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RIYL: The XX, Sampha
Tracks to listen to: “Two Weeks,” “Pendulum” “Video Girl”
Upon first glance, LP1 seems utterly empty, but it isn’t at all. In fact, there is a shit-ton of things going on.
If you’re trying to get a grasp of who FKA Twigs actually is, you’re probably not going to gain a full understanding from this album, but that’s exactly how she wants it. She’s a mystery, plain and simple. It’s clear that, just like us, she too is struggling to understand her true identity. She sings on “Video Girl,” “I can’t recognize me.”
This idea of an identity crisis is furthered through her name; FKA spelled out is Formerly Known As, so who is she now? We’re not sure, and neither is she, but that’s half the fun of the album.
The instrumentation, although I said seems empty, is filled with different drums, synths, people noises, and auto-tune. None of these things take precedence over the others. They all work in a sort of disharmony, which can create quite a terrifying effect. Yes, terrifying. This is moonlight music; it’s definitely not something you would throw on for your pregame or social gathering. Get high by yourself and listen to LP1.
What surprised me most about FKA Twigs and this album is the cohesion that is present all the way through. Each song fades blissfully into the next. There isn’t a song that stands out from the rest, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Mixed with the clunky, sometimes stuttering instrumentals on the album, FKA Twig’s voice serenades listeners and provides a disharmony that makes this album a success.
Photots from our weekend at Bonnaroo including Sam Smith, Ben Howard, The Naked and Famous, The Head and the Heart, Kevin Devine, Jamestown Revival, Lucero, Sam Hunt and Fitz and the Tantrums.
I came home broke, unshowered, gross and exhausted. But I had the weekend of my life. If you can go to Bonnaroo and not feel like your life’s changed a little you did it wrong.
There’s something about existing in place where there are no concerns outside of music that is beyond incredible.
That said, by day 4, you’re bound to be exhausted, sore and flat out worn down. I woke up feeling a little like death. My back ached and my shoulders were on fire, but there were a few artists playing Sunday morning that I couldn’t wait to see.
We kicked our day off with a little bit of a country flair. One thing a lot of people at the buzz may not know about me is that I’m a big country music fan, and the artists we saw Sunday morning more than know there way around a good country song.
We started off with Lucero, a great Memphis style country band, who tread an interesting but great line between country and alternative rock. Lead singer Ben Nichols has the potential to be a great Nashville songwriter but thankfully opts to instead add his own gravely voiced touch to all of his brilliant country-rock songs.
Next we headed over to see Sam Hunt play a small, acoustic set. Sam Hunt is more well known for his songwriting credits, but he has more than enough ability to take over the country pop mainstream very soon. You may best know him for his song “Cop Car,” which Keith Urban has made a massive hit.
He played that song as well as other originals that have begun to grace country pop stations like The Highway on XM. He also has a slight alternative side to him and even puts hip-hop touches on his smart, crafty country songs.
From there we went to catch The Arctic Monkeys on the main stage. Getting close to the main stage is pretty difficult on Sunday as people congregate there, waiting for the night’s headliner. And it becomes even more difficult to reach when someone as great as The Arctic Monkeys are playing. The band sounded great as they played through a mix of their albums, relying heavily of course on their most recent album AM, which is one of my favorite albums from this year.
The Monkeys are so tight that the guitars seem to soar through the mix without much of a problem. Unfortunately, I think some of their sound got lost in the main stage mix, at least from where Joe and I stood, but for those who were close to the stage the set was probably mind blowing.
I headed over to see Fitz and the Tantrums from there. Despite the 91-degree heat, the band conducted their indie rock dance party without letting up. The band’s two lead singers bounced energy off of each other as their voices soared over top of the band’s mix of keys and saxophone. The unique instrumentation was refreshing in a week full of great guitar bands.
We soon went over to see a band that I was maybe the most excited to see during the weekend, Canada’s City & Colour. I’ve been a big fan of Dallas Green for a long time, and I was anything but disappointed when he opened with the gorgeous “Coming Home.” Dallas is one of those rare performers who doesn’t need to jump around or do anything crazy to be mesmerizing. His band of folk rock made quite an impression on the crowd who swayed along as if they were hypnotized. He even took a second to point out his appreciation of a Canadian flag adorning a pot leaf in the crowd.
I then caught a little bit of Wiz Khalifa’s set as the burnt out rapper put on an impressive performance for the crowd he invited to light up with him. Puffing on a joint, even taking a “motherfucking smoke break,” the pot-loving rapper fronted a talented band (appropriately named Kush and Orange Juice) through a great set, including songs from his first albums and recent mixtapes.
Then, along with the entire festival, headed to see the weekend’s final performance by the legend Sir Elton John. It was the 29th anniversary of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, so of course Sir Elton relied heavily on those songs, which the crowd, equal parts young and old, adored. No, Elton John can’t hit the same screeching falsetto notes that he used to, but his voice is as powerful as ever and he brought his incredible songs to a couple very appreciative generations. 20 year olds an 60 year olds a like shouted along to his hits “Your Song” and “Crocodile Rock” as he brought the weekend to a flaming conclusion. The most amazing thing was just how appreciative the legend was to be closing out the festival. He constantly bowed and muttered thank you’s reminding the crowd just how happy he was.
And with that, the weekend neither Joe or I will ever forget came to a close.
Kanye West and Bonnaroo will probably never be friends. In 2008 Kanye showed up hours late for his set, making “Fuck Kanye” the two must popular words in the temporary Tennessee city.
Fast forward to 2014. Kanye comes back. This time for revenge.
Kanye’s set kicked off with the anthemic Yeezus hit, “Black Skinhead.” Full of energy and aggression, Kanye covered the entire stage, shouting his lyrics of cultural criticism and self-praise, his face covered in some odd sort of mask.
In classic Kanye fashion, he neglected the huge screens attached to the stage, which make viewing a little easier for those way in the back of the massive main stage, in exchange for a minimalistic, radiating red backdrop.
Musically, Kanye’s set bordered on flawless. He played everything from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “Runaway” to “Mercy” to the 2004 College Dropout’s “All Falls Down” and “Jesus Walks.”
In a very not-Kanye fashion, he ignored the initial boos and cries of “Fuck Kanye” and “Get Off the Stage.” It seemed as if maybe ‘Ye might just ignore it all and be the good guy Kanye we once knew.
But then things turned bizzare, and the George-Bush-hates-black-people Kanye and the steal-the-mic-from-T-Swift Kanye that everyone expected made an appearance. After cutting out of “Stronger” he decided to address the 2008 Elephant in the venue and reminded the crowd that in 2008 they barraged him and wrote “Fuck Kanye” in the porta potties before he even got there. He then attacked the press for reporting it. He then asked the press if they were going to report about that exact moment with the crowd responding so positively, before again turning ridiculous and proclaiming himself “The number one rock star in the motherfucking world,” prompting a haze of boos from the crowd.
