A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Wrapup: The New Pornographers @ Higher Ground 8/27/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Saturday August 28, 2010

The New Pornographers, on tour in support of their May release Together, made their first-ever visit to Burlington last night.  Conspicuously missing (empty microphone/spot on stage and all) was Neko Case, who happens to live in Vermont these days.  Nobody spoke about it, and the lone shout of “where’s Neko” was met a wall of rock.  I guess that’s all I have to say about it, because I haven’t been able to dig anything up, and to be honest, I thought the show was wonderful anyhow.

Opening was Burlington’s own Maryse Smith, recently profiled by Dan Bolles in 7Days.  While we were waiting in line to get in, the Higher Ground owner came out from the ballroom and told everyone to get in there quickly because the opener was amazing.  He wasn’t lying.  I thoroughly enjoyed her set, and hope to see more of her and her backing band around the Burlington area soon.

Maryse Smith @ Higher Ground 8-27-2010

The New Pornographers played a good mix of music from various releases, including “The Slow Descent into Alcoholism” off their nearly 10-year-old debut album Mass Romantic and “Crash Years” and “Your Hands (Together)”, a couple of my favorites off their latest release.

Kathryn Calder of The New Pornographers @ Higher Ground 8-27-2010

While I do think there was some level of anticipation/disappointment in the audience regarding Neko, it was pretty apparent that the band worked their way right through it.  Kathryn Calder, the female half of the lead vocalists (Carl [A.C.] Newman being the male half) definitely stood out to me.  While Newman’s stage presence and slurry banter kept the audience engaged between songs (he played only 5 strings on guitar for a good chunk of the show, and had some ongoing conversations about it), it was definitely Calder’s vocals that I enjoyed the most.

Carl Newman of New Pornographers @ Higher Ground 8-27-2010

The audience (a mixture of 30 and 40 somethings, from what I could tell) was both sizable and very into the show, which was great to see.  The room felt full though there was plenty of room to move around, and very little jostling for an ever-closer spot.  Though I do want to say that just because your friends get there early and stake out a good spot does not therefore give you and 10 others the right to join them and push other people out of the way.  Simple courtesy is too often overlooked.

New Pornographers @ Higher Ground BallroomAnyhow, the catchy hooks, rocking guitars and vibrant pop energy of The New Pornographers were all on display last night, and I look forward to catching them again.

**LATE UPDATE**
Dan Bolles reports that Neko had food poisoning…mystery solved.


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

I made it

Filed Under: Music for a Mood, Standout Tracks
Written by Brendan
Monday August 23, 2010

I spent the last 10 days in Rome and Tel Aviv, and while I’m glad to be back, I’m also exhausted.  I’ll get back to real writing soon, and have a new friend who I hope you’ll see writing on this blog in the near future.  But in the meantime, here’s Rococo from Arcade Fire (from their recent release The Suburbs), the song I listened to most while away.

p.s. Thanks to Aaron for filling in for me and sharing some quality posts.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Erin McKeown @ Kennedy Center 8/19/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Guest Post, Live Shows
Written by Aaron
Friday August 20, 2010

Ed. Note: Brendan asked me to fill in for a few a few days. I’m happy to oblige.

A 6 p.m. rock show?  Fine by me.

I moved toward the front of the stage and found an empty chair next to two chatty, much older women.  Why were they here?  Were they unlikely rock fans?  Perhaps they were hoping to hear some lady jazz singer profiled in the patrons’ newsletter.  Folky singer/songwriter enthusiasts?  Maybe that was the case.

Erin McKeown - Hundreds of Lions

Hundreds of Lions

Since this blog typically covers music closer to Burlington, I’ll do a little explaining.  Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center is a short walk from my apartment.  It’s even closer — across the street — from the famed Watergate complex.  Young people live where I live.  Old people live in the Watergate.

So I was sitting next to some Watergate retirees.  Their pre-show banter pegged them as regulars at the Kennedy Center’s daily Millennium Stage shows.  Music I love isn’t often featured at the free performances hosted in this arts palace (later this week in the same series: “Marvin Hamlisch conducts alumni of the D.C. Youth Orchestra!”).  But tonight was different.

At 5:57, the very slight Erin McKeown hustled through the atrium hefting an enormous backpack.  She was on stage a moment later wearing a white shirt and white pants — both rolled and unbuttoned enough to reveal intricate tattoos.  Not the typical Kennedy Center look.

