Friday, August 26, 2011

Rock Candy Interview: Craig Finn of The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady
Over the last few years, The Hold Steady has become one of my favorite bands. No surprise, as I tend to get giddy like a child when they come to town.

For me, it's that the Hold Steady are a direct line to what the hell is going on. Frontman Craig Finn’s lyrics paint a picture of good times and laughs as well as desperation and drunkenness. Meanwhile, Tad Kubler's guitar riffs are so huge, they're bumping against the ceiling.

I can't get enough of the band and I'm looking forward to Finn's upcoming solo album and the next Hold Steady record, which Finn told me is coming soon.

In anticipation of the band’s rocking set coming tonight at Slowdown’s annual block party, we called Finn during a break with the band’s rehearsals in Milwaukee.

Check out the show tonight for free by heading to main sponsor Toyota's website and submitting an RSVP.

We talked about the band's current tour, his recently-recorded solo album, whether girls really do go for status and how he's proud that he doesn't look anything like The Strokes.

Kevin Coffey: What’s The Hold Steady’s lineup like right now?

Craig Finn: It’s a five-piece. No keys. We did a few shows with it earlier this year and it really energized us. We really liked it. Once we added the second guitar player, there felt like there wasn’t a ton of room for everything.

The guitars were playing so well together that we decided to kind of take it in that direction.

We had to reinvent a couple songs a little bit to cover the keyboard parts, but we’ve really liked it.

KC: There’s a few of those songs were the keys are the main melody.

CF: I think you’d be surprised. There’s even some keyboard breakdown parts that we had to rethink but it caused us to be really creative. It’s been fun. It’s pretty cool. We’re really happy with it.

KC: You just got done recording your solo album, right?

CF: I did a record down in Austin, Texas, in July and hopefully that will come out probably just after the new year. It’s still being mixed. That was super fun.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Column: Spotify is great, but not perfect

All of the talk you hear about clouds and streams may not be about Mother Nature.

It could also be about music.

Google and Amazon already have cloud music storage services and Apple is following up soon. For those that don't know, they allow you to upload your music to "the cloud" (one of their servers) and then access your music anywhere

Spotify is doing something similar, but you can access any of their 15 million songs, not just the ones that you already own.

Read more >>>

Monday, August 22, 2011

Homer's Music to close one of its two stores

Homer's, which marks its 40th anniversary in September, plans to close its Orchard Plaza store at 2457 S. 132nd St., leaving the independent music store company with only one location.

At its peak, Homer's had as many as 15 stores in three cities, including Omaha, Lincoln and Des Moines.

Read more >>>

CD Reviews: Tim Kasher, Maria Taylor

Tim Kasher, “Bigamy: More Songs From The Monogamy Sessions”
Saddle Creek

Tim Kasher and Cursive are for many the musical representation of teenage angst. Now that Kasher's aged a bit (and so have we), he's singing about middle age, which is fitting.

This is a short EP, only seven songs to "Monogamy's" 11. It pays off for Kasher with each song being a short vignette that's about one aspect of middle age life or another. "A Bluer Sea" has repeated references to being "adrift" and "without anchor." "The Jessica" recalls an old relationship and its downfall after seeing some photos. Lead-off track "No Harmony" is my favorite and it ponders cruising the bars for ladies, with Kasher resisting growing into and adult so much that he calls himself "Mr. Peter Pan." He goes on to wonder if he should date a woman his own age, perhaps "a spinster or a divorcee," and then recalls being a divorcee himself.

Fans should know this isn't a Cursive album and rarely sounds anything like one. It's more akin to Kasher's solo debut "The Game Of Monogamy, ("Bigamy" and "Monogamy" were written at the same time) and the stripped-down sound without the crashing guitars adds even more emotion to Kasher's already impassioned songwriting.

Maria Taylor, “Overlook”
Saddle Creek

Other Maria Taylor solo albums have seen her armed with an acoustic guitar and maybe some string arrangements. "Overlook" is dripping with music, whether it's psychadelic guitar and xylophone ("Matador"), jazzy vocals and guitar strumming ("Bad Idea"), up-tempo bluesy guitar ("In A Bad Way") and vocal harmony (freakin' everywhere on this album).

