun, fun band. It’s impossible to not get wrapped up in their enthusiasm. They played Lollapalooza in 2010 and my college-age cousin who was staying with us and watching our kid that summer highly recommended them. But like most grouchy older dudes, I stupidly dismissed the opinions of a young girl. But I ended up catching the last 15 minutes of their set that year which was enough to convince me that 1) Gogol Bordello is a hell of a band, and 2) young girls are way cooler than grouchy old dudes. I’m learning. It’s a process.

So this year they were near the top of my “must see” list. And they delivered. What a show. Frontman Eugene Hütz crashed onto the stage chugging and spilling a bottle of red wine, his guitar flailing around his body on the world’s flimsiest strap, and he sang in a thick Russian accent with conviction and charisma.

If you’re unfamiliar with their music check out their NPR Tiny Desk Concert or just download “Wanderlust King” from a BBC session.

GLONO photographer Jolie Brown got a ton of great pictures of the set. Here are some of the best.

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Continue reading Photos: Gogol Bordello at Lollapalooza 2015

These Are The Good Old Days: The Libertines at Alexandra Palace

The Libertines at Alexandra Palace
London, September 28, 2014

Peter announced from the stage that next time The Libertines play the U.K. they will have some new songs.

The Libertines, Alexandra Palace, London, 28th September 2014

Continue reading These Are The Good Old Days: The Libertines at Alexandra Palace

More Lollapalooza 2014 Photos

We finally sorted through our Lolla pics (taken by the unsinkable Jolie Brown) and just uploaded a bunch of them to Flickr. In case you missed it, here’s our Lolla 2014 wrap up. Enjoy the photos.

Iggy Azalea (Flickr album)

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Outkast (Flickr album)

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Continue reading More Lollapalooza 2014 Photos

Lollapalooza 2014: Drives You Crazy Getting Old

Ten years. Ten Lollas in Grant Park. I had a cutting edge mobile phone in 2005 — the Motorola RAZR — but I didn’t know how to text properly. There were no iPhones, no Twitter, YouTube hadn’t officially launched yet, and Facebook was still exclusive to college students.

Lollapalooza 2005 seems quaint in retrospect. It was only two days long, there were less than 60 bands, the whole thing took place south of Buckingham Fountain, all four main stages were crammed onto Hutchinson Field… And yet this year’s event would hardly seem unrecognizable to a time traveler from 2005. It’s still, as I said back at the time, “an event as corporate and branded and manipulative as anything any marketing genius could ever devise.” And despite that, with the right attitude, it can still be a lot of fun.

Over the years I have seen so many memorable performances at Lollapalooza. Would most of these have been better suited to a dark club as opposed to a big, sweaty field in the middle of the day? Absolutely. But let’s be honest. I cram more bands into three days at Lolla than I go out and see for the rest of the year combined. Is that pathetic? Maybe so, but I’m busy. I’m a grown up. And a big festival provides me with the opportunity to stumble across something unexpectedly great that I never would have sought out on my own. So I return to Lolla every year in spite of the weak lineups that — looking back — I’ve publicly bitched about almost every year.

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Photos: Johnny Marr at Brudenell Social Club

Photo by David Wala www.davidwala.com

Brudenell Social Club is a workingman’s club in Leeds with an old function room that was used previously for bingo and cabaret style acts – it still has brass fittings and seats and tables at the back on the elevated section – while the dance floor in front of the stage is all standing. It still has another room adjacent which is full of some interesting local “characters” that you would not normally find at a gig. In keeping with it being a working men’s club it still has dirt cheap drink prices.

It is a regular on the circuit for touring bands – I have seen Jesse Malin, Dan Sartain, Constellations Festival (headlined by Ariel Pink). At the end of the gig Johnny mentioned how much he loved the venue – I am guessing he would have played there with the Cribs as it is one of their favourite venues. The capacity is about 300. The audience last night was a mix of ages from diehard Smiths fans from way back in the day and new fans coming to see what they have missed.

He played a 70 minute set with mainly new songs and a few old songs (his description). Most of the set is here on video.

Photo by David Wala www.davidwala.com

Photo by David Wala www.davidwala.com

Photo by David Wala www.davidwala.com

Photo by David Wala www.davidwala.com

Photo by David Wala www.davidwala.com

Photo by David Wala www.davidwala.com

Photo by David Wala www.davidwala.com

Photo by David Wala www.davidwala.com

Photo by David Wala www.davidwala.com

All photos by David Wala. See more of his work at davidwala.net.