Newport Folk Fest 2017

Posted by: Ryan 4 years, 4 months ago
Categories: Music
Folk Fest was fun this year. Per tradition, we camped and went to the Festival on Friday. As with Boston Calling, there are many things I'd like to record...

Blind Pilot

This was the first band we saw. They played on the main stage, and sounded fantastic. Newport always impresses me with their sound quality. I've been to a lot of outdoor venues with bad sound quality (including Boston Calling, which had weird mixing issues if you were standing too far to the sides of the stages).
I made the decision to leave Blind Pilot early to get a seat at the Quad Stage for Big Thief, which was actually a mistake. It's unfortunate how the Quad Stage is set up. The tent with the seats and then scores of people with blankets along the edges makes it difficult to comfortably see/hear a band unless you show up early enough to get a seat. Anyways, that brings me to the next thing...

Big Thief

This was a bad show. The band didn't seem to do much right. Their set list was terrible, most of the performance was either boring or plain bad.
I admit that I had high expectations for Big Thief. I thought their first album was one of the best of 2016. Amidst their drab performance there were a few glimmers of what the band could be. Their third song, "Shark Smile", sounded good and was a welcome change after two curiously boring solo ballads. But it was short lived, and after a few more songs the lead singer finally - embarrassed - admitted the band wasn't sounding right. After that slew of sub-par music, they started to play the song "Mary" - and that too was off to a rocky start. The lead singer untangled herself from her microphone cable, put down her guitar, and asked to start the song over. This was the low point of the set. But, triumphantly, they started it over and it ended up being their best song. It's a strange thing how their bad performances seemed to prop up this good one - the crowd seemed happy to have something to truthfully applaud.
But, the quality quickly slipped back down when they ended their set with "Real Love" - Let's just say that the guitar solo wasn't good...I'm not even sure if it qualified as a guitar solo.
I know I wrote a lot about Big Thief here - and I hate to dwell more on the bad shows than the many good shows. I spent some time Saturday and Sunday re-listening to their two studio albums. The albums are really great. Even their second album, Capacity, is top notch. I won't speculate on what went wrong for them at Newport, but I'd love to someday see this band perform live at the same level as their studio albums.

The Head and the Heart

We were watching Ben Gibbard do his thing when we collectively decided to bail to see The Head and The Heart. This band surprised me the most. They were great. You could tell they were having fun on stage. Before this concert, I never really appreciated their music other than their "top tracks". I think I'll listen to them more now that I've seen them live.

Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes put on a rock solid show. This was a really ideal headline act. Lots of respect for this band.
They kept the banter to a minimum to cram as much music into their time slot as possible. I tend to like banter, i feel like it humanizes the performers - but this is a small criticism.
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Newport 2017 Preview: Fleet Foxes

Posted by: Ryan 4 years, 4 months ago
Categories: Music
Fleet Foxes. These guys are headlining on Friday. They are going to put on a good show. Their music has a great airy sort of sound - it's particularly good when played loud. So turn it up.
They recently released a new album, which was deemed "best new music" by the notoriously tough-critic music review site,
They don't have a tiny desk concert - but that's ok because there is a different full-length concert on YouTube.
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Newport 2017 Preview: The Seratones

Posted by: Ryan 4 years, 4 months ago
Categories: Music
I don't know much about these guys. They are from Louisiana, and it comes through in their sound. They play southern rock. The lead singer has a good voice, it's powerful.
Click here to see a "tiny desk" concert by The Seratones on YouTube. Judging from their stuff on Spotify, they seem to occasionally rock a little louder/harder than they show in the tiny desk concert. Maybe they toned it down for the office.
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Newport 2017 Preview: Blind Pilot

Posted by: Ryan 4 years, 4 months ago
Categories: Music
Blind Pilot is an indie folk band. I think I first heard these guys on Pandora radio, probably around when their 2008 album was released. Their lead singer has a distinct voice that I bet you'll recognize. Their sound will definitely fit in at Newport.
Fun fact: these guys did a "bike tour" from Washington state to San Diego - towing their instruments on bikes and playing shows along the way. Now that's folk. The day after their folk fest set, they have a show at Pearl Street in Northampton - now that's folk.
Click here to listen to Blind Pilot "tiny desk" concert on YouTube.
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Red Rocks Concert

Posted by: Jessica 4 years, 4 months ago
Categories: Music Travel
#TBT to a beautiful night in Colorado. Ryan and I got last minute tickets to see Ryan Adams at Red Rocks, definitely a once in a lifetime experience. The concert was great, just like the venue, and so was the company.
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Boston Calling 2017

Posted by: Ryan 4 years, 6 months ago
Categories: Music
We had a great time at Boston Calling last weekend. Overall, the music was great, and we were with great company. I decided to organize my thoughts into some categories for your consumption and amusement. Enjoy.

Most embarrassing

This one goes to me. Before even leaving the door on Friday morning I put my wristband on...the wrong wrist. And then I decided to read the instructions to learn that the wristbands can't be removed once cinched tight. Real smooth!!! I tried for an hour to remove it. The folks on YouTube make it look so easy, but it's not!! Ultimately, the wrist band being on my left wrist didn't matter.

Most exhilarating

Mumford and Sons gets this one from Jess and I. These guys put on a great performance. They brought a lot of intensity. I was surprised to see the lead singer playing drums (while singing) for a few tracks. The crowd made the songs even better.

Most likely to succeed

All the bands get this one...except for Mac Demarco. Even as someone who is a fan of his music, I found his concert boringgg. The crowd seemed to be more interested in chatting among themselves. My theory is that people pick up on Mac's "no care" attitude and it makes it seem like he doesn't care about his music. Mac, apply yourself, dude! I know Mac reads my blog, so he'll see that.

Most infuriating

The food and bathroom lines - which could be 45 minutes or more long. It's painful to wait in line while a band you want to see is playing.

Most likely to be Chance the Rapper

This goes to Chance the Rapper. The folks in our party really loved Chance - I thought he was good, but I didn't have enough familiarity with his material to feel the same way. What I do know is that his performance was really well rehearsed, and he was great at communicating with the crowd. He was talking a lot about how tough the road was to get to where he is now. I thought he was going to ask us to venmo him $5, and I probably would have done it.

Most likely to go unnoticed by the massive crowds of people

This goes to the Mikkeller craft beer tent, which seemed to never get a long line all weekend.

Most disappointing

We had some reasonable expectations for Tool, which headlined Sunday night. I was expecting a performance on par with the high bar set by Chance and Mumford the previous two nights - even if the music was less in-line with our tastes. But, I think Tool fell very short on this. Their concert leaned heavily on music videos playing on giant screens, and the main screen was embarrassingly malfunctioning. They didn't seem to use cameras to show the band on the big screens, and the lead singer was (mostly) hidden away as a silhouette - com'on man, take some ownership!

Most enjoyable non-headline act

Bon Iver put on a great performance. I think their music was so good that they made it rain on Friday night. Honorable mention goes to Tegan and Sara who put on a fun show, even though their microphones cut in and out throughout the concert. We weren't able to see The 1975 because their show conflicted with Mumford, but that was likely great.

Most disgusting nip that we smuggled into the venue

Got to give this one to that Sriracha flavored vodka. We were able to get some nice folks from Ottowa to drink the Rumchata nip, which was certainly in the running to win this very esteemed category. Maybe next year, Rumchata.

Best meeting spot

Come on, gotta give it to that pole with the blue light. This meeting spot had it all: close to the main stages, visible at night, never enveloped by the crowd, plenty of room for Abby's dance moves, on the way out from the venue, close to a beer tent. We chose this spot without even knowing how good it was. Pro.
Anyways, I'm looking forward to going again next year! Thanks to mom and dad for getting the tickets and watching Violet!
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Boston Calling Story Time

Posted by: Jessica 4 years, 6 months ago
Categories: Music
We are in the middle of our Boston Calling adventure so I won't rate it yet, but I have to share a story. I LOVE Mumford and Sons so in order to get closer to the stage for their set (which was the last of the night) we started to make our way through the crowd pretty early on. The only downside to that is if you have to go to the bathroom you have to fight your way back and hope you can find your group. So this happened to Ryan and I held down our spot but I didn't think there was any way he would find me again. We texted back and forth and I finally took this picture to try to send to him to try to describe my Location. But look at the picture. I realized when I was sending it he was standing two groups in front of me! Anyway, he somehow found his way back. Ryan gets an A+.
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Some new perspectives on Drake

Posted by: Ryan 4 years, 6 months ago
Categories: Music
You gotta like this guy. I am trying to decipher why he's so like-able. After many months of research, think I figured it out.
Drake is a rapper, and let's all agree that he is much cooler than just about anyone who listens to him. But, oddly, on most of his hit tracks, he isn't rapping. He is just sorta half-singing. He's not even good at singing; every song sounds like his first time at choir practice. When he sings, it sounds like one of the bad auditions on American Idol. But that's why he is so like-able. And the songs still sound pretty good. It's like he decided to put aside his cool-guy persona to sing us an embarrassing song and do a dad dance. It feels like his next move will be buying a minivan to drive middle schoolers to the movies. I bet if I told you he was going to start a cooking show on the food network you'd be excited - he's not, but if he did, it would be a hit.
As an aside to the above, if you haven't already heard it, you should check out his song "too good". Jess and I are convinced that this song is about his trials and tribulations of raising a puppy.
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This Old Dog by Mac Demarco

Posted by: Ryan 4 years, 6 months ago
Categories: Music
This is a new album by Mac Demarco. His music has a wobbly surfer-rock sound. It's good in the background when you're socializing or doing work. I suggest you give it a listen.
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Bat Out Of Hell

Posted by: Ryan 4 years, 7 months ago
Categories: Music
Last night I unknowingly quoted Meatloaf and asked Jess "What's that from?" - and to her credit, she answered right away - "Meatloaf!". Nice one, Jess!
So I was inspired to boot this album up on Spotify. Let's take a second to talk about Bat Out Of Hell. I don't even know how to interpret this thing. It was released 10 years before I was born, and I feel like the whole world was able to process it collectively at that time - and now here I am on my own in 2017 trying to digest exactly what's going on and I'm lost.
It's the #5 highest selling album of all time. So I can't just dismiss this thing as a prequel to first "The Darkness" album. It sounds like it should be a musical - and to my amazement, last year it was actually turned into a musical. Everything is over the top. The guitars, the vocals, the lyrics, the drums, the piano, there is even some saxophone and that's over the top too. Listening to this is like eating a chocolate cupcake with chocolate chips and chocolate frosting along with a glass of chocolate milk. The songs are long - often 8+ minutes. I feel like I need to take an intermission between tracks to load up on carbs. I think Spotify is going to charge me an extra Meatloaf fee this month because it costs them extra to pump these dense songs through the internet tubes. And the album cover the only possible way to illustrate what this music sounds like. So bravo to whoever drew that.
I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this album. I am not going to "rate" it because I think everyone knows more about this thing than I do.
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