Later, he decided to mix it up and set his next rant to a freestyle auto-tune session, during which he announced that he was coming after Shakespeare, Walt Disney and Howard Hughes. The move was especially ironic after he had just discussed being humbled by a chance meeting with a ten-year-old boy on a plane who was coming just to see him at Bonnaroo.
Still, Kanye wasn’t done, and he later killed the beat on “Heartless” and broke out into a rant that included screaming “Where the press at?” asking all members of the press to raise their hand (awkward). He then exclaimed, “This is real rock & roll!” referring to his set.
But that’s not to say that Kanye didn’t have his great moments. At times he was uplifting and spoke of empowerment. He told his fans, “I talk that shit so that you can talk that shit. If you’re a fan of me you’re a fan of your motherfucking self,” reminding the crowd to be themselves and chase their dreams.
During “Touch the Sky” he begged the crowd to join him in a great moment, calling out, “I heard that if 10,000 people jump at the same time you can feel the earth move.”
Regardless of what happened, one thing became clear during Kanye’s set. Maybe he’s not the “number one rock star in the world,” but he’s damn close. In his exhausting two-hour set, the crowd’s energy never subsided and most people in the crowd knew at least half the words to every single song he performed. Hell, the same can’t even be said for Elton John’s performance.
No matter how you spin it, there’s no denying that Kanye has been one of the most impactful musicians of the last decade. Hate him or love him, this really is Yeezus season, and I for one am glad I’m witnessing it.
Bonnaroo takes a toll on your body. Walking around, standing during shows and sleeping on the ground in a tent can really make your whole body ache. Right now, it’s 10:13 central time on the final day of Bonnaroo. The first three days having been absolutely life changing.
Day three featuring some incredible shows, including the best show I’ve ever seen. Kirk and I began our day at Kevin Devine. Devine’s a Brooklyn musician who Kirk has had the pleasure of interviewing. Devine played a 40-minute set, and he was simply fantastic. He had a really strong surrounding, and even invited fans to meet him following the show. After his show we walked towards the front of the stage and see Grouplove’s Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi. Apparently they are fans of Kevin Devine. Kirk talked to Kevin Devine briefly. There had to be about 40 people waiting to meet Kevin. He was selling t-shirts and vinyl. After Kevin Devine, we grubbed before Grouplove’s show. I ate BBQ pork sandwiches, while Kirk went with Mac & Cheese. Grouplove started at 4 p.m., so we arrived about 30 minutes prior to try and get a good spot. Kirk has seen Grouplove before, but yesterday was my first time, and it was freaking electric. Grouplove goes all out during shows, and I’ve become even more of a fan during their performance. Grouplove opened with “I’m With You” and then continued with songs from their 2013 album titled Spreading Rumors, including “Schoolboy”, “Shark Attack”, “What I Know”, “Didn’t Have to Go”, “Bitin’ the Bullet”, and more. They even tossed out their “Drunk In Love” cover towards the end of their set. Kirk wanted to see Cage the Elephant at 4:45, so he left Grouplove early. He’s disappointed he missed out on the “Drunk in Love” cover.
My phone barely had any service this weekend, so it died on Friday. I didn’t have any way of contacting Kirk since I didn’t have his number saved, but we planned to meet at Cage the Elephant at the “Which Stage.” I couldn’t find Kirk as Cage the Elephant’s set was finishing. We had this meeting spot near a beer stand, but I couldn’t find him. I ended up walking to Jamestown Revival, who was playing at 7 near the main stage, but still I couldn’t find Kirk. Believe it or not, it’s damn near impossible to spot one person in a crowd of 80,000 in a 700-acre farm. I walked back to the spot we planned to meet at for Cage the Elephant, but he wasn’t there. I made up my mind that I would just go see Jamestown Revival, and then see whomever else and meet him back at the campsite later that evening. Amazingly, I saw him walking with his backwards St. Bonaventure hat on, and his neon orange spring weekend shirt, so we walked to catch Jamestown Revival, who really put on an excellent show. They had a number of passionate fans that knew each word to each song. I knew only a handful of Jamestown Revival songs, but I was impressed with what I had heard from the indie folk band.
After Jamestown Revival we ate some food while listening to the beginning of Lionel Richie’s set. We then walked over to see James Blake. We ended up just sitting down a bench away from the stage. After about 30 minutes of James Blake we walked over to Jack White and the main stage. We ended up catching Lionel Richie’s finale, which was Michael Jackson’s “We are the World.” We had to wait 45 minutes until Jack White’s set began, but we ended up with a great spot. My lower back had been killing me for a number of reasons, but mainly because of standing all day. I didn’t think I could make it. I tried to just continue to move around and try to think about anything but my back, but once Jack White began his set, I stopped thinking about my back and I just thought about the music.
White played the best show I’ve ever seen. It was two hours and 20 minutes of pure awesomeness. He gave some inspiring words of advice, along with telling us to thank those workers who have difficult and thankless jobs like those who work in the auto industry. He told the crowd how much he loved his mom, and that if you have a mom, you should tell her that and spend as much time as possible with her. One of the more inspiring moments of the show took place pretty early when Jack White mentioned, “Who makes music happen? Does a tabloid like Rolling Stone make music happen?” then he continued with, “You and I make it exist.” That really spoke to me, and it gave me a personal connection to Jack White and his music that every music fan longs for. Jack White has never been a musician I listen to regularly, but only because I never really got into his music. That show last night changed me. I don’t know if I’ll be some die-heart Jack White fan or anything, but I definitely gained a new perspective on things after hearing his show. My favorite part of the night was his version of “We’re Going to Be Friends,” which has always been one of my favorites. The fans adored Jack White. He could say no wrong during that 140-minute set.
I’ve seen some remarkable shows over the past three days, and today, the final day, hopes to bring even more remarkable shows. I’m excited to see Elton John, Lucero, Artic Monkeys, City and Colour and The Avett Brothers. I don’t know when I’ll post my next Bonnaroo post. It probably will be Monday or Tuesday, depending on what happens with the NBA Finals, but I just want to say how wonderful this opportunity has been to write about Bonnaroo. The word Bonnaroo means “a really good time.” It’s a completely fitting and appropriate word for such a festival. Never before have I witnessed so many people mesmerized in the music. I saw people actually get lost in it. I can’t thank Kirk enough for driving us down and making this weekend one of the best ones of my life. We hope to be back next year, and bring some of our friends, because every single music fan should experience Bonnaroo.
