Category Archives: Festivals

YOU’VE GOT EVEN BIGGER EARS THAN I THOUGHT: Big Ears Festival 2017

 

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Once again Prof. Rosen makes his pilgrimage to Knoxville. Check out his 2014 report, as well as 2015, not to mention 2016.

BY STEVEN ROSEN

Photos by Melinda Wallis-Rosen

As the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville has grown during its six installments since 2009, bringing a mind-bogglingly large mix of cross-pollinating modernist rock, classical, jazz, international and other types of music, one increasingly wonders where Ashley Capps — its founder and artistic director — got his interest in something so culturally cutting-edge.

After all, he runs Knoxville-based AC Entertainment, the company that puts on the giant summer outdoor Bonnaroo, Forecastle and other contemporary rock festivals. These are known for their innovative mixes of performers, but there are limits. One would not expect Bonnaroo, for instance, to feature the 78-year-old American New Music composer Frederic Rzewski rigorously, forcefully playing the piano for more than an hour straight in a performance of his 1975 “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” It consists of 36 probing, exploratory variations of a Chilean folk song, and is meant to remember the murdered Salvador Allende and serve as an inspiration for resistance.

But there he was on a Friday afternoon at this year’s recently concluded Big Ears (which ran from a Thursday through Sunday), playing a Steinway & Sons grand piano in the center of a large nightclub called The Mill & Mine, as a crowd sat on the floor or stood to watch and listen to this impressive exhibition of stamina. (Below: Matmos)

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In the past, Capps and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero have wisecracked that his interest in such unconventional music is related to him once owning a Knoxville club called Ella Guru’s, named after a Captain Beefheart song. That running joke continued at the Thursday-afternoon kick-off reception this year, when Rogero introduced Capps by calling him “a man who needs no trout mask replica, a man who is as safe as milk, a man who is our very own doc at the radar station.”

And that’s all well and good, but there’s something else at work here. Capps revealed some of that when introducing Rzewski (pronounced “zev-sky”) by telling about the time in 1977 he picked up him, pianist Ursula Oppens and saxophonist Lee Konitz at a New York airport to take then to Woodstock’s Creative Music Studio, where Capps was a student. There, Capps remembers, Rzewski played “The People United…,” a recent composition commissioned by Oppens, that had yet to be recorded. He knew at the time it was destined to be a major work, he says.

So Capps has a personal connection to this kind of work. (He also remembered driving Don Cherry to Woodstock.) And he definitely still has an ear for it.

When introducing the contemporary classical pianist Lisa Moore at the same venue, with the same in-the-round set-up on Saturday, he said that when he first heard her 2016 Stone People album, he knew it was one of the year’s strongest.

Imagine how many records in a year he must listen to, or at least be aware of, to stay atop of his vast festival and concert business. Yet he picks one, on the niche New Music label Cantaloupe Music, that features recordings of compositions by the likes of Rzewski, Missy Mazzoli and John Luther Adams.

But Moore did not disappoint. By turns lyrical and pounding in her choice of material and approach to the keyboard, and wearing a distinguishing white jacket, she began with one of Philip Glass’ most melodic and downright sweet compositions ever, 1979’s “Mad Rush.” There were times when Moore made it echo with snatches from “Over the Rainbow.” Her concert then featured works by other big names — Rzewski, Mazzoli, Adams, Julia Wolfe. But the standout besides “Mad Rush” was a work called “Sliabh Beagh” that she had commissioned from an Australian composer, Kate Moore, in order to explore Irish roots. Starting off like an introspective art song — Lisa Moore sang at the beginning — it evolved into a thunderously powerful work for piano that just kept building. Her concert was thrilling.

A couple years ago, the roaring, avant-garde bass saxophonist Colin Stetson played a Big Ears gig at a small bar so crowded I had to jump up and down every now and then just to catch a glimpse of his head. But there was no problem hearing then — the sound he got from that gigantic woodwind, large enough to double as a piece of public sculpture, could cut through a baseball park filled with fans cheering a grand slam.

This year, Stetson had a venue where he was easily seen — onstage at the large Mill & Mine. Believe it or not, it was reasonably hard to hear him. But it didn’t matter. With an ensemble of horn and string players, plus a singer, he was performing his reimagining of Polish composer Henryk Górecki’s 1977 3rd Symphony (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), which became famous when a 1992 recording sold a million copies. Because one of the three songs contained within the symphony used a message found on a Gestapo cell wall, it conjures World War II and the Holocaust. Stetson calls his adaptation Sorrow, and he means for the saxophone to wail not so much in the Illinois Jacquet sense of the word, but rather in the “weeping” sense.

Amid the wave-like comings and goings of repetitive phrases from the other horns, Stetson’s playing fit in rather than stood out. And it sounded like an ominously rumbling bass. But the overall arrangement of Sorrow sucked everyone into its slowly building undertow and then cathartically brought them along. And when the music quieted to let Stetson’s sister, Megan, sing the songs, it was like Jefferson Airplane subsiding its playing for Grace Slick to solo on “Someone to Love.” Megan Stetson had a magnificently rich mezzo-soprano voice.

Stetson is a restless talent — on his new song, “Into the Clinches,” he hits his sax’s keys like he’s hammering out an electronic backbeat while blowing into the instrument. The result is as unexpectedly infectious as Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” and it could be a dance club hit.

While Big Ears is way too eclectic to pigeonhole its approach to booking, the rock or pop acts who played the two major venues — the luxurious 1928 Tennessee Theatre (the official state theater), and the 1909 Bijou — tend to be either experimentalist or to be using Big Ears for a conceptualist venture. (The event’s biggest act, Wilco, maybe doesn’t fit that description, but band members Glenn Kotche and Jeff Tweedy also used the festival for separate concerts.)

One such example was the toughly intellectualized Matmos, consisting of Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt, whose austerely theatrical take on the late Robert Ashley’s television opera Private Parts made for an invigorating noontime show at the Tennessee on Friday. Musically, it has an understated drone punctuated with electronica touches. Schmidt, in the first part looking Mr. Rogers-like in brown sweater and bowtie, provided the odd, casually upbeat recitation that Ashley himself used to do at his shows. Behind him, two women faced each other and provided an occasional encouraging “that’s right” in accompaniment. Ashley isn’t an easy composer to understand, but Matmos did make him and his music accessible — and hip.

