The last concert I shot for the Mercury was Justin Timberlake, so obviously the natural progression to the next show would be the scorched-earth punk of Vancouver, BC's White Lung Wednesday night at the Doug Fir. The venue was only half full, which was curious considering the placement of their most recent album Deep Fantasy on several best-of-2014 lists and their reputation for ferocious live shows. Bassist Hether Fortune came onstage with "I Can't Breathe" scrawled on her white tank top, an obvious nod to the tragic Eric Garner grand jury decision handed down just hours before the show. Singer Mish Way prowled the stage in a leopard-print trench coat as the band tore through a fantastic, tight set. She bantered very little with the crowd, maybe because of the crappy turnout or maybe that's just not what she does. Guitarist Kenneth William absolutely shreds, and should be mentioned alongside today's best guitar players if he isn't already. White Lung is a great band and hopefully their next show in Portland will attract a crowd with the energy to match the intensity that projects from the stage.
Lots more pictures after the jump! Including photos of opening band Mormon Crosses.
Okay, that might seem a little dismissive to the rest of the group, but for all their good works through the course of a two-plus-hour set, they didn’t bring the rapturous applause of Christine McVie’s moments in the spotlight. And make no mistake: Hearing her pinpoint vocals on now-standards like “You Make Loving Fun” and “Everywhere” was like collapsing into a warm, familiar embrace.
Her presence was only one factor of what made Saturday’s show so much fun and so surprisingly affecting. There was an audible and welcome looseness to the playing of both drummer Mick Fleetwood and singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. The jazzy strain that each brought to the evening was a great counter to the usual by-the-numbers “perfection” that marks so many shows of this size and caliber.
They also helped knock the studio sheen off some of the group’s most familiar songs, often with impressively emotional results. Stevie Nicks' showcase “Gold Dust Woman” brought the darkness of that song into focus by way of some throbbing low end and Buckingham’s most intense playing of the night. Rumours-era deep cut “Silver Springs” was given a equally strong defibrillator shot to the chest, soaring through the otherwise cavernous arena. Saving the best for last, they left Christine McVie by herself on stage at the show’s close to serve up a delicate pull of the heart strings via her stirring “Songbird.”
It would have been the perfect ending grace note, but for some reason the band had to emphasize how egalitarian things really are in the Mac camp. Both Nicks and Fleetwood came on stage to remind people how great it was to have Christine in the group once again and, as the gangly percussionist did before vacating the stage, to yell, “The Mac is back!!”
What that means, though, is anyone’s guess. New music from the group could be in the offing, but for a band closing in on its 50th anniversary, the quality of their efforts is the X factor. If, though, Fleetwood is indeed preparing us for more live shows with the core band wrapping their trusty hands and voices around some of the most indelible pop hits of the '70s and '80s, then his announcement is a welcome one.
The Mercury asked me to write a few paragraphs to review the show in addition to shooting photos, but I'm only good at pushing buttons, not writing words. So I asked my wife Megan, high school English teacher/JT superfan, and she was happy to oblige.
It’s been seven years since Justin Timberlake’s last show in Rip City, and the crowd was ready to bring the party and the noise. A well-oiled, perfectly executed spectacle—complete with moving catwalk, fierce dancing, and a crazy talented band called the Tennessee Kids—descended to the Moda Center on Thursday night, and the deafening arena even seemed to humble the pop superstar, who reminded the crowd “I’m still running this bitch” during “Sexyback,” the encore of the nearly three-hour show.
Lots more photos and review after the jump!
I have never seen the Roseland more crowded or well mannered than at the Flying Lotus show that transpired this past Monday. A racially diverse crowd of mostly dudes, packed shoulder to shoulder, respectfully snapped their necks to the tasteful beats set forth from FlyLo's laptop, which rested upon what may have been a bible stand. We exchanged knowing looks with each other every time Mr. Lotus altered the time signature or modulated the key of the music; I could feel myself and the crowd becoming more cultured and intelligent with each wave of soothing sub bass that washed over us. Listening to music without words for extended periods of time has that effect on people. Everyone knows that.
More photos and poetic prose after the jump.
Perhaps I was undercapacitated by a few too many pre-show whiskies, or distracted by my particularly pretty date, or maybe old age has slowly but surely loosened the screws of my ship, but when I pulled out my trusty Canon to document Julian Casablancas and the Voidz on a cold and blustery Tuesday evening at the Crystal Ballroom, for the first time in my recollection, I had failed to load its batteries.
