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Bonnaroo 6/11-14/15, Manchester TN

Dates: June 11-14, 2015

Location: Manchester, TN

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TEXT & PHOTOS BY MARK JACKSON

This was my first time to attend the remarkable world of the land called Bonnaroo. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect as I approached the 700 acres in Manchester, Tn. (Following the text is my photo gallery.)

I arrived Thursday around 8:30p.m. and found a spot among the other eighty thousand campers/festival goers. I was able to make pretty good time setting up my tent and supplies considering it was dark. I managed to get into Centeroo which is where the stage, food, and activities preside, around 10:00p.m. As I wondered around the grounds scouting out the stages and getting my bearings in prep for the next three days adventure I quickly learned how massive the grounds would be.

I awoke early Friday Morning to a hot Sun and the Tennessee Humidity sticking me to my cot. I was able to shower, hang out, and eat lunch at my camp site before making it back to Centeroo. I was anxious to see the big acts but curious to also take in the opportunity to see and shoot the acts that I hadn’t heard of as well. Bonnaroo is know for booking the up and coming bands and the big ones too such as this years line up including Munford & Sons, Billy Joel, Robert Plant, Slayer, Earth Wind & Fire, Bassnectar, and Deadmau5 which all were worth the ticket alone. Some of the new music acts that I was able to catch and I recommend that you look up on their sites and of course YouTube were Priory, Songhoy Blues, Mo, Rudimental, Highly Suspect, and Wild Adriatic.

One company that was a sponsor was an earplug company. They sent me a pair before the festival. The Earplugs are called DUBS, and yes they are awesome. They are unlike any others I’ve used in the $20 dollar range. They don’t just squeeze into the ear and block the loud noises and muffle / ruin the music. DUBS cuts the high DB’s but maintains most of the sound quality. You can pick them up at Best Buy, DUBS website, and other fine retailers. These will be a must for all my future concerts.

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Anyways back to the festival. Saturday is kind of a blur due to the extra long day, the heat, and finding the Brew Tent where they had several independent brewers. This was an awesome time between the brews and the shade hiding me from the scorching summer heat. I was also able to hide from the heat and find Air Condition in the Comedy Tent while catching Jeff Ross and Ralphie May. The day turned into night and night into morning hours with Mumford and Sons, then Bassnectar who had the crowd going nuts with every drop. I have never seen so many glow sticks little lone that many being thrown amongst the crowd at one time. My night/morning finished up with Flume.

Mistakenly, I thought that I would be able to catch up my sleep by sleeping in Sunday morning, but the morning temps were even hotter than Saturday. Thinking I could combust into flames by 8:00 a.m. I consumed as much water as humanly possible. (Note to self and future festival goers DO NOT Forget the Sunscreen and plenty of water.) Most of my Sunday morning and early afternoon was spent hiding in the media tent charging camera batteries and phone while soaking up the AC. Luckily Bonnaroo is also know for the Mushroom area, a great spot to cool off with the water spouts spraying over the area. They also had an inflatable waterslide that always kept a waiting line and smiles. Sundays line up included Twenty One Pilots, Awolnation, The Very Best, Brandi Carlile, Rudimental, Florence and The Machine, Robert Plant, Billy Joel, and The Bluegrass Situation SuperJam Feat Ed Helms (who knew that the Hangover actor played Banjo).

It was sad that the night and event was ending, but I was ready to get back to the reality of the real world that was missing out on this wonderland called Bonnaroo. Until next year I will be here in the real world waiting for Bonnaroo 2016.

P.S. A special thanks to Mikey and the rest of the Big Hassle Staff

To see more of Mark’s work: www.markjacksonphotography.net

https://www.facebook.com/MarkJacksonPhotography

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RHETT MILLER – The Traveler

Album: The Traveler

Artist: Rhett Miller

Label: ATO

Release Date: May 12, 2015

Rhett Miller 5-12

www.atorecords.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Rhett Miller’s last four solo records have not strayed too far from the music he puts out with his day job as front man for The Old 97’s. In fact, a casual fan would have a tough time picking out the solo songs from a group’s tune in a blind tastes test. With The Traveler, Miller is still hoisting that flag for alternative country pretty high, but with the addition of Black Prairie (featuring members of The Decemberists) as his backing band, there is a much looser vibe with this outing.

