live music, new music

HSB 17 Highlights

Before I ramble about some of my favorite parts of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 17, I wanted to make sure I wrote down something that’s been on my mind:

Seeing as the worst mass shooting on American soil took place at an outdoor music festival just 5 days prior to HSB, I was more than a little paranoid about going to a large-scale, free concert in the park last weekend. I even packed a first aid kit in my bag and had a few fleeting concerns about how to use its contents without fainting, which is a bummer because no one should have to be fearful of going to a music show.

But thankfully, nothing awful happened, and in fact almost every artist I saw made some sort of comment about the feelings of peace/love/brotherhood/sisterhood floating around the festival throughout the weekend. Maybe it sounds a little silly, but there is something special about HSB that you don’t get at Outside Lands or any other festival. For one, it’s completely free and non-commercial—no corporate sponsorships, no “Heineken House”, no admission price. Attendees range from babies to baby boomers (and also lots of dogs), and everyone respects one another. There’s an immense amount of trust involved in letting 750,000 people walk into Golden Gate Park with unchecked coolers and backpacks, but if there’s any place you can pull it off, it’s here. So thanks, San Francisco, for once again proving that you’re a city of peace and love and (literal) harmony.

Now, with that out of the way, here are my highlights from the festival.

The War and Treaty

This Michigan-based couple were billed as a supporting act to Buddy Miller, but umm, they definitely stole the show. Their love for each other practically radiated off the stage during their set; it was wonderful. (Fun fact: Michael Trotter Jr. was a soldier in Iraq who wrote his first songs on a piano owned by Saddam Hussein.) They just released their first EP this summer, called Down to the River. Check ’em out playing the title track below (so much energy!!). I feel lucky to have seen them, and hope they come back to the Bay Area soon.

Dan Auerbach

I never really got into The Black Keys, but while listening to HSB playlists in the past month, it was Dan Auerbach’s stuff I kept coming back to. Also, I really like his music videos – they’re so fun (and a little bizarre). See: “Shine on Me” and “Stand By My Girl”, both of which have a bit of a George Harrison/”All Things Must Pass”-era vibe to me.

So seeing Auerbach on Saturday evening was definitely a highlight. We were right up front (my dad has a friend who makes a point to stake out front-row spots at the beginning of each day) and it was awesome. I had no idea who the guys in Auerbach’s band were—none of them looked younger than 65—but turns out they’re kind of a big deal: Gene Chrisman drummed on “Respect”, “Sweet Caroline”, and “Son of a Preacher Man”, Dave Roe was the longtime bassist for Johnny Cash, Bobby Wood and Russ Pahl have played with some of the biggest names in music. Cool!

Here’s the video for the opening song Auerbach played at HSB, a nostalgic mini-movie complete with a John Prine cameo:

The Secret Sisters

I got to the festival early on Sunday to catch The Secret Sisters, and they did not disappoint. If you like First Aid Kit (another sisterly duo, whose performance on Friday I sadly missed), I would definitely recommend checking them out! They performed a whole bunch of lovely original songs (like this one) but the video I chose below is an a cappella version of a 1920s song, because I just loved their rendition so much.

Lampedusa

Thank goodness I tagged along with my parents to this one, because I’ll probably never get to see Patty Griffin, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, and Lucinda Williams (and Bob Weir!) on the same stage together ever again. Lampedusa is a group of musicians currently touring to raise awareness of the worldwide refugee crisis. My heart melted as soon as they started singing (appropriately) “Refugee” and continued to melt all the way through “Love Hurts”, “I Know You Rider”, and “Pilgrim”. Not to mention the Blue Angels were flying over our heads throughout their set, which made for some sweet pictures. Can’t find any high quality videos from the show, but here’s one of “I Know You Rider” which is fun because you can see me and my parents over on the left side near the front (Dad’s in a green shirt and big hat, mom’s in a white shirt, and I’m in red).

Also, can I just say how amazing Emmylou Harris is? She was the first act I ever saw at HSB, and one of my favorite singers. She continues to play the festival every year, and her voice is just pure magic.

Other noteworthies

  • Although Alex and I were about a football field’s length away from the stage during Randy Newman’s set, it was still great fun. Obligatory “You’ve Got A Friend” video (“That guy looks like Tom Hanks…”).
  • Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile were good from what I heard, but by that point it was so packed at the Swan Stage that I couldn’t really get a solid look/hear. Ah well, maybe next time.
  • Same as above for John Prine; I really would’ve enjoyed being up close for his set, but the crowd was too much so unfortunately I just heard a few songs.

In previous years, I found HSB to be a bit overwhelming, but this year was so enjoyable that I’m really looking forward to the next one. Also, kudos to my parents for hanging out at the festival all weekend; if they can do it, I guess I can too. :p

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tv, twin peaks

What story are we watching, Charlie?

HOO BOY.