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But Matmos didn’t have anything on Xiu Xiu (above), who presented on Saturday at the Tennessee their tribute to David Lynch’s and Angelo Badalamenti’s music for the eerily meta Twin Peaks television series from 1990-91. Mostly instrumental but with a few vocals, like on the drifting and chilling “Into the Night,” the project allowed a fierce Jamie Stewart to play guitar or drums to Angela Seo’s keyboards and Shayna Dunkelman’s smashing, riveting percussion. She whacked mallets on vibes or slammed drums. With Twin Peaks slated to return to television on Showtime this year, Xiu Xiu has a hot concept more cutting-edge than retro, and knew it. It was a show infused with currency.

Compared to these two, the Magnetic Fields concerts at the Tennessee, presenting composer/singer Stephin Merritt’s year-by-year autobiographical songs on the band/art project’s new 50 Song Memoir, were more traditional. Merritt, after all, writes impossibly catchy pop tunes with witty lyrics that make you smile and laugh. What’s that doing at Big Ears?

But Merritt was downright subversive on stage, beginning with that low baritone/bass voice that can add such gravitas to even his lightest, loveliest songs. There was also, in new material like “Come Back as a Cockroach,” “I Think I’ll Make Another World” and “Eye Contact,” real bite and irony. He wasn’t just skimming the surface of his early years (I was only able to catch the first of his two Big Ears shows) for material, he was also humorously but resolvedly plumbing the emotional depths. He was being confessional yet novelistic.

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He also was a very conceptual performer — in that regard, a natural fit at Big Ears. The stage set-up for his concert reminded me of the Broadway musical The Drowsy Chaperone. He sat inside a fanciful room-like set, maybe based on a childhood bedroom, wearing a garishly checked sweater and a mac. He made amusingly snarky between-song patter — he was the middle-aged man looking back with mixed emotions.

The five other musicians were positioned around and behind this prop, in an arc formation. They played an array of instruments that gave the sound satisfying coloration and power. Merritt, too, played instruments or otherwise manipulated sounds, and sometimes would do something surprising, like sing the unabashedly silly but joyful tune “Hustle 76.” This brought out the “bumpity bump” (as Merritt hailed it) in the Magnetic Fields’ sound. The second set, which got Merritt through year 25 in his life, was just as strong. This is a great album, probably one of the year’s best when final polls come out, and Merritt’s performance made you realize its quality.

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By now, Merritt is an old pro. He’s 52, after all. But a couple truly old pros, both women, were the performers I’ll remember most.

The jazz composer and pianist Carla Bley, at age 80 looking as snazzy and stylish, with the same assured posture and black outfit as a decades-younger fashionable orchestra conductor, on Thursday night led the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra at the Tennessee Theatre through her big-band compositions. Her longtime bassist Steve Swallow and tenor saxophonist Andy Sheppard augmented the group, and the result for the most part was swinging yet prickly, as burrs and detours kept cropping up in the straight-aheadness. Her final composition, “The National Anthem,” was prefaced by her comment, “What better time?” (to play it). But despite its unorthodox yet welcome funkiness, it didn’t seem to leave as strong an impression as I desired. Maybe the times and the current president call out for the kind of state-of-emergency defiant approach Hendrix took to patriotic music at Woodstock. This wasn’t quite fiery enough — maybe Bley needs to compose an Escalator Over the Trump.

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And the 74-year-old, pigtailed Meredith Monk (above) was spry and delightful enough a presence at the Bijou on Friday night to play Puck in a staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (as if her career and talents aren’t already varied enough). And her ever-present gracious smile could have illuminated even the top row of the theater’s otherwise-dark balcony.

Appearing with her Vocal Ensemble, her voice was in synch and in pitch with anything else on stage. She could duet with a revved-up monster truck if she wanted to. It is a marvelous instrument, whether she uses it for wordless vocalization or to comically, exaggeratingly lampoon in song a privileged older woman not prepared to die yet whose time has come.

Her concert included material from throughout her career. Her ease with “Click Song #1,” which she described as a “duet for solo voice” and which found her humming, clicking and puckering simultaneously, would make Tuvan throat singers envious.

And on “Choosing Companions” — from an opera, Atlas, that she composed in 1991 — Monk sat at the piano and sang haunting variations on the sound “day-o” by herself for a while. Then, Vocal Ensemble member Katie Geissinger came out, knocked on the piano to introduce herself, and began a short recitation of what I took to be an interpretation of Monk’s musical message. She soon joined Monk in singing, and the two communicated a call-and-response, point-and-counterpoint sensitivity to each other that elegantly pushed the song toward emotional breakthrough.

At one point, Monk told the audience about sitting in the New Mexican hot sun waiting for a musical idea, and you can see how that state’s artistic New Age exoticism could play a role in her vision. But there’s also a New Music progressivism, not unlike John Cage or Steve Reich, which incorporates Contemporary Art notions of modernism. She deserves all the recognition she can get as one of America’s singular composers and composers.

In past coverage, and at the beginning of this review, I’ve mentioned the Big Ears-Captain Beefheart connection. And also how Capps, at Big Ears, seems to be closer to someone like Rzewski than a raucous blues-rock iconoclast like Beefheart.

But another experimentalist whose name cropped up this year was Arthur Russell, an early proponent/practitioner of the kind of open-minded approach to music the festival favors.

He was a cellist drawn to experimentalism and minimalism, a friend of such other New York City classical music boundary pushers of the 1970s as Glass, Reich and Julius Eastman who also became interested in the conceptual rock of Talking Heads and Modern Lovers and the multi-rhythmic funkiness of disco. And he composed, sang and played cello on fragile, Nick Drake-like chamber-folk love songs like “A Little Lost.”

Always ahead of the curve, his death in 1992 passed with little attention. (He was just 40.) But his reputation has since grown — he was the subject of a 2008 documentary called Wild Combination. He was truly an artist with “big ears.” This festival, as it evolves, seems to be modeled on his vision of music.

