Category Archives: music

Bonnaroo 2009 Recap

I am now a Bonnaroo alumnus. My first music festival was a rip-roaring success, fueled by the sights, sounds and smells that can only mingle in a farm field full of hippies, hipsters, frat brothers and music fans of all stripes.

My list of acts I wanted to see was, in retrospect, naively ambitious. Stretched out supine on my floor with Dinky perched on my back, I envisioned myself skipping merrily from tent to tent, Pabst in hand and music in ears. As it happened, standing for hours on end hurt my back about as much as a 20lb cat sitting on it. But I say this: it was well worth it.

A short day at work was required before heading down to Cheshire, CT to meet up with Bruce, Ali and Johnny, my companions for the trip. We loaded up Bruce’s Chevy Tahoe and hit the road around 4 PM on Wednesday, June 10. Lots of driving, fast food and shallow napping later, we pulled in to the RV rental place in Lebanon, TN around 9:30 AM on Thursday. Two hours and a driving rainstorm later, we were finally hooked up to our R-Pod, which we took to Walmart for a few last minute provisions (beer, galoshes).

An hour and a half later and we were finally in Manchester, TN and found the entrance to the Bonnaroo grounds without too much difficulty. Unbelievably, the line was short and it only took about 45 minutes to navigate ourselves to our spot in Camp Marsellus Wallace. We set ourselves up, organized our provisions and cracked open a beer. We’d finally arrived.

There were a few shows that Thursday, and Johnny went with me to White Rabbits, who played a decent set at This Stage. The power went out during their best song, “While We Go Dancing”, but they managed to finish it, much to the delight of the crowd. After some wandering around and dinner, we decided to take a nap at 10 PM before Passion Pit at 11:30 PM. Needless to say, we didn’t get up until the next morning, so Ali and Bruce went by themselves. This was one of the few disappointments of the trip.

Friday, I awoke much refreshed. I managed to read a bit and take a few pictures before Johnny and I went to see Gomez at Which Stage shortly after noon. Next up was a fantastic show by the Dirty Projectors and a few tasty microbrews at the Brooer’s Fest, also known as “the beer tent.” I saw a terrific set by Grizzly Bear by myself, featuring a transcendent version of “Knife”, then headed back to camp for some tasty steak prepared by Ali. We all hung out and worked ourselves up for the night’s shows, with the Beastie Boys, David Byrne, Phish and Phoenix on the schedule. The highlight of the Beastie Boys show was a green Kevlar balloon that captured the imagination of the huge crowd. As the rogue balloon rose higher and higher, it was more than a little amusing to see everyone crane their necks to catch a glimpse, completely ignoring the less interesting spectacle on the stage.

Next we hit up the David Byrne show, which was great. While men and women in pink tutus ran to and fro across the stage, the crowd joyfully danced to “Burning Down the House” in the warm night air. We went back to the main stage for Phish, picking an open spot in the grass and planting ourselves for a while. I stayed through the first song, then hoofed it over to the That Stage for Phoenix. Since none of my fellow Bonnarooers were interested, I danced along with thousands of strangers to the irresistible French rock outfit that hit the highlights from their stunning recent album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and previous It’s Never Been Like That. After a terrific show, it was back over to the What Stage for the rest of Phish, where standout numbers included “You Enjoy Myself”. The night was young, so Johnny and I took in a solid Crystal Castles show, after which Ali joined us for Girl Talk at 2:15 AM. Though “not a DJ,” the show was an extended collection of samples from all sorts of musical genres mashed together in novel and mostly melodic ways. The crowd was really into it, with glowsticks flying, couples fornicating in the middle of the throng and Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis) repeatedly having to plug the cord to his computer back in, as the dancing coeds on stage kept tripping over it and pulling it out.

By 4:30 the show was over, and we toyed with the idea of hitting up the Silent Disco (where everyone dances in silence to music piped through headphones given out upon entry). However, the line was huge and we decided to head back to the RV. Cracking open a beer and watching the sunrise marked the end of the best day of Bonnaroo 2009.

