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.

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!

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.