Sasquatch! 2009 Rant

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As I was scanning the initial list of artists for the Sasquatch! Festival that was released this week, I could only think one thing: Man…this year’s lineup sucks.

Admittedly, part of this is taste. I’m not gaga for some of the indie darlings that grace the bill. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Silversun Pickups, Bon Iver, and other critical darlings of their ilk might do it for some, but I’m hardly clamoring to get myself to central Washington and shell out over $55 a day (plus camping) to see them. It just seems like Sasquatch! is trying to be a bit too hip. Aside from TV on the Radio, The Decemberists, and Explosions in the Sky (all of whom happen to be playing different days) there isn’t a lot to spark my desire to go to a festival I loved last year.

Most astonishingly, Kings of Leon is the headliner on Saturday. Who listens to Kings of Leon?!? Aside from my A&E editor, I don’t know of anyone who does. While they are huge in Europe, last time I checked, Washington wasn’t a part of the EU.

On top of that, Ben Harper and Relentless7 headline Monday. That’s two of the three days being headlined by a band that has no business in such a slot. While Coachella may have lost a bit of hipster cred by choosing Paul McCartney, The Killers, and The Cure as this year’s headliners, at least all of those artists are huge. For goodness sake, Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie were both sub-headliners last year. Has Sasquatch! really fallen that far so quickly?

Why not throw some cash at a band like Pavement (who has been open to reuniting) to headline and actually one-up Coachella? Something needs to be done to inject some life into this lineup.

I’ll grant that Sasquatch has always been about indie cred and representing the Northwest. And with bands like Fleet Foxes and The Builders and the butchers, they do just that. But Sasquatch is becoming more than a localized event. It needs to draw upon more than underground Northwest talent, spanning their invitations across the globe as the more successful Coachella festival has done. The Northwest is known for its sound, it should be known for it’s music festivals as well.

The strongest part of the entire bill are the comedians. Featuring Zach Galifiankis, Demetri Martin, Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job, Todd Barry, and others, the comedy tent should be a total hoot. But when the comedians are the highlight of your music festival, well, you’re doing it wrong.

Unless some serious additions are still to come, there’s no reason to waste your money on this year’s incarnation. Here’s to Sasquatch! 2010.

*Published in today’s issue of The Gonzaga Bulletin*

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Tonight: Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand

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Dirty whispers greet the listener on “Ulysses,” the opening track on Franz Ferdinand’s new album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. This hush, and the fuzzy dissonance that accompanies it, foreshadows the party record for a party gone bad feel that resonates throughout Tonight.

At times the album highlights the very best of Franz Ferdinand. “Send Him Away” is playful and coy. “Bite Hard” and “What She Came For” exude a swagger that is driven by bass and drums. But nothing is done nearly as sharp as the band’s self-titled debut. There is no point where this album reaches out and grabs the listener and compels them to come along for the ride like almost every track on Franz Ferdinand.

The band defiantly strives to be more electronic sounding on Tonight. While this occasionally is interesting (like the electric banjo on “Twilight Omens”), more often than not it seems like it doesn’t have a real point. At times it almost seems like Franz Ferdinand is trying to make a record just to be remixed into dance songs, because so many of the electronic twitters are just forced.
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Your Anti-Valentine’s Day Mixtape

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LOVE SUCKS. It’s no coincidence that it’s a four-letter word. Sure, from the exterior love looks great, but it’s easy to forget so many aspects it entails. Love brings heartbreak, loneliness, pain, betrayal and the hostile feelings of resentment. For all of the souls that won’t be celebrating the upcoming “holiday,” here’s some songs for your mixtape to help us keep in mind that the gushing and blushing another person can cause is just not worth it. Give it to your dreadful ex, or keep it for your own self-validation.

“97” — Alkaline Trio

Let’s kick it off simple. “I’ve got it now, a thorn in my side the size of a Cadillac.” If that line, when sung with a screaming rancor, doesn’t sum up the sting of every lost relationship, then what does?

“Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” — Brand New

Really, any anti-love mixtape could be made up entirely of Brand New songs. But when pressed to pick just one, it has to be “Sic Transit…” off of the album that should be handed out by and to anyone who condones abstinence, Deja Entendu. The song’s lyrics tell of a boy searching for love. Instead, his virginity is forced from him. Between the hesitation, fear and nausea, the prospect of sex has never been less sexy on this track.

