There are few bands as emotionally captivating as The National. Cincinnati’s finest have played to small clubs and large festival crowds for years. While their sound and style has evolved and expanded over time, one thing has remained the same, the reaction one feels when they hear their music.
On October 7th, The National bring their brooding, bracing and bold repertoire of tunes to the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City. The indie-rock greats will be supporting their Grammy-winning album Sleep Well Beast.
Seeing The National perform live is an unforgettable experience. The music touches the soul in such a way that immediately elicits emotion- pain, pride, and of course, “Sorrow.” Combine the beautiful artistry of the band’s sound with singer Matt Berninger’s gruff growl and coarse and snarling drawl. His deep bellow on record translates to hyper shouts and riveting stage presence.
Berninger and Co. have been playing live since 2001 and have only gotten better and better, more precise, more biting, and more poignant. Can’t miss tracks include “Mr. November,” “Bloodbuzz, OH,” and “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness.”
Tickets can be found here: https://www.kcstarlight.com/events/event-detail-production/the-national-2018
Looking for some awesome music insights ahead of the Thunderdome of sonic exploration that is SXSW? Let me be your Lewis and Clark on this journey, your Sherpa through the terrane of the Serengeti of new and exciting tunes soon to be discovered in Austin.
Ever get the inclination to get in the car and just drive that fucking thing as fast and as far as possible? You’ve probably thought it out before. But have you ever considered what the soundtrack to that Mad Max-esque scene would sound like?
Hot Flash Heat Wave should find their way onto that drive-like-hell playlist. They have a sound that radiates freedom. Their music is insanely catchy and the feeling it gives off is one of “who cares dude, let’s get out of here.” Their songs can sound sleazy, grungy, PBR and tequila fueled, and ideal for a skate session, a cruise around town, or any situation really. These San Francisco rockers have the guitar licks, crisp basslines, and vocals to take them places. Go see these dudes, and maybe buy them a beer.
Killer tracks include “Hesitation,” “Bye Bye Baby,” and “Lonely Times.” Oh, and “Gutter Girl” absolutely rips.
Tuesday @ 2 pm Daytrotter Session
Wednesday @ 5:15 pm Melted Showcase
Thursday @ 9 pm Rachel Ray Showcase
Friday @ 3pm Wallflower Records Showcase
Saturday @ 1 am The Velveeta Room
Maybe crushing and heavy alternative rock is more up your alley. Look no further than Lume. These guys write dense and heady songs with wall-to-wall sound. Their thumping and crashing drums explode on each track as guitars sprawl and twinkle. Meanwhile, there is darkness swirling and building, until they consume the song whole, smiling as it does so. Check these guys out in a dark dive bar somewhere and maybe bring some earplugs, because it is going to get loud. Some of my favorite tracks include “Aurora Bridge,” “Had it Made” and “Violent Light.”
3/13 @ Ground Floor Booking Showcase @ The Love Goat (w/ Spirit of the Beehive, Heart Attack Man, Kississippi, Gulfer, Greet Death, Mover Shaker, Prince Daddy and the Hyena, Late Bloomer)
Looking for some awesome music ahead of the Thunderdome of sonic exploration that is SXSW? Let me be your Lewis and Clark on this journey, your Sherpa through the terrane of the Serengeti of new and exciting tunes soon to be discovered in Austin.
Two bands that are packing a punch in the ultra-competitive arena of Indie rock are Cape Francis and Stranger Ranger. Each group features a unique yet familiar sound that holds crowds close like your favorite crewneck sweater. Their sounds are warm, embracing, and threaded with memories.
Cape Francis feels like the emotion of coming home, or leaving home. Their sound resonates in the soul and reverberates through the whole body. The simplicity of the instrumentation and the warm lyricism of Kevin Olken Henthorn brings about the same sentiment as a Bon Iver song does.
Some killer tracks include “Iditarod,” “5 in the Morning,” Fortified,” and “Olly.”
Stranger Ranger is one of those bands that reminds you how you felt in high school. Whether you were a music nerd, a weirdo, a punk, a photographer, a newspaper kid, or all of the above (this is my biography,) you probably felt like you were alone in this bizarre universe of social constructs. Maybe you and your friends got together and listened to Modest Mouse, American Football, and Snowing and talked about getting out of this dead end town.
