Friday, June 22, 2012

Brite Futures Final Show

It's a sad but true statement that everything good eventually comes to an end. Last weekend I took the long drive (and by long I mean LONG) drive from Portland to Seattle to see Brite Futures (previously known as Natalie Portman's Shaved Head) play their last show, ever. The Seattle band, who consisted of high school friends, decided to call it quits after 7 years of being together.

I was originally introduced to Brite Futures by a good friend and was immediately drawn into their fun, hip, nonsensical electro music. It was a pretty bittersweet moment going to their last show- Brite Futures have been a huge part of my high school career. I had numerous dance parties in friends basements jamming out to their songs (usually "Beard Lust"). My old band also did a killer cover of "Sophisticated Side Ponytail", which sadly there is no recorded evidence of. I even found some Brite Futures lyrics on the counter in my school's photography room (pictured above)- I have yet to discover who wrote it, but when I do we will be BFFs.

Claire England of Brite Futures
I saw Brite Futures for the first time last year at Willamette University and while the drunk college guys weren't fun, their music and stage performance was (it was  the day before Easter and they had a crowd surfing Easter Bunny).

Shaun Libman of Brite Futures
After a couple agonizing years in-between albums, Brite Futures released "Dark Past" in 2011. While I was happy to finally have a new Brite Futures album to listen to, for the most part I was unimpressed. The band's earlier music was funny, stupid, and slightly embarrassing to admit you like (just see "Me + Yr Daughter"), though Dark Past, for the most part, felt like it was trying to be a little more serious (and by a little I mean a little, the album includes a song called "Kissed Her Sister", about kissing your girlfriend's sister by mistake). Still, the album does have a couple   highlights, including "Too Young To Kill", which was accompanied by a great music video where the band recreated popular movie gifs.
Luke Smith of Brite Futures

A group of friends and I, who could be described as the Portland Brite Futures super-fan base, drove up to Seattle to see their final show at the Vera Project, an awesome all-ages venue in Seattle that also gives classes and houses an art gallery. We got to the venue about an hour early and met some of the other super-fans, who were all impressed by the long journey we had taken to come to the show.

The setlist from the show- signed by a few band members.
After getting into the venue we were informed that the opening band, who I think were called Topless Gay Techno Dance Party (who, judging by the name, I bet are awesome) sadly got stuck at the U.S. border and couldn't get through. Instead guitarist and sometimes vocalist of Brite Futures, Luke Smith, came onstage and did an impromptu Dj set (which featured Smith trying to work a turntable and looking nervously at the crowd), but he kept the crowd dancing by playing Top 40 favorites like the annoyingly catchy "Call Me Maybe" and "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)".

Brite Futures eventually came on to immense applause from the crowd. It was obviously the band was putting all their efforts into this show, seeing it was their last ever and they definitely didn't disappoint. Even though it was hotter than the burning pits of hell in the venue I and everyone else was dancing like it was the last time we would ever to Brite Futures, which it was. The best part was when the band "went back in time" and pretended they were still Natalie Portman's Shaved Hands and played songs from their earlier albums.

At the end of the show the band and audience moved outside and we hung out with them in the cool breeze of an early Seattle morning. They were all good sports signing countless items, ranging from wife beaters to sunglasses to jackets. We attempted to not be totally fangirls and boys, and we, for the most part, kept our cool when asking to have our Brite Futures sunglasses signed and a picture taken with the band members.

My friends and I with Luke Smith (center) of Brite Futures.
After the show we piled back in the car and drove back to Portland. When I arrived home at 4:30 in the morning the birds were already singing and I found it impossible to fall asleep. I couldn't stop thinking that this would be the last time I saw Brite Futures, ever. This was a band who I had listened to constantly, whose lyrics I could belt out in my sleep, and now they no longer were together. It was one of the first bands who had broken up during my life time (I still believe that I will one day see the Smiths, but for now I just bought tickets for Morrissey inNovember). It's definitely a weird feeling, when I was talking to the band after the show they all shared the same sentiments- like they still hadn't grasped that it was their last show. To get through all of this though I have just kept repeating to myself that they will all continue to make music and they parted as friends, not enemies. Oh and watching videos from the show in an attempt to relive it helps too.

All Brite Futures show pictures taken by Aidan, who weaseled her way up to the front of the stage. Check out her awesome blog here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Color Me Obsessed

I recently saw the new Replacements documentary, "Color Me Obsessed" at the classic Hollywood Theater in Portland. I took part in a short Replacements cover set before the show (not much is cuter than seeing an 8 year old bust out "I'm Satisfied"). The film, by Gorman Bechard, gives, according to the title, "the potentially true story of the last best band". Probably the most unique thing about "Color My Obsessed" is that it features no interviews nor performance footage of any member of the Replacements. Instead over 140 different people, ranging from musicians (Colin Meloy and Babes in Toyland), to journalists (Jack Rabid and Jim DeRogatis) to actors (George Wendt) to just regular fans.  The documentary moved chronologically through the Replacements evolution as a band.
While it is definitely a unique way to present the story of the Replacements, I feel like for a band so well known for their live performances it really isn't enough just to hear people talk about their shows. Even just one or two videos of concert footage would have added a lot to the documentary. That being said I did really enjoy  "Color Me Obsessed" and was really happy I got to experience with my parents, who are two huge Replacements fans. At the end of the film when some producer was talking about the Replacement's last show in Chicago my dad whispered to me "we where there". Yup my parents are so much cooler than yours.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sasquatch Day 3

I started my third day of the festival exhausted, but ready to go to 12 hours worth of shows and interviews. I started out by going to go see Greylag, a local Portland folk/indie band who I got an interview with. The show, which started at 12 p.m., only had a couple dozen people there, but by the end of their set it grew to a few hundred. They played songs mostly off their new EP, “The Only Way to Kill You.”
“”The Only Way to Kill You” comes at a time when the band is really just starting. 
"I feel that it really captures a band in their beginning stages when everything is fresh,” said lead singer Andrew Stonestreet in an interview. The band is still in the process of solidifying itself, something evident in the EP. 
The EP, according to Stonestreet, is highly influenced by his move to the West Coast, specifically to Portland. He was having a hard time on the West Coast and was able to revamp his creativity after moving. Playing music and putting on this EP was a therapeutic experience for him.
“I was anxious and stressed when I wrote it, something just needed to happen,” said Stonewall, adding, "songs like 'Black Crow' and 'Tiger' were there, they just needed to be written."
The band recently finished a national tour and plans to go on tour again. When questioned about the difficulties of being in a band bassist Liam Neighbors laughed and said, "We all hate each other." Stonestreet clarified that the band strives to find the perfect combination of friendship, creativity, and business. Look out for Greylag around Portland eating at their favorite restaurants, Potato Champion and the Broder, or playing shows at venues such as Mississippi Studio.
With no other show I really wanted to see, I went to go see country band Trampled By Turtles at the main stage so I could get a good spot for Blind Pilot, who were playing next. While Trampled By Turtles music really isn't my thing, I do have to give credit to the band as all being very talented musicians. The band was able to get the whole audience in to a genre of music they probably don't listen to all that much. Almost everyone was dancing and an impromptu square dance was started.
After Trampled By Turtles I saw local Portland band Blind Pilot. The indie rock band released their new album, “We are the Tide”, last year. I have seen Blind Pilot many times around Portland, usually playing with the Portland Cello Project. I was surprised that their fame expanded outside of Portland. seeing that they played the main stage at Sasquatch. The band as a whole seemed pretty taken aback as well by the huge audience gathered at their show, but their sound was solid and they were obviously enjoying themselves. My one complaint would be the indie rock band gets occasionally a little preachy, though this is only an occasional problem.

The next band I saw was the War on Drugs. After taking some epic pictures of lead singer Adam Granduciel’s hair blowing in the wind. The band’s music flows like many other similar bands in the indie rock genre, though Granduciel’s vocals and lyrics take inspiration from more classic rock giants, like Bruce Springsteen.  The band combines electronica with the grit of classic rock to create a unique sound that transfers great to live concerts.
Following War on Drugs, I saw one of my favorite bands, Deer Tick. On last year’s “Divine Providence” Deer Tick strayed from their earlier more country folk sound to a more rock sound, inspired heavily by the Replacements. Lead singer John McCauley came on stage, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer, and declared “let’s get this done so I can come party with you all.” The band played mostly songs off of “Divine Providence” but played a few older songs, including crowd favorites “Ashamed” and “Baltimore Blues No. 1.” Despite McCauley’s character of being slightly drunk and disheveled, the band was incredibly tight. They were all dressed in mostly colorful suits, fulfilling their role as East Coast boys (they’re from Providence) who had turned bad. The highlight of the show was when they played tribute to the late Beastie Boys’ member Adam Yauch by doing a truly epic cover of “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)”.
After Deer Tick was the Portland band Wild Flag, who feature Sleater-Kinney singer and guitarist as well as Portlandia cast member Carrie Brownstein. The so-called super group, because it features ex-members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium, and the Minders, emulates the idea of hard versus soft, with songs featuring heavy rock drums and guitars, but more pop inspired vocals. Each member of the band, while famous in her own right, do not try to take the spotlight away from the other members. The band works incredibly well together as a whole and allows each member to stand out at different times. The band was not affected by the weather conditions, which Brownstein described as “a wind tunnel going straight through the stage” and instead played a great set. One of the best points was when, for a finale, they did a cover of Patti Smith’s “Ask the Angels". 
One of the most surprising acts for me of the festival was Beirut. The band, fronted by virtuoso Zach Condon, takes influences from jazz as well as some world music genres. I have always liked Beirut, but I have never been all that crazy about them. Seeing them live, though, gave me much more appreciation for the band. In the hot afternoon sun the band was just as much into the music as the audience. I have also never seen a more hard-working lead singer. When he wasn’t singing, Condon was playing trumpet or ukulele.
Following Beirut, I ran over to one of the smaller stages just in time to catch Swedish electronic band Little Dragon. Having been together for over 10 years, Little Dragon has been able to create their own sound that shines out in the electronic music world. Most of the songs they played were off last year’s “Ritual Union.” Lead singer Yukimi Nagano pranced around the stage, though kept her communication with the audience to a minimum. At a festival like Sasquatch where bands are given sets usually no longer than an hour to perform, Little Dragon used that time very effectively to play a dynamic set.
For my final show at Sasquatch I hoped I would be going out with a bang by seeing Bon Iver. I, with the rest of the people at Sasquatch, was beyond ecstatic to see Bon Iver, the indie king who gained national attention after recording a heart-wrenching breakout album in a cabin. The stage was beautiful, with vintage lights placed in rows all around the musicians and worn clothes flowing from the rafters. Bon Iver played songs mostly off last year’s self-titled album. While the band was tight and the music easy to lose yourself in, something was missing. It was the same problem that I had with the Shins -- it’s hard to fully appreciate such vulnerable bands in huge stadiums with thousands of people.

Overall I enjoyed my time at Sasquatch Music Festival and would definitely go again if given the opportunity. There is no setting more beautiful than the Gorge for such a festival to occur. My one complaint would be the stress that comes with going to music festivals – constant  multiple shows going on -- making it very difficult to decide which shows to go to and which to skip. The short sets also make it difficult to really get into the music.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Sasquatch: Day 2

I woke up bright and early to the sound of a drum circle going on a couple cars down (lovely). I planned to go see Reptar at 12, but computer problems (that almost led to tears) prevented me from getting to the show on time, though I was still able to check out Electric Guest.

I first heard Electric Guest a couple weeks ago while I was putting a mix together. I was ecstatic when I found out they were going to be at Sasquatch. They started out by sharing their gratitude to be back in the United States after playing shows in Germany. Lead singer Asa Taccone was grooving to the music just as much as the audience was. It was easy to be into their music, which took influences from bands like the Doors and soul music. Definetely a fun show, though I grew tired of Taccone’s falsetto after about the third song. The band will be much improved when Taccone can no longer sing that high.