“Find Another Girl” — The Hives

When heartbreak makes you go crying to your mom in a desperate search for advice, you know you’ve hit rock bottom. Sure she might tell you to “find yourself another girl, who will love you true, true, true,” but you’ll probably just end up back home in the basement in another year or so broken once again. Such is life.

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Quick Christian Rock Suggestions

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There has always been a certain stigma towards Christian rock music. There are many factors for this, most notably the genre’s tendency to focus more on preaching than actually concentrating on the music. And of course, there is Creed, the only band that makes me think there cannot be a God, because He would not allow such atrocities to desecrate His good name.

But with David Bazan, the artist formerly known as Pedro the Lion, playing a solo show tonight (Friday, 7 pm) at the Empyrean Coffee House (in Spokane, WA), it seemed like a good time to look at three really great Christian rock albums from three very different artists.

First, there is Pedro the Lion’s masterpiece Control. It’s a conceptual album of marriage falling apart while brilliantly encapsulating each soul-crushing detail of the dissassemblage. From the gorgeous, slow guitar line of “Options” to the frantic buzz of “Rapture,” this album hits the right notes. The marriage crumbles, culminating in murder, which allows Bazan to wrap-up with reflections on God and mortality. This isn’t only the best Christian rock album, it’s one of the best albums period.

For those who want their dose of God-based rock a bit harder, check out Silence by Blindside. The Swedish, post-hardcore outfit use chunky riffs and melodically screamed vocals, but maintain a pop sensibility. I challenge you to find religious songs that are as badass as “Pitiful” and “Sleepwalking.” “Silence” is hard, tuneful and has lyrics that actually try to stimulate religious thought instead of singing from high up on a pulpit.

Lastly there is Calibretto 13’s Adventures in Tokyo. The former folk-punk trio features Joseph Whiteford, who is one of the most ferocious and snotty (in a good way) singers I’ve heard. Unlike most Christian acts, Calibretto 13’s songs often deal with the problems with Christianity; namely, the hypocritical nature of churchgoers. Additional songs proffered, aliens destroying Hollywood and people being mindless sheep, only sweeten the deal.

So give some Christian rock a chance and go see David Bazan. It’s what Jesus would do.

*Published in today’s issue of The Gonzaga Bulletin.*

Visiter – The Dodos

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Innovation in the realm of indie folk is clearly not extinct. The Dodos are a duo from San Francisco comprised of Logan Kroeber and Meric Long, and their 2008 release Visiter is enthusiastically whimsical. With the album, the band has carved out their own little space in the modern musical landscape.

“Walking” begins Vister in a fairly traditional folk style, but then “Red and Purple” hits the listener with a pow. What follows is a series of songs that could be described by any number of various genre tags. How about psychedelic acoustic indie folk?

A key to the album is Kroeber’s percussion, which really allows Vister to focus and be driven forward. Much of his drumming feels “off” with regards to what Long is playing, but it really terrifically blends together. The hollow echo of his drum tone is incredibly distinct. It’s to the point where the percussion sounds are instantly recognizable as The Dodos’.
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Crime [EP] – Against Me!

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Against Me! has come a long way from it’s roots. The band has now garnered a fair deal of commercial and critical success. On the band’s first “real” release (the original Against Me! EP 12″ was a print of less than 150 copies), the EP Crime (or Crime as Forgiven By Against Me!), Tom Gabel was just a angry punk armed with nothing more than a guitar and his songwriting abilities. Gabel and drummer Kevin Mahone were the only band members at the time, but that’s all that was needed. The result marked beginning of Against Me! producing some truly great albums.

From the opening riff of “I Still Love You Julie,” the listener can tell they’re in for a treat. The song also showcases another aspect of Crime‘s sound, which is the rim drumming by Mahone. The rim is the forgotten percussion sound, but it has such a tremendous lively quality to it. The second track, “What We Worked For” displays Gabel’s often times brutal lyrical honesty. Here it is in the form of razor sharp self-deprecation, as he proclaims that, “I found three simple chords and held them together with my weak voice.
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