On Repeat: So Much Kesha

I am enamored of Kesha’s new album, my friends. I’ve loved this badass chick for a long time and I’m so happy that she has risen from the ashes of hard times and is back touring and creating music. Her new album “Rainbow” is a pretty solid mix of OG Kesha plus some country twang (I know, it’s great though) and emotional ballads. Here are my current 2 favorites:

Woman
This is the ANTHEM right now. I am woman, hear me roar.  

Rainbow
It’s probably less than once a year that I get attached to feelsy ballads as I’m more of an upbeat music kind of lady. But here we are. This is so moving.

Are you also obsessed with Kesha’s new album? Do you have reasonably priced tickets to either of her upcoming NYC shows that you want to give me (please)? Let’s discuss.

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Meadows: The Music (2017)

Meadows Music & Arts Festival, you have captured my heart. 2 years in a row of a successful, relatively hiccup-free event jam-packed with awesome music? So much yes. This was such a treat for me because I don’t go to as many all-genre festivals as electronic ones, so I got to experience some really unique sets. Here come the highlights!

Big Wild
This was an awesome opening to the festival, and extra special because I interviewed him a few hours after his set! He has such a diverse sound and I’m a sucker for an electronic act with live drumming.

Marian Hill
You know Marian Hill from “Down,” the Apple commercial song. I’ve seen them live a few times this year and they always kill it. Their music is super sexy and Samantha, who does their vocals, is badass.

Blood Orange
I first heard of Blood Orange a few years ago because his apartment burned down and my friend’s brother was living in his building at the time. This is a weird origin story, but it’s the truth. I had never really listened to his music at all but since hearing of the fire I continued to hear his name out in the music world more and more until one day I just realized that he’s pretty legit. His performance at Meadows was really something else – part R&B, part pop, and he plays a variety of instruments, both sings and raps, and has a full band backing him. There was a lot going on and it was this really beautifully orchestrated set.

Jay-Z
I sort of forgot about Jay-Z amongst all my excitement about all the other artists on this lineup, and because I haven’t been listening to as much rap music as I used to. This set just felt so HUGE. I loved it. He gave a nice tribute to Chester Bennington and hearing a few Linkin Park mashups was a little heartbreaking.

Big Boi
He played a lot of Outkast songs. Hell yes.

LL Cool J
He has so much swagger and made a great joke about people forgetting he’s a rapper (“What, you think I’m just some dude who hosts the Grammys?”). He brought out DMC for a good chunk of this set and it was like an old school hip hop medley. I kept trying to sit down during this set because I wasn’t feeling well but I couldn’t because I just had to dance it out. 

Big Gigantic
I took the opportunity of seeing one of my favorite electronic acts at a non-electronic festival to be up front at the rail for this set. Usually I’m too old for this but I knew that it would be relatively easy to get a spot there and that most of the Meadows crowd would be at a different stage. It was a great choice and I had a blast. Plus, Jeremy and I were wearing matching sunglasses. 

Weezer
This was the main reason I wanted to go to Meadows in the first place. I have loved Weezer for so long and don’t get the opportunity to see them live very often anymore. Their set was 75 minutes of pure joy for me, even though they glossed over my favorite song through a medley where they only played little snippets of a lot of songs. I FORGIVE YOU, WEEZER. 

Red Hot Chili Peppers
I loved this set, but I did not love it in the way that I thought about it afterward. Maybe I was tired at the end of a 3 day festival, maybe it was annoying being in a crowd of what felt like every single person in all of New York City. RHCP is a classic act and screaming along to songs I’ve loved for years and years was wonderful, but it’s not a set I’ll carry with me as one of the most special I’ve ever attended. Shrug.

Meadows, you did me right. See you in 2018!

Meadows Festival: The Experience (2017)

Even though it’s only been around for 2 years, Meadows has been such an awesome addition to my New York summers (last year’s event was in October, but whatever). The festival expanded from 2 days to 3 this year, and this year I attended the full event instead of just one day. So I had lots of time to take it all in!