Stranger Ranger’s music feels like escaping. It feels like packing up the car and driving somewhere, anywhere, as long as it was far away from here. It feels like the first time you knew that there was more to life than what was just in front of you. Their music is inherently sad, but it also spills over with hope. The subtleties in their chords bring immense emotion and the slow-burning pace of the songs keeps you captivated.
Check out “Hydration is Key,” “House Show” and “Everything All at Once”
Both of these bands will send chills down your spine and are definitely worth seeing live. Check out one or a couple of their shows below.
Cape Francis: 3/14
TBA – BMG Day Party 11pm – Official SXSW Showcase (Rhyme + Reason Records) 3/15 12pm – Lazarus Brewing Co. (Music for Listeners Showcase) 3/16 12:30pm – Whole Foods (Southwest Invasion)
630pm – Kebabalicious (Boomfantasy/Distrokid Showcase) 3/17 4:30pm – Swan Dive (ROSQUATCH Showcase)
TBA – Tiniest Bar (Lil Big Fest)
List season, baby! This is what I’ve all been waiting for all year. I’ve listened to so much music this year, it’s actually kind of fucked up. But I did it all for this. This list. This brief summary of the 50 best songs of 2017. Let’s burn this mother down and start fresh in 2018.
So, 2016 was a burning shit and hair-filled diaper on a runaway trainwreck exploding on an Indian burial ground. So let’s look back at what didn’t suck, the music. Here’s the 50 best albums of the year. Let’s hope 2017 will have way less dead rockstars and Nazis.
That was my introduction paragraph to last year’s list… Well, shit. Maybe we’ll try for better in 2018.
Let’s get to the music.
#25: Father John Misty- True Comedy
This year was, as I’ve stated before, a complete and utter shit show. A Taco Bell induced, diarrhea explosion at the Louvre during a Bill Cosby stand-up comedy set. So to hear everyone’s favorite musical cynic, Father John Misty, describe the dreary world around him in such musical eloquence, it kind of felt like watching your house burn down and throwing your hands in the air as if to say, “fuck it, burn baby burn.”
#24: Thundercat- “Drunk”
How do you describe Thundercat to someone who’s unfamiliar? Well, he plays cosmic rhythm/ funk/ jazz on a six-string bass, and he’s friends with Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus, and he’s kind of a stoner hero and oh yeah, he occasionally meows. Like, there’s truly nothing to prepare someone for what to experience with Thundercat. However, the result is always jaw dropping. This is no exception with “Drunk,” which features some of my favorite lyrics of the year.
#23: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit- The Nashville Sound
Country music hates Jason Isbell, and I’m pretty sure Jason Isbell hates country music. There is no doubt that a guy as cool, laid-back, and musically talented would despise being dubbed a “country artist,” being lumped in with the red, white, and blue toting, dip-spitting, 10-gallon hat wearing, imbeciles the genre usually plays to. But this album is a country album. It’s smart, sophisticated, understated, and cool. It gives the genre a good name, and even country music can’t be mad at that.
#22: Sorority Noise: You’re Not As _____ As You Think
Emo music is notoriously stark. It’s supposed to be bleak and sad, obviously, it’s called emotional music. But this album bites like a deranged T Rex with trust issues. “A Portrait Of” will cut you deep from second 1, and “No Halo” is a ram-shackling good time through the pain. So put on all black, get in the moshpit, push around, find yourself in the sound of someone else’s pain. It just might help you get through your own.
#21: Alvvays- Antisocialites
Alvvays put together a stunning dream pop album during some of the least dreamy circumstances. The music sounds airy, wistful, and like it belongs up in heaven. The lyrics, aren’t as peaches and cream though. Every line is painted with a brush of the anti-social. Those moments, like walking past someone on the street, knowing you’ll dream of them later that night. Like staying awake staring at the phone, hoping for a miracle. Like wishing you could be someone else. All of these emotions are so vivid on this incredibly catchy and beautiful album.
#20: Mac Demarco- This Old Dog
Mac Demarco is my hero. This might seem like an exageration, and even as I’m writing this, I’m thinking, “is he really?” But the more I think about it, there’s truth in the statement. Mac Demarco is a genuinely sweet guy, he’s creative and uninhibited to making one kind of music. He’s got heart, a whole lot of it. He makes great music for those of us who might not know what to do with this weird life of ours. And you know what, I genuinely love the guy. So yeah, he might be my hero, and “This Old Dog” was the soundtrack of my year.
