Reviews | The Audio Perv - Part 5
Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
07 Aug
2012

By Matt Arena

It’s been a big summer for Haim. First they made a splash at SXSW, then landed major opening slots for the xx and Mumford & Sons, and followed that up with the launch of their new EP. The timing seemed perfect for this all sister LA trio to really take off. Much like The Alabama Shakes, Haim has been able to translate a big SXSW presence with continued success. Reviews for the EP have been stellar, with major publications like the UK’s NME Magazine showing major love for the band’s release, they seem ready to be the next indie sensation.

Playing a Neon Gold showcase last Thursday to an incredibly packed crowd at NYC’s Santos Party House, they left little doubt that their current unsigned and relatively unknown status in America won’t last very long. Fronted by sisters Danielle, Alana, and Este Haim (plus Dash Hutton on drums), they possess a rather unique sound that seems to cross over a number of genres. At times sounding like modern blues/alt rock like The Black Keys, other times more reminiscent of female fronted classic rock like Fleetwood Mac, and even a bit of old Motown R&B; it’s very hard to limit Haim to just one musical style. Lead singing duties switch between Danielle, Alana, and Este from song to song, with the genres constantly changing from each sister’s unique voice. It’s always a good mark of a live band where they can go beyond replicating their sound on record, and that’s certainly the case with Haim. While a bit restrained on studio recordings, the live atmosphere really sees this band at the loosest possible as they improvise with spur-of-the-moment jams and are able to produce a much fuller sound. Many times multitasking on instruments during songs, it was pretty obvious right off the bat that they can make a lot of noise for just four people. This was no more evident than during their last song, which devolved into an outro and all four o them on stage slamming their drumsticks down upon standalone floor toms. Sounding more like a breakdown during The Lion King on Broadway than a closing song at an indie rock showcase, it just further proved how diverse Haim can truly be.

Far from their hometown of Los Angeles, the band seemed quite happy to be in New York. Stating the trouble they’d no doubt get in if staying longer in NYC, bassist Este predicted, “I’d probably be pregnant,” the band seemed incredibly well received. Relying on their strengths in vocals and percussion, they were able to generate a lot of noise while staying somewhat stripped down at the same time. Sounding like an amalgamation of genres and musical time periods, it’s more than fair to say that Haim don’t sound like anything else you’ve heard before. Whereas most new bands tend to use genre molds and structures as a crutch, especially early in their career, Haim do the opposite. Crafting and sticking with their unique sound, and being such stellar live performers, there isn’t any end to the band’s building reputation in sight. The top floor of Santos Party House was packed unbelievably tightly all the way as far back as the floor entrance, definitely delivering on all the buzz the band has garnered these past few months. In an industry where “buzz bands” come and go almost every season, it’s usually pretty clear which ones intend on sticking around. Haim are definitely one of those bands.

04 Aug
2012

By Michel Dussack

To say Mumford & Sons have come a long way in the past two years would be a gross understatement. It’s hard to even fathom that the band that played Bowery Ballroom in 2010 opened their 2012 Summer Tour playing to 15,000 people on Hoboken’s Pier A, a venue which has never seen a concert that large ever.

Opening the show was Aaron Embry, the former touring pianist from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. He took the stage armed with a guitar and harmonica and played a soft and quiet thirty minute set that didn’t quite grab the audience as it should have. His music was heartfelt and delicate, particularly his last song, which comprised simply of him playing the piano without even singing.

Next was Dawes who ramped up the energy significantly. Vocalist Taylor Goldsmith ran about the stage with his guitar and frequently posed for photographers when he wasn’t singing. The band has a distinct folk sound to them, but also seems to take a cue from jam bands as well, leading to an interesting blend of the two genres. A few guitar solos that seemed improvised made their way into the set, and they definitely succeeded in winning over the crowd.

As the cloudy sky cleared and the sun went down, it was immediately obvious why Mumford & Sons chose to play in Hoboken. The stage was framed by the gorgeous Manhattan skyline, and was easily accessible via public transportation. The band took the stage to screams and shouts and immediately began playing a song from their upcoming sophomore album “Babel”, ‘Lover’s Eyes’. While at first I was concerned as to how the folk band would translate into such a large space, it only took a few minutes for all my fears to be relieved. Their 16 song set spanned about an hour and forty minutes, and consisted of a fairly even mixture of songs from their debut and new songs.

‘Little Lion Man’, one of the bands biggest hits, came second in the set and hearing 15,000 people scream the chorus along with Marcus Mumford is something that the band probably never could’ve imagined. Throughout the night, the band had numerous moments of funny banter, something that has been a trademark of their shows since the beginning. A couple songs later, much to everyone’s delight, the band unveiled a never before played song entitled ‘I Will Wait’. In general, the new songs seem a lot fuller than their first album, and the band has definitely succeeded in their goal of making the quiet moments quieter and the loud moments louder.

Perhaps the most unique thing about a Mumford & Sons concert is the way the members regularly switch instruments throughout the night. While Marcus typically plays acoustic guitar, a kick drums and sings, he also had some time behind a full drum kit (while still singing) and an electric guitar. Ben Lovett switches between keyboards and drums, Country Winston Marshall plays banjo and guitar, and Ted Dwane plays both upright and electric bass. That’s all not counting the four part harmonies that the group so effortlessly pulls off.

The band concluded their main set with ‘Dust Bowl Dance’ which starts off slow and somber but quickly explodes with a sense of anger thanks to Marcus’ part on the drums. Before they came back out for their encore, their brass section returned to the stage for a brief rendition of ‘New York’, a perfect acknowledgement of their location. Also in the encore was a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’ which seemed lost on the younger segment of the crowd, and an energetic rendition of their biggest hit ‘The Cave’ to close out their set. It should be noted that the band had tried to add a song between these two; however they were quickly shut down as there was a strict 10pm curfew. As the final notes of ‘The Cave’ rang out of the speakers a three minute barrage of fireworks erupted from the Hudson River and capped off a wonderful night with one of the fastest rising bands around.

Mumford and Sons setlist

1. Lovers Eyes
2. Little Lion Man
3. Roll Away Your Stone
4. I Will Wait
5. White Blank Page
6. I Gave You All
7. Timshel
8. Lover of the Light
9. Thistle & Weeds
10. Ghosts That We Knew
11. Awake My Soul
12. Whispers
13. Dust Bowl Dance
Encore
14. New York (horn section)
15. Winter Winds
16. The Boxer (cover)
17. The Cave

AARON EMBRY

DAWES

MUMFORD AND SONS

31 Jul
2012

By Ace Ubas

Let’s start off with the facts. Fiona Apple has been in the music business for 16 years and currently back from her six-year hiatus. Her latest album, The Idler Wheel…, has garnered tons of critical praise and is one of the best releases this year. And on Sunday night, she took the stage in front of a sold-out and insanely excited Los Angeles crowd at the Hollywood Palladium.