It's an expansive album, but instead of feeling like she can't find a genre to settle down in, she feels at home in all of them.

"Happenstance" laments her "suitcase full on the bedroom floor" always there, which references her recent relocation from LA back to her Birmingham, Ala., home. (The album also features her sister, brother and father on various tracks.)

Get downloads from both after the jump.

A Note On My Ratings System

Albums are reviewed on a scale of one to four stars, four being excellent and zero being just plain awful. More explanation follows below.

★★★★ - Phenomenal. Infinitely relistenable and one of the best of the year if not several years.
★★★☆ - Very good. Mostly great from start to finish. Will find a place in our car's CD changer for some time.
★★☆☆ - Decent. A solid output with a few standout tracks, which are the only ones we may listen to again.
★☆☆☆ - Forgettable. A stumbling block of an album.
☆☆☆☆ - Terrible. Why did they even make this album? So bad we might light our copy on fire.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks" is NOT about Omaha

Photo Credit: Williams + Hirakawa
A pop song’s true meaning can change the way you think about it.

That’s certainly the case with Foster The People’s latest single, “Pumped Up Kicks.”

The tune is all over radio and is currently No. 2 on iTunes’ top-selling singles.

It's an awesome groove and it’s no wonder that the song’s a hit with its simple, but groovy bassline and dreamy, melodic vocals.

But it’s a violent song.

The poppy tune includes lyrics about guns, bullets and a kid named Robert, which some have claimed is meant to depict Robert Hawkins, the gunman who killed eight and injured six people before taking his own life at Omaha’s Von Maur store in 2007.

I first heard about it when several people contacted me over the weekend to ask me what I knew. Namely, "Is it true that it's about the Westroads shootings? That's totally going to ruin the song for me.

So, are the rumors true?

“This is completely false. The character name in the song is just a coincidence,” the band’s publicist wrote in response to The World-Herald’s questions.

The first verse contains lines such as “Robert’s got a quick hand,” “found a six shooter gun in his dad’s closet” and “he’s coming for you.”

And then there’s the chorus: “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, better run, better run, outrun my gun/All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, better run, better run, faster than my bullet.”

It's also not about Robert Butler Jr., the Millard South student who killed his vice principal, shot his principal and killed himself. The song came out in early 2010. Butler shot up his school in 2011.

The song is violent enough, anyway, to cause MTV to ask the band to submit a version of the song without references to guns or bullets. The band complied, even though singer Mark Foster told “Time Out Chicago” that the song’s not actually about killing people.

“Kids are just getting younger and younger and losing their minds and going on killing sprees. It really was bothering me, and I was trying to figure out why that was happening more and more. I wanted to tell that story and get inside the head of a kid going crazy,” he said. “The song’s about isolation, being an outcast, and seeing the world through the character’s eyes. It’s not about him actually physically going and doing anything, it’s about his mental state.”

It seems the Internet — Wikipedia in particular — and its tendency to proliferate rumors have struck once again.

On, a poster posited that the Robert in the song might be Hawkins. An Omahan’s reply to his post said that the song is definitely about the shootings, though his only claim to holding the truth was that the poster went to high school with Hawkins.

Additional blog posts on, and even prominent alternative newsweekly Seattle Weekly all have referenced Hawkins.

Perhaps the biggest offender (and possibly the source of all of the other rumors) is the song’s entry on Wikipedia, which states “The lyrics refer to the shooter Robert A. Hawkins in the murder-suicide at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska on Wednesday, December 5, 2007.”

Wikipedia can be edited by anyone and often contains mistakes. Facts are often cited with links to other articles.

The citation next to the note about Hawkins? There isn’t one.

Watch the video for "Pumped Up Kicks" below.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Maha Festival: Get yourself to Stinson Park

Should be a beautiful day for a music festival.

Maha kicks off it's third year over at Stinson Park at Aksarben Village today at noon with an amazing lineup of indie legends, great Omaha bands and a helluva lot of fun (go visit the photobooth).

Unfortunately, I'll be elsewhere today (a wedding out of town) but others will do a great job of covering it in my stead.

Check out my preview coverage over at, which includes interviews with Reverend Horton Heat, Cursive's Tim Kasher and Guided By Voices' Tobin Sprout.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lollapalooza 2011: The Five Best Sets Of The Fest (and more)

Once again, I spent three precious days soaking in the sun (and getting soaked by the rain) while I caught band after band perform at Lollapalooza.

In all, I saw at least 22 bands play (by my count) and passed by stages or stopped in quickly to hear even more. Over those three days, I saw everything from hip-hop to surf pop and giant stars to obscure little indie bands.

As always, it was an incredible weekend. To wrap things up, here's a look at my five favorite sets from the weekend, a few I wasn't too fond of  and some of my other favorite moments from the festival.


Back from performing after several years (and rehab), Eminem is completely on his game. He can still bust rhymes with as much ferocity as ever. Actually, more than ever.

The Mountain Goats
John Darnielle's an incredible songwriter and seeing him in person solidified that to me. Old songs such as "This Year" and brand new ones such as "You Were Cool" were amazing.

Best Coast
This would have been just a normal set if it hadn't been for the downpour that came right when the band started playing its sunny California surf pop. I'll remember this festival moment forever.

The Joy Formidable
I'm still amazed how much musical ferocity is packed into every ounce of Joy Formidable frontwoman/guitarist Ritzy Bryan. I'd watch her smash a guitar into a gong any day.

I really didn't think I'd be that into deadmau5, but I danced so much my legs were sore the next day


Cee Lo
One of the artists that I was most excited to see was Cee Lo. But he didn't deliver. Cee Lo didn't have much energy, the crowd wasn't giving him much in return, his set was all over the place and he claimed technical issues brought everything down.

Death From Above 1979
Nothing wrong with loud, noisy jams, but these ones didn't seem to go anywhere. Every song sounded the same: crashing bullshit madness. Why people were excited for these guys to get back together is beyond me.


Noah And The Whale
I was actually waiting to see another band when these dudes caught my ear and led me to them. They're poppy, bouncier than a trampoline and so catchy that I haven't been able to keep "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N." out of my head for days.


Puppets on sticks
I don't know why these were so popular, but dozens of people were carrying around puppets (or stuffed animals and other characters) on sticks that they'd hold in the air. The two most prevalent I kept spotting were an elephant and a dinosaur. I guess the idea is to hold it up and shake it around?
I can't imagine it would be anything more than annoying to carry, but they were usually pretty funny. The elephant guy kept making the stuffed animal dance to the music.
Others mocked the phenomenon. One guy carried a tree branch with a Bud Light can and his sunglasses attached to it.


Garlic and Provolone Stuffed Italian Sausage
While Lou Malnati's deep-dish pizza is always a good choice (whether you're at Lolla or just in Chicago), this sausage hit the spot after days of eating chicken fingers and pizza. It was flavorful and mighty spicy, but it was perfect. I originally walked up to the Tuscany On Taylor Street so I could get an Italian beef sandwich, but this caught my eye. I'm glad I went with it. (Photo by me.)


Earrings from Coco Loco
I kept seeing these kickass earrings being sported by guys and girls throughout the festival. They're handmade from wood, bone, shells and other natural materials. I asked the girl sporting them above where she got them from and she directed me to Coco Loco, a jewelry maker that had a stand in the festival. No wonder they kept popping up.
I'm not huge into jewelry, but these were wicked cool. They're sort of expensive (visit Coco Loco's webstore) but they have tons of designs.(Photo by me.)

deadmau5 Heads
Other than his music, deadmau5 might be best known for the giant, globular, Mickey Mouse-like head masks he wears while DJing. On Sunday, I saw homemade masks in all shapes and sizes (and quality levels) on fans. While some were paper mache, others (including the one above) were way cooler than the ones deadmau5 himself wore onstage. These people are dedicated.


I'll never forget Best Coast's set or when it started pouring at the exact moment that deadmau5 came onstage. That was incredible and one of the crazy, unpredictable things that makes these giant festivals so great.

