Festival Update: High Sierra, Smilefest, and More

Now that things have cooled off from the intense, day-long Bonnaroo lineup announcement, let’s see how the rest of the fest world is doing, shall we?

Quincy, California’s High Sierra Music Festival has announced their lineup, and they’re keeping things relatively low-key this year, playing to their built in audience with acts like The Avett Brothers, Ozomatli, Femi Kuti and Positive Force, Railroad Earth, Bela Fleck with Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain, Dr. Dog, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, Cornmeal, Blitzen Trapper, the New Mastersounds, The Slip, The Infamous Stringdusters, Telepath, Zach Deputy, and more. It’s a modest but high-quality lineup befitting the event’s history.

The rejuvenated Smilefest has a slightly improved lineup, as Michael Franti and Spearhead, Jeff Coffin Mu’tet, Josh Phillips Folk Festival and Barefoot Manner (acoustic) have joined Acoustic Syndicate, Keller Williams, and a number of local artists. 1990’s-era jamband Quiver will also perform a reunion show at the event.

The Joshua Tree Music Festival keeps quietly adding new acts, such as New Orleans brass stunners Bonerama and mor eCalifornia talent such as The Heavy Guilt and Evaros.

February 19th will bring more news from the Nateva Festival, and March should be full of announcements from Mile High, Lollapalooza, All Good, Pitchfork, and maybe even some early leaks from Austin City Limits, along with “round 2” of Bonnaroo.

Festival Update: Camp Bisco, Bear Creek, and More

We’ve got our eyes on a couple of new additions to our festival watch list – Camp Bisco 9 and Bear Creek Music Festival. Camp Bisco 9 is shaping up to be one of the most successful events of the year, and it’s still more than 5 months away. The event, which takes place July 15-17, 2010, in Mariaville, NY, sold out of the first batch of presale tickets and opened up a whole new presale period. The lineup for this one will undoubtedly be amazing and unpredictable, so check here and the festival website for updates.

The fine folks behind the Bear Creek Music Festival, held every year at Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park in Live Oak, FL, have taken a unique approach to their 2010 event. Tickets are already on sale and the lineup has already been announced for the festival, with is still 9 months away. I suppose their philosophy is sound – the longer tickets are on sale and the lineup circulating, the more buzz and press there will be. I must say, a $99 early bird ticket is a hell of a deal for the jamgasm of a lineup – Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Garaj Mahal, Lettuce, Soulive, George Porter Jr, Toubab Krewe, Zach Deputy, Will Bernard, and “artists-at-large” Fred Wesley, Skerik, Mike Dillon, The Shady Horns, and Kofi Burbridge are just a sampling of the monster funk lineup.

Bonnaroo rumors and confirmations continue to fly, with Wale announcing his plans to be on the farm and Zac Brown Band confirming their inclusion as well. As of right now, it looks like the speculators will be right on with their predictions of Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Pavement, and others.

We’re looking for anything we can find about Lollapalooza, High Sierra, All Good, Mile High, Austin City Limits, and other events, and we’ll be sure to post as soon as we hear anything!

Album Review: Vampire Weekend – Contra

It’s a cliche that often holds true – a stunning debut album foretells a slight letdown for a band’s next release. Well, don’t expect a letdown from this sophomore known as Contra. All of a sudden, Vampire Weekend’s short career seems incredibly promising, because Contra is equally as engaging and addictive as their first album. Thankfully, it is also very, very different. The band have not allowed their ubiquitous debut to influence their new musical path, and those who grew tired of the band’s overexposure would do well to give this album a dedicated listen.

Their peppy, preppy pop sound is still intact but they haven’t limited themselves to re-hashing the same formula of gently African-influenced indie rock. Instead, they’ve opened up the whole of their audio toy box, creating gems like “White Sky,” which simultaneously channels Paul Simon and Hot Chip. “Taxi Cab” takes the listener on a melancholy ride through mesmerizing piano figures, elegant melodic interludes, and sparse electronica. Perhaps the most ambitious track, “Run,” embraces the ears with lush, limitless sounds, from synthesized horns to pinging Postal Service-style electropop and dominant drumming reminiscent of u2’s Larry Mullen Jr.