But if there’s something that hasn’t changed at all for Apple, it’s that she’s as emotionally charged as ever – perhaps even more so now. In the past, she’s has let her emotions get the best of her a couple of times, leading to some public criticism. However, that was about a decade ago. Today, she’s definitely more mature and control of her emotions, evidenced by the devastatingly powerful and beautiful performance she put on for the awe-struck crowd.

Apple’s spectacular set took about an hour and a half and consisted of older songs. In fact, only four new songs from The Idler Wheel… were performed, but the crowd had no problem with it at all. By the time she took the stage, it was almost 30 minutes after her scheduled start time. But in typical-yet-quirky Apple charm, she apologized to the crowd as she had no excuses, just nerves. And you can tell it that she was legitimately nervous – she kept fidgeting with her hair or her scarf in between songs. All it showed was another side to Apple that she isn’t afraid to show, and that kind of emotional transparency is what made her set very compelling and genuine.

She opened with the frenetic and face-paced “Fast As You Can,” then followed it up with “On the Bound” and “Shadowboxer” that pulled everyone into 90s nostalgia immediately. By then, Apple made it clear that her backup band was going to up at the forefront with her – especially guitarist Blake Mills (also the opener for the night), who delivered blistering guitar riffs and solos throughout, and drummer Amy Wood, who provided a stellar rhythm for the night’s delicate melodies. Even songs that were piano-led put the spotlight and attention on them.

What made the show an actual experience is that when she sang the lyrics, you can really feel the emotion that resonated from the song. For example, in the multi-layered “Anything We Want,” you can feel the intimate nature of the song as she delivered the lines “and I kept touching my neck to guide your eye to where I wanted you to kiss me/when we find some time alone.” And at other times, her raw delivery on songs such as “Every Single Night” and “Paper Bag” made you feel sympathy for her due to the intense nature of the songs. It was this type of performance that defined what a concert experience should be like – being able to feel what the performer is trying to convey, expressing sympathy while she exposes her vulnerability.

At other times, it was simply impressive to hear the raw power behind Apple’s delivery, as her stout contralto traveled throughout the Palladium with clarity and confidence wanting to burst beyond the venue walls. On “Daredevil,” you can immediately hear the tremble and aggression in her voice as she sang “seek me out/look at look at look at me/I’m all the fishes in the sea/wake me up/give me give me give me what you got/in your mind, in the middle of the night.” And in contrast, “Werewolf” and “Extraordinary Machine” were more minimal numbers that she sang with delicacy over a piano, with which she also harmonized with her vocals. It’s her uncanny ability to be flexible and agile with her vocals that shows her amazing control over her voice and her emotions.

And on a night were the crowd (or most of them) cheered and hollered at every moment they could, closer “Not About Love” drew one of the loudest reactions. Mostly everyone was dancing, bobbing up and down, or singing along (some did all three at once), as they did throughout the night. Without doing the whole encore shtick (get off the stage and come back on later), Apple explained to the crowd to pretend they had a time machine and move forward in time as if she left the stage and came back on. To officially end the night, she did a cover of Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.” It was easily one of the more devastatingly beautiful moments of the night and created a sense of surrealism that made it the perfect way to send everyone home.

If there’s one thing that isn’t ‘make believe,’ it’s Fiona Apple. Personally, it’s one of the few shows that I’ve been to that I can actually call a performance. I don’t know how many times I can reiterate this enough, but if you want to actually see a performer wear her heart on her sleeve then see Fiona Apple. If you want to feel the same emotions that a performer feels, then see Fiona Apple. Her show is a guaranteed real, raw, genuine, and downright mesmerizing experience.

30 Jul
2012

By Cassandra Paiva

Los Angeles trio of cousins, Wake Up Lucid debut their first LP Feel It on August 7th. The album provides that scuzzy, bluesy rock that almost sounds like it belongs more in the Woodstock era than in today’s mashed up mess of musical mishaps. Their sound is a great revitalization of the classic riffs, heavy jams, and scratchy vocals that defined an era. As they say, history repeats itself, and it’s been far too long since this genre was reawakened.

First track and single “Feel It” beckons Jimi Hendrix’s foxiness in an all-out jam session. “You want to take it slow/I want to take you home” cries lead singer Ryan Baca over amped up guitar grooves and basement drum beats, a sound that can only be created by actually playing instruments.

However, while Wake Up Lucid seems to teleport back to the late 60s for inspiration, they also mix this vintage sound with a more modern vibe. Channeling another great rock legend, “Arms” and “Rising Tide” are The White Stripes but bassier. The simplicity of the guitar, bass, drums set up conveys a minimalist approach without skimping on the full sound.

The mastery of this three piece arrangement that is heard in “When I Come Around” reminds me of another stoner rock trio, Band of Skulls. Baca is in his own mind as he wrestles with choosing sides over stop-start funk. “Fame” has a bridge that focuses on the contributions of each instrument until building back up in layers.

“Drunk on Information” sounds like the band is based in Nashville, not LA, while “Facepaint” is edgy enough for a Brooklyn basement.

Scruffy, grungy blues at its finest, you really can’t ignore the hook in “Just Can’t Ignore.” This track is almost like something your parents listened to in their wild days, driving around going to shows in a beefed up, rusty pickup, or if you can’t imagine your parents like that, something that Hyde from That 70s Show would be jamming out to at the record store.

“Death Valley” puts the blues in blues rock and by this point in the album, you want to break out your tinted 60s glasses and tie-dye under your studded brown leather jacket.

Taking you back to high school, slight ballad “Where Are We Now” slows things down a bit, but maintains the intensity of the instrumentals.

Breaking into the voodoo, “Black Hair Woman” is festival ready with a fake-out intro and almost 2 and a half minutes of enthralling instrumental before cutting into raunchy vocals. This is one to mindlessly sway and dance to as you get lost in the fingerpicking and gritty riffs.

Overall, Wake Up Lucid’s sound is a collection of classic groove mixed with modern influence in order to reawaken the spirits of Woodstock and good old Southern rock and blues. I’m curious to see what their live set entails, and maybe even more curious to see what type of crowd they bring. But, nevertheless, if you want edgy, emotional rock and hints of the foggy festival past, break out your bellbottoms baby, and listen to this album.

