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Best 30 Songs of 2013

December 13, 2013 in Best of 2013


Image and list by Zachary Kaczmarek

1. Chvrches – Recover


2. Arcade Fire – Reflektor


3. Janelle Monae – Q.U.E.E.N.


4. Vampire Weekend – Ya Hey


5. Lorde – White Teeth Teens


6. Queens of the Stone Age – If I Had a Tail


7. Daft Punk – Doin’ It Right


8. Haim – Don’t Save Me


9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Sacrilege


10. Savages – Shut Up


11. Lorde – Royals


12. Torres – Honey


13. MØ – XXX 88 ft. Diplo


14. The Knife – Full of Fire


15. El-P & Killer Mike – Sea Legs


16. Haim – The Wire


17. Laura Marling – Master Hunter


18. The National – Pink Rabbits


19. Daft Punk – Get Lucky


20. Mikal Cronin – Weight


21. Vampire Weekend – Step


22. Earl Sweatshirt – Hive ft. Vince Staples


23. Savages – I Am Here


24. Queens of the Stone Age – My God is the Sun


25. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Day


26. Cage the Elephant – Come a Little Closer


27. M.I.A. – Bring the Noize


28. Atoms for Peace – Default


29. Rhye – Open


30. Phoenix – Trying to Be Cool

Concert Recap: They Might Be Giants at the Marquee

November 22, 2013 in Concert Recap


They Might Be Giants: Nanobots at The Marquee Theatre

By Devon Adams

There are those seminal bands that represent a snapshot of time past. Bands that define a summer, an age of youthful innocence we long for again. In the summer of 1990 I traveled with a friend’s family to Ocean City, Maryland where we traversed the boardwalk, slipping in and out of small shops. In one surf shop, the opening notes of a song started. The cashier quickly moved towards the cassette deck and cranked up the volume and one by one the dozen or so people in the store perked up. By the time the drums hit, every other person started singing loudly to an anthem of that summer – an innocent, exciting jingle riff that I have never been able to shake, and why would I? They Might Be Giants’ (TMBG) biggest hit “Birdhouse in Your Soul”  burned into my psyche that June afternoon.

Started by Nebraskan friends John Linnell and John Flansburgh in 1982, They Might Be Giants have had a long career in the adult and children music industries. On tour for their 16th studio album, Nanobots, Linnell and Flansburgh stepped onto the Marquee stage Friday night with a simple accordion and guitar before slowly starting a stripped down version of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”. Flansburgh reminded me of an older Jewish doctor with his cardigan, checkered dress shirt, jeans and glasses. John Linnell, his partner in crime, was much more unassuming until he began to sing; the audience clearly recognized his voice from thirty years of hits.

The screaming crowd who were eager to hear the most popular songs from a three decade career quickly joined in singing “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” before the full band walked out on stage. Having reviewed former set lists from this tour prior to the performance, I expected this number later so I quickly realized the performance would be more impromptu. The video screen behind the band included footage of the crowd screaming, which made us feel like we were all part of the show, that we were in on the joke and enjoyed every minute of it.

In true TMBG humor, they began bantering about the pronunciation of “Tempe” by calling the city “tem-pay” or “tem-pe” while clearly enjoying themselves on stage prior to moving into “Letterbox”. Flansburgh joked that they felt “ossified” and hoped they could remember the song that they originally wrote in 1985. They played through several classics like this complex number, as well as newer songs like “Call Your Mom” from Nanobots (2013), the album clearly demonstrating a return to adult music. Flansburgh moved back and forth across the stage sometimes playing guitar stage left from Linnell’s keys or other times mock jumping from the front of Beller’s drum kit. While Linnell’s demeanor seemed to focus clearly on the music, Flansburgh is the showman of the two.