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PHOTO GALLERY: Wire Presents DRILL Los Angeles 3/30/17 – 4/2/17

Dates: March 30 - April 2, 2017

Location: The Echo, Los Angeles CA

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As the poster above shows, it was considerably more than your typical run-of-the-mill American multi-band/multi-day music festival. More details as previously listed HERE.

BY SUSAN MOLL

Wire

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Mike Watt w/Fitted

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Once and Future Band

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Youth Code

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Noveller

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Mikal Cronin

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Laetitia Sadier

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Julia Holter

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Immersion

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Fitted (pictured: Wire’s Graham Lewis; also in the supergroup were Bob Lee, Matthew Simms, and Mike Watt)

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Bob Mould

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Alina Bea

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Southern Songs & Stories Doc Series w/Jon Stickley Trio at Albino Skunk Fest

 

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Documentary series also mounts Patreon crowdfunding campaign for fans.

By Fred Mills

A good friend of the BLURT gang, Joe Kendrick (also a mainstay of WNCW-FM community radio in Spindale, NC), has been working on a music documentary series for some time now, teaming with filmmaker Aaron Morrell of Grae Skye Studio for Southern Songs and Stories. To date they’ve produce docs on acclaimed Western North Carolina artists Aaron Burdett and The Honeycutters, describing their work as “a documentary series which blends live performance with a look at the artists’ lives and relationship with our region and the South at large… [Upcoming selections] will have a different look and feel than the previous episodes, but will focus on many of the same themes: music as a bridge to family, community, culture and history.”Stickley

Boy howdy to that. What’s on the horizon? Next weekend, April 6-8, the team will be at The SkunkFarm’s SpringSkunk Music Fest (aka the Albino Skunk Music Festival) to work on a documentary about the festival as well as one on the ever-brilliant Jon Stickley Trio (right), who will be performing that weekend. (Other performers will include Darrell Scott, I See Hawks in LA, Nikki Talley, Shinyribs, and Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, among many.)

Meanwhile, Kendrick and Morrell are mounting a crowdfunding campaign through the Patreon platform, offering a number of different pledge tiers ranging from early access to the Southern Songs material, to thanks in the video credits, to an invitation go be on set during the filming, etc. You can find out more about the series at their Patreon page and also watch video clips that the pair have produced over the years. Don’t forget to consider pledging!

Getting Ready for Bonnaroo?

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June 8-11, 2017 this year on the farm Manchester, TN – see the lineup, above.

By Mark Jackson

This year is set to be another huge year for Bonnaroo! With non other than U2 co-headlining with Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Weeknd, this just might push record breaking ticket sales for the festival.

Bonnaroo has always been know for a great mix of music and breaking new acts and this year is no exception with EDM acts such as Marshmello, Getter, Major Lazer, Flume and Nghtmre. Back again this year is the late night jam session known as Superjam and the Blue Grass Situation Superjam Hosted by Ed Helms and friends.

Last year was the debut of the “Real Bathrooms” and was received with great reviews. Perhaps they will even be able to add more this year, it could come in real handy with sponsors Cherokee Distributors bringing tons and tons of Miller Lite Products to Centeroo.

My tips for Bonnaroo this year are:

  1. Buy your tickets as early as possible.
  2. IF camping double check your packed items to ensure you have all necessities.
  3. Bring a camelback or water bottle into Centeroo. There are several location to fill up for free.
  4. Bring a hat and or bandana and wet bandana often.
  5. Bring a great attitude or stay home
  6. Practice your high fives and work those arm muscles.
  7. Last but not least bring sunscreen!

SXSW 2017 Photo Gallery

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Exclusive pics from this year’s clusterfuck in Austin. That would be Texas, incidentally. Go HERE to read our official report and individual show reviews from SXSW 2017.  Pictured above: Mike Mills and the Big Star’s Third ensemble at Central Presbyterian Church on March 17.

BY SADIE CLAIRE

March 11

Ja Rule @ Sellers

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March 13

DJ Jazzy Jeff @ Cafe Blue

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March 14

Erykah Badu @ ACL Live Moody Theatre

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Thievery Corporation @ ALC

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Wu-Tang Clan @ ACL

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March 15

Warren G @ State Side

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Warren G & Karam Gill

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DMC @ Convention Center interview

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March 16

Pvris @ MTV Woodies

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Khalil Haat @ Russian House

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Jidenna @ YouTube

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Hanson @ Bungalow

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Powerglove @ The SXSW Gaming Opening Party

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March 17

Garth Brooks @ Convention Center

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Silences @ British Embassy

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Big Star’s Third @ Central Presbyterian Church

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New Politics @ Brazos Hall

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Weezer @ Brazos Hall

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Sadie Claire is an Austin-based photographer. Find her at www.SadieClaire.com .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaky Knees Festival 2017: Daily and Late-Show Lineups Announced

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Big 5th anniversary bash for the Atlanta musical blowout…

By Jeff Clegg

Atlanta’s biggest summer music festival is returning for its fifth anniversary this year and is taking place May 12-14 at Centennial Olympic Park. The XX, LCD Soundsystem, and Phoenix are headlining the event, which also includes the likes of The Shins, Ryan Adams, Sylvan Esso, Pinegrove, Pixies, Wolf Parade, Warpaint, Car Seat Headrest, Hamilton Leithauser, Cloud Nothings, PUP, and Cymbals Eat Guitars. This marks the first time that the event has stayed in the same location consecutive years, which is great considering the event allows re-entry and is located conveniently next to several hotels and attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium, College Football Hall of Fame, World of Coca-Cola, and SkyView Atlanta Ferris Wheel (just to name a few).

The late-night shows have just been announced, which notably includes sets by artists not on the main festival bill such as Slowdive and Sampha. Tickets for the festival can be purchased here and tickets for the late-night shows can be purchased here. Check out the lineups below:

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In addition, the EDM-focused Shaky Beats Festival from the same organizers is returning for its second anniversary this year and will be held at Centennial Olympic Park the weekend before Shaky Knees, May 5th-7th. Check out the festival lineup below and purchase tickets here.