On Saturday, I awoke around 10:30 AM and did a bit of reading before the day’s festivities kicked off. I made my way over to This Tent for Elvis Perkins shortly after noon and got a good spot for a fantastic show. A combination of slow folk ballads and delightful folk jams made this show my joint favorite with the Phoenix show of the night before. The afternoon was spent mostly wandering around, relaxing and snacking. In the evening, I caught the end of Wilco and the Decemberists, then headed over to the main stage for Danielle’s favorite musician, Bruce Springsteen.

I wish I could say I loved it, but I’m still not really a fan. Mitigating circumstances include me being about half a mile from the stage, “Bruce” coming on 30 minutes late, and being tired from a few full days. I’m willing to give him another shot, but this show didn’t do it for me. I headed back to camp before venturing out later for a semi-interesting circus performance and a pointless Nine Inch Nails show. I lasted two songs and made my way back to the RV to go to bed, to exhausted to even stay up for MGMT.

Refreshed and ready to go on Sunday, I saw an excellent AA Bondy show at The Other Tent and got some lunch back at the RV. Ali went to see an abbreviated performance from Elvis Perkins and Dearland at the more intimate Sonic Stage, where members of the band came down into the crowd for the trombonealicious start of “Doomsday”. I returned the favor by going with her to see Erykah Badu, but only managed to catch one song due to her coming out 45 minutes late. Striking off by myself again, I stood through most of Andrew Bird’s show, which I thought I’d enjoy more. By this point, a deep-rooted fatigue had set in, and I wandered back over to the Sonic Stage, where I saw AA Bondy perform for the second time that day. Lying on the ground looking up at the sky, I closed my eyes and enjoyed some peaceful Americana and a brief escape from the crowds.

With no interest in seeing Phish again, that was the end of my concert-going at Bonnaroo. I helped Ali and Johnny pack up our stuff and we went to bed early to get a few winks before Bruce came back from the show. He came running shortly after midnight and we quickly harnessed up the RV and took off for Lebannon, beating the rush of traffic and parking at the Walmart down the road from the RV rental place. After a few more hours of sleep, we got up at 8 AM, returned our R-Pod, got some breakfast at Sonic and headed north. In between sleeping, chatting, eating and listening to music, we finally pulled in to Cheshire at 2:30 AM. Another hour or so in the car saw me home, snuggled up in bed after an exhausting but wonderful weekend.

Here’s how I’d rate the shows I saw, with an MP3 link to my favorite song that they played.

THURSDAY
White Rabbits :: B+ :: While We Go Dancing

FRIDAY
The Dirty Projectors :: A- :: Temecula Sunrise
Grizzly Bear :: A :: Knife
Beastie Boys :: C :: Sure Shot
David Byrne :: A- :: Burning Down the House
Phish :: B+ :: You Enjoy Myself
Phoenix :: A+ :: Listzomania
Crystal Castles :: B :: Courtship Dating
Girl Talk :: B+

SATURDAY
Elvis Perkins in Dearland :: A+ :: Doomsday
Rodrigo y Gabriela :: B-
Wilco :: B+ :: Hummingbird
The Decemberists :: B+ :: The Rake’s Song
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band :: B :: Born to Run

SUNDAY
AA Bondy :: A- :: Vice Rag
Elvis Perkins :: A :: (Sonic Stage Show)
Erykah Badu :: B+ :: The Healer
Andrew Bird :: B+ :: Anonanimal
AA Bondy :: A- :: (Sonic Stage Show)

I’m Excited for Bonnaroo 2009

 

Bonnaroo 2009

 

 

Tomorrow, I head south to my first ever music festival: Bonnaroo 2009. Running from June 11-14, it promises to be a fantastic time. The forecast calls for plenty of lightning and high temperatures. As long as the music still happens, I welcome extreme weather. There are a few bands I’m particularly excited to see, some that I’m really looking forward to, and others that I’m merely intrigued by. With a few screenings of The Big Lebowski also on the festival schedule, it should be a fabulous few days. I shall dutifully provide pictures, video and opinions upon my return. Briefly, here’s what I hope to catch:

MUST SEE
Wilco – Can’t wait for their newest album, titled “Wilco” and including a song called “Wilco”. Jeff Tweedy is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a vest.
Andrew Bird – Violin virtuoso. Check out his Takeaway Show.
Grizzly Bear – With Radiohead, breaking more sonic ground than any other group at the moment.
Elvis Perkins in Dearland – An old soul and master folk bard.
Delta Spirit – Piano-driven rock with plenty of other tricks in the a.a.bag.
A.A. Bondy – Another folk favorite.
Phoenix – Precocious French rockers with a sizzling new album.

WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE TO SEE
White Rabbits
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
An Evening (or Afternoon) with the Daily Show featuring John Oliver, Rob Riggle & Rory Albanese – John Oliver is funny.
TV on the Radio – John’s Georgia got me into them. Thanks, Georgia!
The Decemberists – A pleasingly melodious story-telling outfit with Edward Gorey-esque sensibilities.
Animal Collective
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – I’ve never really been a fan, but the girlfriend is and I want to be able to report back with my thoughts on his live performance.

Passion Pit – I’m interested to see how their laptop electropop works in the middle of a farm in Tennessee. 

MGMT – They’ve recently moved higher up my list. 

WOULD FAIRLY MUCH LIKE TO SEE
Jenny Lewis
William Elliot Whitmore

Band of Horses
of Montreal
Michael Ian Black & Michael Showalter
Okkervil River
Yeah Yeah Yeahs

WOULDN’T MIND SEEING
Elvis Costello Solo
Bon Iver
Gomez
Neko Case
Amadou & Mariam
Shadows Fall
St. Vincent
The Dirty Projectors – Ed Droste likes them, so they’re probably worth a shot.
Yeasayer

Top 10 Albums of 2008

End-of-year music lists are always fascinating to read and tough to create, mainly because the date of my discovery of a particular band or album is so weakly correlated to the date of its release. Therefore, it took a bit of research to figure out which of these albums were indeed released in 2008. I’m still quite happy with what I’ve found, especially recently. I’m no music critic, so my comments will be brief. Enjoy, and if you do, buy the album.

1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Pastoral pop-rock from a feral band of mountain men. Absolutely wonderful stuff.
Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal

2. Meursault – Pissing On Bonfires/kissing With Tongues
A sort of collision between Wolf Parade and Radiohead, which means unusual-yet-melodic music with gruff singing.
Meursault – A Few Kind Words

3. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight
I discovered them at the perfect time, and drove down to New York City that weekend to see them live.
Frightened Rabbit – Old, Old Fashioned

4. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
Hat-tip to Georgia (of John and Georgia) for turning me on to these guys.
TV on the Radio – Halfway Home

5. Beck – Modern Guilt
I’m a late-comer to Beck, and this album’s just over 30 minutes long, but even the B-sides are good.
Beck – Bonfire Blondes (B-side)

6. Au – Verbs
Quirky indie-rock with some electronics thrown into the mix.
Au – Boute

7. Department of Eagles – In Ear Park
A side project of Daniel Rossen from Grizzly Bear, this is every bit as good as its forebear (geddit?).
DOE – No One Does It Like You

8. Evangelicals – The Evening Descends
Challenging and innovative, capable of great things.
Evangelicals – Party Crashin’

9. She and Him – Volume One
Loungey, adorable, old-timey and feel-good from Zoey Deschanel and M. Ward.
She and Him – Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?

10. Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs
Going from strength-to-strength since Transatlanticism.
DCFC – No Sunlight

Honorable Mentions:
Beach House – Devotion
Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster
Aimee Mann – @#%&*! Smilers
Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Deerhunter – Microcastle
Does it Offend You, Yeah? – You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into
The Dodos – Visiter

And the 5 Best EPs

1. The Decemberists – Always The Bridesmaid
More gold from the master songsmiths.
The Decemberists – The Record Year

2. Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant EP
A terrific EP to go along with their brilliant LP.
Fleet Foxes – Mykonos

3. Princeton – Bloomsbury
Discovered only days ago, but has earned a spot on this list already with their sunny indie-pop.
Princeton – Blackbeard

4. Library Voices – The Library Voices EP
Similar to Princeton, this is another band to watch.
Library Voices – Step Off The Map & Float

5. Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons – Cabin Ghosts
Folk music at its best.
Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons – Home In The Woods

Hot Spring Music Mix

Spring has always been my least favorite season. For me, the clean smell and cold air contrasts unfavorably with the rich colors and cozy chill of autumn. But spring has plenty to redeem it, including the onset of warmer weather and copious amounts of album releases from artists I like. This year, Weezer and Death Cab For Cutie have both come up trumps and they feature prominently on this 2008 spring music mix.

A coiled spring

Weezer – The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)

Death Cab For Cutie – No Sunlight

The Shins – Little Boxes (Weeds Theme Song)

Born Ruffians – Foxes Mate For Life

Blonde Redhead – Spring And By Summer Fall

Billy Bragg & Wilco – Ingrid Bergman

Josh Ritter – Tonight You Belong To Me (with Blake Hazard)

Danny Michel – Young Americans

Enjoy!

Three, Two, One MUSIC!

Today’s post features a new gimmick; you’ll get three bands with two songs each discovered at one unlikely source. So without very much further ado, here they are.

She & Him (M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel (yes, the actress from Elf))

She & Him

This unlikely duo plays an unlikely variety of tunes, by turns sounding like the Beatles and Ella Fitzgerald. The first song is from their new album, Volume One, while the second is one of Ward’s best.

She & Him – Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
She & Him – Magic Trick

Evangelicals
Evangelicals

Evangelicals has been compared to the Flaming Lips, mostly due to the wacky sounds that permeate their songs (a very loud, very out of place SPLAT! effect, for instance). To me, they’re most comparable to Fiery Furnaces, since both bands have an ear for a great hook and a penchant for burying them amidst a lot of sonic clutter. Enough BS. Here are the songs.

Evangelicals – Skeleton Man
Evangelicals – Party Crashin’

Menomena
Menomena

Somehow, Menomena stayed under my radar until very recently, but some quick online research shows that many people are very aware of and very into their music. And why not? They’ve got a little bit of Man Man, some Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and a pinch of Postal Service. Enjoy.

Menomena – Muscle ‘n’ Flo
Menomena – Rotten Hell

And what’s the magic source for these discoveries? You guessed it: the Urban Outfitters music blog! It all started after walking into a store in Boston and hearing the latest Radiohead. It ended after logging on to their website and being greeted by She & Him. If this is your kind of music, chances are you might discover something good and something new to you.

Food for Thought This Friday

It’s 2008 and things are going well. I’ve got a good year to look forward to, what with Borgamo growing, a trip to Europe on the horizon and plenty of web design projects with which to further my education. Already I’ve been harnessing some power searches on the major engines, Google, Yahoo and Live Search, which have yielded tremendous results. Of course, I’m unwilling to give my secrets away [for free], but suffice it to say that knowledge of various search parameters and a little creative thinking can really let you see some interesting things. But let’s put that aside for a moment and take a look at my latest project for my cousin, Maureen Jeffery.

