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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!

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.

lollapalooza

Nutshell Album Review: Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love

Beta LoveRa Ra Riot has garnered a fair amount of attention since their 2010 release of The Orchard, which was the most recent full-length to date from the Syracuse indie rockers. But the five-piece has kept busy, releasing a handful of singles and EPs (along with being one half of the greatest indie band friendship ever with Vampire Weekend) before finally hammering out The Orchard‘s follow-up and their third LP, Beta Love. The first thing on everyone’s mind is the synthesizers. Yes, it’s no secret that the sound of this album is new. There, however, seems to be no consensus on whether or not that sound is accepted. I wouldn’t be wrong to say that it may be shocking to some fans of the group, but then again I sort of would. It wouldn’t be far off for me to say most modernized rock and indie bands try their hand at a more electronic feel (ahem…Muse?), and Ra Ra Riot is another group that has succumbed to the inevitable. But, don’t get me wrong. The inevitable doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing, does it?

Beta Love opens with “Dance With Me”, along with Wesley Miles’ smile-inducing voice tumbling over admitting that, well, he just is having a pretty damn good time. The song seems like it will only be a small taste of electronic influence until around the two-minute mark, where we come across a short but fantastic breakdown. After that comes “Binary Mind”, a fast-paced and energetic, beat driven-track with a poppy and saw-filled chorus. It also brings out a dancefloor electric drumkit with claps overdubbing snare hits, which makes it just that much cooler. Title track “Beta Love” is one of the moments that made it clear that this record is special. It hits the combination of the new indie sound and the vibe heard from the group’s first two albums right on the head, and it would be a gift from the music gods if this was a sign of what’s to come from Ra Ra Riot. “Is It Too Much” starts off with elevator music bells (creatively paired with opening lyric “Elevator down…”) and keeps a subtle and low-key sound. This track comes out sounding very similar to frontman Miles’ side project Discover with Vampire Weekend keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij. “For Once” is another exceptional track, with Miles showing off his vocal range while the rest of the group plays coffeehouse-style melodies completed with a string solo. The song has an up-tempo and indie pop feel, and it’s definitely one to check out.

“Angel, Please” is another great example of the quintet’s abilities, opening up in a similar manner as Miniature Tigers’ “Sex on the Regular”, and then breaking into another quality track. The cowbell is broken out on this one, and the beat is just contagious. “What I Do for U” features heavy 808 bass beats with short keyboard interjections. This is a mainly rhythm section dominated song, with synths interjecting near the end. Following that is “When I Dream”, a very passionate seeming track that again sticks to low-key synths and a large emphasis on drums, bass, and strings. This song hits a more melancholy side of the group, but still maintains the album’s energy and sound. “That Much” is closer to the sound of The Orchard and The Rhumb Line, with a more rock-style refrain than what’s heard on the rest of the record (other than the Talking Heads-style solo type…thing at the end). The band’s third LP is then closed out with “Wilderness”, an almost R&B song with a “lift up your lighters” style beat and apparent Dirty Projectors influences, and “I Shut Off”, an outlet of all the album’s leftover energy that hits the electro indie pop sound from earlier on the album and a phenomenal way to close out such a great album.

People will be upset about this album. People will be upset about every album, especially when a band dramatically shifts its sound like Ra Ra Riot did for Beta Love. But, from the totally non-biased opinion of a melody and hook loving indie fanatic, this change was bold and should be well received. There’s no telling which sound of Ra Ra Riot is “better”, but both are very good. It wouldn’t be challenging to find a large population of people who would be absolutely content with the group carrying out the sound they did on this record, and this writer in particular would be standing in that crowd. Beta Love takes a 95/100, and it is hitting shelves on January 22nd.

Beta Love Tracklisting:

  1. Dance With Me
  2. Binary Mind
  3. Beta Love
  4. Is It Too Much
  5. For Once
  6. Angel, Please
  7. What I Do for U
  8. When I Dream
  9. That Much
  10. Wilderness
  11. I Shut Off

Nutshell Music Group’s 2012: The Year (Or…Seven Months) In Review

Everyone here at Nutshell has been taking some time off in response to the holiday season being upon us, just as we hope you did the same. But before the streamers and fireworks get released and the beginning of a new work calendar is upon us, it’s only fitting that we put together a best of list for those of you that are new to the site (or are already nostalgic). So here are some fun facts about our last seven months as an official publication. But before we get the ball rolling, here’s to wishing you a wonderful 2013.

