Jazzfest: The Music

In my last post I talked about the details of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. And now, onto the important part: the music.

This was definitely a unique experience for me because I went to Jazzfest primarily (okay, entirely) because the trip was free. So while there were definitely artists I knew on the lineup, there were many manyyy more that I did not. So I really got the chance to walk around, explore and listen to a lot of incredible local musicians and bands, which comprise the majority of the Jazzfest lineup.

Tank and the Bangas
This soulful band’s lead singer is like a funky Nicki Minaj. They had so much energy and I was so glad that a friend recommended I check them out. This “Smells Like Teen Spirit” cover was so unexpected yet delightful.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band
New Orleans legends. The fact that I’ve also seen them at Electric Forest is just so mind-boggling.

Beck
Okay, we only stayed at Beck for maybe 10 minutes but I LOVED it. I don’t even really listen to him but I’m going to start, this was so great. If we hadn’t already made a solid game plan on checking out all 3 of the day’s headliners (along with Sheryl Crow, which was a little bit of a snoozer, and LL Cool J, who is always adorable) I would have tried to stay here. This video is not particularly great – I actually liked the sound wayyyyy in the back, where my friend and I were.

Better Than Ezra
I sadly did not hear them play any of their big songs from the 90s (like the one in this video) during our time at this stage, but the lead singer had incredible stage presence and had I not been so committed to catching Dumpstaphunk I would have stayed here too.

Aerosmith
I probably shouldn’t be surprised that Aerosmith killed it like they did, but…I was. I don’t really listen to them but obviously know a ton of their songs from their decades-long history. This was such a dynamic performance and Steven Tyler is still kicking ass at age 70. I actually do not love this video because the whole audience is singing and you can’t hear very well, but it’s “Dream On,” so. A classic.

I was really sad to leave Jazzfest, particularly because the last day of the festival (which is when I flew home) featured Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Galactic, 2 New Orleans bands that I already know and love. But I can’t be sad for too long, because Governors Ball is right around the corner and I just snagged my Sunday ticket.

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Jazzfest: The Experience

Last weekend I had the incredible opportunity to attend 2 days of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for almost entirely free (!). I am so grateful for this experience because New Orleans is an amazing place with a legendary music scene. I had high hopes for this festival and, my friends, it did not disappoint.

Check-in/Security
We got to the festival pretty early both days that we went, so the lines were nonexistent. I have no idea what it would be like a little later in the afternoon. It’s a pretty lax festival overall and I don’t think I’ve ever seen chairs or strollers at any other event. Props to the people who actually carried chairs all that damn way. That is more effort than I could ever imagine putting in.

The Crowd
Having been to a New Orleans festival before (Voodoo in 2014), I knew this would be a super relaxed crowd, particularly because it draws a little bit of an older group. It was so great being around other music fans who just wanted to listen to some tunes and who weren’t instagramming their entire experience or focusing on their Coachella-ready outfits.

Fun Stuff
The event really lived up to the “heritage” part of its name, with New Orleans culture infused throughout the entire thing. From upright billboards memorializing some of the great musicians to come out of the city to tents providing education on the Native American tribes of Louisiana to local food demonstrations, the learning opportunities were abundant. It was less of a “fun stuff” festival in the sense of games or, yet again, Instagram-worthy attractions, but it was entertaining and content-rich at the same time.

Water
To be honest, I don’t really know what the water situation was. Part of the amazing trip I was on included a sponsored tent that provided food and drinks, including bottles of water (and beer and wine!).

Layout
One of the smartest festival layouts I’ve seen. It takes place inside a race track, so most things are all in the center and there’s a ridiculous amount of stuff packed into the space. The racetrack on the outside serves as an additional pedestrian walkway to move about the festival, particularly helpful during peak crowd moments.

Transportation
There isn’t a ton of public transportation in New Orleans, but the festival (as well as many hotels) offers shuttles from points throughout the city. Our shuttle dropped us off about a 10 minute walk away from the event and even at that relatively close distance we didn’t encounter much traffic, which seems impossible to the point of being almost magical.

