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Live Review: The Monster Ball Tour starring Lady Gaga at the Verizon Center, Washington, DC – 6th September 2010

By on Monday, 13th September 2010 at 2:00 pm

Lady Gaga is a rock star, an enigma, a cultural phenomenon and a chameleon. She’s also an incredibly talented musician and performer, and her concerts are said to be spectacular, even life-changing. And I imagine that the Washington, DC, stop on the Monster Ball Tour would have been, had I actually been able to see anything. As a devoted Gaga fan (or “little monster,” as she calls them), months ago I braved and shelled out nearly $75 (about 50 quid) for what was quite possibly the worst seat in the history of mankind. It was so far up I was almost worried if I stood up I’d get a nosebleed or fall down hundreds of feet to my death. And I was directly to the side of the stage, so half of the view was obstructed by scaffolding for the lights. The large screens, usually the saving grace for unfortunately-seated punters like myself, weren’t even visible, as I was directly side-on to them as well. It was frustrating, to say the least.

Equally frustrating was opener Semi Precious Weapons, although perhaps I should be happy my view of THEM was limited. They are vying for the top spot on my list of opening acts I’ve liked the least, and I’ve seen some bad ones. To begin with, despite provocative fashion choices like vocalist Justin Tranter wearing tights and heels (perhaps the only thing I liked about the band), their music had nothing in common with Gaga’s. The only reason for them being on the tour seems to be that they’re old friends of Gaga’s, a fact they mentioned at least every 2 songs — on a couple of occasions they even had the crowd chant her name.

Despite their use of over-exaggerated flailing, they still didn’t muster enough stage presence to fill the massive stage. In fact, everything about them came off as posing.  Aspiring rock stars, please note: constantly informing the audience  just how rock ‘n’ roll you are is NOT rock ‘n’ roll. When he wasn’t assaulting our ears with what was closer to shouting than singing, Tranter managed to drop the F-bomb so much you’d think he had Tourette’s, and called the mostly-female audience sluts on more than one occasion. At one point he shouted “Don’t hate Semi Precious Weapons, thank us for exposing your children to real rock ‘n’ roll” — no thanks, I’ll be taking option A.

Continue reading Live Review: The Monster Ball Tour starring Lady Gaga at the Verizon Center, Washington, DC – 6th September 2010


Live Review: Kings of Leon at Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, VA – Saturday 7th August 2010

By on Wednesday, 11th August 2010 at 2:00 pm

As an incurable Anglophile, I find that most of the music I listen to is either British or most popular in the UK, but few bands make me as proud to be American as Southern rockers Kings of Leon. In fact, after Saturday’s amazing gig at the unfortunately named Jiffy Lube Live (formerly Nissan Pavillion), I actually don’t mind my habit of picking up Southern accents when I’m around them for more than five minutes (what can I say? I was born in Virginia!) and I want to put on the cowboy boots I don’t actually own and go line dancing. And while I’ll never be a fan of the kitschy nature of country music, the Followill boys’ Southern-ness is just right, and that’s because the Southern-ness of some of their music is effortless and natural — it just flows through them and out into the crowd.

Since I’d paid an ungodly amount for general admission pit tickets, I wasn’t about to be stuck in the back, even if it meant getting there early and standing against the barrier for a couple extra hours on my broken toe. Luckily for me, the first opener, Montreal-based band The Stills, were well worth the wait! Their sound easily filled the large, open space, especially with their echo-y vocals and rich guitar tone. They opened with the fantastic ‘Being Here,’ a single off of 2008’s ‘Oceans Will Rise,’ and also played ‘Snow in California’. (Listen to both tracks on their myspace page.) Another song was dedicated to Alex Ovechkin (“the greatest athlete who has ever lived”) and their final song, ‘Keep It Going,’ went out to the men of of the night, Kings of Leon.

I wasn’t quite as fortunate when it came to the other opener, Built to Spill, the band from Boise, Idaho who finished up their month-long stint with the Followill boys at this show. Though in their best moments the lead singer’s voice sounded a bit like Michael Stipe’s, it was often unintelligible and sometimes very harsh-sounding. Many of the songs had repetitive melodies or were otherwise incapable of holding the crowd’s attention, and they complained after every few songs about equipment problems and how “apparently they wanna fuck all our stuff up.” What DID hold my attention, though, was the copious amount of sweat pouring through the singer’s beard — gross.

And then it was time for the main event. Our favorite Nashvillians took the stage amidst billowing red smoke and epic classical music and launched straight into their 20-song set with ‘Crawl’ and ‘Be Somebody.’  Next up was ‘My Party,’ with lead singer Caleb’s already amazing voice distorted to new levels of sexiness. For me, between his swagger and his voice, Caleb is the ultimate rock star, so you’ll have to pardon my fangirling. When he confronted the mic, singing “You talkin’ bout my baby, I could flip you upside down and I could mop this place,’ I was almost surprised nobody threw their panties on stage. Another moment of intense fangirling came when they played two of my favorites, ‘Milk’ and ‘Fans’ back to back – incredible. The set was a good mix of the old, the new and crowd favorites, and though the crowd when mental for ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody,’ I’ve gotta say I was disappointed that few people seemed to know ‘Trani.’

