This time last year, you may not have heard about Belgian-Australian singer-songwriter Gotye, but now his work seems inescapable for many. In particular the song, “Somebody That I Used to Know” has become a global hit, the official video has over 175 million views and currently sits at the #1 spot on YouTube’s music chart. Have you seen it?
CONCERT REVIEW: CALVIN HARRIS
3/17/12 @ the Congress Theater – Chicago, IL
Let me preface this by saying I’m a HUGE fan of Calvin Harris. I’ve been following him since his 2007 debut “I Created Disco” – an impressive beginning to a blossoming career. I’ve bought the records, I’ve watched the videos – I’ve added him to dozens of mixtapes. I consider myself a real, true fan.
Which is why I don’t like to be lied to.
In an age of an electronic revival, there’s a lot of competition to a seemingly simple formula: bleep-bloop-break-chorus-bloop. It takes a certain finesse to stand out among a genre that can easily fall flat in the wrong hands. Scottish-born Calvin Harris got an overnight break when his material was noticed on MySpace – and has since transformed himself into one of the most successful producers of modern times. Harris’ immediately recognizable approach is brilliant – with two (almost three) solo LPs to his name, he maintains his own style of music while producing songs for some of pop’s biggest names on the side (Kylie Minogue, LMFAO, Kelis).
His sound mirrors the twenty-somethings that make up the majority of his crowd: reminiscent of 80′s New Wave but firmly rooted in modern electro – with an explosive crossover appeal. The indie kids love him for “Colours” – the club kids love him for “We Found Love” (with Rihanna) – and both sides of the fence love his new song, “Feel So Close”. With an invariably varied sold-out crowd, Harris was poised to bring live, full-band life to his repertoire of hits. Except he didn’t.
I have no problem watching electronic musicians perform DJ sets of their material -
if they’re billed that way.
Performing atop a massive riser, Calvin Harris played an extended show behind a beautifully done light / fog / confetti setup. The crowd was fervent, the energy was high – but for such a giant event, simply standing behind some turntables & pointing in the air leaves a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. As I said, I’ve followed Harris for 5 years now – lusting after YouTube videos of his live sets (like this – or this), and expected to hear unique versions of his material – NOT the same exact recording I had on in the car on the way to the show. Sure, there are limitations to playing electro live, but Harris proved his worth as a live act time and time over in the past – leaving me feel like Chicago was slightly cheated. For someone so deep into the world of production, DJing is the easy way out – which would have been great, once again, had the show been billed AS A DJ SET.
The fair-weather fans who only came to hear the Rihanna song wouldn’t mind – and it’s not to say I completely did either – but for those of us expecting a concert (not a guy pressing “PLAY”) left the Congress with an aching let-down. Don’t get me wrong, this show was a blast. On one of the biggest “party” days of the year, this sort of event was appropriately apropos. However, the crowd was barely addressed – and inexplicably mid-set, Harris went into remixes of both Basement Jaxx & Avicii songs – which fared well in the moment, but seemed confusing on the drive home. For such a young, talented, energetic entertainer like himself, he sold himself & his dedicated audience short. Harris didn’t rise to fame as a DJ – he’s morphing into one now that his notoriety is becoming more public, and to me – that’s a shame.
Again, I’m not saying this was a bad show – it’s just the musician in me that goes,
“What the fuck, man?“.
CONCERT REVIEW: EVERY TIME I DIE
3/10/12 – Support for The Devil Wears Prada
@ the Intersection – Grand Rapids, MI
In a more-niche-than-ever genre, it takes a lot to stand out. After the veritable monsoon of metalcore music in the early/mid-00′s, the “verse/chorus/breakdown/breakdown/slower-breakdown/chorus” formula just doesn’t cut it like it used to. If you followed that song structure, got a swoopy-doo, learned the two-step & did a little larynx damage, your band WOULD be playing somewhere. But, like all forms of music, trends either fade or morph into something new. The bands who stuck around had to evolve or die.
Fortunately, Every Time I Die has always been against the grain. They’re hardcore, but not. So they kind of are.
But really, they’re kind of not.
(Confusing? I explain it better in last week’s review of ETID’s new release, “Ex-Lives”.)
Placed on a like-genred bill (but not necessarily correctly paired), Every Time I Die’s prowess easily shined the brightest of the evening. On this leg of their North American tour, they play opening act for headliner The Devil Wears Prada, meaning Prada fans took crowd majority – but not without a fight. After taking the stage, two things were immediately clear: ETID is more energetic than ever, and the mosh pit is certainly not dead.
Kicking off their set with “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” (new album opener) – an immediate fury became of the crowd, stretching throughout an impressively well chosen setlist of career-spanning songs. They dug deep and evenly into their catalog – playing a balanced mix of new & old songs, while still treating fans to hits like “The New Black”, “Wanderlust”, “We’rewolf” & “Ebolarama”. Vocalist Keith Buckley gave near-studio renditions while the band (guitarists Jordan Buckley & Andy Williams, bassist Stephen Micciche and drummer Ryan Leger) energetically do their own material serious justice.
The Intersection of Grand Rapids played venue to the show, presenting itself like a massive basement – dark, clammy, very concrete. However, it’s punk-club-reminiscent aesthetic was the perfect compliment to such music. After the show, I had the chance to meet Keith, Jordan & Andy – a refreshing experience in meeting celebrity. The levels of success ETID have attained could very easily egotize these guys, but these Buffalo, NY-based dudes are as down-to-Earth as gravity comes. All three were very welcoming & friendly – an amusing parallel to such an aggressive band.
The unique quality to Every Time I Die is their appeal to those who don’t even consider heavy music “their bag”. Crossing multiple brands of rock, ETID put on one hell of a highly recommended show – pleasing everyone, including those kids who still came to two-step.
(L-R, with Keith Buckley, Jordan Buckley & Andy Williams)
Next week, I’ll be attending / reviewing Scottish electronic artist Calvin Harris’ sold-out St. Patrick’s Day show at the Congress Theater here on Q101.com!
EVERY TIME I DIE – EX LIVES (March, 6, 2012)
Rock is dead.
Okay, maybe not entirely, but let’s be serious – mainstream, popular music does NOT lean towards hard rock anymore. We live in a world of bleeps & bloops (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but rock somehow became a niche. Alternative radio got the boot in several major cities last year, the Grammys were as pop-driven as ever – and MTV doesn’t even pretend to acknowledge anything outside of the top 20.
But then there’s Every Time I Die. For the uninitiated, the Buffalo-based band has been releasing an anti-establishment, anti-mainstream blend of hard rock, metal, southern-tinged math-blues for almost 15 years now. They’ve encapsulated a sort of “post” sound to everything they’ve touched, comfortably fitting into many genres while defying almost all of them. Formed in the late nineties, ETID has perfected riffy guitars behind intelligent, deeply sardonic lyrics. During the early-naughts, it was easy to lose them in the veritable sea of metalcore.
But not now. For a year rumored to be our last, this album sounds like the “looming apocalypse” everyone’s talking about. The “descriptor-core” trend is long dead. That’s why “Ex Lives” shines.
Dropping majority of the “party” aesthetic to their music (you know, what sounds like Jack Daniels, flannel shirts & trashed hotel rooms) and adding much more visceral anger to this record turned me off the first minute I listened. Then, I understood. It’s a strange time to be alive. The war, an economic cluster-fuck, extremely polarized political spectrums – there’s much to be miffed at. We’re not living in a party anymore – things are tense. We’re all tense. This record is tense. It all makes tense-sense.
No one is making music like this anymore – sure, there’s plenty of bands playing a similar genre, but nothing is quite as honest as this. The lyrics alone (sung by dry-throated lead singer / former English teacher Keith Buckley) are crafty beyond just pun-play. He’s stylized pessimism by being cynical without condescending. Although his unique style has graced all of their previous 5 efforts, it’s never seemed so immediate and appropriate. Alternating between angered barking and an instantly recognizable singing voice, there’s real substance to these words – and they’ll scare the hell out of you.
Behind the vocals, bandmates Jordan Buckley (guitar), Andy Williams (guitar) & newcomer Ryan Leger (replacing Mike Novak on drums) deliver mile-a-minute spectrum riffing, covering sounds that range from almost-death-metal (“Holy Book of Dilemma”) to the use of a banjo (“Partying Is Such Sweet Sorrow”) and even wandering down Danzig lane (“Revival Mode”). These songs are reminiscent of their early days, but I disagree with the notion that it’s a ‘return’ to sound for them. These songs are much more self-aware than their early work.
Without knowing their previous releases, these songs can’t be as realized as they could be. In other words, I wouldn’t start a first-time listener here. ETID has always been a bit tongue-in-cheek, but you can’t point out their overarching sarcasm on this album alone without hearing them have a little fun first. In my opinion, they started to really know who they were as a band on 2005′s “Gutter Phenomenon”.
While “Ex Lives” definitely doesn’t have an easy single like “The New Black” or “We’rewolf”, you get the sense they’re still having fun – they’re just not making it so clear this time around. “Ex Lives” takes you on a tour of their entire career while introducing a new, more poignant message: “This is what America sounds like in a bad fucking mood”.
Every Time I Die is on tour now, including:
March 04 @ ACM UCO PERFORMANCE LAB, Oklahoma City, OK
March 05 @ NEWBYS, Memphis, TN
March 06 @ ALABAMA MUSIC BOX, Mobile, AL
March 07 @ THE VALARIUM, Knoxville, TN
March 08 @ V CLUB LIVE, Huntington, WV
March 09 @ THE CASTLE THEATER, Bloomington, IL
March 10 @ THE INTERSECTION, Grand Rapids, MI (Which I will be attending & reviewing here on Q101.com)