Pre-order Feel It on Amazon MP3

27 Jul
2012


By Jennifer Trainor

It was a hot summer night in Manhattan, inside of Webster Hall and out. July 23rd marked the return of The Killers after a 2+ year hiatus from the stage, which included solo projects from all but one of the four band members (Dave Keuning, guitarist). After wrapping the tour supporting Day & Age (2008) in early 2010, band members headed for different corners of the west that they call home and took some time for themselves. Amid rumors that they were sick of each other and breaking up, frontman Brandon Flowers (vocals, synth, bass) released solo project Flamingo and spent much of his press time explaining that the Killers were just “on a break” and that they would be back.

Flowers does not lie. Indeed the Killers are back. Releasing their first single “Runaways” from forthcoming album Battle Born and playing a few intimate gigs for die-hards before headlining the inaugural Firefly Music Festival (review) in Dover, Delaware last weekend, it’s safe to say there’s a Killer buzz again. Showing the east coast some love, the Killers headed north from Delaware to play the city. Not MSG, which undoubtedly will be on stop on their proper album tour, but the intimate and almost holy setting of Webster Hall. Something a little more special than average for a band of this size. A real treat for a fan.

The set looked the same. Nothing was different – but something was different. The signature lit-up “K” is replaced with a similarly-crafted bolt of lightening, the signature icon of the forthcoming fourth album Battle Born, due out on September 18th. And guess what, it has the ability to change colors. It’s signature, but different. We like it. We’re sometimes creatures of habit, but evolution is ok with us. Be gentle please.

Setting the tone with a world-class light show on even such a tiny stage, this didn’t feel like a practice run. Lights, sound, supporting musicians – it all felt fine-tuned. No fooling around here, from go the boys brought the heat to Webster Hall. Opening with the new release – “Runaways,” the band played with an intensity that you’d expect during the last song of the night, not the first – and honestly never quit. If you were waiting for a moment to catch your breath, give your legs a break from the incessant jumping, mop the sweat from your brow, it never came. The 19 song set showcased 4 new songs and covered the hits from Hot Fuss, Sam’s Town and Day & Age. “Runaways” is certainly the catchiest of the new material shared and was flawlessly performed. It didn’t take long for fans to latch onto this one, many already belting out all the lyrics along with smiling Flowers, fists in the air to emphasize their conviction that they are indeed “runaways”.

“Miss Atomic Bomb” is possibly the nostalgic nod track of the album – the new “Dustland Fairytale.” Sung with emotion by Flowers, during the live performance you can’t help but take notice of the harmonizing vocals provided by guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer.

Between “Human” and “A Dustland Fairytale,” apparently Flowers heard an audience member comment that “Day & Age sucked”, to which Flowers replied in dripping sarcasm, “Yeah, I hope our next album sucks just as much”. Lots of speculation exists as to whether the new album will be a return to the story-telling rock anthems that propelled the band to world-notoriety, or if the slicker, pop sound of Day & Age will prevail. Based on the tracks heard live to date, including “From Here on Out” and “Flesh and Bone,” I think it’s too ambitious to pigeonhole the album as one or the other, but rather expect it to be a blend of what the band does well, which hopefully will please fans of earlier sounds and new alike.

The Killers often throw in a cover from a local artist or a tune that they’ve been influenced by or appreciated in their own musical journeys. Webster Hall was treated to a short reprise of “Dreamin’” by Blondie where Keuning and Flowers spent a few moment together close on stage as Dave plucked out the notes. Flowers was clearly in his element again, happy to be on stage as evidenced by his non-stop smiling and energy as he paced the stage. Like Flowers nervous fist-pumps, no Killers show would be complete without “Mr. Brightside” – known to be the only Killers song that they’ve performed at each and every gig they’ve ever played. Go bet on it if you’re going to a show, the odds are in your favor.

“All These Things That I’ve Done” is their signature closer and anthem of all anthems. With Flowers up on the speakers, fists in the air, he takes us down the common path in search of redemption and builds an army of followers right in front of him, each and every time, claiming not to be soldiers, but to have soul. Barely off the stage, and they’re back, jumping in with newbies “From Here on Out,” which almost has a country twang to it if I may assert my opinion here, but a likeable chorus that even first-timers glommed onto. “Flesh and Bone” catches Stoermer acting as excited as Stoermer gets with some stomping of the foot and playing to Ronnie Vannucci (drums). The encore wraps with cult favorite “Jenny Was A Friend of Mine,” a Stoermer moment to shine with a bass line like no other which he again flawlessly delivers, and rip-roaring bombastic “When You Were Young” to send you on your way. If you happen to not have noticed Vannucci back there all night, maybe you’re on the “wrong” side of the bolt, there’s no chance you’re going to miss him during this epic finale.

The four band members seem completely comfortable back on stage with new material and old and show no hesitation, as if they’d never stopped touring. We fully expect Flowers to craft a few awkwardly-told, yet charming “stories” over time related to the new material that will be used at show after show. He’s not quite there yet, but we know it’s coming. But Monday night, with or without much chit-chat, the Killers did what they came out to do – remind us why we love them and let us know that they are indeed back. The flow of the show and their style was very similar to that of the Day & Age tour, but my guess is there’s lots up their sleeve for the full tour.

My only complaint is they never play more than 90 minutes. But I guess 90 is all some people can take. You’re left sweaty and exhausted but always wanting a little more. Fortunately, I think we’ve got a LOT more to look forward to as we suffer through the dog days of summer and Battle Born’s release creeps up on us. Keep your eyes on the Killers and get ready for the tour announcements. Big stage or small, you won’t have any complaints – it’s a live music experience of our day and age not to be missed.

Setlist

Runaways
Somebody Told Me
Smile Like You Mean It
Spaceman
This Is Your Life
Miss Atomic Bomb
For Reasons Unknown
Bling
Shadowplay
Human
A Dustland Fairytale
Dreamin’ (Blondie cover)
Read My Mind
Mr. Brightside
All These Things That I’ve Done

From Here on Out
Flesh and Bone
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
When You Were Young

27 Jul
2012

By Matt Arena

Drawing the festival to a close, Sunday at Firefly Festival’s inaugural weekend did so in a spectacular fashion. With bands that ranged from unstoppable dancing machines to more relaxed indie acts, there’s no doubt that the final day had a little something for everybody.

