Yay, Nay, Egh: My Hideout Block Party Concert Review

My ladyfriend and I traveled to Chicago for my 5th consecutive attendance to the Hideout Block Party in Chicago. The Hideout is the coolest bar/musical community behind a Home Depot. I didn’t get to see everything and had to leave early. I am only a man.

SATURDAY

  • Giant Sand (Yay)He’s much jazzier and Billy Bob Thortonlike than expected. Unfortunately, the set was a little ramshackle and there were none of the great female vocalists he recorded with on the recent and great Provisions. (C’mon, Neko Case.) Still, it was my first time seeing a guy I’ve been listening to for a decade. Novelty prevails.
  • Little Cow (Egh) I guess they did what they could for shirtless Hungarians.
  • Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip (Yay) Pretty decent British rapping, I shrug. But here’s what puts it over the top as a live experience. Pip devotes intersong banter to reaming their Pitchfork reviewer for giving their last album a 0.2 (which is like a really low pitched “Nay,” given my primitive rating schema). He reams by reading that same reviewer’s celebratory assessments of Coldplay and Sean Combs.  Get that guy, Scroobius.
  • Plastic People of the Universe (Egh) I half-read an article about this group being legendary and everyone should be really excited.  I half-listened and wasn’t convinced of the former, so didn’t become the later.
  • Monotonix (Yay) I’m not too sure what they were playing or that I would ever listen to it again. But they won me and many over for keeping it sort-of together while the singer crowd surfed in a garbage can, the drummer crowd surfed on his drums, and the guitarist sat on an elephant. Again, novelty prevails.
  • Neil Hamburger’s Drunken Spelling Bee (n/a) I was definitely interested in doing this. But you had to sign a release and apparently there were to be shots after every spelling bee round. And it was inside, during Black Mountain’s set. If anyone can share, please do. 
  • Black Mountain (Yay)Long freaking setup time. But in retrospect, I think it had something to do with Monotomixabbreviated set (abbreviated by some kind of destruction, I think). Still, it was nice to see Vancouver psyche-rockin the sunshine, however cloaked in a manufactured fog.
  • Vieux Farka Toure (Egh) A little too jammy. Not on my wavelength. They should play by an egg-timer. One of the guys sat on a gourd.
  • Neko Case (Yay) I thought Neko was on her way out as far as my positive assessment goes. I thought OD’d on her and the rest would be diminishing returns. But the lady’s still got it. Looked like she could use a nap, though. Maybe a few z’s were more important than showing up for Giant Sand.   

SUNDAY

  • The Jon Rauhouse Sestet (Yay) Pedal steel driven instrumentals. Listened from afar, as I drank my beer and read through old New Yorkers.
  • Honey Boy Edwards & Devil in a Woodpile (Obligatory Yay)It’s blues in the Sunday sun, so it’s kind of boring. Both Honey Boy Edwards and Devil in a Woodpile are best heard on weekday nights. But Honey Boy Edwards is billed as the “oldest living bluesman,” a description that renders any critique mean. And Devil in a Woodpile are essential to the Hideout, so it seems wrong to say anything remotely critical. 
  • The Uglysuit (Egh) Oklahoma group with each band member managing to have their own personal and equally dire hair issue. The new album is alright, but they need to grow up. And get some buzz cuts.
  • Tim Fite (Egh) Kind of bummed that Tim rhymes/sings to backing tracks. But he ends Gallagher-like by throwing watermelons into the crowd.
  • Mucca Pazza (Yay) The marching band shtick is still pretty fun.
  • Dark Meat (Nay) Wow. These guys were terrible. No idea how they ended up with such a prime time slot. C’mon, Hideout staff. You can do better.
  • Robbie Fulks (Yay) Robbie finds a way to finally get the masses excited about him, by doing a Michael Jackson-only set with the great Nora O’Conner. Their are costume changes, lamely funny to impenetrably bizarre pantomimes, the obvious jokes, but it’s pretty fun. Novelty prevails and conquers.
  • Rhymefest (An Averaged “Egh”)Rhymefest starts out a strong “Yay,” but unravels to a “Nay”. Perhaps overshadowed (or tripped up?) by the Robbie Fulks-Michael Jackson extravaganza that just preceeded him (and ended with a stage full of hipster zombies doing the “Thriller” thing), he seems at first charged by the build-up, starting with a few tracks off his free Michael Jackson tribute album.  After a few flubbed raps, he wrongheadedly goes off-script with his spoken word peice about being close to life, death, hope, etc. After a minor flub of this, he gets heckled. He then goes in a defensive crouch behind the DJ and tries again with the solid “Brand New” from his great album, Blue Collar. But he’s obviously rattled. He flubs this and just walks off, completing only like 20 minutes of an hour set. The DJ tries to cover for him by leading the crowd into a chant. DJ understands that there’s little he can do sans MC and flees after El Che.  You don’t often get to see a set implode like that. And it’s surprising to see it happening to Rhymefest, who fronts a hardworking, professional entertainer ethic. Perhaps he was angling for his own Kanye West-like Bonnaroo meltdown
  • The New Pornographers, Ratatat, Hercules and Love Affair DJ set (n/a) Have to work. Can’t flee the stage of my life. Damn, dude.

Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #8: August (Part 1)

I’m rushing this entry if only for my excitement for the new Walkmen album, which has surprised the hell out of me. I have a few more August buys to write about (the Best of Lynard Skynard, anyone?), but those can wait. 

  • Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul Okay, this was a legacy buy. But seriously, is there an any more transcendent moment in music than the moment Isaac goes “By the time I get to Phoenix/She’ll be rising”? I am serious, or it’s just my caffeine-induced earnestness.
  • The French Kicks – Swimming These guys are like the Dirty on Purpose in 2006, a once-overhyped Brooklyn band that has put out an okey-dokey album, dejected by their press not really turning out. They also sound exactly the same, I think. But I don’t care enough to dig up that Dirty On Purpose album. Nonetheless, I like “Sex Tourists” pretty good. It’s a background album with a short shelf-life.
  • Bowerbirds – Hymns For A Dark Horse Andrew Bird with some friends at summer camp, sticking to acoustic instruments, and maybe after hanging out with Devendra Banhart too much. Worth my while.
  • The Walkmen – You & Me What the hell happened? These guys where heading to the dust heap.  I reviewed their show awhile back and liked it okay. But I wasn’t thinking these guys were still producing. Going from their last couple albums, it seemed like they were content with their respectable output and would just resign themselves to riding their remaining career out, doing some weird things here and there. But no!…with the first line “Back to the battle today…” and holy shit, I’m actually surprised they are going back to the battle.  It’s not a departure from their remarkable sound (which I think they were too eager to escape with A Thousand Miles Off), but a relaxing into it, and maybe finding new places within it…ug, blaw, that sounds like a line from an undergrad English paper. In any case, it also seems they spent some time with The National’s Boxer . These guys are still relevant when CD stores are like fruit stands with their disposable produce. I’m saying, this cd is a bolder among over-ripe kiwis.
  •  Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst  I keep getting snookered on the press that this guy is my generation’s spokesman or something. But I’m not hearing me in these albums, maybe because I don’t like to travel and have like 2 friends.  And perhaps that’s pretty impossible hype to live up to, anyways. No matter what lame critics who make up barf words like “Dylanesque” say, I’m not hearing the storytelling thing Bobby Dee does. It’s the frustrated fragility of youth that made him exciting to me, and maybe that’s a schtick he can no longer sell. Or at least sell to me. He can go the way of Ryan Adams and I’m sure that’ll still make a lot of people happy. If he’s going to keep doing this, I’m not sticking around. That said, can I braid your hair like a sister?
  • Broken Social Scene Presents: Brendan Canning – Something for All of Us I wasn’t expecting this to be good. Bought it out of obligation, it felt. To keep my Broken Social Scene collection together (reminded me of my comic-collecting days while  attempting to keep track of every lame Avengers spin-off). Actually, it seems like I bought quite a few albums this month that I didn’t think would be good. Oh my low expectations, good thing you don’t affect my decision-making. Kevin Drew is not the only worthy hero of the BSS. I’m now excited for who suits up next. Except for Justin Peroff. Actually, that makes me curious. If you make it Justin, I’ll get it.
  • David Bowie – Low Hey, this guy was pretty good, even before he bulged in his Labyrinth leotard. And he does a pretty decent job covering that Sea & Cake song, “Sound and Vision.” But he’s only singing on half the album. What was he doing while Brian Eno was programming his IBM PS1 (or whatever they had back in 77) to finish the rest of the album’s…can’t say it…but I must…so tired…fine, lazy…soundscapes (blah). Was he making Radio Shack floppy disc runs? Nonetheless, I might get more of these.
  • Gnarls Barkley – The Odd Couple It seems like Gnarls Barkley made the album everyone wanted from Portishead and not from Gnarls Barkley. But it’s not that much of a departure. The last album was pretty dark. This one pretty much luxuriates in it.

