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By Andy Argyrakis
Weekend Report: Beasties, Bjork top Sasquatch! soiree
Friday, May 25, 2007
Considering Memorial Day weekend usually grants a day off on Monday, why not take a road trip to Washington for one of the indie/alternative world's most prominent parties? The Sasquatch! Music Festival is well worth the trip to The Gorge (near the Columbia River in the central region of the state and not near Seattle as potentially mistaken), especially since it boasts a mixture of today's top names with the torch bears from past decades.
After starting out in The Sugarcubes, Bjork's solo career springboard in the early 1990s, carrying over into today and a Saturday night headlining set in support of the new Volta (Atlantic). And the rest of that day's line-up isn't all that shabby either, including The Arcade Fire fresh off the release of the stellar Neon Bible (Merge), plus performances by Neko Case, Two Gallants, The Hold Steady and Ghostland Observatory. The Beastie Boys' Mix Master Mike also turns in a DJ set, while the entire group convenes for an exclusive instrumental show (being billed as "A Gala Event").
However, those hoping for all the hits won't have to worry about only hearing them wordless, when those intergalactic, right to party fighters take center stage Sunday night. That day is also packed with performances by Interpol, Spoon, The Polyphonic Spree, The Dandy Warhols and Tokyo Police Club. Additional and extremely random attractions include two shows of Incredibly Strange Wrestling (and we're talking mayhem inducing masked men, not the glitz and polish of a WWE show), along with a gospel brunch (open only to campers). Tickets are going fast (if they're not gone already), but all the pertinent information can be found at www.sasquatchfestival.com.
Art Brut attitude, Mayall turns in 56th album
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The countdown is on for the new Art Brut record, which officially hits stores June 19 under the production reigns of Dan Swift (Snow Patrol/The Futureheads). The sophomore CD It's a Bit Complicated (Downtown Records) comes on the heels of several impressive experiences since debuting in 2003, including road time with Oasis, critical kudos at Coachella and several headlining runs. The band bolts back on the road this summer throughout America and Europe, backed by openers Maximo Park.
The career of British bluesman John Mayall has winded through an extraordinary 56 albums, including his leadership in the Bluesbreakers, which included the lauded likes of rotating musicians Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor and many more. Instead of riding on past laurels or trying to recreate those golden years, the longstanding singer/multi-instrumentalist tips his hat to the late great Freddie King, who also left an indelible legacy from humble Texas beginnings through his conquering of the genre. In the Palace of the King (Eagle Rock Entertainment) just hit stores, featuring a slew of fan favorites and robust jam sessions, plus two Mayall originals.
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars are no stranger to touring and continue its expansive streak in support of the recent Living Like a Refugee (Anti-). The collective kicks off June 8 and 9 at Wyoming's Jackson Hole Film Festival, winding around the world through September 8. Aside from all the travel action, the band is also slated to collaborate with Aerosmith on "Give Peace a Chance" for the June 12 benefit release Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur (Warner Brothers). Other artists on the socially conscious John Lennon covers collection include R.E.M., Green Day and U2.
Polyphonic road pounding, Unexpected Cohen covers
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Anyone who caught a glimpse at The Polyphonic Spree at this year's SxSW Festival caught a military-styled uniform clad troupe in favor of its previously flowing robes. Along with the image change has been an even more aggressive sound characterized by rougher guitar chords, grittier vocals and sprawling indie rock soundscapes. Fans will have the chance to decide if the new direction works for them come a full-fledged tour in support of The Fragile Army (TVT), which kicks off June 23 in Dallas. For the following month and some change, the gang infiltrates America and Canada, wrapping up August 3 at Chicago's Lollapalooza.
After debuting in 2006, NEEDTOBREATHE is slated to drop its sophomore CD The Heat (Atlantic) on August 28. The project combines the production of Rick Beato (Jump Little Children, Shinedown) and Collective Soul singer Ed Roland, merging the worlds of alternative, grunge and classic rock. The guys previously toured with those Soul-mates, along with Train and Will Hoge (often covering Led Zeppelin in the process), and will be announcing an upcoming tour itinerary closer to the street date.