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SXSW 2017 REPORT

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This year’s Xmas in March for music nuts braves two storms along with immigration dust-ups and more overcrowding than usual for Austin. See below for our exclusive photo gallery in addition to the report.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JASON GROSS

Two storms hovered over the annual SXSW festival in Austin.  The first one was weather-related- Stella, a category 3 blizzard that beat up the east coast just as the music part of the festival was beginning, causing a number of speakers to cancel out.  The other storm was a political one over immigration starting with a Tweet from Todd Slant about SX contracts, followed by pushback from SXSW, followed by SXSW vowing to change their 2018 artist contracts. Judging by downtown foot traffic, it felt like attendance might have been done a little but regardless, plenty of performers and attendees made it to the Texas state capital. At one point on Friday the 17th, the Sixth Street area (where most of the clubs are) was more packed with people than I’d ever seen in the 18 years I attended and that wasn’t necessarily a good thing- thanks to the ‘safety’ barriers installed in the middle of the street, the road left barely any breathing room and made for a situation that could have easily turned dangerous. Funny what we’ll do and put up with to see some music and chow down on BBQ.

Aside from some clueless volunteers, the festival went along again just fine otherwise, with the tech/Interactive portion as the main pull, followed by the Comedy and Film sessions with the Music part pulling up the rear as usual.  There was some impressive panels and speakers this year too- I missed the Nile Rodgers, Mick Fleetwood and Lou Adler interview sessions but have write-ups of the Prince and Garth Brooks sessions below.  We also had a music journo panel with Greg Kot (Chicago Tribune), author Chuck Eddy and Rachel Brodsky (Paste) that wasn’t all doom and gloom and I had to politely take turns telling everyone to shut up to keep things moving along. (KJZZ/NPR did a nice interview with me beforehand about the panel too-
https://t.co/wbFGrUej7D – and I did a pre-panel write-up about music scribing for the Reverie Report).

And a bunch of bands showed up again too of course. I usually avoid the big name shows (Garth, Migos, Gucci Maine) ‘cause it’s a pain to get in and not too fun to be sardine-packed in when you make it in.  Otherwise, I find SX a great way to find out about a lot of acts I wouldn’t know about otherwise. I always say it’s a musical smorgasbord where you can aurally pig out, especially since most clubs are easy to jump to from one another (something that NYC can’t match).  I noticed that despite the immigration controversy, there was plenty of impressive foreign acts there, even a showcase of music from the list of travel-banned countries.  And of course, there was no shortage of political commentary, running from the very subtle to the very blatant, concerning an ego-driven, thin-shinned orange autocrat. I caught almost 50 memorable acts and learned about a bunch of good albums from2016 that I didn’t know were out there.  You’ll no doubt recognize a couple of names here but I tried to bear down on acts I didn’t know about before I hit Austin.  Maybe you’ll like some of ‘em too and even support ‘em.

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Below, check out a Spotify playlist of the acts reviewed here. Following the text you you can also see a YouTube playlist of footage from some of the shows.

A Giant Dog

  • A Giant Dog (Barracuda, March 16th)
    • Eternally clad in gym tights, singer Sabrina Ellis pulls double duty in the appropriately named Sweet Spirit but here’s where the Austin local rocks out as ringleader/cheerleader, appearing here beside a giant inflatable dragon with its wings flapping.  She/they sing so passionately about rock and roll that you’d think they’re hushing up the stupid naysayers that keep insisting the music’s dead.

Bad Pop

  • Bad Pop (ScartcHouse, March 14th)
    • What happens when you combine a geek, hipster chic and a long-haired wrestler-type dude? You get these hilarious indie rock Canucks.  Chris Connelly (guitarist/geek) has plenty of sly stage banter and an occasional robot vocal, Catherine Hiltz (the hipster) doubles on bass and trumpet at the same time and drummer Aaron Klassen (the dude) is an impressive driving force, even if he’s resultant to solo.

Sho Baraka

  • Sho Baraka (TenOak, March 18th)
    • This California (via Canadian) Christian rapper put out one of 2016’s finest releases, The Narrative. And though the grooveful songs came through for the show, his beef about his late slot and the sound guy got kind of tired after a while.  Did have some meaningful things to say about why inner city projects spring up though and he’s always one stylish dude.

Bastards of Fate

  • The Bastards of Fate (Tellers, March 17th)
    • Singer Doug Cheatwood looked like an office boy but with the rest of his bizarre post-rock band on the small stage, he took to the floor with the crowd, shining a light around himself most of the time and used his voice as a sound effect. Makes you wonder how he’d do on a bigger stage.

Benjamin Booker

  • Benjamin Booker (Container, March 15th)
    • I admired and respected this blues-rocker but wasn’t totally sold on him until this show where his admiration for the Gun Club came out, even in his casual manner.

Boyfriend

  • Boyfriend (Palm Door on Sixth, March 16th)
    • She calls her act ‘rap cabaret’ but that sells this diminutive natural actress short. Clad in a wedding gown and then panties, bra and curlers, she led her dance crew through some high-end gymnastics with a knee-slapping number where she complains to her man that he doesn’t satisfy her as good as her hand.

Garth Brooks

  • Garth Brooks (Austin Convention Center, March 17th)
    • You might have heard of this country megastar and he was definitely the BMOC star of the music fest. I like some of his early stuff and was curious to see what his ‘keynote’ was like though I didn’t need to see his big late-announced show on Saturday.  For tech, he’s definitely tone-deaf, even if he was there to boost his partnership with Amazon.  He did have something meaningful to say about the dying art of songwriters in Nashville though and it was kind of refreshing to see such a huge act be so low-key and casual.  Too bad that he didn’t bring out Chris Gaines for a cameo.

Chain of Flowers

  • Chain of Flowers (Sidewinder, March 15th)
    • These Cardiff boys took their name from a Cure song and you can see the influence- the sensitive vocals and synth riffs/atmosphere. They do have a strong sound though, especially with singer Joshua Smith (related to Robert?) who shared a beer shower with us. Just hoped that it wasn’t domestic.