Here are the top 7 shows I've seen so far:
7. Kevin Devine
6. Jamestown Revival
5. The Head and the Heart
2. Kanye West
1. Jack White
We had a feeling that yesterday would be incredible, and it’s safe to say that we weren’t disappointed. Day two was packed full of some of our favorite artists, and every performance we saw was special.
After publishing yesterday’s post and eating some food we headed over to see Sam Smith. Smith is a soulful, pop/R&B singer from the UK who’s probably most known for featuring on Disclosure’s hit song “Latch.”
Smith bet his mother that no one would show up to his first American festival appearance, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. Smith packed the tent as full as you could imagine as he played through some of his popular sings, mixing in a couple from his new album, releasing this Tuesday, as well as an Arctic Monkeys cover.
Smith is a throwback to an older generation with a modern spin. He has the vocal style and chops of the great soul singers— much like another Sam, yes, Sam Cook. He showed his incredible command of his powerful falsetto, singing in registers most of us wouldn’t even dream of for fear of injuring ourselves.
An amazing moment came when he showed the crowd his take on Disclosure’s “Latch,” a delicate, piano driven ballad full of beautiful vocal runs and tear-jerking falsetto flares.
Next, we watched an artist I knew very little about named Danny Brown. He’s made a name for himself through his dark brand of hip-hop and his onstage antics— he once received a blowjob on stage.
One thing about Danny is clear: his fans have a real passion for his music. The moment there was an opening ahead, fans pushed to see how close to the stage they could get. Brown was a little late to the show, but the crowd jumped and filed on top of each other even as his DJ played songs during the wait.
So as you can imagine, the crowd went bat-shit insane when he finally took the stage. Moshing like it was a metal show, the crowd’s energy never subsided, not really even between songs.
Next, we went to see England’s Ben Howard. Joe and I are both pretty big fans of Howard, and being in the photographer’s pit for his show was something really special. The little subtleties of Howard’s sound can get lost in the huge, festival setting, but in the pit, every little ambient organ or synth sound is noticeable.
If you know anything about Howard you know that the man straight up knows how to play guitar. Much like a UK style John Mayer, Howard never uses a pick and plays incredibly intricate finger picking while singing his difficult melodic vocal lines and somehow makes it look effortless.
His band played a little of everything behind him instrumentation-wise. At one point his drummer was even playing cymbals with a guitar. His bass player also played organ pedals, drums and more.
More than anything, Howard amazes with his versatility. From spindly finger picking to up-tempo, electric guitar rock, he played through his set with an amazing sort of relaxed intensity. Songs like “Only Love,” which are incredibly difficult to play, looked almost too easy in the hands of the very talented Ben Howard.
There were so many amazing artists playing on day two that Joe and I had to split up to be able to cover all the artists we wanted to cover. So at this point I headed over to see The Naked and Famous. The band brought their huge sounding electric indie-pop to ‘Roo right after Howard closed. The band have created a lot of buzz in the last year, so the crowd was huge and media were flocking to get some shots of the band.
Photographers packed the pit in front of the stage, which sometimes annoys artists, who request that photographers are only present for three songs, but the band seemed to revel in it, smiling at photographers as they tried to dodge the beach ball flying about the crowd. (Later the lead singer would kick the ball off stage, which consequently hit me in the face. It must be love.)
The crowd, more so than a lot of crowds we saw on day 2, really seemed to pour themselves into the bands set. I watched as all throughout the crowd people screamed the words, eyes closed, hands up like they were experiencing something truly transcendent. If you don’t know the band yet, you’re going to want to get to know them soon, because things are coming for them.
Next came my personal favorite set of the day, The Head and the Heart. One of my good friends in high school introduced me to The Head and the Heart, and I fell in love instantly. When their new album came out this year I immediately wrote a review. The 6-piece folk group played a mix of songs from their two albums to a massive crowd, as they played one of the festival’s two main stages.
“Cruel” is one of my favorite songs ever written, so that song may just be my very favorite moment of day two. Shamelessly, I closed my eyes, threw my hands in the air and sang slightly off-key versions of harmony. I probably attracted a few stares because I was alone, but it’s Bonnaroo. So fuck it.
“Shake” may have been one of the day’s best performances, but like I said, I’m a little prejudiced. The band interacted more with the crowd than most performers, and I think that shows just how comfortable they are on stage, speaking to a crowd that may not all be fans like normal shows.
In a literally picture perfect moment, the sun began to set behind the band as they closed out their set. Anyone on stage with photography rights probably got the best shot of the entire day during that show.
Next, I headed over to the main stage, which becomes a small city during the day, to see Vampire Weekend. They played through their chill indie-rock to probably one of the biggest crowds they’ve ever played to, the cameras always focused on the amazing Ezra Koenig.
The thing first timers like myself don’t know about Bonnaroo is that it’s truly a marathon. 12 hours of standing on your feet can get to you pretty quick, and by the time Vampire Weekend came around I was a little dehydrated, very hungry, very tired and very ready to see Kanye.
Joe and I headed over the main stage area early to eat and get a good spot for the set we’d both been anticipating all day.
In 2008, Bonnaroo got the best of Kanye, who showed up three hours late for his set, but it’s safe to say that Kanye put Bonnaroo its place last night. He played songs from every album and every major appearance he’s done. Everything from the “All Falls Down” to “New Slaves” to “Heartless” were performed.
At times bizzare, at times transcendent, Kanye covered all of the bases that you’d expect him to cover. Whether it be screaming “Where the press at?” in anger, (awkward) or proclaiming himself the number one rockstar in the world, the arrogant but amazing Kanye you showed up in full force. But, so did the Kanye who’s made millions being the best and most consistent face in rap music over the last decade. 10,000 people jumped together, screamed together and smiled together as Kanye played the songs that inevitably make up the soundtrack, in one way or another, to their life. All theatrics aside, it’s safe to say that Kanye stole the show on day 2 and all headliners to follow have a lot to live up to.
After Kanye I planned on seeing Chance the Rapper, so I headed over the tent he was performing at later and caught the end of a superjam that included guests like Ben Folds and Chaka Khan. Sadly, I literally couldn’t stand or stay awake long enough to see Chance, who I’d been looking forward to all week.
Regardless, Friday was without a doubt the best day of my musical life and I can’t wait to see what day three brings, including Kevin Devine, Cake, Grouplove, Cage the Elephant, Lionel Richie, Jack White and Frank Ocean. Look out for more from Joe and I today and tomorrow and check the WSBU twitter for updates throughout the day!
I knew day two would be insane. Some of my favorite bands were scheduled that day, and they did not disappoint. Kirk and I split up more than once on Friday to check out different acts. He, also, had a photo pass which gave him sweet access to the pit level for Sam Smith and The Naked and Famous. We had steak and rice for lunch, and it was delicious. They definitely give you enough food for the price that you pay.