#19: Charly Bliss- Guppy
Sometimes, in a year like this, you have to put down Twitter that’s only reporting bad news, look yourself in the mirror and say: “Let’s have FUN!” That’s when I put on Guppy by Charly Bliss. This album is an absolute thrill ride of fun and pure energy. It’s absolute bliss packed into 30 minutes of music. Lead singer Eva Hendricks is my indie-rock crush of the year, and her voice just makes me happy. This album is definitely going under the radar, which I find rude.
#18: Moses Sumney: Aromanticism
Wow, wow, wow, what a beautiful album. No man should be album to make music this gorgeous, or sing with such grace. Moses Sumney sounds like the first ray of bright sunlight after a torrential downpour. This album listens like a sonnet penned by William Shakespeare after one too many glasses of wine. It’s perfect romantic music, and it’s just exceptionally beautiful. “My wings are made of plastic” is a lyric that has floated around my head all year, like a lost balloon. There’s a mood behind this music, you have to find it, and experience this thing.
#17: Joey Bada$$- All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
This was the album Joey Bada$$ was supposed to make. I remember listening to his first mixtape, 1999, and thinking “this kid is the next coming of New York hip-hop.” He just has everything necessary. The soul, the rhyme-style, the mass appeal. He made the albums needed to get to this point, and now he’s making statements on a larger scale. “Temptation” is perhaps one of the most important songs of the year, and the message he’s sending on this thing can speak to all of us- white, brown, black, yellow, whatever. He’s remarking on the entire country, not just his community in Brooklyn. He’s an important and intelligent artist that we must protect.
#16: (Sandy) Alex G- Rocket
To me, this album is perfect road trip music. It sounds like pushing down the I-70 headed towards a bigger city, surrounded by miles and miles of nothing. There’s a lackadaisical sound in here, a hands-in-pockets modesty to the music. “Proud” moves along so gently it feels effortless. Alex G sings with such an earnest inflection, and the music matches this perfectly. It feels like a stroll downtown in your hometown, kicking stones.
#15: Gang of Youths- Go Further in Lightness
Are you ever so frustrated with life that you just want to run for miles and miles? You desire to feel that fire in your chest? You just want to disappear in a crowd. That’s what Gang Of Youths’ music can do. It’s potent and powerful, like a hit of emotional methamphetamine. The music is high octane lighter fluid, just needing one strike of a match to go up like the Fourth of July. These songs sound like a train heaving down the highway, nearly falling off the tracks, but keeping it together just enough. And there’s tremendous beauty in that. As the lyrics in “Let Me Down Easy” go “You give me a good reason to be heartsick again / To be here, to be strong, to be oddly and boldly estranged / From the loss and bitter years.”
#14: The National- Sleep Well Beast
The National have specialized in a style of sadness unmatched for the entirety of their career. Matt Berninger’s dark and dreary vocals layer so coolly on top of the Desner brother’s fiery guitars. However, they turned this equation on it’s head for this new album. All the components are there, but added are synthesizers, electronic drums, and an extreme sense of paranoia. The songs don’t sound like songs, instead, letters to self, written hurriedly and in what feels like a panic. But everything about it works. It’s truly unbelievable. These guys, The National, are masters of music.
#13: Young Thug- Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Thugger Girls
Young Thug is a national treasure. He needs to be protected. What he is able to do with music parallels what some of the world’s greatest musical anomalies (the Princes, the Bowies, the Thom Yorkes) have done- shatter barriers set for them. On EBBTG, Thugger completely exceeds any expectations placed on him, just as he did with his previous albums Jeffery and Slime Season 3. He can rap hard-as-hell (“Take Care”) and sing ballads with Future (“Relationship”) and croon over a bachata-inspired beat on the impeccably catchy “For Y’all.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Thank God for Young Thug.
#12: Tyler, the Creator- Scum Fuck Flower Boy
He did it! He finally made the album he was destined to make. Since the origin of Tyler the Creator, he has been painted as something he’s not. He’s been called crass, racist, rapist, obnoxious, and everything else unflattering. But then he goes and creates the most flattering album of the year. Tyler’s albums have all been building to this point. The musicality (Tyler produced every track on this thing) the lyrics, stunning and refreshing, the vibe of the album. It’s sunnier than anything he’s done before, and the colors he radiates sounds like a man who is finally in charge of who he really is, which is a super creative, lovely guy, who has been vastly misunderstood.
#11: Sampha- Process
I first heard Sampha on Drake’s “Too Much.” Here was this soulful British voice, weighing nearly 100 tons with emotion. As he sang, I could feel the heartbreak in his voice, and I was hooked. He reminds me of how I felt when I first heard Adelle sing. Now, on his debut album, he makes a statement. He is on of the brightest young faces in music today. His voice is so utterly unique, and the way he is able to craft a song is special. “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is one of the year’s most heartbreaking tracks, and “Blood On Me” might be the most important. Sampha’s debut album is a triumph, and I couldn’t be more excited to see where he goes from here.
#10: Lorde- Melodrama
Lorde is one of those artists that just radiates an energy so pure that it cannot be tainted by pop stardom. After her debut release “Pure Heroine” created a symphony of superstardom for this young New Zealand introvert, I wondered how she could follow this. Surely not with more catchy tunes, more revealing lyrics, and an even better album? But here I am, listening to Melodrama, dancing ferociously to “Green Light,” weeping my eyes out to “Liability,” and stunned by the majesty of this artist’s sophomore effort. Lorde and producer Jack Antonoff have created an album for everyone- the prettiest girl at he party, the loner, the emo kid, and the Prom Queen.
#9: The War on Drugs- A Deeper Understanding
A Deeper Understanding. What does that really mean? A deeper understanding of music? A deeper understanding of society? Or a deeper understanding of self. For Adam Granduciel, I believe this album represents all of these. The Philly dad-rock band, complete with layers of guitars, Bruce Springsteen-esque rhythms, and powerful lyrics, War on Drugs has made their most expressive and finely tuned album of their career. The song “Holdin’ On” is a clear-cut personal favorite, and could easily soundtrack many of life’s most beautiful and epic moments. “Thinking of a Place” borders on tear-jerking with how beautifully the guitars portray the emotion of a song. It’s a near perfect album.
#8: Jay Z- 4:44
Did someone spill the tea? Or should I say, Lemonade. After word got around that music’s most important and iconic couple, Jay Z and Beyonce, were amidst extramarital drama, everyone tuned in like it was the O.J. Simpson trial. Except if TMZ (The Messy Zone) reported every little dirty detail. So Beyonce had her say, and she said it all. With 4:44, Jay gets his chance to tell his side of the story, which ultimately reads, “I did it. I shouldn’t have done it. I’m a product of black culture in America, which is and always has been, fucked up beyond belief.” On this album, Jay sounds grown. He sounds like a man who has had to come to terms with the man he spent his whole life becoming. It’s a gorgeously produced album with Kanye-esque soul samples, slow and meditative lyricism, and Jay Z rapping like a man with something to prove again. This isn’t the gaudy Hov, like that Magna Carta bullshit he used to sell Samsung phones. This is a man, coming to terms with himself, his environment, his fidelity, and his society.
#7: LCD Soundsystem- American Dream
When LCD Soundsystem broke up in 2011, I was so sad. Here was this band that I had grown to love so dearly. I’d loved everything about them, their uncoolness, their style and sound, their unbelievably catchy songs. And now they were breaking up, at the height of their careers?! Thankfully that didn’t last long. 5 years later, we get the return of New York’s most cynical band, and with them, a new album, just as drenched in cynicism. Only this time, there’s a sense of responsibility where there used to not be one. James Murphy used to be utterly scathing with his pen, now he shows more restraint, like an older gentleman would. He pens his songs now skillfully, like a crossword puzzle. However, there is nothing changed when it comes to the dirty synths, the building crescendos of songs, and the sense of weirdness in this bizarre American world. If this is the American dream, it’s going to take a lot more LCD albums to get us through.
#6: Migos- C U L T U R E
In 2017, Migos invented the culture. There’s just no other way around it. I guess you could say Atlanta created the culture. The culmination of years and years of work, Southern strip-club bangers, Gucci Mane’s rise-and-fall and rise again, and the ascension of Three Brothers- the Migos- to rap’s highest peaks. Migos cut their teeth in the scene long before making it this big. They put out hit after hit, and fueled countless parties with their bangers. Then, finally, with a little help from Metro Boomin, the biggest producer in the country, they unleashed “Bad and Boujee,” and they were there. Between the meme-ification of the music, the adlibs, the unfamiliarity of 95% of the phrases, Migos caught everyone’s attention. There are just too many hits on this album to be excused. “T-Shirt,” “Slippery,” “What the Price,” “Kelly Price,” “All Ass,” I could list the entire track list. THEY’RE ALL BANGERS. No other rapper did that this year. All killer, no filler.
#5: Spoon- Hot Thoughts
As I’ve written before Spoon is the most consist band in rock and roll. Their sound is consistently changing, yet remaining in its wheelhouse. They’re never rewriting the textbook, but adding chapters that make you keep reading and flipping pages with intrigue. Britt Daniel is the fearless band leader and the glue of the band. His soulful croon, soaring and raspy at the same time guides the bands’ tight sound through song after song with ease. “Hot Thoughts” is a definitive statement, that the band is still able to churn out fun, adventurous, and complex songs at this point in their 9 album deep career. “WhisperI’llListentohearit” begins one way, and takes an insanely catchy turn halfway through. “I Ain’t the One” is the most cinematic song of the year. If I ever write a movie featuring a cool, building, eerie walk-up from a hero with a troubled past, this is the song I’ll use for it. This album is further proof, if you needed any, that Spoon is a masterclass in amazing American rock music.
#4: Vince Staples- Big Fish Theory
Vince Staples is one of the rare talents of our generation. Sophisticated and brilliant, yet hard-as-hell gang-affiliated Crip. Big Fish Theory is his departure from the traditional way of telling his story. As he did with breakout album Summertime ’06, he still raps with the aggression of a pit bull on bath salts with daddy problems. However, this album focuses intriguingly on the beats Vince has collected. Avant-dance producers SOPHIE and ARCA play a tremendous role in this album sounding the way it does. Skittering and jolting, clicking and clanking unpredictably while Vince lays down the coolest, slickest bars of his career. “Yeah Right” is a song that doesn’t sound like anything else produced this year, and features a ludicrously unhinged Kendrick Lamar verse. “Big Fish” is a classic Vince song that has a ridiculously catchy verse that will stick in your head. And “Rain Come Down” is one of the most ominous album closers of the year. Vince is just playing on a different level than everyone.
#3: BROCKHAMPTON- Saturation II
I could write a 20,000 word essay on the prolific boy band, BROCKHAMPTON. Lead by the esoteric and highly intelligent, openly gay Kevin Abstract, the group already has their own sound and marketing angle. Add on top of that 7 or 8 other rappers that have their own unique styles, including the stunning Ameer Vann, who raps with the aggression of DMX with the laid back coolness of Vince Staples. Saturation II is the second installment in a year-long ambush of ridiculously great music. Before the year is over, there will be a third. This staggering pace of the quantity music doesn’t take away from any of the quality. The album begins with “GUMMY” which might be the hardest hitting song I’ve ever heard. This song makes me want to flip a cop car. The album refuses to relent even an inch, getting more and more catchy with each song. “QUEER,” “JELLO,” “SWAMP,” and “SWEET” are all iconic BROCKHAMPTON songs. And there’s 12 more where they came from. So, needless to say, BROCKHAMPTON is my rookie-of-the-year winner. They’re also my most fascinating band story of the year. If you want to be on the right side of history, get on board with this new boy band that will take over the world like One Direction.
#2: SZA- CTRL
A year ago, nobody was giving SZA the respect she deserved. Whether they were ignoring her or just not paying attention, seemingly everyone glossed over this unmistakably unique songstress with some of the most fire lyrics in R&B. I guarantee you, nobody’s glossing her over now. SZA released her long-awaited debut, CTRL, to critical acclaim, from critics, sure, but mainly from fans. The reception for this album was nothing short of glorious. Fans were singing every lyric of the album like it was gospel, and truthfully, it almost is. SZA bares every bit of herself on this album, her insecurities, her fears, her lust, and her strength. She said before the album was released she wrote that she self-conscious of the album and didn’t think it would go over well. Judging by the multiple Grammy nominations, it went over better than she ever could’ve imagined. “The Weekend” is an anthem for side-chicks everywhere. “Love Galore” is a definitive classic, and “Garden (Say it Like Dat)” is one of the best songs of the year by miles and miles. SZA is a force to be reckoned with. Just like everything on TDE, this is a world-conquering album. I cannot wait to see where SZA goes from here, because it will surely be incredible.