Dave Grohl's stories
On Sunday night at the close of the festival, Dave Grohl told two quick stories. The first was about his very first rock concert at the Cubby Bear near Wrigley Field. He saw Chicago punk band Naked Raygun and said it changed his life forever.
The second, which you can read here, was about him and Kurt Cobain going to the very first Lollapalooza and how amazed they were.
Both touching stories from a guy who's been a part of rock 'n roll culture for as long as Lollapalooza itself.

All photos © Lollapalooa unless otherwise noted.

Pujol's Saddle Creek release details revealed

Daniel Pujol
It was revealed awhile back that noisy, garagey, '60s-rockish Pujol would release something new with Saddle Creek Records.

Now, we have some more details. The EP is titled "Nasty, Brutish, and Short" and will be out Oct. 18.

"I wanted to stab at making a narrative that would cyclically feed back into itself, oscillating between the individual's and the cultural lexicon. I finally got to assemble those songs together on a single release," he said.

I don't know what the hell that's supposed to mean, but his music's pretty damn good.

• What do you think of this addition to Saddle Creek's roster? Let your thoughts be known.

• Listen to "Black Rabbit" below, which is an excellent jam.

• Pujol's going on tour this fall as well, but won't come anywhere near Omaha. Dates below.

9/24 - Boomslang Festival - Lexington, KY*
9/30 – Gardner Lounge at Grinnell – Grinnell, IA^
10/17 - Pilot Light - Knoxville, TN
10/18 - Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar - Charlottesville, VA
10/19 – CMJ – New York, NY
10/20 – CMJ – New York, NY

10/21 – CMJ – New York, NY
10/22 – Panache CMJ Showcase @ Public Assembly – Brooklyn, NY

10/23 - Kung Fu Necktie - Philadelphia, PA
10/25 – Mojo Main – Newark, DE #

10/26 – Kings Barcade – Raleigh, NC #

10/27 – New Brookland Tavern – Columbia, SC#

10/30 – Churchills – Miami, FL#
11/1 – Crowbar – Tampa, FL#

11/2 – Downunder Club – Tallahassee, FL#
11/3 – Handlebar – Pensacola, FL#

11/4 – Spanish Moon – Baton Rouge, LA#

11/8 – Proud Larry’s – Oxford, MS #

11/9 – Bottletree – Birmingham, AL#
11/10 – Grey Eagle Tavern & Music – Asheville, NC#
11/11 – Blue Nile – Harrisonburg, VA #

*with Ty Segall

^ with Turbo Fruits

# with Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lollapalooza: Deadmau5 closes out the festival with a killer set

Deadmau5 does his DJ set with a guest spot from singer Sofia "Sofi" Toufa. (Photo by Matt Ellis, © Lollapalooza)
All day long on Sunday, people were walking around with Deadmau5 mouse heads just like the giant, globe-like ones that the DJ himself wears during his sets. And Deadmau5 T-shirts, tattoos (real and temporary), signs and all kinds of stuff.

Deadmau5 (pronounced "dead mouse") was set to close out the festival on the north main stage while the Foo Fighters were on the south end.

While most of the electronica music is confined to Perry's, the DJ tent/enormous pavilion, Deadmau5 got to do his thing on the main stage like Daft Punk a few years back.

I'm not huge into electronic music (or techno or house or DJ music or whatever the hell you want to call it), but I dabble and have enjoyed Deadmau5 when I've heard him. Plus I just saw Foo Fighters at an incredible three-hour set back at home, so north I went.

As the sky began to darken (prematurely, it would seem), we noticed that the ever-visible Chicago skyline was beginning to become obscured.

Rain was coming.


As it began to sprinkle on us, the lights went down. Deadmau5 wasn't up for 15 more minutes.

As it started to pour down a moment later, the lasers and lights onstage came on and the music started pumping.

It was a perfect festival moment. Pouring rain soaked a wildly cheering and dancing cloud and the exact moment the music started popping off.

A few seconds later, a giant mouse head popped up behind the DJ deck that set up on a giant, lit riser. People went even more nuts.

As I mentioned before, I'm not huge into this music at all, but I found myself dancing my ass off surrounded by a bunch of strangers. No one seemed to mind that they barely knew the people bumping into them, but that's what's great about a festival.