McKeown’s latest album was released last October.  As she tells it, Hundreds of Lions chronicles a relationship from start to finish.  It’s a solid record.  At this abbreviated show, McKeown chose to play what she called a “mini suite” of songs from that batch (“Santa Cruz,” “Put the Fun Back in the Funeral,” “To A Hammer,” “The Rascal,” “The Lions”) along with some older gems and two new songs.  She was alone on stage with an electric guitar, a grand piano, and a cup from Starbucks.  Her voice sounded better than ever.  She rocked.

Erin McKeown’s first proper album, Distillation, popped onto my radar screen nearly a decade ago thanks in large part to WXPN,  Philadelphia’s cooler-then-than-now public radio station.  I’ve seen her plenty of times since 2001.  And I’ve even dragged my parents along.  I think of McKeown as a great rocker with smart lyrics.  Others pigeonhole her as a folk artist.  And she’s released a record of jazz standards.  She’s tough to label.  As McKeown tours relentlessly she promotes herself to that NPR audience that enjoys a little bit of folk, jazz, and just maybe sometimes rock.

She’s a commanding performer on stage.  McKeown can tell quick stories and call attention to particularly witty lines from her own pen.  Tonight she overcame an extremely stiff crowd and managed to look like she enjoyed herself.  “Let it fly, y’all,” she yelled during one brave attempt to garner audience participation.  “I think to sum up the record and certainly this song: Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.  Words to live by, kids!”  The ladies in my row exchanged stern looks at that advice.  They whispered disapprovingly.  They should have gone home.

McKeown closed with “You Were Right About Everything” from her 2005 record, We Will Become Like Birds.  The women on my row shuffled out, unmoved.  They were wrong.  This was a brief performance but a real treat.

You can watch video of tonight’s full show on the Kennedy Center’s site. McKeown has announced an upcoming tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Distillation.  She’ll play that complete album before moving on to newer material in several cities (stops include Cambridge, Mass. 9/24, Northampton, Mass. 10/9, New York 10/17, Arlington, Va. 10/23, and Philadelphia 10/24).

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Still Disappointed By Spoon’s ‘Transference’

Filed Under: Album Reviews, Guest Post
Written by Aaron
Friday August 13, 2010

Ed. Note: Brendan asked me to fill in for a few a few days. I’m happy to oblige.

I’ve struggled all year with Spoon’s latest album, Transference. With the band on the road this month (supporting Arcade Fire), I thought I’d revisit this record. I’ve tried to find more to like on Transference. I’m not sure I’ve been successful.

Some of Spoon’s more challenging and typical gimmicks are on display throughout — but the reverb, the left/right pans, and the abrupt cutoffs aren’t adding much anymore. (To wit, the end of “Mystery Zone.”) Maybe it’s just that the element of surprise is gone for Spoon. Or just played out.

But enough about my hangups. There are some subtle good things about this mostly ungreat record. My favorite spots:

  • The cover art – More on that later.
  • “Trouble Comes Running” – A neat little rock song with trademark sharp drums and fun melodies. Simple but good.
  • “Goodnight Laura” – A sparse, sweet, un-Spoon ballad that only seems Spoon-ike in it’s “alright, you’re alright” repetition.
  • “Got Nuffin’” – Not too bad. A great buildup from “darkness and shadows” traces its way to some pleasing guitar rock. But then it peters out. I love the line, “the flowers bloom and the trains collide, I’ve got nothin’ to lose.”

Transference isn’t Spoon’s best work. By far. If it hasn’t been obvious before, now it’s certainly clear how much Britt Daniel drives this band. A January New York Times interview painted a picture of bandmates who live in scattered cities, waiting for Daniel to send along his latest material. There’s nothing wrong with that model. And there’s nothing wrong with a band that has one very-central frontman. [As an aside, the 2002 split EP that paired a solo Britt Daniels with Bright Eyes is something you should definitely have in your collection.]

In that same Times piece, the band talks a bit about their carefree aesthetic. They’ve never done beards. They don’t care about hair… Whatever. It seems like they care a good deal about appearances these days. And it’s commendable. It’s hard to watch their live performances and not notice the stark black and white uniform — with Daniel himself often dressed entirely in white. The video for “Written In Reverse” carries that look forward with high-contrast black and white treatment throughout.