When introducing “Meet the Elements”, Flansburgh said they slept through high school so the audience didn’t have to before going into the most enjoyable chemistry lesson I’ve ever had. Later in the set, during “Doctor Worm” the band demonstrates their love for learning withlyrics like “My name is Dr. Worm. / Good morning. How are you? I’m Dr. Worm. / I’m interested in things.” Even when it was pointed out their song “Why Does the Sun Shine?” inadvertently teaches children that the sun is made up of gasses, the band wrote a “sequel” called “Why Does the Sun Really Shine?” with catchy tongue-twisting lyrics like “miasma of incandescent plasma” that clarifies that the sun is made up of plasma.

Following “Meet the Elements”, TMBG announced they were playing their song, “Tesla” about Nikola Tesla, the father of the x-ray. They explained without Google people may not know he also experimented with alternate electrical currents and tried to invent a “death-ray”.

They Might Be Giants jammed through a few other songs including “32 Footsteps” that led to an audience sing along and “Damn Good Times” with a Beller/Flansburgh high tempo jam session before the lights went down and the stage cleared. After guitarist Dan Miller played through a few raucous riffs from “Free Ride” and “Crazy Train”, the large screen upstage lit up with the Avatars of They – two sock puppets added to the show in 2009 during the Here Comes Science album. The “puppets” play through an exciting version of “He’s Loco”, as those of us near the front tried to see over the keyboard. The action was shot using handheld cameras that projected behind the band.

Continuing the onstage banter, Linnell began talking to mecha-Flansburgh who spoke in a synthesized robot voice before launching into the title track from Nanobots. Following “Nanobots”, Flansburgh grabbed a flashlight and separated the crowd in half. Stage left were the “apes” and stage right were the “people”. We all chanted and shoved our fists in the air singing through the frenetic “Battle for the Planet of the Apes”. The apes eventually lost after an avant garde, high metal rendition of the song inspired by the rebooted film series of the same name.

Following this Linnell took up the bass clarinet that had been perched near the front of the stage and announced they were going to become a Moon Hooch tribute band (referring to their opening act who played only brass and percussion instruments). They performed a new version of “Black Ops” on the bass clarinet while Flansburgh jokingly named the instrument the “ebony goose”. Next up was “Icky” that included a long musical break dead center during which the audience was told to scream as if they were thrown into the fiery pit of hell. Flansburgh played backward facing away from the stage while red lights flashed through the middle of the song.

After an hour into the show, Linnell stepped back up to the keys as the red lights dropped down. He began to introduce a song that we “may know”, as the opening notes for “Birdhouse in Your Soul” shook through the mid-sized theatre. Every single person in that venue suddenly joined in when Beller hit his drumkit. The lights flashed across the stage and flashed across us, as we slipped back to the largest hit of They Might Be Giants’ career. As the song slowly faded out, they thanked us and slipped off stage.

As with any good show, we all knew there’d be an encore (looking at the former set lists, I knew there’d be two of them.) After a few moments the Johns reemerged with Flansburgh on a different guitar (he had tuning problems during “Birdhouse”), and Linnell strapped his accordion across his chest before playing “I Hope I Get Old Before I Die” – an old electronica polka number off their first album. The band then joined them for several solos and band intros before finishing the first encore with 2011’s “When Will You Die”. While this felt full circle, TMBG still wasn’t finished with us and stepped back onto stage for a second encore after several minutes.

They jammed through “Number Three” and “Everything Right Is Wrong Again” including Flansburgh and Linnell both playing their instruments with drumsticks while Beller’s extended drum solo included audience members clapping in time until the on stage thrashing drowned us all out. As “Everything Right Is Wrong Again” came to a crashing halt, the quirky quintet thanked us for being loyal fans over the decades and reiterated that they only play music “to ruin you [the audience] for all other bands”. We laughed together in the pit knowing we were in on the joke and that this performance this night at The Marquee Theatre was the place to be.



Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

You’re on Fire

Clap Your Hands

The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)


Boat of Car

Call You Mom

Youth Culture Killed My Dog

Meet the Elements


32 Footsteps

Damn Good Times


He’s Loco

Doctor Worm

Alienation’s for the Rich


New York City

Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Black Ops



Hide Away Folk Family

Birdhouse in Your Soul


I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die

1-2-3 Band Intros

When Will You Die

 Encore 2:

Number Three

Everything Right Is Wrong Again

Album Review: Arcade Fire, Reflektor

November 1, 2013 in Album Reviews


Arcade Fire: Reflektor

Grade: B+


Release Date: October 28, 2013

By Zachary Kaczmarek


It must have been quite an interesting crossroads for Win Butler and his ragtag band of Canadian art rockers, deciding what direction to take on their fourth and much anticipated studio release, and having the option to crank out an identical record to widely popular The Suburbs or risk everything on a massive experimental double album that could challenge how their increased fan base would perceive them. Prior to 2011 when their third studio album The Suburbs, took the music world by storm snagging Album of the Year at the Grammys, Arcade Fire had written Funeral and Neon Bible, what many consider to be two of the most complete albums of the 2000s under their belt, and for many indie acts that would have been the pinnacle or ceiling of a career. The Suburbs broke through that ceiling, shattering any preconceived notion of their limitations with tales of societal vultures and nostalgia, laid on top of such vast and universally appealing musical diversity which was enough to stun the Gagas and Katy Perrys of the world setting off Twitter with thousands asking “Who the fuck is Arcade Fire?”, something the band ironically embraced by emblazoning the phrase on t shirts. It was a moment that rendered the view of Arcade Fire being indie and a semi-well-kept as a thing of the past, increasing their impact to a global scale. 

Following a sold-out world tour and a well-deserved break, the cryptic campaign to promote Reflektor began this past August, with unannounced chalk drawings and banners on the sides of buildings in major cities across the US, the surprising news that James Murphy the founder of the now defunct LCD Soundsystem would produce the album, and the release of the self-titled gloomy disco influenced single “Reflektor” featuring backing vocals from none other than David Bowie. But other than a few major details so little was known about what exactly Arcade Fire was aiming for, with the band releasing only the occasional video clip of a jam session with no audio, or posting small teasers of album tracks. Looking back on how secretive they went about controlling the release of details, it seems it was for good reason, because the vast majority would have doubted the unheralded mixture of art rock, moody disco, Haitian influences, and Talking Heads styled new wave.

Arcade Fire’s modern day version of a Greek epic combines the tale of Orpheus with their own tribulations begins with the highly infectious dark disco groove “Reflektor”, laying the groundwork for what is a 75 plus minute journey through a dimly lit world isolated from all surroundings and yet just close enough to yearn for some kind of intimacy. Murphy coats the album with a hazy modern disco sheen, erasing much of the Springsteen influence that characterized The Suburbs. The title track embodies this the style the most with the thick humming synthesizers, hand drums, signature 70s drum beats, topped off with David Bowie adding vocals during the bridge.

The core idea that Butler means to convey on the album and especially on the title track is that the 21st century generates isolation and a very casual disconnection in this online based society that supposedly gives people deeper insight into each other’s lives, voicing a deep concern for growing apart from bandmate and wife Regine Chassagne, mirroring how Orpheus loses his love Eurydice, with the lines “We’re so connected but are we even friends? We fell in love when I was 19 and now we’re staring at a screen.” Being no stranger to delivering emphatic album-sized statements they do succeed in connecting themes that at times seem disjointed and messy, evoking emotions that are conflicted and yet so removed and distant.

But where Reflektor lacks the dramatic sentiment of its predecessors it makes up for with daring musical inventiveness. Sudden time changes and mood shifts have been synonymous with the bands finest moments on older tracks like “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations” and “Suburban War”, taking moments that are already the epitome of gloomy and simply hurling them into a much heavier and darker realm without any warning. Similar moments occur here on “Here Comes the Night Time” with an intro featuring rapidly firing guitars and drums before stopping on a dime and simmering down with a danceable Haitian drum beat, warbled synth and a melodic refrain. The same odd Frankenstein-like process is repeated on the final track of the first album “Joan of Arc”, taking a rather abrasive punk beginning, something not exactly retrofitted for a band more concerned with aesthetics than blistering rage, and blending it with a rhythmic glam rock body.