The name Jennifer Warnes may make some rock faithful shudder, starting with her dull duet with Joe Cocker for "Up Where We Belong" onto her even more annoying Bill Medley tag team "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." However, the crooner has unveiled some more discerning tastes over the years, including a love for her longtime friend Leonard Cohen. In fact popular reissue label Shout! Factory got its hands on her 1987 tribute disc Famous Blue Raincoat: The Songs of Leonard Cohen and will re-release the album August 7. Aside from several classics (including "Joan Of Arc" with a little help from the man himself), the package includes unreleased songs, a deluxe booklet and rare photos.
Street Date: Ozzy freebie, Maroon mania
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Though Ozzy Osbourne has become a caricature of himself as of late, he's attempting to reclaim rock god status come today's Black Rain (Epic). Though a new studio CD wouldn't normally have a prayer of selling like an album from his glory years, the heavy hitter is adding a purchase incentive for this particular product. Anyone who picks up specially marked packages not only scores a ticket redemption code for this year's entirely free Ozzfest, but they are able to pre-order seats before the general public. Despite most of Osbourne's publicity going to that cause, rumor has it the disc returns to his ominous Black Sabbath roots.
That prince of darkness is balanced out on today's color wheel by the rainbow of Erasure, who continue an overwhelmingly prolific, though somewhat mixed product streak. After Andy Bell's club-inspired solo CD and his reconvening with Vince Clarke come last year's acoustic/country tinged Union Street (Mute) the flamboyant pair fully return to their dance floor glory, while simultaneously being conscious of incredibly hooky songwriting on Light At the End of the World (Mute). From several retro 1980s rewinds to Bell's angelic pipes in ballad contexts, this disc could cement these boys' continuous comeback.
Some may find Maroon 5 to be everything that's wrong with commercial radio these days (a safe, sanitary and watered down version of alternative rock), while others consider it the second coming of the genre mixed with undeniable pop sensibilities. No matter what side of the fence one sits on with the potentially polarizing players, the pre-release chatter surrounding It Won't Be Soon Before Long (A&M/Octone) has reached epic proportions. And on an unquestionably intriguing note, The Beach Boys turn in a new retrospective collection, though this time it doesn't trace the same old tried and true hits. Instead The Warmth of the Sun (Capitol) digs into the deep cut closet and artistically centered experiments, plus purists will be pleased there's no "Kokomo" anywhere near this "Surfin' Safari."
Bo's bad break, Hatfield's EP idea
Monday, May 21, 2007
Often dubbed as "The Originator," blues rocker Bo Diddley remains active on the road even into his golden years. But last week the travels finally caught up with him when the singer suffered a stroke and was admitted to the hospital after a concert in Council Bluffs. The 78-year-old entertainer has a history of hypertension and diabetes and it's unclear if he'll be able to perform again at this point. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's hits include "Hey Bo Diddley," "Before You Accuse Me" and "I'm a Man."
Indie singing/songwriting icon Juliana Hatfield comes out from the woodwork to team with alternative country newcomers Frank Smith (a band, not a single person) for the collaborative EP Sittin In a Tree (Ye Old Record Label). The pair linked up at Allston Rock City's Mad Oak Studio merging the alternative elements of Hatfield's illustrious college/underground alt-rock career with Smith's rootsy and raucous southern palette. Early comparisons suggest old school Liz Phair, an earthier version of The Go-Go's meets the always unpredictable Nick Cave.
Even though Counting Crows currently reside in Greenwich Village (which will hopefully up the band's future artistic ante), the guys are giving back to their smaller town fans this summer. The trek takes cues from the likes of Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan to set up shop in many minor league baseball stadiums with the intention of bringing live music to less toured over areas. "I'm definitely a city boy myself- hell, I live in New York City," says singer Adam Duritz. "But this is a big country and, as much as I love a city, too many bands forget that there's a hell of a lot of America out there that's not New York or Chicago or L.A. We haven't forgotten that and we're never going to forget it."
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