Done. Now I can spend the rest of the week trying to figure out what to say about “Gimme Back My Bullets”

Oh what a night

The band (which includes me under a ridiculous pseudonym) had a unrepentant blast opening for freaking Eef Barzelay this past Thursday as the Cafe Montmartre in Madison.

Eef and company were awesome and liked how we matched up.

Special thanks to Ed Oliver who captured me losing control my chin.

Photo credit: Ed Oliver

And check out this fantastic lady…

Photo credit: Ed Oliver 

For more awesome pics, check out:

http://youbethemouse.blogspot.com/2008/08/eef-barzelay-lion-v-fish.html

And if you were there and thought it was awesome (or if you weren’t there, but imagined it was) say something nice here:

http://www.muzzleofbees.com/2008/08/08/photos-eef-barzelay-cafe-montmartre-madison/

We hope to be playing Madison again soon. Stay tuned.

The Pitchfork Music Festival, Rating: 8.6

Friday Night—Part of the “Don’t Look Back” thing, which I don’t know anything other than someone in Old Britain somehow convinces creepy old dudes to play their best or seminal (ie, not their best) album in its entirety live. One watches with grotesque curiosity at degenerating bodies flubbing their own lyrics. It was a pleasant warm cloudy day.

  • Mission of Burma (Rating: 7.1) My exposure to Mission of Burma far exceeds my appreciation of them. I have 3 albums and have seen them twice and I don’t get their celebrated status. Probably having something to do with when—not what—they played. That said, this wasn’t too bad since they were restricted to playing their best album in its entirety. But that “roman empire” song stinks, even in context.
  • Sebadoh (Rating: 6.5) I don’t remember Bubble and Scrape and I don’t think I would have liked it that much if I had. My experience of Lou Barlow begins with the beautifully sadsap Bakesale, and seeing this album in its live entirety kind of wants me to keep it that way. Lou delegated too many responsibilities back then it seemed.
  • Public Enemy (Rating: 7.0) Everyone but me seemed to be swooning with anticipation. Britt Daniel even came out and stood next to me (I asked him to not suck). Never got into these guys and I lack the capacity to fake enthusiasm. Their songs seemed to die when Flavor Flav did that “Yeah Boy” thing and Chuck D seemed to be stuck in one militant mood. Still, Flav’s television stuff and notorious undependability brought some celebrity and tension to the night. Was Flavor going to flake? But for missing the first song, he put in a solid show. Whatever people like of these guys, they liked this. Pitchfork Priceless Moment 1: As the crowd boos Flav for hawking his next reality television show (it’s on Wednesday nights!), he responds “Why you booing? You a bunch of ghosts? Don’t boo me, you fake ghosts!” Zing and zung.

Saturday—It poured all morning and was not letting up. It was far far from the nightmare that was Woodstock ’98. Still, the sogginess would persist for the rest of the festival. And then arose the dancing mud people. Oh, dancing mud people, what do you do when you’re not doing your filthy jive? Do you have jobs? Do you celebrate Thanksgiving with family? Do you even read blogs?

  • Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar (Rating: 8.5) Late start because of rain, but still kind of a nice way to begin the festival proper. Nothing of the raucous show they put on a few days before in Millennium Park. Yet, the unpretentious galvanizing gypsy horn tunes served as a nice palate cleanser. It’s like they were wiping the slate clean for us, but we still end up chalking the same shit.
  • Titus Andronicus (Rating: 7.9) I do like them. And I think they did well in the rain. It’s still early Bright Eyes to my ears, but I don’t prize originality that highly. I like the combination of modern overeducated-underexperienced disaffected white boy angst with unhinged 50’s garage rock type pop. Reminds me of my dad. They didn’t need to be on such a big stage, though.
  • Jay Reatard (Rating: 6.4 by day; 9.1 by night) I’m a big fan of 2 minute songs. Get in and get out. And Jay is a master. No banter. Names the song title and boom he’s going. But it doesn’t work too well in the big outdoor setting. Way better for a musky windowless black room (where I would see them later that night).
  • Caribou (Rating: 7.6): Much more rocking than expected from the ethereal Andorra album, but not that much more interesting. Stayed for a few and scooted.
  • Icy Demons (Rating: 7.9): Way more interesting. And not so tricked out in weirdness, but definitely looking for new territory. Didn’t close the deal for me, but I’m not walking away yet, either.
  • Fleet Foxes (Rating: 9.1): I’m pulling for the Foxes to not be destroyed by their ridiculous press. They make pretty sounds, but they need better songs. But I think they’re all only 12 and I need to work through some jealousy. Nonetheless, they do a great job of translating their 70’s country folk sound live.
  • Fuck Buttons (Rating: 3.2): Knob rawk, don’t waste my time.
  • Dizzee Rascal (Rating: 5.1): Oh Rahzkooh, why do you hate us?
  • The Ruby Suns (Rating: 9.1): Their show minted at least one new fan. The breezy disjointed Carribean grooving were an unexpected treat as the sun came out.
  • Vampire Weekend (Rating: n/a): Didn’t see them. Just wanted to say again that I think they’re the Jar Jar Binks of Indie Rock. That’s copyrighted, btw.
  • Elf Power (Rating: 5.0) They’re like the Platonic Ideal for 90’s indie rock. If we ever do one of those satellites we fill up with crap to launch into space for aliens to find and then use to conquer us (wa-wah), we could do worse by throwing in an Elf Power CD. Completely what you (or I) would expect. Stayed for 2 songs. The aliens will have our number, for sure.
  • !!! (Rating: 6.2) I probably needed to be closer to appreciate this show. I had my !!! experience 2 years ago and was content to keep it distant. And it’s hard to get into dance-punk with a backpack. The kids seemed to like it, so good for them.
  • The Hold Steady (Rating: 9.2) I spent the first 3 songs trying to will myself not to like these guys. And I can’t do it. It’s almost un-American. Fist-pumping sing-along anthems about the self-destructive brats. They have embraced they’re place in pop and made it they’re own. I’ve heard Craig Finn say 3 separate times that there’s so much joy in what they do, I almost believe it.
  • Jarvis Cocker (Rating: 9.6): Holy mole, this guy puts on a show. I have a solo album and liked it alright. I liked Pulp, but then my exposure was only through albums there, too. The performance is a revelation. How can I become Jarvis?
  • No Age (Rating: 8.7): Wanted to see more, but was delayed by being unexpectedly impressed by and unhealthfully wanting to be Jarvis. Then they were having problems and I’m like the wind. I got to hear “Teen Creeps,” the Pitchfork 08 anthem I think.
  • Animal Collective (Rating: 9.2): Knob rawk, but on a much higher level. I was expecting something much more sloppier, befitting an Umphry’s McGee (or whatever) opener. These guys were tight. And efficient. They came to work. I wasn’t putting up with much by then. I just might learn not to regret buying “Strawberry Jam.

Sunday—It was a scorcher. Applied sunscreen 4 times to my sweat-slick forehead and I’ll still burn. But it was cost effective. Made 4 beers feel like 8.