Their finest moment on the album comes in the form of the high wattage rock n roll track “Normal Person” with ten tons of distortion and a whiny lead guitar in the chorus and the message that “normal” is a term to suppress individuals, as Butler depicts a reality that sounds like a plot from the Twilight Zone, asking the question “Is anything as strange as a normal person? Is anyone as a cruel as a normal person”, before delivering a perilous warning in the chorus “They will break you down till everything is normal now”. Then theres the outlandish blend of psych rock and reggae on “Flashbulb Eyes”, which doesn’t sound half as bad as one might think. Perhaps in the past Arcade Fire could have been somewhat vulnerable to being described merely as discontent indie rock, but the unexplored expansive sounds that they include on this record make it nearly impossible to make accurate comparisons to most other bands, or to box them in to a particular sound or label.

As to be expected, Regine Chassagne, the unspoken MVP in the background, provides a light to Butler’s cynicism and harsh realities with her angelic vocals that possess siren-like qualities. Despite the fact that she doesn’t have a track singing lead vocals like she did with “Sprawl II” or “Empty Room” on The Suburbs, some of the albums best choruses and bridges are due to her ability to channel such unfiltered emotion and beauty into condensed moments like the chorus on “Its Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”, or the bridge on “Afterlife” singing “When love is gone where it does it go? Where do we go?” The lyrics could be simplistic, complicated, or even in French as a lot of her verses in the past have been, but as she sings on “Joan of Arc”, “If you shoot you better hit your mark”, something she does very well when given the opportunity.

If there is one complaint about Arcade Fire’s statement of grandeur, it’s how it goes out with somewhat of a whimper, not with exclamation or closure. After carrying a heavy concept successfully for 12 tracks Reflektor quietly trails off on “Supersymmetry”, a soft ambient conclusion which doesn’t seem to do the album justice. Aside from a few missteps, Reflektor is for the most part spot on in achieving everything it set out to do, employing the concept of tying together a modern day world that they refer to as “the reflective age” with ancient mythology and intertwining their reliable art rock approach with new territory sonically. Hearing the dramatic swelling strings traded in for synthesizers on the majority of these tracks does cause one double take and listen multiple times to realize that this is in fact the same band that released “No Cars Go” and “Wake Up”, but it would be foolish to assume that Butler would take the beaten path and retrace the past. On paper a double album based on Greek myth with a Haitian soulfulness wouldn’t be the type of musical gamble that most bands would take. But  Arcade Fire finds themselves at point in their career where Win Butler and company can express their displeasure with the ways of the world, all while channeling the bizarre and making something incredibly palatable.

Essential Tracks: “Reflektor”, “Joan of Arc”, Normal Person”, “Its Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”

Watch Arcade Fire play “Normal Person” on The Colbert Report below:


Concert Recap: Haim at Crescent Ballroom (Photo Gallery)

October 15, 2013 in Concert Recap


All photos taken by Zachary Kaczmarek


Album Review: Lorde, Pure Heroine

September 30, 2013 in Album Reviews



Lorde: Pure Heroine

Grade: B

By Zachary Kaczmarek

Age in the music world is often a signifier of wisdom due to tenure, or inexperience from being a fresh face. But in the case of Ella Yellich-O’Connor, better known as Lorde, it’s very well the opposite, being only 16 and already receiving the treatment of a prodigy, specifically for songwriting abilities that are beyond her years. On the other hand, there are the detractors who will denounce the subject matter of her songs, writing it off as nothing more than simplistic teen angst. Her youth is ultimately a double-edged sword that either draws critical acclaim or discredits her talent with cries of being “overhyped”. But that same youthfulness is what makes Pure Heroine a genuine and unapologetic breath of fresh air.

