Lords of Summer: Sweet Summer Sun

I’ve been pretty inconsistent posting on here so let’s see what I can generate. I’m going to attempt writing more random recollections on music, movies, and movements. I used to do it back when I was a lot more freewheelin’ and weirder. It also helped that I had a lot more free time on my hands. So let’s all get weird together again.

It’s arguably been my most eventful Summer yet, trekking to both places familiar and alien. An ocean? Holy shit. We’ll get to that…

The opening scene of Summer happened in late May in Chicago with Woodstock ’15 (Fagan term). First on the docket was a return to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs vs. Royals. This was my first time back in the friendly confines to see a Cub game since 2011 I believe (Checks facts, still hazy).

There hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer about over the past 4-5 seasons during this rebuilding stretch, but out of those ashes has risen a youthful, hungry 2015 Cub team. This has been the long-term plan ever since the new front office of President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer joined the Cubs in late 2011. They’re ruthless and cut-throat when it comes to analytical decisions and they will do whatever it takes to make the Cubs succeed and chase down that elusive World Series title. After what they did in Boston, I fully trust them to get it done.

It was a great time being out in the center field bleachers for the first time. I had far too many beers (I would not recommend drinking a 12-pack worth of beers at Wrigley alone, for both your liver and your wallet) and the crowd was a rabid mix of Cubs fans and Royals fans (Est. 2014). Unfortunately I think I legitimately went to The General Jake Arrieta’s last “bad” start (This was May 29th, almost three months ago) as the Royals ended up pulling away with this one. I anticipated retribution the following night but it was not to be as the game was rained out. I’ll have to wait until the make up game on September 28th, which could have huge playoff implications for both teams. If I would’ve known then what I know now just how great this Cubs team would turn out to be, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed in the loss. The young nucleus of this team is only going to get better too as the years go on. More importantly they make sure to keep it fun.

Denorfia W

After having a few more (unneeded) beers at Merkle’s it was up to my associate Matt Moss and I to stumble drunkenly through the Wrigleyville area in an attempt to find the Riviera Theatre to see “The Chief” Noel Gallagher. astonishingly we were able to find it (After a vital pit stop at Al’s Italian Beef) and Noel was able to pick us up with his impeccable, soaring anthems. A set that infused magnificent solo cuts (If you don’t have the new incredible Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album Chasing Yesterday that was released in March, stop reading this post, order it, then continue reading) with timeless Oasis classics ending things with a majestic “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”

June brought with it a pilgrimage to Waverly, IA to experience the carnival feel of Mumford & Sons’ traveling Gentlemen of the Road festival. An interesting endeavor considering the current boom of stationary festivals. It was a diverse line-up that featured some of my favorite stalwart bands like Dawes, Jeff The Brotherhood, and The Flaming Lips as well as unfamiliar ones that were a pleasant surprise like Rubblebucket and The Maccabees. The two-headed dragon of My Morning Jacket and Mumford & Sons were to no surprise the best parts of the weekend. Mumford & Sons have seemingly made an effortless transition to the bright lights, big crowds, and main stages of the world. They were a well-oiled machine in Waverly and always an extraordinary live act. My heart however, belonged to My Morning Jacket pertaining to the live acts. They were operating on a totally different plateau than everyone else there that weekend both spiritually and physically. I’ll never tire of seeing them live, sonic transcendence at its best.

I had to pick myself up off the floor for the next weekend in Kansas City to see some band called The Rolling Stones. One of the bands I’ve definitely been pining for to see live and cross off my concert bucket list. It is astonishing what they are doing at their age but they still sounded incredible and Mick Jagger cemented his legacy as the greatest front man of all time. He strutted and preened like he was in his 20’s belting out classic after classic. It was like witnessing the Dead Sea Scrolls of Rock & Roll. They were in the rattling genesis of Rock music, like witnessing the Big Bang of the universe. I don’t know how long they’ll tour (Mick said he has no plans of retirement and Keith is going to live forever), but I’m glad I had a chance to see them live in person. What this had me salivating for more than anything was a new record from them. 2005’s A Bigger Bang was their best album in my opinion since 1978’s Some Girls and recent singles like “One More Shot” and “Doom and Gloom” came off as effortless blues rock instant classics. I’m sure they have enough fire power to churn out another batch of marvelous tunes. I’d love for them to work with Jack White or Rick Rubin as the producer, but I’ll take anything to be honest.

Stones KC

I had been redlining at work for sometime and needed a lengthy break physically and mentally. I took the longest amount of time off I’ve had from work in 13 years, I whopping two weeks (For me that’s impressive!). For the first leg of vacation I headed to South Carolina, specifically Folly Beach for a relaxing few days. This was foreign territory for me, I’d never seen the Atlantic Ocean, it was a sight to behold. I am horrible at taking pictures so this was as good as it got (Look at that fuggin’ rad moon!).