Kasey Chambers

  • Kasey Chambers (Cooper’s, March 15th)
    • Cooper’s is a great place for BBQ but too cramped for shows and though she was a little long on banter about her life (quite a thick shrimp-on-the-barbie accent), this Aussie country legend brought the goods with her voice and her songs. Nashville should get up some courage and just adopt her.

Sturle Dagsland

  • Sturle Dagsland (Tellers, March 16th)
    • Even though the entire audience for the first five minutes was just me and the sound guy, this Norwegian experimental artist put on one of the most memorable shows at the fest. Alongside his brother on guitar, he ran through all kinds of theatrical dancing and pawing at instruments strewn around the stage (including bamboo sax, skateboard, harp, bells, homemade instruments) like it was a mad scientist’s lab.  When he intro’d the songs, he gave the titles as squeaks and squawks.  Wondering if the songs actually had titles, he later told me that ‘they don’t have names in any readable languages.’ Can’t wait to decipher them later.

DakhaBrakha

  • DakhaBrakha (Austin Convention Center, March 16th)
    • Just your typical trio of Ukrainian women with big fur hats who play modernized traditional music, including a cellist who raps in their native language and a crazed drum circle that would drive jam band fans wild. Not so typical actually.

Dark Times

  • Dark Times (BD Riley, March 14th)
    • This Oslo trio ID’s itself as punk but there’s an arty, drone-filled edge to them that sets that apart. Maybe it’s AK’s angry, insistent vocals and noise guitar.  Maybe it’s her background in radio that also gives her roots too.

DJ Yoda

  • DJ Yoda (Valhalla, March 17th)
    • Though the accompanying rapper didn’t do much for this London DJ, he proved himself worthy of all the mixtape buzz by making dance music out of early 70’s mellow classics like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Big Yellow Taxi.” Has Girl Talk done that yet?

Dream Wife

  • Dream Wife (Maggie Mae’s, March 17th)
    • Boosted by confident Icelandic singer Rakel Mjöll, this London band started as performance art and you can see that in their act, a cunning poppy-punk mix of sugar and spice. The Friday show I caught was their 3rd gig of the day and 8th gig at SX and it showed occasionally- guitarist Alice Go struggled mightily to stay aloft.

Kinky Friedman

  • Kinky Friedman (Threadgill’s, March 18th)
    • Though they frown on unofficial day shows, there’s plenty of non-showcase action going around during the fest. One example was a great singer-songwriter showcase featuring this Jewish comedian, Willie Nelson pal and conservative Democrat. The jokes were as good as the songs and he even pulled out one so new that an audience member had to hold the lyrics next to him just in case he forgot the words (which he did).

Frontier Folk Nebraska

  • Frontier Folk Nebraska (Swan Dive, March 18th)
    • As much of a misnomer as the Austin pizza joint called Hoboken Pie, this Cincinnati quartet provided anthemic, roots/indie rock songs that any Drive-By Truckers fan would appreciate. Don’t let the Southern rock logos fool you though- good ol’ boys they ain’t.  They’re good boys for sure though.

Gabriel Royal

  • Gabriel Royal (Stephen F’s, March 18th)
    • A soul-styled cellist is the type of act that stands out but he’s more than a novelty. He does have soul for real and a voice to go with it and he sounds just fine plucking or strumming his instrument all by himself.

Grandaddy

  • Grandaddy (Stubb’s, March 17th)
    • They didn’t have the production/videos of a smaller NYC gig I caught recently but the bigger stage (at Stubb’s) suited the grandeur of some of the early material of this recently reunited band, earning their headline spot for the evening. Jason Lytle’s high pitched voice filled the warm Texas night nicely too.

Hanba!

  • Hanba! (Flamingo Cantina, March 16th)
    • If the Pogues can do trad-punk, why can’t this unplugged Polish band do the same? Featuring banjo, tuba, accordion, parade drums and clarinet, they not only had the punky fast-paced chants down, they also provided a history lesson and a sly warning to us Yanks about nationalism.

High Waisted

  • High Waisted (Cheer Up Charlie’s, March 18th)
    • Though I loved their “Party In the Back” single, I wasn’t sure if there was more to this poppy little indie band. Thanks to singer Jessica Louise’s cheery spirits, there was.

Idle Bloom

  • Idle Bloom (Sidewinder, March 14th)
    • Though they’re from Nashville, they’re definitely not conservative- this indie band dished out the most in-your-face anger about the Orange Imperial Menace that I heard at the fest. Guitarist/singer Olivia Scibelli and bassist Katie Banyay twist through songs that are gnarled and somehow catchy at the same time. Would be great to think that some hometown country acts could pick up on their vibe somehow.

King Cayman

  • King Cayman (Trinity House at Old School, March 14th)
    • This tireless wild man, one-man band, who was barely visible through his shaggy hair, blazed through one song after enough with such furry that at first I thought his garage-rock sound was garage-dance-drum-and-bass related. He’s definitely got his BPM’s notched up high and even if some of it sounds the same, who cares if there’s a great sound attached to it?

Lizzo

  • Lizzo (Stubb’s, March 15th)
    • Even when she went poppy, this Minneapolis rapper still hasn’t quite gotten the respect she deserves. She’s got a strong attitude, great dancers, an impressive stage act and an amazing polymath DJ backing her up- that would be Sophia Eris and you should remember that name.  Is the pop market really that freakin’ stupid that it has to reject a talent like this just ’cause she’s large-size?  Guess so.  Their loss.

Low Cut Connie

  • Low Cut Connie (Tellers, March 16th)
    • This Philly rock and roll (not rock) band never fails to bring it live. Singer/leader Adam Weiner is a born-showman, banging on and standing on a full sized piano, taking a stroll through the audience and assuring us that we’ll make it if we all stick together (a subtle political reference). Didn’t even mind it when he grabbed and tossed my cap.

New Pornographers

  • New Pornographers (Empire Control Room, March 15th)
    • OK, so you know who these guys are but almost 20 years on, it’s worth reminding ourselves what a pleasure they are. Carl Newman’s a great songwriter and singer Neko Case is an eternal treasure.  Hope they stick around for another 20 years.