Frantically texting my trusty boss, Ned, he calmly suggested I document the slovenly, sloppy, smeared performance via the slovenly, sloppy, smeared image-capturing capabilities of my iPhone. And so I did.
More photos and yammering after the jump.
I learned about Slowdive when they had already moved on as Mojave 3 and was quite upset that there would never be Souvlaki pt 2. Couple of years ago, there were some rumors about a reunion and in January of this year, it became a reality. And my dream of losing consciousness in a wave of dreamy guitars and vocals was surpassed on November 5 at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland.
For the 15-song set, Slowdive drew heavily from their seminal second LP, Souvlaki, but less from their debut, Just for a Day. Kicking off with the tracks from their self-titled debut EP from 1990, “Slowdive” and “Avalyn,” the five-piece eased into their "hits." There were some off-key flickers, and a minor distraction from a passed-out fan near the front, just as “Alison” heightened the audiences’ spirit. But the dominant mood was that of celestial splendor—the band seemed content, especially singer/guitarist Rachel Goswell, who often smiled gently, moving gracefully in her cherry-topped, red-heeled platforms. During “Golden Hair,” Goswell sat on the stage for a bit after her vocal duty, taking in the surroundings and then quietly left to let her bandmates pleasures us with their sonic assaults.
For the encore, Slowdive chose “Rutti” from Pygmalion and parted with “40 Days.” Countless guitars were exchanged during the show and Goswell even commented, “So many guitars.” Some of us stuck around for few minutes, wondering if the Brits would treat us to ONE more. But I couldn’t think of what could possibly follow “40 Days.” And as anticlimactic (because their music take you into the heights where you don’t know how to come down) as Slowdive can be, it couldn’t also been more perfect.
Lots more photos after the jump!
The Rural Alberta Advantage played a sold-out show at the Doug Fir on Saturday night. The Canadian trio are on tour for their third album on Saddle Creek, Mended with Gold, and they've always written melodic pop songs: a little bittersweet, a lot catchy, with running themes of love lost and empty spaces. But this release seems to have tamed some of the expressive urgency that previous albums had, especially true of their first, Hometowns. Their uptempo drum beats and vocals, always a little more shouted than sung, pushed their emotional lyrics out of the speakers and straight into your soft spots. Mended with Gold still has substance (see "Vulcan, AB") but not every song is as raw and open as what I'm used to from them. Would never pass up an opportunity to see them play live, though. They always have amazing stage presence and energy, and their drummer is tops.
Lots more photos after the jump!
Buffett and his very large band (I counted 13 musicians) opened with a pair of covers: Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" and Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," which gives you some idea of the level of nostalgia—not to mention musical adventurousness—that was at play. These were "oldies" by the time I was born; in 2014 they're ancient artifacts that have ossified into stone—chipper, upbeat, uncontroversial tunes trucked out by the hotel bar band for families on vacation. It's been said about countless other established musical acts that such and such is "the biggest bar band in the world" (Springsteen's E Street Band comes to mind), Buffett's Coral Reefer Band is exactly that. And judging by the reaction from the 15,000 or so diehard fans, that level of comfort was perfectly fine.
A distant third in the Top Dawg Entertainment ranks, but still with more than enough clout to fill up the Alhambra Theatre on an unseasonably nice Saturday night in Portland, Ab-Soul put on a characteristically casual yet confident performance, preceded by opener Bas.
More Ab-Soul and Bas after the jump!
Sensibly armed with a serene yet bombastic light show to help bridge the gaping disparity between their popularity and stage presence, alt-J put on a very professional performance for the appreciative crowd on Friday night, the second of their two sold-out shows at the Roseland.
More alt-J photos after the jump!
Hot on the heels of a powerful performance from Def Jam's next presumed superstar, Vince Staples, de facto Pro Era leader Joey Bada$$ had the daunting task of raising the energy level even further. Sounding more like Yonkers-bred rapper DMX than any of the famous fellow Brooklynite emcees in his lineage—and looking oddly like a young Flava Flav—Joey dove into his performance confidently.
More Joey Bada$$ and Vince Staples after the jump!