REPTAR

Putting themselves in the self described genre of “disco dust” (more of a parody on the recent obsession of band’s having to categorize their sound), Reptar are anything but your average band. Their quickly growing reputation as one of the most energetic live acts precedes them, and having recently just seen them on tour with Grouplove, it’s a worthy title. But their Firefly set was on another level. Playing an early 1:00pm slot and with the sun on their side, a rarity over the course of the weekend, they definitely played one of the wildest sets of the day. Right out of the gate guitarist Jace Bartet came out dancing like a man possessed, as we would later learn he pulls the ferocious dancing power from his cutoff camouflage shorts. Add to that lead singer Graham Ulicny’s penchant for never staying in one place for more than five seconds, and it’s pretty easy to see how the crowd could become so enraptured with the band. Much like my first introduction to the band, many were there simply because of Reptar’s reputation and recent tour with fellow Firefly artists Grouplove. No more than 2 minutes into the set and almost the entirely of the crowd was dancing and jumping just as crazily as the band on stage. The set comprised mostly of songs off the band’s debut album, ‘Body Faucet,’ the pop-rock-Caribbean-indie genre bending mash-up of sounds came off incredibly well. It’s no wonder the band classifies themselves as “disco dust,” it’s really the only thing that makes sense after seeing a Reptar show. Tracks like ‘Sebastian’ and especially ‘Please Don’t Kill Me,’ as the frenzied island-rock drumming all but forced the crowd to move their feet. During any given Reptar song it seems as if there are a thousand different things occurring on-stage, so all you can really do is just brace yourself and allow the music to take you. Definitely living up to their ever-growing reputation as one of the most energetic live bands, the only thing on anyone’s mind after a Reptar set is this; disco dust. See them and it’ll make sense to you too.

AWOLNATION

Up immediately after Reptar was Red Bull Records pioneers, AWOLNATION. Being the main driving force behind the energy drink’s new venture into the music industry, they’ve grown pretty rapidly since the release of their debut album Megalithic Symphony a little over a year ago. Their unique blend of electronic rock, a refreshing true blend of the two styles, and their ability to put on an amazing live show has helped them establish a strong enough fan base to have headlined multiple tours already. Lead singer Aaron Bruno has made it a festival set regular to crowd surf toward the end of the set. Quite literally. As in he actually gets on a surfboard, balances himself, and surfs above the supporting arms of the crowd. His raspy, growling vocal style sounds great on record and surprisingly is even stronger on stage. Bruno’s really able to showcase this on ‘Sail,’ one of the band’s biggest and best songs. Making multiple trips into the crowd, allowing them to scream the “blame in on my A.D.D.” line (which is possibly the best scream-along line EVER) into the mic, there’s a real connection between AWOLNATION and the crowd. From the first song encouraging them to crowd surf, it’s pretty clear that they’re not the type of band you sway and nod your head to. It’s is an incredibly refreshing thing to see when so many new bands try so hard to live up to the “indie” label, afraid to show emotion on stage and consequently fail to illicit anything but a slow head bob from the crowd. Not so with AWOLNATION.

COLD WAR KIDS

When you first look at Cold War Kids, you probably don’t expect to hear a sound that’s as much soul as it is indie rock. In short, they take a lot of people by surprise. Or maybe “took” is the operative word. Having blown up since their very first album, Cold War Kids quickly became a household name on the alt-rock scene. Landing them on the main stage at Firefly for a midday set, they garnered a pretty large crowd who seemed to love every minute of the band’s hour-plus set. Though the sound mixing was a bit low, making it hard for lead singer Nathan Willett’s powerful voice to really shine, the band still performed great. Willett’s staggeringly strong vocals and the poppy drumming of Matt Aveiro are the backbone of what makes their music so good, and that definitely applies to the live show. Songs like ‘Rubidoux’ and ‘Hang Me Up To Dry’ received huge reactions for the crowd, which reached farther back than it had for anyone on that stage thus far. Though it wasn’t the type of set that drove the crowd into a jumping frenzy, they without a doubt enjoyed Cold War Kids as they left to a cheer that lingered far after they had exited the stage.

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE

Though not touring at the moment, Firefly was still able to procure indie juggernauts Death Cab for Cutie. Opening with the full 8+ minute version of ‘I Will Possess Your Heart,’ the band showcased a set comprised of mostly deep cuts. As a fan of Death Cab for a while now, it was great to see them dig into their catalogue and play songs that might not to familiar to casual fans. Especially at a festival, where the crowds tend to be a bit causal as opposed to headlining gigs. Battling a cold, lead singer Ben Gibbard didn’t seem to be slowed down at all, spending his time between vocal, guitar, piano, and even drum duties. The material from last year’s Codes and Keys sounded great, with songs like ‘You Are a Tourist’ growing much heavier and bolder than they sound on album. One would think that Death Cab for Cutie would be a pretty reserved act, the one you sit back and watch instead of really getting into, but they’re a different band live. The bass lines of Nick Harmer were much more evident as he plays an integral part of the ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’ extended intro, which is pretty much all Harmer plugging along the instantly recognizable notes. Long-time fans of the band were treated from tracks as far back as their very first album. ‘Amputations,’ ‘A Movie Script Ending,’ and ‘Marching Bands of Manhattan’ are all rarities for the band, and ones they’ve made an effort of not forgetting. With seven total albums, it’s impressive to see them not abandon the older tracks as to not alienate casual fans, something that bands of their caliber tend to do. The major highlight of the set was ‘We Looked Like Giants.’ Not only a fantastic (and rare) song in it’s own right, they extended it with a 10 minute long interlude that sees Gibbard take up drumming duties on a special mini-kit brought out just for this song. It shows the confidence Death Cab has in the abnormal nature of their live element. Most bands would shy away from material 7 seven albums ago and wouldn’t dare play two outros that combine over 15 minutes in length. It’s what makes Death Cab for Cutie such a great live band. They craft a set that isn’t comprised of all hits, even though they did make sure to pack a few in there, and aren’t afraid to get a little weird. It’s hard to walk away from a set like this unimpressed and there’s no way anyone at Firefly could have been anything but blown away with what Death Cab for Cutie did on the main stage.