Octopus Project

  • The Octopus Project (Mohawk, March 15th)
    • This brainy, rock/indie/post-rock Austin outfit is worth multiple viewings. Your head will spin watching them switch instruments, which occasionally includes two sets of drums and you can’t help but be drawn to Yvonne Lambert with her retro outfits and Theremin theatrics.

Tunde Olaniran

  • Tunde Olaniran (Sidewinder, March 16th)
    • This ‘Afro-futurist’ rapper from Flint started out with a taped newscast about his hometown’s water crisis. Soon, two mysterious dancers appeared, followed by him in African-like garb, performing in front of billboards insisting this was homophobia, transphobia, etc. free zone. All those good intentions weren’t wasted either with a big-hearted, soul-searching, stirring act to go with it.

Orkhestra Kriminal

  • Orkestra Kriminal (Austin Convention Center, March 15th)
    • Except for racist scum, who doesn’t enjoy some wild klezmer (‘yiddish gangster’) music with sousaphone, musical saw and violins? What really makes this Montreal crew go is their engaging, footloose singer Giselle Claudia Webber.

Paws

  • Paws (Sidewinders, March 17th)
    • I was curious to see if this catchy Glasgow indie band still had it after their wonderful Cokefloat! debut from 2012. Glad to see that they did.

Plastic Pinks

  • Plastic Pinks (Hotel Vegas, March 18th)
    • Though they had shows all over the place, these wild-ass Miami rockers had no official SX showcase gig per se. Tracking them down was worth it though- between their Stooges-riffs and hyperactive singer June Summer (who I first thought was over-enthused roadie) who could play cagey and manic in the blink of an eye, they dominated the tiny indoor stage that they were given.

Lisa Prank

  • Lisa Prank (Las Cruxes, March 14th)
    • Sporting an adorable princess outfit, a sweet attitude and a sticker-filled guitar, it was hard not to fall for this lo-fi singer and her invisible, foot-controlled ‘band.’

Priests

  • Priests (Cheer Up Charlie’s, March 16th)
    • After falling in love with their jangly, jagged “JJ” single, I was a little let down by this DC indie band’s debut, wondering if they had anything else substantial going on. After singer Katie Alice Greer shouted and pleaded and sly moaned through their set, it was obvious that there was much more to them than I thought and that she was their not-so-secret weapon.

Prince Panel

  • Prince Panel (Austin Convention Center, March 17th)
    • With his ex-band mates Andre Cymone and Dez Dickerson there and ex-manager Owen Husney (who also signed him to WB), it was a dishing fest but who doesn’t want to hear the inside stories of the Purple legend, including how paranoid he was about being recognized BEFORE he was famous? Not to mention how all his weird interviews were actually carefully planned stunts.  All of which just makes us miss him more. And we even got a sneak peak at the upcoming documentary about the Purple One.

Pussy Riot

  • Pussy Riot (Speakeasy, March 15th)
    • Surprised to see that more people didn’t make it out to see these Russian political dissident legends. Of course they pissed all over Putin and made hay of their legal run-in’s as much as Lenny Bruce once did. But their multi-media theater piece with goth-dance music and translations from Russian was amazing.  As Maria Alyokhina sang occasionally wearing a terrorist mask and singer/saxist Nadezhda Tolokonnikova stood resolutely next to her, there was only certainty and determination in their faces and voices as if they were ready to stare down any opposition.  They were fearless. They were a role model for battling an authoritarian head of state.  Only when the words “Russia will be free again” came on the screen, followed by a roar of approval from the crowd, did a smile creep across Alyokhina’s face.  She believed it and we believed it too, thinking thought that we too would be free someday.

Qawalistan

  • Qawalistan (Palm Door on Sixth, March 17th)
    • Pakistani fusion might sound like a world music nightmare, especially when it comes from a band who loves Deep Purple and Black Sabbath but luckily, this group leans more on local influences than Western ones. Though they had a guitar and drum kit in their ranks, singer and harmonium player Imran Aziz Mian Qawal dominated with his wailing vocals, backed by tabla and dholak drummers that also gave a trad link and grounding to the music.

Qualiatik

  • Qualiatik (Clearport, March 15th)
    • A well planned out schedule can fall apart but still come out OK. Here, I was supposed to see a different act but ’cause the schedule ran late, I saw this one-woman Philly act which she claims as a ‘multi-media act.’  She’s got great surreal videos/visuals, good command of keys/drums/electronics and an expressive voice that makes you think that she could be a star someday.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

  • Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (Container, March 15th)
    • Even before Sub Pop snatched them up, I was taken by these dreamy-sounding Aussie rockers- no surprise then to find out that the band is made up of relatives and school chums as the music sounds like it, aided nicely by guitarist Joe White’s airy sound. Just be glad that they’re on a (big) indie so that some A&R guy doesn’t make them change their name to make it ‘simpler.’

Whitney Rose

  • Whitney Rose (Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, March 14th)
    • If you love old-school country, this honky tonk gal is for you. Her recent EP South Texas Suite is a gem and she’s got a gorgeous voice to carry any song she chooses, which happens to be ones that she writes herself.

Slotface

  • Slotface (Sidewinder, March 15)
    • Originally called Slutface (they still insist on saying it that way), this Oslo band boosts feminism and conservation causes but what comes out in the tunes is their subtle but insistent singer/lyricist Haley Shea (who has shades of Garbage’s Shirley Manson in her) and the songs from a guitarist named Tor-Arne Vikingstad whose catchy music never let on that he was once in a hardcore band.

Slowkiss

  • SlowKiss (Friends, March 14th)
    • Even in Chile, grrls will girls. With energy to burn (L7 fans for sure), they were one of the most impressive SX acts this time around with guitarist Elisa Montes and bassist Victoria Cordero trading vocals and creating an emotional pull to the music.  Drooling boy fans picked up on their leg tattoos but all I noticed was their charging sound.

Spook School

  • Spook School (Sidewinder, March 17th)
    • With so many new acts to see at SX, the temptation is to skip repeats from before but I couldn’t resist with these inedible, yearning Scots who have roots in queer punk (singer Nye Todd is transgender) and comedy. Nice to see their haunting way with a tune hasn’t disappeared and their drummer is still a dry, hilarious MC.