Check-In/Security
I had a media pass to Meadows this year and they had a separate entrance for press and staff! I waltzed right in every day without waiting. But it didn’t look like there was much of a line anyway.

The Crowd
The difference between all-genre festival crowds and electronic festival crowds is that the all-genre people are dressed in such a way that they could conceivably go out into greater society afterward and still look normal. EDM kids are far more concerned with their outfits than other people. I like being around crowds that are a little older and a little less Instagrammy. Good job, Meadows.

Fun Stuff
Day festivals are never going to have the epic type of experiential parts of camping festivals, but Meadows does a pretty good job of having graffiti art and other NYC-appropriate extras. They had the usual crop of photo booth options and sponsors handing out freebies (the free Vitamin Waters gave me so much life on these hot days). The best thing, however, was “Totally Tubular,” the crowd of blow-up wiggle guys. Whoever had this idea should be so proud of themselves.

Water
What I find interesting here is that my recap from last year mentioned that Meadows had high speed spigots. This year’s event definitely did not. There were plenty of faucets but they were a little slow. Not a huge problem but I wonder why the downgrade.

Layout
Probably the best festival layout I’ve ever seen. 4 stages in the middle, facing outward, with food, bars, and other vendors on the perimeter. It’s so smart and efficient.

Transportation
It definitely takes time to get between my house in Brooklyn and this festival, but I LOVE being able to take the train. Full disclosure – I left the festival a few minutes early on all 3 of the days because I had no desire to be on a packed 7 train with thousands of people. I do not regret this, even though I think if I had stayed until the end I could have gotten an express train. Either way, I love the subway and I much prefer traveling to Citi Field than to Randall’s Island, the site of Electric Zoo, Governors Ball, and Panorama (which I haven’t been to).

Price
This is not a cheap festival. I had a number of friends who wanted to join for a single day of the festival but were deterred by the $150 price tag (3-days were around $350, I believe). But hey, it’s New York. We expect expensive here.

Misc.
They could have used more bathrooms.

And now, my friends, the 2017 festival season is over. (With the exception of Global Citizen Festival, a single-day event in Central Park with only one stage that I have never bothered to recap in this same way, although I’ve gone every single year). I’m sad, but it was an extremely full summer. And 2018 will be here before we know it!

The Top 7 Music Videos Shot In One Take

I have an unabashed love for music videos shot in one take. I don’t know why. I guess I’m just so impressed by the fact that there was probably a lot of pressure involved and possibly a ton of retakes and it’s like, OKAY LET’S NOT GET 90% OF THE WAY THROUGH AND THEN FUCK IT UP THIS TIME, YOU GUYS. (This is 100% what I would be yelling if I were involved in a project like this. I’m very patient.)

I’m always excited to randomly stumble upon a new one-take music video, which doesn’t happen super often because I barely see music videos as it is. But here are a few that I love and have watched…many times.

1. OK Go – Here It Goes Again
OK Go are the masters of the one-take video. Otherwise known as “the treadmill video,” this one is so fun and great and would still be impressive in two or three or a million takes.

2. Kiesza – Hideaway
Super fun choreography and I love that it’s shot in Williamsburg. You see all sorts of Brooklyn-y people.

3. Too Many Zooz – Bedford
This one seems simple but the fact that they get on and off the subway during this video is insane. Also shot in Brooklyn (at least initially). When watching it I thought to myself, “They must be shooting super late at night, otherwise this train would never be empty enough for this.” (This version of the video has the timestamp in the beginning – the original version I saw had it at the end).

4. Linkin Park – Bleed It Out
The cool thing about this video is less how it’s shot and more the concept, with the band singing and the audience going in reverse. (RIP Chester Bennington, I miss Linkin Park a lot).

5. The Black Keys – Lonely Boy
THIS GOOFY GUY DANCING. That is all.

6. Weezer – Undone (The Sweater Song)
Not super flashy but sort of an interesting, low key take. And what a great song.

7. Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma
Ezra Koenig walks through a farm while a random movie films behind him.