THE FLAMING LIPS

Having never seen The Flaming Lips before, they’ve got quite the reputation preceding them. Known for the effort they put into production behind their shows, and not just complicated lighting rigs and visuals (though they did have a giant circular screen behind them), but by far less common means. Starting off with a Wizard of Oz-esque mob of Dorothy’s and Scarecrow’s on each side of the stage, it was clear that they would be anything but droll. During their first song, ‘Race for the Prize,’ they were shooting confetti for what felt like the entirety of the song. Seriously. There wasn’t a moment during the first 10 minutes where confetti wasn’t falling from the sky. Not only looking incredibly cool, there’s nothing that makes a crowd yell louder than shooting out confetti. In addition to the individual hand cannons they each had on stage, two crewmembers had massive tubes firing out fog and confetti, creating a rainbow colored haze. Add to that the spectrum of colors on the giant circular lighting rig/screen behind them and it felt more like a Tim Burton movie than a festival set. Lead singer Wayne Coyne then whipped out a megaphone, one would assume it would be used for vocals on a song, but that’s boring to The Flaming Lips. A heavy blue smoke starting pouring out of the megaphone as Coyne traipsed about the stage, creating a trail of permeating blue behind him. The trippy visual element aside, they sounded great as well. When a band has been around since 1986 with over 10 albums, it’s easy to just mail it in and play without much heart. This is the exact opposite description of The Flaming Lips. If anything they try harder than most bands half their age with twice their energy, and it shows. Right before ‘Is David Bowie Dying??,’ Wayne Coyne showed off his very unique take on crowd surfing. Inflating and then stepping inside a massive, transparent ball, he was rolled onto the barrier and them went end over end as hundreds of arms rolled him throughout the crowd. It was a live spectacle unlike any other. There are bands that spend millions of dollars on elaborate stage designs with lasers and complicated visuals, but Flaming Lips out-shined all of them with a much more creative take on their production. All other bands take note, if you want to be trippy, you’re not going to do it better than The Flaming Lips.

THE BLACK KEYS

Unless you’ve been living under a soundproof rock for the past 2 years, you know who The Black Keys are. Having been around since 2001, they finally broke through to massive mainstream success, topped off by two sold out nights at New York’s Madison Square Garden. This is an impressive feat for any band, but especially one like The Black Keys who don’t first hit you as an arena rock band. It goes to show exactly how popular they’ve become. Headlining arenas and now closing out festivals, the jam-packed crowd was proof of why the band is on such high profile live slots. Opening with ‘Howlin for You,’ they set the tone early, grabbing the crowd immediately with such a big hit so early. The modern dirty blues style refined (and some could say pioneered) by The Black Keys transfers live quite well, especially so at a festival setting. One might think at first that a two man band may seem a bit over their head on such a large stage, but if anything they used it to their advantage. It helped adding two touring members to beef up their sound, but the sheer presence they have on stage is undeniable. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have chemistry that’s beyond refined, at times it just seems like they’re going along with totally improvised jams and showed off how naturally loose they are on stage. The perfect choice to end the three day festival, The Black Keys arguably had the best well received set of the entire weekend and had a trail of cheers echoing as they left the stage.

Head over to FireFlyFestival.com for info on next year’s festival!

REPTAR

COLD WAR KIDS

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE

AWOLNATION

THE FLAMING LIPS

26 Jul
2012

By Matt Arena

After an incredibly successful first day, Firefly had even more in store for day 2. With doors opening at 11 am, there was much more music to be packed into the schedule and if you weren’t there first thing in the morning, you may have missed some of the best sets of the entire festival.

IMAGINE DRAGONS

It says a lot when a band can put on a killer set with one of the first performances of the day at an all day festival like Firefly. It certainly can’t be easy playing so early in the morning when most people aren’t there. But none of this seemed to faze Imagine Dragons. The Las Vegas four piece has generated a lot of buzz lately, appearing on many people’s radar after their wildly popular set at Coachella. And their Firefly set did more than impress. It blew people away, almost literally. Easily the loudest band out of all three days (probably due to the massive bass drum lead singer Dan Reynolds was beating upon), they definitely blasted the sleep from the festival goers eyes Saturday morning. ‘Radioactive’ is an absolute monster of a live track. Starting off with light acoustic strumming and harmonizing, one may think, “ugh, here’s another restrained indie song,” but then the bass drops and what comes feels like the love child of an AWOLNATION and fun. song. The aforementioned giant bass drum plays a large role here, as Reynolds smashes against it as hard as he can, providing a boom that should register on the Richter scale. Thought it may have only been noon, the crowd didn’t seem sluggish one bit. From the drop in ‘Radioactive,’ they were bouncing and singing as if they were watching a headliner. Bands tend to pull larger crowds at festivals, just naturally as there are more people than standard gigs, but with Imagine Dragons set it seemed as if every person watching did so deliberately. There weren’t any usual festival stragglers who came just because they heard loud music, everyone already knew the band. The word “catchy” is used a lot to describe music, and usually with the connotation this in some way makes the song or lyrics inferior, but Imagine Dragons are catchy in the superior sense. The music just grabs you in a way that’s impossible not to join in. The fast and upbeat drumming foundations on ‘Round and Round’ give it a never-ending, pounding feel and combines with the wonderfully constructed choruses to make one of the best live tracks I’ve heard in a while. Plus the sheer energy this band exuded from the stage made it near impossible for the audience not to return back in kind. Though starting even before noon, Imagine Dragons put on easily the best set of the day and possibly even the best out of the entire weekend.

GROUPLOVE

Up a bit later on in the day was Grouplove. A band that seems to just be getting bigger by the day (they just announced another, larger headlining tour after finishing their first one just a month ago), and they deserve every bit of it. To call Grouplove unique would be an understatement. From the music, to the band members themselves, there’s nothing ordinary about this band. There isn’t another band out there you can fairly compare their sound to and it’s taken to another degree in their live shows. Frequently extending intros and outros on a whim, Grouplove seem completely free on stage. Songs like ‘Slow,’ are slowed down and distorted to a massive wall of drum beating, echoing static, and the fading screams of lead singer Christian Zucconi (who seems to sport a different hair color every time I see them). They’re able to change their sound so quickly from song-to-song that if you close your eyes (and count to ten, ZING!) you’d think a different band had taken the stage. Lead vocal duties switch between Zucconi, Hannah Hooper (who doubles on keys), and bassist Sean Gadd. They have a very distinct vocal style, so when singing separately they give each song a different feel but still manage to blend together perfectly when harmonizing. This blender type vocal style is used on songs like ‘Chloe,’ which starts off with Gadd’s deep, almost country voice and joined by the higher sound from Hooper and the ever present ethereal wailing of Zucconi. Though the vocal styles may change, one thing always seems to be a constant with each Grouplove song; they’re all so fun. Granted that’s a pretty vague term to apply to a band’s sound, but upon seeing them perform it’s hard not to agree. The loose nature of the rapid acoustic riffs, the constant rhythmic drumming, jumpy bass lines, and warbly key structures all come together so well. Take a song like ‘Tongue Tied’ for example. There’s so much going on in that song, a blending of musical styles that shouldn’t work, but somehow they pull it off in spectacular fashion. Like all great bands, they take what makes them great and amplify it live. The passion and energy they play with on a consistent basis is astounding, almost as if they haven’t played these songs countless times. It’s what makes each Grouplove show different, and their set at Firefly was no exception.