Spoon

  • Spoon (Austin Convention Center, March 17th)
    • These hometown heroes had a three-night curated residency at the Main and still managed to do a morning showcase for KGSR radio and this afternoon show to boot. Smart move though as they were pushing a fine new album, Hot Thoughts. I’m schizzy about these guys ’cause I like ‘like’ their albums and honor the craggy, difficult nature of their music but not sure if I always love it. Live though, Britt Daniels is an effective frontman, just active enough without being too showy. Despite my reservations, they’ve got a great band too, especially with recent-addition Alex Fischel on keys.

SuperGlu

  • SuperGlu (Latitude 30, March 18th)
    • Good news for Brit-pop fans who thought that Oasis was too thick and Blur was too clever- these Coldchester brothers and their bloke chums might provide a happy medium for you.

Sweet Crude

  • Sweet Crude (Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, March 16th)
    • Another fortunate accident as I meant to see a Korean punk band called No Brain playing next door and instead, I came across this folky NOLA dance-pop outfit who cite ELO, Talking Heads, Lost Bayou Ramblers as influences (also Miami Sound Machine even if they don’t know it). Singers Sam Craft & Alexis Marceaux surround themselves with drums and a festive spirit that would rock the hippest of Bar-Mitzvahs. And they’re real Bayou folks- half their website is in French.

AJ Tracey

  • AJ Tracey (Empire Garage, March 18th)
    • Nowadays as strong, if not as varied, as its American counterpart, UK rap, aka grime, is some of the most cutting edge music coming out of pop culture now. Though slack timing meant that I missed grime star Rude Kid, Tracey showed why he’s got a string of sold out UK shows coming up. His tight, rapid-fire delivery was a pleasure to watch.

Uyarakq x Peand-eL

  • Uyarakq x Peand-eL (Cedar Street Courtyard, March 16th)
    • A Greenlandic rapper sounds like just another novelty but Peter Lyberth aka Peand-eL ain’t no joke, even if he dresses like a dad on holiday. The guy had good flow (rapping in kalaallisut/Greenlandic) and even had some harsh political words for his homeland’s government, including protest rally sounds in his songs via his dance-music partner Uyarakq (who describes his genre as ‘dad-jokes’).  If you’re curious about more, there’s even a Nordic festival in the fall, you can check out.

Weaves

  • Weaves (Maggie Mae’s, March 17th)
    • Jasmyn Burke stands out not just because she’s a black singer leading punky indie band but also because she counts Karen O and Koko Taylor as influences and sounds like it. It definitely helps that she has guitarist/actor/comedian Morgan Waters backing her up with all kinds of wonderful sound effect noises. Where else but in Toronto could this happen?

Zeta

  • Zeta (Speakeasy, March 17th)
    • Venezuela may not be the place you’d think of for great hardcore/art-rock/post-punk music but that’s what this foursome has to offer- think of them as a less monotonous version of Helmut with still plenty of volume. When a rapper came on for a few songs, you didn’t get nightmares about Limp Bizkit either.

Jason Gross is a longtime contributor to Blurt and also is the archivally-minded genius behind that most excellent music site Perfect Sound Forever. Below, view some of the bands he saw in Austin this year.

Report: The 29th Folk Alliance International Conference

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“Forbidden Folk” indeed: Held Feb. 15-19, the annual event was a veritable folk frenzy for the residents of and visitors to Kansas City – and a call to musical arms for the legions of Trump opponents as well. Scroll down to view a photo gallery.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN / PHOTOS BY ALISA B. CHERRY

Glance back fifty years and the idea of a folk music festival would bring to mind a gathering dominated by tie-dye, Birkenstocks and people who might otherwise find work as stunt doubles for Peter, Paul and Mary. In a sense, that’s still the perception for those unawares, but at the 29th Folk Alliance International conference held in mid-February in Kansas City, there was far more of a modern twist that many might imagine. While the old guard was duly represented, the encroachment of Americana and relevant rockers also dominated the proceedings. Hundreds of artists participated in the confab, both in the exhibition rooms of the Westin, the host hotel, and in three floors of guest rooms where beds were removed, presenters moved in and music performed until the wee hours of the morning. The latter scenario found this new brand of folk music anything but staid, more like a scene out of Animal House, where hotel corridors saw action akin to a college dorm or a frat house, and guitars, partygoers, posters and performers crammed every available nook and celebrated a succession of sounds.

If that cool vibe seemed to moot some of the cerebral sensitivities, the fact that the conference was subtitled “Forbidden Folk” allowed more than a passing nod to folk music’s legacy of protest and populism. Practically every speaker alluded to the need for rallying the masses in support of various causes that were perceived as being undermined by the new administration. Indeed, Donald Trump’s ears must have been burning, because while his name was rarely mentioned, it was all too obvious as to where most of the remarks were aimed. Billy Bragg’s rousing speech at the conclusion of the conference offered less praise for the music and bid more homage for the cause, eventually culminating in a fist pumping rally for union devotees. Those apolitical or of a different mindset might have felt isolated and alone, but there was enough solace to be sought in the music to keep participants applauding.

Indeed, there were plenty of kudos to go around. The first night of the festivities included an award ceremony that saw such luminaries as Sonny Ochs (Phil’s sister), environmental activist Si Kahn, iconic names such as Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Cockburn, Eliza Gilkyson and David Amram, storied singer and storyteller John McCutcheon, once jailed veteran of the Arab Spring Ramy Essam, and sitcom star-turned-singer Megan Mullally take the stage to give or receive awards, and occasionally share a song in-between. It was an inspiring evening, one that affirmed the music’s heritage and continuing trajectory while reaffirming the common bond of community that bound all the participants together. When Gilkyson spoke of the “disbelief and grieving” that seemed to have overtaken the nation in the weeks and months since the election, there wasn’t a soul present who couldn’t identify with the realities she was referencing.

The call to arms, then, was that the folk faithful needed to recommit to a protest purpose, the same mighty mission that prompted people to stand up against the Vietnam War and march en masse for the cause of civil rights. The need is, one speaker noted, more urgent than ever.

