As the sun sets on another music festival season, the last glimmers of light shine bright in Austin, Texas. They just finished up two weekends of ACL which most people think of as the last gasp of summer, but not. so. fast…In just under a month, the stages will go up again for Fun Fun Fun Fest! Now in its tenth year, FFF avoids the unnecessary heat by waiting until early November. It’s perfect for folks coming from out of town because it’s already hitting temps in the 40’s and 50’s across the country-I know I’ll be ready for some sunshine by the time it comes along.
The Fun (x3) team has done a smashing job programming a diverse lineup featuring some of the best in rock, punk, rap, rhythm & blues, and even comedy. Honestly as a comedy fan their lineup in just that area is enough to pique my interest. They’ve got Eugene Mirman, Tig Notaro, Kurt Braunohler, Todd Barry, Doug Benson, Eric Andre and much more! Those are all on the Yellow Stage, which will also feature performances from artists like GZA from Wu-Tang.
The fest hits a lot of sweet spots for me and, I would imagine, a lot of music fans. Headliners include D’Angelo & The Vanguard, Chvrches, Wu-Tang, Schoolboy Q, Gogol Bordello, etc. They’ve got Jane’s Addiction doing Ritual de lo Habitual in it’s entirety, Cheap Trick, Venom playing their only show in the US, Parquet Courts and Desaparecidos.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even mentioned the FFF Nites program-a series of aftershows that are FREE for wristband holders. Some of these are bands also playing the fest, but a lot are aftershow only. They keep a lot of Austin talent in the mix, but there’s plenty for the anti-Texan to enjoy: Andrew W.K. solo, Giraffage, Har Mar Superstar, and Pity Sex just to name a few.
You can see the full lineup and get tickets on Fun Fun Fun Fest’s website. Or download their fun festival app (it’s better than most). Come say hi if you see us down there! I’ll be the one laughing uncontrollably at Eugene Mirman.
Here’s a playlist I made to get you in the mood for some fun (fun fun).
Folk music has gone through a lot of changes through the years. 2015 is a long way from the origins, but a lot of the same rules still apply now. Storytelling plays a major part even in the nu folk era that we find ourselves in today. We’ve gone through the recent incarnation of the genre, with bands like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers making their name on a kind of Americana as bland as it is inoffensive. There have been talents in the last cycle that were overlooked, and now at least one of them is getting her due.
Odetta Hartman wrote probably my favorite song of 2013, and honestly one of my favorites of the past decade. 222, her new album, steps away from the bombast of “End Of The World” quite a bit, but the quality of work is definitely still there. Partnering with producer Jack Inslee, Hartman has created an album of folk songs that turns equal parts from R&B, jazz, and celtic folk to something refreshing and vibrant. It’s a credit to both producer and performer that they don’t go too subtle or heavy, finding a sweet spot right in the middle.
The sonic palette is pretty consistent throughout, with a pleasant guitar strum present in most of the album. What they throw on top of that guitar, be it strings or field sounds, always seems to work even if it doesn’t make logical sense. The 8 tracks are only a scant 22 minutes all in, but they fit so much music into that short time. “Dreamcatchers” almost sounds like something Beck might’ve left on the Odelay! cutting room floor (cut for time) 20 years ago. It’s got some old-time country roots, but the beat and the vocals are a post-modern feast-the aural version of a barn turned into a spaceship.
My favorite track comes just after the halfway point of 222. “Batonebo” is the albums slow burner, a sexy kiss off that plays like a late night cabaret tune. It’s the only track on the record that features that amazing howl that endeared me so much to “The End Of The World” originally, and they layer some vocals on top of each other at the end that are just crazy. It works kind of like a Broadway musical, but instead of two characters singing over one another it’s just Odetta Hartman’s mind spinning out.
You owe it to yourself to check out Hartman’s work. Start with 222 and then go back and listen to Tally Marks. You can hear the growth in spades, but she stays true to what she loves. She’s got one of the best voices I’ve heard since I started writing about music five years ago, and she plays every instrument on this record (more Beck comparisons). She’s an artist first and foremost, and I look forward to what she’s going to do next. This is only the beginning.
Chicago-based band Wet Ashes have been together since 2010, but this is my first exposure to the band. This is a well-put-together video that deals with some complex issues in a very short time, and fits the song very well. Taken from their just released full-length Acoustronic Tales, “Spot In The Sun” is a good introduction to a band looking to make some space for themselves in the crowded post-punk arena.
Earlier this year Fort Frances put out their latest EP, No One Needs To Know Our Name. It’s managed to stay in my top 20 releases of 2015 through a summer that saw a lot of good music, so definitely check it out if you haven’t. It’s on Spotify and iTunes (not yet on Tidal). The album is markedly different from previous efforts, leaving behind the band’s alt-country roots in favor of more straightforward pop/rock.
The live show has also taken a step, introducing Jason Ryan as a close-to-full-time member. His presence helps in a lot of little ways, but one big thing is that there’s someone who can play keys on all the songs that need them instead of lead singer David McMillin or bassist Jeff Piper having to put down their main instrument to go play piano. It gives them a much fuller live sound, and frees David up to focus his energy on being a frontman instead of worrying about transitioning back and forth.
Last night David was more animated than usual, throwing his hands in the air recklessly. At one point he slammed the mic stand down and seconds later it toppled and broke (rock stars, man. No regard for others property). This may have been the first time I’ve seen him really COMMAND a stage. He was electric and I almost never took my eyes off of him.