Is Yasiin Bey—AKA Mos Def—still relevant in today's modern musical landscape? While the promoters chose not to ask this question by making the concert a rare 21-and-over event at the Roseland, Mr. Beze made sure all in attendance left knowing he was at least still good, very good.
More Mos after the jump!
Many EMP events featured the work of live visual artists and VJs—including Brandy Gray, who combines projection mapping with the use of software programs such as VDMX to create crisp, clean, minimalist works that can be layered, mimicking the idea of how a DJ layers songs. Also performing at EMP was the notoriously political electronic music veteran Atom™ (Uwe Schmidt). His live A/V show incorporated videos he created to be shown as a backdrop to his performance, including his song "Stop (Imperialist Pop)," which takes a jab at major labels and their highly manufactured pop stars—it got an enthusiastic response from a crowd appreciative of the DIY aesthetic that runs through the core of electronic arts culture.
Com Truise performed at the Showbox, rolling his mind-boggling cache of synthesizers and glowing orbs onstage to pick up where the soundtrack to Miami Vice left off. His epic '80s vibe reminded me of a psychedelic sunset on the beach powered by analog synths. Kangding Ray out of Berlin was yet another notable performer, laying down the kind of driving, razor-sharp techno that taps into your cerebral cortex. His sound traveled many heights, but the line of persistently smooth minimalism that ran through his performance was deeply invigorating.
Alessandro Cortini, maestro of electronics for Nine Inch Nails, did a set featuring his solo work at Nordstrom Recital Hall that was par excellence. We were all happily submerged in a dark cocoon of cinematic soundscapes under the backdrop of his visual accompaniment, and wanted it to never end. I wasn't alone in making a mental note to seek out the rest of his solo work the minute I left. All in all, it was a great festival, and very well put together. My only problem was that there was just not enough time to see it all.
A few more quick thoughts on the actual nuts and bolts of the festival: Zidell Yards was, with one qualification, a terrific location. It offered surprisingly stirring views of the new, not-yet-functional Tilikum Crossing and the Ross Island Bridge arching overhead (who knew the Ross Island looked so gorgeous from its underbelly?) and the Willamette merrily lapping alongside. The just-about perfect weather (sunny but not too hot, no incidents of rain) added to the sense of beer-enhanced bonhomie. The only drawback was the chunky gravel underfoot—a bit tough on feet, but actually not as tiring as standing on hard pavement, in my estimation. By the festival's second day, most people knew to sport their thick-soled shoes and boots if they were heading down to the Yards.
A 20-foot unicorn provided a visual focal point in between the fest's two stages, and the PBRcade tent was a stroke of genius: a bunch of old-school arcade games, football on TV, and plenty of bartop space to score your next Pabst. (The infernally omnipresent "Beer Line," an invasive pest that mars every other music festival I've been to, was nowhere to be found at the Yards.) If I had to speculate, I would put Saturday's total attendance somewhere around 6,000 and Sunday's at 7,000, but this is entirely unscientific eyeballing and guesstimating.
A crew of Mercury music writers took in both days of the Project Pabst fest, along with several of the nighttime shows (and, of course, a few tallboys of PBR). Here are their thoughts and impressions of what, I thought, turned out to be a really fun weekend, and a terrific farewell to an increasingly lengthy season of outdoor festivals. NED LANNAMANN
[Photographer Minh Tran got these shots from the Cam'ron show a couple weeks back and had them all ready to go for us, but they slipped through the cracks. Here they are at long last—End Hits apologizes for the delay in getting them posted.—Editor]
There is no album that has survived longer on my storage-deprived 16GB smartphone than the Diplomats' 2003 double-album release, Diplomatic Immunity. And frankly, if it weren't for all the selfies of myself flexing in the mirror, I'd still have room for Cam'ron's Purple Haze as well. However, both these landmark albums are also a decade old, which made the promoter's decision to make Cam'ron's show an all-ages event especially puzzling. Unable to fill Roseland proper, Killa was relegated to the much humbler and smaller Peter's Room.
Perhaps sensing the back-to-basics energy of the evening, Cam didn't make the audience wait long after Cool Nutz warmed the crowd up, before jumping on stage and straight into his deep pantheon of street anthems. Although there was a palpable disappointment in the crowd that he chose not to wear any brightly colored fur items or a cape, the performance itself was high-energy and entertaining, if not particularly memorable.
Lots more photos after the jump!