Chicago’s annual North Coast Music Festivalhas announced its (almost) full lineup. They’re still keeping some acts secret for now.
North Coast is a mostly electronic music festival that’s promoted as the last fling of summer (It’s the first weekend of September.) before another depressing Chicago winter and Bears season wallops the city.
Some of the biggest names on the bill are Deadmau5, Damian Marley, Big Boi, Gucci Mane, and Ween. They’re already offering tickets and layaway plans, so get your tickets while they’re cheap and still available.
“This is a video for anyone who’s ever been sober at a party. It can be a strange and isolating experience to watch everyone getting gradually more intoxicated and their judgement getting cloudier without experiencing the same effects. Sometimes you have to get creative to make it fun for yourself too.” – Kieran Heilbron (Yeomans)
Garage rock bands always tend to weigh heavily on the retro vibe and Toronto’s Yeomans are no exception, naming themselves after the hardworking farmers of colonial America. However, their music isn’t quite that ancient. Glimmers of 60s fuzz pedals, melodic surf, psych grooves and reverb soaked vocals haunt the Yeomans’ sound.
The band formed in 2013, during the height of the Rob Ford crack scandal. Guitarist Kieran Heilbron met then Yeomans’ drummer Jocelyn while selling “Rob Ford Smokes Crack” t-shirts to raise money for the Gawker “Crackstarter” campaign. Realizing they were both into psych and both looking for a new project they started jamming and Yeomans was born, joined by Calgarian Ian Kilburn on vocals & guitar.
They do their heroes proud, throwing nods to The Chocolate Watchband, The 13th Floor Elevators and The Masters Apprentices.
Yeomans released their first EP in 2014, recorded in a ghostly church in a small town called Little Britain (not to be confused with the highly entertaining TV show). It has a powerful sound with remnants to an earlier time. Soulful lyrics and reverb-drenched grooves fill the listeners ears with tales of prophets, greek gods and revolutionaries.
Signing with NYK Records in 2016, Yeomans released “My Fish Got Drunk”, a shimmering surf instrumental, as their first single with the label in November 2016.
“Just as You Want” is their second release on the label and will be released on April 30th on the NYK mixtape “Now You Know: Volume 1”.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Ty Segall has more side projects than a street hustler. Fuzz is one of his loudest and best. Along with Roland Cosio (bass) and Charlie Moothart (guitar), Segall (on vocals and drums instead of his usual guitar) and his pals created an album of metal distortion that was hard to match in 2013 and is still hard to match today.
The band is appropriately named, as the opener, “Earthen Gate,” starts like a bluesy heavy metal ballad but transforms into a heavy chugging fuzzed-out battle hymn. “Sleigh Ride” has, as far as I can tell, nothing to do with Christmas and jingle bells, but everything to do with the band’s love of Cream and Black Sabbath. This love of 1960’s metal bands continues on “What’s in My Head?”, in which Fuzz drifts back and forth between psychedelia and stoner metal.
“HazeMaze” hits hard right out of the gate. It’s like the soundtrack to a battle between giant robots. Seriously, someone needs to put this in the next Pacific Rim movie. “Loose Sutures” is excellent stoner metal. It’s full of reverbed vocals, heavy guitars, and pounding drums that sound like Segall decided to skip a day at the gym and made up for it on his kit.
“Preacher” is Cream mixed with Blue Cheer. “Raise” is Cream if Clapton, Bruce, and Baker said, “Screw it, turn up full volume on everything.” when recording (which, actually, I’m sure they did now and then). The rhythm grooves in it are superb. The album ends with “One,” the longest track on the album at just over six minutes (Fuzz doesn’t mess around.). It’s glorious, hard-hitting controlled instrumental chaos. The mosh pit this must induce is probably batshit crazy.
This record would’ve been in my top 10 of 2013 had I been keeping lists back then. They’ve put out a second record by now, II, so I need to seek it out pronto. You should, too. Seek out both. Get fuzzy.
Keep your mind open.