They played a bunch of material, covering some of their older stuff but focused mainly on the new EP and the upcoming record. The guy that introduced them to the audience said October, but they say next year so it looks like it’ll be a while before we hear the whole thing. Some of the songs that will be on it have been around for a long time, though. “Building A Wall” is a tune I heard them play last summer at Ribfest. Sounds like it has evolved a little bit, but it’s still the same great song I loved the first time.
The sparks really flew at the end of the show when Fort Frances unleashed their cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” This was completely out of the blue from a band whose other covers include Paul Simon, Daniel Johnston, Dire Straits, and of course, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. The band put together an incendiary performance of the song, that featured more frenzied energy than all the other Fort Frances shows I’ve seen combined.
They have a couple shows coming up, including a not-so-secret acoustic brunch gig at Chicago Athletic Association on Michigan Ave in Chicago this Sunday for Sofar Sounds (you can APPLY for tickets here). Fort Frances is poised to take the next step, so you better catch them now before they’re selling out bigger venues.
It’s been two years, give or take a few days, since Golden Bloom announced their Pledgemusic campaign for their full-length album Searching For Sunlight. I’ve been a fan for a few years, so I made a pledge to the project on September 17, 2013. I had no idea how long it would take, but the band did a good job of keeping pledgers updated with what was going on, even offering up teasers as the songs were completed. That’s how I know that on October 2 they finished “Circles Round My Mind” and let us all hear the tune (almost 2 years before release-now THAT’S some early access!). It was fun to follow along their adventures and epic Jenga-playing, but ultimately I donated the money because I knew they would make a good record that I could eventually hear in its entirety. While Searching For Sunlight doesnt have an official release date, I’ve been enjoying it all summer. It’s still a little early, but I wanted to make sure everyone is ready for the album when it gets here.
No Day Like Today is a really well-produced, good sounding record by Golden Bloom. No offense to all the hard work and sweat they put into that one, but Searching For Sunlight blows it away in pretty much every technical aspect. The engineering and mixing of the album are perfect. You can piece out every sonic element in every song while none of those parts take anything away from the whole, which I think is pretty much what you go for when you’re mixing an album. Shawn’s vocals are pushed out front so you can hear the lyrics crisply, the guitars sound great, even more so the drums really come through, and that’s a tough thing because in a lot of pop music the drums sound more like a machine than a person playing them.
If you’ve listened to Golden Bloom before, you kind of know what you’re gonna get. At least in loose terms you understand it’s going to be well-written tunes with great melodies and a feeling of optimism that never wanes. They remind me a lot of Fountains Of Wayne, which is a great pop band that’s been around forever. Both bands understand that you can do a lot with your four basic instruments, and if the songs are good you don’t really need anything else.
My favorite song on the album is “Book You Never Read.” It might also be the most simple song of the 8 included here. It’s a soft, almost folk song featuring some maracas and banjo in a major way. It almost sounds like something off The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner by Ben Folds Five. Shawn Fogel does a great job of writing and singing from the heart, and the lyrics on this one are fantastic: “Is this a version of yourself you recognize? Are you standing up for yourself, for your family, for your health? Or laying down and giving up? Are we out of time or out of luck?”
Searching For Sunlight follows a nice flow, starting out high and getting more melancholy as the tracks go by. And then towards the end of the album it picks back up again. The title-track and “Come Back Home” are more upbeat than most of the songs, especially the latter with the heavy guitar and synth sound. And then the final track is like a culmination of everything that came before it.
They got Adam Duritz from Counting Crows to sing backing vocals on “Want Love,” and it adds a little something but it would have been fine without him. It’s a really sweet song, and I think if they ever do a re-issue of this record I’d like to hear an acoustic version with just Shawn.
I don’t know if this is the record that will turn Golden Bloom into a household name, but I know they deserve as much. They’ve been putting out great music for a long time. I hope everyone takes some time out to give it a listen when it comes out.
There’s a pretty great crop of nominees at this year’s Emmys, so I guess whoever it is that does the nominating did a good job. There’s also a lot of garbage that got nominated due to its popularity, for that I say SHAME! Whoever it is that makes Emmy nominations should feel embarrassed for themselves and the television community as a whole.
The Lead Actor and Actress in a comedy should be pretty easy. Everyone loves Julia Louis-Dreyfus so that’s a win for Veep. Transparent is the best show from last year overall, anchored by a funny and poignant performer by Jeffrey Tambor. If he loses to Matt LeBlanc I may never watch tv again (don’t worry I will watch tv again).
Drama is a little tougher because everyone here is really good. I think Hamm will win for Mad Men because he’s deserving and the show is over now. However, awards shows love the new blood so don’t be shocked if Bob Odenkirk wins for Better Call Saul. On the actress side I’d love to see Elisabeth Moss win, but it’ll probably be Taraji P. Henson’s award. I haven’t made it through a whole episode of Empire because it’s so mind numbingly bad, but I’ve always liked her.
In the supporting categories they’ve got some real battles going on. I like Gaby Hoffman and Tony Hale for comedy with Jonathan Banks and Uzo Aduba in dramas. I’m pulling for an Andre Braugher win, but his comedy is so dry on Brooklyn Nine-Nine it might not play to all voters.
I like all the shows in the Best Comedy Series category, but as I said Transparent was the best show overall last year so I can’t imagine it not winning this one. That’ll finally bring Modern Family’s streak to an end. Veep was good, but not as good as it’s been in the past and I don’t see voters rallying around Louie again.
Best Drama is a coin toss-I think Mad Men deserves to win, but that ending wasn’t great. Better Call Saul and House Of Cards could snag this one, but don’t count Game Of Thrones out just yet (unless you’re me, in which case Game Of Thrones is always counted out).