Archive for December, 2015

“When the Going Gets Weird, the Weird Turn Pro.”

December 31, 2015
Weird

Just a Friendly Reminder to Keep It Weird in 2k16!

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” stated the late, great writer Hunter S. Thompson. Going into 2016, it’s important to remember to keep it weird. You can’t fake the weirdness. A friend of mine always describes his left-of-center worldview, “I’m so weird, I can’t even help it.”

Authentic weirdness is a natural extension of yourself. It can’t be bought in a store or co-opted from a website. It comes from a real place, deep inside yourself. Keeping it weird can lead to more creativity, helps you tap into something real and move beyond the bland zone. Do not be the mayonnaise of people. Light it up, at least be the sriracha mayo! Listen to my audio piece on keeping it weird in 2k16 here. Beast it hardcore in 2k16, folks!

The Wilco Double Up.

December 30, 2015
WilcoChicago

Wilco at Pitchfork Music Festival 2015 (July 17, 2015)

Wilco proved (yet again) this year why they are one of the best live bands ever. I was able to catch two Wilco shows in one week this year. It was my attempt at the Wilco Double Up. I was was also finally able to catch the famed Chicago band in a hometown show, which was nice to cross off of my concert goals list.

One of the criticisms I’ve heard thrown at Wilco over the years is that some people label it as “dad rock.” You wish your dad was Nels Cline. When he uncorks solos like this on “Impossible Germany,” it will melt your face off of your face.

Like many great live bands, I respect that Wilco never play the same set/show twice. They will play some tracks you love, some songs you would never expect and some curve balls. The quality of Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting is best showcased at a Wilco gig, because you get so many songs from different eras of the band. Sometimes, they remind you how great some deeper cuts can be. They got really expansive on “One Wing” and covered the Uncle Tupelo song “New Madrid” at the Kansas City show. The Crossroads KC show also served as a great use of dynamics. The majority of the show was rocked out, fully electric. However, the encore was acoustic. This was a nice change in pace and made for a very well-rounded show.

WilcoKC2

Wilco at Crossroads KC (July 15, 2015)

After over 20 years, it would be easy for a band to rest on their laurels and phone it in. This is not the case with Wilco. Between the KC gig on Wednesday and the Pitchfork Music Festival set in Chicago on Friday, Wilco dropped their first album in four years Star Wars.

At the Pitchfork set, Wilco played the entire new album, released the day before, live for the first time. Playing a whole new album live is risky, but Wilco is constantly pushing forward and being innovative. The new songs have a looser, carefree quality. The sprawl of some of the new songs reminded me of Sonic Youth. The crowd seemed confused at first, but warmed up at the songs wafted through the Chicago breeze. They followed up Star Wars with a bunch of classics. Watching people freak out to “Handshake Drugs” in the summer sun can be a glorious thing.

Wilco had a big 2015. They showed why they are still one of the best live bands touring today by never settling, consistently busting out setlists that clear 25 songs, and always being willing to surprise. The shows are always solid and the sense of something unexpected happening can create so much joy. Even after over 20 years, it will be fun to see what the future holds for Wilco.

 

 

Breakout Artist of 2015: Boyfriend.

December 29, 2015
Boyfriend

Boyfriend (Image via Huffingtonpost.com)

I had the great honor of DJing a set, opening up for legendary New Orleans-based bounce rapper Big Freedia this year. Freedia threw down hard in Kansas City and showcased why she is the undisputed Queen Diva of New Orleans Bounce. Another NOLA-based artist on the bill delivered one of the most intense performances I saw all year: Boyfriend.

I met Boyfriend before the show. She gave me a rundown on the current NOLA scene. She is so nice, laid back, chill and real. Her passion for NOLA comes from a real place. Offstage, she had a hip look. Boyfriend looked like a trippy barista or a foxy librarian. “She is so sweet, ” I thought to myself.

Then she got on the mic. Over gritty, trash can beats, she spit some of the nastiest rhymes I’ve ever heard anyone unleash. She describes her style as “cabaret rap.” Boyfriend got the crowd of over 300 people fired up. “Men cheating on me, men cheating on me, HELL NO!” she viciously exclaimed as she prowled the stage. Her live show was a complete 180 from her chill offstage vibe. At one point, her curls were bobbing all over the stage as she stripped down to her bra and was twerking on a chaise lounge. Her live show made me blush. Good thing I went on first.

Boyfriend made Peaches seem like your grandmother. She made 2 Live Crew look like Mother Teresa. In a time of half-baked ideas, Boyfriend is fully formed. She is as nasty as she wants to be and he world is better for it.

Hip Fashion Report: Scarves.

December 28, 2015

Lenny

I recently did an audio piece about a hip fashion trend: Scarves. Listen to the piece here.

 

The Sweatiest Show I Saw in 2015: Ex Hex at the Empty Bottle.

December 27, 2015
ExHex

Ex Hex at the Empty Bottle

Deep in the Chicago night, Ex Hex put on the sweatiest show I caught in 2015. The Washington D.C.-based band’s debut album, Rips, was one of my favorite releases of the past few years. Live, the songs had even more raw grit and punch.

The Empty Bottle, tucked in the Ukrainian Village section of Chicago, was packed all night. The gig was an after show for the Pitchfork Music Festival 2015. It is a really intimate venue and a perfect fit for Ex Hex’s hard-edged indie jams.

The band hit the stage at midnight. The interplay between guitarist Mary Timony, bassist Betsy Wright, and drummer Laura Harris, lit up the sold out crowd. It was a brash, gutsy performance and they brought the energy throughout their hour set. They dug deep into their songs and smashed the crowd. It was a sticky set and one of the best I saw all year. Hot, sweaty, glorious indie rock mayhem.

Here’s fan-shot footage of some of Ex Hex’s Empty Bottle set:

What Do I Look for in a Quality Live Show?

December 20, 2015

Concerts

I have attended and covered over 400 concerts over the years. t got me thinking: What do I look for in a quality live show? You can listen to the audio piece here.

Goal Setting.

December 18, 2015

I created a short audio piece on trying to achieve goals. Any time you feel stuck, ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do today to help myself achieve my goal?” Listen to the piece here.

“Staying Fit” and “Getting Buff” in Today’s Modern Society.

December 17, 2015

MachoMan

I created a short audio piece about “staying fit” and “getting buff” in today’s modern society. You can check out the piece here. Keep beasting it hardcore!

Naming a Pet.

December 17, 2015

I did a short audio piece on the challenges of naming a pet in today’s hip society. Listen to the piece here.

Beast It Hardcore.

December 16, 2015

I created a quick audio piece on a mindset I call “being the beast.” Beasting it hardcore is more than a phrase, it is a way of being. Listen to the piece here.