Thursday, October 31, 2013

Riot Fest Denver - Day 2

Day 2 at Riot Fest had something for everyone. Punk, pop, pop-punk, funk, hip-hop, sun, wind, rain, (no snow), mud, dust…not necessarily in that order, though.

Bop Skizzum started the day with their brand of funk, bringing the energy to the early set.

Andy Rok, Julie Almeria, & Elijah Samuels - Bop Skizzum

Chris Harris of Bop Skizzum

Andy, Julie, & SF1 - Bop Skizzum

Andy Rok with the people.
 I'm sure other bands went into the crowd, but Andy & SF1 hopped off the stage with mics and wandered the crowd at the stage during one of their songs. Nice personal touch!
SF1 - Bop Skizzum
Always good to see my Bop family, and also my friend Aimee/Greeblemonkey!

Next we stepped over to see a bit of Kitten:

Kitteners Bryan De Leon,  Zach Bilson & Chloe Chaidez
Waylon Rector & Lucas Frank - Kitten
and left soon after to go chill in the RV. My kids were wanting to save their energy for Blink-182 and after the endurance test that was the night before, I was happy to oblige. I wasn't quite ready for what was in store, though. But we managed.

Having fallen in love with the song "Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It", we made our way back in to see Stars.
Christopher McCarron and Torquil Campbell - Stars.
What I love about "Hold On When You Get Love" may not be what they'd like to hear, but it really reminds me of a great mid-period New Order song. But maybe that's what they were going for.

Pat McGee & Amy Millan - Stars
I had seen Stars on one of the Coachella feeds this year and liked it, but wasn't quite sure how they'd come off at Riot Fest. Surprisingly we all had an energy boost thanks to a group of folks to our right who started out doing the "ironic" dance (almost mocking the music), but they ended up attracting a lot of people who were getting into it.

Stars dancers
This guy was having fun.
Like this guy in the Birkenstocks:

Birkenstock dude in the green cap on the left. Super chill.
I overheard Birkenstocks guy tell the group that he was up front and saw them all dancing in the back and came back to join them. It was really cool. Stars was fun to see, even in the middle of the day in a field in eastern Colorado.
David Schmitt
After Stars we checked out a little of Breathe Carolina. David seemed to like playing to the Riot Fest crowd, judging by this tweet:

David Schmitt & the Breathe Carolinas.
Next up came my biggest dilemma of the weekend: Both Public Enemy and Yo La Tengo were playing from 5-6pm. Well, I'd already seen Yo La back in '94 with Teenage Fanclub and it was a hell of a show, so I didn't feel bad about skipping them to see one of the storied rap groups of all time.

DJ Lord on the wheels of steel.
Chuck D, Flava Flav, DJ Lord & the S1Ws. Perfect.

Flav, D, Lord, Griff.
Flava played a little bass, some drums, and did a lot of talking to the crowd. "With peace and togetherness, we have the power." I'm inclined to believe him.

Chuck D & S1W Pop Diezel
PE brought it. I've always been a fan of the Bomb Squad production of Hank & Keith Shocklee & Eric "Vietnam" Sadler on their early records. DJ Lord had a great solo set where he was breaking down & mixing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - mostly the instrumental part at the beginning, but he was amazing. We tried describing it to my wife when we got home, but I couldn't even move that fast pretending I was mixing!

Flav & Chuck. OGs.
After PE we walked over to see some of FLAG.

Keith Morris - FLAG
I didn't know the songs and the wind was really starting to kick up, so the girls made the decision to go back to the RV. I was going to drop them off and come back out for Bad Religion, but by the time we were walking out of the festival, a dust storm had us shielding our faces. In the minutes it took us to walk to our RV, it started raining - hard.

After watching the rain pour down for a bit, we heard a recorded voice come over the speakers, telling everyone that the festival grounds were closing due to inclement weather and to return to their cars. At one point people were just honking their horns just to make noise. My youngest loved it. It was like a little bit of group anarchy.

It rained so much and for so long that I wondered aloud if they might cancel the rest of the shows.