Lorde doesn’t exactly open her first official LP with anything astonishing or mystifying with the ever so tepid “Tennis Court”, the only glaring flaw on the album, sounding like a rehashed Lana Del Rey track, relying too much on feeble lyrics, hazy synthesizers and a generic drum loop that feels all too common. But just as the possibility of Lorde being a one hit wonder rears its ugly head, the following sequence of the next 5 tracks excels in near flawless fashion, one track after another that builds up steady momentum. “400 Lux” showcases Yellich-O’Connor’s lyrical gusto, reeling off nuggets of wisdom like “we’re hollow like the bottles we drain”, before interjecting a redeeming statement, “we might be hollow but we’re brave”. She may have less years of life experience than the average songwriter, but she is fearless in giving fair social commentary on her contemporaries. The seemingly ubiquitous chart-topper “Royals” offers up a solid catchy anthem, shunning the glamorous illusions of wealth and fame that include Maybachs, Cristal, common representations of having “made it”, and admitting to living an ordinary life in a rundown town that wouldn’t warrant “post code envy”. Yellich-O’Connor isn’t interested in embellishing her reality to attract fans, and seems to pride herself in humble beginnings, a strong theme in most of her lyrics. The motivation, or “different kind of buzz” that Yellich-O’Connor craves isn’t one of luxury or a lavish lifestyle, but merely being appreciative and satisfied with having such a platform.

Stylistically the majority of Lorde’s debut is stripped back and yet so textured and appealing. There’s no confusion or identity crisis from one song to the next, with consistently well-executed pop with an anti-pop message. The young New Zealand songwriter had a vision of how she wanted this record to sound and it accurately hits the mark. It strikes a smooth balance between streamlined pop and the understated aesthetics of the pop in the indie realm.  None of the tracks reach EDM levels of dance or bass like most radio pop, but it’s satisfying that the album is content with knowing its own boundaries instead of trying to become the next dance record played in the clubs. Most of the album doesn’t necessarily possess overly infectious hooks, but the spaciousness that is provided by the “less is more” approach allows Yellich-O’Connor to fill the gaps with her lower octave vocals. Sonically some of these songs are basic as a bare echoing drum machine and thinly layered synth chords, but they still generate a sound that’s fulfilling.

The quintessential track “White Teeth Teens”, features soft airy synth notes and methodical snare drums that shifts to hip hop influenced beats and bass during the bridge. All this culminates to pull off the grand ceremonious statement “I am not a white teeth teen/I tried to join but never did/The way they are, the way they seem is something else, it’s in the blood”. Her certainty that she stands apart from other lookalikes in the crowd and other shallow artists in the pop scene is demonstrated by her talent for walking the tightrope that is pop. She refuses to identify herself with the narcissistic and empty calories that clutter the airwaves, but she’ll be damned if anyone attempts to box her in as a pretentious act whose only aspiration is to remain underground and credible. There’s more than enough authenticity in Yellich-O’Connor’s admission that she might be young, but that age has no bearing on her ability to deliver sharp and effective wit.

The greatest strength in her debut may very well be the honesty and the lack of unrealistic melodrama that is often associated with today’s youth. The struggle to identify what it is that defines her generation takes place in many different forms, but there is a potential conclusion to her debate. It could be that the millennials live with a lack of purpose due to a social disconnect rooted in technology and endless temptation. Or perhaps what Yellich-O’Connor suggests on the finale “A World Alone” rings true, “maybe the internet raised us, or maybe people are jerks”.


