Nutshell Concert Review: Vampire Weekend – Lollapalooza 8/4/13

IMG_11891Way back in the day we did a report on a Vampire Weekend show at an outdoor music festival in Chicago. And here we are again, just over a year later, doing exactly the same thing. But there’s a reason why Vampire Weekend is our first ever repeat band in our concert reviews; it’s because they did this magical thing where they made the show different than the last. Why was it different? Well besides the 13 months of time, 20 degrees, one new album (including a smash hit song), and half of a colossal supporting tour, the atmosphere at a huge festival like Lollapalooza is much different than that of Pitchfork. What was astounding to me, however, is the group’s apparent awareness to that fact, and how well they were able to cater to it.

Among a powerful set mixing brand new tracks (a total of six coming off their most recent LP, Modern Vampires of the City) and some old classics, including “Mansard Roof” B-Side “Boston (Ladies of Cambridge)”, the band hit their stride and never looked back. As usual, they held a high regard for keeping the crowd involved, including frontman Ezra Koenig and drummer Chris Tomson participating in a fire fight with the audience with ammo consisting of mainly toilet paper rolls and beach balls. It speaks volumes to a crowd when a band looks like they are truly enjoying themselves on stage, and all members took that to heart while taking time in between songs to giggle and joke, most notably when trying to remember how to play 2010’s Contra hit “Horchata”. They even seemed to have fun with poking the bear that was the uncharacteristically restless crowd by doing things like begging them to dance to “A-Punk”, and then acting casual about the craziness of the audience. Even when a fan managed to run on stage during “Giving Up the Gun” before being quickly restrained by festival security, the band kept their cool and continued to play as if there was nothing out of the ordinary going on.

Like I said before; Vampire Weekend mixed it up and was truly great enough to prove the worth in continuing to buy tickets to see bands perform over and over again. This show was fantastic on all accounts, and I’m sure the many thousands of fans that surrounded me last Sunday can vouch for that. Vampire Weekend’s Lollapalooza set was one worth seeing, and here’s to hoping that they’ll be back again soon. Until then, they’re most recent LP Modern Vampires of the City is out now.

Here’s the setlist for Vampire Weekend’s Lollapalooza show, 8/4/13:

  1. Cousins
  2. White Sky
  3. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  4. Diane Young
  5. Step
  6. Holiday
  7. Unbelievers
  8. Horchata
  9. Everlasting Arms
  10. A-Punk
  11. Boston (Ladies of Cambridge)
  12. Ya Hey
  13. Campus
  14. Oxford Comma
  15. Giving Up the Gun
  16. Hannah Hunt
  17. One (Blake’s Got a New Face)
  18. Walcott
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Lollapalooza 2013 Recap

For those of you who missed this past weekend’s annual music festival in Grant Park, first off shame on you. But it’s fully understandable that there are many reasons to not be hitting up the notoriously crowded, hot, and usually storm-ridden Lollapalooza, and it is also understandable that if you did happen to miss it, you are curious about what you missed. Even for those that did land on the woodchip-covered park sometime this weekend, it sure is fun to reminisce. So here it is; the Nutshell Music Group Lollapalooza 3-Day Recap.

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Friday: The air was buzzing with yet another big-billed festival weekend upon us. There was a short drizzle early, and the day’s high temperature of 81 was the highest on schedule for the whole weekend. Things really were looking up with a solid set of headliners performing later in the evening, and a solid undercard to boot.

Friday’s Notable Moments:

  1. San Cisco starting off the day with a dance party except, you know, one that indie kids would go to.
  2. Father John Misty french kissing a stuffed unicorn.
  3. Bernard Sumner joining The Killers on stage to perform Joy Division’s “Shadowplay”.
  4. Thievery Corporation defining the word “groove”.

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Saturday: For many reasons, the second day of this year’s festival was very possibly the most exciting. One band was preparing for a comeback show (actually their second show back) after their bassist suffered a brain clot, and another took the stage for one of their final performances ever. On top of that, some of the biggest names in indie rock, hip-hop, and EDM all powered through electrifying sets to cap off day 2 of Lollapalooza.