 The boogie woogie piano on “Most in the Summertime” and the fiddles and mandolins that are weaved throughout the record bring a much easier charm to the music here, complimenting Miller’s laid back drawl. The alt country vibe is spiked with touches of bluegrass and even snatches of klezmer music here and there. REM’s Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey even stepped in to lend some overdubs on the record, but the show is still clearly Miller’s, hewing closely to his constant themes of love and the occasional heartache.

With the addition of Black Prairie, an inspired choice, Miller has turned in one of his most satisfying solo efforts to date.

DOWNLOAD: “Most in the Summertime,” “Fair Enough” and “Kiss Me on the Fire Escape”

 

WAND – Golem

Album: Golem

Artist: Wand

Label: In The Red

Release Date: March 17, 2015

Wand 3-17

www.intheredrecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Championed by Ty Segall, Wand takes melodic psych rock confections and drowns them in fuzz and electronic bleepology. Nothing too surprising on Golem, the band’s second LP – even adding glam rock hooks to “Self Hypnosis in 3 Days” has been done before. But nothing’s wrong with doing something already established well, and the quartet definitely knows what to do with the shiny anthemry of “Cave In,” the sci-fi soundtracking of “Planet Golem,” the snarling acid punk/folk rock of “Floating Head” and the widescreen balladry of “Melted Rope.” Non-converts won’t miss anything, but psych rock fans will eat this up and belch happily.

DOWNLOAD: “Self Hypnosis in 3 Days,” “Melted Rope,” “Floating Head”

 

WEED – Running Back

Album: Running Back

Artist: Weed

Label: Lefse

Release Date: June 09, 2015

Weed 6-12

www.lefserecords.com

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

What is it 1991 again? I swear I had to do a double take because the new Weed album Running Back is so steeped in the vibe of the early ‘90s that my heart started to race, thinking I had a paper due that I’d forgotten about. I was slowly brought back to reality when I felt my thinning head of hair which immediately settled the fact that I am squarely in 2015. So here we are 25 years on and the sound of Swervedriver and Ride is being recycled for a new round of ear bending.

Weed shouldn’t be blamed for bringing back the sound of the early ‘90s shoegaze scene. But since that is what this music harkens back to lets remind ourselves of that time period. Shoegaze was a musical genre that I wasted a fair amount of coin on. It opted for a hazy wash of guitars, where the vocals were somewhat buried in the mix to make up for the ineptness of the vocalist and to let the “feelings” that the music evoked take center stage. It was also a rather selfish group of musicians who as the name implies would rather look at their shoes and effects pedals then converse with the crowd. Back in those days record companies would bombard the record store shelves with a variety of formats with “extra tracks and a tacky badge” as Mozzer once so eloquently put it. Back then it was pretty much a one way street, you either took the bait or you were out in the cold. Today of course the tables have turned. Now we can stream this music before we opt to buy which I’m not going to debate here, but suffice to say had I been a college student these days I could’ve saved a small fortune.

So how does this album stack up to the groups from 25 years ago? The production on this album gets the sound perfect. The muddiness of the mix and the limited range of the vocalist while genuine to the sound of the day, feels a tad disingenuous. Take Ride for example: on their Nowhere LP they were able to capitalize on a ‘60s Byrdsian sound and drench it in swirls of mist and sea spray and call it their own. Weed’s new album feels more paint by numbers than anything else. This is one of those bands that would’ve probably been pushed by the likes of NME and Melody Maker as the latest and greatest messiahs of the music scene. I would’ve bought it and then been severely disappointed and then held on to it to sell at a severe loss to my favorite record store at the time, The Headstand in El Paso Texas.