But nothing points to a keen non-musical aesthetic like the smart cover art on Transference. They’ve chosen a great photo from William Eggleston. The famed photographer (who died after Transference was released) snapped this image in Sumner, Mississippi in 1970. It works for the album and it keeps me looking back at the image when I’m listening to the tunes. [Spoon aren't the first band to choose an Eggleston photo for their cover.]

Perhaps Transference will grow on me. Perhaps I’ve already spent enough time trying to come to different conclusions. It’s a darker and less-fun record for Spoon. I would have really enjoyed a return of the horn section that graced some of their more recent records (and that joined them on tour as recently as last week). There are elements in Transference of Spoon at their best — or of Britt Daniel doing some great writing — but still… something is missing here.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

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Osheaga 2010 Wrapup: Still Life Still

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Tuesday August 10, 2010

Day 2 of the festival was significantly hotter and sunnier than day 1, so Rachel and I left the Galactic show on one of the main stages a little early to catch some shade at the Scene Verte before Still Life Still came on. This gave me a great chance to get up close for some good shots at the beginning of the show.

Eric Young of Still Life Still @ Osheaga 8/1/2010

Still Life Still put on an excellent set, full of sweaty rock goodness. As a testament to their grit, after what seemed like a series of electric shocks from the mic as his sweat dripped on it, lead singer Brendon Saarinen just kept right on going without a word.

Still Life Still @ Osheaga 8/1/2010

Most of the set was from their 2009 release Girls Come Too, though they also played at least one new song. Their sound was tight and their energy and excitement was clear.  This was definitely in my top 3 favorite shows of the festival.

Brendon Saarinen of Still Life Still @ Osheaga 8/1/2010

Still Life Still is a must-see for lovers of rock music.  They remind me a bit of Broken Social Scene, with a little more of the rawness of Kevin Drew’s solo album (or whatever you want to call Spirit If…).  Their album is great, their show is better, and I’m really looking forward to their next release, which they are working on currently.

Aaron Romaniuk of Still Life Still @ Osheaga 8/1/2010

note: all photos in this post are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Maps & Atlases play Metronome tonight

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Monday August 9, 2010

Chicago’s Maps & Atlases will be playing Metronome in Burlington tonight. Don’t miss it. Listen to “Solid Ground” from their recently released album Perch Patchwork:

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p.s. Dear Maps & Atlases, you should advise your publicist to respond to emails.

[late update: p.p.s. Dear Maps & Atlases, sorry for jumping to conclusions.  Your publicist didn't get my email because it went to spam, and got in touch with me once he found it.  Carry on.]


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Osheaga 2010 Wrapup: Arcade Fire

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Friday August 6, 2010

I can best describe Arcade Fire’s performance as the closing act of day 1 at Osheaga as awe inspiring.  Pardon my gushing, but Arcade Fire is absolutely one of the best few contemporary rock bands.  Their live show is a testament to their original song writing, musical talent (they all play numerous instruments) and raw energy.  And they really go the extra mile in spending the money and time creating such an elaborate stage setup and well-timed performance.

Even without the large video screen intermittently playing live shots of the band through a variety of lens filters and a pre-made series of film clips, their show is so visually compelling that it almost distracts from the music. Almost.

Arcade Fire @ Osheaga 7/31/2010

Playing a mix of songs from their previous 3 releases, Arcade Fire was as tight and polished as a band could be. They manage their playlist in such a way to keep the energy high with the old hits, while interspersing heavy, intense numbers like Rococo.  They treated us to three never-before-played numbers, “Deep Blue,” “Half Light II” and my favorite track off their latest album “Sprawl II,” featuring Regine on lead vocals.

Arcade Fire @ Osheaga 7/31/2010

While Win Butler commands the stage with his powerful voice and presence, and Regine Chassagne dazzles with her choreographed dances, elaborate costumes, accordion playing and sugary-sweet vocals, I have to say that multi-instrumentalist William Butler (Win’s brother) is the best performer in the band.  In fact, he’s an absolute maniac out there.  Nobody has ever made the xylophone look so hardcore.  Keep your eyes on him if you’re lucky enough to catch an Arcade Fire show. (William is pictured on the left of the photo below, absolutely wailing on the drum in his hands)

Arcade Fire @ Osheaga 7/31/2010

If you’re about to cry because you missed this show, and Arcade Fire isn’t coming your way – fear not.  They played a very similar set on YouTube last night (broadcast live from MSG), and it was every bit as impressive.  You can watch it here.

Arcade Fire @ Osheaga 7/31/2010

I will be stalking the Arcade Fire tour dates until I’m able to see them again, and I suggest you do too. And if you haven’t yet, pick up their latest albumThe Suburbs, on sale for $3.99 through today only at Amazon.

note: all photos in this post are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Osheaga 2010 Wrapup: Stars

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Thursday August 5, 2010

Stars are easily one of my five favorite bands. They’ve put on some of the best shows I’ve ever been to. And their live performances have made me love songs of theirs that I previously couldn’t stand listening to (The Ghost of Genova Heights comes to mind). So it’s fair to say that I had high expectations for their set at Osheaga – in their hometown.

Amy Millan of Stars @ Osheaga 7/31/2010

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go as I’d hoped. We headed over to their stage about halfway through K’Naan’s set (he was playing on the other main stage) to stake out a good spot, which we got. Unlike the other bands that had been playing back-to-back on alternating main stages, Stars didn’t take the stage right after K’Naan ended. I could hear the seconds of unplayed music being wasted.

They came onstage to huge applause and threw out some of the roses tied all around the stage to the audience – a nice touch. Then it went quickly awry. As the first note was played, Torquil Campbell (1/2 of the lead singing duo with Amy Millan) began throwing what ended up being a half-set temper tantrum because the sound in his earphones was either completely broken or just way off.

Stars @ Osheaga 7/31/2010

No matter how justified he was, his attitude immediately turned me off of the music. I couldn’t help but cringe as he whipped the corded microphone around the stage, leaving mic stands, keyboards and stage crew on the ground in his wake. By the time he got over it, Stars did manage to really nail “Take Me To The Riot,” and “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead,” two of my favorites. So ultimately there was redemption, and Amy Millan sang as wonderfully as ever, but what I’ll remember most about that show is the attitude.

I’m planning on seeing Stars again in Montreal in December, and I’m hoping Torquil can leave the other stuff off stage and put on a performance that I know he and the rest of the band are capable of putting on.

note: all photos in this post are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Osheaga Wrapup: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Wednesday August 4, 2010

After a fairly disappointing show in Burlington earlier in the week, I had fairly low expectations for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros at Osheaga. After all, if they seemed tired and uninspired on Tuesday, and didn’t have a break between then and their Saturday set, chances were they’d put on the same lackluster performance.

As an aside, and an introduction to the following photo, it amazes me when singers smoke cigarettes. It just seems like the two things are completely at odds with each other. Here, Jade Castrinos and bassist Aaron Older share a smoke backstage just prior to their set:

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros @ Osheaga 7/31/10

Luckily for me, the band (and particularly lead singer Alex Ebert) were able to really turn it on for their Osheaga set. Their connection with the audience was so much better (it helped that Alex came out into the crowd for a bit), their energy as a band seemed so much more complete, and the music was spot on.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros @ Osheaga 7/31/10

There was no sitting down for this one (thankfully, as the ground at the main stages was covered in gravel and rocks), but they didn’t need that kind of gimmick to get the crowd into the show. All in all, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros completely redeemed themselves in my eyes, and put on one of the best performances of the festival.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros @ Osheaga 7/31/10

When the stage managers told Alex that it was time to wrap up their set, he wasn’t really into it, so they played another song. Jimmy Cliff, who was set to go on directly afterward at the adjacent main stage (an excellent setup, for what it’s worth), found his way over to give the band a hard time. After a few seemingly harsh words for Alex as he left the stage, the two of them hugged it out and Jimmy ran over to start his set.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros @ Osheaga 7/31/10

note: all photos in this post are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Get Arcade Fire’s new album for $3.99

Filed Under: Random Thought
Written by Brendan
Tuesday August 3, 2010

As of right now, The Suburbs, the new release from Arcade Fire, is on sale at Amazon for $3.99. After seeing a few songs off the album performed live, and being about halfway through the album right now, I can definitely say that you will feel very satisfied with your purchase.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.