“Holiday” is perhaps most reminiscent of their trademark sound, a straightforward creation with inconsequential lyrics and bouncy rock rhythms. “California English” also bears the unmistakable pulse of Africa-meets-NYC listeners have come to love, but this time there’s a string section and increased electronic manipulation. The exhausting “Cousins” puts the entire band’s abilities to the test, as manic, cascading guitars dart around a frantic beat and unflappable bass work.

For most of this album’s audience, gripes will be minimal. The general uselessness of the lyrics can be irritating despite the appeal of Ezra Koenig’s mellow vocals, and “Giving Up the Gun” doesn’t fit in as well as the rest of the album. Also, the final track, “I Think Ur A Contra,” isn’t going to garner many repeat plays. Still, Contra is just about all we could hope for from Vampire Weekend. Under intense critical scrutiny and palpable fan pressure, they have delivered a mature, forward-looking, and wholly exciting release.

Rating: 8.1 out of 10

Album Review: Mike Doughty – Sad Man Happy Man

Sad Man Happy Man is a perfectly fitting title for a Mike Doughty album. Anyone who reads the guy’s blog or follows his career knows how alternately volatile and friendly he can be, and his latest album might be the best representation of that divide since his first solo effort, Skittish. This album is more sparse and intimate than his last release, the shimmering pop effort Golden Delicious, and it’s no coincidence. Doughty has said that he consciously went back to sound that is not as fully produced and fleshed out for Sad Man Happy Man, since different cliques of his fans seem to like different things.

Apparently, some of those fans told Doughty that they liked Golden Delicious more than anything he ever did with Soul Coughing. Those people probably weren’t huge Soul Coughing fans to begin with. While Golden Delicious is Doughty’s finest effort since Soul Coughing disbanded, it hardly seems possible that, if given the choice, someone who genuinely loved Soul Coughing would prefer Doughty’s solo work. Anyway, we now have Sad Man Happy Man, an apparent attempt to sate the other groups of fans – the ones who like their Doughty with less sheen. The whole of the album is performed by Doughty, with just a little of Scrap Livingston’s cello here and there, giving the entire affair a personal, intimate vibe. It’s not on the same fearful, huddled tip as Skittish, but it’s close. Continue reading

Festival Update: Rothbury, 10K Lakes Dark for 2010, Wakarusa Announced

It’s unfortunate that our first reporting about two of the Midwest’s best events – Rothbury and 10,000 Lake Festival – is that they aren’t happening this year. The 10K Lakes website makes no bones about the fact that finances are the issue, while Rothbury is more vague, stating that the performance and recording schedules of their desired artists have derailed their efforts to put on a “cutting edge” event this year. In other news, I have a nice mountaintop residence in Kansas I would love to sell to anyone who is interested.

Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas will again host the Wakarusa festival the weekend of June 3-6, 2010. Their first wave of artists includes Sound Tribe Sector Nine, The Disco Biscuits, Zappa Plays Zappa, Slightly Stoopid, John Butler Trio, Lotus, Blues Traveler, Railroad Earth, Tea Leaf Green, ALO, Mofro, The Machine, Bassnectar, Boombox, Split Lip Rayfield, Ivan neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Trampled By Turtles, and many more.

Joshua Tree Music Festival continues to add to their ever-esoteric lineup, and the latest participants include Mexican Institute of Sound, Radio Devi, and D Numbers.

DelFest has added The Gibson Brothers, Uncle Earl, The Bridge, and Trampled by Turtles.

Our beloved Bonnaroo clue givers have been busy, and so far it looks like the solid lineup answers include Ingrid Michaelson, John Prine, Tinariwen, Dan Deacon, and Deadmau5, along with the other highly rumored acts.

Wounded Messenger’s Top 101 Albums of the Decade

I now understand the infatuation that music journalists have with making lists. As pretentious, biased, and personalized as lists are, they’re just as much fun to do. Especially this one, which I won’t purport to be the “best” albums of the decade, only my “favorite” albums of the decade. As for the number, well, I figure 101 is just as arbitrary as 100.

Over 200 albums made up my master list, and cutting it down to 101 was a brutal task. Deleting albums from the list was like deleting entire sections of time from the last 10 years of my life.

