Washed Out @ Sonos Studio | 7.29.13

I wasn't sure if I was going to actually get in to the show, or rather, the "listening party" for Washed Out's newest album, PARACOSM. In truth, it was more of a free concert, but because of the nature of chillwave (and any instrumental studio composition album) perhaps "listening party" was more appropriate. The venue was Sonos Studio, a small soundproof art & sound gallery just a few miles from LACMA. The lack of ticket fees meant hundreds of leeches like me would be in line, yes, but it also meant there was potential for a special night.

In my on-going quest for once-in-a-lifetime concert experiences, the free show is a high value target. The rarity of the event plus the open access compels artists to put a unique performance together — or at least, as fans, we believe they will. They're not required to do so in any way, but if ever there was a time for it, it would have to be under these unique circumstances, right? That's the hope. Even I, a mere mid-level Washed Out fan, was excited for this night and the show that might happen.

But first there was the line and other fans. I arrived 45 minutes before the listed start time with only 20 people ahead of me in the general admission/mere pedestrian line. Across from us there was the VIP line which held 10 or so people that deceptively looked just like me. The first thing I noticed is that Washed Out's fanbase runs a little older. Maybe it was the promise of an interview with NPR's Nic Harcourt that skewed the demographics, but I was surprised at how many 30 and 40 somethings were down with "chillwave" or whatever replacement label we've decided to use without shame.

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Brooklyn Festival: Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner & Nico Muhly @ Walt Disney Concert Hall | 4.22.13

If you're just joining us, I was two days recovered from the Antlers and their wall of sound performance in the high tech Walt Disney Concert Hall. The "Brooklyn Festival" continued there through the weekend, but I was only interested in attending the closer: "Planetarium," a solar-system inspired collaborative set of songs by Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner (The National) and Nico Muhly. The combination of Sufjan Stevens and the vague description, I was prepared for anything. Wordless orchestral composition in 15 movements, an educational film set to music and a giant diorama with costumed characters were all on the board. It turned out to be a bombastic, larger than life visual/audio feast full of video art, light shows, and prog rock songs from an alternate universe.

Despite the all-star lineup and musical talent on stage, the show was made by its visual component. Hanging above center stage was a 20 foot tall, pitch-black inflated sphere. I had originally thought it was 2 dimensional because of how much it sucked in light, giving no clues to its shape. When the songs were on, visualizer-style abstract video art was projected precisely onto it. For the song "Jupiter," a light flare would swirl in hot colors, resembling the giant's eye. For "Saturn," stripes with the texture of vinyl would run across the sphere and occasionally look like cut up close ups of its rings. For "The Sun," a snake-like trail of fire drew across the darkened orb, dying and sparking in a cycle as Sufjan sent adrift a short, "Redmond"-like ambient piece. For "Earth", a blue smoke that eventually faded into a 3 dimensional kaleidoscope with the texture of Earth's satellite photos.

Each was complimented by 360 degrees of colored spotlight constructions and lasers cutting across the darkened auditorium. I try my best, but it's almost pointless for me to try and describe the effect of the art. Even the video embedded above doesn't do it justice — it's one thing to see it in a tiny 560 pixel rectangle, it's another thing to be surrounded by it — it was the atmosphere of the night. The visuals were creative, playful and emotive, all set to the music of Sufjan Stevens.

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Brooklyn Festival: The Antlers & Chairlift at Walt Disney Concert Hall | 04.22.13

The Walt Disney Concert Hall is one of the few prestige venues of Los Angeles that I really like. The Hollywood Bowl and the Greek Theater bring with them an air of importance, but it's only downtown's Walt Disney that also allows for a pleasant viewing experience. It's small, so even though you're paying top dollar you're bound to get a good view, and most importantly, it's designed with acoustics in mind.

Last week they created an event they called "Brooklyn Festival" - 5 nights of notable Brooklyn acts, showcasing the creative and cultural burst that area has produced in the last decade. In place of Coachella's overload in the desert, I put my money into two of their nights: Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly & Bryce Dressner and Friday night's double header of The Antlers & Chairlift.

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Martin Starr, Alison Brie & Charlyne Yi at Central SAPC | 02.07.13

Every day when I get out of work, it feels like the scene at the start of a movie where the main character gets out of jail and has to figure out what's next. I'm usually wiped, a little bit out of my mind, and need to acclimate myself to the world that has changed since I've been inside. On Thursday night, my next moves were already set. There was a show at nearby Central SAPC, a bar and club in Santa Monica, with a weird and intriguing lineup. A lot of people were on the bill but the clear draw was a one-two-three punch of comedic actors: Martin Starr, Alison Brie and Charlyne Yi.

It wasn't a sketch show or anything. They all have musical side projects that they take seriously enough to book shows. I liked all these people as actors, and so I was curious to see what they do otherwise. Charlyne Yi was the only one I could imagine having musical chops. I didn't know what to expect from the other two. I meet up with my buddy Ray for some lamb shawerma before we go to the show.