Nutshell Music Group is born!

With the June 14th review of Walk The Moon’s self-titled LP, Nutshell Music Group officially became a publication.
Album Rating: 89/100
Album Highlights: “Anna Sun”, “Shiver Shiver”, “I Can Lift A Car”

NUTSHELLNutshell: The Logo and The Twitter

On June 18th, we unveiled our new logo, created by John Spiller. Then three days later we officially hit social media, with our Twitter that you can follow @NSMusicGroup.

Nutshell’s First Concert

The site became so much more than an album review site on July 16th, with our first concert review being published on Vampire Weekend’s Pitchfork Performance.
Concert Rating: A
Concert Highlights: Opening with the one two punch of “Cousins” and “White Sky”, an untitled new song now known as “Unbelievers”.

Making Friends

On October 15th Nutshell Music Group officially announced the addition of our newest writer, Bianca Smith. Her first review was posted less than two weeks later.

Opening the Discussion

On December 1st, we started our first full-on discussion topic as we posted our first round of Lollapalooza 2013 lineup predictions. Since then, a large amount of responses have come in and we opened up our Lollapalooza 2013 page.

Bests, Worsts, and Other Notable Things

Highest Rated Album: Matt & Kim – Lightning
Album Rating: 98/100
Album Highlights: “Let’s Go”, “Now”, “I Said”

Highest Rated EP: Go Tell The Eskimo – Smoke Signals EP
Album Rating: 95/100
Album Highlights: “When The Lights Go Out”

Lowest Rated Album: Animal Kingdom – The Looking Away
Album Rating: 73/100
Album Highlights: “Get Away With It”, “Skipping Disc”

Top Viewed Post: Lollapalooza 2013 Lineup Predictions

Most written about artist: Green Day (with a total of three album reviews)

Album We Wish We Reviewed Better: The Tallest Man On Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
Original Rating: 84/100

IMG_0445Nutshell Music Group’s total geek-out favorite band of the year: Stepdad

This one deserves some explaining. This goes to the band that Nutshell Music Group feels is the band that was most enjoyable to deal with. After reviewing Wildlife Pop back in June and then their Beat Kitchen Concert in October, the group has always been fun to watch, listen to, and even talk to in small doses. So a big thank you goes out to the guys in Stepdad for giving us a memorable band to talk about time and time again.

There you have it folks! Have a great time ringing in the new year, and we will be back on schedule with normal reviews after 2013 begins.

Lollapalooza 2013 Lineup Predictions

IMG_0049Even though we haven’t even broken into winter, there is already a typhoon of speculation about who will be making their rounds at music festivals in Summer 2013. Bonnaroo presale tickets came and went in three minutes, and we’ve already seen message boards and websites be riddled with alleged lineups. With Nutshell being based out of and somewhat centered around the Chicago area, I thought it would be a perfect outlet for my 3rd annual Lollapalooza lineup predictions. This will, for the first time, be live updating. Bands will be crossed out and added as time goes on, up until the midnight lineup release some time in April. That is, if the Chicago Tribune would stop leaking it at 10:30. Think of this as an open discussion. Your thoughts are all appreciated, but they will only be read, reviewed, and utilized for this list if they are posted in the comments section below. That being said, we want your input. If you think I’m wrong, tell me why.

Here’s my current lineup predictions for Lollapalooza 2013, set for August 2-4:

  • Animal Collective – The dukes of modern indie rock haven’t graced the Lollapalooza stages since 2009, and they already found themselves in a premiere Saturday night slot. With Centipede Hz now under their belts and no extensive touring schedule, you can expect them to be hitting one of Chicago’s many festivals. After 2009’s powerhouse performance, it would be foolish for both the band and the festival if they did not end up in a headliner’s position this Summer.
  • Wu-Tang Clan – Now before you argue, look at the facts. According to an interview with AV Club, Clan producer RZA said that he had been contacted by Bonnaroo and Coachella, and that there’s a chance Lollapalooza has also been in contact with him about a Wu-Tang festival run. With one album having its 20th anniversary and another new one in the works, why not play a few festivals?
  • Alabama Shakes & The Temper Trap – Among many of the acts that had to be cancelled or shuffled around during last year’s mud pit, these two groups got the short end of the stick. They both had solid late afternoon slots and the potential to draw large crowds, so it would not come as a major surprise to see their names back on the bill.
  • The Avett Brothers – Backed by this year’s release of The Carpenter, the American folk group has never played on Lollapalooza’s stage. They hit their Chicago dates early on the supporting tour for the album, and a group like this would surely thrive in an outdoor festival.
  • MGMT – The group hasn’t hit the festival since 2010, and with an R.E.M.-inspired new album in the works it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them return for a third time. With three albums and their debut EP all in the catalog, the psychedelic collective would be a comfortable fit in a 5 or 6 headliner spot.
  • Phoenix – The French indie pop group hasn’t had much to say since the conclusion of their last tour, and with only one Lollapalooza appearance (2010) to date, the mysterious new album that is apparently being hammered out, a last second American Summer tour announcement with a few festivals wouldn’t be the biggest of surprises.
  • Vampire Weekend – Even though the band made a stop at last year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, they have been on a somewhat hiatus when finishing out their new album. They already have an impressive new single that’s presumably from the record, and it isn’t uncommon to see the two Chicago festivals swap bands for consecutive festival seasons. Since 2009, bands that have hit stages at both festivals include Animal Collective, Neon Indian, Washed Out, and  tUnE-yArDs, so Vampire Weekend could very well be returning to Grant Park come August.

Again, your comments are welcome below. Tell us what you’re thinking; who do you think will be playing at Grant Park in August?

Nutshell Concert Review: Vampire Weekend – Pitchfork Music Festival 7/15/12

Photo: Tom Cruze – Chicago Sun-Times

After spending the last few weeks off, Nutshell decided to make a comeback with our first ever concert review. We chose one that would be easy to talk about, and that those of you in the Chicago area may have already heard about.

Vampire Weekend entered this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park backed up with only two performances this year (Pitchfork was the third, and is the final scheduled performance for them to date). Festival performances also seemed light years away for the quartet, with frontman Ezra Koenig saying it had been “a looooong time since [they’ve] played festivals” after they stepped onto the Green Stage on Sunday night. And how could they start the set with anything other than two-minute, fast paced Contra track “Cousins” to get the crowd amped up. The band fired through a 16-song set that was capped off with a 4-song encore. Heavily filled with songs from VW’s self-titled debut (the only track from Vampire Weekend that wasn’t featured was “Bryn”), the band looked in top shape, especially considering they’ve barely been on stage this year. The set hit all ends of Vampire Weekend’s spectrum, and it even included the heart-warming “I Think Ur a Contra” and created an amazing atmosphere to finish the show under the night sky. Koenig also promised to fans that after last night’s show, the band was on their way to finish their third studio album, with an untitled new track being played in the middle of the set. The encore was a 4-song backtrack to Vampire Weekend, with all four songs being oldies but goodies.

Vampire Weekend’s Pitchfork set was a solid jumping-off point for Nutshell Concert Reviews, with a great crowd and a set that used the vast majority of the band’s repertoire. The band (keyboardist and guitarist Rostam Batmanglij in particular) got everybody in the audience involved, being sure to keep them on top of all of the “oh”s, “ah”s, and “chah”s needed to make the songs sound spot on. This concert is given an A by Nutshell Music Group. And yes, it was worth braving the sun and 90+ degree heat to see this show up close.

Here’s the setlist for Vampire Weekend’s Pitchfork show, 7/15/12:

  1. Cousins
  2. White Sky
  3. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  4. M79
  5. Run
  6. Holiday
  7. California English
  8. A-Punk
  9. Horchata
  10. I Stand Corrected
  11. I Think Ur a Contra
  12. Untitled New Song
  13. Diplomat’s Son
  14. Campus
  15. Oxford Comma
  16. Giving Up the Gun
Encore
  1. One (Blake’s Got a New Face)
  2. Mansard Roof
  3. The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance
  4. Walcott
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