Price
Tickets to Jazzfest are only $70 a day! I think cheaper if you buy earlier, and cheaper than that if you buy a single pass for the entire event (which spans 2 weekends). Considering single day tickets to other festivals can run around $150, this is a steal.

Bathrooms
Pretty much the same usual port-a-potty situation, although there were fancy trailer bathrooms near the Jazz tent that were open to everyone (usual those are for VIP). Even at the height of the crowd craziness the line for the nice bathrooms was only around 15 minutes. Cannot complain.

All in all, my trip to New Orleans was super quick but it was just so awesome. Music is the lifeblood of the city and having an event that highlights that really just felt like NOLA bringing its absolute A game. I’m not sure if I’ll ever make it back to Jazzfest but I would absolutely love to try!

Minus Zero: The Music

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In my last post I covered all the juicy details of my first time at Minus Zero, so now it’s time to get down to the real business – the music.

Marvel Years
I always refer to Marvel Years as “Pretty Lights junior” because their sounds are pretty similar. And since Pretty Lights doesn’t appear to be touring at all in 2018, MY is the closest I’m going to get. Thankfully, he crushes it every single time. Love me some electro-soul vibes.

Bleep Bloop
Bleep Bloop was okay but I got kind of bored and wandered away to check out the barn for a little bit during this set. Bleep Bloop is solidly in camp “weird bass music,” which I think I just have to be in the right mood for. My main takeaway from having Bleep Bloop on the lineup was having a good 10 minute laugh over the realization of just how many electronic artists’ performer names are a bunch of random syllables. In fact, the only other time I’ve seen Bleep Bloop was at Farm Fest in 2016, and the only comment I wrote about it was, “Bleep Bloop hahah.”

Tipper
Tipper is one of those legendary artists who I have never, and may never, listen(ed) to at home. I cannot name a single Tipper song or album, I’ve only heard his music out and about in the scene, and prior to Minus Zero I had only seen him live once before (Camp Bisco 2015). This was the set I was most excited for, and it was definitely great, but not as great as the Bisco set from 3 years ago. As I was dancing to this set I thought to myself, “This music sounds like outer space.” Take a listen and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you. This also started off a great trend for the weekend of saying, “_____ is the music of ______.”

Jai Wolf
If Tipper is the music of outer space, Jai Wolf is the music of the universe.  This was heightened by the visuals during his set that depicted the outline of a person floating off amongst the stars. I’m sure you remember (just kidding, I know you don’t) that a couple got engaged on stage during Jai Wolf’s Electric Forest set last year (video in that link!). That’s how happy his music is. Not an overwhelming, upbeat kind of joy, but a peaceful contentedness. The video below really captures the #universe quality of Jai Wolf’s sound.

Odesza
Odesza is the music of eternal springtime. They are just so good that I’ve more or less run out of words for how great they are after writing them about so much on this blog. One of my favorite parts of this set was right when it ended, and the whole crowd kept yelling, “ONE MORE SONG! ONE MORE SONG!” desperate for an encore. Suddenly, recorded music started pumping through the crowd, the #2 sign that a set has ended and there will be no further music (the #1 sign is, of course, when the lights go on in a dark venue). The song blasting through the night was Three 6 Mafia’s, “Ass and Titties.”

Everyone booed, sad that Odesza wouldn’t be returning to the stage. And then my friend yelled, “What?!? Y’all don’t know that new Odesza track ‘Ass and Titties’?!?” The story is probably not that funny in the retelling, but in the moment, particularly considering that “Ass and Titties” is basically the opposite of the kind of music Odesza plays, it cracked me up. The next night, after Zeds Dead was finished and everyone was yelling for an encore, I laughed about it all over again. While the video below from the set closer doesn’t include “Ass and Titties” (how many times can I say that in one blog post? 4? Amazing.), it DOES include some excellent end-of-set pyrotechnics.

Rezz
To be honest, all of day 3 was the music of darkness. Every single artist was heavy and trappy and loud yet, as I mentioned in my last post, the crowd radiated sheer joy. “Ass and Titties” friend (5!) and I saw Rezz around a year and a half ago, except a 2+ hour long line outside Webster Hall meant we missed around 60 minutes of her 75 minute set. So I was pretty pumped to have my first proper Rezz experience. She has absolutely exploded over the last few years and I imagine she has inspired so many women to get into music production (yay!). Rezz won best set of Minus Zero, hands down. The one Minus Zero video I found of her wasn’t great so I’m using a Coachella video instead, but it’s worth noting that the Minus Zero video, which is of her set opener, has someone saying very clearly in the background, “She’s gonna kill it. She’s literally gonna kill me,” as her first track started. Rezz killed us all that night.

Zeds Dead
I did not expect to love this set as much as I did. Half of Zeds Dead couldn’t make it due to a flight problem but the other guy absolutely crushed it. At one point, he turned “Eleanor Rigby” into an absolute dubstep banger, and I was speechless.  In all my years of going to shows and festivals I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone even try to touch The Beatles. Because, I mean, they’re The Beatles. But he went there. Right after the drop in this video (just after the 1:00 mark), someone yells, “OH SHIT!” and that basically sums up how I felt, too.

After Zeds Dead was the absolute longest end-of-festival fireworks display I’ve ever seen. Even after so many hours of angry music, it was really something beautiful. What an incredible way to end the weekend.

In just a few short weeks I’m heading to 2 days of Jazz Fest in New Orleans! I don’t know if I’ll do a full recap but either way I’m super pumped to keep festival season going strong.

Minus Zero: The Experience

FESTIVAL SEASON IS UPON US! (Kind of.)

This past weekend I attended my first festival of 2018 – Minus Zero in Mount Snow, Vermont. Despite the fact that coldness is implied in the name, AND it’s billed as a “winter sports and music festival,” I still managed to be surprised that the temperature was predicted to drop to a low of about 15 throughout the weekend. I was pretty nervous as I packed every long-sleeved shirt and other warm item that I own into a giant suitcase, but, as festivals are wont to do, it turned out to be a fantastic weekend. In fact, it was one of the most well-produced festivals I’ve ever been to. Here’s the lowdown:

Check-In/Security
There’s no camping at Minus Zero for obvious reasons, so my friend and I just drove up to our hotel on Friday afternoon. No waiting in hours-long lines to get your car searched for 20 seconds. The actual festival gate security went really quickly and I think we never waited in line for longer than 10 minutes. On day 1, two separate security guards told me that the gate people wouldn’t let me in with my string backpack because they weren’t letting in bags of that size. I don’t understand this because my backpack is smaller than a Camelbak (which are allowed). They did let me in, but I decided not to risk it on days 2 and 3 and went, for the first time ever, without any type of bag. It was a strange and freeing experience and also a fun exercise in trying to find as many pockets as I could in my winter coat to keep my phone, wallet, chapstick, etc. safe.

The Crowd
You have to be at least a little nuts to want to go to a music festival in the winter (technically it was April, but if it’s snowing, I’m calling it winter), and I think this really weeded out anyone who was anything less than super cool and extremely laid back. Everyone I met was incredibly nice, and the last day of the festival in particular had the absolute, hands-down, no exaggeration best festival crowd I’ve ever been a part of. The music was dark and heavy (more on the music in my next post) yet the energy was really joyful. The artists even commented on it. The cold temperatures gave everyone the opportunity to break out their fuzzy animal onesies, which was a nice touch. Here I am in a penguin onesie sitting in an inexplicably large chair.

penguin

Fun Stuff
If you ski or snowboard, I imagine having that as an option for a daytime activity is pretty sweet. My friend and I opted to sit in our hotel and watch TV. There aren’t really any other activities at Minus Zero in the way some festivals have, BUT the ski resort location meant we could enjoy sit down meals (!) while watching little dots of people through the window making their way down the mountain. There was live painting and other art displayed, as well as a stage at the top of the ski lift in case you either a) ski or b) wanted to head to the festival at 5:30am for an exclusive sunrise set only available to the first 150 people to get on the lift. Hard pass on both accounts, thank you.

Water
The ski lodge had free water and cups! One major benefit to hosting a festival at a “real” location, instead of turning an empty plot of land into a small city for a weekend. Seeing as Minus Zero was about 70 degrees colder than normal festivals I think water was a little less of a concern for most people, but heading into the lodge after the headliner was done each night to down some water and not have to pay $6 or wait in an insane line to refill a bottle for free was incredible (especially because I had to leave my bottle in the hotel room when I stopped bringing a backpack).

Layout
While this was not the smallest festival I’ve ever attended people-wise, it was absolutely the smallest festival surface area-wise. Not counting the stage at the top of the ski lift (because it was really only for people to check out briefly before skiing down the mountain), you could walk from one end of the festival to the other in…3 minutes? There was the lodge, the main stage, and a barn with another stage. And that was kind of it. It was tiny, and after attending so many festivals where I had to walk 20 minutes in between sets, I felt spoiled.

I will say, regarding the layout, that while the barn stage was cool and slightly warmer than the outdoors, the enclosed structure meant that capacity was limited. I never had a problem with this, but they had Claude Von Stroke (who is kiiind of a big deal) playing in that barn and there was a line that wrapped around the entire building. If I went all the way to Vermont to see an artist and couldn’t even get in to the stage to see him, I’d have been pretty pissed.

Transportation
Our hotel was a short walk to the festival grounds, but there was a free shuttle that ran every 15 minutes through the surrounding area, picking people up from various hotels and dropping them off at the festival. My friend and I chose our hotel specifically because we had a heinous VIP-to-GA shuttle experience at Electric Forest last year and wanted to avoid having to rely on one in the future. So as we walked to Minus Zero and yelled, “FUCK SHUTTLES! WE’RE NEVER TAKING A SHUTTLE EVER AGAIN!”, the shuttle appeared out of nowhere, pulled up next to us, and the driver asked if we wanted to get on for the rest of the way. We did.

Price
So cheap! I think my tier 1 ticket cost around $120, What we saved in ticket costs we ended up spending on splitting a hotel room that could have fit 4 between 2 people. But, whatever. Worth it.

Bathrooms
Because I was staying in a hotel and because they had the indoor ski lodge, I never set foot in a port-a-potty all weekend!!!!!!!! I use excess exclamation points to convey exactly how legendary this is. Again, I just feel so spoiled.

Misc.
Everything about Minus Zero was just so well done. The acts all started on time, the visuals of the main stage were next level, and I loved that there were no breaks between acts with the exception of a 15-20 minute break before the headliner each night. The sound system was probably one of the best I’ve ever heard, in that they could pump the music up loud and it didn’t hurt your ears – I always wear ear plugs at shows because not only is it a good idea, but after years of wearing them I have a pretty low tolerance for crazy loud music. The music at Minus Zero almost never bothered me before I put my ear plugs in, which was a first. Every artist on day 3 had seriously heavy bass and it didn’t sound at all scratchy.

The cold, while certainly not my favorite thing, wasn’t all that bad thanks to many layers and body heat from the crowd (plus, the falling snow made the lasers look like glitter!). As much as I had been dreading spending a “springtime” weekend in below freezing temperatures, I loved the whole thing and would 100% go back again.

Shows I Missed: January 2018

I almost never write these posts anymore because I always make a point of seeing the ABSOLUTELY-MUST-SEE shows and I just don’t have the energy to get so upset when I miss the other ones. But every so often I do get at least kind of bummed about having to skip a show.

In January I really wanted to see Too Many Zooz, a local NYC band that seems to play Brooklyn Bowl twice a year now (so…they’ll be back). I had plans that I couldn’t move and so I had to pass on this one even though there were, surprisingly, Jukely tickets aplenty for it.