Though I'm not that familiar with Deadmau5's actual albums, I was told he was playing tracks from those records such as "Ghosts 'n' Stuff" and "Raise Your Weapon."

Most of it was straight up electronica, but singer SOFI popped up for "Sofi Needs A Ladder" and "One Trick Pony," which were more straight-up dance pop tracks.

It was a blast and a crazy way to end the festival.

After SOFI left, I was pretty exhausted and had my fill of Deadmau5, so I went and headed back to catch the end of Foo Fighters.

They had just started "Skin & Bones" when I arrived and after the song, Dave Grohl paused to tell a quick story.

"I'm really happy to be here at Lollapalooza on the fucking 20th anniversary. Is that what it is? It's a very special thing. Cuz I went to the first Lollapalooza in 1991. I remember it was in Los Angeles. I came down to Los Angeles to make that record 'Nevermind' with the band Nirvana. We heard there was this big concert with fucking Jane's Addiction and Siouxz and the Banshees and fucking Ice T's Body Count, Nine Inch Nails. It was this big-ass show. (Perry Farrell comes running onstage to give Grohl a hug. And kiss.) And that day, me and Kurt went down and we sat in the audience and we thought, 'Oh my god, music is fucking changing. There is 20,000 people here to see bands that are actually cool. What the fuck?! How did that happen?' I'd like to thank Perry for changing music forever. Thank you, Perry."

He dedicated the next song to Farrell, which was "Everlong."

Ending the festival on a modern classic like "Everlong" was an excellent way to wrap everything up.

After their set, tired and almost completely rocked out, I trudged back through the mud to the train.

Til next year, Lolla.

Lollapalooza: Manchester Orchestra

At the same stage as Best Coast (but without the rain) was Manchester Orchestra.

I like this band. They rock, they're loud and singer/guitarist Andy Hull has a wailing, sad voice that absolutely cuts into me every time I hear it.

The rain had thinned out the crowd quite a bit, which I was fine with, and I found a great spot to watch. It ended up being a really good set and included a ton of songs from the band's latest album, "Simple Math."

I enjoy the band's previous effort "Mean Everything To Nothing" better and was happy to hear them play the song "Everything To Nothing."

Lollapalooza: Best Coast in the (pouring) rain

Sunday afternoon had a very rock 'n roll feeling to it. As Best Coast played its sunny California surf pop, the skies opened up and absolutely poured rain down on everybody.

As singer/guitarist Beth Cosentino remarked from the stage, it was one of those festival moments that you'll never forget.

There was no seeking shelter. And after a minute or so, I couldn't possibly have gotten any more soaked, so I just stood there and took it.

Mud pits formed all over the place and everyone rocked out pretty hard while we got covered with buckets of water.

As quickly as it started, it stopped as soon as Cosentino and friends left the stage. After that, I wrung out my shirt, grabbed a bite to eat and got ready for the rest of the night.

Lollapalooza: The Cars still got it

I really liked The Cars' latest album, "Move Like This," which sounds so much like vintage stuff from the band.

So I headed over to see them Sunday afternoon. I was not disappointed.

They played a ton of old hits, such as "Just What I Needed," "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Shake It Up." They also hit on a lot of the new material and played just about every song from "Move Like This."

I was impressed that Ric Ocasek and Co. sounded just like they always have, even without the late Benjamin Orr (who sang songs such as "Just What I Needed"). That may actually be my only complaint, that they sounded too perfect. But it's not much of a complaint at all.

Lollapalooza: Wherein I discover a new band

After a short break, I headed to the north end of the park to see City And Colour, the side project of Alexisonfire's Dallas Green.

While I sat on the asphalt waiting for the band to come on (it would be another 45 minutes), I listened to the band playing on a nearby stage.

They were good. So good, in fact, that I left my really good spot in front of City And Colour's stage to go watch them.

The band was Noah & The Whale. Their music is bouncier than a bouncy castle at a state fair and it's plain old fun. Something about it was infectious and that's what drew me over.

Noah & The Whale is definitely my Discovery Of The Festival for this year's Lolla.

I did go back to see City and Colour. Green's a great songwriter and his angsty, manly songs have even more power with a full band behind him.

