Archive | August, 2012

Ok Go at The Stern Grove, San Francisco (27/8/2012)

27 Aug

Today being that rarity of a sunny day in San Francisco, I decided to brave the great outdoors and go to a park. Naturally, if one is going to a park, then one should choose one where a reasonably well known indie rock band happens to be playing. Admittedly, I am not the greatest fan of OK Go. The one song of theirs that penetrated my consciousness was not quite enough to get me to try another. There is no shortage of indie rock bands, and this one had nothing special to offer for me. Still, the price was right, and as I said before, any excuse to wear my sweater and get out into the sunshine was good enough for me.

The concert was slated for 2:00, but I could only make it to Stern Grove by 2:30, and so I missed most of the day’s opening act, The Family Crest. They seemed decent. They certainly showed a lot of enthusiasm and some small degree of spark. Keep an eye out for them.

The concert began with a cringingly bad hype piece. Being asked by a robotic voice to shout the band’s name before they come on stage is admittedly pretty harmless ego stoking and considering the band’s name I found it a funny thing to chant before they even appeared on stage, but no one asked me and the whole thing was over quickly.

The band began their set with no preamble. The music began almost as soon as they found their instruments, which was refreshing and certainly gave them a professional appearance. The only issue was the music itself. It was not bad, but it was not really any good either. There was nothing in there that one could sink into. There was quite a lot of confetti however.

For roughly the first third of the concert, the story was pretty much the same. Their music was almost decent. There would be brief moments where you could fall into it, but on the whole just slightly sub-par. Then, it improved. I can’t be sure precisely which song it was that changed things, probably Invincible.

From that moment, sure there were still a lot of what were at best mediocre songs, but at least there were enough moments with substance in them to give the concert meaning. There was a moving performance of Return with only hand bells.

 

There was Skyscrapers. There was “The Treadmill Song”, which featured Damian Kulash asking if anyone in the crowd could play the guitar and then handing his to just such a person to play for half the song. I certainly wasn’t the only one in the crowd to have only heard that song by OK Go and no other (actually I had also heard A Million Ways, but had forgotten completely about it until they were halfway through the song). And there was still lots and lots of confetti.

Also, there was Damian Kulash coming down into the crowd and performing Last Leaf by himself.

Finally, they may never be anywhere near someone like The Flaming Lips. They may have only had four songs of note in their entire two hour concert. A full third of their concert may have had me considering walking out. Still, at the end of the day, they put up a really good performance. I can’t think of any way that I could have better spent this Sunday afternoon, and I think most of the crowd would have agreed with me.

From Damian’s Instagram

– Nikhil

John Coltrane: Olé Coltrane

12 Aug

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Coltrane’s final album under Atlantic, the studio where My Favorite Things and Giant Steps were recorded, Olé Coltrane is an often-overlooked album, which while not as impossibly good as, say A Love Supreme, is still an undeniable masterpiece.

The entire album stretches for four tracks; Olé, Dahomey Dance, Aisha and the bonus track To Her Ladyship. “Olé” is excellent, holding an energetic performance from the rhythm section over the entire eighteen minutes. There are plenty of Spanish sounds from the horn, rather reminiscent of the seminal Sketches of Spain, which was recorded a year before by Coltrane’s old bandleader Miles Davis. Eric Dolphy shines on this track with good playing throughout and a standout solo midway through. Coltrane’s playing in this album is everything that is signature about him. His frantic yet meticulously placed notes seem as though they are the saxophonist himself telling you what he feels you should know, and although it cannot flow fast enough, every word falls perfectly into place. Then, just as you are reaching your peak, he slides you back into the chorus. This crosses music, this crosses conversation, this is magic.

From here, we go to the much less challenging “Dahomey Dance”, which nevertheless starts excellently. The rhythm here keeps you moving, holding up to the dance music it derives from. An interesting base line sneaks around the quite good, if not quite inspired horn playing that holds the foreground.

“Aisha” though is just beautiful. There is no other word for music like this or Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat“. Every single note is exactly where it should be. Nothing is out of place. Nothing is superfluous. Everything is perfect.

The bonus track of “To Her Ladyship” is a strong inclusion, featuring an excellent performance from Dolphy on the flute again and a very solid conclusion. However, the rhythm often feels dissonant, and the track as a whole is certainly the weakest of the album.

Verdict: Should you get this album? The answer is always yes, but if you are new to Jazz, then Davis’s Sketches of Spain would make a much easier starting point and if you are new to Coltrane, then A Love Supreme, My Favorite Things and Giant Steps are all better albums, of which My Favorite Things is the most approachable. However, even if it takes you some time to get to this album, once you do, it will reward you immensely.

– Nikhil

Moonshadow Frequency is on Hiatus

2 Aug

Their mission statement is a question – ‘Who are we?’.  The quest has taken them to the softer side of alternative music, and they seem determined to leave no musical stone unturned and no style untouched. On Tuesday, July 31st, this band unfortunately played their last gig before a self-imposed hiatus. Will the decision cut off the band’s momentum? Or will it shake their very foundation into further musical inspiration?

In a collection of songs that are as eclectic as the words that make up their name, the constant factor for the band is a grooviness which is sprinkled with jazzy blues, soul, funky punk, soft rock and pretty much anything they can mesh it with.

 

“Throw Yourself” is the band’s most complete and streamlined piece yet. An acapella-esque  intro is ridden into the chorus by Neeraja, a songstress who sings like sultry Duffy meeting soulful Adele, with a blues rock infused melody that reaches almost anthemic peaks at certain points. It is sad that the project has since parted ways with Neeraja.

The band picks at countryside blues in “Little Heartbreak”. And while their single dab at an instrumental, “Sea Jem”, leaves you wanting for a bit more shine, they show much more polish in their  short demo titled “SmoulderBoulder”, where the coupling  of acoustic rhythm (with a hint of palm muting) and the electric lead gives their groove a classy touch usually reserved for jazz pieces. Listen and see for yourself!

Bonus: Here and here are awesome covers by the band, paying tribute to their influences.

However, with a line-up that the band admits to be “excessively young”, and lyrics that need to be tightened, the band is moving too fast across the landscape of musical styles to hold anyone’s attention for long. To be good, you need to give yourself time. And in the band’s own words, their members have changed as often as the clothes on their back until settling on the current one.  Neeraja, particularly, seems to have been a missed gold mine, a result of their roots not digging deep enough.

With studies and alternative incomes to worry about, perhaps the hiatus the band is about to take will freshen them up when they regroup, and hopefully a more sustained package will be delivered. If they’re signed up by a label though, their philosophically clichéd question may well be answered by their decision on a morally clichéd one: should they move a bit to the right for the money, or continue left for the journey?

But until then, Moonshadow Frequency’s pieces can be enjoyed while lying on your back (figuratively), at a pub, or in your office.

Moonshadow Frequency recently wowed audiences at the beautiful Summer Sundowners Festival in Manali. You can read the Hindu’s coverage of them here.

– Rohit Ashok

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