We ate at a table about 250 yards from the main stage called “What Stage,” it is where Elton John, Jack White, Vampire Weekend Lionel Richie and all of the other big names played or will play this weekend. After that we walked around a little bit before Sam Smith. Sam Smith played a great set. I didn’t know a whole lot about Sam Smith before this weekend since I only knew one or two of his songs, but he gave a fantastic performance. We stuck around after Sam Smith, and waited in “The Other Tent” for Danny Brown to go on at 4. We planned to only see Danny Brown for a few songs because Ben Howard was scheduled for 4:30. The crowd for Danny Brown was absolutely nuts. You couldn’t more an inch as they played Eminem and Dr. Dre before Danny Brown got on. It’s always interesting to hear other people’s conversations. We met a guy from Cleveland who was experiencing his second Roo. The place erupted when Danny Brown began his set. Girls and guys tried crowd surfing, but I saw at least two girls get thrown to the ground. People were reckless, and on all kinds of drugs. Kirk and I didn’t get to Ben Howard until 4:35. Ben Howard’s very soft spoken, and he just an amazing guitarist. I’m sure Kirk will discuss how great his guitar performance was in his recap. Howard played one of my favorite songs “The Fear,” which turned out to be my favorite of his set. After Ben Howard finished, I stuck around. The Head and the Heart played about an hour after Howard, so I grabbed some food while Kirk saw The Naked and Famous. I actually got in line to enter the pit for The Head and the Heart. It was the closest I got to a stage all day--about 15 feet. The Head and the Heart played a very memorable set, including "Let’s Be Still", "Down in the Valley", "Lost in My Mind", "Cruel", "Another Story", "Shake" and others. Kirk missed the first few songs or so, but he said they had sounded the best out of everyone he heard. "Another Story" sounded phenomenal live. It’s a song about school shootings, and The Head and the Heart did a masterful performance during that one particular. It’s one thing hearing a live song in the comfort of your home, but hearing it in front of the band with a number of passionate, drunken fans is a whole new, fantastic experience.
I had to bolt The Head and the Heart 10 minutes early to check out CHVRCHES, while Kirk saw Vampire Weekend. I would have loved to see Vampire Weekend since I’ve never seen them in concert, but CHVRCHES is a newer band, and their debut album The Bones of What You Believe is one of the most played albums on my iTunes. Lauren Mayberry, their lead vocalist, is wonderful. She talked a little bit between songs, just saying how it was their first Roo experience, and how they are not American. Some people bring flags during performances. One guy had an Uncle Jessie from Full House one, while others had characters from South Park. This one person at the CHVRCHES show had a blue sword on a flag, or at least it was thought to be a blue sword. Lauren Mayberry asked if it was a giant blue penis on stage. CHVRCHES played mostly every song off of their album; they might have played their whole album but I missed at least the first two songs. They even played a song I never heard before, which I think is called “Strength”. Their best performance had to be either "Night Sky" or "Recover", which are two simply phenomenal songs. I was at CHVRCHES alone, and I sat towards a fence to the right of the stage. I just wanted to sit down, and enjoy the music.
I noticed lots of basketball and football jerseys while walking around at Roo. Of course you saw the obvious ones like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, but then you saw some random ones like Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal Orlando jersey, some members of the Bad Boy Pistons, and my favorite random jersey a Jimmer Chicago Bulls jersey. Jimmer played about five games for the Bulls last season after the Kings released him in February. The runner up for most random jersey was a Jay Williams No. 22 Chicago Bulls jersey. After CHVRCHES, I met Kirk by the stage where Phoenix was playing. We only heard a few Phoenix songs, but they were loud and sounded great.
We headed over to Kanye West about 50 minutes early. We ended up scoring some decent grass. You can check out Kirk's Facebook for a video of "New Slaves." Kanye and Bonnaroo have an interesting history. He preformed their back in 2008, but stirred up controversy with his remarks about Bonnaroo’s producers. Many music critics blasted Kanye West for his lack of commitment and care. I had a feeling Kanye would address his critics during the 90-minute show. I’ve seen some great shows in my life, but I’m not sure anything tops Kanye West’s 2014 Bonnaroo Show. He was simply fantastic. He played all of his hits, including "All Falls Down", "Touch the Sky", "Heartless", "Run This Town", "Bound 2", "New Slaves", "Blood on the Leaves", "Jesus Walks", "Diamonds", "Good Life", "Runaway", "POWER", "All of the Lights" and "Black Skinhead." I’m sure I’m missing a song or two, but seriously Kanye West played all of his jams. He also had some interesting things to say. He talked about the press a few times. He talked about how lots of people traveled just to see him. He talked about how 100,000 people were going crazy as shit during his set. Man, it was absolutely wild. You see hundreds and hundreds people in front you with their hands waving up and down, and then you turn around and you see thousands of people doing the same. Ye would start a song, rap the first few lines, and then say, “Stop that shit.” He then would say some more remarks about the press, give the crowd some inspiration and then would re start the song. Some of the crowd grew tired of his antics, some even leaved, but I loved it. He gave it his all in during his set, and he really delivered, and gave the people what the songs they wanted. He spoke about how so many people traveled to Tennessee to see him humbles him. I never saw Kanye West before in person, so I’m not sure how he is in front of crowds, but I think he opened up more than normal last night. He told the audience that, “if you are a fan of me, you are a fan of your m**her******* self.” In between his banter, Kanye West just played great music. "Runaway" and "New Slaves" had a great vibe, and before New Slaves he claimed that this next song is the realest shit he has ever written. I felt the most energy during "Touch the Sky", "Bound 2" and "Jesus Walks." The production of the show was something I’ve never seen before. The lights were bright, and the screen behind Kanye West had to be 100 or so feet with a silhouette of Kanye West’s movements during the show. The screen also gave some fascinating graphics of the sun. Ye didn’t disappoint, and I’m sure Kirk will go in greater detail.
I was totally dead after Kanye West even though it was midnight. I got a Gatorade and then headed back to the tent to fall asleep. Saturday brings Jamestown Revival, Jack White, Lionel Richie, Kevin Devin, Cherub, Cake, Cage the Elephant, James Blake, Frank Ocean and artists who I will soon discover.
So, funny thing. Manchester, Tennessee is a long way from Western New York. My 20-year old mentality had me convinced that 12 hours was a little bit of nothing, but let me tell you, it’s no joke.
Luckily, 12 hours is a lot more tolerable when Elton John, Kanye West, Vampire Weekend and more are waiting for you at the finish line. When you think you’ve arrived at Bonnaroo, you haven’t. You turn off the highway, turn again and then turn again until you’re in the middle of a field that looks like it should have hosted a civil war battle.