I didn't stick around the whole time because I wanted to see The Cars (and City And Colour's coming to Omaha soon).

Lollapalooza: Rain, rain go away

Today's weather caused some havoc. It, of course, destroyed my notebook and made it tough to update my blog.

In fact, I think my phone's suffered a bit of damage.

Anyway, I'll get it worked out though it may take until Monday to get everything posted.

Lollapalooza: The Joy Formidable's beautiful, crashing set

I started of the third and final day of Lollapalooza with a band I've seen before: The Joy Formidable.

I've described the Welsh band before as Silversun Pickups with a hot female singer. With buzzing guitar, thumping bass grooves and a driven sound, it's not far off.

They played a short set: Just 30 minutes of their allotted 45. But I kept overhearing people say "fucking amazing" and "so fucking good" as we left.

"Fuckin' hell. Yeah!" said guitarit/lead singer Ritzy Bryan after the crowd went wild for their first song. "Lollapalooza! It's nice to see ya."

The band can play softly and poppy, but the slam into other songs. When they hit like that, it's likes Marshall stack brig dropped on you.

They ended the set with an 8-minute version of "Whirring" that saw the petite Bryan smashing her Strat into a gong while the other two members made as much noise as possible.

It was pure cacophony, but still held together with rhythm and purpose.

(I'll post a video as soon as I'm able.)

Lollapalooza: Amazed by Eminem

"People! It feels so good to be baaaack!"

Eminem shouted the line at the start of "Square Dance." Yeah, it's just one o the lyrics, but he meant it.

And the enormous crowd thought it, too.

Eminem has barely played a show in five years.

Not that you could tell. He's still so sharp that his quick rhymes slice just as deep now a they did ever before.

When I made it down to the south end of Grant Park, I wa amazed by the sea of people. Eminem's stage was on my right and the lawn was so full that the audience mixed in with the one that was watching Atmosphere a few hundred yards to the left.

I've never seen that big of a crowd at any festival, not even for Lady Gaga.

His triumphant return included a healthy selection of "Recovery" songs as well as a bunch of old tunes, some of which were done in quick, one-verse shots.

It was the best hip-hop show that I've ever seen. Eminem's easily one of the best rappers alive and he doesn't need a huge entourage or any gimmicks, just a load of fast verse about hard life.

Fans were hoping for some high-profile guest appearances and got one with Bruno Mars singing "Sky Full Of Lighters." Anyone hoping for Dr. Dre or Rihanna missed out.

The set included "Love The Way You Lie," "Stan" (video below), "Til I Collapse" (a personal favorite) and Em's single verse from B.o.B.'s "Airplanes" as well as a medley of stuff from "My Name Is," "Real Slim Shady" and "Guess Who's Back."

Eminem's best work came with the last two songs. "Not Afraid," his best song in years, was dedicated "to anyone that's in a dark, fucked up place" similar to the one that's kept Eminem from performing. (Speaking of, after a joke about it, the crowd applauded his sobriety, which I've never seen before).

"Lose Yourself" was the finale and Eminem was drowned out by fans rapping right along with him, a testament to how the song (and the artist) has been a part of so many people's lives.

Lollapalooza: Disappointment with Cee Lo

It's not often that you see a bad show at a music festival. The idea I'd that the band's are curated and must have done something worthy to play a show like Lollapalooza. Also, you have your choice on what to see, so you're likely to miss bands you don't like.

Cee Lo has certainly earned a spot at Lolla. And he doesn't suck.

But Saturday's performance wasn't good.

Part of the responsibility for that laid on the crowd, which was mostly there to see headliner Eminem and didn't give Cee Lo a lot of energy.

But it was also his fault. Instead of starting the set with some familiar songs (say, a Gnarls Barkley tune), he kicked things off with a pair of covers.

Clad in Thunderdome-style football pads and silver spikes, Cee Lo led his all-female band (in S&M-looking outfits) through some unfamiliar solo tunes.

He seemed unenthusiastic and said several times that the crowd should be happy since he was wearing a ridiculous costume.

The crowd kind of got restless and a lot of people yelled out "Fuck You" with a tone that seemed like a combination song title and pejorative.