Rain, rain, go away.
But come on, it's fucking Riot Fest! You're goddam right the show went on! After a 2-hour delay, they jiggered the schedule to have Matt & Kim play at the same time as Bad Religion, Rancid played alone, and then AWOLNATION played opposite DeVotchKa. Blink-182 was supposed to close out the show anyway, but they ended up playing only an hour set instead of an hour & fifteen minutes.

We watched some of Bad Religion who were pretty good. Greg Graffin asked for a bratwurst from the stage, and someone delivered.

After a few songs we walked over to see Matt & Kim who were the biggest surprise of the weekend for me. Lots of energy, really fun, and it almost didn't seem like there were only two people onstage!

Matt let people know that Kim was going to come out to the crowd and dance on their hands - he had people hold her feet and she did a little shimmy shake. I was very impressed.

I want to say that after Matt & Kim we went back to the RV while Rancid played. I remember being in the RV listening to Rancid, but I can't remember why we didn't stay out. Maybe to save energy again, nobody was that hot to see AWOLNATION or DeVotchKa. We were pretty tired, and Blink was going to play from 11pm-12am, so what was going to be a late night anyway just got later.

We made our way back out in the rain to get good spots for Blink.

The kids wanted to go more towards the front. I was having flashbacks from Woodstock '94 and the mud fight that happened during Green Day's set, so I passed and stayed toward the back.

I had seen Blink in 2001, and while I wasn't expecting them to be as high-energy as they were back then, they still brought it.

This is Mark.
This is Tom.
This is Travis.
I was standing next to a kid who was belting out every lyric, which didn't bug me at all - in fact, it helped lend a great energy to the show. He was really into it and I could tell he wouldn't have missed it for the world.

The Mark, Tom, & Travis Show.
Since it's 2013, I was texting with my kids during the show. I was a little sad that I wasn't watching the show with them, but it was one of those "let them be free" moments you have as a parent. I just asked them to send me a picture of them & their excitement.

Blink ended just after midnight and I met up with my kids and we walked back to the RV. I say walked, but it was more like skating, there was so much mud. We scraped our shoes off on the back bumper of the RV and left our mud-soaked shoes on the steps up and sat for a bit while we watched the parking lot traffic. I sent them to bed and sat and watched it rain, and watched the cars hardly move at all.

After about 45 minutes and no other RVs were moving, I decided to try to drive forward to get in line to get out of the parking lot. I skidded and slipped that 29" beast around, getting stuck, rocking it back & forth, twisting the wheel, using every trick I knew to get traction & get out of there. I eventually did get up to the line…where I sat for another half hour or so. Once we started moving, I didn't really get stuck again and we were on the road by around 1:30am, as I recall.

The drive home was epic, and I don't use that word often. I said "Wow." out loud about 3 or 4 times just because I couldn't believe the sheer amount of rain that kept coming down. It was like Florida rain, not Colorado rain. All the way home, too, not just in spots. It was constantly pouring down.

Long story short, we got home, I unloaded some of the RV, sent an e-mail to the RV place telling them that I might be a little late returning it the next day, and finally got in bed around 4:30 am.

My thanks to B&B RV for being so cool about taking one of their RVs to a 2-day punk rock show in the middle of farm country. I'm not getting paid, they were just awesome to rent from. Might do it again someday just to go camping. Might do it next year for Riot Fest, if they have it out in farm country again. If they do, I'll save up to stay another night if it rains like it did. I'd much rather have just waited until the sun came out the next day.

Another shout out to whoever runs the @RiotFest twitter account. Awesome all weekend, keeping us up to date during the evacuation and generally just being hilarious.

All in all, it was worth it, ten times over. I got to see the Replacements have fun on stage, I had a great, memorable time with my kids, and saw/heard a shit-ton of great music.

Thanks, Riot Fest.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed II

(I wrote about Lou Reed yesterday, but today I realized I had more to say.)

Most people who are into music - well, rock music anyway - feel one way or another about Lou Reed. I don't hear too many people say they don't like him, but I'm sure there are many. His music & lyrical content & singing style aren't for everyone. I only had touchpoints here and there that connected me with his music, but they're like signposts - they stick out in sharp relief.