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Elephant Stone (Rishi Dhir – lead vocals, bass, sitar, Miles Dupire – drums, vocals, Gabriel Lambert – guitar, vocals, Stephen Venkatarangam – keyboards, synths) never disappoint live. I’ve seen them three times in three different settings: A music festival attended by thousands (the main stage Levitation Austin at the Carson Creek Ranch), a mid-sized indoor / outdoor venue with a couple hundred people there (at the Mohawk in downtown Austin), and at a tiny pub with barely anyone there (Howler’s in Pittsburgh). Each show has been good and their first live EP, Live at the Verge, is a nice release that puts me in the mood to see them again.
The EP is five tracks from their latest record, Ship of Fools, starting with “The Devil’s Shelter” and plunging you straight down a rabbit hole of psychedelia. Venkatarangam’s pulsing synths meet Dhir’s echoing vocals and Joy Division-influenced bass while Dupire knocks out a beat so precise that you could knife fight to it.
Dhir breaks out the sitar on “Silence Can Say So Much.” It’s one of the loveliest songs on Ship of Fools, and the recording of it here is outstanding. Lambert plays some stadium-level riffs on “See the Light,” and the rest of the band cooks alongside him. His guitar lifts you into orbit on “Andromeda” and is something out of a groovy 1960’s sci-fi / Euro-spy film you’ve never seen.
The EP ends with “Manipulator,” which sounds even better live than you hope it will. Elephant Stone puts down a serious groove and each launch into the chorus pumps you up more. The bridge will leave you slack-jawed.
The whole EP is impressive, and I hope they release a full-length live album sometime in the future. Whoever recorded Live at the Verge deserves special credit, because it sounds fantastic. It’s only a digital release, so snag it while you can.
I’ve wanted to see the Damnedfor a long while and was bummed that I missed them when they played Chicago’s Riot Fest a couple years ago. Lo and behold, they came to the U.S. again for a 40th anniversary tour, and this time I was able to catch them with Bleachedopening for them. That’s a win-win.
I saw Bleached in October of last year in Cleveland. They put on a good show, so I figured they’d be solid again. I did not know that they would be even better in just six months’ time. It was quickly evident (within two songs when they were absolutely gunning on “Trying to Lose Myself Again” from Welcome the Worms) that Bleached has seriously upped their game in just half a year. They powered through many cuts off their excellent new EP Can You Deal?and even one I hadn’t heard before (“Electric Chair”). I was gobsmacked by the end of their set. I caught up with sisters Jennifer and Jessie Clavin at their merch table between the first and second encores of the Damned. I told them their set was a home run and how much they’d improved since Cleveland.
“Being on this tour has been really good for us,” Jennifer Clavin told me. “Playing in front of a lot of people who don’t know us has really made us work on our stage presence.”
“It’s only been six months!” Jessie Clavin said.
“I know,” I said. “That’s what make it more impressive.”
Speaking of impressive, the Damned were just that.
“We’re back from the mists of time,” said lead guitarist Captain Sensible, “to save the world from shitty music like Mumford and Sons!”
The band tore into literal floor-shaking classics like “Generals,” “Disco Man,” and “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” before a mosh pit finally broke out during “Love Song.” The first of two beers went flying through the air during this. For the record, I’ve been in some wild, fun crowds at the House of Blues. I’ve never seen cups of beer, hats, shoes, and jackets thrown into the air during a show there until I saw the Damned play there.
I stayed in the pit for “Love Song” and “Street of Dreams.” The Damned continued a great set (and Captain Sensible kept decrying Mumford and Sons – as well as Kurt Vile, whom he called a “pillock,” Duran Duran, KISS, and Billy Idol) that included such fine tracks as “Eloise,” “Wait for the Blackout,” and “The History of the World (Part 1).”
Of course, the crowd (and I) went berserk during “Neat Neat Neat” and “New Rose.” Moshing to those punk classics was a dream come true for me. Truth to tell, I wasn’t sure I’d ever hear “Neat Neat Neat” live, so being in the middle of a friendly mosh pit ten feet from David Vanian as he sung it was great.
As I mentioned earlier, they played two encores. The first included “Jet Boy Jet Girl,” sung by the Captain, “Noise Noise Noise,” and “Smash It Up.” The last track especially showed off keyboardist Monty Oxymoron’s skill. The second encore included “Nasty” (the first Damned song I ever heard thanks to them performing it on The Young Ones) and “Antipope.” A guy near me had been yelling for “Antipope” for the last third of the show, so I was happy for him (and all of us) that they played it. He went bananas.
It was a fun show. They haven’t lost anything. Sensible is still a great guitarist and Vanian (“the Vincent Price of rock,” as Capt. Sensible called him) still commands a stage like few can. The Damned are touring extensively throughout the U.S. before they head to Europe. Catch them if you’re near you.
By the way, here’s the list of things I found on the floor during and after the mosh pit: A button labeled “GW,” a spiked bracelet (belonging to a guy in a Misfits jacket behind me), a nickel, an opened (but thankfully unused) condom, a peacock keychain and attached house key (belonging to a young woman I found after the final encore), a hat (owner unknown), and a sweater (owner unknown). A guy next to me in the pit found a cell phone. I don’t know if he ever found the owner.
The New Pornographers (Kathryn Calder – vocals, keyboards, guitar, Neko Case – vocals, John Collins – bass, Todd Fancey – lead guitar, Carl Newman – vocals, guitar, Joe Seiders – drums, vocals, Blaine Thurier – keyboards, synthesizers) hail from Canada, so that might explain the title of their new album – Whiteout Conditions. Such things are frequent there in the winters. I can’t help but think, however, that the title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the result of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and the voter base that led to that result. Carl Newman and Neko Case are openly critical of President Trump on their respective Twitter feeds, so it’s not too much of a stretch.
Judging by the bright, uplifting feel of this record, the band assures us that everything will be all right. The opener, “Play Money,” is full of brilliant keyboards even as Ms. Case sings lyrics like “…just when I thought we beat the system, I knew a gentleman of leisure. He loved to talk about his treasure and how he got it for a song.”
The title track is a tale of some depression Newman’s admitted he was feeling at the time he wrote it (Shock at the result of the 2016 election?) “Flying and flat on the ceiling, I’m barely dealing…I wasn’t hoping for a win, I was hoping for freedom,” he sings, disguising the song as a tale of a man who’s sick of his job with pulsing synths and almost New Order beats. The first single, “High Ticket Attractions,” amps up the synths and witty lyrics (“You can’t imagine all the factions that form around high ticket attractions.”) even more, but now they’re backed with solid rock drumming by Seiders.
“This Is the World of the Theatre” pretty much wears its meaning on its sleeve. Like many of the tracks off their last album, Brill Bruisers, it sounds like an ELO track. “Darling Shade” has some of the funkiest bass on the record as Newman and his niece, Calder, sing, “When you give your mind to your voices, you accept the terms of your sentence.” “Second Sleep” is about insomnia (Due to stress?) as Peter Hook-style bass drives the track. “Colosseums” sprinkles in a bit of psychedelia as Newman sings about being overcome by, and warning against the distractions of, grand spectacle (“Colosseums, colosseums of the mind. Right on time, celebration in the ruin. Elation is moving in a wave. I avert my eyes, but I still see the lions.”). I love the percussion on this. It reminds me of Oingo Boingo songs, actually.
“We’ve Been Here Before” doesn’t sprinkle in psychedelia, it lays it on like a sweet strawberry jam. Just listen to those synths and vocals and you’ll hear it. Newman and Case assure us that we’ll get out of these times of “gods of bad parties.”
“Juke” is electro-psych with Newman singing about shattered crystal balls and people diverging on many paths after chaos explodes around them. The much-appreciated dive into psych-rock continues on “Clockwise.” It’s something you wouldn’t be surprised to hear on a Besnard Lakes album. The closer is “Avalanche Alley.” It opens with keyboards reminiscent of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door,” and then breaks into a great clickety-clack beat. I love that they chose to end an album about post-election blues with such a peppy, upbeat track.
As usual, the New Pornographers have crafted a great record. They’ve yet to swing and miss. Whiteout Conditions let us know that everything will be all right. Winter always gives way to spring. Whiteouts always clear sooner or later.