From there you’re guided into a parking spot, which is soon engulfed by other cars surrounding it. Tents are pitched in about a ten foot space near each vehicle, packed on top of each other, creating a camping-style city block.
We arrived a little later than some, and had a little bit of a wrestling match with our tent, and so had about a 15-minute walk into the festival area. That said, the walk doesn’t seem very long when you’re too busy thinking about what’s to come to even begin to think about your paces.
A cloud of smoke has been hanging over Center Roo ever since we arrived, and it’s hard to tell if it’s coming from stages or, well, you know what else it could come from.
Our first show at Bonnaroo was G.O.O.D. Music’s Pusha T. The amazing thing about Bonnaroo is that even the people at the very back of the show sing along like it’s the last thing they’ll ever do. As Pusha T flew through some of his verses, the crowd nodded along, eyes closed, mouthing the lyrics or pumped their hand violently in the air, shouting along.
Thursday is a more quiet kind of day at Bonnaroo, so we checked out a band we’d never really heard of before called Ty Segall. The four-piece tore through a set of punky garage rock that sounded part Cage the Elephant, part Japandroids. Their lead singer stole the show, doubling on throat-shedding vocals and raw, nimble-fingered guitar solos.
We then proceeded to attend an R. Kelly “Trapped In the Closet” sing along. I’ll just let that sit for a while with you.
All the while, Joe and I raved about how incredible tomorrow’s lineup is. Look out for tomorrow’s posts because it’s going to be maybe the best day of our musical lives, and we can’t wait.
It took awhile to get here. I actually left my house on Wednesday morning at 6:15. My dad dropped me off at 10th and Filbert in Philadelphia. My bus left at 7 for New York City.
Once I arrived in New York City, I waited 40 minutes for my bus that traveled to Buffalo. This bus left New York at 10:30, and didn’t get to Buffalo until 6:15.
I spent the bus ride listening to music, mostly. Once I got to Buffalo a Bonaventure friend pick me up. We grabbed Mighty Taco and played basketball. I know that’s not really relevant, but it’s part of the journey. Anyway, Thursday morning I woke up early, and got a ride to Kirk’s house. Kirk and I began our adventure to Manchester, Tennessee at 10. It was a long trip for a passenger, but I can only imagine how it was for the driver. We spent at least an hour in traffic, and Mother Nature couldn’t make up her damn mind as it rained on and off during the beginning of the trip.
We listened to a number of newer albums, including Kanye West, Vampire Weekend, Haim, Jimmy Eat World, Childish Gambino, Drake, among others.
A road trip is great if three things happen. 1.) Good music 2.) Good company 3.) Good food. We had all of the above during this epic 12-hour plus commute. We stopped at Wendy’s, Starbucks and Ralley’s for food and drinks. Once we got to Manchester, we picked up our wristbands. Kirk got a sweet media pass allowing him access to take photos close to the stage. He didn’t use his camera last night since we didn’t get here until closer to midnight.
Once Kirk parked his car, we had to pitch the tent. I’ve never pitched a tent before, and neither had Kirk. We mistakenly pitched the tent in front of the car instead of pitching it behind the car. Although it took us a little longer than we anticipated, we pitched the damn thing. We drank some beers and headed down to the stages.
The first thing you notice about Bonnaroo is how massive the fields are. So many cars, RVs, vans and busses occupy the abundance of land that Bonnaroo offers. Pusha T was playing his set at The Other Stage, so we hit his show first. His set was jam packed with people raising their hands in the air, while rapping word for word. It was a pretty awesome sight to see. Pusha T played the chorus to Kanye West’s “Runaway”, which Pusha T is featured in, and also happens to be one of my favorite songs. It was a really great start to what looks like could be an unforgettable weekend.
Kirk and I then saw Ty Segall, who we’ve never heard before. Ty Segall had so much energy and passion, which really lifted the crowd’s energy. A mosh pit formed, and a number of fans crowed surfed during that set.
We grabbed some beers and headed over to the R. Kelly “Trapped in the Closet” sing-a-long over at the Bonnaroo Cinema tent. We had to wait in line for at least 30 minutes, but it was well worth our wait as fans sang and danced during R. Kelly’s dramatic episodes.
We headed back to our camp spot around 4 a.m., but since there are so many damn cars here we couldn’t find where we parked. Eventually, we found it closer to 5 a.m. Today promises to be filled with some incredible acts. I’ve waited for Friday the 13th’s lineup since the schedule had been released. I’ll be able to see CHVRCHES, Kanye West, Danny Brown, Sam Smith, Ben Howard, Phoenix, Chance the Rapper, The Head and the Heart and Ice Cube throughout today. It will be an absolutely unreal day, and I look forward to sharing that with you.
The Buzz is road tripping to Tennessee! Thanks to Bonnaroo, we will be covering the annual music festival in Manchester. Over 125 artists, comedians and performers will be at hand during this four-day spectacular. Kirk Windus and I (Joseph Phelan) will write reviews on some of the shows we listen to these next four days. Hopefully we can grab an interview or two with up and coming artists. Before we leave, however, we wanted to give you the acts that WE are looking forward to seeing. Some gigantic music names will be in attendance, including Elton John, Kanye West, Jack White, Vampire Weekend and dozens mores. It’s an incredible opportunity, and we are elated to share with you our experiences at one of the best American music festivals.
I’m not really sure what to expect. No amount of reading or video watching will replace actually experiencing Bonnaroo for the first time, so I’m looking forward to seeing the sights, smelling the different foods and listening to the beautiful sounds for the first time. Here are the five musicians I have to see this weekend (in no particular order):
The Buzz likes Ben Howard, a lot. The English singer-songwriter’s album debuted in 2011 with an album titled Every Kingdom, featuring Only Love and The Wolves. He has immensely strong lyrics as a folk artist. His one song, The Fear, is featured on my radio show quite often. My sister’s a huge Howard fan, and introduced me to him back in 2012. Bonnaroo scheduled Ben Howard at Which Stage from 4:30 to 5:30. Howard makes mellow music that gives you peace and solitude. Bonnaroo is filled with diverse musicians, and although Howard won’t wow his audience with energy or power, he does pour his soul into his music, and it’s something I’ve wanted to witness for sometime now.
The Friday lineup is unreal. My day might look like this: Vintage Trouble, Sam Smith, Danny Brown, Ben Howard, The Head and the Heart, CHVRCHES, Phoenix, Kanye West, Ice Cube and Chance the Rapper. Sprinkle in Dr. Dog, Vampire Weekend, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Naked and Famous and Janelle Monae and Friday June 13 might be the best day of my life. This Scottish electronic band has a phenomenal vocalist in Lauren Mayberry. Glassnote Records released their debut studio album The Bones of What You Believe in September 2013. CHVRCHES’s album was my fourth favorite album of 2013 (behind Haim, Kanye West and Kurt Vile), so you better believe that I’m picking to see them over Vampire Weekend who unfortunately plays at the same time.