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Coachella 2013 Lineup Is Good Enough I Guess

  • The Stone Roses is one of those names that is always floating just outside my area of awareness. A headline spot though, so, good on those guys, whoever they are.
  • Grrfggh Red Hot Chili Peppers. I don't even dislike them, I think they're one of the more likable parts of KROQ canon, but giving them another headlining spot when AMAZING RACE wins Best Reality Show at the Emmys. Probably warranted, but hardly worth celebrating anymore.
  • As Coachella's popularity has skyrocketed as a thing that everyone in Southern California goes to, I can't help but feel like headlining RHCP again is throwing a bone to the party-goers that don't even like 90% of the performers at the fest. A big, unimaginative, arena rock bone.
  • Font size is, as always, confusing! Observe: Portugal, The Man is bigger than Pusha T, Kurt Vile and 2 Chainz. For all his buzz, Alt-J should at least be a size up. Surely Grimes
  • Then again, who cares about font size? Has it ever reflected actual billing or set times? Does it matter or make any difference other than a flier?
  • I'm imagining a one-two knock out punch of The XX followed by Sigur Ros. By knock out, I mean put to sleep knock out.
  • Although the strategy seems to spread acts of one particular taste across all three days, I always find that one day in particular pulls at my sensibilities far more than the others. In this case: Saturday.
  • Yet, even though Saturday is some kind of Indie Rock Parthenon, I can't help but feel a little indifferent to it. There are definitely a lot of great bands, but nothing that feels like a only-here-only-now event (save for The Postal Service.) I would like to see many of these bands, but I don't need to see them, certainly not all at once for three bills.
  • Let me put it this way: 90% of Saturday looks like a reasonable expectation for a 2nd tier festival like Sasquatch or Outside Lands.
  • Perhaps we've just been spoiled by the big bombs of Coachella's past. They've conditioned us to expect special appearance bookings, even in their second or third billings.
  • Imagine if they did group these things by genre. I know why they don't, but can you imagine if you could see Trash Talk, Cloud Nothings & Japandroids in one day? Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown, El-P & Wu-Tang consecutively? Stars & The Postal Service?
  • I don't know who or what Sam XL Pure Filth Sound is, but damn, that name has got to look good on a t-shirt.
  • Moby???
  • I feel like I've only been saying bad things. It's a perfectly acceptable festival, probably even a great one. But Coachella set its own bar so high in years past, it's hard to ignore.
  • Jurassic 5 is boring.
  • I liked Coachella before it was cool.
  • I roll with FYF Fest now.
  • Whatever, I'm already booked for 3 concerts in April anyway.

Essay | Days of Music

Shocking confession: My life isn't all too exciting right now. The best way I can describe it is a series of ellipses punctuated by an exclamation mark, and this pattern repeats until I start moving towards a career. All of that is to say in an unnecessarily abstract way: I do a lot of nothing, and then something, and then nothing.

I will spend three weeks applying for jobs with no bites. Then I will take a trip to Washington. I will spend three weeks staying indoors, forgetting what air smells like. Then I will work on a film set for 10 days. Then I will spend three weeks just to observe my mental and physical atrophy. Then I will attend three bad-ass concerts within 10 days of each other. HERE IS A BLOG ABOUT THAT LAST PART HOW ABOUT THAT SEGUE

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Essay | Smash Yourself Clean

I looked up and saw a guy dive into me as if I was a swimming pool. I caught the full of his back with my head and forearm, as did the people around me. We crouched under the weight, trying to push him back up, both with enthusiasm and utter hatred for the guy. But any emotion is quick and fleeting. You get over offenses quickly, because you know it's not personal, because this is a concert and you came here to get hurt. It hurts good.

The Pit at a concert, at least an upbeat, wild one that is heavy on the rock-out, is a fascinating place. It is the section directly in front of the stage for those who are not afraid to get an elbow in the rib or a knee in the head. Concert goers ascend the stage, despite the best attempts by security, and fly for half a second into the maelstrom of bodies. Sometimes they will be caught. Other times people will run out of the way and let them fall. This is The Pit. If you want the privilege of being so close to the stage, there is a price to pay, and that is your physical well being.

I wasn't always so enthusiastic at the thought of being physically hurt to live music. It used to be this strange, intimidating obstacle when you just want to fold your arms and stare at the bassist for an hour. I remember a Manu Chao concert and the disappointment my friend expressed that I had not gone in to get tackled by strangers in a concentric circle. I had not even hopped in place like a bunny. I had spent (wasted) that concert simply listening to the music. It made sense to me. What was live music for if not for listening intently and respectfully?

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Essay | Every Sound at Once

Ever since I learned of its existence, the goal was to attend the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

For a long time, I didn't even attend concerts. While I have always loved music, it didn't occur to me that I could see all this lovely music live, and in person, instead of imagining music videos in my head as I walked home. Then once in 2005, I decided to see Bright Eyes and The Faint at the Grand Olympic Auditorium. The seats were awkward, distant, and obstructed by the underside of the mezzanine above, but I've been all about concert hunting ever since.

I've come to believe that any music is made better live, even the ones that don't line up with my taste. It's something to do with the power of loud, the bass resonating with your ribs, and the groupthink adoration of the fans around you. Concerts are brief windows into an upper reality. The best ones have that moving moment where you forget you're in an audience and for a tiny moment a song is an experience.

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