Lorde at Governors Ball was EVERYTHING

I officially kicked off the 2017 festival season by attending the first day of Governors Ball here in New York City. I was looking forward to seeing Chance the Rapper, Flume, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, and a special DJ set from Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem.

But most of all, I was looking forward to Lorde. I love Lorde and have been waiting very patiently for her to return to performing after a 3-year-but-seemed-longer hiatus.

When Lorde took the stage at Governors Ball last night, she seemed to be her old, eccentric, somewhat inaccessible self, singing from beneath a white veil because Lorde does not even need a reason, you guys.

After the first song (and veil removal), however, it was apparent that this was not the same Lorde that I saw at Roseland Ballroom (RIP) 3 years ago. This is new and improved Lorde. Lorde 2.0.

Lorde 2.0 is 20 years old now, and while she had an amazing voice as a teenager, the additional 3 years have added so much maturity and depth to her singing.

Lorde 2.0 has matured in other ways, as well. As a teenager her stage presence was brooding, mostly quiet but occasionally sharing, in a somber voice, the deeply emotional stories behind her songs. Now she has more between-song banter and a much happier, brighter outlook. She seemed both excited and humbled to be on stage and possessed a natural enthusiasm that made you want to be her best friend. She remarked on the perfect weather and thanked everyone profusely for sharing in the moment with her.

Lorde’s music has evolved along with her persona. Her 2013 album Pure Heroine was a collection of mellow, electro-pop hits. Her new album, Melodrama, which drops in 2 weeks, is more upbeat and classically pop. The single “Green Light,” released in March and which closed out her Governors Ball set, is a straight up banger.

The production value of Lorde’s GovBall set was higher than that of either time that I saw her as a solo act. Earlier, her performances involved only her, standing and singing. She drew you in with her strange, jerky movements and intrigued you with the darkness of her personality. Now her show involves modern dancers, performing behind her in an elevated transparent box.

Most shocking of all was the fact that Lorde’s set ended in fireworks. I would not, in 2014, have ever foreseen a Lorde show involving any type of pyrotechnics. She was not that kind of artist and it would have made zero sense. But last night, it fit.

I was looking forward to Lorde’s set at Governors Ball but didn’t know how much it would blow me away. As a performer she is magnetic, and for a full 60 minutes (inexplicably cut from a 75 minute scheduled set, wah) she had the entire audience captivated.

Lorde has not just been through a hiatus in the last 3 years; she’s been through an evolution. Her music is snappier, she radiates joy, and she aims to truly connect with her audience. She has grown from a teenager who created pop music into an actual pop star.

Artist Spotlight: Robert Delong

I used to make fun of Robert Delong, for no real reason other than that a music blogger I hated was obsessed with him. She posted about her love for this Seattle-born musician ad nauseum, and even though I enjoyed some of his fun, poppy music, my complete loathing of her writing made me write him off as corny.

Last September, I scored a free pass to see Robert Delong at Rough Trade in Williamsburg, and I went because, hey, FREE. And also, despite my misgivings about him, one of his songs is on my yet-to-be-published list of my top 10 favorite ever bass drops.

Comes in right around the 40 second mark. Love it.

My impressions of the show, and a pretty solid summary of Robert Delong’s deal in general, are reflected in the comments I made in my concert spreadsheet after the show:

“Holy shit this guy is incredible. I always thought he was such a weird cheeseball but in actuality he is a machine and a one man band. He does everything – loops his own vocals, 2 drum kits, other weird sounds via what look like video game controllers, all the mixing, EVERYTHING. Hot damn. Plus, face paint?!?”

It’s true. Delong really never stops moving or creating. Whether he’s looping his own voice or playing on video game controllers or drumming or actually just singing (which he does as well, of course), he’s running back and forth yet never seems frantic or out of control. I cannot even imagine the amount of work that goes into creating each of his songs, as he does almost all of the work live, compared to many other electronic artists who use a base track and then just manipulate the sound somewhat. His overall feel is house-y at times but really heavy on the drums in a way that’s far more exciting than standard house music – at times it almost gets down into a moombahton vibe.

When I had the opportunity to see Robert Delong again at Terminal 5 over the weekend, I jumped at it. In fact, it was the first time I successfully got a ticket to a show off the Jukely wait list (woohoo!). I was not disappointed.

