The reoccurring theme of these POPPED! posts will be these indie bands playing an arena space. For The Pains, I would think this would a good experience. You never know, The Cure could tour again and the NYC-band would make a perfect opening act. Although, they would be able to play more then five songs. That's all they had time for. If you went to the bathroom, you missed the whole thing.
Since we saw the gang at Siren festival 2010, they were finishing up their sophomore album, Belong. As it turns out, they hooked up with the legendary producing/mixing team of Flood and Alan Moulder, who worked with some little bands like Nine Inch Nails, U2, The Killers, Smashing Pumpkins and PJ Harvey. Usually that means a big time, high-profile release, but they choose to stick with beloved indie label Slumberland. The result is a more polished sound, while retaining that edge and anxiousness that makes the band a favorite among showgazers and dream poppers.
Next up for Kip and the crew, more tour dates into Rocktober:
I just want to point this guy out I saw in the crowd. I wish this "person" well in his ongoing persuit of Sarah Connor.
Your 2011 POPPED! Festival, ladies and gentleman! Two days and 20 hours of music in a half-empty arena setting with no daylight. It's kind of like being in a casino, but replace the slot machines with bands and the old people with young people.
What was originally scheduled for FDR Park was relocated due to the rain to Liacouras Center, the home of the Temple Owls basketball team. While many I'm sure were disappointed and agitated, this had to happen. You think of the two stage collapses that happen this summer (at Indiana State Fair for Sugarland and Pukklepop in Belgium), and it just seemed the course of action was to be safe. I was driving down the turnpike at noon, and the rain was massive. There was no way a festival like this could take place in such intense conditions.
The main aspect to the two days that people will remember was the new setting. It was great and silly at the same time. As I commented on my twitter, "Popped! feels like the world's weakest arena rock show or the best high school homecoming dance ever."
The music was loud and bounced all over the place. Every band sounded like an arena rock band. The crowd had plenty of room to roam as you can see in the picture. I was getting a little cabin fever from being inside with no daylight for 14 hours in two days and standing on concrete.
All of the bands made some joke about playing in an area. Brian from Cults screamed "Hello, Madison Square Garden" while Madeline announced, "Are you ready to rock, Philadelphia!" Patrick Stickles dreamed that he would one day play an arena and that there would be raiser that he could walk on like Bono. Dan from Yuck said he felt like he was opening for U2. The best comment came from Kip of Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who was a bit weirded out about the arena setting. He said, "We're Pains of Being Pure at Heart. This is our last song. I'm going to go kill myself."
With the new line-up compacted on one stage, that left a schedule dilemma. First, most of the bands were relegated to 5-6 songs in a 30-minute span. Just when you enjoying yourself, the band was leaving the stage. Second, you had the awkward transitions of styles, Soul master Charles Bradley leading into NJ indie gods Titus Andronicus then going to rap legend Rakim. Third, the rush to get gear on off stage left for some suspect sound mixes. Finally, when bands were playing, crew were getting set-ups ready for the next band off to the side and behind them.
In all, the festival did the best they could under the circumstances. I don't think they could have cut bands out completely, although the stand-ups and DJ Questlove were cut-out and Joy Formidable didn't make it to Philly. I was annoyed that great bands like Elbow, Hold Steady and Budos Bands were relegated to six songs.
Then Saturday's line-up was front loaded with the band sthat I like, then all of sudden it became suburban douchefest 2011. After Rakim did his thing, I was already leaning towards ditching the rest of the night, but wanted to stick it out to just so I can have proof positive that Foster the People suck and maybe see some fun lights for Pretty Lights. Then I was waiting in line for crab fries at the Chickie 'n' Pete's window when I noticed the kids around me and all in the halls of the arena. It felt like Saturday night at the Cherry Hill Mall. We're talking trucker hats, wallet chains, day-glo t-shirts, Beiber hair cuts, fake eyeglasses, lip rings, acne, and they all talked like the grew up in South Central L.A. but are really from suburban Bucks County. I just about had a panic attack, so I got out of there before Kreayshawn made me want to join Kip and kill myself as well.
It was an experience. To sum up he bands, the Shins headlining set was a disappointment -- my fandom of them might be over. Surprisingly, Panda Bear was actually interesting and borderline awesome (and borderline stupid with the smoke machine). Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. made a big mess. Elbow was the best of the two days. Budos, Titus, Cults, Hold Steady, Yuck, POBPAH and Rakim all solid. I could have gone without Company of Thieves and Cage the Elephant.
Here's a sampling of the photos from the weekend. I'll throw up some picture posts in the weeks to come.
BTW, Miller Lite is not a sponsor of this space. If I had time I would Photoshop it out.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Company of Thieves
Cage the Elephant
Okay, gang. Here's the last set of photos from the festival, as well as, the last post I'll ever do on Vampire Weekend. I'm over them and their music after following their career for a year.
Never before I've seen a band polarize people. When we talk about the band in blog circles, it has to be noted that they were cool when they were unsigned and we can drop their name to look like we're in the know. Then seeing them at Cake Shop and Maxwell's made you feel that you had leg up on the casual indie music fan. Yup, it's the snobbery factor. Then somewhere along the way, they became popular, went on Saturday Night Live, their CD was on sale at Best Buy and Target the first week it was released, they started hanging out with celebrities and then teenagers, frat boys and moms and dads started going to their shows. Before you knew it, listening to them when you're a music snob isn't so fun anymore. The music seems stale and not edgy.
