I have been interested in fantasy books since my mom read C.S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander to my sister and me. Fortunately for me, there was a significant backlog of genre-forming books I had to catch up on. While this is the case in all genres, fantasy books are written in the form of quests or, often, a series of quests. This made it difficult for me to explore multiple authors because I didn’t just need to see a set of characters complete one individual quest, but all their other adventures as well.
In many ways this was fun; I was chasing authors, hoping to catch up to them before they retired or were finished with the characters. I was successful in this endeavor, however it required me to read nearly 100 books to cover the work of four authors. This has led me to a major crisis of fear of missing out or, FOMO. I spent so much time on an individual author I feared I missed out on other good books. Time is limited, after all, so I felt the need to sample as many authors as possible. I challenged myself to reduce my focus on a single author and add some new letters to my bookshelf. Enter the devil himself.
I first heard of Brandon Sanderson while talking to fellow fantasy enthusiasts about my current diet of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. They asked if I had read Sanderson’s Mistborn series and when I replied in the negative they said to put down the Wheel of Time and jump right in. I did not follow their advice because I, of course, had to finish the series I had already started. If you’ve read the WoT series, you know Robert Jordan died before it was finished, and passed the series on to Brandon Sanderson. It is no easy task to be charged with finishing a linear story already spanning eleven books. I read the entire 14 book series in 10-12 weeks and Sanderson did it seamlessly. If anything, the characters gained more depth and what’s more, Sanderson can write laugh out loud funny.
After reading Sanderson’s work with Jordan, I was excited to jump into the Mistborn Trilogy. It was not what I expected. After reading his work on the WoT I expected humor and wit but entered a bleak world where people ingested metals to gain certain abilities. In this series I realized it wasn’t his humor that made his writing so enjoyable, it was his character development. There is not a single character throughout the series who is one-dimensional. None. They could have one line and he would still give you enough information to understand their motivations and how they fit in with the plot. I have read a 24-book series where a leading character doesn’t have as much development. I have never read a book that so succinctly generates a more robust cast than Sanderson’s.
It was about this time my FOMO started kicking in. If I had missed out on Jordan and Sanderson, who else could I be missing? Because of this I did not pursue his considerable catalogue of work at his current 42 years of age. I broke back in later however with his novel, Warbreaker. The tragedy of Warbreaker for me was not until possibly weeks after finishing it did I realized its exceptionality. It has the comedic flare, character development, and layered plot I loved in WoT and Mistborn. It also brought me to another realization: his world-building is the best in the industry.
You can argue that Tolkien has a more well-founded world, but the pure imagination of Sanderson is incredible. In Warbreaker particularly he creates a world in which breaths can be passed to give abilities and people can return from the dead and be gods. He creates cultures between which the tension is palpable. Most importantly, you understand it without having to read the Silmarillion.
I left Sanderson after Warbreaker because I couldn’t risk getting sucked back into his writing. After over a year I finally broke. I read his award-winning introductory novel, Elantris. Again, spectacular world-building in a story of a fallen city of gods. I couldn’t put it down. When I said I broke, I didn’t just crack, I crumbled. I then read his novel The Alloy of Law, which is set in the world of the Mistborn. Any lack of laughs in the original Mistborn Trilogy were wholly made up for here. And now, goddammit, I’ll have to read the rest of the series.
Brandon Sanderson writes too well for me to miss and thus, he will always remain at the top of my booklist no matter how many unread books lie beneath. His prowess makes me at once excited for the magic he will produce and fearful of the authors whom I might miss. So, for putting me into this predicament, I hate you Brandon Sanderson.
Insisting a certain group of people receive awards just so that group of people gets awards is one of the stupidest ideas Americans have right now. I touched on this in a piece I wrote in 2016 when the “Oscars So White” hashtag was gaining steam, but I now think the topic deserves more attention.
Before I go on I’d like to share some stats you may not know. Black people make up 12% of the population. So you might expect them to make up 12% of actors and 12% of Oscar winners. This means you would expect a black person to win one of the four Oscars for acting every 8.3 people. So presumably, two Oscar shows could go by without a single black person winning an acting award and it wouldn’t be anything to worry about. Since two black people won last year, statistically, you wouldn’t expect another black person to win until four or five Oscars from now given the population of America, all other things equal.
I enjoy seeing minorities and women succeed but the obsession with representation for representation’s sake depresses me. The demand for affirmative action in Hollywood or “inclusion riders” as Frances McDormand called for delegitimizes any actual success had by minorities or women. Now I’m going to wonder if I got the award because I’m good at what I do or because I’m a black female. Whatever happened to judging things by their merit alone? The number of blacks or gays or women in a film should have little to do with the grading of said film. Alas, criticism is now linked directly to diversity quotas, not actual talent.