2017 Goals Update, 2018 Goal-Setting

At the end of each year I check in with my music goals and set new ones for the coming year. I continue to do this process annually even though I forget my goals as soon as I hit “Publish” on my blog post and I never remember what they were until it’s time for the year-end update. So really, instead of working toward these goals all year and then telling you all how I did, I get to be surprised by them and it’s always a crap shoot whether I hit any of the milestones I wanted to or not.

It is a deeply flawed system. Yet I continue to use it. What can I say? I’m a flawed person. Let’s see what my 2017 goals were:

  • Meet 3 new artists
  • Treat myself to VIP at a show/festival
  • Experience at least 2 NYC music venues I haven’t been to yet
  • Write at least 2 “real” blog posts per month
  • Devote some time to an artist that I probably should have paid more attention to over the years but didn’t.

And how did I do?

Meet 3 new artists
Thanks to the joys of music blogging I met several! Most notably, TroyBoi and Big Wild, both of which were incredibly exciting (and nervewracking!) interviews for me. Crushed this goal.

With TroyBoi

With Big Wild

Treat myself to a VIP show/festival
This was a little bit of a cheat because I had already booked VIP 2017 Electric Forest tickets by the time I set my goals for the year. BUT, my friend and I did VIP for Gramatik New Year’s Eve so I got that in anyway. Check and check.

Hit up 2 new music venues
In addition to new festivals which I don’t really count as new venues, I finally visited the legendary Capitol Theatre this year, as well as the Cutting Room and the NYCB Theatre at Westbury. The Cap was a particularly exciting addition because I always hear how beautiful and fun it is and it was certainly both of those things when I saw GRiZ there. Definitely a venue for super special shows only because it requires a ride on the MetroNorth.

Write at least 2 “real” blog posts per month
Hahahah fail. Womp.

Devote some time to an artist that I probably should have paid more attention to over the years but didn’t
This is a fantasy goal that I’ve had in my head for years and never seem to act upon. What I really want to do is focus on a super well known and much-admired band that I just don’t listen to – like Radiohead or Tool or Dave Matthews Band – and spend a lot of time diving into their catalog and seeing what’s what. I never do this. But maybe one day. I did download some Radiohead this year, at least.

So, what are the goals I want to set (and then ignore) for 2018?

  • Meet 3 new artists – this is a constant. I don’t do music blogging anymore (outside of here) because I wanted to focus on other things, so this one will be tricky but I think I can do it!
  • Get my money’s worth from Jukely every month that I’m a member – I did really poorly at this in 2017, as I mentioned. I’m locked into Jukely for at least 2 more months, and thankfully I’ve already gotten my money’s worth for January. But if I continue to be a member, I need to use it.
  • Write at least one real blog post a month – this means something that requires some thought. Not a “On Repeat” post where I just link to a track I’ve been obsessing over, or a “Shows I Missed” post where I list all the concerts I wanted to go to but didn’t in that particular month. A real one. I didn’t make 2 per month but maybe I can swing one.
  • Get my record collection to 50 – I have a record player now! I can’t believe I’ve never written about it. My parents got it for me as a birthday gift, and my vinyl collection currently stands at about 25. Vinyl is expensive and I haven’t quite nailed down the good spots for getting records on the cheap, but considering I’ve amassed half that number in less than 3 months I think I can reach 50 by the end of the year.

And that, I think, is all I’m going to do for this year. I want to keep the goal around checking out new venues, but the reality is that I go where the artists I like are playing, and I’m almost always fortunate to go to new spaces because of that. But I don’t see myself ever going to a new venue just to hit a goal. I also want to keep my goal around treating myself to VIP at a show or festival, but that’s also very dependent on who would do it with me. As I get older I’m definitely starting to be more discerning about dealing with the BS parts of camping festivals, and I can see myself continuing to forego General Admission in favor of VIP, the way my crew and I did at Electric Forest.

And now I’m finally done wrapping up 2017. 2018 is already well underway and even though my music habits are changing these days I still think there’s lots of excitement coming my way.