Still, for all that earnest intent, it was the music that really mattered. For the 2,600 participants from twenty countries, it took a full measure of devotion to endure hours of stalking hotel hallways in order to catch the scant half hour sets accorded to each of the performers. With showcases that went on until the wee hours of the morning — often until 4 AM and beyond — only the heartiest individuals were able to withstand the desperate need to run from room to room to catch a favorite artist, who often was playing at the same time as two dozen other favorite artists. Nevertheless, the opportunity to catch such stellar talents as Robyn Hitchcock, Tift Merritt, Amelia White, John McCutcheon, the supergroup of sorts Kortchmar, Postell and Navarro, Bobby Rush, Bruce Sudano, Caroline Spence, Cali Shaw, Carrie Elkin, Jonathan Byrd, Tim Easton, ` Chuck Hawthorne, Cory Branan, Dave Gunning, David G. Smith, David Olney, Plainsong, John Fullbright, Darden Smith, Ellis Paul, Beaver Nelson, Freebo, Greg Greenway, Heather Rankin, Kim Richey, Linda McRae, Matt the Electrician, The Once, Oh Susanna, Steel Wheels, Peter Bradley Adams, Ray Bonneville,  Robbie Fulks, Rod Picott, Romantica, Michael Fracasso, SONiA and Disappear Fear, Sara Watkins, Susan Werner, Tret Fure, Tony Furtado, Tom Freund, Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally Band, Tish Hinojosa, or the Wild Ponies, as well as such up-and-comers as Banjo Nickaru & Western Smooches, the Novel Ideas, Beck Warren, Beth Bombara, Ben de la Cour, Anne McCue, Patterson Barrett, Anthony da Costa, Brian Langlinais, Freddy & Francine, Harrow Fair, Kirsty McGee, Karpinka Brothers, Leland Sundries, Luke Jackson, Matt Haeck, Mark Huff, Renee Wahl, Son of Town Hall (with David Berkeley),The Soul of John Black, and Doolin’ made all attempts worthwhile.

(Whew… if you think that was a lot of names to observe, bear in mind it’s only a fraction of the several hundred artists that were there in attendance.)

Indeed, trying to catch every artist was futile, even despite the fact that most of these artists offered repeated performances. No matter. Folk Alliance served its purpose, binding past and present  and looking ahead to the future. Compressed over a mere five days in a single hotel can scarcely do it justice.

Kris Kristofferson @FAI photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry

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Ben Kyle of Romantica @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Oh Susanna @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Sara Watkins @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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The Steel Wheels @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Tift Merritt @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Jonathan Byrd @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Jonathan Byrd & the Pickup Cowboy @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Patterson Barrett @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Billy Bragg @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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John McCutcheon @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Son of Town Hall @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Tim Easton @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Karpinka Brothers @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
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Robyn Hitchcock @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry

FOLK ALLEGIANCE

Rod Picott @FAI2017 photo taken by Alisa B. Cherry
FOLK ALLEGIANCE

FOLK ALLEGIANCE

Burger Boogaloo Festival Lineup Announced

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Iggy, X, Buzzcocks, Guitar Wolf, Nobunny, Roy Loney, John Waters….

By Blurt Staff

Oakland’s Burger Boogaloo will take place July 1st & 2nd at Mosswood Park, announces its line-up for 2017, and whoo-boy it’s a doozy. The most ambitious lineup yet, Burger Boogaloo is celebrating its 5th year at Mosswood by announcing Iggy Pop, Buzzcocks, X, Guitar Wolf, and many more will be joining this year’s festivities. The event will be hosted by the inimitable John Waters yet again, who notes, “I’ve been a punk at heart even before there was such a thing and hosting Burger Boogaloo always ups my street cred. I’m the oldest juvenile delinquent there.”

Every year the Burger Boogaloo surprises the audience with its unique, over-the-top stage sets and productions. Last year the Mummies drove in to the park in their 1966 Pontiac Bonneville Mummies Mobile, and played their headlining set on top of the car.

Because Mosswood Park has always been so generous to the Boogaloo, this year, the festival donated 100% of the first week of early bird ticket sales to the park to help rebuild their recreation center, which burned down last year. If you’d like to contribute to Mosswood Park’s Rec Center fund, you can do so here.

Tickets and details at: http://burgerboogaloo.com/.

 

SATURDAY, JULY 1ST
Iggy Pop
Guitar Wolf
NoBunny
Baby Shakes
Bloodshot Bill
Personal & The Pizzas
Wounded Lion
Car Crash

SUNDAY, JULY 2ND
Buzzcocks
X
NRBQ
Roy Loney (Flamin’ Groovies)
Shannon & The Clams
Quintron & Ms. Pussycat
La Luz
Jacuzzi Boys
Glitter Wizard

Mo’ Roo Fo’ You in 2017

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The Bonnaroo team have outdone themselves again! With a diverse lineup and big names spread over four days, this will be another great year on the farm! Use the search bar to see our past years coverage. See you on the farm and look for our photos and coverage to follow. As a photographer for BLURT I also shot the 2016 event for us and lived to tell about it!

By Mark Jackson

Oh, Bonnaroo, how do we love thee? Let moi count the ways: U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chance the Rapper, the Weeknd, Major Lazer, Lorde, the xx, Flume, Travis Scott, Cage the Elephant, the Head and the Heart, Future Islands, Marshmello, Glass Animals, Portugal. The Man, Tove Lo, Tegan and Sara, Cold War Kids, Tory Lanez, Umphrey’s McGee, Car Seat Headrest, D.R.A.M., Flatbush Zombies, Margo Price, the Front Bottoms, Claude VonStroke, Michael Kiwanuka, Royal Blood, Yellow Claw, Milky Chance and Francis and the Lights.

Among many more – see the below poster, and many, many, many more, no doubt, to come. According to Bonnaroo’s organizers, “The 2017 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival will take place June 8 – 11, held as always at Great Stage Park (aka “The Farm”), the spectacular 700-acre farm and event space located just 60 miles south of Nashville in Manchester, TN. Tickets – including General Admission, VIP, and the brand new Platinum Pass – are on sale now, exclusively via www.bonnaroo.com.”

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