If you live in Ohio and are planning on getting hitched, you could certainly use a good Ohio wedding photographer. Maureen’s photographs are wonderful. She does black-and-white as well as color and the pictures are always beautiful. Her portraits in particular capture such personality that I have no hesitation in giving Maureen Jeffery the highest recommendation for wedding photography or as a photographer for any other occasion. My confidence in her talent persuaded me to help design a website for her, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Some moments are so transcendent that everyone who’s there is aware they’re experiencing something special; viewing Mount Everest, riding around on a purring elephant and attending Game 7 of the 2007 ALCS were a few of those moments. Thanks to Dan Russell, I’ve got another to add to my collection. Google tells me that the song was Wu Tang Clan’s “Triumph”. I tell you that Dan nailed it, rapping like the procrastinating mother on Christmas Eve and earning the mad respect of everyone lucky enough to be in the bar area of City Steam Brewery. Verse after verse rattled by and still Dan spat rhymes. Ten minutes later, the song ended and we all broke out in rapturous applause. It was truly magnificent. And lucky you! You get a thirty second slice of it: watch Dan Russell rap

I also saw “Juno” this past weekend, which was excellent. Here are a couple of songs to enjoy from the soundtrack:
Barry Louis Polisar – All I Want Is You
Kimya Dawson – Tire Swing

My Top 5 For 2007

After seeing numerous end-of-year lists around the web, I thought it fitting to sum up my Top 5 in each category of The Cookblog. And so, without further ado, here they are:

The Cookblog's Best of 2007

Art

These are the best web sites and artists that I discovered during the past year.

  1. Edward Gorey – I’ve posted about him before, but the maestro of macabre was my #1 artistic discovery of the past year. Meticulous pen sketches combined with a wickedly dark sense of humor make him my favorite by a country mile.
  2. Rockwell Kent – Moby Dick is a terrific book (at least the first few chapters), and these illustrations are great. They capture the majesty of the ocean, the madness of Captain Ahab and the calm of an evening anchorage in attractive woodcut style.
  3. Chema Madoz – There’s something about black& white photography that is just cool. The pictures on these sites juxtapose and re-imagine common elements in interesting ways, like a match set against a plank so that the grain of the wood looks like smoke. Check it out.
  4. BibliOdyssey – A really fascinating site packed with high-res illustrations of esoteric old books. The quality of the images and care with which they’re chosen really sets the site apart.
  5. OldBookIllustrations – I love old books and I love the types of illustrations on this site. On top of that, most are in the public domain, so I definitely plan on returning if I need fodder for any graphic design projects.

Food & Drink

These rate as the best beers I’ve discovered during 2007.

  1. 840 IPA – An absolute classic, this well-balanced but beautifully-hopped India Pale Ale is the standard by which I now measure all others.
  2. Ten Penny Ale – The perfect counterpoint to the hoppiness of an IPA, the malty, smoky Ten Penny is made in East Hartford and finds its way into the refrigerator more than any other beer.
  3. Chocolate Stout – A great beer for a change of pace, this goes particularly well mixed with Saranac’s Carmel Lager or Guinness.
  4. Racer 5 IPA – A tasty brew offered on tap at The Library, a bar near my brother’s apartment in Los Angeles. Nice and floral.
  5. Southampton IPA – A random discovery at the local package store, this IPA with an orange label is thoroughly drinkable and always welcome.

Games

I’ve played a lot of games this year, but only a few stack up against my high standards. They are:

  1. Carcassonne – Board games don’t get more classic than this. Every game is different and the social aspect makes it perfect for beginners
  2. Tichu – A favorite at work and probably the best card game in the world, combining bluffing, anticipation and cooperation. It’s only $7. Get it.
  3. Caylus – The opposite of Carcassonne, involving almost zero luck and total diplomacy, Caylus would be the chess of board games if chess wasn’t a board game.
  4. Foosball – The only non-board game here, there have been some epic shots and games over the past few months with my work colleagues. The laws of physics bow down before our deft control and puma-like reflexes, but we’re still easily beaten by the slow roller.
  5. Ticket to Ride: Europe – The chosen game at home, it’s good for two players and conjures up images of actually riding a train from Edinburgh to Athena. Also, my girlfriend and I can usual overcome our rage at losing after only a few minutes.

Literature

I haven’t had a chance to read as much as I would have liked, but these are the books that I enjoyed at least part of this past year.