On Art and Artistry (And Flying Lotus)

Have you ever looked at a piece of art – a painting, or a sculpture perhaps – and walked away from it, thinking, “I have no idea what I was just looking at, but I liked it…?” That was my experience after seeing Flying Lotus at Elements 2 weekends ago.

FlyLo is an electronic music producer, rapper and filmmaker from California whose music has a strong hip hop base but is also kind of all over the map. His work is experimental, and to see him live is to see only the tip of the iceberg of his brain. When his Elements set was over, all I could say for a few minutes was, “That was so weird.”

I should mention that I don’t actually listen to Flying Lotus, really. I saw him perform at a festival 3 years ago and, while I don’t remember the specifics, I just remember how intense it was. In the years since then I still hadn’t listened to much of his music, but I knew enough about him to know that I was in for…an experience.

FlyLo often performs with screens both behind him and in front of him, projecting images that range from the psychedelic to the truly terrifying. In the world of electronic music, incredible visuals are not uncommon. Yet the aesthetics of a Flying Lotus set are so much more than some pew-pew lasers. They are a work of art in and of themselves, carefully curated yet so far beyond the lay person’s comprehension.

Sonically, a Flying Lotus set sounds a lot like an elegant series of random noises, melding together with percussion to somehow, inexplicably, create music. Sometimes. Other times, it is actually just noises. There was a span of about 3 minutes during FlyLo’s Elements set where there was screaming. Just screaming. Screaming like we were watching a horror movie where a woman was running away from a murderer wielding a machete. It was so overwhelming I almost left the room. But then it was over and we were back to mellow, groovy hip hop. It was business as usual; which, in FlyLo’s case, is not very usual at all.

I spend a lot of time thinking about music; how it affects me, and how I relate to it. And what I’ve come to realize is that one of the many metrics we can use to describe creative genius is how accessibly it manifests itself in a person’s art. I used to think that Kanye West existed on a creative plane above most people. I still do, actually. But I’ve tweaked this theory a little bit to say that he isn’t necessarily more brilliant than other artists (though he is more brilliant than a lot of other artists), he just doesn’t care about whether or not other people understand it. I mean, Kanye is a commercial megasuccess, so on many levels, he’s reaching the masses and they are picking up what he’s putting down, so to speak. But part of me listens to his music or watches interviews with him and thinks, “Kanye exists in a completely different universe than I do.”

Flying Lotus is like this, but to an extreme. He hasn’t achieved the level of fame that Kanye has, and probably never will, because his work is far less commercial. Kanye maintains a healthy balance of weird and mainstream. FlyLo is far more skewed towards the weird. FlyLo is the painting in the art museum that clearly portrays so much thought and energy and talent. But stare at it as long as you want, you will never have any idea what you’re looking at. But it intrigues you, and so you keep coming back for more. I hope I don’t have to wait another 3 years before I get my next dose of whatever exactly it was that FlyLo was serving up that night. It was strange and exciting and even if I don’t exactly get it, I’m still all about it.

Elements: The Music (2017)

I can’t decide if I want to keep doing this post-festival double recap where I write one post about logistics and one post about music.  It sometimes feels cumbersome which is totally against the point of maintaining a blog that serves no purpose other than that I enjoy writing in it. But on the other hand, I like having a record of this stuff, especially for the festivals that I’ve attended multiple times. So I might reevaluate this. But for now…I guess it stays! (Welcome to my internal monologue, everyone) So anyway, here are some musical highlights from Elements:

GRiZ
I love GRiZ, obviously. Normally I’d expect to come away from a GRiZ set saying, “that was funky and upbeat and fun, yay,” and that is absolutely true. But this was a really unique set in that there was a huge chunk of mellow, slow sax jams in the middle. Sometimes I loved it, sometimes it was moving a bit too slowly for me, but overall it was really nice to see something so different from an artist I’ve seen a ton of times (in fact I just saw him last month at Camp Bisco). The video below is (I think) taken during the interlude part of this set.