The one sad thing I have to say about my 2 experiences with Robert Delong was the face paint situation. Delong’s own face is painted at all of his shows – often with an orange X, which is his logo – and his street team goes around painting faces in the audience as well. When I saw him at Rough Trade, I had no idea what was going on when a random girl approached me and showed me her paints. I was confused, and so I said no. A few minutes later when I finally realized what was happening, I was sad that I had declined the face paint, because I’m really just a giant child. And the girl was sadly long gone.

Robert Delong was only an opening act at the Terminal 5 show this weekend, and even though I had another concert to go to after, I was gung ho on getting my face painted. Only I never saw any face painters, either because I was too far back in the crowd, or maybe there just weren’t any since he wasn’t headlining. Bummer city.

The moral of the story is, don’t judge a musician by what a music blogger thinks of them, especially if it’s a blogger you hate (unless that music blogger is me – you should always take my word as the gospel because I have excellent taste in music).

Robert Delong is insanely talented, and I look forward to seeing him live again sometime soon. I will not rest until I get my face painted.

Artist Spotlight: Too Many Zooz

Too Many Zooz is a band that comes from the humblest of beginnings. A trio that got their start busking in the Union Square subway station, they recently sold out the 600-person capacity Brooklyn Bowl just a few short years after the band’s formation.

Too Many Zooz is comprised of David “King of Sludge” Parks on percussion, Matt Doe on trumpet, and Leo P. on the baritone sax, or as I like to call it, the “megasax.”

As someone who has openly supported the making up of music genres, I was happy to see that Too Many Zooz came up with their own terminology for their upbeat, often frenetic tunes: brass house. I think it describes them perfectly. Take a listen: 

For those of you who want the Too Many Zooz experience but refuse to listen to the full 11 minutes of that video, at least watch this short one in its entirety. Leo P. has some legendary sax dance moves, and they’re on full display here: 

Though I first heard of Too Many Zooz a year or so ago in the context of the somewhat similar band Moon Hooch, the Brooklyn Bowl show was my first time seeing them live. It was everything I expected and more, and I’d be surprised if this performance doesn’t make my top 10 best shows of 2016 list. From the band’s entrance wearing brightly colored fur coats to their high energy danceable songs to the man about 10 feet in front of me in the crowd triumphantly waving a full pitcher of beer in the air the entire time, the show left absolutely nothing left to be desired (except another show).

Too Many Zooz is in the process of creating a full length album, and if you have some spare change and want to help some talented artists bring their vision to light, send a few bucks their way via their Kickstarter (I did!).

While I wait for the new album to come out and for the release party that I get to attend as a Kickstarter backer (ahem), I might start spending some more time in Union Square, hoping to catch these guys on their home turf. They mentioned at the Brooklyn Bowl show that they don’t play in the subway too often anymore, and with their growing popularity, I can’t imagine that will change any time soon.

Where Are You? Haim

I first became aware of Haim in 2013 when I saw their name on the Lollapalooza lineup (though I didn’t actually catch their performance there). A folk/pop/rock band comprised of 3 Jewish sisters (woohoo!) from California, Haim – their last name – saw wide success a few years ago with their album, “Days Are Gone,” and garnered a ton of fans through their exciting live shows.

Photo via..the internet, somewhere

Photo via..the internet, somewhere

As the story goes, they grew up in a musical family, all started singing and playing instruments from a young age, and would regularly jam out in their living room before playing in cover bands with their parents, and eventually, in a band of their own.

Though I’m not typically fond of music that could even remotely be described as “folk,” Haim’s sound is pretty diverse. Their classic song, “The Wire,” is probably the folkiest track off “Days Are Gone.”

However, I really love “Let Me Go,” and “My Song 5,” both dark and edgy. “Let Me Go” is particularly exciting to see live, because it usually comes at the end of their sets and involves all 3 sisters in a crazy drumming frenzy.

Another charming element of their live shows is bassist Este (far left in the top photo), who does nearly 100% of the talking. She’s loud and crass, tells awkwardly funny stories, and, best of all, makes amazing faces when she plays bass. Her middle name is Arielle, which is also exciting to me for obvious – yet irrelevant – reasons.

Though I still listen to the “Days Are Gone” album regularly, I have to wonder – what are the Haim sisters up to these days? I haven’t heard much about them in a few years. All I can really recall is occasionally seeing photos of them hanging out with new bestie Taylor Swift.
This is upsetting to me because the Haim girls seem really cool, fun and quirky and I just cannot stand Taylor Swift. She’s super bland and catty and yet she keeps adopting cool people as her friends (Lena Dunham is another Taylor Swift friend victim).