  1. Morbo – Phil Ball has a wonderful turn of phrase and the intensely interesting subject of Spanish soccer comes alive with his words.
  2. Selected Verses of Ogden Nash – Perfect for reading to that special someone, the quirk and wit of Ogden Nash never fails to bring a smile to my face.
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – That’s right, I’m a Harry Potter fan.
  4. The Stories of Paul Bowles – Imagine my delight when I found one of my favorite books at a library book sale for 1/4 cover price.
  5. The Devil Drives – A biography of Sir Richard Burton, it’s a gripping account of a man who lived in constant adventure, from India to Mecca to Ethiopia.

Music

There was some great music this year, and though I usually prefer individual tracks to full albums, these were great the whole way through.

  1. Radiohead – In Rainbows – One again, Radiohead has delivered a phenomenal album packed with electronic hooks and human feeling. By far the most played this year.
    Reckoner
  2. Feist – The Reminder – A great discovery, Feist has since come to prominence for her role in an iPod commercial, but the rest of the songs on her album are equally bouncy and catchy.
    I Feel It All
  3. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – Vintage Spoon and no complaints from me. This is piano rock at its best.
    The Ghost of You Lingers
  4. The National – Boxer – One of the most genuine bands around today, The National’s “Fake Empire” is one of the songs of the year.
    Fake Empire
  5. Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block – According to the Wikipedia, this was a 2006 album, but Rolling Stone put it in their best of 2007 list, so I am, too.
    Up Against the Wall

Soccer

I like to think I have a talent for spotting quality when it comes to soccer players, not that it’s difficult to tell that these five footballers are several cuts above the rest.

  1. Kaka – The Brazilian is the Zidane of this generation. His seemingly-effortless skill has been winning match after match for AC Milan, including the World Club Cup and the Champions League trophy
  2. Lionel Messi – The only player that can rival Kaka, Messi has been carrying one of the biggest and proudest clubs in the world on his shoulders. That he’s already made Ronaldinho dispensable is an indication of his importance to Barcelona.
  3. Christiano Ronaldo – Like the two players above him, he has dragged his team to victory even when they haven’t deserved it. If he can deliver European success to Manchester United, he’ll move higher up the list.
  4. Didier Drogba – His questionable temperament doesn’t take away from his qualities as a player. Powerful and intelligent on the field, he takes his team into a different class when he plays and is worth far more to Chelsea than the rubles they paid for him.
  5. Daniel Alves – A marauding right fullback who has been the impetus behind Sevilla’s recent success, Alves will surely earn a move to a major club soon, where he should establish himself as the best wingback in the world.

Travel

I haven’t taken too many exotic trips this year, but these places have been welcome breaks from the usual routine at home.

  1. Boston – An awesome trip up to watch the Red Sox earn a spot in the World Series still rates as one of the best days this year.
  2. Los Angeles, CA – A great visit with the family for Thanksgiving was the perfect way to spend those vacation days.
  3. Onset – Having returned there for every year since I was born, it’s impossible to underestimate its importance in my life.
  4. Danbury – Always a relaxing and comfortable place to visit, you never know who or what you’ll find at the casa de Angela, Kathleen and Connor, but it’s always a good time.
  5. New York – A weekend in NYC with John, Georgia and Co. was a ton of fun. My only regret is that it was the only one.

Web

I’ve seen a lot of websites in my 25 years on this planet, but these deserve special mention.

  1. Slightly Shady SEO – The best blog about SEO in my opinion. Gives away secrets that are worth plenty, which makes me wonder how much more he knows.
  2. Asobrain Games – A great place to play Carcassonne with no frills, no fuss and no fees.
  3. Strange Maps – Since maps are something of a hobby for me, this site is always full of interesting things.
  4. Coudal Partners – I’m still not sure what they do there, but their features, including Photoshop Layer Tennis and the Museum of Online Museums are worth regularly checking out.
  5. Smashing Magazine – With their fingers firmly on the pulse of web design, this site displays great examples for study and inspiration.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my picks and I hope that 2008 has as much good material to see, read, hear and blog about. If you’ve got something to say about any of my choices, go for it!