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.