Hello Music Fans-
As it was the first of 4 days, the music starts much later in the afternoon than normal but the bands that played were and varied and exciting. This years festival in the famous 600 acre cow pasture in Manchester, Tn. boasts over 160 acts on 9 different stages plus the comedy tent where Margret Cho and Conan O’Brien will do their act. If Conan fits into my schedule then fine but I’m here for the rock music (and all the other kinds as well) and if had wanted comedy I would have stayed at home and gone to Caroline’s!
Shakin’ things up in right off the bat were the flag bearers of the Savannah hard rock/metal movement Baroness. With 2 critically acclaimed discs under their belt (Red and Blue), Baroness is making a big splash in the hard rock world and this is no Skynard rip-off masquerading as metal. With more of an LA sound, Baroness brings their own brand of “in your face” hard/rock metal and they are not afraid to go a little progressive on your ass while they are kickin’ it. The Judas Priest influence is evidenced in the excellent dueling guitar work and they possess one of the best rock drummers I have heard. This is not the “doulble kick-drumed to death” and screamed lyrics metal but headbangable, groovin’, sometimes a bit “sludgy”, well performed hard rock that speaks to those who dig the rock of any sort.
Maybe I’m late to the party as these guys have already had a disc and single on the charts but I really enjoyed NEEDTOBREATHE. This is a polished act of true power pop with some of the good things you like in The Fray and One Republic but maybe with a harder edge. Bear Rinehart brings a solid, passionate rock vocal sound that makes the whole package a little reminiscent of Ryan Adams. A last minute addition to my schedule that was well worth it.
Blitzen Trapper was impressive with their brand of Pacific Northwestern (Portland) alt rock. Dylan and Tom Petty must have been pumped into the lead singers crib early on as his vocal quality is SCARILY similar to both at times. The music too falls along the Tom Petty lines but with a style and lush vocal harmonies the conjure “The Dead”. These acoustic guitar driven tunes with layers of synths and “jangly” guitars is well worth putting on your new alt/indie playlist…well, that depends on how you view your record labels as their newest release is on the Sub Pop label. Does that still make it alternative these days? In any case it’s good!
If you are lookin’ for a good dose of roots country singin’ (and who isn’t) a la Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton with a backing band that sounds like The Million Dollar Quartet, then country upstart Elizabeth Cook is your girl. With sometimes barely intelligible accent, the music is the kind of country Hank Senior and Carl Perkins dreamed of. It would have been easy with this girl’s Visine (easy on the eyes) looks for a major label to package her into just another “hot country chic” but Elizabeth seems to want to do it her own way and in doing so, attracts some country elites to help her out. With her discs produced by Nashville stalwart Rodney Crowell and the pop world’s Don Was and cameos by the likes of Dwight Yokum, this is the REAL deal. Song titles like My Heroin Addict Sister and It Takes Some Balls to Be a Woman are surprisingly heartfelt and at many times very touching. An NPR interview had Elizabeth telling of the true life experiences she draws from and how she doesn’t know how to write any other way. Good songs…good music…a great traditional country voice? Well, that means the odds are we will never see her high on the charts but she will be in my iTunes collection.
The evening finished finished with what I had hoped for…an AWESOME set from the increasingly popular The xx. This hard to define minimalist trio play their of version of dance, trance, electronica yet it some ways it is none of these things. Songs consist of EXTREMELY simple and layered lines of “echoey” guitar, electric bass and sparse electronic drum grooves. Obviously, these guys really listened the day the 8th note was taught in music class as most songs are based on a simple 8th note groove layered with wispy ethereal vocals. The musician in me feels I should be saying that it needs more but it is JUST RIGHT the way it is. It is hard to define them more than that so I’ll just be a bit juvenile in my words and say The xx is simply WAY cool!
On tap today is Kings of Leon, Chris Thile and The Punch Bros., The Gaslight Anthem, The National, Tori Amos, Black Keys, LCD Soundsystem (at 2.30 in the am no less) and many others.
ROWYCO!- from your reporter in the field