Aside from hanging out with TSwift, Haim has apparently been working on a new album since sometime in 2014. No real or recent updates in that regard, though.

Maybe hanging out with Taylor has taken their focus away from music for awhile, but I really hope that new album drops soon. I love this band and would be super happy to hear some fresh tunes from them.

Phantoms are the Next Odesza

In May of 2014, my friend and I went to see a little Seattle-based duo called Odesza at the Knitting Factory, a 300 person capacity venue in Williamsburg. Last weekend, one and a half years later, I saw them at Terminal 5 (capacity: 3000) during one of their three sold-out shows there.

Their rise has been meteoric, clearly. And 100% deserved, because Odesza is amazing. Even though they are hardly the most well-known act in my little music community, they’ve managed to transcend the electro-hippie crowd and branch out into the mainstream. I can think of a ton of acts who get better billing at the festivals I go to yet could probably not sell out even one, let alone three nights at Terminal 5.

But this blog post is not about Odesza (surprisingly). So I will start over.

In March of 2014 I went to the Bowery Ballroom (the site of my 2nd ever Odesza show, fun fact) to see Com Truise, who, if you’ve committed all my blog posts to memory which clearly you have, you will remember is terrible. After that show I came home and made a little note in my concert spreadsheet: “Phantoms were amazing!” I added them to my Bandsintown to track if they were ever coming back to New York, and promptly forgot about them.

Last night, after having been notified by my phone that they were in town, I went back to the Knitting Factory to see Phantoms open for another band I had never heard of. I had no recollection of what type of music it was or if it was a single person or a whole band or really anything except that Phantoms, whoever they were, were the bright spot on an otherwise subpar concert over a year earlier.

I walked in a little bit late (oops) and saw two 20-something guys playing a poppy type of electronica and doing live drumming. “They’re like Odesza!” I thought to myself before I had even found myself a spot in the crowd. (Odesza is also two guys in their 20s playing poppy electronica and live drumming). Though Odesza’s music is more ethereal and Phantoms has more of a deep house feel, the comparison between the two seemed immediately obvious to me and I’d be surprised if I were the only person to say it. A quick Google search yields no results for this so I am proclaiming “FIRST!” (that’s what the cool internet commenters do, right? I’m with it, I’m hip).

In any case, the show was really great, and yet again I thought Phantoms were far superior to the act that followed them. I particularly loved this rendition of that Fetty Wap song I hate, a) because it made the song good, and b) because their drumsticks lit up.

Love this @phantoms take on Fetty Wap. And LIGHT UP DRUMSTICKS!

A post shared by Arielle (@notthemermaid_) on

It seems that Phantoms, AKA the suit-clad Vincent Pergola and Kyle Kaplan, have already begun making a name for themselves back home in Los Angeles, but I’m excited to see where they go from here. If they follow along the path of Odesza and sell out Terminal 5 a year and a half after playing the Knitting Factory, I’ll be linking back to this post saying that I called it. Here’s hoping!

(And in the meantime, go download their new EP, Broken Halo, or go check them out on the last few stops of their tour!)

All Hail Queen Bee

Beyonce! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Just kidding, I’m not going to count the ways because there would be too many of them and it would go on forever. Beyonce is quite possibly the greatest person in the history of the world. That might be an exaggeration, but only slightly.

I love Beyonce. EVERYONE loves Beyonce. She’s talented and gorgeous and a positive presence in a world – and an industry – full of negativity and in-fighting. I don’t even love Beyonce as much as a lot of other people do (I am ashamed to admit I’ve never downloaded a full album of hers) and even I felt almost honored to be in her presence this past weekend at the Global Citizen Festival.

The Global Citizen Festival is an annual massive free concert in Central Park that features huge artists and tons of celebrities (Leo DiCaprio! Olivia Wilde! Stephen Colbert! Michelle Obama!). In addition to my girl Gwen Stefani, last year’s festival featured Jay-Z, and never in my life have I heard such loud screaming as I did when he brought out his wife as a surprise guest.


Snapchatted from Global Citizen Fest 2014

So I think everyone was pretty pleased when the Global Citizen lineup came out for this year and we saw that, in addition to some band, some other band, and some dude, we were going to get Bey AGAIN. (Okay fine. The others were Coldplay, Pearl Jam, and Ed Sheeran, all of whom were great in their own right.)

Watching Beyonce perform is like being mesmerized in a weird trance where you’re just so in awe of the majesty in front of you that you can’t possibly ever imagine caring about anything or anyone else. After all, they don’t call her Queen Bee for nothing. It seems nearly impossible for a single person to be so amazing. She sings, she dances, she’s supremely confident yet seems strangely relatable, she’s an emissary of positivity and girl power, and she’s probably a great wife and mom.

(It is important that I mention here that Beyonce delivered Blue Ivy in the same hospital where I was born, which I think means we’re related, somehow.)

Beyonce is the girl you want to hate because she’s perfect, except you can’t hate her because she is perfect. I genuinely believe, from the very bottom of my heart, that even makeup-less and with crazy sleep hair, Beyonce really does wake up flawless.

Most of us probably wake up like this:

Actual selfie taken just this very morning!

Actual selfie taken just this very morning!

Despite being a performer who is unafraid of spectacle, the fact that Beyonce leads a relatively private life with her family makes her all the more endearing. Keeping a low profile on her day-to-day gives her performances – full of pyrotechnics and multiple costume changes and moving stage components – all the greater shock value.

I’m not really sure this blog post ever had a point, exactly, aside from telling you what you already knew – that Beyonce is fabulous. But, to quote one of the greats, “if you don’t know, now you know.”

In closing, I will leave you with a video of Beyonce’s Superbowl 2013 halftime performance. I guarantee it will be the best 15 minutes of your day.

Artist Spotlight: GRAMATIK. Finally.

The fact that I’ve had this blog for nearly a year and have yet to dedicate a post to Gramatik is a disservice to society. Because Gramatik – real name Denis Jasarevic – is the man.

Gramatik is yet another artist whose music is sometimes hard to define – it’s a little hip hop, a little soul, a little funk, a little miscellaneous, and a lot awesome. The diversity of his tracks makes him hard to put in a handy little bucket but always keeps you on your toes, and I love the ever-evolving nature of his sound. Like so many other of my favorite electronic music producers, he expertly weaves together samples to create new, fresh sounds out of old tracks.

My all-time favorite Gramatik track is probably Illusion of Choice. I mean, that HARP.

But I’m also a huge fan of Just Jammin:

So Much For Love is also fantastic:

And can’t forget about Balkan Express, which makes me want to dance a cool hip hop ballet:

This is just a small sample of his range.

Aside from his music, Gramatik is a legitimately cool person (as far as I can tell without ever having actually met him). A strong believer in the freedom of information, he makes all his music available at no cost and is the #1 most legally downloaded artist on BitTorrent. In addition to posting about upcoming shows or festivals, he fills his social media with interesting science articles, cool photos, and hero worship of Nikola Tesla. He spends considerable time promoting the other artists on Lowtemp, the music label he started in 2013, and often invites them to share the stage with him on tour. In fact, I typically find that adding, for example, Gibbz on guitar and vocals or Russ Liquid on the trumpet, adds a richness and a depth to Gramatik’s music. They enhance songs that are already amazing to begin with and they create remixes that I never thought I needed but that I love so, so much. I always thought Illusion of Choice was a perfect song until I heard it with live trumpet. So wonderful.

On a personal level, I met 2 of my closest friends at a Gramatik show a year and a half ago, and while there are a number of artists that all 3 of us love, Gramatik holds a special place in our friendship (aw!) because he unintentionally brought us together. We, somewhat cornily and somewhat jokingly, refer to ourselves as the “Gramatik Girls,” and even though our concert and festival outings span many other artists and genres, we’re always a liiiiiittle extra excited when we have the opportunity to see Gramatik together as a group. ❤

I’ve only been a fan of Gramatik’s for a little over 2 years, a relatively short time considering he had a bunch of albums out by the time I caught on. But even in that short time I’ve been able to see him really grow as an artist and in popularity. The first time I saw him live was at Electric Zoo 2 years ago, where he played a set early in the afternoon with a really low production value (it was still amazing). This past weekend at Electric Forest he had the second to last slot of the entire festival, in front of a massive crowd with an unbelievable lighting rig on a sound system so powerful it felt like the bass was filling your soul. This was my personal favorite set of the entire festival and it makes me overwhelmingly happy to see him reach this level of success, because he’s insanely creative and talented and he deserves it. I think by 2017 he’ll definitely start getting the headlining spot at at least a few of the major EDM festivals, and I can’t wait to keep rocking out to Gramatik for years to come.