Concert Recap: The Electric Fall Ball at the Sail Inn (Photo Gallery)

September 23, 2013 in Events


All photos by Zachary Kaczmarek

Fairy Bones 

Bears of Manitou




Zero Zero



Embry Alexander


Midnight Vitals


Bogan Via

Album Review: Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

September 3, 2013 in Album Reviews


Grade: B+

By Zachary Kaczmarek

Story telling has always been a strong suit for the confident Neko Case, whether the lyrics are a variation of her own life or fictitious tales of being unapologetically forthright. Her last release, Middle Tornado, played with the idea of her love being manifested as a reckless force of nature, with her vocals also taking a similar form as her untamable voice seemed to level anything that stood in its path. Creative metaphors seem to roll off the tongue easy for Case as she transforms failed loved and self-doubt into genuine Americana style tales. With each successive release the alt-country veteran has transitioned from writing sad stories that kept her personal life at a safe distance to constructing cathartic lyrics aim straight for the heart.

Although the title of her latest record reads much like the verbose album titles that Fiona Apple is known for, it begins very much like a Neko Case album should, with a strong opening track. “Wild Creatures” isn’t necessarily the standout on the album, but the way it slowly eases into a deceptive melancholic pace before shifting to a convicting frantic mood with hazy distortion and underlying finger picked melodies provides the perfect introduction. When compared to Middle Cyclone, the demeanor seems slightly grimmer, and incredibly vulnerable, even by Case’s standards. But in contrast to her candid introspection that she allows the listener to see, she also gives some of her boldest and most indomitable performances. LP number six for Case, allows all the seething frustration to be properly expunged from her mind and to repave the way with brighter aspirations. The track “Man” which focuses on bucking gender-norms, is a prime example of Case’s refusal to play the victim,  with lyrics that do away with the idea of being a weak daughter/girlfriend/damsel in distress. M. Ward of She and Him lends a hand on hand guitar shredding relentlessly, his intensity equaling perturbed lines like “I am the man in the fucking moon, ‘Cause you didn’t know what a man was til I showed you”. Case runs into a lot of uncertainty on The Worse Things Get… and although she may not be certain who she is trying to be, she sure as hell won’t let anyone else lecture her or attempt to box her in.

As the album moves forward in forming a strong persona that is above any labels or criticism, the sound does the inverse, calling upon alternative twang from Case’s past that had a heavy presence on her early LP’s like The Virginian and Furnace Room Lullaby. The soft somber “Calling Cards” paints a beautifully vivid picture of a classic open road narrative with soft country-folk guitar, telling of a love that that’s separated by highways and held together by payphone calls coast to coast. When lost or distraught, Case looks for the comforting familiar country sounds, something that is a saving grace and shines through on her finest moments.

The final sequence of songs on The Worse Things Get…, perhaps the best string of consecutive tracks on any Neko Case album, make no attempt to put up a wall or hide behind an irate false bravado, but rather simply breakdown and reveal the tension within. “Afraid”, one of her best songs to date, features Case softly consoling another over ominous tones and soft guitar picking, which could be interpreted as a song talking herself through troubles from a third person perspective. Case finds solace in the phrase “you are beautiful and you are alone”, and her solution, or advice in the end is to “banish the faceless, rewatch your grace”. “Local Girl” shows off her fiery side and contempt for society in the ways that an honest young talent is distorted and the bright lights “blot out her face”. Case takes on somewhat of a strong mothering figure and expresses her disgusts with hypocrisy of mankind that wants to judge and ridicule, while failing to recognize internal flaws. The curtain closer “Ragtime”, offers an optimistic end with the bright echoing chords and a chorus of trumpets. Case’s final verse of the album, “Ragtime turning out the sun and moon, Its gravity is soothing, It winds me in a sleep cocoon, Reveal myself when I’m ready, I’ll reveal myself invincible soon”, sums up the inner struggle that The Worse Things Get… presents. There is an upside that can be appreciated, but Case has to venture to hell and back to fully realize it.


