I feel that the world we are living in is becoming increasingly negative. There is violence the world over, lying politicians and social media has turned countless hoards into critics. Everyone’s a critic, whether it’s food, music, film, or how people live their lives. Our society is becoming very critical with much emphasis being put on what the critic does NOT like. It’s not cool to be positive and love music, food, art. I, for one, am very guilty of the trap of negativity. I spend much of my free time reviewing music for the library of 103.3 Asheville FM and while the reviews I write are generally very positive, you should hear what I have to say about the albums that I choose not to review. There’s no reason for all this negativity and hate and if the events of the last few months have taught us anything it’s that positivity and light must begin to shine brighter or the darkness will begin to eclipse all that we hold dear.
All that being said, I am not going to review Shaky Knees Music Festival from my pedestal of musical oversaturation snobbiness. I had my tarot cards read about a year ago and the overall reading was that I am an overflowing vessel of love, so I am going to let my love spill all over this review.
In the spirit of positivity, let’s talk about Friday of Shaky Knees:
Car Seat Headrest:
While the sound during Car Seat was an absolute shit show and may have affected my enjoyment, I found plenty to dig from their set. These young guys play classic style indie rock complete with the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Telecaster dynamic. These kids are giving it everything they’ve got. Seriously, in a musical climate where new rock and roll is on life support, these guys get an A for effort in trying to keep it alive. Raised on Weezer, Pavement, and The Strokes, they channel all of those influences into a sound that is pretty derivative, but hey, we’re being positive remember? They are trying and I say more power to them. My buddy’s 11 year old was front row and had his life changed. Isn’t that what rock’n’roll is all about?
I dug their 2013 album Hung at Heart and I had heard great things about their live show so I was stoked to get a chance to see them. They covered William Onyeabor’s “Why Go to War?” Ballsy move. While their rendition paled in comparison to the original, I give them mad props for bringing Onyeabor’s music to a wider audience. The groovy pockets of William Onyeabor should be instantly recognizable the world over, so I applaud the Growlers for exposing a sizeable festival crowd to this very apropos cut.
Portugal. the Man:
I was pretty lukewarm to their 2013 album Evil Friends, but my buddies 11 and 13 year old daughters are big fans so I went so I could dance with them. I’ve known these girls since they were babies and they have been raised on an extremely high pedigree of music, not to mention that they used to jam with my wife when they were 5 and 7! Portugal. The Man was probably the biggest surprise of the day – those guys rip! The poppy tracks from Evil Friends that I was indifferent about had a ton of extra mustard on them in concert. The band members were all over the stage putting on a great show and had the chops to back up the rocking out not to mention some great tones from a couple of Fender Jazzmasters. The highlights were a jam into “Day Man” from It’s Always Sunny and the 13 minute Pink Floyd-esque final jam that featured some riffing on the Beatles “I Want You (She’s so Heavy).”
Who would’ve thought that the Pixies would be the band from the late 80s/early 90s college rock scene that would get back together and be headlining major festivals in 2017? The Pixies rip! There isn’t a bad song on their original run of albums and they played some hits and some deep cuts. “Bone Machine” “Isla de Encanta” “Something Against You” “Where is My Mind?” “Monkey Gone to Heaven.” They came out of the gates swinging with some loud classics, then Black Francis picked up the acoustic guitar for some deeper cuts, then back to electric. There were a few moments when Kim Deal’s absence was felt, but it seems that there is no Pixies with Black Francis and Kim Deal, so we’ll take what we can get. New bass player/breathtaking Argentinian muse Paz Lenchantin did a solid job and will hopefully stick around for years to come.
My brother gave me a copy of LCD’s Sound of Silver probably 10 years ago and I hated it. At the time I was a recovering jam band addict that was deep in a rock’n’roll revival and had a major distaste for anything electronic. Every few years, a different friend would tell me to check out LCD and I’d pull out my copy of Sound of Silver and still hate it. Tastes change, people grow. About 2 years ago I pulled Sound of Silver out again and it started to click. In fact, it began to click more and more with each subsequent listen. I got passed the electronic drum beats and began to appreciate their interesting takes on rhythm and their plethora of analog synth sounds. Like all of my friends and my friends kids, this weekend was all about seeing LCD for the first time. I gotta say, that band deserves every bit of praise they get and that is not something that I would often say about a popular festival headlining band. I was blown away. To fully understand LCD, it’s imperative that you see them live. Every sound on their albums is recreated live by a real person on a real instrument. I always assumed that there James Murphy would have a laptop near by or have something, anything preprogrammed, but I was very wrong. Each song begins with a drum beat and a synth line or a bassline and then they add in sound after sound and brick by brick they create a massive wall of highly danceable psychedelic new wave post punk rock! When I wasn’t becoming completely lost in the music, I was having a blast dissecting the influences on each song – Gang of Four, DISCO, Joy Division, Kraftwerk, 80s pop, late 70s NYC punk rock. These cats know their shit and know how to distill it all into something entirely unique and incredible. I have seen I can’t tell you how many concerts in my life. I’ve seen massive festivals and stadium rock shows to basement shows and everything in between. I’ve seen countless bands from god knows how many genres and let me tell you, LCD Soundsystem is an absolute top tier live band. Not only are they a top tier live band, but they command a huge crowd at a huge festival like it’s a small club. Go see them.
Photo Credit: aLIVE COVERAGE