"Walk On The Wild Side" was probably the first song of his that I knew. I know for sure I heard it when I saw the movie Times Square and bought the soundtrack, but I have vague memories of hearing it before then on LA radio when I lived there as a kid through '79. I didn't know what giving head was, but the story of Holly was expansive to my young mind. "Shaved his legs and then he was a she" - you could just do that? I mean, I knew there was more to it than that, but the matter of fact way that Lou talked about the people in the song - Candy, Little Joe, Jackie - there was no judgment. It didn't matter that they were prostitutes, transvestites (or transsexuals), or drug addicts. They were just people, doing what they were doing. People.

My next memorable encounter with Lou's music was about as far away from his 70's music that he went. My sister went on an exchange trip with another school in New York state, and the girl she met gave my sister a tape with a lot of music on it, but one of the poppiest, happiest songs on the cassette was "I Love You Suzanne".

I don't know that I even put it together that they were the same artist until I started at KCR in college. I love a good pop song, complete with musical hooks & repeated refrains. Cheesy video & all, I love that song.

The last signpost was not even Lou singing or playing, but another band's cover of one of his iconic songs. I started college in fall of '88 and there were a few songs that stick out as defining that time for me. Pixies - "Gigantic". All - "Just Perfect". And Cowboy Junkies - "Sweet Jane".

The Junkies cover was a languid, sprawled out seduction that to me somehow felt positive and not beat-down or hopeless. It was only years later when I purchased the Velvet's Peel Slowly And See box set on the cheap from Columbia House that I heard the original version, and was surprised that it was more of an uptempo version.

The Junkies "Sweet Jane" is more along the lines of some of the slower VU versions of the song, like this from Live 1969, which I've only recently discovered as well.

(Read Mike Timmins kind remembrances of Lou Reed & the story of the bridge in "Sweet Jane" here.)

I hold that one of the signs of quality songwriting is that the songs stand up when other bands perform them - Bob Dylan is a prime example of this. I've written about R.E.M.'s VU covers on Dead Letter Office, Big Star did a great cover of "Femme Fatale" on Third/Sister Lovers, U2's "Satellite Of Love", and even the likes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark paid homage on their version of "Waiting For The Man". But much like Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner", "Sweet Jane" is one of those songs that almost every new band learns because it's easy and it's fun to play around with tempos. It's a way to take an existing form and play around with it. The Velvet Underground was always experimenting, and that's probably because of their close association with Andy Warhol and the art ethos.

I'm now a solid fan of Lou, both his solo work and what he did with the Velvets. I love the idea of his kind of art - uncompromising, bold, and true.

In my mind, Lou was the embodiment of New York City of old, the New York that I read about in books like Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz, Slake's Limbo by Felice Holman, or in the movie The Warriors. That New York City probably only existed in my mind, but it was there. Gritty, dark, bleak. Danger, subways, drugs.

I've been to New York once, in 1999, and it didn't seem any more dangerous than other cities I'd been to. The cleanup had been in effect for a few years by that point, and I knew that the NYC in my head was no longer a reality. With Lou Reed's death, that place has dissolved once and for all.

The saxophone solo from "Walk On The Wild Side" fades out.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed

In honor of Lou Reed's death today, I've wiped my iPod of all "easy" music and am loading it with music that has always challenged me, which includes The Velvet Underground, bop jazz (Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, etc), early Echo & the Bunnymen, Foals, Joy Division, Gang of Four, early Pixies, Jesus and Mary Chain (Psychocandy), aMiniature, Jesu, Wire, some VU covers and, of course, Lou Reed himself. I only have Berlin & Transformer, but that's challenging enough.

Challenging music. Music that makes you (me) uneasy, or feel unsettled, or awkward, or sad, or depressed. Or that's difficult to listen to, you feel like you're trying to keep up.

Music isn't always easy, nor is it supposed to be. I learned this reading Henry Rollins' Before The Chop earlier this year. I'm trying to challenge myself more, lately, in music and other art.

Thanks, Lou.

What music challenges you?

EDIT: Also added The Cure - The Top, Frank Zappa, and Captain Beefheart. Because the above wasn't challenging enough. :)