Representation for Representation’s Sake I feel like a broken record but Martin Luther King said it best, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” And that’s really all we can ask for, but instead, what is being asked is that a certain quota of demographics be met when casting a movie, writing a paper or producing any sort of art.
Earlier this month, Huffington Post editor Chloe Angyal bragged about meeting gender and racial quotas in the opinion page. My question is, so what? Are the opinion columns any good? Are they informative? Do they express a wide variety of opinions so readers can better understand the world around them? Of course she doesn’t mention quality, all that matters is the skin color and gender of those writing. Pretty racist I’d say.
Lately there has been a steady stream of movies directed by and starring black people that have received the highest honors and praises. I’m talking Moonlight, Get Out and Black Panther. While art is subjective I have seen all these movies and none of them have struck me as extraordinary. Before you freak out, let me tell you why.
Moonlight This movie has an exclusively black cast and was written and directed by a black man. In 2017 Moonlight won Best Adapted Screenplay, Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor and it won Best Picture over La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival.
Moonlight is beautifully shot, and the acting is good. But the story itself, the meat of the movie, is empty. It’s 110 minutes when it could’ve been 30. If I were writing the description for the back of this movie it would say, “Kid in the inner city grows up with no father and a drug addicted mother to become a drug dealer himself. He’s also gay.” Read that description and you don’t need to watch the movie. We all know this story. The lead role being gay adds a wrinkle but it really doesn’t change the story much. You could replace the word gay with awkward, dorky or any other trait kids like to pick on and get the same movie. I am not trying to make little of what it’s like to be a gay black kid but I know of kids who took similar bullying for seemingly no reason at all. Bullies gonna bully, that’s just the way it is. There is no plot twist, the main character doesn’t overcome anything, you don’t finish the movie with a changed perspective on anything.
Moonlight is a nice movie aesthetically but is it spectacular? Absolutely not.
Get Out I really like this movie. I was on the edge of my seat, I squirmed a bit, I yelled “Noooo!” It made me feel the things horror movies are supposed to make you feel. But it wasn’t unique. Jordan Peele is a smart guy but Get Out is just Stepford Wives but with black people instead of women. It’s not an exact copy but it’s very similar. And I’m fine with that, it’s ok to take good ideas and tweak them into even better ideas but let’s not pretend Jordan Peele rocked the world with this crazy new idea. I need not write about all the similarities between Get Out and Stepford Wives because other people have done it for me.
Get Out is a good movie, but it’s not a unique new idea.
Black Panther Like the two movies above, this one is well done aesthetically and the acting is good but it’s not a unique story. My brother wrote about this in a comparison of Black Panther to Thor: Ragnarok. Furthermore, Black Panther is the battle between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X with T’Challa as MLK and Killmonger as Malcolm. This is the same battle of ideas the entire X-Men series is built around with Professor X as MLK and Magneto as Malcolm. There is no depth to the Black Panther plot, (spoiler alert) you know he will come back when he falls off the cliff, you know he will beat Killmonger in their final battle. Towards the end of the movie when T’Challa’s general was losing I whispered to my boyfriend, “here comes the Ape King with his people” and sure enough, they showed up and saved the day. Again, it’s a story that’s been told a million times and just because it’s with an all black cast this time it’s not better.
I was particularly blown away by people claiming Black Panther changed their life or made them proud to be black for once, or after watching it, now they know what they can achieve. This type of thinking is silly for so many reasons.
First of all, if you need to watch a pretend movie to feel proud of who you are I would suggest you have some psychological issues you should probably address. What someone else does, even if they look exactly like you has nothing to do with how you should feel about yourself. If you do need a little outside inspiration, I can point you in the direction of hundreds of papers and books about black people who have been doing awesome shit as far back as time has been recorded. And I mean real stuff. Not pretending to be a superhero.
But let us think critically about what black people are so proud of when it comes to Black Panther, Wakanda (the made up country in the movie) specifically. The people of Wakanda have great power by chance alone. A meteorite happened to hit their country and bring a magical metal that can literally do anything including power stuff, make armor and bring people back to life. Black people in the movie didn’t invent it, they didn’t earn it, they didn’t even win a war to get it. Pure chance. Is that something to really be proud of? Of course they live in a fantastic utopia. Any group of people would be if they had that magical element. And honestly, for having magic powers they really aren’t that far ahead of the rest of the world technology wise.