You know that feeling after waking up from a strange dream…those few seconds of disoriented, uneasy confusion? Having to parse reality from your mind’s own creations? The finale of Twin Peaks: The Return has managed to pinpoint that feeling and make it last indefinitely.

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Man…David Lynch and Mark Frost really made me think we were getting a neatly packaged resolution with Parts 16 and 17, then just shattered everything to pieces with Part 18. I still have no idea what to think, and my new favorite pastime is reading all the speculation in the Twin Peaks subreddit. (I think it’s safe to say that there’s enough material to fuel discussions for at least the next 25 years.)

Since I don’t ever post on Reddit except when one of my favorite people is doing an AMA, I’m going to dump all my thoughts/half-baked theories here instead (it’s about time I got use out of this blog).

BEWARE! Lots of spoilers and rambling ahead.

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beatles, george harrison

Those good good Beatles harmonies

Last week, after a particularly long bus ride in which I listened to “Yes It Is” (a severely underrated song, IMO) no less than five times in a row, I was inspired to compile the perfect playlist of Beatles harmonies. Or at least, perfect to me.

This is by no means comprehensive…just a few of my favorites, arranged (mostly) chronologically because I always think it’s so interesting to hear how the Beatles’ songwriting/recording techniques evolved over time. It’s like you can hear them getting more comfortable singing together with each song, until finally you get to “Because” which 100% always blows me away with those goosebump-inducing vocals.

(If you don’t have Spotify, I’m sorry. It’s impossible to make a Beatles playlist on YouTube.)

I had to include “The End,” because 1) the other Abbey Road songs kinda leave you hanging, and 2) they do sneak some great harmonies in there.

Also, yesterday was George’s birthday! Happy birthday, dear George.

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new music

February music roundup

All of these artist discoveries have been thanks to my latest A Song A Day curator (Janet Choi, YOU DA BEST). I’ve enjoyed listening to this music so much that I had to share some of it here.

Kaia Kater. Beautiful lyrics and Americana sound (even though she’s Canadian)! Love love love.

Jacob Collier. Holy smokes, this kid! Apparently he writes/arranges, records, produces, and performs everything himself. The song that got me hooked was his cover of “In My Room” but honestly, everything he does is pretty phenomenal.

The Lemon Twigs. I listened to their album Do Hollywood and concluded that they’re trying to be the Beatles, Queen, and The Who all at once, and it is great. Also, they’re only 17 and 19 years old!

MAGIK*MAGIK. Beautiful new music straight from San Francisco (well in this case, the Fox Theater in Oakland).

personal

Hello, my treacherous friends

Ok, so I’ve been seeing this Top 10 High School Albums thing circulating around lately, and since I’m all about lists…and albums, and high school nostalgia…I figured I should probably do it (and then not post it on Facebook, because wow, apparently everyone else had much cooler musical tastes than I did as a teenager).

You might think I chose period-appropriate albums when I could’ve actually named a bunch of 60s/70s albums, but in fact, I did listen to a lot of current music in high school. :P These are the albums that will forever remind me of beach bonfires, driving to the Krikorian, coming home from band tournaments with my CD player tucked in my jacket pocket…basically, a time capsule of high school in Southern California circa 2002-2006.

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Ahhh, so many awkward, acne-filled memories…
  • OK Go, OK Go. I think I listened to OK Go and Oh No equally, but picked the former because it has a cooler cover. One of the two albums was always in my car stereo.
  • Make Up the Breakdown, Hot Hot Heat. My pitfriends and I were really into this album during the summer of ’05 (I think Alie even made screen-printed Hot Hot Heat t-shirts for us, although maybe I’m thinking of OK Go). Whatever happened to these guys?
  • Give Up, The Postal Service. For when I wanted to feel moody and introspective.
  • Rooney, Rooney. One of those “all my band friends are listening to this so I’ll listen to it too” albums. It was my personal soundtrack to Hawaii ’05.
  • Live at Leeds, The Who. I went a little Who-crazy the summer before senior year (like, writing-fan-letters-to-Pete-Townshend crazy). This album is unique because 1) it’s a live album, and I’m not usually a fan of live albums, and 2) it’s one of the few classic rock albums that does remind me of high school. Still a favorite.
  • Hot Fuss, The Killers. This has senior year written aaaallllll over it.
  • Catalyst, New Found Glory. An album that I bought solely because my crush liked it. As a result, I listened to it more than I’d like to admit.
  • Ocean Avenue, Yellowcard. I mean, who didn’t listen to Yellowcard in 2004??
  • Strong Bad Sings (And Other Type Hits). My years in high school coincided with the golden age of homestarrunner.com. As a result, my friend Kyle and I both bought this album, and sampled it heavily in our Music Tech class. I still regularly find myself singing “The Cheat Is Not Dead” and the Sweet Cuppin’ Cakes theme song.
  • Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack. Not even embarrassed at how much I listened to this. Ok, maybe just a little.
To end with, here’s an 8tracks playlist I made a few years ago that pretty much sums it up: