Tag Archives: journalism

JPEGMAFIA & Injury Reserve are the Real Rockstars Rap Needs

JPEGMAFIA took the stage on Wednesday night with a lot on his mind.

“Yo, I’ve been reading Kanye West tweets all day, that shit’s so wild. I’m so confused right now,” said the Baltimore noise-rapper.

It’s true, earlier in the day, Kanye West, nearly everyone’s favorite rapper, a man so instrumental in music and culture, proclaimed his love for Trump loud and proud. There are dozens of tweets about it, including, a picture of himself wearing a god damn MAGA hat. And not even Kanye could make that shit look cool.

JPEGMAFIA brings rage and relevance to his music. He busts shots at the alt-right, KellyAnne Conway, and the fucked-up status quo. That’s why he’s the most important rapper working today. He’s a veteran, outspoken, humorous and real, and is making some of the most interesting music out.

His beats skitter and pop, almost abstractly. Sometimes they’re dark and solemn. Sometimes they’re ignorantly violent and allow JPEG to go off on them. Peggy, as he’s affectionately known, opened his set with the Ol’ Dirty Bastard-sampling “Real Nega.” It’s basically ODB shrieking over tribal drums while JPEG spits serious bars all over the place. As soon as the song started, JPEG broke out into the center of the audience and let everybody get in on the moshing. There was not a single still body in the crowd, everyone was either jumping, pushing or both.

JPEG roamed the stage, the ledges, and the audience nonstop, interracting with fans who knew every single word, even the ad-lib sounds from his songs, (“Daaaamn, Peggy”) like a true rockstar. He even played all his own beats from iTunes, no DJ, no hypeman, just pure punk.

Although JPEG could’ve been the main course, in one of the most buzz-worthy shows since Tyler, the Creator/Vince Staples, Injury Reserve brought serious art to the stage next. Complete with LED screen, snow machines, and a hidden room underneath the stage (I wish I could properly describe this, but I’d write 200 words about it alone.)

Injury Reserve came with the tricks, but what struck me, more than the plastic money guns shooting fake Harriet Tubman $20 bills, was the immense talent in this rap group. Stepa J. Groggs, Ritchie With a T, and producer Parker Corey make some of the most lyrically and musically interesting music you haven’t heard yet.

They’ve been working hard since 2014, and have some of the hardest songs like “Oh Shit!!!,” “All This Money,” or sincere tracks like “Tktkv,” and “North Pole.” Ritchie performs with elegance and immense power. When he gets going, it’s like watching Mike Tyson wind up for a haymaker. He can spit with so much aggression while staying genuine and accessible. Stepa is just fresh as a pack of Extra.

Some of the songs these guys play need to be heard by the masses. “See You Sweat” is a bonafide hit and “Bad Boys 3”?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? THIS SONG KICKS SO HARD!

Injury Reserve and JPEGMAFIA are on a collision course with success, and they are 100% doing it their way. They are true artists. They’re not rocking Gucci or relying on drug-talk to sell to kids. They are genuinely some of the most talented rappers out today. It was fun moshing with them and 200 fans, but damn if it wouldn’t be unreal to see them play a 2,000 sold-out room. That’s where they’ll be soon. Word is bond.

Do not miss this show when it comes to your town.

http://injuryreserve.online/

https://jpegmafia.bandcamp.com/

 

If you can’t Snapchat Jack White, did you really see him?

When was the last time you looked out at a crowd of people at a concert and didn’t see one phone out? Not one person Snapchatting, nobody taking zoomed-in photos in between peoples’ heads. Not a single person checking the Boston Celtics score during the slow songs.

Jack White played a killer set at Providence Amphitheater in Bonner Springs, Kansas on Tuesday night and cruised through nearly two hours of White Stripes classics, a Dead Weather song, and plenty of raucous cuts from his three solo albums.

But not a single audience member caught a quick flick on their iPhone 6 because Mr. White likes to kick it old school. Of course the man who essentially jump started the analog revolution and revived vinyl records as we know it, would implement a strict “no-phone-policy.” Every audience member stuffed their phones inside a Yondr (trademark) pouch, which allowed for zero-access until unlocked by a staff member while leaving the venue.

The slight sensory deprivation of not having your phone in use is daunting at first, but ultimately gives way to a very delightful concert experience. Coming from a short, 5’6″ kid, I have seen many gigs from the screen of someone’s smart phone in front of me. I’ve also politely wondered, “WHEN WILL YOU WATCH THIS FOOTAGE?! ENJOY THE SHOW!”

So there we were, thousands of fans, eyes glued to the pale guitar god, as he shredded his six-string so hard that jaws dropped. Jack White plays his guitar so well, it almost sounds like it’s not a guitar. It almost sounds bad, you know? Like he’ll be ripping a solo, and it’ll be like, all the wrong notes, but I think that means he’s playing all the right notes? He’s like a jazz musician of rock- it’s the silence in between the notes that matters.

White played a tremendous amount of songs off his new album, Boarding House Reach, which is not bad, but it’s also not great. It’s very much an average album. He kicked things off with the rowdy “Over and Over and Over.” That song definitely kicks ass. Then he segued into the equally awesome “Icky Thump.”

A standout moment was the tour debut of The White Stripes’ “When I Hear My Name.” This was the first time he’s played it since 2012. Fortunately, whenever a Boarding House Reach song would fall flat (like “Why Walk a Dog” and “Everything You’ve Ever Learned”) White could kick out a White Stripes song and have the crowd in his palm again.

You don’t entirely go to a Jack White show to see Jack White songs. You go to see White Stripes songs played by the man who wrote them! Nothing in the show sounded as good as “Hotel Yorba,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” or “We’re Going to be Friends.” Nothing got the crowd going more than “I’m Slowly Turning Into You.”

Then there’s “Seven Nation Army.” I could’ve waited in sub-zero degree temperatures for three days while my feet froze off, and I’d still jump around to “Seven Nation Army.” That song, will always and forever PUMMEL audiences. Everybody in the crowd, doing the Jock-Jams, sports-game chant along with White’s guitar. It makes your hair rise and elicit primal screams.

Jack White is a hell of a musician. One of the finest we have. But, man, how much do I have to pay to see a White Stripes reunion show. Not that “Sixteen Saltines” doesn’t rock, it does, but I’d sure love to see “Blue Orchid” live.

 

Check out Jack White when he comes to your town, or go see him at most music festivals this summer.

 

 

Peanut Butter Pretzels and Indie Rock: Sure Sure Prepare for a Kansas City Performance

“Soundchecking is like being in a relationship, it’s all communication.”

Life is a learning experience. Every day, every challenge, every triumph- a lesson.
Sure Sure has learned a lot in the past year.

The Los Angeles band went from living together in a shammy house to riding together in a van, touring North America. On their first national tour, they supported indie-breakout act Hippo Campus. Admittedly, they were just getting used to life on the road.

“Last time there were crushed peanut butter snacks on the ground and chocolate smeared on the seats, this time the van is very clean,” the band said in a phone interview I had with them.

The independent band has been working since 2014 and as one of the lyrics in “This Must Be the Place,” (which they phenomenally cover) they’re making it up as they go along.

When I talked to the band, they were surveying the sprawling plains of Idaho. As relatively bland as that may sound, they describe the scene with a brightness and such vivid colors that I actually imagine myself there with them, watching the miles of grass fly by.

Sure Sure is headlining a tour behind their new album Sure Sure. The album features poppy indie-rock with riffy guitars, punchy pianos, and fun lyrics and hand-clappy drums.

Some of my favorite tracks are “Friends,” “Giants,” “New Biome,” and “Hands Up, Head Down,” but there really are no bad songs on this album. They all have a charm to them that’s ridiculously infectious.



The music speaks for itself as the band continues gaining more and more fans along the road. They said they’ve made fans from Vancouver to San Luis Obispo and it’s been great seeing music lovers young and old come out to sing and dance and let go of their cares for a night.

“The shows have been really exciting and fulfilling.”

As a band, the sky is the limit. They don’t have plans to sign to a label anytime soon, because they’re learning everything a label does by doing it themselves. In the meantime, they’re just touring the country in their clean van, listening to AC/DC and enjoying the ride.

Come see Sure Sure play live at the RIOT ROOM in Kansas City on April 12, 2018. Links to tickets are here: https://www.theriotroom.com/event/1636859-sure-sure-kansas-city/

 

Adventure Awaits at Marfa Myths 2018

Music festivals come in all shapes, sizes- blending genres and breaking on through to the weirder side of life. How else would you describe 4 days in Far West Texas, listening to an eclectic grouping of bands and artists while transcending the very concept of what a weekend could be?

Marfa Myths is an annual experience that breaks all boundaries of what a music festival can be. Merging art installations, mind-bending scenery, and diverse music spanning all sounds and styles- somewhere in the deserts of Marfa, Texas, something unique is happening next weekend.

Packing one of the most diverse and expansive lineups of the year, Marfa never lacks a jaw-dropping combination of national and local acts. This year, Allah-Las, Circuit Des Yeux, Drugdealer, Helado Negro with an Ensemble (!), Jessica Pratt, Wire, and The Weather Station, along with several others will be transforming the landscape of Marfa into a multidisciplinary sonic-scape.

Each year, Marfa Myths features rare artist residencies, and this year, the dynamic duo of Cate Le Bon and Bradford Cox (DeerhunterThe Atlas Sound) will be blending their styles into musical exploration. Even more heartwarming, Connan Mockasin and his dad Ade Mockasin will be playing songs spanning their generations. This will be a can’t miss experience.

There is simply too much awesomeness going on to not take a journey down to West Texas. You never know what you’ll experience, how it’ll shift your perspective, and where the festival will spiritually take you. You’ll just have to dive in head first and wade in the waters. You’ll be glad you did.

Find much more information on Marfa Myths and buy tickets here: https://marfamyths.com/

 

Ready to Rumble: SXSW Preview #1

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.

SXSW:

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)

 

Don’t Sleep: Great Good Fine OK, Haux, and more at SXSW

Looking for some awesome music insight 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.

One of the most buzzing names in synthpop EDM is Great Good Fine OK. This is Ass. Shaking. Music.

What do you get when you combine superb vocals with show-stopping instrumentation? You probably get a good combination to dance to. Well, if you’re looking to get your feet on the dancefloor and show the people of South By your slickest moves, look no further than Great Good Fine OK.

The group from Brooklyn brings a little bit of the past to the future. Imagine Frankie Valli crooning over a disco synthpop tune. Try to think about what it would sound like if John Cougar Mellancamp collaborated with Years and Years.

There is something funky, something groovy, something fresh, something vintage, about Great Good Fine OK. They take something borrowed and clash it together with new and cutting edge sounds from what’s popping today. All together, you get something

Some of my favorite tracks include “What Do U See in Me,” “Find Yourself” and the outrageously catchy “Take it or Leave It.”

I highly recommend hitting up the Ultra Records Announces SXSW 2018 Showcase on Thursday, March 15 @ Esther’s Follies. Oh, and bring your dancing shoes. I’ll meet you on the floor.

 

Can’t Miss: Cape Francis & Stranger Ranger at SXSW

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)

 

Stranger Ranger
3/14
7:00 pm – We’re Trying/Tiny Table Talks
10:30 pm – Phluff Showcase
3/15

2:00pm – Grey Estates Showcase
3/16
2:30pm – Blast Off Showcase
4:30pm – Tiny Engines Showcase
3/17
4:30pm – Topshelf Showcase
10:30pm – Camp West Campus

BROCKHAMPTON’s STAR power BOOGIES in a SWEET sold out show

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BROCKHAMPTON are the biggest name in music right now and for a multitude of reasons. They are exciting, vibrant, blisteringly fun, and taking over the world their way.

There is no dumbing down the concept of BROCKHAMPTON. What you see, what you hear, what you feel- it is all hand-crafted by the 14 person creative unit. There is all hands on deck in every step of the process. They produce the beats, attack the tracks as a team-each member taking alternating verses, and even film the music videos and artwork.

So when it came time for BROCKHAMPTON’s first big time national tour, excitement and expectations grew to astronomical heights. Currently, there are only two shows on the 50-something show tour that are not sold out. Every piece of merch instantly sells out online, and fans wait out in line for the group all day, even through cold and snow and rain.

At 4 p.m., the line of fans wrapped around the block of the venue, for a 9 p.m. show. Fans dressed in BROCKHAMPTON’s unique orange coveralls and blue face paint. They waited, they chanted, and as soon as the boyband stepped onstage, the crowd E-R-U-P-T-E-D.

The kind of energy produced in the first four songs was enough to make the air thick with moisture, the faces in the crowd covered and sweat, and power the crowd of mostly young teenagers through one of the most exciting shows in recent memory. The rambunctious 1-2-3-4 punch combination of “BOOGIE,” “QUEER,” “STAR,” and (my personal favorite song) “GUMMY,” rattled the room and personally made my legs weak and head light. Several times I had to fight for a decent breath of oxygen, but that might have been a result of screaming every single lyric.

It was a transcendentally fun night of rap music and pure wildness. BROCKHAMPTON has always dubbed themselves as “the best boyband since One Direction” and the statement really couldn’t be truer. Each member has a persona that is infectious and easily fanboy-able. If you ask 50 BROCKHAMPTON fans who their favorite member is, you’ll get 50 different answers. However, it is such a thrill to see them all onstage together, like a supergroup. A queer, diverse, eclectic, and outrageously fun supergroup. This is absolutely a must-see event.

Jeezy Puts On for Kansas City

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Five songs into Jeezy’s blistering set in Kansas City last night, he halted the music and proclaimed that the show was postponed.

The hyped-up crowd, who have spent the night rapping, smoking, and turning up was suddenly brought careening back to earth.

But before the air was entirely left from the room, Jeezy stated, “let’s turn this show into a mothafucking Gangsta Party.” As the music blasted back out of speakers, fake snow erupted from cannons at the front of the stage, coating everyone in attendance in powder, courtesy of “The Snowman.”

There are few rappers who have as prolific a footprint as Jeezy. The Atlanta, Georgia icon began his reign in 2005 with the hit album Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101. This album was the streets in Atlanta. Out of every Cadillac, rattled speakers blasting “Standing Ovation,” “Trap Star,”  “Bottom of the Map,” and pretty much every other song on this album. In fact, Kendrick Lamar even referenced it on his debut album Good Kid m.A.A.d City, when his friends sang in unison “last time I checked, I was the man in these streets.”

That’s what this music does. It emboldens the spirit. It gives life to the dread of the grind that is life. It pulls us up from the dirt and shows us that there can be something more. It’s all about finding the (thug) motivation within ourselves.

So when Jeezy took stage in Kansas City, it was a jubilant moment for the entire community. Everyone in the venue has had something in their lives that stopped them in their tracks, put them down, incarcerated them in doubt. It would make sense that an artist like Jeezy could get them through that.

The man has CHARISMA. He’s a natural performer. He sells these songs like a hungry battle rapper, putting his heart and soul into every syllable. He looks out at the crowd like a sea full of diamonds. He carries himself like the most confident rapper I’ve ever seen. Not even 50 Cent had this kind of swagger when I saw him years back.

Jeezy performed deep tracks from his storied discography, as well as new tracks off his latest album, “Pressure.” All of them, every song, was sung by the entire audience. I haven’t seen so many smiles from a crowd in a very long time.

Jeezy was supported by hard-nosed Detroit rapper Tee Grizzley, who is one of the fastest emerging rappers in the game. I first heard Grizzley’s music from an Instagram live video LeBron James posted of him working out to Grizzley’s song “First Day Out,” just a couple days after losing the NBA Championship. LeBron wasn’t just listening to the song, he was rapping along, pounding his fist to the beat, refusing to let the defeat get to him.

This is the epitome of Grizzley’s music: success in the face of adversity. In fact, “First Day Out” was released immediately after his freedom from a three year prison stint. To see him onstage, covered in diamonds— side note— rappers have started wearing multiple watches, like, I get it, you’re rich- but you really only need one watch. And even with one watch, a phone is the way most of us check the time. But back to Tee— to see him covered in diamonds and flexing a wad of cash, watching a crowd full of people rap along to his songs, is pretty triumphant. And Tee is a pretty awesome.

Rap shows can be a mess, but they can also be glorious. Sometimes rap shows can reduce what we all have to endure everyday, and lift up the joy that we save for life’s most precious moments. Jeezy made a crowd full of people happy and reminded us that it’s never too late to get it.

 

Drive By Truckers Cruise Through Kansas City

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When taking photos of a rock show, it’s easy to be distracted by the band. These are the guys that are on stage, shrouded in fog and lights, slinging the expensive equipment, creating the sound. But there’s a moment, when you turn around, and take a look at the real rockstars: the fans. The folks who worked hard day in, day out, to buy a ticket to their favorite band’s show, got there early, wore their tattered t-shirt, and get to experience true effervescent, visceral joy. This joy dissolves all troubles in the world, just for a moment. This joy, this power that music brings, makes more sense to me than anything else ever could.

Drive By Truckers are a Southern rock/ alternative country band from Athens, Georgia, with a deep -fried Alabama sound. It’s the kind of crunchy, soulful, rebellious music that could soundtrack a dusty-road expedition, a cookout, maybe even a mild riot. That’s because this music just sounds BIG. It sounds like three guitarists trading solos, a bassist laying down heavy grooves, a heavy handed drummer, and two vocalists with pipes that can belt out with the kind of emotion that really moves people.

When DBT, as their fans know them, arrived in Kansas City, they carried a pride in their walk. It was a strut like they were so glad to be back on stage, and were ready to rock. Kansas City was their first show on their tour, and they had quite a bit to get off their chests. As singer Mike Cooley stated in a Rolling Stone interview, “These are fucked up times we’re living in.”

Written in a post-Trump era, the band’s latest album American Band, is their most political. Issues addressed in the music include gun violence, police brutality, political aggression against minority groups, and more gun violence. Scrawled on one of the amps onstage is a sign: “Black Lives Matter” written in all caps.

The weight of the music comes across in the live performance. The band, notably one of the more outspoken among their musical peers, dares to be bold. They dare to challenge their audience. They dare to wear their believes on their sleeves and play through songs like “Surrender Under Protest” and “Filthy and Fried” not because they are easy, but because they are hard. It is absolutely necessary to occupy this vital stage time breaking down the issues the band sees in America, while still providing a raucously fun rock show. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it, find the balance.

The show was one of those reminders that music is the most powerful instrument for change ever created. It’s always been a method for expressing our deepest emotions, happy or sad, exhilarated or disheartened. It can be heavy as a brick or light as a breeze.  It can connect things or tear them apart. But no matter what the content, the feeling it creates in those who play it and those who listen it, is what keeps people going. This couldn’t be more true than when you turn around and notice those smiling, singing faces all around you, united, even for a moment in the sound.