YOUNG THE GIANT

This alt-rock five piece has had one hell of a year. After their now classic performance of ‘My Body’ on the VMA’s, Young the Giant have been on a rapid increase upwards. Having just wrapped up their sold out nation-wide tour, they hit up a couple major festivals too. First was Bonnaroo and now Firefly. To see this band on the power of the main stage was quite spectacular. Though their sound rangers from the alt-rock jumper of a track ‘My Body’ to more mellow tracks like ‘Guns Out,’ they always manage to engage the crowd. Having chatted with bassist Payam Dootstzadeh prior to their set, he said they’d be playing a number of tracks and to be on the lookout for one in specific called ‘Teachers.’ As the band is currently writing and recording the new album, they’ve been showcasing a number of new songs and ‘Teachers’ is definitely one to be anticipated. One of the more upbeat songs they have, it’s able to do so in a way that doesn’t feel like a My Body 2.0. The band is looking for a more evolved and experimental sound on the new record, the few new tracks they played evidence of that. It wasn’t one of those moments in the set were you dread the new material, but instead something to look forward to, as everyone in the crowd is dying to see what Young the Giant have in store next. Of course the material off their massively successful debut album went down fantastically as well. Utilizing his now trademark two microphone set-up, lead singer Sameer Gadhia is able to re-create the haunting vocal echoes on songs like ‘Guns Out’ all the while slapping a tambourine against his hip. The two latest singles, ‘Cough Syrup’ and ‘Apartment’ made early appearances in the set and were greeted with a blast of cheers as the audience loudly sang along. Though the true highlight of the set, and by far the entire weekend, was during the final song. If you know even a little about Young the Giant, you’ll know how close they are with bands like Grouplove, Cage the Elephant, and a number of other young alt rock bands. Coincidentally enough, two of them just so happened to be at Firefly as well. So to the initiated, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when all the members of Grouplove and Walk the Moon mobbed the stage during the last chorus of ‘My Body.’ From the very beginning of the song the crowd was deafening in their singing of literally every single word. Check YouTube (video proof!), it’s even louder than Sameer’s voice. Add to that the power the chorus has to turn any standing structure into a trampoline, and the bouncing mass of fans was already insane before the impromptu jam session. So when suddenly two full bands just charge the stage and start jumping and singing along, it pushed the crowd into a further frenzy. Walk the Moon front man Nicholas Petricca shared a mic with Sameer as the stage was crawling with the rest of the members from each band. Sometimes singing, other times just jumping and spinning around like dancing fools, it was the “moment” of the festival and one of the coolest things this writer’s ever seen at a gig. It’s still unclear whether or not Young the Giant even knew about it beforehand, which would make it that much more a definitive festival moment.

CAKE

Being that the lineup was mostly filled with up-and-coming alt rock acts, Firefly did the smart thing and made sure to throw in some bands to change up the style. Cake was definitely one of those bands. John McCrea’s voice is instantly recognizable, as is the band’s sound in general. At first glance they might not seem like an interesting live act, McCrea’s voice, though unique, is rather monotone and deadpan. While that’s part of what make their music work, it’s not necessarily ideal for a live environment. Yet somehow they’re able to come alive. The surprisingly loud and much more pronounced riff from ‘The Distance’ nearly transforms the once mellow track into a live anthem. Suddenly they were a full on rock band, turning the once monotonous track into a booming song that sprang to life. The trumpet work of Vince DiFiore is key in keeping the songs similar, but seeing Xan McCurdy on guitar is what really makes this band take a step forward as a live act. While underplayed in studio versions, the riffs in songs like ‘Short Skirt/Long Jacket’ come to the forefront. Louder and fuller, they become the backbone of the song and are hard to deny a mild headbang to. Definitely a band that will catch you off guard with their surprising life and energy, Cake was playing to an already established group of fans but was definitely able to win pretty much everyone who saw them over. They’re not the type of band that will have the crowd jumping and going crazy, nor do they pretend to. But what they do so well is take their niche sound and expand upon it, possibly winning over those who at first pass on the droll nature of their studio sound.

MODEST MOUSE

Bands with one massive hit are always interesting to watch. Not only how they go about structuring their sets, but how the crowd reacts when the majority of them are just waiting for “that one song.” And Modest Mouse is a good band, but there’s no denying that they will draw that type of audience from ‘Float On.’ Being that the song hit back in 2005, it’s clear just from watching them play that they’re not only used to this but have learned how to use it to their advantage. They don’t pull the cliché move and use it as the encore, but throw it a little more than midway through the set, as if it were any other song. There’s not big show of “alright, now here’s the song you all came to hear,” it’s just simply there. And by putting it there in the set you give the less familiar audience members a chance to hear some other material without making them wait 15+ songs for it. It’s a delicate balance and Modest Mouse strikes it quite well. Of course it helps that their other material is great as well. Songs like ‘Dashboard’ and ‘The World at Large’ sounded full and cram packed with instrumental layers coming from the production of the festival’s main stage. It helped having what seemed like a legion of fans going 100% for every single song on the set, too.

THE KILLERS

Bookending day 2 of the festival with another Las Vegas band, this one considerably larger than the first, was the Killers. Having been on hiatus since 2010, the hype around the return of the Killers was massive. Though they tend to be a bit overrated and have a penchant for being extremely stubborn with photographers (making my job that much harder), it’s impossible to deny their ability to pull a crowd. Especially considering the current mainstream musical climate that seems to demand a non-stop presence or else a band risks losing their “status.” Not so with the Killers. After being gone for a full two years, they’re still able to draw just as well, if not better. The hiatus seemed to benefit the band if anything, instead of people forgetting about them, the demand for the band actually grew. Having headlined Madison Square Garden prior to the hiatus, it’s easy to see the band returning to a similar level of success. Especially after seeing their set at Firefly. Definitely the “biggest” headliner of the weekend, hence the Saturday slot, they definitely played like it. Bringing with them a strong amount of production for a festival and the massive hits that a band of their caliber has, it’s hard to deny that the Killers know how to put on a show. Opening with ‘Somebody Told Me,’ arguably their biggest hit, they made it clear that they weren’t pulling any punches and were there simply to blow people away. And if the sound of the screams from the crowd is any indication, they definitely succeeded. Ironically enough this billing was the main reason for going to Firefly, even though I’m not as enraptured with the band as everyone else is. They’re a massive band to have headlining, and one of the few that isn’t touring at the moment, and even I have to admit that hearing ‘When You Were Young’ is an experience in itself.