Call it buyers remorse, but this album just leaves me cold and has forced me to remember how I wasted too much money hanging on the words of British journos trying to pry hard earned dollars from their Yank reader’s hands. Avoid it!

Psychedelic Bubblegum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem into Miracles, by Bobby Hart with Glenn Ballantyne

Title: Psychedelic Bubblegum

Author: Bobby Hart

Publisher: Select Books

Publication Date: May 12, 2015

Bobby Hart

www.selectbooks.com

BY TIM HINELY

I was very excited when a pal told me about this book, hell, I love bubblegum pop music if the 1960’s and knew that Bobby Hart, one half of the songwriting team of Boyce & Hart was at the forefront of it all, but knew very little about him/them. Hart tells the whole story, though if you’re looking for a book that dishes the dirt you’ll have to look elsewhere because either Hart was squeaky clean or he left that part out (I’m thinking it’s the former). The foreword was penned by Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees.

The story begins with Hart being a shy kind from Phoenix, Arizona. The son of religious parents who eventually leaves home and joins the military where he’s stationed in Monterey, CA, but after a short time he leaves that behind and heads down to Hollywood where he works at a copy shop and then for a company that make records. Eventually he books some recording time and slowly tries to get his foot in the door of the music industry.

Along the way he meets a gent who will go on to become his longtime songwriting pal, Tommy Boyce (who dies in 1994, long after they’d written songs together) and for a time, they spent a cold winter in New York (at least party at the famed Brill Building) but then decided to go back to California (the warmth of the sun wasn’t just a Beach Boys song). His first marriage ends and Hart is really down but eventually a producer tells them that he needs some songs for an upcoming television show he’s creating about a band (The Monkees) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Along the way he meets several Hollywood stars and seems a bit awestruck (though he always keeps his cool), dates former Playboy Playmate Claudia Jennings (she dies in a car accident a few years later) and eventually falls in love again with a blond named MaryAnn. They both decide to really explore the spiritual path they are on and live happily ever after (the final third of the book is where Hart really delves into his spiritual side).

Hart comes off like a genuinely humble guy who’s truly appreciative of the success he’s had. I have to admit, this book wasn’t the most exciting rock/pop music book I have ever picked up, but it is certainly worth reading. He explores a unique side of American culture, one that I was certainly very curious about.

 

Meat Puppets + Soul Asylum 6/19/15

Dates: June 19, 2015

Location: Underground Arts, Philadelphia PA

Meat

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Just days after Taylor Swift – probably the biggest musical ambassador the Millennials have right now – played in front of tens of thousands overly-enthusiastic fans at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, two survivors of the ‘80/’90s “alternative rock” scene played inside the cavernous Underground Arts club just miles away from that stadium to a crowd of about 300 definitely grayer, but equally impressive Gen Xers.

Decades after both Soul Asylum and the Meat Puppets left their major record labels and years after their songs were played on the radio, both groups managed to prove over the course of the night that they have not lost any of the energy or edge that made their music so popular in the first place.

Billed as a co-headlining tour, the bands took turns playing first at venues across the country. Meat Puppets took the stage first (after a brief set up openers The World Takes) in Philly, playing for a little over an hour to a clearly impressed crowd. Led by the Kirkwood brothers, the four-piece spiked their set of country/punk/psychedelic rock with plenty of left field jams. Along with some of their more well-known songs like “Comin’ Down” and “Lake of Fire,” they threw in a handful of inspired covers like “Seven Spanish Angels” and a psychedelic “Sloop John B.”

Soul

Soul Asylum, despite boasting only Dave Pirner as a founding member, held their own against the Meat Puppets, with an early quip from the frontman stating “We’re going to try and out jam the Meat Puppets.” They didn’t, but they did manage to keep the crowd enthralled for the entirety of their set, balancing out the night with some of their earlier songs and a slew of their better known hits pulling liberally from 1992’s Grave Dancer’s Union and its follow up Let Your Dim Light Shine.

Playing to a small, but loyal group of hundreds, inside a small, dark basement venue, churning out a loud and sometimes messy set of songs that wouldn’t fit on the radio nowadays seemed like a pretty natural fit for a generation used to playing the middle child between Boomers and Millennials.

 

Meat Puppets photo: Patrick Courtney (via the band’s Facebook page)

Lenka + Nick Howard + Dearling 6/24/15, Denver

Dates: June 24, 2015

Location: Lost Lake Lounge, Denver CO

Lenka

BY STEVE STEVENSON

I walked into Denver’s Lost Lake Lounge a little late to see a friend of mine and his wife and their pretty fresh band Dearling opening for Lenka. I caught the last three songs. The very last one was a cool cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” Dearling is basically a reworking of Rachel James’ band Rachel and the Kings, of which, her husband, Dave Preston was also a member. They have added Noah Matthew’s brother Joel and skewed the sound more towards the folk/country rock side of things. I’ve been watching Preston as a solo artist as well as a member of a couple of bands over the last 13 or so years. I sat in Cheeseman Park with him and a couple of other members of Matt Morris’s band as they serenaded a solar eclipse. I still think he is one of the best guitarists I have ever seen, flashy yet practical, not pretentious, and fun to watch. With both James and Preston, Dearling has two of the best voices in music to trade off vocals to make things interesting. This was the first time I had heard or seen Dearling, and really just a snippet as I mentioned, but the little bit I saw was enough to whet my appetite for more.

On tour with Lenka, as well as being a personal friend and musical collaborator, is Nick Howard, a solo acoustic performer who I can’t help but to compare to Jason Mraz in singing style. He didn’t wear that funny little hat, which I appreciated. He is a very gifted musician, singer, and songwriter. By himself he takes up all the room on stage. He did a cover of Brittany Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” which gave him some points with me for thinking off the beaten path. He’s funny between songs, and musically didn’t leave me wanting more band.

Lenka walked out onto the stage and I don’t remember what she did exactly, but I thought she was going to be kinda pretentious. That preconception faded quickly as she turned out to be very personable, funny, and really cool. She started the set with “Blue Skies,” which she dedicated to Denver just a couple of hours after flash flooding and severe hail and tornados. She said, “Can we talk about what happened today? What the fuck!?” She is very good to and with her audience. She actually had a few conversations with individual members. That’s really not very hard to do at the Lost Lake; it’s a very intimate joint. People bought her drinks, gave her stuff, and were generally all about her. There was a running joke about her “saggy balloons” which were actually some saggy balloon letters that spelled her name that she gave away to a random audience member. As Lenka said it, “And the winner is. . . the Asian lady with the pom-pom!” For the encore, she asked if they shouldn’t just stay on stage instead. A couple of the band had started walking off, but quickly came back after it was decided that they would skip the customary walking off stage after the “last song” and then coming back out because we made so much noise that they had to in order to appease the unruly mob part.

She ended the night with a bossa nova version of “Blue Skies.” In between there were songs off the new album, The Bright Side, and some older stuff. She even brought Nick Howard out for a duet that they co-wrote. It was about love, but not theirs, as I was hoping. They are both with other people, much to my chagrin, for some reason.

 

 

BILL FAY – Who is the Sender?

Album: Who is the Sender?

Artist: Bill Fay

Label: Dead Oceans

Release Date: April 28, 2015

Bill Fay 4-28

www.deadoceans.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Bill Fay may not have gotten his due in the ‘70s, when the Englishman released the records Bill Fay and Time of the Last Persecution, but music fans have slowly been coming round to his singular talents. Who is the Sender?, the follow-up to his 2012 comeback LP Life is People, is a fine display of those talents.