I took a break from going to music shows and caught Portlandia next. I didn’t really have any idea what the show would be like, but with nothing much better to do I went. Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, the pair who make up most of Portlandia’s characters, talked about themselves and then taught the audience about Portland via digrams and audience parctipitation. I was worried that the show would be just an attempt to recreate the television show and would be pretty scripted, and while to an extent this was true, Brownstein and Armisen seemed to be enjoying themselves and even improvised at points. The best part was when they had members of the audience participate in “Have you read it?”, a game that was featured in a skit from the TV show where friends try to out do each other based off what they have read recently. Armisen and Brownstein had to change the game for their live shows so people would do it with what they’ve seen, tv shows or movies, because “the only thing people read anymore is Twitter”.

Next, I ran over to go see one of my favorite bands, the Dum Dum Girls. The girls, who dressed in all black, seemed unfazed by the rambunctious audience. After a messy start (they obviously didn't have a soundcheck) the band got their "sound in check" and played a strong set in the hot midday sun. The band shows the "bad side" of girl-groups. With bangs, black dresses, and patterned black tights they are the cool older sisters you always wish you had. Before playing the popular "Jail La La" from their 2010 debut album, I Will Be, singer Dee Dee said cooly "this is a song about where you go if you're bad". There is an obvious shift between I Will Be and last year's Only in Dreams. The maturity in Only in Dreams isn't found in the lighthearted I Will Be. As a band, the Dum Dum Girls, among other things, have become experienced, something that is evident in their live tight live performances.

After the Dum Dum Girls, I went over to see Metric at the main stage. Metric played a variety of songs, most off of their new album Synthetica, which will come out in June. Synthetica is an accurate description of the many new songs they played. Many feature synths much more prominently than in their past work. For a band that's been around for more than ten years, this new change might be an example of the recent popularity of electronic music. This slight change doesn't take away from the band's original sound. Lead singer Emily Haines' still sings often in a high almost doll-like voice. She dances around the stage and with her blonde hair shaking, something that is reminiscent of Blonde's Debbie Harry.

I stayed at the main stage to get a good place for the Shins. After making friends with the people around me I enlisted the help of a fellow concert goer to take pictures for me (thanks tall guy!). The second they got on stage, the mellow unabashed persona of the band was apparent. They started with "Kissing the Lipless" and played a mix of older songs as well as songs off their new album, "Port of Marrow". Throughout the concert the audience sang along to almost every song, something Mercer found surprising. After performing "Bait and Switch", he appointed the audience official members of the Shins due to our singing. While the band was playing to their fullest, it's hard to believe that you can describe a band that only has one of it's original members as the same band. A huge stadium also isn't the ideal place for the Shins to play. Their delicate sound fits in much better at smaller venues, when you can share an intimate performance with the group.

I left the Shins early to go see St. Vincent. This was the third time I've seen the group and each time has been better. The first show I saw of them, lead singer and guitarist Annie Clark was nervous and the music felt understated. Now, after releasing her third album and gaining much success, she has turned into a bona fide rock star. Her passion, skills, and creativity are next to none. She moves across the stage like a mad woman who is in her own world. She puts all of her energy into her music and it shows. She sang "Cheerleader" with more raw power than I had ever seen her do. She ended the set with her new song, "Krokodil", and sang almost the whole song while crowd surfing and squirming around, like she was fighting the sea of people who worship her.

The final show of the night was Jack White. With a new solo album out he has truly become a musician  not defined by any group act. He played new songs as well as old favorites that covered the wide range of acts he has been a part of, such as the White Stripes' "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" and the Raconteurs, "Steady As She Goes". Jack White is an icon and can certainly put on a stylized show. He wore a striped suit that matched the similarly dressed other members of the group. One fellow reporter commented that they could have been in "Edward Scissorhands".