Ocean Breathes Salty

We left South Carolina a few days later and proceeded to trek across the countryside for nearly 19 hours. What was awaiting me on the other side of this road trip was Chicago and Lollapalooza. I’ve now been to Lollapalooza six consecutive times and I must confess although it’s a great time, I was considering sitting out this year. The way the festival has been trending in recent years was more towards EDM (Bull shit), abysmal hip-hop (Bull shit), and flavorless pop acts (Bull shit) rather than the guitar-centered Rock & Roll bands. Sure there’s always a strong undercard every year but the main stages have been getting less stellar. Well, when they announced the Friday and Saturday headliners I was all in. Paul McCartney and Metallica, I thought it was a hoax at first. No hoax at all. I saw McCartney back at Bonnaroo in 2013 and he was the best act there and he was brilliant again here. Meanwhile it’s been nearly seven years since I’ve seen Metallica live and they did not let me down. They’re still arguably my favorite band of all time and have been since high school (Okay, okay, I had a severe Guns ‘N’ Roses crazed phase in there too). Couple those monolithic acts with the other acts I saw: St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Father John Misty, The War on Drugs, Gary Clark Jr., Catfish & The Bottlemen, Death From Above 1979, Delta Spirit, Tame Impala, Circa Waves, Lord Huron, Strand of Oaks, Of Monsters and Men, TV on the Radio, and Florence + The Machine and it was one of the best Lollapaloozas I’ve been to. Next year? We’ll see.

There’s a lot of details I left out but I’m getting royally distracted by the blitzkrieg heaviness of Metallica’s Lollapalooza set I purchased from their website:

Metallica.Lollapalooza.Chicago.cover_.0801-15I’ll always be forever tethered to this band. For people that don’t like Metallica or don’t understand, I’m not sure what to tell you. It’s that chaotic angst the registers in your marrow, only Metallica is able to drill that deep for me I think. You could buy the physical double CD of this show (Which I did) or download it. Metallica does this for all of their live shows now and I wish all acts would do it. For one, an extra source of revenue for them and two it would cut down on bootlegging.

That’s it for now, more posts coming I believe. One on Sunday if I’m up to the task.

P.S.- I’m seeing The Tallest Man on Earth tonight at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City so let the live shows keep flowing! I’ve seen him a few times already live and he’s extremely captivating, one of the best lyricists on the planet. Cheers!

BONNAROO 2013: A PLANETARY DEPARTURE

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BONNAROO 2013

It seemed as if it took about a century to get to Bonnaroo, I’d been waiting since February. It came and went leaving me in a daze, almost like it didn’t happen at all. Bonnaroo 2013 was another fantastic event, after a three-year absence I felt the time was right to go back. The lineup when I first laid eyes on it sounded too good to be true. With headliners like Mumford & Sons, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and Sir Paul McCartney, plus an astonishingly strong under-card, I couldn’t possibly pass this up. Besides being a massive fan of Tom Petty and being on the Mumford & Sons bandwagon from the very beginning, Paul McCartney was one of the last legendary icons I wanted to check off my list of seeing live. There are less than a handful of artists that are on this list that McCartney was on, with the two most prominent being The Rolling Stones and U2. Their ticket prices are far too exorbitant though to see just one artist. I still love both of those bands but paying several hundred dollars just for one act? No way guys (The most I’ve paid for one act is around $125 for Bruce Springsteen and he’s better live than The Stones or U2 could ever be). Sorry for that tangent there, anyway, I thought this was the best opportunity to see Macca, so the trigger I pulled way back in February ended up being a big dividend.

We arrived around 5am Thursday morning. I was in good company again, the same as the 2010 Bonnaroo trip. I have to commend Eric for driving all the way down there. Eastern Iowa to Manchester, TN is quite the haul. We still had to wait in line about three hours I think (I was dozing in and out of consciousness), way better than the 12 hours we waited in line last time. Once we got our campsite set up the imbibing commenced. Maybe we got out of the gates a little too fast, but I will say that Eric is one of the funniest people in that circumstance, first class entertainment on two legs, I had forgotten that. We wondered into the heart of Centeroo (The festival grounds) later on and first caught The Futurebirds. A really good country-rock act that kicked off their set with the sublime “Serial Bowls” which radiated with a southern-fried R.E.M. jangle. Next was the femme fatale duo known as Deap Vally. These ladies really impressed me and they busted through the boys club of rifftastic rock with unbridled ferocity. All hell broke loose when Japandroids came on though. I had been wanting to see them since their breakthrough record Celebration Rock came out last year. I caught them at Bonnaroo 2010 when I didn’t know much about them. If you’ve been around me the past year you know how much I’ve raved about Celebration Rock, one of my favorite records in the past few years, maybe ever. One more time, if you don’t have it… GET IT! Eric and I were thrown into the maelstrom and the savagery of the crowd. I knew they had mosh pits at their shows, but I thought we were far back enough to avoid that. I was wrong. We were thrashed about like a beat up boat on unforgiving waters. Japandroids tore through Celebration Rock scorchers like “Adrenaline Nightshift,” “Fire’s Highway,” “Evil’s Sway,” “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” and of course “The House That Heaven Built”. They also threw in a few older cuts such as “Young Hearts Spark Fire” before closing it out with the blistering Gun Club cover “For The Love Of Ivy.” After that show my body was exhausted due to minimal sleep from the previous 36 hours and I more or less crashed.