One of the definite highlights of the night was all of the new songs they played. Caleb said to NME [19 July 2010]: “If we were to go out there and play a concert and not play new music, it would feel like we had our hands tied. I think we would be bored with the show. We didn’t want to go back out there and give ’em the ‘Only by the Night’ tour, part two. It’s inspiring to be able to go out there and play new songs. Not only are you testing the songs out on the crowd, but we have that, ‘Oh, shit!’ moment when we’re looking at each other. Are they gonna like this? Are they gonna sit down because it’s not ‘Use Somebody’?” I’m happy to say that the four new songs they played, ‘Radioactive,’ ‘Pickup,’ ‘Mary’ and ‘Southbound,’ could more than hold their own against their back catalog. ‘Radioactive’ has a very full, powerful sound, with the hook “it’s in the water where you came from.” ‘Pickup,’ a mid-tempo track which they played live for the first time EVER and dedicated to the crowd, was incredibly sexy and almost sinfully good and Caleb’s voice sounded amazing. The third new song, ‘Mary,’ was a hell of a lot of fun, with its chorus of “a-Ha’s,” not to mention the fantastic guitar in the bridge, and had me grinning like an idiot. And while I can somewhat understand KoL’s description of the new music as being “chilled out” and “beach-y,” ‘Southbound’ is pure Southern rock pefection, with them singing “I’m going back down South now” in harmony with their Southern drawl in full force.

After the gig, drummer Nathan Followill tweeted “Hell yeah bristow. Thanks for the party. We will be back for sure. See yall sooner than you think.” And thats exactly what it was: a party. A party with one HELL of a good DJ!

Kings of Leon photos and setlist after the cut!

Continue reading Live Review: Kings of Leon at Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, VA – Saturday 7th August 2010


Roskilde Festival: Final Impressions

By on Friday, 23rd July 2010 at 2:00 pm

By now if you’ve been following the action at TGTF over the last 2 weeks, you’ve read my recollections of this year’s Roskilde Festival. I’m happy to say that for some minor blisters on my feet from wearing wellies for 4 days, I came away from my first massive musical festival experience pretty much unscathed, and I now have some incredible, incredible memories I know that won’t be topped for years to come.

Should you consider going to Roskilde next year, here are some of my personal observations:

The good:
Friendly and incredibly helpful security. Everyone who works at Roskilde Festival has a smile. And except for the Biffy Clyro set, I never once felt really worried for my safety. Security at the Miike Snow set easily took care of one guy who fainted backward and fell – hard – on the bare ground. Know that you are being well looked after.

Being offered water at the front of the stages, as well as water being available nearly everywhere to keep everyone hydrated.

Most punters were eager to be helpful even if their English wasn’t that great. Considering how nervous I was about the language barrier, most were happy to meet me halfway with my not-so-good Danish. Know the two basic phrases: ‘tak’ – thank you, and ‘undskyld’ – excuse me.

The bad:
Pricey food and drinks. It didn’t make much difference to me as I didn’t eat a lot to begin with because of the heat but yeah, £3 for a Coke is tough for me to get used to. Tip: bring your own food (you couldn’t bring your own drinks into the festival this year). And while you’re packing the essentials, bring lots of wet wipes and plasters.

Waiting a long time to use the toilets. (Granted, what facilities I did use never ran out of toilet paper. I was surprised. I never once had to bring out the rolls I had scuttled away in my backpack.)

Watching girls and guys too impatient to use the toilets (hope I don’t need to spell this out for you). If you have a delicate and/or particularly sharp nose, do what some girls I saw did – bring a handkerchief to cover your olfactory senses.

Moshers with no regard for anyone else (see note above about the Biffy Clyro set) and people who deliberately picked fights in the pits. Let’s all be friends, eh?

The ugly:
Mates ganging up together to push other people out the way to get desired real estate at the front of shows. This is not cool, no matter if it’s at a festival or a regular gig, no matter the country. I don’t care how much you want to be close to LCD Soundsystem, you should respect your fellow gig-goers.

People who thought I was weird for travelling from America for this festival. If I got a pound every time someone said to me ‘you’re weird’ or ‘you’re crazy’ for coming this distance…

Header photo by Jens Dige/Rockphoto


Roskilde Festival: Day 4 Roundup

By on Thursday, 22nd July 2010 at 2:00 pm

Sunday. Day 4 of Roskilde. We’re in the homestretch now. It feels like I’ve been running a marathon for the last 3 days (complete with perspiration) and there is some relief that it will be over. But that is tempered largely by the thought that indeed, the festival will soon be over, which means my return to America. A sad thought.

I decide on a lie-in, a relaxing breakfast (as opposed to the semi-frantic protein bulk-up brekky of the day before), not traipsing over to the festival until mid-afternoon. The first act I see is Korean rhythmic group Dulsori, a swirling dervish of drum and stringed instrument players, both men and women. I feel terrible that they are in their traditional garb; they must be boiling. But the power and effort they use to put on a show seems unaffected by the freakishly hot temperatures. I didn’t think they would go down well with a Danish audience, but their performance concludes with loud cheers at Odeon.

Pavilion is close by to Odeon and quite near to what became my go-to food stall for sheer overall food size. (Slight hilarity that most of the food I ate at Roskilde came from a place called ‘Dixie Burger’ that served Southern-American style hamburgers.) And Pavilion is hosting the highly-touted Californian band Local Natives. Maybe it is because the festival is drawing to a close or I have seen so many great acts already, but I am not impressed by the band from Los Angeles. My ears perk up when I hear the riffs of ‘Flake’, a song by American surfer dude Jack Johnson that came out when I was in uni. I hang out with the tired festival-goers in the shade and watch Johnson from the Orange Stage jumbotrons. He was another act that I thought would get ‘lost in translation’ at Roskilde, but his low-key, ambling guitar pop seems to fit everyone here to a T.

After the cut: this review of day 4 continued with more photos.

Continue reading Roskilde Festival: Day 4 Roundup


Roskilde Festival: Day 3 Roundup

By on Wednesday, 21st July 2010 at 2:00 pm

A helpful hint about music festivals: try as you may to see every single band you’ve ticked off the set schedule weeks before you’ve even set foot on the property, you’re going to miss some, because you’re either 1) hungry, 2) thirsty, 3) drunk or 4) just plain tired. While I admit to succumbing to #2 (it was hot, much hotter than it normally is in Denmark) and #4 (the only explanation for Day 2’s epic oversleep), all things considered I was in pretty good shape for Saturday, especially after getting to bed at a decent hour the night before.

I already knew Saturday at Roskilde was going to be a long day. So this time I checked, double-checked, and triple-checked that the alarm clock on my mobile was properly set before going to bed the night before. After filling up on a massive breakfast of several soft-boiled eggs, too many slices of cold cuts that tasted suspiciously (in a good way) of liverwurst and several cups of strong tea, I headed back to the festival. First up on the agenda was the Rumour Said Fire, a Copenhagen indie rock band officially ‘sanctioned’ by the festival organisers themselves by virtue of being the one band chosen to be official guest bloggers for the festival. Think Fleet Foxes and Mumford and Sons. Pretty good stuff.

They were followed by another local favourite duo, the Asteroids Galaxy Tour and their touring band. The only difference: the Asteroids Galaxy Tour are now world-famous and travel all over the globe. Even you, dear reader, are likely to have heard of them. The festival organisers are quick to point out that this is a band that started out on the emerging artists line-up of Pavilion Junior years ago and now are a global success. Blonde lead singer Mette Lindberg was radiant in hot pink and gold sequins, belting out the duo’s starry-eyed, soulful, psychedelic hits like ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine No More’ and ‘Around the Bend’. Amazing to see them to play to their home audience, Lindberg looking overwhelmed by the marvelous crowd response.

After the cut: this review of day 3 continued with more photos.

Continue reading Roskilde Festival: Day 3 Roundup


Roskilde Festival: Day 2 Roundup

By on Tuesday, 20th July 2010 at 2:00 pm

My Day 2 at Roskilde started and ended inauspiciously. Forgetting to set the alarm on my mobile, I am stirred by the heat of the sun and realise, oh no, it’s already 10.30? That can’t be! Manic rustling around for my tape recorder, camera, batteries and other essentials ensues. On my way out I grab a banana, an apple and a granola bar to choke down on the train ride back to the festival. So much for a civilised breakfast.

Instead of taking the bus, the train is a much better way to the festival, as it deposits you pretty close to the Odeon stage, where I would see in my opinion some of the best performances of the whole festival. Somehow I manage to make it in early enough to catch most of the set by the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. They are an African-American group of real brothers from Chicago that play, yup, you guessed it, lots of fun, loud, brass instruments. But they are so much more than that. They’re consummate entertainers, trying to involve their audience in football-like chants (‘I get the party started, you keep the party jumping!’ and more humourously, teaching phrases to them so they’ll survive in the rough South Side of their hometown. Watching Scandinavians yell back ‘fo sho!’ to the guys on the stage was a hoot. But really, the music was great, and the set was a lot of fun.

Because it’s only day 2 and I still don’t really have a good handle on the lay of the land, I head over to Pavilion in advance of me meeting up with Delphic there for an interview later on. Swedish indie rock band the Bear Quartet are just finishing up as I arrive. They are notorious for not touring at all, so this is a well-attended set featuring, unusually, an English-singing frontman. It’s nice to sit in the shade for a bit and collect my thoughts before I myself am collected to the backstage area for my interview with Delphic’s thoughtful multi-instrumentalist Rick Boardman (pictured in the header pic), which goes very well (read part 1 and part 2 of the interview posted last week). So well that Rick and lead singer / bassist and birthday boy James Cook are happy to sort a photo pass for me for their set later on.

After the cut: this review of day 2 continued with more photos.

Continue reading Roskilde Festival: Day 2 Roundup


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