The set ended early because of what Cee Lo called technical difficulties even though it seemed like he was just giving up.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lollapalooza: Death From Above 1979

Since they're indie famous, haven't played in five years and since I really like Sebastien Grainger's solo album from Saddle Creek, I felt like I had to go see Death From Above 1979.

It was loud, raucous, noisy and the sweaty, muddy masses loved it. A giant mosh pit was pressed up against the barriers and covered in mud (it rained earlier and a mud pit formed in front of the main stage).

Me? Eh, I thought it was OK. The music has energy, to be sure, but that translated more to chaos than amazing songs.

Grainger and Jesse Keeler were more noise rock than dance punk this time around and were louder than hell. They were also complete opposites. Grainger's hair was dyed blond and he wore all white while Keeler was in all black.

As they played, I got more into them, especially the song "Little Girl."

Lollapalooza: Fitz & The Tantrums

Fitz & The Tantrums were once again amazing.

They're another soul and R&B revival band but it of course has it's own twist.

Three years ago, the band didn't exist. In March, I saw the band at a small club at SXSW. And on Saturday, thousands saw them perform on one of the fest's main stages.

Bandleader Michael Fitzpatrick came out in a pink suit and striped t-shirt (I wish I could wear that and be taken seriously) and was joined by his amazing band, which includes incredible singer Noelle Scaggs.

They kicked things off with "Breaking The Chains of Love" and followed with just about every song on their new album. They also did covers of The Raconteurs' "Steady As She Goes" and a soul version of the Eurhythmics' "Sweet Dreams."

Fitz and his pals can turn just about anything into a dance pit and Rey turned up the heat with the set-closing "Moneygrabber."

Lollapalooza: Day two begins with J Roddy Walston

I made it down to the festival for day two right in the middle of J Roddy Walston and The Business' "Brave Man's Death," my favorite song by the band.

No worries as the rest of the set was pretty entertaining. Walston's an inferno of howling vocals, hair and pounding piano.

It's loud, out-of-control Southern rock that veers into the territory of the Beatles when they got frenzied and Paul McCartney started yelling.

I caught the last half of the set including "Use Your Language" (video above), "Don't Get Old" and "Uh Oh Rock & Roll."

I've also never seen anyone headbang while playing piano. Thank you Mr. Walston for allowing me to check that off the bucket list.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lollapalooza: Day one is done

One of the things that I love about Lollapalooza us that it's in the middle of Chicago. It's wide open grass and it has a great festival vibe but then you look up and it's Chicago's impressive skyline.

Watching both Coldplay and Muse Friday night in that setting was a great way to cap off the day.

Coldplay played a lot of familiar stuff such as "Yellow" and "Lost" as well as some songs I didn't know, which may have been brand new or really old.

My guess is new since this is the band's "first proper show back in America," as singer Chris Martin put it.

I know all the Coldplay jokes and, sure, they play a lot of epic pop-rock power ballads, but dammit, I like them. They're even better live.

But I didn't stay. I saw Coldplay a couple years ago, but I've never seen Muse, so I hoofed it back to the other end of the fest.

I made a quick stop at Perry's, the DJ tent named after Perry Farrell. In recent years, Perry's has been a small stage/pavilion that a thousand or so might gather around. This year, it's a giant tent the size of a football field (at least) and it was overflowing with people.

Girl Talk was holding court there when I stopped by. There ain't no party like a Girl Talk party and this one was nuts. So many people were in there dancing that I couldn't even see him.

I didn't stay long (he's coming to my area soon) and went to see Muse.

If there was a volume battle between the two headliners that night, Muse was winning.

I like them because each song has so many ways to be enjoyed. On tracks like "Resistance" and "Uprising," you could alternately dance, mosh, jump, rock out, crowdsurf, make out or sing along. And people did.

It was a fun way to end the night.

Lollapalooza: Ok Go

Of course Ok Go took the stage in Skittles colors. Why wouldn't they?

They're the goofballs that made the treadmill video and the live video with the marching band and once showed at an awards show wearing custom suits made from couch upholstery.