I emailed Jamestown Revival back in March. I had hoped to book them at St. Bonaventure for a concert. The funds were not there to book a band such as Jamestown Revival. Their debut album, Utah, was released this year. They preformed their single “California” on Conan O’Brien in January. Their Facebook page describes their sound as “indie-rock with a southern slant.” Much of their music is about discovering new adventures, figuring out yourself and what the west has to offer to two Texas friends. I discovered Jamestown Revival in February after their Daytrotter session. They played Golden Age, Time Is Gone, California and Wandering Man. They are an up-and-coming band, so hopefully they become bigger with Bonnaroo exposure. I’ve heard they play loud, engaging shows, so check them out on Saturday at either 4 p.m. or 7 p.m.
I’ve seen Elton John and Billy Joel together once, but I’ve never seen Elton John solo. Bonnaroo saves the best for last with Elton John performing from 9:30 to 11:30 on Sunday night. My birthday is Monday, so technically it will be my birthday for the last half hour of the show, at least on the east coast. Elton John will be fantastic no matter what songs he chooses to play. I have a high level of excitement for Sir Elton John to mesmerize each Rooer. I’m sure he’ll play a bunch of stuff off of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but really it’s just going to be a pleasure listening to one of the best to ever do it.
Music festivals are so cool for a number of reasons. One of them has to do with how many artists gain exposure while playing in front of large crowds. People go to music festivals for big named artists. It’s how Bonnaroo is able to sell tickets. Kanye West and Elton John are the two biggest names in this lineup. Ye played at Bonnaroo in 2008, but it didn’t end well. Basically Kanye West’s show was properly produced because it was still light outside. Kanye West, however, will be on Friday night from 10 to midnight. I anticipate a fantastic Kanye West show, especially given how much criticism he’d receive if it’s anything short of spectacular.
Other artists: Cherub, The Head and the Heart, Lionel Richie, Frank Ocean, Pusha T and Danny Brown
Thursday morning, Joe and I will begin our journey to Bonnaroo. It’s still hard to believe that we’ll be among the 80,000 or so that flock to the acres of Tennessee that for four days become a musical heaven and a sanctuary for fans.
According to google maps, it’s a 12-hour trek from my sleepy little town to Manchester, but I’m sure Joe will find a way to keep me entertained on the long journey.
So what are we most excited for? I’ve been trying to answer that question in my head for a little while now. Well, hanging out with Joe is the obvious answer, but it’s fair to say that Kanye’s at the top of both of our lists. We’ve both been doing our fair share of fan-girling over Kanye lately.
Joe’s lucky enough to have already seen Elton John, but I haven’t and I can’t wait to watch him light up ‘Roo from behind the grand piano.
Headliners aside, I can’t wait to see The Head and the Heart. Both of their albums have been brilliant, and the future’s awfully bright for the band. Cage the Elephant are kind of festival legends, and they always bring an amazing energy to the stage. You never know what will happen when those guys take the stage, and I can’t wait to see them.
Probably second on my list, behind Kanye, would be Chance the Rapper. Acid Rap is one of my favorite albums from the entire year, and I think Chance does absolutely amazing things. He’s bound to rule at Bonnaroo.
I also can’t wait to see Vampire Weekend, The Naked and Famous, Disclosure and Sam Smith. City and Colour are absolutely incredible from the old, Dallas-Green-and-an-acoustic songs to the new, full-band tracks, so I can’t wait to see them. I’ll also definitely be checking out Kevin Devine again. He may not be the biggest name on the lineup, but I saw him this winter and he blew me away. I think he’s probably the most underrated songwriter of our generation, and he’s an amazing guy, so definitely check him out.
Keep your eyes peeled for more from Joe and I. We’ll be writing and posting as much as we can from the festival.
Our co-music director, Kirk Windus, sat down with Kevin Devine to talk about his latest albums, the music industry and politics.
As far as these last two records, [Bubblegum and Bulldozer] are you a little more proud of them just because you did so much work by yourself?
I think I’m differently proud. I don’t know if I’m more proud, but I think that in the last 4 records, from the Brother’s Blood record in 2009, I feel like there was a reset button that got hit on that record after the whole Capitol Records thing happened that was like, “Now I’m going to really just do exactly what I want,” and I think before I was maybe the same way, for better or for worse. Even with the label system I was still doing whatever I wanted. But I just wasn’t entirely sure yet what I wanted to do musically. I mean I knew how to write songs, but I didn’t always know how to present them in their best form. Sometime around Brother’s Blood there was a break from the whole folk-rock thing, so exploring different corners of presentation where things were a lot more expansive and heavy in places and still being pretty in places but stretching out the definition of what that meant.
And I think with these last two records, to me, aesthetically, they’re both really fine encapsulations of the progress that’s been made on a musical front. With the Bubblegum thing, I think we’ve had patches of songs that sounded that way. Like a song here, three songs here, but we haven’t had 40 minutes of songs that sounded that aggressive. It’s not like a metal record, but, for me, it’s the most punk rock music we’ve ever made for a full record. And I think with the Bulldozer thing, if I’d have made that record 10 years ago it would have been much more there. I mean those songs are all acoustic rock songs that got pulled apart and made into something more spacious and dynamic. So, musically I mean I’m proud of them because I don’t think I could have made them the way that they were made if I was making them 10 years ago. But obviously there’s a story in how it got there and got literally made and I’m hugely proud of that. I don’t know if I’m more proud of it, but there’s a more clear line of ownership because there’s no one in the middle. You always feel proud when you’re making it, but then other promotional entities get involved, and that’s their job. That’s what you’re asking them to do. But you can start to get a little alienated from your own thing based on what they’re doing or not doing. So it’s kind of nice not having that with these records. I can say that things went a lot smoother this time around than the last time, which is not necessarily what you expect when you’re like, “I’m just basically going to do it all by myself, meaning like myself, six other people and the entire world are going to do this thing.” So the prize is maybe the same, but the clarity of thought and the level of difficulty and the actual execution, even though we had a lot more to do, it was easier to do it.
It seems like you’ve been able to do all of the same things you’d do with label support, as far as booking pretty big tours, making music videos and promoting the records, without a label. Are you finding it’s really possible to do that in today’s music world or do you think that labels really still have a place?
