It Started With A Mix #2: And Another One Goes By – Matt’s Pitchfork Mix, 2009

26 06 2009

Pitchfork Music Festival is the second in the triumvirate of music festivals I attend every year. While this April marked my fifth Coachella, meaning I’ve now attended half of the festivals in Coachella’s 10 year existence, this year’s Pitchfork will be my fourth, meaning I’ve attended every year that the festival has existed. I’m still on the fence about Lollapalooza. I’ve been every year since the festival took up residence in Chicago, but this year, due to a combination of mediocre lineup and a hectic schedule, I may be staying home or only going for one day.

I mentioned in a previous post that over the past five years, I’ve made it a tradition to make a preview mix for every musical festival I attend. One of the keys to a successful mix is, of course, song selection. The centerpiece of a good festival preview mix is a collaboration that brings together two or more of the artists from the lineup, the kind of song that takes on a unique significance in the context of that particular festival. It may be a cover, like TV on the Radio doing the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Modern Romance” for my 2006 Coachella mix; a collaboration, like Kanye & Lupe (plus Pharrell, who wasn’t there) borrowing a sample from Thom Yorke’s “The Eraser” on “Us Placer’s” for my 2008 Lollapalooza mix, the year Radiohead played; or a remix, as is the case on this year’s Pitchfork mix with Final Fantasy’s string-heavy treatment of Grizzly Bear’s “Don’t Ask.” I almost threw in “Hey Dad,” a collaboration between Final Fantasy and Beirut’s Zach Condon, as well, but decided I didn’t like the song all that much.

The mix I ended up with starts off minimalist and mysterious with a piece from Tortoise’s TNT, but quickly builds towards increasingly noisy and spazzy rock tracks, climaxing with the Jesus Lizard’s pornographic classic, “Lady Shoes” and m83’s gorgeous epic “Don’t Save Us From The Flames” before leveling off for an eclectic jaunt through a variety of genres and ending on an emotionally bare but ultimately uplifting note with Frightened Rabbits “Modern Leper,” which goes out to a friend of mine who is deathly afraid of leprosy.

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Reinventing Spaceland: Monotonix, The Mae Shi, and Anavan, 4/10

5 05 2009

Things have been busy around Songs About Radios these days. In the last few weeks, I’ve been to Boston, L A, Coachella, and Chicago twice. The longest I’ve been in one place at a time since February has been two and a half weeks, and I spent a good portion of that time with a surprise visitor from out of town. Plus my computer recently exploded, and I’ve only just finished setting up my new laptop. Fortunately no data was lost (I think), but all of this amounts to an explanation of why the posts have been a little light over the past month or so. Songs About Radios isn’t going anywhere – we’ve just been experiencing some technical difficulties…

Anyway, with a guest in town earlier this month, what better to do than catch a show? While the week’s concert schedule offered a variety of interesting options, not the least of which was the dear to my heart Marissa Nadler, we decided to choose spectacle over sentiment and check out Monotonix, the Mae Shi, and Anavan at Spaceland. I had seen Monotonix’s at this past summer’s Hideout Block Party, and had a sense of what I was in for, but the indoor dynamics of the Spaceland show was more intense than I could have anticipated. The Mae Shi, who I had been meaning to check out live for a while now, also made use of the venue in interesting ways, and the entirely off my radar Anavan delivered an energetic set with a commanding stage presence.

Monotonix – Body Language (Download) (Buy It)″

The Mae Shi – Power to the Power. Bite 2 (Download) (Buy It)″

Anavan – Boom (Download) (Buy It)″

The key to this show was performance as transformation of space. Anavan’s spastic frontman got things started by running through the crowd and cozying up with individual members of the audience. At one point, I think he grabbed my friend and ordered her, “Talk to someone you don’t know.” The Mae Shi brought a similar level of enthusiasm to their set. They also brought a parachute:

The parachute created an insular little world within the larger venue. Nearly, but not entirely, covering the area in front of the stage, it divided the space underneath from the space outside, delimiting a central mass of fan joined by a shared experience unavailable to the rest of the crowd. Cut off from a view of the stage for two to three songs, all we could see instead was each other, the sea of bewildered faces and arms raised to the air to keep the parachute from collapsing on our heads.

For the Mae Shi’s set, this sort of spectacle enhanced the musical performance, but the music and the stage remained the center of focus. For Monotonix, however, the music and the stage became mere elements of an eccentric performance that moved through the crowd and off into the peripheries of the venue.

The show began on stage, with Monotonix’s frontman slowly walking towards the crowd, spying back and forth as if about to embark upon a journey out into the amorphous and mysterious territory of the venue. Leading his guitarist by the arm, he stepped from the stage, walking forward, lying down, his feet finally emerging, held upside down by whoever was nearby. Drums were passed over the heads of the audience, and the drummer began playing from the middle of the floor. The crowd pack in densely and moved as an unstable mass as the frontman climbed up on the drums to crowd surf. Nothing unites a crowd like trying to keep a hairy, sweaty Israeli man in short shorts afloat while avoiding an accidental handful of ball sweat…

As the show progressed, the crowd surfing got more intense, as audience members got involved and the frontman began hanging from the rafters. The drums were raised up above the crowd and Monotonix began to play drums while crowd surfing. At one point, still tightly packed, we were ordered to sit and then given a complex set of instructions on when to stand up, when to set back down, and when to scream. By the end of the show, the frontman had stripped down to a thong and stuffed it with his shirt. Then without warning the show moved off the main floor, towards the bar, and out the door into the tiny entry hall to the venue. In the end, we returned to the floor and ultimately to the stage, but the stage had been transformed. No longer the sacred space separating artist from audience, the stage had been taken over by the crowd.

Best Music of 2008, Part VI (Songs 11-20)

15 02 2009