Furthermore, Wakanda is isolationist, they have strong borders, they don’t trade with anyone, (which would never create more prosperity in the real world, just ask Japan) they place high value on tradition, they have a huge, well trained army and they’re extremely spiritual…Does any of this sound familiar? According to how black people have voted in America for the past 50 years, they aren’t too keen on that philosophy, yet when it’s Wakanda it’s wonderful? I’m a little confused. No one’s bothered that Wakanda isn’t a democracy? The people don’t elect their leader and the only way the leader changes is if you can beat him in a fight? That seems pretty unfair.
I actually don’t care about any of that stuff though. You know why? It’s a SUPERHERO MOVIE. I don’t attend to have my mind blown, I attend to watch stuff get blown up. I don’t want the heroes to die. I want a fun movie that has some cool effects, maybe some funny lines and I don’t mind if a couple people fall in love in the process. I wouldn’t politicize this movie except that everyone else chose to so I feel the need to respond.
None of these movies are bad but at the same time none of them are particularly unique. One thing they all touch on, the issue amongst the black community that I have been screaming about for a long time. Fathers. The importance of them, especially for men.
In Moonlight the kid yearns for a father figure so bad he finds a nice drug dealer to fill the void. Because this kid has no father he doesn’t know how to fight or stand up for himself. Even at the end of the movie he still doesn’t know who he is.
In Get Out the main character doesn’t have a father and the loss of his mother scars him forever. Additionally, his girlfriend and her brother are messed up because of the sickening way the were raised in a home lead by the father.
We all know Killmonger would have turned out very different had his father been a different man. Killmonger didn’t have the example of what manhood looks like and losing his father at a young age rocked his world. On the flip side we see the result of a father instilling values and principles in a boy starting at a young age with T’Challa. Notice that T’Challa doesn’t turn to his mother for advice on how to be a man.
Claiming America is racist when it comes to black actors is just pure nonsense. America loves watching black people on the big screen. You know what actor has made the most money at the box office? Samuel L. Jackson at $5.149 Billion. Morgan Freeman is 4th on the list, Eddie Murphy is 7th, and Will Smith is 19th. 20% of the top 20 highest all time box office earners are black guys. An overrepresentation compared to the black population. When it comes to stand alone action/adventure movies (so not movies like Suicide Squad, Star Wars, Saw etc) three out of the top five grossing ones star black leads. Number one being American Sniper, followed by Independence Day (starring Will Smith), Get Out (starring Daniel Kuluuya), Twister, and Beverly Hills Cop (starring Eddie Murphy). If you don’t count Independence Day because they just made a sequel no big deal, that would move Hancock(starring Will Smith) into the 5th spot.
Most Americans don’t care who is entertaining them, they just want to be entertained. Black Panther was fun, Get Out was scary and Moonlight was nice to look at, but none of them were groundbreaking. Replace the black people with white people (or women in the case of Get Out) and see what I mean.
With all the hype around the record breaking and critically acclaimed Black Panther, I’d like to take a second to talk about a little something I like in films and stories: plot. Marvel and superhero movies in general follow a formulaic plot to begin with. Does this sound familiar? Protagonist must prove his worth but is first defeated, broken, or “killed” by the antagonist. This of course allows the hero to return and save the day – and maybe learn a little something about themselves on the way
To date there has been no deaths of MCU heroes excluding Quicksilver who you probably have already forgotten or replaced with the Quicksilver in the X-Men franchise. There are no stakes, even Agent Coulson was brought back for Agents of SHIELD. All of this is fine, I don’t go to action movies for deep meaning, logic, or consistency and superhero movies are just action flicks with added CGI. After watching Black Panther however, I couldn’t help but notice some striking similarities to another MCU movie released late last year: Thor Ragnarok. The following will contain spoilers for both movies so continue if you dare.
The protagonist (T’Challa/Thor) is raised to the kingship after the fall of his father (T’Chaka/Odin). Then, a royal child from the past (Killmonger/Hela) returns and defeats the protagonist after they are stripped of their power (Black Panther/Mjolnir). With the protagonist out of the picture, the antagonist prepares to achieve his/her goal until the protagonist seemingly returns from the dead and, with the help of their sibling (Shuri/Loki), save the day. If you weren’t already convinced the plot was recycled (just three months apart), both protagonists also made several spiritual journeys to converse with their deceased fathers.
There is one key distinction between the two films which shapes and has the most effect on the message: the decision of how to handle the newly revealed history.