Barclay Crenshaw
This was probably my favorite set of the weekend. Earlier this summer a friend described Barclay’s music as “weird hip hop” and that is…pretty much accurate. This was even further confirmed a few weeks ago after I stumbled upon his website. The concept is:

“In 1884 an explorer found some artifacts suggesting that an alien race has visited the earth and abducted a large group of its children and then returned them a few days later. There are no records of what happened to the children or who they were or even if they returned in the same shape as they left.

The only clues to these strange occurrences are in the cryptic art and music left behind. With every release, the cosmic manifesto at the heart of the Barclay Crenshaw project reveals itself further…”

If you have a few minutes, go poke around this part of his website. I do not understand what’s happening there at all but I love it anyway.

Flying Lotus
Stay tuned for a post about this one. For about 24 hours after Elements I thought about nothing except his set because my brain was just trying to process it all. But here’s a video (not from this festival, unfortunately) that about portrays the intensity of his Elements performance.

Zeds Dead
I actually didn’t (and still don’t) know much about Zeds Dead even though they’re huge. I saw part of their Mysteryland set a year or 2 ago and just remembered that they played a lot of other people’s songs. After seeing them at Elements I can safely say that a) they’re heavier than I thought they were, and b) they still do play a lot of other people’s songs. Which, hey, is great. I loved it, even if i took more time than usual to figure out what they actually sound like. I can’t find a video I like of theirs so here’s a cool video of a total solar eclipse that I’ve watched more times than is probably normal.

Elements: The Experience (2017)

Another Elements has come and gone. It has relocated from its Brooklyn home to the Bronx and expanded from one day to two, but at its heart it still has the big names and fun extras of a big festival with the laid back attitude of a small one. This was my third year attending and even though I miss being able to walk home from this event, it remains one of my favorite annual events in New York City. I don’t know why I didn’t recap it in 2015 but if you want to compare notes, check out the write-up from 2016.

Check-in/Security
The lines to get in were much shorter this year, but picking up my pass on day one was…not speedy. I had to check in from a guest list, but all the computers were broken and so I stood there and stood there and stood there and even though I was in the VIP line, I watched as the guest list line moved along at lightning speed and…I continued to stand. A small price to pay for an otherwise seamless festival, though.

Crowd
BangOn!NYC’s events always bring out the best and most down to earth people. Elements is a classic Burner event (Burning Man attendee), even though I imagine most people do not actually attend Burning Man. But everyone is artistic and creative and friendly.

The Fun Stuff
Elements always has cool art installations but things this year were really several notches. In addition to live painting and art cars, they had a bounce house, roller skating, carnival games, a thunderdome where you could “battle” a friend while both of you were suspended in harnesses, a healing garden with health and wellness activities, and a ton of cool but random little artsy alcoves, prime for Instagram-worthy photos.

Water
Last year I was unable to find the free water at all, so this year was definitely an improvement. The water tasted like it came straight from a pool but hey, free is free, so I was happy.

Layout
The shape of this festival was kind of long and narrow, but somehow it never got crowded. It was easy to get around everywhere and only took a few minutes to walk the entire length of the festival. The addition of a massive warehouse that housed the main stage was a surprising but super cool perk of having the festival in such an industrial spot. The warehouse was far larger than the audience, which meant there was always room to move around. A+.

Transportation
Man, the Bronx. It is so far. It was so far that I arranged to stay over at friends’ houses after both nights of the festival because I couldn’t even think about trying to deal with a 2 hour subway ride at midnight. The festival is a little bit of a walk from the subway, but Elements provided shuttles as well as staff marking the walking path, so I commend them for truly doing everything possible to make it easy for attendees.

Price
Even at the highest pricing tier, you truly get a lot for your money with this festival. If you buy early at one of the lower pricing tiers, it’s an absolute steal.

For my third year in a row, Elements proved to be a top notch small festival that somehow still feels like a large-scale event (in all the best ways). I truly spend all year looking forward to this weekend so…2018, I’m waiting for ya.