I think that both are true. I think I would definitely never swear off having a record label. But there’s about ten of them that I would consider, [laughs] and they’re not knocking on my door. But I mean there are really good labels that do really well by artists and have realistic goals and work really hard. And then there are labels that aren’t bad people, and they’re doing their job. It’s just that their job is changing so dramatically every 18 months or 12 months. Sometimes they’re like literally losing their jobs. But in other senses, just the dynamics of the business are changing so much that they’re not sure how to stay on top of it. And I think when you’re someone who’s in my position, like I’m not attached to any sort of trend stylistically or musically. I just kind of write songs. Sometimes they’re loud. Sometimes they’re quiet. Sometimes they’re something else. But they’re not directly pop punk or emo. They’re not folk or whatever you could peg them to market them. They’re somewhere in the middle of all of those things, and I think that makes their job hard. I think right now is not the time for somebody in the music industry’s job to be hard. What sells is what’s easy. There used to be more room for that, and there’s less of it now just because people buy less music.
So I think that this experiment has proved to me that someone of my size can hold firm without a label’s help and even grow a little bit. I mean this is going to sound a little weird, but I’m bigger now than I was two years ago. I’m not exponentially bigger. I’m not like selling out 2,000 seat theaters when I was only selling 200 tickets before, but more people know it than they did two years ago. You know? And that’s happened through making that Bad Books record and then doing what we always do every record, just without a label. So, to me, that proves you can do it. But we also had an influx of $10,000 from our audience to do it. That being said, in music industry terms, that’s not a whole lot of money to pull off a two year project with two albums and tour them, make videos, go to radio, handle press and do all of that, even on a small level. $10,000 to do all of that and make the records, I’ll tell you it goes much faster than most people would think.
You’re obviously quite familiar with Jesse Lacey and you’ve worked with him before. Did it make it easier or harder to work with a good friend as a producer and what did he bring the table as a producer?
I thought he was super professional. He was prompt, punctual and present. Jesse’s a lot of things. He’s a friend of 15 years, so my relationship to him and my thoughts about him are a little different than his fans’ are. I love him for different reasons than his fans do, [laughs] which is good. But he’s not exactly known as being the most prompt and punctual dude, so that was refreshing. And that was really the only concern I had. Jesse’s talents speak for themselves. His enthusiasm for my songs and for my band speak for itself. Our friendship, I knew, wasn’t in any danger. We’re the type of people that I knew if we were a week in and it wasn’t working we’d be like, “This isn’t working. Let’s not do this.” But it did work, and to my ears and to my taste it worked remarkably well.
The one thing that I will say is that Jesse did Bubblegum and Rob Schnapf did Bulldozer. He worked with us on Put Your Ghost To Rest and mixed the Bad Books album. And he did a bunch of Elliot Smith, Beck and The Vines, Guided By Voices. I mean Rob is a monster.
But it wasn’t like I brought Jesse a lot of folk songs and then he turned it into Bubblegum. Like we had, [Mike] Fadem (drums), [Mike] Strandberg (guitar) and I, even over the tour for Between the Concrete and Clouds, those songs had gotten nastier live. And the more we opened for these loud bands, like Say Anything or Thrice or Brand New, those songs just got kind of uglier, in a good way, and dirtier, and I got more confident. I used to be in a band that was like a super fast, loud, Replacements-ish kind of pop-punk band called Miracle of ’86. And growing up, the things that made me play music were things like Nirvana. So that’s always been in there, and we’ve had parts of it, but then I got way into the great songwriters like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Elliot Smith, Sinead O’Connor and Hank Williams, and then I got into Cat Power and stuff that was more subdued. And so I made a bunch of records that were like that. But I’ve been getting back into the louder thing, so I thought I wanted to make one record that was like a punk record and one that was like a folk record. Jesse had wanted to make one of our records with me for years, so it was like, “Well, there’s no label. We’re doing whatever we want. So why don’t you make this one?” So in other words, it was the perfect meeting of the right time for our band and the right guy to do it because he obviously knows his way around loud rock music and also knows his way around songwriting and knows his way around melody and knows his way around layering a studio.
And a big asterisk that needs to be attached to Bubblegum, too, is that Jesse was the producer in a very old school, Phil Spector kind of way. Not in that he had a gun to us in the studio or anything like that, but he would recommend sounds, and he was very idea oriented, very song oriented. But he wasn’t like placing mics or handling the technical side of things. That was a guy named Claudius Mittdenorfer who’s a friend of all of ours. The reason that the record sounds as good as it does is Claudius, too. He’s just not like a famous singer from a famous rock band, so people won’t talk about him as much, but he’s as much the reason that record sounds the way it does as anyone else is. So it’s worth noting that.
What was it like putting out two records at one time? Most people put so much many and everything into just one. Did you worry that that they’d be unbalanced or one would have a better reception than the other?
No, I mean, I knew that, at least in the immediate, that Bubblegum would get a better reception just because it’s a bigger sound and because there’s the Jesse association. And I thought just between the two records there would be more initial excitement about that. And I really understood that, and I had to kind of let go early on because I really loved Bulldozer too. I had to be patient. I knew Bulldozer would find its audience too, and I actually think that it helps Bulldozer that we focused on Bubblegum first and it got such a warm reception because we just released the “Little Bulldozer” video and people love it, and there’s a Bulldozer tour in the fall, so I think that it will be helped by all the focus that Bubblegum got.
Yeah, I hear exactly what you mean. It’s really beautiful and it’s a great record. It’s just very different.
Well, and I think that I like things that hit you in the head, and I like subtler things too. The interesting thing is that they’re [the records] not that far apart in terms of sales. They’re pretty neck and neck. Bubblegum sold more, but not like thousands of copies more. I think that they’re within a thousand copies of one another. And that’s cool to me. Even on tour you can see at the merch table every night, it’s like 55-45 or something like that, and I think that’s cool too. I think there’s a balance there.
What has the reception been like now that you’ve been able to hit the road with the Goddamn Band?
This tour’s specifically been outstanding. And I know it’s a little unusual, considering I have a relationship with Manchester Orchestra. So people coming to the shows have at least heard of me a lot of times. But there are also a lot of them that have heard of me, but never actually heard what I do. They’ve heard Bad Books, you know? Or they’ve heard a song here or there. What I’m seeing on tour is that there are a lot people that had preconceived ideas about what my “thing” was, and then they come see it and basically it’s like, “Oh, I didn’t know you could play like that.” I think people—well—I don’t know what they expect. I don’t know if they expect something like Jason Mraz, like a signer/songwriter thing, or if they expect to see me up there with an acoustic guitar, emoting. And that’s part of “the thing,”— well, not the Jason Mraz thing, that’s not part of the thing— [laughs] but the presentation. Yeah, I really like getting up and playing a song on the acoustic guitar. I always will. I think there’s something very direct about it.