#1: Kendrick Lamar- DAMN.
Kendrick Lamar is the greatest rapper alive. There is simply no other way to put it. There is competition, then there is murdering your competition, which is exactly what Kendrick did with DAMN. Now, it’s not like this is anything new. Kendrick has been rapping circles around the game since Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, but he’s taken a rare approach. He’s written a film, essentially, then he wrote a theological critique of society and the black man’s place in it (institutionalism, survival’s guilt, etc.) and now he’s on his fuck-the-world, I’m the best in the game, flow. Kendrick goes harder on this album than he ever has before. “DNA” is a banger unlike anything he’s ever done before. “HUMBLE” created one of the most identifiable hooks in music. “ELEMENT” is Kendrick at his very finest. Even the title, “DAMN” is the only way to look at this piece of work. Like, DAMN. He really is this good. Nobody can compete. Then there’s the idea that the album is supposed to be listened back-to-front, and not front-to-back. I’ve tried both, and I can tell you this much, the journey is different, but the destination is the same- Kendrick is untouchable by any other rapper in the game. In fact, one of the only features on this album is U2. Fucking Bono BARELY made it on this album. This might not even be Kendrick’s best album, but it is definitely the best of this year.
On Wednesday, Toronto indie-rockers Death From Above played a rambunctious and hard-hitting set at the Record Bar in Kansas City, MO. The two-piece tore the roof off the venue with their heavily distorted bass and bruising drums.
The world was a much different place when Death From Above 1979 released their acclaimed 2004 album “You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine.” The album was beloved by rock fans who were captivated by the amount of sound these two guys could create. The group then took a 10 year hiatus before returning with “The Physical World.” Now, back and better than ever, Death From Above performed in support of their new album “Outrage! Is Now.”
The band opened with the first song off the new album “Nomad,” which blared out of the speakers so loud that my earplugs almost seemed useless, as hearing damage was inevitable, and accepted. It just seemed like part of the deal of going to a Death From Above show.
The song “Virgins” pounded out of the enormous speaker stack the band had onstage as guitarist Jesse Keeler strummed his distortion-heavy bass guitar and vocalist Sebastian Grainger crashed into his drum kit while singing with amazing range. He shouted every word while hammering his drums, which is honestly one of the most impressive things ever.
Fans in the audience said that they have waited 10 years to see the band live and in person, and the energy in the room mirrored this feeling. Fans shouted every word along to “Turn It Out” the album’s opener, which screeches with aggression and absolutely blistering drums. Fists pumped emphatically in the air.
The unstoppably catchy song “Freeze Me” got every foot in the venue moving. The band experienced difficulties with the sampler while performing the track, but didn’t let it stop them.
The band concluded their regular set with a blistering trifecta of “Trainwreck 1979,” The Physical World” and crowd favorite “Romantic Rights.” During “Romantic Rights,” the band built the anticipation and power of the song until the exact right moment before unleashing the final chorus. The amount of energy the band produced during this song could crumble buildings and collapse regimes.
They closed their set with “Pull Out” which was a highlight of the night as it was a crowd request, and the fastest song played. During this track, the crowd pushed and shoved each other joyously, celebrating the rarity of seeing this band play live after so many years.
Death From Above sound exactly like their name. The sound produced by these two guys is staggering, and the catchiness of the songs makes listening incredibly easy. There is no doubt that the world is a better place with them in it, even if they’re best suited for soundtracking a riot, as the new album states, “Outrage! Is NOW.”
Concerts can be, and should be, much bigger than music. They can be momentous culminations of emotions, anticipation, freedom, and life. Lately, they have been covered in a shade of darkness following the horrific events in Las Vegas.
As a festival-goer myself, I still can’t look at some of the photos. I know I have to, I just can’t yet. That’s my hometown, and that’s my life. I have always said that festivals are my favorite thing in the world because it’s three days full of music, sunshine, friends, vice.