To call the record a set of orchestral piano ballads with an early 70s Britfolk vibe gives it a framework, but is only half the story. Equally as important as the form is the feel, as Fay voices spiritual and social concerns driven by his self-described “alternative gospel” outlook. “Underneath the Sun” and “The Geese Are Flying Westward” track Fay’s distinctive direction with brooding beauty. “The Freedom to Read” sounds like a poem from the early 20th century set to timeless music. “Order of the Day” breaks the anthem barrier, all while keeping within the more sedate boundaries Fay sets for himself. “Bring It On Lord” and “A Frail and Broken One” come right out and says what lingers under the surface of nearly all Fay’s sentiments.

Perhaps the record’s quintessential track, “How Little” builds from brood to boil, Fay keeping his voice steady as the dynamics threaten to burst. The song is a classic case of keeping one’s emotions under lock and key, but not noticed them leaking out from under the door. Who is the Sender? is a beautiful piece of work from a veteran talent that world has finally woken up to experience.

DOWNLOAD: “How Little,” “Order of the Day,” “A Frail and Broken One”

 

EILEN JEWELL – Sundown Over Ghost Town

Album: Sundown Over Ghost Town

Artist: Eilen Jewell

Label: Signature Soounds

Release Date: May 26, 2015

Eilen Jewell 5-26

www.signaturesounds.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Eilen Jewell began her musical career in a most unassuming way. She started out busking on the streets of Santa Fe New Mexico while attending college. After graduation, she moved to California and then started singing for the crowds in Venice Beach. Eventually she relocated to New England to immerse herself in the region’s fertile music scene, one especially fit for budding folkies and would be singer/songwriter types, descriptions that seemed to fit her to a tee.

Within a decade after her first self-released album — described at the time as her “live demo”– Jewell had released another half a dozen albums or so and significantly bolstered her reputation in the process. However it’s worth noting that Jewell can no longer be classified as simply a caricature of your typical lofty songstress. While certain songs do betray more sobering sentiments – the sweetly assuring “Worried Mind” and the forlorn “Green Hills” in particular – Jewell isn’t averse to occasionally allowing a playful perspective. The hipster sway of “Hallelujah Band” and the vampish “Here With Me” suggest she could play in the cabaret, if in fact she was so inclined.

The real highlight however comes in the form of the bittersweet ballad “Half-Broke Horse,” a song about the loss of unfettered environs and life lived close to the land. It’s sadly bittersweet, this tattered tale, but one that resonates like, well, a gorgeous sunset once its final chords quietly fade away.

DOWNLOAD: “Half-Broke Horse,” “Worried Mind,” “Green Hills”

 

MEMBRANES – Dark Matter Dark Energy

Album: Dark Matter/Dark Energy

Artist: Membranes

Label: Cherry Red

Release Date: June 22, 2015

Membranes 6-22

www.cherryred.co.uk

BY TIM HINELY

Raise your hand if you remember this UK post-punk bunch from the late ‘80s (not enough hands raised). I remember them because Homestead released a few of their records in between releasing stuff by likeminded souls like Sonic Youth, Naked Raygun and Big Black. The band called it quits in the early ‘90s, returned in 2009 with and then dove back underground again, never to be seen or heard from again…until now.

OK, question two, raise your hand if you thought that this bunch, led by wild-haired maniac John Robb – in addition to having a solid side career as a journalist, he used to do a cool zine called Rox, incidentally – had mellowed with age, (ok, way too many hands up).

Well good god they have not. Not even close. Dark Matter Dark Energy, their first album since 1989, is so full of spastic, grinding grunts you’d think it was 1988 all over again. Apparently it’s a bit of a concept record, too, all about the life and death of the universe (sadly, Robb lost his father during the recording so part of it is about him a well).

These fourteen songs bob and weave, rise and fall and generally make a first class racket in the best way possible. In some other bent universe cuts like “Do the Supernova,” “Money is Dust” and “Space Junk” would be viewed as hits (the gorgeous “Dark Matter”, too) and Robb hailed as supreme ruler, but in America this’ll likely they’ll likely not be appearing on Jimmy Fallon or Kimmel or whatever anytime soon. Fine with me.

DOWNLOAD: “Do the Supernova,” “Space Junk”