In Ragnarok, Hela returns from imprisonment and teaches Thor how Odin achieved his status of Defender of the Nine Realms: by colonization. She literally uncovers the past, pulling down murals of Asgardian diplomacy to show the original tributes to plunder and violence. As Thor and the rest of the Asgardians are wholly unaware of this, it is clear the message is you cannot bury the past or it will come back to bite you.
Black Panther is much the same. Killmonger was abandoned by his people and left in Oakland – a terrible fate to be sure. Contrary to Asgard however, Killmonger wants Wakanda to become the colonizer to free Black people around the globe after being silent since its inception. The existence of the royal cousin is secret to all but T’Chaka and Zuri (Forrest Whitaker). Again, you cannot cover up the past or it will come back to bite you.
The distinction comes at the resolution. The conclusion of Thor is Ragnarok. Thor realizes it was not Odin’s intent to prevent Ragnarok, but to start it. The only way to defeat Hela, a creature of war and destruction, was to destroy history. Achieved by the absolute destruction of Asgard. This was a hot topic at the end of last year with the debate about Civil Warstatues and even some discussion over memorials to ourfounders. This was a nonsensical plot twist as everything leading up to that point in the film was telling us to remember history; if we hide from it or simply destroy it we are doomed to have it come back to haunt us.
Black Panther took a different approach. Of course the homicidal Killmonger must die, but his ideology did not end with him. Unlike Thor, T’Challa realizes his hidden nation must learn from the cries of the innocent after centuries of standing by and begins an outreach program. Ok, this is not the fastest way of supporting black people in the US or world, but at least they used the lesson of history and move forward rather than getting on a ship and flying away from their problems.
While just about everything about the movies are the same, this single distinction gives them an interesting narrative, almost as if they are in answer to each other. So well done Marvel, you raised a question and answered it mere months apart in two nearly identical films. But maybe, as phase III ends, we can add some original plot to interesting ideas. Just a thought.
The worst thing for FM radio is FM radio. At least here in Utah you will find one of five artists playing at any given time; these are Taylor Swift, Imagine Dragons, Shawn Mendez, The Chainsmokers, and One Direction in its various splintered forms. This is what sane people would refer to as Hell. About a year ago, thanks to alternative media, I stumbled across British artist JP Cooper’s EP When the Darkness Comes. After one listen to the title track I was sold. And just over a year later he released his first full-length album, Raised Under Grey Skies.
The album is an eclectic grouping of musical influences which begins with an acoustic tribute to a maternal figure in the title track before going to his single, September Song, a happy pop song saved from its cliché by his soulful vocals which carry the album all the way through. The influences vary from 60’s style pop in All this Love to gospel-inspired Passport Home to baby-making R&B with The Only Reason. Cooper never leaves you bored with the same sound in any consecutive song.
Lyrically the album is of interest as well. While his vocal ability at times makes you forget he’s actually saying words, Cooper, whose name appears in the writing credit of every song, tells stories that go beyond the surface of the traditional pop musician without the songs getting full of themselves. His song Wait illustrates the struggle of being in a failing relationship but not ready to let go for the pain it would cause his significant other. Closer is a beautiful song about Cooper’s son and the love and admiration he has for him – seriously, if you listen and don’t crack a smile you’re wrong.
So take a break from the radio or your top 40 playlist and listen to soulful vocals honest with their influences and lyrics. JP Cooper is a welcome addition to my musical collection and will remain on repeat for the foreseeable future.
If I had to go on the same vacation every year, if I could only camp once a year, if there was a law that said I could only travel to one place outside of the town I was living, I would choose The Gorge Amphitheatre, in George, WA every Sasquatch season. Arguably one of the most beautiful music venues not only in the U.S., but world, Sasquatch Festival is a chance to unleash your inner animal, forget the rules for a while and attend incredible shows. If you love music and you haven’t attendee yet, start saving for next year because it’s an experience like nothing else.
After a disastrous attempt to expand Sasquatch to two weekends last year. This year the Sasquatch Festival was only one weekend and four days instead of three. Ticket prices stayed the same this year but did not include camping like they did last year. I also didn’t think the lineup was as strong as last year, but was still stoked to attend and see what the festival experience would bring, round two. Realistically, I could probably write a book on Sasquatch but I will keep it as brief as I can and use this as a way to pass along info about musicians I didn’t know much about before and who I think others would like too.
Disclaimer: my musical taste tends to be electronica infused music but not EDM. I love indie rock with electronic elements and indie pop. I have also become somewhat of a hip-hop in in recent years. This obviously influences what shows I chose to attend. I opted out of Modest Mouse for ODESZA even though I like Modest Mouse, quite a bit. When I’m at a festival, in general I like to be moving. Dancing, jumping up and down etc. When I’m at the Gorge, I’m there to go crazy and dance ‘til my feet hurt. Calmer shows are for theatres and smaller venues. Keep this in mind when I give you lowdown.
Best Overall Show: Kiesza Like a lot of people, I only knew Kiesza from her viral music video to “Hideaway.” She seemed like someone I could get into but I didn’t expect to be entranced. Kiesza was in Chupacabra which was the stage where most of the danceable music was going on. It is a huge white tent and it gets HOT.
Just like in most of her music videos, Kiesza dances throughout her entire show. She has two back-up dancers who are drenched in sweat by the end of the show, Kiesza on the other hand, looked like all the dancing was hardly a workout. And when I say dancing, I mean really dancing. Footwork and thoughtfully choreographed moves, not just shaking her butt (sorry Beyonce). I thought the art of molding dance and pop music was lost but I honestly don’t think there has been anyone since MAYBE Madonna who can sing well and dance well like Kiesza. If you need to see what I mean, check out this video.
It wasn’t just the dancing that impressed me, more so that combined with her vocals. Kiesza sounded perfect, about as close to the recording as they come. These are what I imagine to be very hard songs to sing when tired. Kiesza was hitting every big note. Her voice was powerful and she never once sounded shrieky or shouty which tends to happen when one gets tired, and I know this from personal experience.
I get the feeling that she is a perfectionist. Everything in her show seemed carefully thought out and it paid off. Incredible. Check-out her most recent album Sound of a Woman and listen to her track with Diplo and Skrillex called “Take U There” while you’re at it.
Definitely a show I was super excited for. Schoolboy came out with a ton of crazy energy. He was jumping and dancing around the stage and definitely hyped up the crowd. Though funny enough the pit stayed pretty calm. I was upfront and was surprised that I had any space at all. Then about two thirds of the way through something must’ve happened in the back because we all got pushed forward and bodies went down. Though I went to some pretty crazy shows where the pit was intense, this is the only one where I saw multiple people fall-down and nearly get trampled to death.
I did notice immediately that Schoolboy was tired, one song and he was heaving. He would drop a couple words here and there when he was rapping but it was still fun because I knew all the words. Highlights would be when he took a puff out of his inhaler on –stage and when he surprised us all and did his verse from “2 On.” Best performance from him was “Yay Yay,” at least I had the most fun during that song (and “2 On” 🙂
Craziest Show: twenty one pilots Didn’t know much about this group before attending but had a pretty good feeling it would be an intense show. Intense was an understatement. I was literally in the very front against the barrier and it was a lot to take in. twenty one pilots is a two-member group. One on drums and occasionally trumpet and one sings/raps, plays piano, and ukulele.
Pretty interesting combo and this group is still hard for me to define genre-wise. They’re a mix of rap, rock and indie-pop but perform in ski masks and red and black paint on their bodies. They crowd surfed not only their own bodies, but a small drum kit and ended the show sitting on the crowd playing bass drums covered with water. I would’ve loved to have seen the show in the dark because it was too light out to have any light elements at the time they performed Saturday. Check out my favorite song of theirs “Holding On To You” and their most recent album Blurryface
Most Energetic Show: Run the Jewels With a crowd that was practically salivating by the time El-P and Killer Mike got on stage, Run the Jewels couldn’t help but give that energy right back. The two were jumping around the whole time, pumping up the crowd. If you’ve seen them, they both could lose a few so I was honestly impressed that they were able to jump around like they did the whole time. Needless to say, they were both pretty sweaty by the end of it.
Probably 80% of the shows I attended had a DJ element to their sound. Run the Jewels had the best DJ and I think he was actually doing quite a bit of live mixing which was awesome. Shout-out to DJ TrackStar! They also had a great light show. They played on the Bigfoot stage Monday night when it was dark so the production looked awesome against the dark sky.
Run the Jewels’ show ended right when Kendrick Lamar started so their crowd wasn’t as big as it could’ve been and thinned out as time went on. I stayed the whole time and sprinted to the main stage in time for Kendrick, but others didn’t take that risk. Check out Run the Jewels’ latest album Run the Jewels 2 and try not to go nuts.
Biggest Surprise: MØ What an awesome person. MØ’s outfit was dope, her sound was awesome and she brought just as much energy as any of the group acts or male performers out there. Her dress was a loose fitting sparkly gold complete with combat boots and a hat. Needless to say, I wanted her outfit.
This show was a dance party in itself and like some of the others would’ve been so much better at night when a light show would be view-able. Either way, MØ’s voice sounded awesome and love the raspy yet airy tone she has. Haven’t stopped listening to her since I got back! Please check out her recent album No Mythologies to Follow. One of my favorite songs off of that album is “XXX 88 feat. Diplo.” I also love and recommended giving a listen to her feature in Major Lazer’s “Lean On” and “New Year’s Eve.”
Best Sound: James Blake I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, James Blake is making the sexiest music out there right now and let me tell you the crowd was feelin’ it, myself included! James Blake combines haunting R&B-esque vocals with dark electronic and piano music that creates a unique sound that I don’t think is comparable to anyone else currently in the biz.
James would lull me in to a romantic state and then suddenly turn up the bass. Folks around me were lovin’ on whoever they brought with them then suddenly were jolted out of the love spell and thrust into dance party mode. It was awesome…and was one of the only shows I truly did not want to end. Incredible that a man can sit at a piano/synthesizer etc., not move and still mesmerize me
Best Dance Party: AlunaGeorge This was a really tough choice because there a ton of dance shows, whether EDM or the sort of indie-pop that AlunaGeorge is. Ultimately AlunaGeorge won this for me because Aluna sounded great, she got the crowd pumped and there were stars in my eyes the whole time. Highlight was definitely when she sang “White Noise,” her featured song on Disclosure’s Settle album. If you haven’t listened to AlunaGeorge before please do so! Other than “White Noise” I recommended “Attracting Flies” and “Best be Believing.”
Biggest Disappointment: Kendrick Lamar The only let down of Sasquatch. I was super excited and left with a horrible taste in my mouth. In his one and a half hour set, Kendrick played 11 songs. Why? Because he took his sweet time transitioning from song to song and he did “m.A.A.d city” FOUR TIMES. He didn’t play “King Kunta” at all which left me heartbroken. Two of the times he did “m.A.A.d city”, he brought fans up on stage and they rapped along with him. This was cute and probably incredible for those particular fans but I did not spend a month’s worth of rent to watch random people do Karaoke. This was his first show since To Pimp a Butterfly dropped and there was a lot of hype. Kendrick did not deliver. He also left most of the rapping up to the audience and I also noticed that his band messed up a couple times. Sad to say I will probably never go out of my way to see Kendrick again.
Most Forgettable: The War on Drugs Dudes on stage, playing their music, hardly moving, no special lighting, no set. I guess I am not as hipster as I thought, but that sucked. I was excited for this show but the excitement quickly ran out.
Hottest Performer: Lana Del Rey Although all she did was stand up there and sing, she looked great. That woman has perfect hair. Teach me.
Best Small Show: Grynch I just saw this dude the weekend prior and I have to say he brought it again. Tons of guests on stage with him (including Sol) and the crowd was going crazy. Someone even through bread on stage. I felt a lot of happiness during that show. Grynch sounded even better than the last time I saw him because the sound and mic system were better. Great show and it was at the smallest stage there early Monday afternoon.
Artist to Watch: PHOX First of all, Monica Martin, the lead singer of the indie-folk group is absolutely adorable. She spoke (and sang) softy whilst saying nasty things. The lady was sassy but in the most innocent way possible.
This band was beautiful. The harmonies they achieved were heavenly and all of the musicians had their moment to shine in the six-piece out of Wisconsin
Honorable Mentions: Chromeo, Ab-Soul, St. Paul & the Broken Bones Great shows! Chromeo was a party, Ab-Soul outperformed Kendrick and St. Paul & the Broken Bones hit me right in my soul but in the grooviest way possible.
What a great experience! I will definitely attend again, if not next year, after that! Fingers crossed for a Prince headliner. 😉
A couple weekends back, I had the pleasure of attending the CWU Spring Concert. The show was headlined by Sol, Grynch and Nacho Picasso opened. If you know me, you know I have witnessed Sol in concert quite a few times. This was my first time ever seeing Grynch or Nacho other than a quick moment on stage at a recent Sam Lachow show in Seattle. I was stoked to see such an awesome grouping at CWU. All Seattle artists, all hip-hop, all in Ellensburg. But before I do my review of the show, let me backtrack a little.
Before the show I got to hang out with Grynch and Nacho Picasso. I work at a craft brewery called Iron Horse Brewery. I asked Grynch and crew if they would like to take a tour and I was so happy when they said yes. Some artists, whether actors, or musicians, or poets, propel one persona with their art, but are much different in real life. Grynch and Nacho Picasso are not two of those artists. They are almost exactly what you would expect them to be like in real life.
Grynch showed up to the Iron Horse Production Facility first. He was cool, calm, and collected. Very polite and friendly and so was everyone who was with him which included his DJ, DJ Nphared. He seemed genuinely interested in learning about the brewery and for the most part quietly listened while the tour was going on.
Nacho arrived shortly after Grynch, and you knew immediately that he had. He was loud, obnoxious but definitely friendly. He appeared somewhat interested in the brewery but seemed like the type that is easily bored. When we were all sitting around sampling some of the beer, Nacho reflected on his childhood. He mentioned that he used to go fishing with his grandpa at Moses Lake and his grandpa would make him take the fish off the hooks with his hands and he hated it. His grandpa always made him though because he claimed Nacho was good luck.
“Grandpa these are pimp hands,” Nacho said while twisting his hands around dramatically.
This was Nacho’s attempt to get out of fishing but I don’t think it worked.
Overall, the whole Seattle crew were quite lovely. They loved our flagship beer, Irish Death, and they loved that the brewery I work for isn’t very wasteful and keep things local. Local people trying to make it, regardless of industry need to stick together and I hope the brewery and Seattle hip-hop can continue to do that.
What was super sweet about meeting them beforehand was that Grynch gave me a shout-out during his show and one of Nacho’s guys gave me a shirt. It felt pretty cool and I definitely appreciated it. Grynch’s DJ has an Irish Death sticker on his laptop now too!
Grynch opened the show and he brought a ton of energy. The crowd gave him a lot of energy so that helped too. I felt bad because it took a while for the room to fill up. A lot of people showed up for Nacho Picasso and the SURC Ballroom was pretty packed by the time Sol got on stage. I wish that Grynch’s hand mic would’ve been a little louder or the music would’ve been turned down a bit. Sometimes it was hard to hear him and he was overpowered by the music. When I could hear him, he sounded crisp and clean. Grynch also brought CWU Alum Wanz (you know him from “Thriftshop”) on stage and they performed Wanz’s tribute to Nate Dogg which was so dope. Be sure to check out the music video and song featuring Warren G, Critical and Grynch.
Nacho Picasso and crew took the stage next. I have it on good authority that he was drinking quite a bit before the show (and no, not Iron Horse beer) but you know what, I couldn’t tell! He sounded great and the energy was where it needed to be. I particularly liked his sweatpants with suspenders look, which didn’t last long because he took his shirt off early in the set. If you aren’t familiar with Nacho I would describe him as sort of a Tyler the Creator meets ScHoolboy Q with some Danny Brown mixed in there because they both use electronica elements and are equally crazy. Some of his stuff sounds pretty dark and heavy but he has tracks you want to “party” to as well. Nacho isn’t afraid to say anything, I mean anything. He is an entertainer to the max. Most of his stuff isn’t appropriate for this blog because kids read this stuff but if you’re curious you can look him up yourself. I really like “American Literature” and his verse in Sam Lachow’s “Lemony Snicket.”
The crowd was ready for Sol and so was I. This marked the third time I would see him perform and I was super curious as to what it would be like. The first time I saw him was at Sasquatch when he played a big stage to a lot of fans. The second time I saw him was almost the exact opposite. He headlined Timbrrr!fest in Leavenworth and played a smaller stage where I am pretty sure 80% of the crowd had no idea who he was.
This audience was the happy medium. A lot of folks were familiar with his music but maybe 40% or more were experiencing him for the first time. Just like with the opening acts, the crowd was giving him the energy and he responded. Though the general formula to the show was the same (he even made the same joke about dudes making a move during “Need Your Love”) it still felt fresh. Sol played a combination of old and new stuff but as usual, closed with “Paint” which I almost feel is his anthem. The radio-ready song soothes my soul and makes me want to jump and down at the same time. I sure was jumping up and down the whole time and loving every minute of it. The thing I love about Sol is his smile. Not to be cheesy or fangirl, I like it because there’s nothing better than watching someone have fun. Sol looks like he is having such a good time up there I can’t help but have fun too. As a performer myself, I understand the joy that comes from a live performance that doesn’t really compare to anything else on Earth. All artists talk about that feeling, but I believe many start to see their art as a job but that certainly hasn’t happened to Sol, and for that I appreciate him.
If you get the chance, please support guys like Grynch, Nacho Picasso and Sol. Support local music, support local hip-hop and make sure Seattle remains a hub for creativity and musical exploration.