  • Times New Viking (Rating: 7.3) I was expecting both much worse and much better. Their ridiculously low-fi ecstatic recordings portended either a brilliant live show or just sloppiness. Nonetheless, the short set of minimalist bursts of atonal poppy screaming didn’t offend or inspire.
  • The Dirty Projectors (Rating: 8.1) Maybe I’m just overly impressed that they can play Dirty Projectors’ songs. So oddball and overly constructed. But they sounded like the recordings. No fist pumping sing-alongs, though. And did they need to be on the big stage? Stay in the library, you nerds. I change my mind. 4.3.
  • Boris (9.1 for content; 4.3 for length) Japanese lady shreds. Drummer wears white gloves and plays a gong. But the token metal group only goes for 25 minutes? They flew from Japan for just 25 minutes of stage time. What kind of carbon footprint did that leave? Drummer says something about “electrical problem” but I can’t understand him.
  • Apples In Stereo (Rating: 8.5) Exactly what I expected. More nerd pop. At least these nerds were trying to be likeable. They were the eager-to-please waterboys to the indie jock squad.
  • King Khan and His Shrines (Rating: 10.0) I pretty much hate anyone who has not seen King Khan live. That casts pretty big net, I know and sorry. But by missing the rarely US-touring Canadian-Indian paunchy naked-but-for-lavender-hotpants-and-a-gold-beaded-head-dress Memphis-style soul-punk KING, it probably says something about them missing something rare and essential to life that I just can’t abide. Pitchfork Priceless Moment 2: I score a press pass gaining me front stage access. While the KING unnecessarily pantomimes lyrics from their transgendered anthem “I Want To Be A Girl,” my head ends up about a foot from where he has unsecurely tucked his manhood, exposed for all to see. Some see too much.
  • The Dodos (Rating 8.2) They probably need a smaller stage and to not come after King Khan, still the 3 guys do pretty well for the little instrumentation they bring.
  • M. Ward (Rating: Whatever) I’ve seen this guy so many times. And he doesn’t need anymore press.
  • Les Savvy Fav (Rating: 7.80 They’re alright I guess, but I’ve seen too many unappealing naked bodies today to be shocked by this guy’s antics. But still, they do an old school Superchunk cover. 
  • Spiritualized (Rating: 6.9) I really like Songs in A&E. But this seemed kind of boring here. But maybe I’m still coming off my Khan high. Too bad. He had some soulful backup singers that ended up doing too much of the lifting. Saw 3 songs and moved along.
  • Bon Iver (Rating: 9.3 for the originals; 1.2 for the Talk Talk cover) There were some really nice moments here. The crowd participation was well managed and made the experience almost cozy in the overflowing crowd. Pitchfork Priceless Moment 3: Bon Iver makes a very wrongheaded detour with an overlong cover a forgettable Talk Talk mess. The confused crowd politely applauds and yet someone shouts “More Talk Talk!”
  • Dinosaur Jr (Rating: 7.9) Holy guacamole, J Mascis is old. He now reminds me of this creepy dude who used to clean the pool at our YMCA when I was a kid. Or a short pudgy Gandolf the Grey. And say what you will of his reunion with Lou Barlow, I’m not too sure they deserved the prize spot they get in the schedule. But it was sweet that people still seem to like them. For me, that ship has sailed.
  • Spoon (Rating: 9.0) They did their job as headliners. Nothing too mindblowing, though. Speaking of jobs, I have one to wake up to tomorrow in 5 hours. I’m no dancing mud person.

Concert Review–Jens Lekman and the Honeydrips

I wrote another review. This time Jens Lekman (yay) and the Honeydrips (nay)  perilously subjected themselves to my critical gaze. The bat part is totally true.

And if the review reads a little strange, be advised that the Isthmus and I are on opposite sides of the parenthetical dash issue–I use them, they take them out.

Jens defends the precious. Photo credit Brooke Jackson.

Concert Reviews–The Walkmen, White Rabbits, Ra Ra Riot, The Virgins, National Beekeepers’ Society, Basia Bulat, Pale Young Gentlemen

In addition to starting a blog, I’ve begun writing concert reviews for Madison’s Isthmus under a new whacky pseudonym.

I’ll pay you a dollar if you leave an agreeable comment.

Here they are:

Basia Bulat plays the autoharp.
 Basia plays the autoharp. Photo credit: Brooke Jackson