Must See Concerts: The Features at Last Exit Live, Sept. 12th

July 18, 2013 in Events



 By Zachary Kaczmarek

In September the southern indie rock act known as The Features will embark on a summer tour that spans numerous west coast states, which includes the a show in the great state of Arizona at Last Exit Live on September 12th. For those wondering why this show meets the criteria for a “must see”, just take a listen to their latest single “This Disorder”. It shows the progressions from the band’s southern tinged indie rock sound to a post-punk influenced style that is just as catchy and irresistible as it is profound. It’s not every day that you get the chance to see a band like The Features live, but if the subtle funk and undeniable talent of that one song isn’t enough proof that The Features are a band at their peak, take a listen to their newest studio effort.


Their latest self-titled album is an odd amalgam of sounds that is comparable to a blend of their southern roots and moody bass line driven rock like Interpol, complete with all sorts of fantastic sounding riffs and synthesizers. The album was recorded in just a matter of a month in Vancouver, after they had only spent two weeks back in their home of Nashville, forming rough compositions of each track. One would think that the final product would sound sloppy or rushed, but the unconventional timetable for the recording process opened up new channels of creativity that allow the album to go in so many diverse directions.

Much of the record weaves in between their natural musical habitat and unlikely outside influences. One moment they will be creating a serene moment with echoing synthesizers and dream-like guitar melodies, as they do on the track “With Every Beat”, and the next they’re using fuzzy jangly bass lines to create a heavy dance rock atmosphere, like on the track “The New Romantic”. There’s no doubt that hearing the album live would be twice as enjoyable, and hearing past hits like “Lions” and “How It Starts” would make it a complete musical experience. If the idea of hearing a veteran band that cannot be confined to one genre in an intimate venue doesn’t excite you, then you may need to check your pulse.


Which Summer Music Festival is Worth a Road Trip?

July 8, 2013 in Events


By Zachary Kaczmarek

Whether it be among friends or just colleagues who share a deep rooted interest in music, there has always been a debate about which festivals offer the most complete experience while still maintaining an affordable price. Although Coachella and Bonaroo have come and gone, there are still a few great festival experiences to be had. But the question is, which one offers the most memorable experience in exchange for the high cost of admission and travel? Well the answer lies in San Francisco where the Outside Lands Music Festival is held August 9th-11th. If you were to go simply by history and reputation, Lollapalooza seems like the clear cut winner, and if you were to make a decision by which one is the cheapest, Pitchfork Music Festival wins by a landslide. But when factoring in travel costs, 3-day ticket costs, hotel costs, and a complete lineup, Outside Lands meets all the qualifications.

The Cost

Compared to Lollapalooza and Pitchfork Music Festival, which are both held in Chicago, Outside Lands offers the convenience of driving from Phoenix to San Francisco without taking a whole week to get there, which is the economic choice, at a cost of $224 round trip, assuming your vehicle gets at least 25 mpg, according to Compare that to spending in the ballpark of $400+ to fly to Chicago round trip. But even if flying is more to your liking, a round trip flight to San Francisco averages around $340, which is nearly $80 dollars less on average than flying round trip to Chicago. Hotel costs in both cities average about the same, ranging anywhere from $222/night to $500+/night, according to Lastly, but definitely not least, Outside Lands charges $249 for 3-day passes, compared to Lollapalooza 3-day passes, which already sold out earlier this year and are now being resold on Stubhub for a whopping $365.

The Lineup & Experience

The main reason, aside from travel costs, that makes Outside Lands the most appealing choice is the fact that its lineup features a combination of headliners and mid tier acts that have been featured at Coachella, Bonnaroo, and a few that will be playing at Lollapalooza. OSL features Paul McCartney, who recently headlined Bonnaroo, Nine Inch Nails, who will also be headlining Lollapalooza, as well as Phoenix, Vampire Weekend, The National, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jurassic 5, and Grizzly Bear. On top of great headliners and sub headliners, there are also great mid tier acts and newcomers like Surfer Blood, Deap Vally, Gary Clark Jr, Wild Belle, Smith Westerns, Youth Lagoon, The Tallest Man On Earth, and Jessie Ware. OSL also features a huge wine tasting tent and a beer tasting tent, and numerous live art events taking place over the 3 days. Not to mention this 3 day festival takes place in welcoming San Francisco weather which looks to be in the high 60s, low 70s in August, a nice getaway from the scorching Arizona heat.