Day two I took it a little easier. The line to get into the festival was ridiculous, not a fan of them adopting the wristband scanning policy of Lollapalooza, too much of a hassle and bottleneck creator. We got in to see the last part of the Local Natives set before heading over to Of Monsters Of Men. Here’s a band that has really taken off in the past year, backed by Arcade Fire-esque anthems from their dynamite debut record My Head is an Animal such as “Dirty Paws,” “King and Lionheart,” “Mountain Sound,” “Six Weeks,” and their hit single “Little Talks.” They played to a massive swell of an audience at such a small stage. A bright future is in store for this Icelandic group for sure.

After that I settled in for the sure-fire excellency of Wilco. I believe this was the seventh time I’ve seen Wilco and they delivered again with a 19-song set that included “Art of Almost,” “Kamera,” “California Stars,” “Handshake Drugs,” “Impossible Germany,” “Jesus Etc.,” “Via Chicago,” “Heavy Metal Drummer,” “I’m The Man Who Love You,” and “A Shot in the Arm.”

Then came time for the main event… Macca, Sir Paul McCartney. I don’t know if you could say he stole the show because he was a Beatle but McCartney blew everyone else out of the water up until that point. There were conflicting reports on how long he played but he went on shortly after 9pm and played till about 11:50pm. Nearly three hours at 70-years-old (He turned 71 four days after this). This man’s songbook, the sheer depth of classics he has at his disposal is near unfathomable for one artist. It’s a set list that’s been reported to be 36 songs long (Unless you count the medley at the end as multiple songs, then it’s 38). He played Wings and solo hits like “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Junior’s Farm,” “Let Me Roll It,” and “Listen to What the Man Said.” The bulk of the show however was his timeless Beatles catalog. And rightfully so, they were delivered dynamically and impeccably, near-perfection. Paul and his backing band sounded phenomenal. Just when you thought he might be losing some steam he kicked the show into a stratospheric gear beginning with an 80,000-strong sing-a-long of “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.” It was an onslaught, a murderers’ row of diamonds from then on. There was the epic “Band on the Run,” the jet-setting “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” soaring versions of “Let it Be” and “Hey Jude” and a pyrotechnics display not of this world for “Live and Let Die.” I thought the show might’ve ended there but he came back out for three encores. The first included Rubber Soul-era smash “Day Tripper,” the rollicking “Hi Hi Hi,” and a personal favorite of mine the propulsive Let It Be stomper “Get Back.” He came back on again armed with just an acoustic guitar for a stop-the-clocks rendition of “Yesterday” before the rest of the band rejoined him for the caustic pile-driver “Helter Skelter.” Again, I thought this had to be it. He returned yet again closing out the brilliant set with the Abbey Road medley of “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End”. McCartney was in a dapper mood and didn’t even appear to break a sweat. There was a large sign that in the crowd that said “Maccaroo” and I couldn’t have put it any better than that. He owned the festival that night, reigning supreme. I can now check McCartney off my concert bucket list, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something.

I still had two days of music after that show, I couldn’t believe it. Saturday started with the shimmering beauty of Lord Huron’s set. Then I had to fuel up for the white-knuckle ride of Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls. Turner is a fantastic live act and proved to be that again. A blue-collared poet of the people Turner had us in the palm of his hand, a roller coaster on edge as he tore the pages out of his punk playbook with rallying cries like “Four Simple Words”, “Reasons Not To Be An Idiot,” “Glory Hallelujah,” “I Am Disappeared,” “Plain Sailing Weather,” “The Road,” “Recovery,” “Photosynthesis,” and “I Still Believe.” I caught the end of Portugal. The Man’s set after that. They’re a band I definitely want to see an entire live show of at some point, they sounded great and they always put out good records, but Frank Turner took precedence. There was another large swath of people to see The Lumineers. Similar to Of Monsters and Men, they saw a meteoric rise to fame off the strength of a mega hit, in this case, “Ho Hey.” The band was very cordial and appreciative of the large fan base they had accrued in such a short time frame.