Saturday’s Notable Moments:

  1. Pujol enjoying some candy thrown on stage by an audience member during their soundcheck.
  2. Matt & Kim repeatedly sampling, among many other rap classics, Ace Hood’s “Bugatti”. The band later suffered so many technical difficulties that “Daylight” had to be cut in mid-song, and they instead ended their set with “Cinders”, which they had admittedly not played in years.
  3. Ellie Goulding ending her hit “Lights” with a snippet of the Bassnectar remix.
  4. Two fans in wheel chairs crowd surfing during Kendrick Lamar’s set being helped over the front guardrail, and being allowed to watch the remainder of the show from the front of the stage.
  5. The Postal Service playing absolutely every song in their repertoire, and the crowd singing the last line of “Brand New Colony” over and over again as the band left the stage.
  6. Death Grips and Azealia Banks both separately cancelling Saturday night performances, resulting in Shaun White’s band Bad Things headlining on The Grove stage.

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Sunday: The same as always, the weekend seemed to be coming to a close much too quickly and the initial hype was slowly turning into sunburn, hangovers, and fatigue. The weather was a blessing with it actually becoming a bit cold by the end of the night, and that shot enough energy into the crowd to see some of the most successful musicians, both new and old, in their respective genres. The night ended on such a high (and tired) note that the only thing I could muster up for my personal Twitter account was “So. F*****g. Good.”

Sunday’s Notable Moments:

  1. Mario Cuomo of The Orwells taking off his pants at the tail end of the band’s set.
  2. Alex Trimble of Two Door Cinema Club keeping it classy, performing in a suit and drinking wine.
  3. Vampire Weekend not being able to get through their set without laughing at the crowd throwing toilet paper on stage or watching as a fan ran on stage (showing his bare butt) and was quickly restrained backstage.
  4. Phoenix putting on an absolute spectacle of a performance, including Thomas Mars making two trips over the guardrail and laying down for the group’s extra-long rendition of “Love Like a Sunset”.

Keep your eyes peeled for some concert reviews of a few of the Lollapalooza sets, along with another upcoming festival review next week!

Nutshell Album Review: Team Spirit – Team Spirit EP

teamspiritEPAyad Al Adhamy is a brilliant, brilliant man. Not only did he grace our ears as the former synthesizer player in Passion Pit, produce many remixes under the same band, and start an absolutely awesome independent record label that’s released material from bands like The Joy Formidable, Dom, and Stepdad, but now he’s doing another thing in the music industry (shocker!). Now Al Adhamy is back in the music-making game with his new Brookyln-based garage rock group Team Spirit, which most recently has garnered the attention of Rolling Stone who called them a “Band to Watch”. This raunchy and in-your-face quartet have gained a lot of attention so far following the release of their debut Team Spirit EP, and Rolling Stone is correct; you definitely want to keep an eye on them.

The EP opens up with “Jesus, He’s Alright!”, which opens up with your standard feedback and noise before breaking into a fast-paced and riff-based pop punk track. Once Al Adhamy’s vocals get layered over the screeching guitars, exceptionally catchy bass groove, and inhumanly fast drum beat, this song transforms into an all out garage anthem. After that comes “MRDR it’s ok”, with a very listener-friendly opening hook, a beautifully double-tracked solo, and solid vocal layering to turn this into a masterpiece of a song. This track has all things necessary for you to headbang, dance like a goofy indie kid, or do anything in between. The next song is “Fuck the Beach” (thus the use of the word “raunchy” earlier), which is a hilarious and angsty song about someone who just really doesn’t want to go to the beach. The song also creates a solid Wavves-like beach punk feel, with harmonies and “woo”s being provided throughout the song as it cuts back and forth between a very civil-sounding chorus and a wall of distortion. Then comes “Teenage Love”, which includes another impressive combination of riffs, dynamics, and vocals from Al Adhamy (plus a great performance from the rhythm section), and album closer “Phenomenon”, which sounds like The Orwells doing an intense rendition of a Doolittle-era Pixies song. If you need a translation, it’s beachy, garagey, and just a good note to end the EP on.

It isn’t a secret that I love Passion Pit. It also isn’t a secret that I love things that come from Black Bell Records. Through a storm of reviews and articles about Team Spirit that, just as I did, talk endlessly about Passion Pit, Black Bell, and everything that Ayad Al Adhamy put his hands on that aren’t this band, I fear that people will lose sight of the important things: we have stumbled upon what could truly become an influential part on today’s garage/punk/beach rock scene. Kudos to Team Spirit for putting together a truly awesome debut EP, and for grabbing an 89/100 in the process.

Team Spirit EP Tracklisting:

  1. Jesus, He’s Alright!
  2. MRDR it’s ok
  3. Fuck the Beach
  4. Teenage Love
  5. Phenomenon

Nutshell Concert Review: Wilco – Toyota Park 7/12/13

Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy performing at Toyota Park, 7/12/13

Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy performing at Toyota Park, 7/12/13

Friday night was a very important night in my long-spanning career of music fandom. The “Americanarama” tour featuring Bob Dylan (and his band), Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and The Richard Thompson Trio made it’s way through Bridgeview, IL, a town known for almost nothing besides the enormous soccer field/concert venue that is Toyota Park. Not only did I get to see some of the most respected and well-versed musicians in their respective generations, but I also asked myself the question of why I stopped writing about these amazing moments that have happened to me in my own little musical bubble. So…here we are.

The “Americanarama” tour is headlined by none other than Bob Dylan, who is a musical icon and has been for decades. This is no reason, however, to undersell the other three acts traveling with Dylan and his band. The hometown-favorite Wilco stepped on stage as the last act before Dylan himself took the stage. As the night cooled, the sun set, and the music veterans stepped on stage, a wall of energy swept through the audience. Following the high-octane performances of My Morning Jacket and Richard Thompson was going to be a tough task for the notoriously relaxing band, but the 6-piece had no issues keeping the crowd tuned in with a career-spanning setlist and a handful of guest appearances from both Thompson and MMJ. When the soft lighting went up on stage and the sky turned dark, the entire audience stayed on their feet, singing along, and applauding every time frontman Jeff Tweedy reminded us all how great it was to return home.

Throughout a setlist that had its fair share of surprises (including an impromptu jam session when Richard Thompson took the stage), many moments shone through in this exceptional performance. Whether it be Thompson’s vocals gracing a mid-set performance of the Wilco/Billy Bragg classic “California Stars”, the MMJ collaboration of Neil Young’s classic “Cinnamon Girl”, or the beautiful rendition of the Being There opening track, “Misunderstood”, this performance showed Wilco at their best. And kudos to Thompson, My Morning Jacket, and Bob Dylan as well for helping create one of the most epic concert lineups I’ve seen in a while. A pretty solid comeback topic for us, if you ask me.

Here’s Wilco’s full setlist from the show:

  1. At the Window, Sad and Lonely
  2. When the Roses Bloom Again
  3. What Light
  4. Misunderstood
  5. Poor Places
  6. Art of Almost
  7. Sloth (Fairport Convention cover, played with Richard Thompson)
  8. California Stars (played with Richard Thompson)
  9. That’s Not the Issue (played with Richard Thompson)
  10. Hummingbird
  11. Impossible Germany
  12. Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young cover, played with My Morning Jacket)
  13. Born Alone
  14. Dawned on Me

Dear Readers:

Today, I regret to inform you that Nutshell Music Group is officially going to be entering an abbreviated hiatus for the coming weeks/months. It is not a surprise that the amount of posts made on our behalf has ceased dramatically, and our support throughout the last month or so hasn’t been far behind. We are in no way, however, suggesting that you (the readers) are the one to blame for the hiatus. We greatly appreciate all of the dedicated readers we have amassed over the last 9 months, as this is something that exploded far past what I envisioned when I created it in my basement last June. So thank you so much to everyone who has kept us writing.

This is by no means a farewell announcement. It is just a warning that the frequency of posting is going to be significantly less (sometimes nonexistent) than otherwise seen. The Lollapalooza predictions, for example, will still be running at the speed we can run it at. On the end of album and concert reviews, however, they will be slim to none in the coming weeks.

The straightforward answer to why this announcement is happening is time. We have just gained popularity (which created a demand for new material) at a time in which our entire staff is caught up on either entering college life or the job world. These two activities have absorbed the time of our writing staff, making it nearly impossible for things to continue chugging along at the speed they were at the beginning of this year.

I would like to thank all of you for your support of NSMG over its history to this point. As stated above, we will continue to write and publish as often as possible. Not too far in the future, we will also be able to step up and continue the site as it was at its peak. So continue commenting, emailing, and checking for new material. We could not have gotten to this point without you.

Collin Thomas
Creator, Writer – Nutshell Music Group

Lollapalooza Lineup Leak?

As is the case almost every year, Twitter accounts have erupted claiming to be music festival insiders who are aware of what the lineup for that respective festival will be that Summer, months before there’s any itching of a clue of the actual lineups. This has happened again for Lollapalooza, with a star-studded top half of the lineup leaked on Twitter, along with none other than @TheLollaLeaker himself being called out on it. After someone being kind enough to un-blur the cryptic photos that were posted, this is what the lineup is (allegedly) set to be.

Lollapalooza festival goers may be seeing the following acts this Summer:
The Flaming Lips, The Cure, Jay-Z, Blur, Mumford & Sons, Skrillex, Vampire Weekend, How to Destroy Angels, MGMT, and many others.

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Grammy Awards 2013

55th_Grammy_Awards_Official_PosterFor those of you who don’t know, tonight marks the 55th annual Grammy Awards following what ended up being a pretty big year in the scheme of the music industry. While not necessarily “predictions” per say, Nutshell Music Group compiled a group of hopeful winners at tonight’s ceremony. This of course is not covering all categories, but the ones that feature artists or genres that are specific to our focus group. So, here goes nothing!

Record of the Year – “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys
The distinction between this award and Song of the Year is often overlooked. The former is a performance award, with the latter being specifically for song writing. “Lonely Boy” has been one of the most played songs of the last year and the band’s live performances of the track have been praised all over the country. The Black Keys had quite a few hits that came out of El Camino, but this is the one that led the way.

Song of the Year – “We Are Young” by Fun. featuring  Janelle Monáe 
Fun. was able to weasel their way into everyone’s heart this year with songs off of Some Nights, most notably this one. Never before has a song been able to so successfully get significant airtime on rock, alternative, and pop radio stations as “We Are Young” without the band having to come out with different versions of a track. This song is hooky, catchy, and just all around well written.

Best New Artist – Alabama Shakes
As much as people may be contesting this, Alabama Shakes is most likely the most underrated band of 2012. This category is going to be hard fought this year, but behind huge praise from major music publications like Spin and Rolling Stone, and a couple of impressive festival performances to boot, Alabama Shakes have cemented themselves into musical significance this year.

Album of the Year – Some Nights by Fun.
This was a hard internal battle for me to choose between this and Channel OrangeSome Nights really sticks out because of the popularity it was able to rise to both in sales and radio airplay. Fun. went from being a virtually unknown group to global superstars overnight because of this album.

Lollapalooza 2013 Predictions: Episode IV

Can we all just agree it’s fair to skip the whole intro thing and just get to some more predictions? Alright, sounds like a plan. It’s only a few, but it’s still some new names to throw into the mix.

  • Alice in Chains – It hasn’t been uncommon for the festival to throw in a 90’s revival band here and there, and the spot for grunge bands seems to be having a comeback. With Alice in Chains expected to unveil a new album later this year and a lack of a Chicago tour date on their Spring tour, it’s always a possibility.
  • Yo La Tengo – Let’s face it, Fade is an awesome album. These guys have been doing it for a long time and it’s obvious that adding them to the bill will introduce a crowd of indie adults to the group of age-deprived festival goers.
  • The Flaming Lips – Wayne Coyne has had a goof-ball, go off the deep end sort of year, and with a collaboration album and another “normal” Flaming Lips album due out in April, the festival kings are sure to explode back into Chicago with open arms waiting for them (and whatever giant inflatable objects they’ll bring for this tour).

Nutshell Album Review: DRGN KING – Paragraph Nights

drgn_adv_cd_insert.inddA funny thing happens that if we don’t post something for over a week, the site blows up with emails and comments. That makes us happy, so KEEP DOING THAT. But never fear! We are back, and this is a record that you should be excited for because it is something special.

DRGN KING (pronounced “Dragon King”, which apparently has to be specified according to certain radio DJs) hails from Philadelphia, and they specialize in pumping out powerful and just generally awesome songs. On debut LP Paragraph Nights, the band jams out, gets you moving and singing, and just tears apart your brain because you wish you could write music like this. This group comes out with a genre similar to that of a mega-indie/electronic Dr. Dog; one that it pains me to say is not nearly as popular as it should be. But who knows, with an album like this nay-sayers may be eating their words in a month’s time to make way for a new generation of kick-ass bands who do just that: kick ass.