The bottom line on this festival debate is that Outside Lands brings together heavy hitters like McCartney and NIN, which not many festivals this year can boast about, a bevy of other great bands, visual art experiences, wine and beer tastings, and all for an affordable price in a great city. If you’re looking to combine your summer vacation with a memorable, but reasonably priced festival experience, Outside Lands wins hands down.

Album Review: Deap Vally, Sistrionix

July 5, 2013 in Album Reviews


Grade: B

By Zachary Kaczmarek

The phrase “rock is dead” or “rock n roll is dead” is often one that gets its fair share of use when discussing new music, or when today’s artists are compared to legends of past decades. If you were to type in “rock is” in Google, one of the suggestions in the drop down box is “rock is dead”. While the notion that the golden age of rock has already seen its final days in the sun is a bit exaggerated, it is true that there are more individuals interested in becoming the next David Guetta than there are aspiring musicians who emulate old fashion rock n roll. That is exactly why Deap Vally’s debut, Sistrionix stands out among a sea of electronic and Avant-garde music. The duo of Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards aren’t concerned with being aesthetically pleasing or creating a gentle whisper, but instead loud brash garage rock that makes no apologies for lacking finesse or being “unladylike”.

Troy and Edwards immediately go for broke with the opener “End of the World”, a noisy but tightly wound track that is all fuzz and deep thudding drums, much of a White Stripes influence is present, which set the tone for the rest of the album. Troy’s vocals a raspy and wily mix between Robert Plant, Janis Joplin, Jack White, forcibly take command as Edwards hammers the tom drums and crashing cymbals in time like her life depends on it. The overwhelming amount of intensity and passion is what that separates Sistrionix from other albums that strive for this sound, as no track sounds like the duo are simply going through the motions or are attempting to recreate an old sound. “Make My Own Money” takes on a liberating female narrative that focuses on rebelling against the idea of being told by a father to find a rich man to marry, and the line “I’m gonna make my own money/Gonna buy my own land” further solidifies the image of a rambunctious duo that won’t take any crap off anyone. The best part of this track is the seamless transition from the verses that feature Troy’s whiny guitar licks and Edwards’s swift drum fills, to a breakneck chorus where Troy is whaling at the top of her lungs like a woman possessed.

Even though there are times where the immense amount of veracity and tension would have you believe that Troy and Edwards are all piss and vinegar, there are a handful of songs that are downright fun and reckless. “Bad for My Body” speaks of an out of control indulgence in the worst things with the wrong people, and can be summed up with the chorus “If our mothers only knew the trouble that we get into”. The main riff on “New Material”, so irresistible and catchy, also presents a side that shows how Deap Vally’s pummeling rock style can possess some pop sensibilities. Underneath the rough serious exterior of their music is a feeling that is free-spirited and invigorating. Although Sistrionix is intense, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The album comes to a slow grinding halt with the 9 minute masterpiece “Six Feet Under”, a track with multiple parts that eases into a loud hectic mid-section before winding down with nothing but Troy’s voice and a tambourine.  It’s the only moment on the album where Troy and Edwards stop for a moment to look back at the messy beauty that is Sitrionix, and it just shows how Deap Vally refuses to stop until the final they have exhausted everything they can possibly muster. When it’s over, a shell-shocked feeling looms, as it’s hard to believe that an album or the band that made it could be this alluring, but yet so crude and fierce, exists, but in the end it’s reassuring as far as music is concerned, knowing that they do.

Essential Cuts: “End of the World”, “Gonna Make My Own Money”, “Lies”, “Bad for My Body”, “Woman of Intention”, “Six Feet Under”

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