2017, By the Numbers

Oops, I did it again! By “it” of course I mean, “did a nerdy thing where I analyzed my concert-going attendance for the year.” It is truly one of my favorite things to do because I love finding surprising and even not-so-surprising statistics. Are you ready? I know I am. I’ve been waiting all year for this moment.

total

Clear downward trend in concert-going. My number of shows has dropped almost 50% in just 2 years which is insane. I’m okay with this, though. I think I’m getting more sleep now.

venues

The number of venues I hit every year remains remarkably consistent when viewed as a percentage of total shows. Each year the number of venues I go to is just over 50% of my total show number. Hooray for diversity and living in a city with so many options.

Brooklyn Bowl has solidified itself as my #1 venue for the 2nd year in a row. Brooklyn Bowl, you deserve it. My lowered concert attendance this year meant less commitment to some mainstays and so the 3-way tie for 2nd place is by 3 venues that I wouldn’t have guessed would have made it onto this list. I somehow only went to Terminal 5 once this year, on December 31st no less, which seems impossible (but the spreadsheet never lies!).

I also like that I continue to track the number of venues that have closed over the year. In 2014 I went to FIVE venues that were closed by the end of the year, and even though that seems unlikely to happen again I still continue to keep tabs on those things.

Still doing pretty well on going to shows for free.

I spent proportionally more money on tickets this year, which is disappointing. A lot of this is due to my Jukely membership, which I don’t use as often as I used to. So there are months where I pay $35 for my subscription and only go to one show with a face value of $12. That happened more months in 2017 than it didn’t and I’m debating quitting Jukely for this reason. It’s interesting to note, though, that if I take Electric Forest out of the equation as an outlier, my percentage of total ticket value paid goes down by 8 whole percentage points. Because super VIP is expensive.

This is nuts. I love the 4 artists that were my most-seen last year but the fact that this is my list is just crazy because I don’t go THAT far out of my way to see any of them. It’s sort of a nice surprise though and demonstrates to me a few things:

  1. I don’t travel for music as much as I used to.
  2. The electro-funk/soul scene does not give New York any special treatment over other cities, which is fair but a kick in the pants for New Yorkers such as myself who are used to our city being seen as the greatest place in the universe.
  3. Sometimes it’s nice to pay attention to lesser known artists. Seeing Pretty Lights is an EVENT but seeing Escort at Brooklyn Bowl is just a delightful treat for a random weeknight.

The fact that I went to 63 shows this year but still had 29 straight days of no music is pretty mind-blowing. The fact that I went to 115 shows in 2015 with 28 no-music days is even more so.

I wonder if I will ever beat – or even match – my 2015 record of going to 3 different concerts in one night. It seems unlikely.

Okay, that’s the year-end analysis. Looking through my post-show notes, here are some comments that stand out:

“I pretended it was fun but it was not.” (OWSLA showcase at Slake)

“I saw one guy jokingly cover his girlfriend’s eyes when Leo was doing his body rolls.” (Too Many Zooz)

“She kind of moves like a sorceress, summoning things.” (About Samantha from Marian Hill. See for yourself.)

“Do I like trance now? Oh man.” (Above & Beyond)

“Everclear played most of their best songs up front which was fantastic because I was too old to stay the whole time.”

“Bassnectar was a little hangy outy at times which was actually perfect for my mood.”

“I didn’t go to Pigeons Playing Ping Pong but I heard them play Hava Negila from my tent and that was just magical.”

“This set started late so I only stayed for 15 minutes because #workinthemorning” (Pink Talking Fish)

FlyLo was just so fucking weird. Like walking around in an art museum where I don’t understand any of the art.”

“Their 3 ladies are fire emojis all the way.” (Escort)

“This was a circus in the best way possible.” (TroyBoi)

“I still don’t fully get jam bands.” (Aqueous)

That’s it for 2017. I still have to do a goals wrap-up but after seeing RJD2 last night, 2018 is already in full swing.