RAVE’S FAVES (on the air in the U.S.)
Skybombers (various), Nine Inch Nails, Hot Chip (various), Flogging Molly, Switches, Vampire Weekend (various), MGMT (various), Death Cab, Ting Tings (various), Black Keys, Coconut Records, Last Shadow Puppets (various).
Rave’s Faves are always singles unless otherwise noted. I’ve mentioned Skybombers before and their full-length is finally dropping in May. They play an intense, punk-influenced brand of rock with melody, and airplay is beginning to spread. They’re a top live band as well. See their Musexpo mention below. There is nothing shocking in the NIN track, but it’s right in their sweet spot. Coconut Records is actually Jason Schwartzman. The Last Shadow Puppets are the collaboration between the Arctic Monkeys‘ Alex Turner and The Rascals‘ Miles Kane. They’re heavy on strings and romantic lyrics, but what I’ve heard so far tells me they actually pulled this off in a very cool way.
Prince reportedly received $4.8M for his Coachella appearance. I don’t know if he was worth that much, but there’s no doubt he gave the crowd their money’s worth. Morris Day and band percussionist Shiela E. sang their Eighties hits, Prince attacked many of his own, and the band found plenty of time to jam as well. He was amped from the very beginning and had no problem exceeding curfew. The true festival highlight for many of us was Kraftwerk. The electronic godfathers were nothing short of phenomenal with a precise set, perfect sound, and brilliant videos covering their greatest hits. Their shows have actually become warm over the decades. While Prince was a must-see who came through, the Kraftwerk crowd had the sense they were witnessing something truly special. Love and Rockets have resurrected themselves in mid-season form. The Verve set was a success with Richard Ashcroft in fine voice. Two favorite first-night moments came from individual song performances, with The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” before a huge, cheering crowd under the clear desert skies; and also The Swell Seasons‘ Glenn and Marketa singing their beautiful “Falling Slowly” from their film “Once”. Portishead are back together and seemed to please their fans, although they’re not my cup of tea.
No bands had a career-defining moment as we normally see once or twice at Coachella. Hot Chip drew a huge, dancing crowd this time around. It’s been fun watching them grow over the past year, when their 2007 Coachella set basically put them on the U.S. map. The current Flogging Molly album has elevated them beyond St. Patrick’s Day cult status to a band that actually gets played on the radio. Their recent Leno appearance didn’t come close to matching their live energy. Crowd response would have been amazing, even if people hadn’t been in the hot sun all day. They came as close as anyone to having a breakout moment. A surprise was the Greek gypsy-punk Gogol Bordello, whose late Sunday afternoon main stage set was a festival highlight. Zero 7‘s Sia proved her mettle as a solo performer with a surprisingly upbeat performance. Sia also did a great job of engaging the crowd.
Of other bands I hadn’t seen before, Datarock were tops with a high-energy set that was almost aerobic, and they had the tent following their moves. Buzz group Does It Offend You, Yeah? were quite good. Architecture in Helsinki were joyously animated in their own way, and did pretty well with their outdoor crowd at the second stage. Battles are very intense with their prog rock. The Goldfrapp set may have been tops of the first day for people who like her new direction, although she fortunately did throw in some of her top dance tunes from prior albums. I caught a few Islands songs and want to get more into this group. Calvin Harris was fun, engaging and competent. VHS or Beta and the Cold War Kids both showed they can handle a main festival stage and I enjoyed Carbon Silicon (Mick Jones of The Clash and Tony James of Generation X). Fans of The Raconteurs, Swell Season, Vampire Weekend, Stars and Cut Copy were all happy. In the case of Vampire and CC, they don’t yet have the command to effectively reach people further away from the stage so get up close if you’ll be seeing them this summer. MGMT were highly-anticipated by a huge throng, but they didn’t quite seize the opportunity with their softer down-tempo style. Turning up the volume and reworking the set list would help. The guys were able to hold the crowd and they are good live, but this could have been truly special. Kate Nash has an album that is quite intense and musical, but it lacks something when played live. Pendulum were strong in the drum and bass genre. Stephen Malkmus also seemed to do well, although I didn’t see much of his set.
OTHER “NORMAL” SHOWS IN L.A.
Switches invaded L.A.’s Roxy for their CD release party on their drop date of March 18th. As noted in my SXSW review, these guys are a compelling live band that should do quite well once radio catches up with the press these guys are receiving. Vampire Weekend played two nights later, at L.A.’s sold-out El Rey. The idea of Vampire’s ‘feeding’ off of their own crowd, worked big-time for the boys, as they were greatly improved over their SNL and Letterman appearances, as well as their SXSW gig that I saw. Backlash or no backlash, I’m now convinced that these guys will be fine. Metal band Black Tide stormed the sold-out Key Club in West Hollywood with their Eighties’-influenced sound that sounds completely fresh in 2008. Austin’s Ghostland Observatory were a huge disappointment for me. They had so much live promise two years ago and they certainly drew far more people to the Henry Fonda this time around; but they have veered away somewhat from upbeat indie dance, and much of their show was a darkened drone.
During any given year, Iron Maiden leads the unofficial t-shirt derby at SXSW. We all know that if someone wears a band shirt in Austin during that week, they’re sending a message on how they wish to be perceived. Thomas Dolby is releasing a fine live CD/DVD called “The Sole Inhabitant.” All the songs are from his past and I’m excited to hear his new music, which hopefully is coming soon. Duran Duran, The Knack and The Motels are all out touring in addition to Maiden’s extensive North American journey. I’ve not been in touch with Kraftwerk since I worked with them. They aren’t the kind of guys who hang around label people much, and I understand they’re only seen when one of them rides his bike to the offices to deliver an album. I have a late-Seventies collector’s item t-shirt that reads “Kraftwerk have taken the perspiration out of drumming.”
The Musexpo conference was another success, with 750 artists, managers, and label types from all over the world. Showcase highlights for me included Skybombers (Australia), Scissors For Lefty (San Francisco), Miss Li (Sweden), Grand Avenue (Denmark), Justin Hawkins (Sweden) and Big Linda (U.K.). A long-time biz icon was on hand and told Skybombers management he hasn’t been this excited about a new band in 30 years! Congrats to A&R Worldwide heads Sat Bisla and Bob Bisla for putting on another fine event… My Go Deep webcast has passed the two year mark and my next WSUM “Rave-athon” will be Thursday, May 22nd from 1pm – 8pm Central time. Various station D.J.’s will play guest sets, and a couple of bands just might call in as well… That’ll do it until the next Rave’s Raves in late June. Let me hear from you, and please put “Raves” in the subject line so I know who it’s from. Until then…