Anyway, one thing I've always loved about Ok Go is how yet have fun with the music. Why do it normal when it would be so much more fun to be zany.

They certainly had that vibe on Friday. The first few songs were pretty straightforward, but then they turned things up.

They played the entirety of "Return" with hand bells, those bells they use at church. Lead singer Damian Kulash called them "the instrument invented by God himself." He later pulled his guitar and mic stand into the crowd to play a song.

Their last few songs included "Here It Goes Again" and "This Too Shall Pass."

Those were the big guns and people went appropriately nuts or them, including singing the refrain of the latter after Kulash's comments that the crowd wasn't nearly as loud as at Glastonbury (boo!) or Coachella (even more boos).

I also admire the band's music. It's garage punk, but if you put a little bit of thump, swagger and dancey pop in the mix.

Lollapalooza: Bright Eyes

Bright Eyes performed Friday afternoon to what looked like 20,000 people. The lawn by their stage (one of the two largest at the fest) was an ocean of people.

It's pretty amazing to me to see a band of (mostly) people from Omaha play onstage to that many happy people in attendance.

The set was the same as I have heard from the band twice already this year: new songs from "The People's Key" mixed in with driving, synthy older tunes.

This isn't folky, Americana-style Conor Oberst any more.

A man in front of me said he wanted to hear more slow dirges that made him sad.

I laughed.

Lollapalooza: The Mountain Goats

Though I've wanted to for a long time, I've never seen The Mountain Goats until today. I've missed out.

TMG's John Darnielle has been heralded as one of the best songwriters in recent times, if not ever. His literary, imagery-filled lyrics are moving, yet simple and relatable.

Darnielle and his band (which included Superchunk's Jon Wurster on drums) played an off-the-cuff set by deciding onstage what they were going to play as they played it.

My favorite moments came during Darnielle's three-song solo stand that starte with "You Were Cool."

The tune made me shiver with a chill. It was good.

A huge crowd was there to watch and they sang along with most of the songs, which is impressive at a sort of singer-songwriter set.

Darnielle noticed, too.

"The first time I played in Chicago, it was to about 30 people at the Empty Bottle," he said. "Thank you so much for being here."

They closed out the set with maybe their most popular song, "This Year," which has the awesome lyric "I'm gonna make it through this year if it kills me."

Lollapalooza: I'm finally here

After an early rise and a long drive, I've finally made it into the festival. Hooray, me!

At the moment, I'm catching the very end of a set by the Smith Westerns, a band remember not liking at all at SXSW. But I'm digging them right now. They have a slow surf punk sound that's pretty enjoyable on a warm summer day.

Next up is The Kills, a band fronted by Alison Mosshart from The Dead Weather and featuring guitar by Jamie Hince.

That's it. Just them. No drummer or bassist even though apparently pre-recorded drum and bass parts were playing.

Could they not afford to hire two guys? The pre-recorded stuff sounds OK, but I imagine live people would make them even more lively.

Hince is a pretty good player and the songs were good and loud and noisy if not pretty repetitive. I also like Mosshart's voice but have yet to hear her in anything that utilizes her talents to their full extent.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Headed to Lollapalooza

Once again, I'm making the trek east to see some bands at Lollapalooza.

Who am I most excited for? Eminem, definitely. Guy doesn't play a lot of shows. Then Muse (haven't been to Omaha),  DFA 1979 (never seen them before, just Sebastien Grainger solo), Cee Lo (missed him at SXSW), The Cars (new album is great), The Joy Formiddable (sweet band to see live) and a ton more.

I plan on keeping my blog and Twitter updated with lots of reviews, photos, videos and stories (Check out a schedule of who I plan to see.)

Feel free to e-mail me suggestions, or drop posts here in the comments. Or if you're down there, tweet or e-mail me if you want to say hi.

Of course, if you physically see me at Lolla (or any show for that matter), there's nothing wrong with tapping me on the shoulder and introducing yourself. There seems to be a rash of "I see @owhmusicguy" tweets from shows lately. Seriously people, there's nothing wrong with saying hi face-to-face. I won't bite.

If you're not one of the lucky folks that gets to go, you can also watch the webcasts on Youtube.