Sunday was a much needed recovery day. Out in the Tennessee heat for four days without the usual amenities you take for granted (in-door plumbing, air conditioning, a comfortable bed) really takes its toll. After getting rested up at the campgrounds, it was time to head in for The National. The National are an interesting dichotomy of technical proficiency and high-stakes theater. The latter of course, comes solely from front man Matt Berninger.  Berninger guzzled glasses of wine (Or some concoction) with impunity as he howled through National cuts with booze-fueled tenacity. Once again Berninger wondered through the crowd singing and causing total chaos during their defiant cut “Mr. November.” The National seem like sad sacks on record and maybe at first glance too, but they’re so much more than that. I’ve seen them throw more passion and dangerous sonics into their sets than a lot of punk and metal bands.

The time then came for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (Cue “When The Time Comes”) to close out the festival. If you know me at all you know of my great affinity for Tom Petty. He’s on my Mt. Rushmore of Rock & Roll singer/songwriters along with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young. Petty & The Heartbreakers delivered a powerhouse set that mixed in massive hits, deep cuts, and covers kicking off with a thunderous rendition of The Byrds’ classic “So You Want To Be a Rock ‘N’ Roll Star.” Petty then delivered a couple cuts from Full Moon Fever “Love is a Long Road” and “I Won’t Back Down” which Petty introduced saying, “Let’s do one everyone can sing-a-long with.” Petty was in great spirits stating, “I don’t have to be anywhere for hours!” and “I predict we’re going to have an incredible time tonight.” He was right. Petty sounded marvelous with his vintage nasally croon and the band was all aces playing tight and also loose whenever the situation warranted it. They followed Petty wherever he needed them to go flawlessly. Lead guitarist Mike Campbell’s virtuosic chops in particular were on display (Whom Petty has anointed as his Co-Captain over the years) on stellar moments during the blues standard “Baby Please Don’t Go” (Which included a great rambling narrative by Petty saying goodbye to his “Bipolar” woman), the absolutely incendiary, blistering “Good Enough” and the roasting outro of the colossal “I Should Have Known It” where you swore Campbell’s guitar was going to leave a smoldering pile of rubble where the stage once was. His interplay with Petty also seemed effortless on lengthier jams like the Grateful Dead cover “Friend of the Devil” and “It’s Good To Be King.” Tom dusted off a gem from the Traveling Wilburys first record “Tweeter And The Monkey Man” that he co-wrote with Dylan. Petty mentioned his roots beginning in the South and then played a stripped-down version of “Rebels” from Southern Accents. As if that wasn’t enough the treasures seemed endless with staples like “Here Comes My Girl,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Free Fallin’,” “A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me),” “Listen To Her Heart,” “Learning to Fly,” and “Yer So Bad.” Petty closed out the initial set with the one-two punch of clarion-call march “Refugee” and the open-road endearment of “Runnin’ Down A Dream.” With the crowd still completely enamored, Petty and the boys returned to the stage for “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and the hard-charging “You Wreck Me” before ending with the song that put them on the map, “American Girl.” An excellent way to send the crowd home with one of the greatest songwriters ever and one of the greatest bands ever.

Of course with four days of music you’ll inevitably have some regrets. So many great acts and you go in with such big ambitions but it’s tough to get to everyone and for everything to go perfectly. I guess the biggest disappointment would be Mumford & Sons being forced to cancel their set. This was something that was completely out of their control though. Bassist Ted Dwane was recovering from brain surgery after a blood clot was found there. Luckily he’s already on the mend and is doing fine. I’d be more upset if I weren’t seeing them in less than two months at Lollapalooza. It should be a hell of a show. The next was missing out on the “Superjam” with Jim James and special guests. I wish I had a better excuse than being completely tired, but that’s basically the reason. James has been known to steal the show at Bonnaroo. He did so at the festival in 2008 with My Morning Jacket when they played a monumental four hour set into the wee hours of the night. I heard nothing but positive reviews from the Superjam show. Again there is a bit of consolation for me in the fact that I will be seeing James perform with My Morning Jacket at the AmericanaramA festival next month along with Wilco and Bob Dylan.

In the grand scheme of things those setbacks seemed minor mainly because of such unbelievable headlining sets by McCartney and Petty and a strong supporting cast. Bonnaroo was once again an unbelievable experience. So many elements combine for such a surreal and unforgettable time. It’s time I cherished greatly because it was four days but it was gone seemingly in the blink of an eye. If you ever get the chance to get down south to Bonnaroo I strongly recommend it. There’s no other place like it… on this planet anyway.