In August of last year, New Zealand native Kimbra, released her second full-length album, The Golden Echo. When I originally saw the Coachella line-up I was so sad that she would be there and not at Sasquatch (I bought my tickets in November). In fact, Kimbra was really the only act at I wanted to see at Coachella this year because let’s be real, the line-up was kind of terrible. There was so much EDM on the list that I was confused as to whether it was Coachella I was looking at or Tomorrowland. I mean, I like going to EDM shows as much as the next person but when I go to a festival like Coachella that’s not what I’m looking for.
Anyways, back to what’s important, back to Kimbra. If you aren’t familiar with her, get familiar. You have probably listened to her and didn’t realize it. She’s the female vocalist on Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know.” Gotye exploded onto the scene with that song and I love him, but Kimbra is ten times as talented.
Monday (4/13) I had the pleasure of seeing Kimbra live for the first time at The Neptune in Seattle. Although The Golden Echo is a solid album, her first album Vows just kills it for me. If you are just now getting into Kimbra, listen to Vows first. I am sad I wasn’t able to see her on the Vows tour but I knew that she would play lots of stuff from her old album as well as her new one so I was beyond excited for the Monday show.
My expectations were HIGH for Kimbra. Not only does she have an incredible voice and great song-writing talent, her clothes are my life. In fact, if I had to trade a life with someone (cause I wouldn’t unless I was forced) it would be Kimbra. Touring, getting’ funky, wearing bright colors, that’s the dream right there. Kimbra is known not only for her crazy costumes, but unique music videos as well. She doesn’t just entertain with her voice, she uses her body, her clothes, and the lighting to create an experience for the audience that they’ll be hard pressed to experience with any artist. Just like her music videos, Kimbra’s live shows are quirky, original and a little off the wall.
Mikky Ekko opened for Kimbra. I wasn’t familiar with any of his music except for the song “Stay” that he sings with Rihanna. He blew me away. Seriously, his voice was so powerful. He worked the crowd and although he was loud, it never felt shouty or screechy to me. Since the concert, I have looked up Mikky’s stuff and am sorry to say I wasn’t impressed. He plays it too safe in his recordings and I want to hear the raw beastly stuff that I witnessed at The Neptune. Sad the dude doesn’t take more vocal risks on his studio tracks.
When Kimbra took the stage it was dramatic just as you would guess. Dressed in a cape with a weird humanoid outline on it she melodramatically grabbed the mic to the sound of her fans (me included) screaming. Eventually taking her cape off to reveal a futuristic silver/metal skirt and crop top she was definitely fun to watch. Often appearing to be in her own world, Kimbra wiggled around stage, danced and was just goofy looking at times. I go gaga for that stuff but overall there was something missing. It was hard to place but I was slightly disappointed by the concert.
First of all, the woman needs back-up singers. There was a lot of back up track music played and I hated that. I come to a live show to hear live music, not recordings of backing music and vocals. Kimbra had a band with her but only bass, guitar, drums and piano. There was no horn section which was a real bummer. Speaking of the band, Kimbra was constantly looking at her band mates like they were messing up. Maybe it was nothing but it felt weird to me. I was always taught that the show must go and the audience should never know when stuff goes wrong. Another weird thing was that she kept pulling at and playing with her hair. Maybe it’s a wig and it was about to fall out? I don’t know but it was strange, especially since Kimbra’s persona is that she doesn’t care what people thinks, she isn’t afraid to be weird, yet she seemed very concerned about her hair.
All those issues were minor though. I love Kimbra because her voice is powerful and she uses it in a way that’s hard to describe. She does her own looping and in the live session I have watched on YouTube, she’s incredible. I always say “listen, this is where she goes nuts!” at some point during all of her songs. But I never felt like she was “going nuts” last Monday. I was especially stoked when she came back on stage for the encore and sang my favorite “Come into My Head.” On the recording she definitely “goes nuts” but I didn’t feel that power at this concert and she seemed hesitant to let herself go.
I described it later as if she was just playing around with her band in a garage instead of playing to a crowd. Weirdly enough, she posted a similar caption on Instagram in reference to the show. I mean, she’s Kimbra so she was still great and still is one of the best female vocalists out there in my opinion. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I felt a little let down.
Regardless, Kimbra is impressive ad well worth the money if you get the chance to see her. I may have romanticized what I thought a Kimbra performance should entail. Be sure to check out some of her music videos and give her a listen if you are unfamiliar. She’s uber cool and super talented.