CAKE

MODEST MOUSE

IMAGINE DRAGONS

GROUPLOVE

YOUNG THE GIANT

25 Jul
2012


Britain’s The xx has skyrocketed to success and popularity in a ridiculous amount of time. I remember seeing them live a couple of years ago in the midst of their debut (and only) album where they sold out the Hollywood Palladium, which is one of the larger venues in Los Angeles. And on Monday night, they returned to the city to play in front of a sold-out crowd at The Fonda Theater – a first of three Los Angeles shows (they’ll be playing the Hollywood Palladium and Hollywood Forever Cemetery, both of which sold out in a matter of hours from when they went on sale).

Of course, The xx is touring with a reason – they’ll be releasing their second album in September entitled Coexist. The (now) trio consisting of guitarist Romy Madley-Croft, bassist Oliver Sim, and producer/programmer/beat maker Jamie Smith (or Jamie XX) maximize their music with a rather very minimal arrangement, and that’s where their appeal lies. They create music that’s sensual, romantic, and dramatic, and it only resonates in a live setting where a live crowd can experience those feelings in person. Not to mention that both Madley-Croft and Sim each have a unique timbre to their seductive singing style.

The band came out on stage donned in all-black with two large, transparent ‘X’s’ adorned on the stage that was filled with smoke. As the first date on their headlining tour, it was appropriate that they opened with their newest single, “Angels.” From there, the band had the crowd hypnotized for the rest of the night. The majority of their set consisted of songs from their first album, going from “Angels” to “Islands.” “Islands” exemplified the seductive call-and-response vocal interplay between Madley-Croft and Sim that brought a great dynamic in a live setting, especially with the crowd cheering whenever one of them would begin singing a new line.

“Crystalized,” “VCR,” and “Basic Space” were a bit more subdued and slower compared to the version on record, but it obviously came off as more intimate while maintaining and emphasizing the crisp guitar and bass riffs that weave with the electronic beats.

It wasn’t surprising to see the set include new songs such as “Swept Away,” “Reunion,” and “Sunset.” If there was any worry regarding The xx’s direction with new songs, those worries were immediately alleviated as the new songs were definitely more upbeat and faster in tempo. While the themes of the songs still address themes such as love, longing, and romance, the melodies are catchy as ever, dancing along with Smith’s post-dubstep beats (you know, like SBTRKT and James Blake).

While their sound and setup may be minimal and intimate, the echoes and reverb that emanate from their instrumentation are ethereal that seem to transcend the space. That may not make sense, but no matter where you stood in the venue, their sound traveled and kept on traveling and adds a lot to the overall tone of their music.

For their encore, they opened up with “Intro” that led into another new song, “Tides.” The harmonized vocals, again, emphasized. They ended the night with “Stars,” a song about trying to resolve tension between two lovers. The vocal interplay during the lines “if you want me/let me know/where do you wanna go” surely sent chills up the backs of everyone in the crowd, marking a great way to end a mesmerizing set.

With The xx hitting the road once again and with a new album in the midst of release, there’s no doubt that they will be stirring the headlines of many music publications. If you have the chance to catch them live, do so. But do it quickly since what ever town they roll through, it will no doubt be a sell-out.

Set list:
Angels
Islands
Heart Skipped a Beat
Fiction
Basic Space
Crystalized
Fantasy
Shelter
Infinity
VCR
Reunion
Sunset
Night Time
Swept Away
Encore:
Intro
Tides
Stars

23 Jul
2012


By Matt Arena

In a music age where it’s common to wait at least 3 years (sometimes even more) for a band to put out a new record, it’s impressive when artists are able to produce music more consistently. And while keeping them of increasing quality. Even more impressive is a musician like Andy Hull. Working with 5 different bands, he’s collaborated on over 15 album or EP releases since 2004, not to mention his numerous guest appearances on various other band’s albums, including O’Brother’s Garden Window which he also co-produced. Just reading that list of accomplishments is tiring.

Hull’s latest release is Right Away, Great Captain! a solo project consisting of a concept album trilogy, revolving around the story of a 1700’s man who takes to sea after finding out about his wife’s infidelity with his brother. Culminating in the final album, The Church of the Good Thief, Hull’s latest studio effort brings the story to a close. And in a quite the breathtaking fashion. Though dealing with an epic canvas the story paints, musically Hull is able to keep the reigns in. Much in the mind of his main character, we get a conclusion to the story that isn’t a booming, grand finale but a quiet tale of nostalgia and regret from inside the mind of a sentenced man. To mark the end of his trilogy, and presumably his work with Right Away, Great Captain!, Hull announced a tour in which he’d be playing these songs live for the very first time.

The brief tour soon brought him to The Space in Hamden, CT. Feeling much more like your friend’s basement than a music venue, the intimate and personal aesthetic of the room certainly worked well with Hull’s music. Adorned with couches and tables (though most people were standing), it felt more like you were watching someone in their own house, laying their heart out on the acoustic guitar. First up was Harrison Hudson, who doubled as Hull’s tour manager. With the simple set-up of merely a stool and guitar, Hudson was surprisingly lively, setting up a complimentary sound to the contrasting styles of the second opener and Hull himself. At first glance one may think there’s only one way to play an acoustic guitar, but this lineup proved otherwise. Upbeat chords and Hudson’s remarkable vocal range definitely went down well with the crowd, as the already packed venue was nodding along and applauding riotously after each one of his songs. Following Hudson was Casey Crescenzo of The Dear Hunter. A much more soulful and raspy style of play, he too brought a different take on a one-man acoustic set. Songs ranging from The Dear Hunter catalogue to a stunning cover of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Crescenzo also found a very welcoming crowd. No doubt peppered with The Dear Hunter fans as during many songs you could hear the crowd singing along, something pretty rare for a support act. He closed with ‘Red Hands,’ a song which resonated so well with the audience they seemed to transform into his personal backing track. Thanking a trio of fans whom he called “my personal roving back-up vocal troupe,” he left the stage to cheers and applause.

Soon enough Hull took the stage, dispensing with the usual “hey (insert city name here), how are ya” that most acts go through. Instead he focused on the music, which was as personal and introspective as I’ve ever seen. That’s not to imply that Andy Hull is a troubled sailor from the 1700’s, but in relation to the character the music pulls you right into the mindset of that man. When there’s so much music out there that entails someone half-heartedly picking at an acoustic guitar in an attempt to have “feeling,” it’s really refreshing to see bands like Right Away, Great Captain! make such an impact with a stripped down sound. Andy Hull does an incredible job at creating an intensely vivid imagery, which brings his detailed and well crafted story to life. There isn’t any need for elaborate backdrops, stage pieces, or visuals when instead the music sets the tone and creates the image for you. A sign hanging from the ceiling beam described the crowd perfectly as it read, “Please SHUT UP during acoustic sets,” and that’s exactly what the crowd did. Far from your standard Wednesday night rock show, Right Away, Great Captain! not only crafted a great line-up and encased the crowd in the tragic story of the music, but also proved that acoustic sets don’t have to be boring. They can be as energetic, engaging, and impressive as a full band, if not more so.