But I also really love getting up, stepping on a peddle and jumping around, making noise and having a drummer beat the heck out of the drums. I really like that too. I think that, to me, we’re making an impression on people who are vaguely aware, but are now kind of joining the fold. And a big part of that is the band. I mean, Ben Hamola from Bad Books is playing drums and he did the Bubblegum tour in the fall too. Mike Strandberg used to work with me for like eight years, playing guitar and singing harmonies, and he also worked on Bubblegum with me. He’s a sort of wizard electric guitar guy who can sort of do anything he wants. And we’re having Andy Prince, who plays bass in Bad Books and Manchester Orchestra, play with us now. Whenever Manchester’s not on tour he’s the go-to guy for me. I sent him 12 songs to learn, since we’re only doing 35 minutes a night, and he showed up to the first rehearsal in Brooklyn and we played through them once and I was like, “Oh, this will be fine.” Like he knew it and not only played the songs, but played them confidently and took risks and moved around. So, for me, I’m like never even thinking about what they’re doing on stage, and that’s like the best possible situation.
Have you been playing any Bad Books songs with Andy since you’re on tour together?
Yeah, we’ve been doing “42,” and I think we did “You’re a Mirror I can not Avoid” one night also. But that’s about all we’ve done so far.
It’s just got to be a lot of fun to collaborate and put those songs in rotation once in a while.
Absolutely! And I mean, since it’s their tour I’m not going to push it. If they want to do stuff for Bad Books I’m happy to. But I’m mindful that there’s a church and state element to it. And it’s a Manchester tour and a Kevin tour, so we’re focusing on Manchester stuff and my stuff, and we both have a lot of new music we just put out, so there’s no shortage of stuff to play.
When you’re writing an album for the entire band, do the songs still start out on just the acoustic usually?
Yeah, they do. I mean there’s a lot of different ways you can play an acoustic guitar. Songs like “Fiscal Cliff” on Bubblegum, that song was written on a nylon string classical guitar. Immediately it became obvious that song was a punk rock song. I mean, you can play a punk rock song on an acoustic guitar and you can play really beautiful, spindly sounding folk music on an electric guitar. You can do a lot with those instruments. But I usually write the structure, the guts of it, on acoustic. But I wrote some of the songs on Bass. I wrote “I Can’t Believe You” and “Sick of Words” on bass guitar and built from there. Maybe “Little Bulldozer,” like the initial riff, was written on an electric. I think I wrote it in our rehearsal space where I have drums and bass, whereas in my apartment I just have my acoustic around usually. So yeah, most of the time it just starts that way and then I hear, “Yeah, this is where the drums could be.” And sometimes that changes and sometimes that ends up being pretty close to the way you imagined it.
Yeah, it was just kind of cool to see the evolution of the songs, like “Private First Class” in a basic state compared to how it sounds on Bubblegum.
Yeah, and I think the challenge is, and I like doing this, is if you can get up with an acoustic and make those Bubblegum songs be still compelling. I think that’s the biggest stretch musically in my career is the acoustic foundation and what they became. So yeah, I think it’s really neat to try to make a gentle, beautiful version of “Bubblegum.” And “Private First Class” becomes more of like a Pete Seeger song or something like a Woody Guhtrie song. It’s a protest song when you play it that way. It’s folk rock. And I have no real problem with that. Folk and punk rock aren’t that far apart in terms of what forms them, the spirit. It’s just about how they get dressed up.
I remember in Buffalo when you said that you’d been meaning to retire “No Time Flat” but a lot of the song was still relevant. What do you think about that song is still true?
Well, I think we’re literally still involved in both of those entanglements [the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan]. Whether we’ve pulled troops or not, there’s an aspect of that which becomes cosmetic. And also, it’s kind of like if you walked into a room in a neighbor’s house and broke everything in the room and sat there and didn’t let your neighbor in for ten years. Then one day you got up and said, “Alright, I’m out” but didn’t fix anything in the room that you broke. I mean that’s kind of what we did. You know it’s funny that I’m talking to you in the lobby of a hotel and there’s big flagpole with an American flag and a proud eagle on top, while I say all of this [laughs]. But anyways, it’s not clean and resolved. And I still feel the same way I felt, and the thing that’s maybe more true about that song now is the embarrassing lack of real debate and dialogue between what passes as the two polls in American political conversation. I think that’s actually gotten simultaneously more absurd and less substantive in the last ten years. The whole Democrat and Republican thing is so Goddamn embarrassing. That, to me, is the stuff in that song that feels relevant. There may be specific references in that song that are a little dated, but it still feels like it could be written now with some things moved around.
And that’s why I’d change the thing about the drones in Pakistan and the “change we can believe in” because it wasn’t just a Bush/Cheney thing. It’s an American axis power thing; it’s what we do. And we do it whether we have a super gun-slinging, maybe less outwardly intellectual right-wing president or if we have a really considerate and thoughtful, world-class orator, quote unquote leftish president. They want the same thing, which is us being the premiere power in the world. Despite the stuff the two sides argue about domestically, when it comes to our international, foreign policy, particularly our expansion, they’re not even different. Not to be like a conspiracy theorist, and I mean I actually don’t think it’s that crazy, but I think that’s why so much emphasis is put on the domestic stuff like gay marriage, healthcare and tax issues is that it distracts us from what’s really going on over there, which is basically always going places and being like, “Well, that’ll be ours now.” You know? Which is a very oversimplified version of what really goes on.
Yeah, I think the line that sticks with me from that song is “you take abortion away and both sides are just the same.” I think it’s a really smart political commentary, and I definitely think that part is really true today.
Yeah, I mean you could move it to a few other things now. But that’s definitely one of them. I mean, every four years they try to overturn that. And I’m glad that hasn’t happened. And I don’t mean to minimize it. Reproductive health is a huge thing, especially if you’re a woman [laughs]. It’s important to have agency over your body. But there’s a lot of other hugely important things, and I think on those issues the sides are really quite similar.
What’s coming up for Kevin Devine? What should the people look for in the coming year?
Well, we’re going to do three more weeks of this Manchester tour, and that comes through your part of the world in about a week. And then after that I do Bonnaroo June 14th. I do a couple shows around Bonnaroo, which will be fun. Then Bad Books has a show at a festival in Texas the 21st of June. Then from like July 4th to 8th I’m doing some shows in the Mid-west with Brand New and festivals. And then a couple more shows in Northeast in the middle of July. Then I go overseas for a few weeks of acoustic stuff. Then I’ll be home until the end of September or beginning of October. Then there’s something coming up that I can’t announce yet and something else that I can’t announce yet either [laughs]. But we’ll be busy and in the Fall Bulldozer will get its fair shake.