Yes, I whole heartedly admit it's superficial and hypocritical when you stop liking a band because they become popular. As I joke, I was going to name my radio show, I'm Not Playing Vampire Weekend.
When I first saw them at Bowery, Cake Shop and Maxwell's, I thought the music was catchy and different. More importantly, I thought the four of them played very well together. I found myself bopping along to "A-Punk" and "Mansard Roof" and was interested to hear the whole album. I looked around the crowd and saw guys and girls like me -- the people who know indie music inside and out.
On Saturday, I see a band that doesn't much resemble the group I saw last year at this time. I look around I see mall rats, dudes with popped polo shirt collars and screaming 13-year olds fawning overlead singer Ezra Koenig.
One of my commenter summed it up nicely, I think this band is playing up their preppy clothes wearing, Cape Cod party aesthetic too much. When I saw their ridiculous cover shot on SPIN, I rolled my eyes. Then during the set, Ezra looked like he was working to hard to be a rock star when he's trying to get into the music. The one thing that stood out for me is when they played "A-Punk," it sounded like some wedding cover band covering Vampire Weekend. It came off as slow and lazy.
When I saw some kid crowd surfing during the set, I decided that it was over for me. I was standing next to the Love Is All crew and I was tempted to ask if they could close the show instead, so that the day I could end on an up note.
Look, no one should deny a band or artist success and popularity, even at the sacrifice of indie cred. When people are downloading albums for free, Apple is taking a big chunk from song downloads and bands have to tour relentlessly to make money, it's a positive that new bands become successful without some corporate machine manufacturing them. For Vampire Weekend, it just seem that music doesn't warrant the attention. At first, what seemed to be catchy tunes ended up as anthems for Generation Abercrombie & Finch. The new tunes they trotted didn't inspire me at all, just more water-downed pseudo world music versions of basic pop songs.
Again, if you find them dreamy and awesome, more power to you and you are a better person than I am. I wish you many a happy time at their future shows. If you're going to write message of hate towards me because I trashed them, you better come with a decent argument.
On the other hand, I compare my reaction to the success of Vampire Weekend to the success of Kate Nash, Editors, Tings Tings and even Nicole Atkins. Those groups started out small and I was there from the beginning. Then, they became popular, ushering in new fans. You know what, I still love them and the music they create. It's a win-win situation. In the end, not everybody can be like you and me, passionate about the music we listen to and able to catch on to bands before they break though.
As I say, good music deserves to be heard by everyone, even the people we normally don't associate with. Vampire Weekend is just not good music to me.
That's it gang. Rant is now over.
The coolest indie husband-wife duo of all-time took to the Popped! Festival on Saturday. I hope that a few of the concert goers wanting for Vampire Weekend were inspired to check out more of Mates of State. It took about five albums but Kori and Jason have establish themselves as one the finest indie pop duos in the genre. This is my third time seeing them and you just want to hug them on stage. They scream away about how much they care for each other. They've just about made it a style onto themselves -- the keyboard and drums pop genre.
Their new album, Re-Arrange Us, is a less overtly-poppy album, focusing more on the vocals than the heavy organ sound we've become to know and love. I dare say it's a more "mature" effort, but I find it that scream-and-shout vocals are just toned down a tad. If you are new onto the Mates, I highly endorse their 2004 effort, Team Boo.
Of course, being that Kori & Jason are parents as well, they bring the kids with them. One of the most adorable things I saw was when Kori and their oldest daughter were dancing together during Vampire Weekend. Awwwwwwww. Then Jason was holding their newborn, who was sporting protective headphones. Cuteness times ten.
The best act of the day was hands down Gogol Bordello. They are a must-see if you are into live music -- an international slam fest of theatrics, rock 'n' roll, reggae, gypsy, punk, polka and circus music. I saw them two years ago at Warsaw, and since then they are as popular as ever. It's plain to see, they don't phone in a performance.
It's ironic they were sandwiched between Dan Deacon and Crystal Castles because Eugene had a guitar that said "Drum Machines Have No Soul"
One of the drawbacks of the festival set-up is that bands like Gogol get short-changed. They can only do 40 minutes, leaving out many of the songs and antics that you've become accustom to. They are not truly permitted to be at 100% because they have to make room for the next performer. As you know, Gogol Bordello likes to do all sorts of crazy things on stage and into crowd -- mostly notability, the crowd surfing on top of a bass drum. They couldn't do things like that.
In any event, you can look at the positive in that they stuck to their high-energy, most-popular tracks like "Start Wearing Purple," "Not a Crime" "American Wedding" and "I Would Never Wanna Be Young Again". It was an all-out party atmosphere as Eugene Hütz and his band of thieves tore through their set. I love everything about the band: their attitude, their sound, their sense of fun, their multi-cultural musical background and their look. And if I had the chance, I'd probably like how they smelled.
Actually, this might be my favorite photo of the day