22 Jul
2012

By Matt Arena

Trying to stay relevant is something that many bands at one point or another struggle with. Lately there’s been a rebirth of 90’s bands, the ones that had “that one song” you knew 15 years ago. This summer has seen the launch of monster tours, with five or more of them all on the bill playing essentially to people’s nostalgia. Then there’s Counting Crows. Though their mainstream breakthrough occurred in the 90’s, they in no way fit into this category as “staying relevant” has never been much of an issue for them. Unlike many from their time, they didn’t simply go away when their next album didn’t do as well or the next song didn’t hit. Of course it helps that Counting Crows have consistently churned out great music since they first came onto the scene. But even as a live act, they’re still able to headline and sell out major clubs to a degree that popular bands now can’t pull off. Having just played a sold-out show at Roseland Ballroom a few months ago and packing Willamsburg Park this past Tuesday is a testament to this. They’ve adapted to the digital age, regularly interacting with fans on their forum and twitter, and kept their live show fresh by constructing unique tours like The Travelling Circus & Medicine Show and more recently The Outlaw Road Show. Lead singer Adam Durtiz is a mainstay at festivals like SXSW and CMJ, hosting his very own showcases and constantly promoting new bands. In short, Counting Crows get it.

That’s why it wasn’t a shock to anybody when they announced their nationwide Outlaw Road Show tour. Split into two legs, each section of the tour would be highlighted by the selection of support bands. 3 bands per leg, with a constant rotation of their slot, “because I don’t really think that we have to delineate who’s the bigger band than anybody else” according to Adam. That way “no one would have to be the band that no one sees every night or the band that everyone sees every night.” See? Counting Crows get it. It was clear Durtiz was a genuine fan of the bands they brought with them, especially watching him rock out on the side of the stage during each set. The show at Williamsburg Waterfront marked the beginning of the 2nd leg, which featured Kasey Anderson & The Honkies, Field Report, and We Are Augustines.

The support was expertly chosen as all bands seems to strike a chord within the audience. The genre hopping Kasey Anderson, who spanned sounds from modern alternative to soul R&B, seemed to get a different person dancing for each song. Even setting aside his passionate intro for the band, it’s clear Adam Durtiz is a staunch supporter of Kasey Anderson as their song ‘Like Teenage Gravity’ was not only selected on Counting Crows’ latest covers album but was the lead single from it. Also on the bill was Field Report, headed by Christopher Porterfield and backed by what must be the best dressed band in the music industry. With an introspective and mellow spin on modern alt rock, Field Report is just getting started as they told the crowd, “this is a big for us, it’s the first show we’ve ever had merch for.” Though the band is new, Porterfield certainly isn’t new to the music scene. Long time friends with Bon Iver’s own Justin Vernon, the similarities between the two act are apparent, albeit Field Report’s penchant for a much more impassioned live performance. Although the slot switching is meant to keep all support acts on an even keel, props must be paid to We Are Augustines for really amping the crowd up prior to Counting Crows. Of course being Brooklyn natives probably helped, it’s still hard to imagine any audience not falling in love with this band. Playing a slew of tracks off their fantastic debut album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, tracks like their lead single ‘Chapel Song’ went down especially well. The raspy vocals of Billy McCarthy add an undeniable amount of emotion to each song, especially with his ability to seemingly give everything he has into every single word. A highlight of the set was a beautiful rendition of ‘Philadelphia (The City of Brotherly Love),’ stripped down to just piano and vocals. Easily one of the best tracks on the album, seeing Billy sing with nothing but a beer in his hand while Eric Sanderson played piano made the song that much better. Leaving the crowd completely wowed, they no doubt earned a slew of new fans as many could be heard expressing how blown away they were by We Are Augustines.

Coming out to Bill Withers’ ‘Lean on Me,’ the second Counting Crows took the stage a wash came over the venue. There are bands that grab onto this inexplicable part of your attention span and all but command you to watch every second of their set. Counting Crows are one of those bands. They won’t thrash around the stage or unleash ear-splitting screams into the mic, but they manage to exude a level of passion that’s extremely rare with live music. There’s a sense of genuineness that comes across in Adam Duritz’s singing, and though his incredibly personal lyrics do help, there’s a sense that he actually cares that the audience is there. A lot of bands, especially when they get big, can plug in any crowd from any city and though there are shouts of “we love you New York!” you don’t always get the feeling that they actually do. Not so with Counting Crows. Whether it be the soul searching desperation in songs like ‘Colorblind’ or the reckless abandon of the band’s massive hit ‘Mr. Jones,’ the connection with the crowd is always there. The latter instantly turned the floor of Williamsburg Park into a bouncy castle, with people as far back as the soundboard dancing as wildly as those in the front.

Fresh off the release of their covers album Underwater Sunshine, Counting Crows played a handful of their unique takes on classics like Bob Dylan’s ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’ to Kasey Anderson’s ‘Like Teenage Gravity.’ Unlike most uninspired covers that you may hear, Counting Crows put a trademark spin on every one they do. So much so that Kasey Anderson decided to do a cover of Counting Crows’ cover of his own song. It’s a something you’d expect in a Chris Nolan film, but speaks to the band’s ability to take something and make it their own. Not to get further down into layers of confusion, but many of their own songs are completely reinvented live, almost as if they’re covering themselves. ‘Mr. Jones’ has been played acoustically many times, changing the entire dynamic and meaning of the song, and ‘Round Here’ seems to sound like a different song every time they play it.

As the night drew to a close, Counting Crows has something really special up their sleeve. Blacking out the lights as the lead riff for ‘Hanginaround’ kicked in, the band were suddenly joined on stage by various members of Kasey Anderson & the Honkies. Then everyone from Field Report came on. And then all three of We Are Augustines huddled around the mic, drinks in hand and bellowing out the chorus of what became an amazing jam session. Crowding easily 20+ musicians on stage, half of them with instruments in hand and the other half grouped around microphones, it gave the already rowdy song an even looser feel. It felt like watching them in their basement, just jamming together. The crowd too was wrapped up, as Williamsburg Park became a sea of people clapping, stomping, and belting out the song as loud as they could. It was a perfect representation of what makes Counting Crows such a fantastic band; fostering of the personal element in a crowd of thousands. You’d be hard pressed to find a band that enjoys themselves as much and is half as genuine as Counting Crows.