Paragraph Nights opens up with the title track, a piano and synthy sound collage with beautiful vocals and a relaxing vibe. “Wild Night” is what gets the contagious movement started, with a catchy rhythm and an overpowering beat. The synth and saw basses take over half way through and give this song an upbeat AWOLNATION feel. The best part? The song is all about just going out and having a blast. Isn’t that something? Up next is “Holy Ghost”, which is a song that you should not be surprised if it just blows you away. This track has festival jam band written all over it, and it has group vocals and an irreplaceable beat that are impossible to not dance along with. It’s no surprise why this is one of the album’s singles. “Menswear” has a bigger rock influence, and goes back and forth between quiet with slightly distorted vocals and loud, noisy, powerful rock n’ roll. “The Cardy Boys” then takes it down a notch, going to a beautiful, Oasis-style acoustic track. It features a solo on an instrument I embarrassingly can’t identify, but it puts a very solid interlude in the center of the song that adds to it immensely.

“Barbarians” features claps and a huge emphasis on the bass line. This song is more experimental than the others on the album, and features a lot of sound effects and whispered vocals. “Warriors” has a more electronic feel, with synth loops and a very melodic chorus. The vocals at points come out more as a rap, and it’s done very impressively. This song tones down the energy and speed, but it is still a strong track and it is definitely one to check out. After that is “Altamont Sunrise”, which opens up with a groovy guitar and bass riff and dreamy vocals. This is another one that is sure to be a live-hit, with a great beat to bop to and catchy vocal melodies. “Black Gold” is an instrumental, trancey song that uses a lot of dream-like instruments and unique percussion. This one comes out sounding somewhat like Explosions in the Sky, except it doesn’t exceed 3 minutes. The album gets closed out with “Caught Down”, which has a jammy sound crossed with Arcade Fire-style dynamic changes and Noel Gallagher-like vocals, and “Looking At You”, an upbeat and indie-poppy song that is an energetic and quick way to bring the record to an end.

DRGN KING is one of those duos that has it working for them musically. Paragraph Nights does not stay within the constraints of one specific genre, nor should it. With the help of various collaborators, the two members of this Philadelphia group hit a wide range of indie rock sub genres and put it all together into a sort of  hipster kid free-for-all. No musical genre was left unscathed by this album and believe me, you’ll be hearing about it from websites not unlike this one in the months to come. Paragraph Nights takes over a 93/100 and you can grab it now. So do that.

Paragraph Nights Tracklisting:

  1. Paragraph Nights
  2. Wild Night
  3. Holy Ghost
  4. Menswear
  5. The Cardy Boys
  6. Barbarians
  7. Warriors
  8. Altamont Sunrise
  9. Black Gold
  10. Caught Down
  11. Looking At You

Lollapalooza 2013 Predictions (Pt. 3)

IMG_0083With a handful of solid new music coming out over the last few months, it’s only fitting that a few more artists get added to the discussion for Lollapalooza 2013’s lineup. Remember, as always, this is an open discussion so suggestions are welcome and encouraged. You can also check out Nutshell Music Group’s entire Lollapalooza speculation page here.

  • Band of Horses – There isn’t much to be said here besides the fact that, other than the release of Mirage Rock most likely being enough, the group hit the Chilean and Brazilian legs of Lollapalooza 2012 and also played a House of Blues set with the Lolla name on it, and haven’t seen the Grant Park side of things since 2009. At this point, Band of Horses is anything short of a shoe-in for this year’s festival.
  • Ra Ra Riot – Even though the album isn’t even released yet, the band has a large opportunity to hit festivals this summer in support of Beta Love. The quintet hasn’t been involved in anything Lollapalooza-wise since 2009, so the group seems to be due for a triumphant, mid-afternoon or evening return.
  • The Killers – This one I have just forgotten to put on here. Even with the mixed reviews received by Battle Born, The Killers have been side-stepping the Chicago leg of this festival for the past few years. Yet another group that hasn’t stepped into Grant Park since ’09, expect to see them as a headliner this year.
  • The Lumineers – When booking a summer festival, you can never go wrong with an indie-folk group to round out the afternoon. These guys have enough momentum from “Hey Ho” alone to guarantee them a spot at this year’s festival.
  • Queens of the Stone Age – With a new album in the works featuring Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl on the drums, QOTSA is going to be going on a colossal tour without a doubt. The band is hitting Brazil and Chile for Lollapalooza 2013, and there is no question that they would be welcomed with opened arms (and probably beers) in Grant Park this August.
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