Coming off their highly acclaimed full-length album Welcome the Worms, Bleached (Jennifer Calvin – guitar and lead vocals, Jessica Calvin – vocals and lead guitar, Micayla Grace – bass and vocals, Nick Pillot – drums) found not only more fame, but also more headaches from a music business dominated by men and, at best, dismissive towards women.
These attitudes, and the current political climate, inspired the four-song EP Can You Deal?. It’s a brilliant title. Can you deal with Bleached carving out a name for themselves in the music industry? Can you deal with them being a rock band instead of a female rock band? Can you deal with them not putting up with sexism or giving a shit about what you think?
The title track is all those questions and more amid shimmering punk-pop and a go-for-broke guitar solo by Jessica Calvin. “Flipside” is a lovely ode to a guy who rolls his eyes at the idea of being in a relationship because he’s too hip for the room. It’s undeniably catchy and, in a proper universe, would launch Bleached to the moon in terms of record sales. Seriously, it’s one of the prettiest singles of 2017.
“Turn to Rage” has Bleached showing off their rock chops (particularly the hammering drums by Pillot) while Jennifer Calvin warns a potential suitor not to fuck with her or he might end up “fishin’ for compliments from the grave.” The rock crunch continues on the final track, “Dear Trouble.” “Poor, Jennifer, I’ll be crazy all my life,” Calvin sings as she yearns for a relationship free of drama.
This is a solid EP and another booming step forward for Bleached on their way to being Next Big Things. They are currently touring with the Damned, so that alone should earn your respect if this EP doesn’t (but it will).
Keep your mind open.
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First, Canadian psych-rockers Elephant Stone have released their first live recording – Live at the Verge. It’s only available in digital format and has five tracks from a show at the Toronto nightclub recorded in February 2017. Elephant Stone never disappoint live, so this is more than worth the low price.
Second, the band has released dates for a European and UK tour taking them from the Netherlands to France.
Named after a yellow guitar that looks a bit like a Gibson Flying V but is built to play microtones, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s first album – of five – of 2017, Flying Microtonal Banana, is another wild mind trip from the Australian psychedelic workhorses.
Beginning with the sound of wind across the desert, “Rattlesnake” is over seven minutes of toe-tapping, head-nodding, mind-altering psychedelia. The beat is venomous and the microtonal guitar work in the last third of it is great. It flows straight into “Melting” (a song about the damage we’re doing to the environment), which your mind might already be doing by this point. The dual drumming is hypnotic, as is the bass line, organ, and the near-lounge jazz sound of the whole track. The sound of ocean waves keeps you drifting on “Open Water,” and the surf guitar certainly helps. Could it be another environmental warning about all of us living in a water world after the ice caps melt (as mentioned in the previous track)? The microtonal guitars on it are like something you’d hear in a Marrakesh bazaar.
“Sleep Drifter” almost sounds like a slower version of “Rattlesnake” at first, but it’s about sleeping and dreaming with a loved one instead of a song about a wise animal / Midgard serpent. The track gets into a sweet rock groove by the end (love the harmonica and that porn guitar!). “Billabong Valley” is another microtonal freak-out as we hear about an outlaw who enters the mystic valley and is “shot in the back by mornin’.” “Anoxia” gets us back to the environmental themes of the record (The album cover features a man in a haz-mat suit and a snake emerging from a biohazard waste barrel.). The double drums almost play lead on it.
Don’t worry if the previous couple tracks didn’t have enough fuzz for you, because “Doom City” has enough for the entire side of an LP. The microtonal guitar in this sounds like creepy laughter from an evil imp hiding in a dark corner. I’m sure it’s not a random choice that “Nuclear Fusion” follows “Doom City.” The songs flow together and the groove is downright radioactive. It gets under your skin and might make you hear colors as they sing about patterns in the sky and on the subatomic level.
The title track (an instrumental) closes the record, and the band brings in cool Australian Aboriginal percussion to meld with the squealing, hypnotic microtonal guitars. KGALTW are off to a great start in their five-album quest. The second one, Murder of the Universe, is already available for pre-order. Get caught up now while you can by picking up Flying Microtonal Banana.