So the day after a mass shooting at an outdoor concert, I decided to attend an outdoor concert. The XX performed on October 3 at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, MO.
I think the band could feel the heaviness in the air, the palpable shift in tone, as I’ve always believed bands can do. They somehow have this sixth sense called crowd control- knowing how the crowd is receiving the music and can play to that. This night in specific, they played to a crowd of fans who had to view concerts under a new scope.
The XX played with extraordinary grace and substance. They first got attention with their dramatic, emotional mood music, drenched in passion and heavy feelings, like love, hope, loss, and devotion. As The XX glided their way through their silky smooth set, the songs flowed like honey- sweet and sticky. The crowd stuck on each syllable, each bass lick, each soaring guitar note.
The band’s new material “Say Something Loving” and “Dare” sounded like a depressive disco, and felt a little like a Joy Division song walked into a seedy dance club. “Fiction,” lead by bassist Oliver Sim was a highlight and instantly transported the crowd to the place they were when they first heard those lyrics, “Fiction, when we’re not together.”
The surprise hit of the night was the Jamie XX helmed “Loud Places,” which was featured on his exemplary album, Colours. The song is both extremely dancey and heart-wrenching. It tells the story of people who shared love at the club, now only to go to those same clubs alone, and how empty they feel without that person. This song resonated with the crowd on another level.
Finally, the performances of new classic, “On Hold” mixed with their biggest hit to date, “Angels,” from sophomore album, Coexist, allowed the crowd to truly melt away into pure bliss. It was truly during these songs that the air in the sky was alleviated of any heaviness and only the music remained.
Multiple times during the set, the band would thank the crowd profusely for coming to the show. They knew. They are perfectly aware that the crowd could have let the fear win and stayed home. I’m sure plenty of them did. But the ones who decided that fear cannot win, and that music is healing and transformative, they knew too that The XX were here for them. Romy Madley Croft the lead guitarist said that she felt homesick, but the Kansas City crowd fixed that, even if just for the time they were on stage. And the same can be said for me.
Pinegrove delivered their superb selection of indie-twee emo music for a crowded Bottleneck room last night in Lawrence. Their songs emoted emotional and relatable themes that resonated with the crowd resoundingly full with Kansas’s sadbois.
Pinegrove’s music is especially heartbreaking and rare because their keen ability to absolutely nail certain emotions on the head. Like the emotion of falling apart from friends and family, “I should call my parents when I think of them / I should tell my friends that I love them,” lead singer Evan Stephen Hall sings on “Old Friends.” Another is not truly grasping how or why someone crawled their way into your life, “How’d you get so caught up in my thinking / how’d you get so caught?” Hall belts out on show closer, “Angelina.”
These songs, permeating with emotion hit close to home to so many people. Every person in the venue resounded these lyrics back to the band with overwhelming unison. It’s like these songs are pages from the same book we’ve all read and reread over and over. They’re burned into our minds. From the first chord, we knew how deeply the song would pierce.
The staggering thing about this music is the ability to capture feelings and moments, things so fleeting, into songs so catchy and impeccable. Small moments in songs like “If I did what I wanted then why do I feel so bad?” and “So look me in the eye and be practical” are moments many of us have felt at some point, so for a band to put it into words, it’s stunning.
Every song Pinegrove performed was met with a roar of crowd interaction. From deep cuts like “The Metronome” to fan-favorites like “Cadmium” and “Size of the Moon” rang out into the rafters of the tiny club like siren songs from lost sailors. Fans in the crowd jumped around, shouted, even moshed a bit to these songs, and it was all understood. Everyone experienced the songs in their own way because it was like therapy uniquely to them- each person trudging through the trauma differently, yet together.
Perhaps that is the most exquisite aspect of the show was the general respect and appreciation for the music being performed. Fans respected the music, the artists, and the fellow crowd members around them, and let feelings go felt. That’s something you won’t find at most concerts, where people are more concerned with their view, rather than rustling through their own hearts for some kind of cathartic therapy through music.
There are some concerts you go to with the intention of getting turnt, there are some you go to to discover something new, and there are some, like last night, you go to trying to find yourself and attempt to unravel your deeper feelings. That’s what Pinegrove was able to achieve last night in Lawrence.