My favorite 101 albums of 2000-2009, in alphabetical order by artist:

!!! – Myth Takes
A Perfect Circle – The 13th Step
Acoustic Syndicate – Crazy Little Life
Air – Talkie Walkie
Alison Krauss and Robert Plant – Raising Sand
Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
Ani DiFranco – Reveling/Reckoning
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Annuals – Annuals
Arcade Fire – Funeral
Avalanches – Since I Left You
Band of Horses – Everything All The Time
Beck – The Information
Boards of Canada – Geogaddi
Boards of Canada – The Campfire Headphase
Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People
Built to Spill – You In Reverse
Caribou – Andorra
Cat Power – The Greatest
Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
Coldplay – Parachutes
Comets on Fire – Avatar
D’Angelo – Voodoo
Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism
Dr. Dre – 2001
Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
Emeralds – What Happened
Explosions in the Sky – All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
Five Peace Band – Live
Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Fu Manchu – King of the Road
Ghostland Observatory – Paparazzi Lightning
Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
God Is An Astronaut – The End of the Beginning
Gorillaz – Demon Days
Gorillaz – Gorillaz
Green Day – American Idiot
Hot Chip – Made in the Dark
Hot Chip – The Warning
Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
Jay Z – The Black Album
John Medeski, Robert Randolph, and North Mississippi Allstars – The Word
Kanye West – The College Dropout
Keller Williams – Stage
Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
Lake Trout – Another One Lost
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
Lupe Fiasco – The Cool
M. Ward – Hold Time
M83 – Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
Michael Franti and Spearhead – Yell Fire
Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther
Mike Doughty – Golden Delicious
Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News
Mofro – Blackwater
My Morning Jacket – At Dawn
My Morning Jacket – Z
NERD – Fly or Die
Okkervil River – The Stage Names
Outkast – Speakerboxx/The Love Below
Oysterhead – The Grand Pecking Order
Prince Paul – Politics of the Business
Queens of the Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf
Radiohead – Amnesiac
Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
Radiohead – In Rainbows
Radiohead – Kid A
RJD2 – Dead Ringer
Secret Machines – No Where Is Now Here
SeepeopleS – The Corn Syrup Conspiracy
Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped
St. Germain – Tourist
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
Super Furry Animals – Love Kraft
System of a Down – Mesmerize/Hypnotize
System of a Down – Toxicity
Tabla Beat Science – Tala Matrix
The Avett Brothers – Emotionalism
The Good, The Bad, and The Queen – The Good, The Bad, and The Queen
The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
The Postal Service – Give Up
The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
The Slip – Eisenhower
The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come For Free
The Strokes – Is This It
The White Stripes – Elephant
The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures
Thievery Corporation – The Cosmic Game
Tool – 10,000 Days
Tool – Lateralus
Tortoise – Standards
TV on the Radio – Dear Science
TV on the Radio – Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
Umphrey’s McGee – Safety in Numbers
Ween – White Pepper
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Zero 7 – Simple Things

I hope everyone has a safe and fun New Year’s Eve, and I’ll see you next year for more travels through the world of music!

Music on the Mountaintop 2009 Review

My review and photos of the Music on the Mountaintop festival are now up at Glide Magazine’s Hidden Track blog.

News Fragments: Warren Haynes “Solo” Album, Over the Rhine’s New Release, Tragedy at Slovak Music Festival, Pirate Bay Gives Up Piracy

In a Billboard article focused on Warren Haynes‘ perpetual multitasking, there’s an enticing paragraph about a solo album Haynes completed at the same time as the upcoming Gov’t Mule record By A Thread (release date pending). The album was recorded with George Porter Jr. (bass), Ivan Neville (keys), Ian McLagan (keys) and Ron Holloway (sax). Ruthie Foster, along with Neville and Haynes, contributes vocals. Haynes says the album “hearkens back to (his) earliest influences…soul music but it also kind of sounds like when Freddie King and B.B. King and Albert King did their more crossover records, where they were mixing funk and soul with blues.” All I can say about that is bring it on.

Cincinatti’s Over the Rhine have announced and begun taking pre-orders for their next self-released opus, Live From Nowhere Vol. 4. Fans can download the album immediately upon purchase and will receive the CD copy upon its release in September.

As a frequent attendee of festivals and live music, this story about a disaster at a music festival in Slovakia really struck a chord.

Apparently the brains behind The Pirate Bay are shunning their pillaging, plundering ways. There are so many repercussions and facets to this story that have been covered so wonderfully, you owe it to yourself to do some Googling of the subject.